Thursday, 15 September 2011

Work in Progress: Women of the Sun Stones.

Hi all

hopefully back in action after a bit of a break.

The introduction to my book: Women of the Sun Stones, is now on the web page.

Looking forward to feedback.


Monday, 21 March 2011

'Too many disconnected facts.'

Do you know that thing were you open a bible at random and read the first thing you see? You may be experiencing a problem, and the thing you read gives you the answer to the problem, or comfort or guidance. I am sure this is not exclusive to Christianity, I am sure if any person of any faith applies the same principle, then they will get a similar result. I had this experience today, not with a bible or any other faith book, but with Katherine Swift’s ‘The Morville Hours.’ I am busy reading this, and Annie Dillard’s ‘Pilgrim At Tinker Creek,’ and I have started Mary Chamberlain’s ‘Fenwomen,’ and scanned W.G.Sebald’s ‘The Rings of Saturn,’ and I nearly forgot Edmund De Waal’s ‘The Hare With Amber Eyes.’ As well as this I have half a dozen reference books on the go; and there have been a number of TV programmes that I should really have made notes through. Then I committed to writing a reflective dairy, and whilst I was doing this, lots of other things popped into my head that I should be writing down in case I forgot. And then there is all the stuff I had picked up on the internet during the year in relation to my writing idea. Oh and did I tell you I got a new camera? Just about anywhere I go round home is worth photographing; the Mourne Mountains and the shores of Carlingford Lough have infinite possibilities and the image can either be an inspiration for writing or painting.

The books are mostly within the genre of nature writing/non-fiction/life writing; and I have been told this is the type of writing I am doing. I got the life writing ok but I had never really thought about nature writing; what on earth is that anyway? Well I have to find out. I’m not writing about wild life, I’m not David Attenborough, or Jacques Cousteau; but my landscape contains stories, specifically about women. In this part of the world there’s bits of stones in interesting places, some natural , some fashioned, like Celtic cross and a cairn, linked to the women and away my imagination goes; so this is nature writing, go out the door and see what you can see, there’s probably a story. Annie Dillard wrote from a creek, Katherine Swift from her garden, Fenwomen, of course is about women, The Hare with Amber Eye’s is about family and The Ring of Saturn is a journey through East Anglia and Seabald’s head.

Then there’s my head; I opened The Morville Hours today to read: ‘ I shall go mad. Too many disconnected facts and too few answers of my manic phases...’ Ah, it’s not just me. I feel better already.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Millennia Women Research Diary


    I love this word, I love the look of it, I would love to use it in the title of my book. The working title of my book is Millennia Women. Look up millennia; this is a good word too. Visually Mná does it for me. Can you imagine walking into Waterstones and there on the ‘hot’ table is a book with Mná on the cover. I do believe it’s intriguing enough to make you pick it up.
     The word is dangerous. It is dangerous in three respects, and I may increase this number. It is dangerous first of all for me because it is an Irish word and my knowledge of the Irish language is nonexistent. But I like a bit of danger. Do something dangerous every day I read somewhere. I know this is not to be taken literally. I think it just means challenge yourself and that’s a good argument for anyone, but let’s stick with the word for now. So I have to be exactly right in its meaning and usage. Online Irish dictionaries revealed nothing. The only reference I could trek down on the net was Government documents. So it must be an Irish word that is not in common usage. I have arranged time with an Irish language development officer to figure all of this out. She knows of a song with the word in it, so I am encouraged.
     If you are English speaking and you are on holiday in Ireland you will see this word on the toilets, and if you are a man you will be forgiven for thinking you know where you are going. Equally if you are a woman, you will see ‘Fir’ so again you may be forgiven that this somehow or other relates to female. Mná is plural for woman or ladies, and Fir is gentlemen. I hope I have got my first Irish lesson right. The danger here is whether the word only therefore link people’s minds to unfortunate experiences in toilets. Or maybe I worry too much.
     The next danger it reveals how our minds try to make sense of something by taking it to where we are coming from. I love how this word about women looks like it is closer to man. And I love that the meaning of man is somewhat confused. Most people consider man to mean humans of the male gender. However if we go into the etymology of the word in previous centuries it meant ‘human.’ Visually mná shares this confusion, but I expect to find its etymology is quite different.
     So will I use Mná in the title? Will I take a measured risk and jump in the deep end? It gets deeper. I am standing north up the coast from the Cliffs of Moher.  Have you been there? Nearly 400 feet above the sea. There are whales close in and the water is prussian blue. Does this mean the seabed drops down as far as the cliffs go up? What else is going on down there? How deep is a word? 

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Nature Studies: Re-branded, coming out as a nature writer.

Nature Studies: Re-branded, coming out as a nature writer.: "Nature writing is well loved and established in the US. Attitude towards anything that smells of nature in the UK condemns the writer to the..."

Re-branded, coming out as a nature writer.

Nature writing is well loved and established in the US. Attitude towards anything that smells of nature in the UK condemns the writer to the woolly socks in sandals brigade.This is a bit unfair given the popularity of TV shows, just about every night, on the subject of nature, and the books that go with them. And aren't some of best loved poets nature writers, Seamus Heany, Ted Hughes, and Dylan Thomas.So I'm joining the club. I love the outdoors and I love the 'sense of place' that's just on your own doorstep.You don't have to travel far to find out about the nature of people, the world or the universe, just go out the front door. I make no apologies for being a nature writer. And I think people who love reading anything that comes within this universe, and who may be accused of being sentimental should not have to make any apologies either.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Tranquillity: Bobby Farrell’s ( Boney M fame ) Irish Connections...

Tranquillity: Bobby Farrell’s ( Boney M fame ) Irish Connections...: " Bobby Farrell (October 6, 1949 – December 30, 2010) . When I come across anyone with the surname Farrell..."

Bobby Farrell’s ( Boney M fame ) Irish Connections

News image
 Bobby Farrell (October 6, 1949 – December 30, 2010)


     When I come across anyone with the surname Farrell my curiosity is always on full alert as to what the family connections might be. Bobby Farrell, if you don’t know, was a member of the seventies group Boney M, popular worldwide, unusually bringing gospel songs to the disco scene, Rivers of Babylon and Mary’s Boy Child being examples. Bobby is from Aruba, a Caribbean Island; his real name is Alfonso Farrell. Aruba is a tiny, tiny island, desert like, off the coast of South America with a population of about 100,000. So what on earth is the Irish connection?

 A little online research on the Farrell homepage is a good place to start:

     The O'Fearghails were one of the four chief clans of the Conmacne {race of Conmac (son of legendary Fergus MacRoigh and Queen Maedhbh (Maeve)}. They were the princes of Annaly (roughly the Irish midlands); their chief seat of power was Longphort Ui' Fearghail (O'Farrell's fortress) (present-day Longford town). (source: "Farrell Clan - a brief history" by Hugh Farrell).

     There are many ways and variations of spelling both Farrell and Medb, understandable since writing has not been around half as long as humans, and those that did write things down did not have the formalities of spelling and grammar that we do today. Pre-Christian Irish history was conveyed orally, and early church scribes took on the task of writing down some of the mighty epics that describe momentous events and characters that formed the landscape and culture we know today.

     The Yellow Book of Lecan is written on vellum in Middle Irish, dated 1391and contains a partial version of The Táin Bó Cúailnge, roughly translated as the ‘The Cattle Raid of Cooley.’ This epic tells of how Queen Medb made an attack on Ulster to obtain a prize bull. She needed this to maintain her superior position in her marriage as chief spouse. At that time it was wealth, and not gender that decided who was boss. If you are interested in reading The Táin you will find it starts off with Medb and her husband arguing who is the most wealthy. Enter Fergus MacRoigh, an exile from Ulster, Medb’s guide and director of the expedition to acquire the prize bull. Her reputed lover, and begetter of Farrells. Who knows, there is no smoke without fire.

     This is the link, possibly between Bobby Farrell, Queen Medb and me. These little scraps of history contained in illuminated manuscripts written by monks, preserved in Trinity College Dublin, are a bridge between pre-history and the present day, it shows the evolution of clans and clan names. Ancient peoples, like us, valued information about who they were, who they were descended from, what they owned and what they achieved. The Farrell Clan page claims decent from the son of Queen Medb and Fergus MacRoigh, and also tells us that the Farrells are associated with Longford town in the mid lands of Ireland.

     Enter ‘Francis Fergus O’Farrell (1650-1708) 3rd Colonel of the Royal Scots Fusiliers (July 29, 1686-Nov 13, 1695) Fergus (as he was generally known) was the son of Richard O’Farrell and Amy, daughter of John O’Farrell. He was born in 1650, probably in County Longford, Ireland. With the fluidity of spelling in those days, he referred to himself in various documents as De O’Farrell, D’O’Farrell, and even O’Ferel. Also, in many official documents and State papers he was called Francis. He married Elizabeth Van Nispen, a girl from the Low Countries.’ (From the website of the Royal Highland Fusiliers

     Interesting, or so what? Our latter day Fergus was in the service of the Dutch King William of Orange. He served as a Colonel in the Low Countries and all his children were born there. He also famously tried to re-acquire some of the Longford land belonging to his ancestors forfeited to the English James 1st . Aruba is a Dutch Colony and here I will make a leap of imagination that connects our disco pop star Bobby to the O’Farrells of Longford and their claimed lineage to Queen Medb and Fergus MacRoigh.

     It is within the realms of possibility some descendant of Fergus O’Farrell remained in Holland and served during the Dutch colonisation of Aruba, and Bobby Farrell’s ancestors either adapted the name or have Dutch/Irish blood.

     All I need is the resources of the BBC to check out these links. Unfortunately I am not a celeb and therefore do not expect to get funded for the next series of Who Do You Think You Are? However if any of Bobby Farrell’s family chance to read this blog, please email me, your Irish cousin Susan Farrell, we have a lot to talk about.