Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Quaint People: Travel as Inspiration.

I just came across this: scribbled as a blog in my notebook when I was in Ireland. As I have just  written about Castletownshend and Edith Somerville I thought this note deserved to be transferred properly from my notebook to this blog.

Tools of the trade,
'How I love to travel and stay! And when I am in any place I love to try and understand its nature by dint of a little looking, a little reading, a little thinking, a lot of empathising.

My mission when staying in any place is as a writer, not an historian or an anthropologist (although I do enjoy dipping into these disciplines). 

So, inevitably in my life I have been  tempted to write about these places. I travelled to the Languedoc for five successive years and out of that came  Englishwoman In France and then my just completed novel, The Art of Retreating. (Extract) (Another extract here.) I have also just finished a long short story which is set in those regions but is cooking on the back boiler and has not yet seen the light of day.

These are all clearly works which would never existed had I not traveled, stayed in and loved France.   

Now  I find that  it's Ireland's turn to become my source of inspiration.  

I have just reminded myself that earlier times in Ireland inspired the beginning of my novel Under a Brighter Sky. * Also article here  In that novel the family walk out of a distressed Ireland and take a boat to Liverpool. From there they walk to North East England to find work in the railway shops of Shildon and to participate in the Industrial Revolution on the English mainland -  just as others migrated to the new worlds in the United States of America and Australia.

What they left behind was a country virtually untouched by a significant nineteenth century leap into the modern world. The  residue of colonial domination underpinned by military power meant that for a time the minority ruling class could live on in feudal style increasing battered grandeur which on the surface did not value the vibrancy of the original Gaelic culture and the succeeding Norman-Anglo-Irish-Culture. These people may never have been to England or, in visiting, be seen as quaint Irish incomers enriching the literary and artistic life of London. But they were loyal to the Crown and their menfolk fought in many wars in defence of that Crown which they saw as their own.

 Even after the evolution of an Ireland free of English domination, deep in the countryside these obsolete set of values and attitudes ticked on, survived in pockets to a quaint and remarkable extent, These were people obsessed with the countryside, hunting over wild land, knowing and loving their dogs and horses as well as and more than the country Irish around them.

This unique life  as I said in my last post (below) was documented beautifully in the stories by Somerville and Ross. In its later more battered stages it is reflected in the wonderfully spun stories by Mollie Keane such as Good Behaviour.

Of course there are many gifted modern Irish writers of great repute whose novels enjoy universal literary acclaim. But I find myself fascinated by those ambiguous times when what it was to be Irish was such a mixed bag. There must be a new story for me there.  Perhaps I need to travel to Ireland a few more times to find it...' 

NB Written in the Customs House in Castletownshend, Cork.

 *still on Amazon in paperback and will be available on Kindle in September.


  1. As you know Wendy, I share your love of travel and the inspiration it brings, the way it opens our eyes to what is new and fresh, makes us see the world differently, discover new stories...perhaps in the history, perhaps in the landscape itself; always in the people. As writers wherever we are we should always be travelling - it's as Anais Nin says 'We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.'

  2. ... And sometimes we travel inwards. - always. an exciting journey... Wxx

  3. ... And sometimes we travel inwards. - always. an exciting journey... Wxx



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