Once Upon a…

…Place is a collection of stories and poems, all new, all set somewhere in Ireland. I was delighted to be asked to contribute to this book put together by Eoin Colfer as part of his Laureate-ship. That was the brief – that the setting be a real place in Ireland – and here is where I set mine:

Kells, County Kilkenny, is a wee village. It’s on a bend in the King’s River and there’s nothing much there but a garage and a small pub called Shirley’s. And the Priory. Or the Seven Castles as locals also call it – because of the tower houses dotted along the walls.

It’s the nearest village to the farm my granddad was born and grew up on, the farm where my mother spent her childhood summers. She brought us there as kids to visit with our cousins and we all continued to spend weekends over the years. As a child, trundling through Kells in the old blue Beetle meant we were, in fact, Nearly There. As an adult I cork-screwed through Kells at breakneck speed many a night as my madcap cousin drove us into Kilkenny city, to the ‘disco’ at Langtons. Occasionally we’d stop, for a quiet-ish pint in Shirley’s or to walk off a hangover in the Priory of a Sunday morning.

PJ Lynch did an amazing job of bringing Kells Priory and my story, Gren’s Ghost, to life with his atmospheric black and white charcoal images. You can click HERE to see one of them happen (1 min), or HERE to see PJ chat about illustrating the book (2.39). Meanwhile the book will be available from tomorrow, all over the country.