Thursday, July 26, 2007

Death of Galway Children’s Author Pat O’Shea

Pat O'Shea, the author of the children's novel The Hounds of the Morrigan, which took 13 years to complete and became a bestseller, has died recently, aged 76. Hailed as a classic by reviewers, the book is still admired by new readers of all ages more than 20 years on.
Telling the story of two children asked by an Irish god to recover a blood-stained pebble before it falls into the clutches of Morrigan, the Celtic goddess of war, it draws deeply on Pat's idyllic early years - on long summers in east Galway, on her love of Connemara, and on a rich store of history, myth and folklore absorbed and added to with scholarly care over many years.

Born Pat Shiels in Bohermore, Galway in 1931 and educated at the Presentation and Mercy convents in Galway, she was the fifth and youngest child of an affectionate family. A keen reader, she grew up close to the sea in the unspoilt countryside around Lough Corrib in the West of Ireland. Benefiting from the still existing Irish tradition of story-telling by the fireside, she absorbed the many tales told both by her mother and her Uncle John. Outside the house, there were plenty of other older people, too, with time for children and telling stories that often reached back into ancient mythology.

The inspiration for The Hounds of the Morrigan came from a dream. Starting work on it years later, after making literally thousands of notes, Pat O'Shea welded a comic fantasy onto a scaffolding of Irish mythology at its wildest. In the story two children, Pidge and his younger sister Brigit, are asked by the Irish god Dagda to go on a quest to recover a blood-stained pebble before it falls into the clutches of the Celtic goddess of war Morrigan.
Moving from Galway to the land of Faery, the children encounter a series of talking insects and animals, all of whom back them in their great adventure. Ranged against them are Morrigan's two side-kicks, Breda Fairfoul and Melodie Moonlight, a brace of motorbike-riding witches in command of a terrifying pack of hounds.

No comments: