Kevin Doyle Blog

Writing and activism

The Road To Letterfract

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CNPLast year I gave a reading at Kenny’s Bookshop in Galway as a guest of Over The Edge. I read Capricorn, a short story I wrote about an elderly Irish exile, Hallisey, who has chosen to live in a remote area of the Pilbara in north-west Australia. An unexpected phone call reminds Hallisey of what happened to him as a child at St. Patrick’s Industrial School (Greenmount) in Cork. As the story progresses it becomes clear that Hallisey has lived in silence and alone with what he suffered at the school for all these years. Now, finally, provoked by the phone call, it appears that he may tell someone about what happened to him; understanding at last why it is essential to talk about what happened long ago.

I knew about Letterfract’s reputation. In part because I was in Galway and in part because I had been writing about the legacy of the industrial schools for a number of years, I felt I should take the opportunity to go there and see what now remains of the infamous institution. The school itself closed in 1974 and I wondered what, if anything, existed now that bore witness to what had happened there. I had heard that the original school building  still existed and I wanted to see that. But what else was there?

STARK

Letterfract - Then and Now(1)It takes about an hour and a half to get to Letterfract from Galway. The trip through Connemara National Park is a highlight. On the day I made the journey, it was cold and overcast. The national park is bleakly beautiful. It was said about Letterfract Industrial School that it was crueller than the norm due to its remote location on the edge of Ireland’s Atlantic seaboard. Even today it still feels like the journey across county Galway to Letterfract is a journey into isolation.

Except that today Letterfract is anything but isolated. It is a busy, tourist-centred locality, a gateway to a multitude of adventure based activities involving  the national park and the nearby coastline. Signposts direct the visitor to pub food, accommodation and to this company and that one offering different tourist experiences. Letterfract has had a modern make-over and in some ways epitomises the reinvention of Ireland’s western coastline. Here, in a place still wracked by emigration, a small community has clung on to assert a new way of using and making a living from the location’s natural beauty and amenities. On the day I visited, although at the end of the tourist season, there was a steady stream of people and activity around the shops and pubs. In the summer period I figured Letterfract got quite busy.

I understood that former industrial school was near the centre of Letterfact so I was surprised when I couldn’t find it. I realised that I had made a very basic error : the old industrial school building was there, dominating one quadrant of the main crossroads that is the centre of Letterfract. My mistake was that I was looking for a building fitted out in monochrome. Now, brightly repainted in red and yellow, the main building looked nothing like its former incarnation. In fact the building complex is now part of the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology.  A public park and picnic area in the foreground, screened by trees further helped to offset the domineering image that the industrial school once wore as a badge of pride. In the end, still unsure that I was in the correct location, I accepted that I was indeed looking at the former institution by virtue of the building’s position relative to Diamond Hill. Many of the iconic photographs of Letterfract Industrial School (see below) were taken with the austere peak in the background. Today that same vista is easily observed.

UPTON, ARTANE, BESSBOROUGH, TUAM …

It was a disconcerting sight – a place of abuse and a place where cruel punishment was meted out. Despite the passage of time, despite the make-over, it was hard for me not to think about what happened there. I was bothered too by the precise change of use: the former penal institution was now a part of a place for advanced learning. That seemed to me to be a travesty. The Letterfract building – because of what it was – has so much to tell us about ourselves. But that it seems is not of interest to some. I walked over to the main building. Close to where the old entrance was once located there is a plaque under the window with a poem on it: Show Day by Mary O’Malley. The poem, one of a series in the Letterfract Poetry Trail is a moving elegy to location and emigration. It can be listened to here.

Is there anything more, I wondered. There must be. I walked around. Students came and went. A group of young backpackers were picnicking on the grass despite the cold conditions. I wondered what they knew about this place. A casual visitor would not learn anything by walking around. There is nothing to warn anyone about what happened here; on the contrary in fact. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that an effort has been made to obliterate the past but there is doubt that someone is intent on not drawing any attention to what this place once stood for either. I was reminded of a visit I made to St Patrick’s Industrial School at Upton outside Cork a  number of years ago – as part of research I was doing for my novel To Keep A Bird Singing. That complex is now a functioning day care centre in the Bandon area of Cork. I was told when I went there that it was not possible to walk around the main building for ‘health and safety’ reasons. St Patrick’s is another site of abuse where care has been taken to obscure the past.

God Was Living Close By But ...There had to be more. Letterfract’s Catholic Church is on an elevation at the rear of the main building complex. A path leads to steps and then to another short path: I arrived at the front of the church. It is literally a stone’s throw away, underscoring for me the role that the Catholic Church played in the regime of abuse at Letterfract: the church was the overseer to the crimes that happened there, but it also very much a witness too.

GOD COULDN’T HEAR ANYTHING … AGAIN

It is not my intention here to trawl through Letterfract’s litany of crimes. One example will suffice to give the reader an idea of what the place was like. Taken from the Child Abuse Commission’s report published in 2009 it concerns a Brother Vernay who in 1940 made a complaint to the regional body overseeing the Christian Brothers regarding serious mis-doings at the institution. By passing his own boss at Letterfrack, Vernay outlined the case of a number of boys who were regularly being punished in public at the school by a few the Brothers. The method of punishment was the problem: the Brother were using horsewhips on the young boys. Yes, that’s correct, horsewhips. Pointing out that (even then in 1940) the ‘instruments used and the punishments inflicted are obsolete even in criminal establishments’, Brother Vernay went on the draw attention to the fact that knowledge of the severe punishments being meted out at the school had permeated to the community living around the industrial school. In his letter to the regional head of the Brothers, he noted that ‘people were talking’ and that this was causing disquiet both inside and outside the industrial school. Worried by the damage to the Order’s reputation, Vernay asked for an intervention. This happened and it appears that Vernay’s complaints were upheld. However little it seems was ever done to any of the assailants or to the superior at Letterfract who it seems ‘wasn’t even reprimanded.’ The Commission also found out that no apology or recompense was made to the victims. That was the sort of place that Letterfract was. Children beaten in public using horsewhips. Just one example. The entire chapter on Letterfract in the 2009 report (The Ryan Report) makes for grim reading, I tell you.

Behind the church there is narrow lane. It is a part of one of the recommended walks in the area. A backpackers hostel is close by. A little further on, on the opposite side of the road, there is a sign on a pillar: Letterfract Industrial School Graveyard.  I walked up to the cemetery. At the entrance there are two more poems from the Letterfract Poetry Trail. By Paula Meehan, these are The Boy From The Gloucester Diamond  and The Cardboard Suitcases and they can be  heard here.

DIED AT A YOUNG AGE

The grave yard is relatively small and compact and is surrounded by tall trees; it is quiet and sheltered. Inside there is a careful arrangement of small headstones in two main plots. Walter Footer died as a young boy. Edward McDermot died aged 8. William Fagen died aged 13. John Kelly died aged 15 … Died Died Diedand so on they go. I figure that there are a lot more buried here than there are names for. The cemetery is really a mass grave and this is underlined by the headstone pictured on the right. At one end, a plinth supporting a cross is draped with a tattered and bleached Irish Tricolour. Fitting. There is also a small memorial to the Letterfract boys erected by Connemara National Park.

I sat down. There was no one else there when I visited. Certainly this was a place to meditate on the wrongdoings that took place at the industrial school. What were these boys’ stories I wondered. How did they come to be sent to Letterfact and how did they die? The graveyards is a peaceful place. Thought has gone into it and it is well maintained. I felt that here at least what happened in the past is both respected and understood. It is good to see that.

LONG REPRESSED, RENDERED INVISIBLE

In a number of location in Ireland right now, a battle is being fought by activists to simply have just this – a proper cemetery such as that that exists at Letterfract. PillarIn Tuam (Galway) and in Cork at the Good Shepard Convent (Sunday’s Well) and at the Bessborough Mother and Baby (Blackrock) efforts are underway to identify the full extent of a series of mass graves that are probably located in those places. The situation at Tuam is particularly heart-wrenching. A large number of babies and children’s bodies were dumped in mass grave at the Tuam site without any care to record who they were or to mark their places of burial in any way. These ‘unwanted’ (by Catholic Ireland’s mores) were unceremoniously dumped. The Irish government has been embarrassed into looking into the matter in more detail but it is now claiming that a full and exhaustive excavation of the site would actually cost too much.  In the two Cork locations, there is also resistance to efforts to identify and mark who is actually buried at those sites. The Catholic orders and institutions are refusing to make records fully available. Even more telling in the two Cork cases, the property and buildings involved are either in the process of or have actually been sold to private developers who wish to turn these former sites of institutional abuse into apartment complexes. For many it is a race against time to extract the information and prove that these sites must by properly excavated and respected. At least at Letterfract, this small precious cemetery has been salvaged from the steamroller of progress and the process of ‘active forgetting’ at least partially stalled.

HeroesBut are cemeteries enough? At Letterfract? At Tuam or in Cork? Most definitely not. Cemeteries are needed. Each individual buried in each of these places is also entitled to a proper headstone as a minimum. None of this should be in any dispute – even though it is. But we need a lot more too. We need a museum and a permanent exhibition space which will the tell the story of the industrial schools, the Magdalene Launderies and the Mother and Baby homes.

Such a facility would and could perform a number of functions. Firstly, it would act as repository for all the records related to these institutions of abuse – a place were all the information (print, audio and photographic) can be safely stored and made available for future generations so that they too can learn and understand what happened. Such a place could also facilitate scholarship into what took place and help with explaining how such abuse practices could have taken place. There are still so many aspects to the entire edifice of institutional abuse that we do not fully understand. We need to know a lot more about the perpetrators for example. Who were they, why did the behave as they did, why have they been protected as they have? Thirdly such a facility, if properly structured, could act as a place where we as a society might be able to look at what happened, attempt to understand what happened, and learn more about the legacy of widespread institutional abuse.

Pillar2As I see it there is a conscious effort (by the Catholic Church) and an unconscious effort (by the state) to facilitate us forgetting what happened. The idea is to render almost invisible what happened at these industrial schools, Laundries and Mother and Baby homes. In part the point is to salvage the reputation of the Catholic Church but these efforts are also a societal aversion to acknowledging who we are and what the price was for becoming the Ireland that we are today. Many of us have been raised to be good at looking the other way. Here now, around this matter of institutional abuse, our acquired talents have taken on a societal dimension: turning away from facing up to the truth and the reality of what was done by us and in our name. We have the left the victims to scramble after small crumbs of justice.

We are talking about a shameful period in our history and we need to face up to it. At Letterfract, we can see today what the preferred solution looks like: the past is not hidden away anymore but it is certainly kept at a distance from the public’s eye. It is no longer feasible to say the past didn’t happen – the victims after all have refused to go quietly and won’t be silenced – but Irish society is still happy and comfortable with leaving things largely unseen. At Letterfact you have to search for the past and this is at one of the most infamous of all the abuse institutions in our country.

So if we are to be honest about all of this we need the following:

  • Firstly, full publicly-funded excavations of all the burial sites. Every effort to be made to identify all the those buried in all mass graves. Where there is suspicion about the causes of death, criminal investigations to follow.
  • Secondly, a commitment to the creation of a publicly funded facility to highlight and explain what happened. This facility – a museum – should be located at one of the former institutional sites of abuse. A site should be identified as soon as possible for this facility.
  • Thirdly, we must oppose the sale of any of these former sites of abuse by the religious orders to private developers until full disclosure and recompense is made to all the victims.

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Review of Living Anarchism – José Peirats and the Spanish Anarcho-Syndicalist Movement

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Living AnarchismJosé Peirats and the Spanish Anarcho-Syndicalist Movement by Chris Ealham [AK Press] Available here.

This review first published in Ideas and Action (Oct 2017).

547398_10150758746726023_1766635136_nOn the cover of Living Anarchism, the publishers, AK Press, point out that the anarchist movement in Spain in the lead up to the revolution in 1936-37 was the ‘the largest anti-authoritarian movement’ ever created in the world. It numbered in the hundreds of thousands and resulted from a conscious and deliberate intervention by anarchists in the everyday world of work and community. Anarchists sought to build a new world in the shell of the old and they were surprisingly successful in significant ways. Living Anarchism is testimony to this. Not a history of Spanish anarchism as such, it is nonetheless a window into the life of that movement seen through the life of one its key activist, José Peirats.

So who was José Peirats? The son of labourers from Valencia province, he moved to Barcelona at a young age with his family in search of work and a future. Suffering illness and numerous privations, Peirats eventually found a home in one of the city’s vibrant rationalist schools. However his education was short-lived and at a young age he entered the workforce proper as a brick-maker. Gravitating to the anarcho-syndicalist union, the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT), he became a key activist in the L’Hospitalet area of Barcelona. Peirats lived through it all: at the young age of 28 he was in Barcelona as the Spanish Revolution got underway. He witnessed the enormous achievements and hope that the revolution generated and he witnessed, in time, its demise and defeat. In exile at the age of 31 he spent a great deal of the remainder of life documenting the rise of Spain’s anarchist movement, going on the produce The CNT in the Spanish Revolution – an extensive, three volume history of the largest workers’ union in Spain at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. In the last period of his life he said,

“I’ve done almost everything in the CNT: I’ve organised strikes, organised workers, spoken in assemblies, meetings, and given conferences, written articles, attended congresses, used pistols, and, some- times, explosives; I’ve been in jail and collected lawsuits, mainly for libelous press articles. I know what it means to be naked and take a beating in a police station. I was the only secretary of the CNT in exile to enter Spain clandestinely when they were still shooting people!”

9781849352383_72Living Anarchism is broken into ten sections (if one includes the excellent summation) which can broadly be divided into two parts – the period leading up to the revolution and period after the revolution’s defeat. If the first section of the book is then a celebration of what anarchism was capable of building when its activists put their minds to it, then the second section is, in contrast, the tragedy of defeat at the hands of fascism and what that came to mean.

Exile

Exiled to South America and later France, Peirats struggled like many of his comrades to make sense of the defeat that had befallen the anarchist movement in Spain. Defeat is never easy and the tragedy was compounded by exile and isolation. A movement of Spanish anarchists abroad came into being but it was riven with division and acrimony. Peirats, more than most, understood the dilemma: the past could not be ignored and yet the movement, if it was to survive and rebuild, needed to move on too. It was a delicate and difficult line to walk along.

Peirats was clearly a product of the university of the class struggle and his early years and reputation as a resolute union activist in the cauldron of Barcelona was something that he never departed from. However, another side to the activist was his strong interest in the practice and spirit of anti-authoritarianism. A significant part of his life – perhaps deriving from his own early exposure to the rationalist/ free school movement in Barcelona – involved a commitment to the ‘athenaeum’: essentially self-organised community centres envisaged as ‘a focal point of social ferment’ for the locality around it. These centres hosted a library, debates, music recitals, evening classes and threatre productions. Before and during the revolution, as well as afterwards in exile, it was this activity surrounding the ‘athenaeum’ that Peirats returned to and was involved with again and again.

Although the person who emerges from his book appears exceptional in many respects, Peirats would have been the first to dispute this, it seems. Describing himself at one point as a ‘worker ant’ he believed himself to be very much a part and a product of the CNT. Clearly he was a talented activist, writer and organiser, but there emerges from this biography a man whose dedication to revolutionary change was absolute. By no means without faults – and this is explored in Living Anarchism – Peirats nevertheless had an abiding grasp of the importance and value of anarchist ideas. Given that he had witnessed the highest point of achievement and an avalanche of low points in its aftermath, he remained largely upbeat, understating near the end, ‘I did what I could despite many obstacles’.

Durruti

In terms of Spanish anarchism we hear a great deal about people like Durruti but activists like Jose Peirats, it seems to me, were a lot closer to the soul of Spanish anarchism. For Peirats anarchism was about democracy, education and the class struggle. In contrast Durruti was far more liable to be off taking a pot shot at some bishop or other – a headline grabbing activity but not necessarily as productive as it sounds or looks.

In 2010, the historian Chris Ealham produced what is undoubtedly one of the best social and political histories of anarchism, namely Anarchism and the City – the story of the rise of anarchism in the Catalonia port city of Barcelona. Now with this account of Peirat’s life he had done us a further service. He admits at the outset that ‘there are many aspects of Peirats life that he finds admirable’ and while this must certainly colour this work, it does not distract from what is a clear and concise account of an anarchist activist’s lived life in revolution and defeat.

Matters have moved on hugely since the revolution in Spain in 1936-37 and Peirats as much as anyone saw this in full measure by the time his life came to an end in 1989. However there is a great deal to learn from this book. The Spanish anarchists combined a practice of militant class struggle with a broad visionary belief in human desire and emancipation. Whatever about claims, dreams and aspirations, in the end it takes people to make politics happen: Peirats was clearly one of those who excelled at this task.

A book to read and treasure.

 

Let our memories run through our veins …

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Lorca 1The grave of Federico García Lorca has never been found but it is believed that his remains lie in the hills to the north of Granada, Andalusia close to the town of Viznar. He was probably executed on August 19th, 1936 – 71 years ago.

Lorca is regarded as one of Spain’s must important modern poets and dramatist and while his reputation was well established at the time of his death, it was not sufficient to save him from his fate at the hands of Franco’s henchmen. Although Lorca was left-leaning , he was also a gay man: these facts alone condemned him to an early death. He was one of ten of thousands who were murdered in Spain during and after Spain’s Civil War (1936-39) for no other reason than being deemed undesirable to Franco’s fascist regime. Today there’s a memorial at the site where it is believed that Lorca was killed..

Location

The easiest way to get to the site is to travel to Viznar itself, about six miles from Granada and then take the road going to Alfacar. About 3 km along, the road take a sharp reverse turn and makes its ways along a hillside; to the south there are views back to Viznar. A short distance from the turn, on your right (looking uphill or to the north), there is a layby (clearly sign-posted) where you can leave your car or bike. The general area is known as the Sendero Barranco de Viznar  (Viznar Ravine Trail) and is popular with walkers and trekkers. Close by is a second signpost indicating that this area is important for other reasons too: Lugar de Memoria Historica de Andalucia [Place of historical memory]. 

Lorca

Lorca 3A path leaves the layby and winds uphill through an open pine forest offering shade. There are undulations and gullies on a both sides of the path. After about five minutes you will come an area of flatter terrain marked by a number of log fence boundaries. A flat low-lying slab of stone bears the inscription of a line from Lorca’s poem, Prelude – Love :

 

El viento esta amortajado
a lo largo bajo el cielo
[The shrouded wind lies full length beneath the sky ]

A short distance on there are a number of larger flat slabs which bear an array of memorial plaques. Some are dedicated to individuals such as that to Delores Rozalez Vinez – They Silenced Your Voice But Not Our Memory. Others are dedicated to lists of people executed in the quiet secluded area – Executed in Viznar Ravine on 23 October 1936 is followed by a list of thirty names. Further along there is a large gully. A square upright monolith stand at one end. Flowers have been left in a number of places and the monolith bears the inscription:

Lorca Eran Todos
18-8-2002
[Lorca was all]

There is stone terracing for sitting on. When we visited Viznar it was quiet and there was no one else around. Since the trees provide welcome shade from the sun, it is by no means an unpleasant place to stop at and rest for a bit. However,  under the ground, lie the remains of many hundreds of people. Some have been identified but many remain unidentified. It is difficult today to imagine the summary violence that would regularly taken place at the site over many years following Franco’s victory.

Anarchists

Viz 6It is believed that Lorca was executed along with two well-known militants of the CNT, the anarcho-syndicalist union which was a leading force in the Spanish Revolution. The remains of these men – Joaquín Arcollas Cabezas and Francisco Baladí Melgar – have also not been identified. A plaque placed at the Viznar site by the CNT reads:

“Let our memories run through our veins. We remember everyone who lies in this gully. To the anarchists who are scattered under this earth. To our deceased we do not cry, we try to emulate them in the fight for a social revolution and against the fascism that they faced”

Lorca 2Various other memorial plaques are testimony to the broad range of people who were killed outside Viznar. Trade-unionists, left-wing activists, feminists, cultural activists and many, many others all fell victim to Franco’s knife. The context for the extermination was succinctly put by General Emilio Mola who stated at the outset of the Civil War what the point of the military uprising was:

“It is necessary to spread terror. We have to create the impression of mastery eliminating without scruples or hesitation all those who do not think as we do. There can be no cowardice. If we hesitate one moment and fail to proceed with the greatest determination, we will not win.”

Although Lorca’s reputation is the main reason for the memorial at Viznar, many of the other plaques present at the site are as moving. Each and everyone tells a story of resistance and remembering. This one to Miguel Gomez Poyatos is a perfect example.

MIGUEL GOMEZ POYATOSViz 7w
Murdered in this place on Sept 5th 1936.
We have never forgotten you
We will never forget you.

 

They may be able to kill the rooster
that announces the dawn
but they cannot stop that dawn arriving
 (your grandson Emilio)

 

Direct Action For Kids!

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We Did It Together!Introducing a children’s book with a difference!

Their lives are turned upside down when a luxury golf course invades their headland. The worms try to negotiate but their efforts are met with insecticide. Our long, wriggly friends have had enough! They decide to take action… 

A story for children and (ssssssh) adults too.”

What The ‘Rich’ Dream Of …

 

old-head-of-kinsale-cork-ireland-wild-atlantic-way

The Old Head of Kinsale – Privatised!

In 1979, a millionaire property developer purchased the Old Head of Kinsale in Cork, Ireland for the measly sum of just €300,000. His dream was to build a luxury golf course on the headland and in 1997 that dream came true. Soon after, access to the traditional walks and wild coastline at the Old Head was restricted to ‘club members’ only. A popular campaign – Free The Old Head – fought back but the developer had the courts and the gardaí on his side. In effect, the headland was annexed for the exclusive use of a small group of wealthy golfers. Today it costs €30,000 per year for membership at the Old Head Golf Links. Alternatively you can pay Green Fees of around €1000 for the dayThink that wrong? So do we! 

Rebellion!

charter of rights (2)

We live here too!

 

The Worms That Saved The World was inspired by the campaign to keep access to the Old Head free and open to all. The story is about a community of rebellious earthworms who fight to save their home when a luxury golf course takes over their headland. The worms are in for a tough fight but it turns out that they are made of tough stuff. Worms haven’t been around on this planet for as long as they have with knowing a thing or two!

Solidarity, Direct Action!

A plan 2

Mutual Aid, Solidarity – It’s Our Best Chance!

Including thirty-five beautiful illustrations by artist Spark Deeley, The Worms That Saved The World celebrates solidarity, direct action and standing up for your rights. It’s a joyous book featuring ‘mutual aid’, collective struggle and guess what? In the end, the worms win! Here is a story for all the young people in your life and it can even be enjoyed by adults too!r

r

Get A Copy!

party at the end 2

We did it together!

Now distributed in England, Scotland, Wales and across Europe by AK Press!

In Ireland a list of shops stocking The Worms That Saved The World here.

Normally retailing at €10/£10 

If you need more information, send up an email

Written by Kevin Doyle

May 24, 2017 at 3:46 pm

News about The Worms That Saved The World

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Where To Buy The Worms That Saved The World

A plan 2To buy online go here.

In CorkVibes and Scribes (21 Lavitt’s Quay), Liam Ruiséal (Oliver Plunkett St.) and The Quay Co-op Bookstore (Sullivan’s Quay). In KinsaleBookstór (8 Main St.). In Carrigaline: Carrigaline Book Shop (Main Street). 

In DublinThe Winding Stair (Lr. Ormond Quay) and Connolly Books (Temple Bar). 

In Kildare: Woodbine Books (Kilcullen)

In Galway: Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop and Kennys Books

Winner 2017Now available throughout Ireland at Easons. For branches near you see here.

In England: London at Housman’s Books (Caledonian Road, King’s Cross) and Bookmarks (Bloombury Road, WC1)

In Australia: Jura Books (Sydney)

For UK & Europe-wide distribution please contact AK Press (Edinburgh, Scotland).

For USA, Canada and Worldwide distribution please contact AK Press (Oakland, California).

Free2Download

What People Have Said About …

“An inspirational story for children … entertaining and beautifully illustrated …”

Pet O’Connell, review in Evening Echo, Cork

“Everyone should get one of these books for children close to them. It is beautiful, refreshingly different with a very important message. I love it! You won’t have come across a book for kids like this….ever. A new trend hopefully.”

Niamh Leonard, artist, Cork

“… the characters in the book … reach out to people across the world …”

BookforLittles, USA

“I got my books in the post today. I love it!!! Will recommend it to all my friends and family.”

Maeve Caraher, Louth

“Looks charming.  Look forward to sharing it with the younger generation.”

Noam Chomsky

If you are looking for something unique, new and really wonderful …

Charlie Byrne’s Bookstore, Galway

“An inspiring tale that celebrates all that is good about community and solidarity.  Beautifully illustrated with colourful characters that will delight and charm and written in a style that will appeal to children and adults alike, this is a book that should be in every classroom and school library in the country.  Its message that when we support each other we can tackle anything is delivered in a way that will appeal to children, and to the child in all of us.”

Gregor Kerr, primary school teacher, Dublin

“The mighty, the arrogant and the swaggering brought low by the humble worm — what’s not to like in this charming tale of working together for what’s right and good? Up the worms!”

Theo Dorgan, poet

“High quality production, a fun and relevant story. A very child-friendly approach to political activism.”

Letterbox Library staff

“A unique take on conservation and protest – strong messages told through a lively text and attractive illustrations – I like it!”

Inclusion Manager, Primary School (via Letterbox Library)

 

News articles about The Worms That Saved The WorldSpark Deeley and Kevin Doyle (2)

 Background Articles

Free Old Head of Kinsale – A Brief History (includes more links)
About “The Worms That Saved The World”
Interview in Look Left

Connect with The Worms That Saved The World

Facebook and Twitter for The Worms That Saved The World
Kevin Doyle
Spark Deeley

Press Release: “Rebellious Worms Aim To Reclaim The Old Head of Kinsale”

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A colourful new children’s book, entitled The Worms That Saved The World, is set to focus renewed attention on the controversy surrounding the Old Head of Kinsale in Co Cork. Written by Kevin Doyle and beautifully illustrated by artist, Spark Deeley, The Worms That Saved The World will be launched at Cork’s City Hall on May 5th by writer and dramatist Conal Creedon.

Access to the scenic Old Head of Kinsale – a landmark site on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way – has been restricted since 2003 when the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Old Head Golf Links who had applied for exclusive rights to control who could walk on the headland. In The Worms That Saved The World a group of earthworms living on an imaginary headland begin to suffer when a golf course takes up residence around their home. The worms attempt to tell the new owners about their concerns but they are dismissed. In response they organise and join with the other birds and animals on the headland. Eventually they reclaim the headland for everyone.

“The book was inspired by the Free The Old Head campaign,’ said Kevin Doyle, ‘but it is about a lot more than just that. It is also about the environment and the need to stand up for your rights while celebrating community and solidarity in our lives. It’s a feel-good book that kids and parents together can enjoy and learn from.”

He continued,

‘The illustrations are works of art in their own right. Children will love these rebellious worms. Let’s face it, earthworms get a lot of bad press but these worms have something to tell us about the need to share the planet and respect the environment.”

The illustrations in the book have already garnered praise.

“There are thirty-five original illustrations,” said Spark Deeley. “First, I sketched the images onto watercolour paper. The drawings were then inked in using a fine liner drawing pen. Finally, I coloured the drawings by hand using watercolour paint. The larger images took between 4 – 5 days each from start to finish.”

Spark Deeley and Kevin Doyle (2)She added, “The expressions on the faces of the worms change throughout the book. Their faces convey the emotions that they experience as the story unfolds. We see concern, confusion, surprise, fear, outrage, concentration, questioning, determination, compassion and pure joy. That is what this story is all about.”

The Worms That Saved The World is published by Chispa Publishing, Cork and will retail at €10. Copies can be ordered online via Facebook or Twitter. The book will be available in Cork at Vibes and Scribes (Lavitt’s Quay) and Liam Ruiséal (Oliver Plunkett Street).

Further Information:

Kevin Doyle and Spark Deeley

For background history about the Old Head dispute see Free Old Head of Kinsale – A Brief History (includes more links.)

For more about the storybook and its development see About “The Worms That Saved The World”

 

About “The Worms That Saved The World”

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Introducing a children’s book with a difference!

“Their lives are turned upside down when a luxury golf course invades their headland. The worms try to negotiate but their efforts are met with insecticide. Our long, wriggly friends have had enough! They decide to take action … A story for children and (ssssssh) adults too.”

Background

The Worms That Saved The World is an illustrated children’s book about a rebellious group of earthworms who fight to save their home from a luxury golf course that takes over their headland. The story was inspired by a famous campaign that took place at the Old Head of Kinsale in Cork, Ireland at the turn of the millennium.

The Old Head has been described as one of the ‘one of the most spectacular beauty spots on [Ireland’s] Wild Atlantic Way’. However in 1989 the promontory was purchased by a property developer whose dream was to build a luxury golf course on the headland. Part of his plan involved restricting public access to the walks along and around the Old Head. A public campaign got underway to opposed the annexation and this took the form of ‘picnics’ that were often followed by ‘mass trespasses’ on the headland. The developer appealed to the Irish courts to uphold his right to control movement on the headland and eventually he won. Today access to the Old Head is very limited – unless you have lots of money and you like to play golf.

Author Kevin Doyle explains how the The Worms That Saved The World took shape:

I took part in many of the protests. We were right to protest about what was happening. Here was a beautiful part of our country, part of our heritage, and it was being robbed from under our noses by a developer who just wanted to turn it into a playground for very rich golfers. It was all wrong. The campaign that opposed the development was one of most spirited that I ever took part in. There was lots of solidarity but in the end force prevailed. For many of us the fight is not over. The Old Head will be ours again one day.

The idea for the story sprung from the injustice of seeing the beautiful headland being privatised. But in the early part of the millennium I also had young children to mind. My partner and I read a lot to our two girls. There are great books around for children – no shortage in one respect – but there are few enough books that talk about issues to do with standing up for your rights. Also it’s often not safe to stand up against injustice on your own. You have to win others to your side and act collectively. The Worms That Saved The World talks about these issues as part of the fun story that it is. There are no princes and princesses in this story!

seals small (2)I remember seeing a book in Solidarity Books in Cork called Into The Serpent’s Jaws. I asked about it.  The author and illustrator was Spark Deeley. I met Spark a while later and asked her if she would be interested in working on The Worms story. The book took off from there. Spark is a great artist but she also really liked the story and its politics. It took a lot of work and much to-ing and fro-ing to get the book into its final shape. The illustrations in their own right are beautiful with a lot of detail in each one.

Neither Spark nor I are celebrities so we haven’t been able to get a mainline publisher to back us. Okay that a bit of an exaggeration but these days it does seems as if content does play second fiddle to ‘star’ branding. In any case we decided that this story was too important to be allowed languish so we’ve gone ahead and published it ourselves. 

We think this is a story worth telling. It is a story for our time, we feel. Social solidarity is under attack in many countries and, lets face it, decisive action to stop global warning just hasn’t happened. Maybe it really is up to us?

Where can I get a copy of The Worms That Saved The World?

The Worms That Saved The World will be launched in Cork on May 5th, 2017. To order a copy please go here or you contact us directly on Facebook or Twitter. In Cork, the book is available from Vibes and Scribes, 21 Lavitt’s Quay, Cork.

More details to follow.

 About the author

Kevin Doyle is an award-winning short-story writer. His work has been widely published. He won the Michael McLaverty Short Story Award 2016 and a CAP Indie Award for his collection Do You Like Oranges? At the turn of the millennium he was active in the campaign to defend the public’s right of access to the traditional walkways on the Old Head of Kinsale. That campaign and his daughter Saoirse’s interest in garden worms inspired this story. He is also the author of many articles on anarchism and the anarchist tradition, and teaches creative writing in Cork.

About the illustrator

Spark Deeley is an artist, illustrator and writer. Born in Birmingham, she now lives in Cork, where she divides her time between professional art practice and community art projects. Her first book, Into the Serpent’s Jaws, an illustrated fable, was published in 2007. This was followed by Do You Remember Me?, an illustrated CD created with musician Catherine Cunningham. She has also facilitated the production of two volumes of art and writing by community groups in Cork: Knitting for Squids and The Light of the Lantern. The Worms that Saved the World explores a theme that she believes to be central to a healthy society: our universal right to a safe home.

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Written by Kevin Doyle

April 5, 2017 at 4:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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