DEFINING GENRE (or when is Western not a Western?)

One of the most difficult things about writing fiction is deciding on a genre, particularly when your work hits several of them tangentially. I’m writing a series of novels that feature a family of Irish immigrants who settle in America after the Great Potato Famine of 1845-1852, each with a central romance and a dash … Continue reading DEFINING GENRE (or when is Western not a Western?)

an Gorta Mor (or The Great Irish Famine, 1845-1852)

Reposting this today in honor of Mick Mulvaney, who stood in his green tie and shamrock pin yesterday to assure us all that feeding the hungry was an unnecessary luxury.

Cowboys & Irishmen

Most of the time I find history boring. But every once in awhile, I stumble over something fascinating. And usually, that something makes me cry.

I’d heard quite a bit about the Irish Famine at different places along the way, like in English class in high school when we read Jonathan Swift’s essay A Modest Proposal (if you haven’t already read it, I highly recommend it. It gives an incredible satiric look at the British government’s feelings on “the Irish problem.” The problem, in short, was that there was such a thing as “the Irish”.)

At any rate, the subject cropped up now and again. But it wasn’t until I started writing my Donovan series that I realized how closely related I was to it. My father’s family emigrated from Ireland in the early 20th century, chased out by the British Army (or so the story goes). As I started…

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St Patrick & the Slave Trade

This post first appeared on giffordmacshane.com on 3/17/15

Cowboys & Irishmen

Read any biography of Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, and you’ll find that he was born in the late 4th century somewhere on the island of Britain. Patrick was kidnapped while still in his teens, and sold as a slave in Ireland. Some histories place the blame on Irish pirates, while others blame the Romans who had conquered the island centuries earlier. Whoever was responsible, for six years Patrick was a slave, and then he escaped back to Britain.

Twelve years after his escape, having studied at a monastery and being ordained, Patrick returned to the Emerald Isle as a bishop and missionary. After twenty years, he left behind an organized church under the authority of the See of Armagh, and an island that was nearly completely converted to Catholicism.

Little did Patrick know that, over a thousand years later, those conversions would be the justification for a new…

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Tuesday Trivia: The Transatlantic Crossing

In the mid-19th Century, most transatlantic crossings were still done by sailing ship, although steamship passage was available for those who could afford it, primarily through the Cunard Line of Britain and the Inman line of the US.  A steamship would routinely make the voyage in 11 to 13 days, but until 1860, most steamships … Continue reading Tuesday Trivia: The Transatlantic Crossing