A gal of English-Scottish descent spotlighting the Irish flag, all in the name of book research. This week I’m following my professor’s critique from my retreat who suggested when I introduce new characters, I need to spend some time with them to set up their character development, motivations and relevancy to the story. Allow me to introduce you to Daniel Breen (working name).
By 1879, Mary and John had married and brought seven miracles into their family, maintaining a small tenant farm supplemented with John’s wages as a trade carpenter. Life was manageable and routine. Until a blight again spread throughout the western counties. Panic gripped the elder Breens. They could not fathom their own children enduring the suffering they had experienced, or worse, die like their siblings, bellies extended, eyes sunken, hands and feet cracked and curled, frozen in time as children, never to become their own children’s aunts and uncles.
I never knew there were a couple more “mini-famines” after 1855 which although not as deadly, still wrought havoc on Ireland and brought fear and terror to those that had come of age during the Great Famine. I spent some time in the library this week diving into the rabbit hole of research reading more about the Famine, looking at Irish family crests and advertisements from The Boston Pilot, “Looking For…” where families would post notices looking for lost family members who had emigrated to America. Also a great resource to find some common Irish names, besides Daly.
I even pulled a novel off the shelves for a detour into pleasure reading of a simple, quaint story, An Irish Country Practice: An Irish Country Novel (Irish Country Books). Apparently its author, Patrick Taylor, is a prolific Irish-Canadian writer with over ten books in this genre. It’s a quick, gentle read about general practitioners in the northern countryside around Belfast in the 1960s. If you’ve enjoyed the saccharine series on PBS, “Call the Midwife”, you’ll enjoy Patrick Taylor’s series.
Next week I’m heading to Philadelphia for a work conference and squeezing in a day of first-hand research. Very excited to tour some of the areas I’ve been writing about, visiting the Peirce family plot in the city cemetery and heading to one of the college libraries. They are setting me up in their archive room for hours of uninterrupted research. So grateful!
Until then – Slán agat.
You may reply, Slán leat to use the Irish reply for the one staying behind.
BTW – I agreed to hang the Irish flag on our porch after my brother divulged the results of his Ancestry.com DNA test: 16% Irish – who knew? I’m pretty sure we share the same DNA. That 16% helped with my application for the Sons of Erin Club, not just riding along as Jim Daly’s spouse. 🙂