Tuesday, March 15, 2011

An Irish Obsession

For more than a decade from the mid 1990s I seemed to be spending much of my psychological time in the 19th century. Physically, during the last years of the 20th century I was a boarding house mistress at one of the exclusive girls schools on Sydney's leafy North Shore sharing a house with 30 year 9 girls - the rampant hormone year. Than as we moved towards the 21st century I accepted a scholarship from the University of Ballarat to write a novel as part of my PhD so my mind stayed in the 19th century and the people who inhabited it with me were mostly Irish. Some were real people I read about in the history books I was devouring for my exigesis. Others were figments of my imagination created to perform fictional duties in the plots I was devising.

The first of them was O'Shaughnessy, a cultured man of medicine, exiled to Van Diemen's Land for his part in Young Ireland activities and from there to the infamous Norfolk Island were the commandant and his lieutenants exercised a sadistic brutality over the convicts in their charge. Two history tours to Norfolk Island led to the writing of the romantic drama The Pines Hold their Secrets.
For more details about the Pines Hold Their Secrets

Having studied the tumultuous history of Ireland up to and including the Great Potato Famine so I could develop the characters and the plot lines for the Pines Hold their Secrets I decided it was time to become physically acquainted with the place. My daughter suggested I take a package tour so I wouldn't be lonely, or get lost, or both. Loneliness didn't bother me. You can be lonely anywhere and my experience of package tours through Asia many years ago had turned me off that mode of travel.

As a child I always had imaginary friends, so as a concession to Emma, I decided to take my oldest Australian relative with me. Her name was Bridget and she had arrived in Melbourne during the goldrush, but little was known about what brought her there. I could invent her to my heart's content. From the moment I arrived in Ireland with her she dictated what sort of book I would eventually write. The result was Brigid, now available in both print and ebook format.
For details about where to purchase Brigid

How the Irish fared in goldrush Ballarat became the subject of my PhD novel the Liberator's Birthday because it is set on the centenary of the birthday of Daniel O'Connell, Irish statesman and politician, though it is not about him. Underlying this romantic drama is dictatorial clergy determined to force its will on its flock.
For details see

Just when I thought I had left the Irish behind I was asked to teach Irish history for the U3A in Ballarat.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jill, I have a similar relationship with Irish characters. When my partner was researching his family tree while I was writing my novel he managed to dig up a great character for me. He has an female anscestor who came out to Australia during the gold rush. Her fare was paid by a grocer in Melbourne as part of an exchange to improve the male/female ratio in Australia at the time. Her story has made its way into my novel (her name is Bridget) and I absolutely adore her.