Author Patricia Byrne delves into on of the darker chapters of Irish history for her latest book, ‘The Preacher and the Prelate: The Achill Mission Colony and the Battle for Souls in Famine Ireland’.
It recounts the story of an evangelising colony established by Edward Nangle on the slopes of Slievemore, Achill in the nineteenth century. The colony became infamous during the Great Famine with charges of enticing people to change their faith with promises of food and material benefits known as ‘souperism’.
“I have a special affinity with Achill Island and its stories. Over the years, in visiting Achill, I came to realise that within its shores were packed some extraordinary stories, none more so than that of the Achill Mission Colony.
“The colony is a microcosm of nineteenth-century Ireland, famine, emigration, landlordism. I became engrossed in the story and could not let go of it. It was as if, by researching and writing it, I was walking through my own history,” said Patricia.
Born in County Mayo, Limerick became Patricia’s home in the 1980’s when she relocated to work in Shannon Development, where she worked on regional and economic development in the mid west.
Patricia has a BA from Maynooth University, an MBS from University of Limerick and in 2006 she completed a Masters in Creative Writing at National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway, and since her retirement has been writing full time for about ten years.
Patricia has already published a poetry collection, ‘Unstable Time’ in 2009 and her book ‘The Veiled Woman of Achill: Island Outrage and A Playboy Drama’ which was published in 2012 tells another Achill story, about a notorious island crime of 1894 committed at the Valley House in north Achill.
She most enjoys writing narrative nonfiction, “I research my stories but write them using fictional techniques to read like a novel. I also like to write memoir essays where aspects of my own life are intertwined with other material as in my essay ‘Milk Bottles in Limerick’”.
Patricia was included in last year’s list of ‘Notables’ for Best American Essays for her piece ‘Milk Bottles in Limerick’ which linked her life in Mayo and Limerick, “through the prism of Heinrich Boll’s essay on Limerick in his Irish Journal”.
“I find that when I am immersed in research and writing a story it becomes an obsession. Even when not directly involved in the work, it never seems to leave me.
“I find I feel compelled to visit the places where the story takes place. So there have been many trips to Achill Island, to Dugort and Slievemore, to the Deserted Village and other wonderful places in Achill”.
Preferring to write daily and in the mornings, Patricia’s favourite spot is at a desk on the first floor of her house that catches the morning sunshine, from where she can admire a horse chestnut tree in her garden and a neighbouring cat that crawls along the top of the wall to keep her company.
For more information see www.patriciabyrneauthor.com
I Knew You, the debut album by Mary Barry, will be launched at Dolan’s Warehouse at 8pm on November 1.
Limerick Lady Mary, is a singer songwriter who, after many years of thinking about it, finally put pen to paper and composed nine original songs over the last year and a half.
“My inspiration comes from a combination of my two loves which, apart from the people in my life, are music and philosophy, and also learning from songwriters I admire, and writing what’s true to me,” said Mary.
The seed of this album began when Mary finally used a gift she had received, an hour in a recording studio in Dublin, three days before the voucher was due to expire. There she recorded her first song, accompanying herself on guitar. That was the start of her creative journey that eventually led her to Red Door productions in Limerick, where she met Dave Keary.
“Luckily for me, Dave has a very busy schedule, which meant there was time between meetings to write more songs. So, what started out as one song became nine. It has been an amazing journey, and a privilege to work with Dave and the amazing calibre of musicians he brought together in the making of this album,” added Mary.
Having always loved singing, Mary originally took guitar lessons so she could accompany herself as a hobby. Inspired by song writers such as Kris Kristofferson and Mary Chapin Carpenter, Mary’s main influences are folk and country music. She writes philosophically about her life experiences and hopes she is conveying thoughtful and uplifting messages through her songs.
“When I’m singing I think about the lyrics and what they mean to me. I love the way music brings out feelings and helps summarise otherwise complicated scenarios. I also feel deeply grateful and spiritual. The songs mean all I’ve ever felt but never thought I would have or need to explain, if that makes sense,” said Mary.
On the night Mary will be accompanied by Dave Keary on guitar, Danny Byrt on Drums, Eoghan O’Neill on Bass and James Hanley on Keyboards.
“Other than singing a couple of songs in a pub the odd time, I’ve never done anything like this. In one way, I can’t wait. In another way, I’m terrified,” added Mary.
Tickets are €5.00 and can be bought from
It’s been a busy year for the music department and students of Laurel Hill Coláiste FCJ who will be taking part in the ‘Reach Out’ benefit concert for ISPCC Childline, at the Millennium Theatre on December 16.
The choir will perform a fifteen minute programme of Christmas favourites and also join with Music Generation, Limerick City Big Band and lots of other artists for group performances which will include some audience participation.
Last April at the Cork International Choral Festival, the choir won the Equal Voice Post Primary National competition for schools and the overall prize for the best school choir of the festival. This success came soon after the orchestras performance in the Dublin Feis Ceoil, where they won the Post-primary School Orchestra competition and the RTE Lyric FM award.
The choir comprising of 121 students from first to sixth class sang, ‘What Sweeter Music’ by John Rutter, and ‘Ceann Dubh Dílis’ by Michael Mc Glynn, accompanied by students, on drum Laura Drennan and Orlaith Stedje on piano.
“It felt fantastic. I’m really proud of them. The girls were so excited, we went down with the expectation to really sing well. I would always say to them once you come off the stage and you feel you have given your very best that’s enough. I don’t think they get nervous I think they just enjoy performing.
“It was very special for the sixth years, because they have been with me through everything. I think the younger ones learn from the older ones about their commitment to the choir, they sound so gorgeous the older ones, the first years would be trying to emulate their sound. We were singing in five parts, that was very difficult for them,” said conductor and music teacher Orla Colgan Ahern.
The orchestra consisting of 41 students from first to sixth years, having won their competition by playing ‘The Thieving Magpie’ by Rossini and ‘Pavane Pour une Infante Défunte’ by Ravel, were invited to play for the gala concert in the National Concert Hall.
“I think it gives them a huge discipline. They get to appreciate lots of different styles of music, they make friends in the choir and orchestra. I hope it instils a love of music, that they can join a choir and be good enough, and to love it. The same in the orchestra, that they would join orchestras when they are in college or if they are living somewhere away, it might be a way in to meet people.
“It’s a huge commitment, I think that’s very good, and the focus of it is good, because with a lot of technological things, it can be hard to hold their attention for a long time because they are always on Facebook or things like that, and I think music dispels that and allows them to focus for a huge period of time,” said Orla.
In January the choir collaborated with De La Salle College, a boys choir in Waterford to perform Fauré’s Requiem in Waterford Cathedral.
“There was a lovely rapport between the two choirs. From the Choral Festival the idea of merging the two choirs came, the idea of giving them a bigger work to do. It was fantastic there were about 200 singers,” said Orla.
This year the choir also performed in The Unlucky Cabin Boy in the Limetree Theatre, the Childline concert and Gulliver’s Travels which was written by Myles Breen and consisted of a collaboration of many groups including Limerick Youth Theatre, Coláiste Nano Nagle, Patterns Dance Collective, Limerick Youth Dance, Music Generation Limerick and the Daughters service users.
“That integration of the Daughters of Charity and ourselves is the most special thing we have done. We are lucky, this is our third year to be involved with it. It’s a privilege.”
In the past the choir have performed in concert with Anthony Kerns, the Vienna Boys choir and the UL Orchestra to name just a few. They also frequently perform new and commissioned works by composers such Ben Hanlon, Michale Holohan, Seamus De Barra, Elaine Agnew, Kathleen Turner and Michael Mc Glynn.
“Every year you have to start building again in the choir and in the orchestra, because you loose fantastic players every June, so you are constantly building and working on them,” Orla added.
This year the traditional musicians of Laurel Hill Coláiste, prepared by past pupil Deirdre Ní Mhaoláin also got to the finals of the Siansa Gael Linn, and represented the school at all Ireland level in the National Concert Hall.
To book tickets for the ‘Reach Out’ benefit concert for ISPCC Childline, at the Millennium Theatre on December 16, contact www.litmt.ie
Gemma Mawdsley, now working on her sixteenth novel called Bonded by Blood, is an internationally renowned writer of Gothic horror novels. Since moving to West Clare last February, this Limerick Lady is enjoying getting inspiration for her writing from her quiet, fruitful surroundings.
“I love my adopted county. From the window of my upstairs office, I can see the fields stretching out for miles, and it’s a joy to watch the ever-changing kaleidoscope of colours. The people here are really friendly, and the men seem to have retained some of that old world charm. At times, it feels I have stepped back decades,” said Gemma.
Gemma’s fascination with the gothic began at a young age, when, gathered around an open fire at her Grandmothers, where there was an old graveyard at the back of the house, her imagination was fuelled by ghost stories, some about her Granny’s resident ghost.
At ten years of age, Gemma had her first taste of success when her poem was published in the Limerick Leader. However, it wasn’t until years later, when her mother died, needing a distraction from her grief, she enrolled for a creative writing course at the University of Limerick run by David Rice.
Her journey through writing styles eventually led her to combining her love of history and the paranormal to create a unique genre, which has seen her career as a writer go from strength to strength.
“My first novel, The Paupers’ Graveyard, dealt with the famine. I did countless hours of research as the topic is such an important one and sadly, many of these famine graveyards are neglected and unmarked, when they should be as important to our culture and history as Egypt’s Tombs of the Kings.”
Gemma’s second book, Whispers, is told by two spirit children who inhabit an industrial school, a story which was inspired by the reports of abuse in industrial schools which have dominated headlines in Ireland over the last number of years.
Currently working on three books, (Erebus, the story of a haunted house over three generations; The Wraith, about a mother trying desperately to find her kidnapped child; Bonded by Blood, three sisters who are determined to destroy one another), this prolific author has still found time to enjoy exploring her new surroundings, especially the coastal areas, visiting small cottage businesses and writing about them on her author pages.
“I’m hoping to write from September to June, so I can take the summer months to enjoy my new surrounding and all the beauty Clare has to offer.”
When Gemma isn’t writing she enjoys sewing period costumes for her antique doll collection, but is especially looking forward to long walks in the Clare countryside with her new dog, Toby.
“I’m aware that many people hate the dark, winter nights, but I’m in my element. I like nothing more than the crisp, frosty mornings and as the evenings draw in, the strange scurrying in the hedgerows, as the nocturnal foragers come to life.
“One of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given recently is, that if I’m walking late at night and hear, what seems to be the cough of an old man coming from behind the bushes, not to panic. It is the cough of a cow. I don’t know how true that is, but it made me smile.”
Growing up, her favourite book was Anne of Green Gables. Now she tends to read detective novels, so as not to be influenced by other horror writers, her favourite author is Val Mc Dermid and her favourite film is An Enchanted April.
After all these years Gemma still loves telling stories through the medium of writing, and has enjoyed hearing many ghost stories since she moved to Clare.
“But I have frightened myself. Most of the stories I would write come from mythology. When I was writing Death Cry, it’s about the banshee. I’m afraid of loud noises and at one stage I actually came out and sat on the stairs, just to get away from it.”
Though Gemma doesn’t claim to be psychic she is very sensitive, and has had a lot of experiences that she can’t explain, such as her encounter with the ghost of an old housekeeper at an historic manor in Bedfordshire.
“I think as well, when I’m writing the characters are alive for me, I sometimes think I see something from the corner or my eye, but that’s probably that you are caught up in the tension of it all.
“That’s why I think people like the ghost stories, because people get the thrill, and that, it couldn’t really happen, but at the same time you have the thrill of thinking could it?” said Gemma.
Though Gemma has visited many fortune tellers, she wouldn’t go to mediums, or advise anyone to have anything to do with Ouija boards, however she does believe in Quantum theory, which is where the two worlds run parallel, the real world and the spirit world, and sometimes cross over when you can see spirits.
“People would often say, if I go, do you want me to come back? And I say, no, keep going, you’re fine where you are, don’t tell me, let me be surprised,” added Gemma.
The Paupers’ Graveyard, Death Cry and Whispers are available to buy on Amazon. For more information on her books see