Thanks to Gwen Walstrand for this wonderful portrait, and to the News & Star for this marvellous write up:
Tag Archives: Waterford
An action/adventure radio drama in 45 mins, in English and Irish.
Scéal eachtraíochta, ar raidió, in nGaeilge agus i mBéarla.
The Blue King of Trafadden is my 9th radio play and concerns a troubled Afro-Caribbean dentist, Henry Ryan, who returns to the birthplace of his ancestors, Trafadden Island, Co. Waterford, with the intention of burying his grandmother’s ashes. Henry lodges with the ferryman Seamus, his partner Eimear and her son, little Óg. Secretly, Henry also hopes to exorcise the curse he is convinced his abandoned grandmother has put on him, a curse he believes has driven him to drug addiction and robbed him of his marriage and career.
Henry is not the only one on the island with a secret. Ferryman Seamus, afraid he is losing Eimear, is determined to make his fortune by developing a plot of land of historical significance and is worried that the authorities are going to slap a protection order on it. Seamus comes up with an illegal solution… Meanwhile, nine year old Óg, finds a skull, which he decides must be the head of his father. Eimear spends her time in earnest, secret Skype conversation with her sister….
The Blue King of Trafadden is funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with the television licence fee.
Family history is a superb source of inspiration for creative writing, and a gripping back-drop to any tale, be it a love story, an adventure or comedy. I recently wrote a play, ‘Cake’, a work of fiction, that was based on events in my great-grandparents’ WWI experience – though it primarily explored the impact of the era on women.
Interestingly, a writer friend of mine who is familiar with my play ‘Cake’ was recently researching 1916 newspapers in Ireland and came across an actual letter written from my great-grandmother to the editor of the “Waterford News” informing him of her husband’s death in battle (the letter was written from Walthamstow in London, where the family lived for some years before returning to Ireland). Also printed in the paper, were two further letters, one from my great-grandfather’s Major to his Priest and another from a comrade. I’ve decided to share these letters here in tribute to my great-grandfather.
But first, I must give some background to Ireland’s relationship with the Great War. The First World War is less of a contentious issue in Ireland now than it used to be – for a good seventy years afterwards, Irish soldiers who fought, and died, with the British 1914-1918 were at best snubbed, at worst viewed as traitors for taking the “Saxon Shilling”.
Thankfully, there have been recent moves to acknowledge and remember the more than 200,000 Irishmen who fought with the British forces during WWI. Their reasons for joining up were varied and complex. Certainly, poverty was rife and a soldier’s wage offered steady income. Many others believed that their service would be rewarded by Ireland being granted home-rule. More were convinced by the ‘save small Catholic Belgium from fearsome Protestant invaders’ narrative, which was really pushed in recruitment drives in Ireland. And. at that time, Ireland was part of the UK, so there were some who saw joining up as a patriotic duty. I don’t know my great-grandfather’s own reasons for going to war, and indeed this question was a through line of my play.
The Easter Rising took place in 1916, violently challenging British rule in Ireland and changing Ireland forever. Thereafter, Irish soldiers who were lucky enough to have survived the trenches of the Somme, came home to an Ireland at war with England (the Anglo Irish war (1919-1921), followed by a civil war (1922-1923) and in the shadow of these two home-grown wars, the veterans of 1914-1918 were ignored.
However, these men should not be forgotten. The youngest soldier to die in WWI, 14-year old John Condon, was from my home city, Waterford. My great-grandfather Lance Corporal Joseph Bohan O’Shea of the Royal Engineers died in the Somme and is buried at the Quarry Cemetery, Montauban. At the same time, his identical twin brother Michael fought with the Irish Republican Volunteers against British rule in Ireland, and eventually emigrated to America after the War of Independence – and my family is not unusual in this sense.
Here are the letters from my great-grandmother, to the “Waterford News” (some words are unclear due to age of paper):
10 Cornwallis Road,
August 17th 1916
To the editor “Waterford News”
Would you kindly make mention in your paper, this week if possible, of the death of one of your fellow citizens, my husband, Joseph Bohan O’Shea, son of Joseph Bohan O’Shea, late Relieving Officer, of 42 Grattan Terrace, Waterford.
Deceased was a pupil of Mount Sion Schools, and was only 30 years of age. He leaves myself and four little children to mourn his loss. His death is a very heavy blow, as he was one of the kindest and best husbands and fathers. But the burden is light when I know he died such a noble death – in fact a hero’s death. He was killed as he was carrying an officer off the field under heavy fire, and I am sure his death is an honour to the city of Waterford and that he will be deeply regretted by his very numerous friends and companions. He was employed with Sir William Arroll and Co., Bridge Erectors, from the age of 17 years, when he started on the Barrow and then the Suir bridges, and had been on the Blackfriars Bridge, London where he was awarded a medal for a life-saving in 1909. He joined the Royal Engineers in April 191? and had been through the Battles of Loos and Mons, and in fact, had never been out of danger. He was made Lance-Corporal in May 1916. He was killed on the 19th of July.
I am sending you some of his companions’ letters and also one of his major’s letters to our priest here. I am also enclosing his photo, and would you kindly let me have letters and photo back at your earliest convenience.
Trusting, dear Editor, it’s not imposing too much and thanks you in anticipation,
I remain, yours sincerely,
Mary J. O’Shea
August 7th 1916
I was not present when Corporal O’Shea was killed, but it occurred as he was helping to carry one of our officers, who had been wounded in a trench which the enemy was shelling at the time. It was a brave action, because it was done under fire.
Corporal O’Shea had been in the company under my command for nearly two years. He was a quiet man and a good workman, one of many who have sacrificed themselves for the honour of their country. It is owing to the quiet sacrifice of men such as he that we have raised an army which even the Germans now respect, and which contains many individuals such as him, whose quiet heroism has excited the admiration of the nation and their comrades will not be forgetful.
I am glad to think that I was able to let Lnc Corporal O’Shea get home to see his wife and family before the action in which he fell. If I remember right, I was able to help him in this matter on his request.
With sincere gratitude for the prayers you are making for our safety, and I assure you we need them.
Yours very sincerely,
August 5th 1916
Dear Mrs O’Shea,
It is with feelings of sorrow and deepest sympathy that I now write these few lines to you. I know one of our chaps has written but I feel I must express my sympathy towards you for the loss of your dear husband. We are all sorry to lose him as he was such a good, genuine (Pal) ??? and one of the best men I have ever worked with. I went on my first route march in Bordan with him and I was in the same section until about three months ago. We have shared blankets and parcels from time to time and I can assure you, although I am a single chap, I used to admire Joe for the love he had for his wife and children and few men thought more of home than he did. I went for a (wash/watch)??? to an old post with him the same morning as he passed away that night, but he was doing his duty when he died as he was helping one of our own officers that was badly wounded.
We read it is God’s Word that “No greater love hath no man than that man who lays down his life for his friend.”
My address is Sar. R. Baines, 34th F. T. McCoy. ??? I have his diary that one of our chaps gave to me as it would have been destroyed. So, I will send it along as soon as I have the opportunity. I left a photo he gave me ?? home when I went on leave in May, and if I live through I shall treasure it more carefully and I know someday I shall meet him in a better world. I pray that God may support and sustain you and yours in your hour of sorrow and trial. But Joe was loved by all who knew him and we are all very sorry to lose him, yet we do not know who the next might be, so may God bless you and sustain you. I do not forget you all in my prayers to the One above. With deepest sympathy, I remain your sincere friend.
Oh happy days. I’m in Budapest for the season with my dearest, most supportive, most loyal friends – in many ways, my family. And I’ve reason to celebrate. A radio drama I wrote and am producing ‘Cow’, has won full funding from the BAI Sound and Vision scheme. We will go into the studio, in Kilkenny, Ireland, the first week in February.
The drama is to be directed by renowned Irish director/playwright Jim Nolan. ‘Cow’ will also feature the talents of Waterford actor Michael Power, who recently finished shooting an episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ for HBO, Madeleine Brolly, a veteran of BBC Radio 4 drama and Geraldine Crowley, a Dublin based actor who hails from Barrabehy, Co. Kilkenny. The soundscape will be managed and produced by BBC sound engineer, Eugene Sully. They’re a highly professional and talented team, I’m enormously lucky to have them on board and I’m sure their expertise will enhance my little drama no end.
Catching up with dear friends, Dob utca, 22nd Dec. 2012
And on the same day I got word that ‘Cow’ was successful in the funding bid, I also heard that I’ve been shortlisted for the East of England’s Escalator Award – on a proposal for a novel I’m writing. So, once again, Oh happy days!
Hey, this year has been challenging in many other ways. There have certainly been tough moments. But how lovely to go out on such an up beat note. And, I’m due to enter the New Year with an intense, focused period of writing on Inis Oirr, one of the Aran Islands, where I’m ‘artist-in-residence’ for January.
I’ve got a long list of projects to concentrate on whilst there, and am hoping it proves very fruitful – if I don’t get blown off a cliff. The population is Irish speaking – which will be a challenge, as I haven’t really spoken Irish since I left school. Ufasach! If you’ve ever seen ‘Father Ted’, Inis Oirr is actually the island used as ‘Craggy Island’, in the opening credits. Yes, I’ll probably turn up in the Kilkenny studio with a full beard and a grizzly bear in tow. But hey, it’ll be worth it.
Many thanks to you, visitors to my blog, for dropping by this year. I wish you all the best of the season and may you have much success in all your endeavours in 2013!
There are a few schools of thought on where a writer should live. In the 1920s and 1930s, the greats flocked to Paris, the 1960s – London, the 1990s – Prague, and perhaps it was Berlin in the noughites.
However, it should hardly matter where you are, if you are determined and disciplined, you’ll write in a suburban semi in a provincial town, just as well as you will in a garret in Montmartre. One thing the abovementioned cities do have in common is that they were all cheap places to live at the time of their popularity with writers. Writing is not a well paid profession, and it makes sense to nest somewhere where rent and food is affordable, thus lessening that worry every month. Other writers will argue that one should focus on areas where artists are congregating so one can better breathe in the zeitgeist, feed on that cross pollination of ideas. Then there are those who say it is a better idea to reside somewhere in relative proximity to the centre of your chosen industry – and for publishing that would be London/New York/Berlin. Others suggest pitching down in a city which is going through an ‘interesting time’ such as a war or social revolution.
I’ve come to my own conclusion which I’d like to share today. I’ve spent much of my life wandering (perhaps running away, or was that gathering experiences?) So much so, that it is hard to know where home is now and I’ve spent the past year considering my future quite strongly. I think it is time I surrendered and called somewhere home and I think I’ve found the spot or rather, it has found me.
This Christmas/New Year, I’m spending time in Norwich, UK, Budapest, Hungary and Waterford, Ireland. All of which could lay a claim to being my home – and in some respects, they all are yet none of them are.
Having spent the majority of my adult life abroad, the impact of my experience of exile is thrown in to relief when I return to Ireland. And I don’t like that sense of no longer belonging. Also, Ireland is as complicated, contrary, passionate, stroppy, defensive and temperamental as I am. And therefore, I am not convinced it is the place to live as a writer (although, it does make for excellent material).
Budapest, my adopted home, the city which gave me maturity and launched me as a creative writer – and where the majority of my friends and social circle still reside, is slipping from me. A friend emailed yesterday with some suggestion of cafes I should try out when I’m in Budapest over Christmas. I was mildly affronted. I don’t need ‘where-to-go’ tips for a city I lived in for eleven years. I used to edit a guide to Budapest, forcryingoutloud! But in truth, I didn’t know any of the places my friend suggested. Life has moved on in Budapest, without me. I’m am no long of that beautiful city. Also, Hungary has recently taken some scary steps politically and I don’t want to be there while it continues on that sad path – though I do feel compelled to comment on it from afar.
And then there’s Norwich, England, a city where I came to study for my MA in Creative Writing and have ended up spending much time here over the past four years. Norwich is a pleasant, very English city, which I had to locate on a map the week before I arrived here. All I knew about Norfolk was that Oliver Cromwell came from hereabouts, which to an Irish person, is not a great recommendation.
I’ve since found Norwich to be a ‘goldilocks’ town. It’s not too much of anything, yet it seems to have everything in moderate measure. In short, it is comfortable and pleasant and undemanding and reserved and allows me to sit back and digest the years I spent living in more dramatic, demanding, raw, aggressive, passionate theatres like Hungary and Ireland. In this way, I feel that Norwich is, in its quiet, unassuming way, a city conducive to art – if more so as a catalyst in its facilitation of creativity, rather than a city that inspires great art per se.
Can I dare to say that I’ve found home? I don’t think I’ve quite made that decision yet – but I can venture that it is quite likely that Norwich will be my home in the future.
A quick post to thank all of you who have signed up for the ‘write an novel in 6 months’ challenge. I’m looking forward to getting up at the crack of dawn (well, sort of) on Saturday to get my first 500 words down. We can do it (ooo, feel a slogan coming on…)
Saturday will be a day for firsts for me. I’m launching my creative writing workshop in Waterford, Ireland at Grayfriar’s Art Centre in the city on October 1st. The course, which I’ve authored myself, provides novice writers with the basic tools of the creative writing craft. It’s designed to entail two face-to-face workshops taking place on the first and last Saturday of a given month.
The first Saturday will focus on: finding inspiration, use of language, developing character, theme and structure. The ensuing four weeks will see the students work on a project of their choice with online support from me. The final face-to-face workshop, on the last Saturday in the month, will focus on editing, submitting and will finish with a peer workshop – after which I’ll give a professional critique and advice on how to bring the piece forward.
I’m planning to run a further workshops in Waterford at the end of the year and in Galway in the new year. If all goes well, and I’m confident it will (well, nerves aside) I am hoping to ‘tour’ the workshop outside Ireland, taking it to Budapest, Nice and London in 2012.
It’s an ambitious plan but I can do it (there’s that slogan again). And we’ve got to dream – as writers, it’s part of the job description.
Therefore, I hope my fellow six-monthers will understand if I don’t post about the the first 500 words until Monday – as I have to fly to Ireland for the workshop.
Please wish me (and my touring course) good luck