Inkwell Success Stories

Inkwell Assist Patricia to Publication

Patricia Byrne writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction. A graduate of the MA (Writing) programme of NUI Galway, she lives in Limerick and first came to Inkwell via Patricia O’Reilly’s Writing Historical Fiction online workshop. Trying to get her voice ‘right’ in the book, Patricia contacted Vanessa O’Loughlin to critique the opening chapters,  Patricia says:

“You may remember that you critiqued the early chapters to my nonfiction book about the Achill Valley House story. I also benefited from Patricia O’Reilly’s online Inkwell workshop on Historical Fiction. These inputs were important milestones as I worked through the development of the story into what eventually became a nonfiction book written in the narrative nonfiction style. Well, I am pleased to say that my book was accepted for publication by The Collins Press and is due out in April 2012. I was pleased that the book got a mention in last Saturday’s Irish Times in their review of books to look out for in 2012 (Social History category). Thanks for your support and inputs along the way in getting this story into print.”

Patricia’s interest in the Valley House story arose out of family history. Her great granduncle was Brother Paul Carney who wrote extensive journals, including the account of the life of James Lynchehaun, and accounts of several fundraising trips across the United States.

‘The Veiled Woman of Achill’ is the story of an atrocity on Achill Island in the west of Ireland in 1894. An English landowner, Agnes McDonnell, was brutally attacked and her home – Valley House – burnt. Agnes survived but was so disfigured she wore a veil in public for the rest of her life. The island’s wild man, James Lynchehaun, was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life imprisonment. However, he escaped twice and won a groundbreaking legal case in the United States successfully resisting extradition.

A Franciscan monk in Achill, Brother Paul Carney, had befriended and assisted Lynchehaun, and wrote up the fugitive’s story. Lynchehaun became a folk hero. John Millington Synge visited Mayo in 1904/1905 and decided to locate his drama, The Playboy of the Western World, in north Mayo. Lynchehaun was one of Synge’s influences in constructing the character of Christy Mahon. Agnes McDonnell lived on in Achill and in 1923 was found dead with a wine glass at her feet. James Lynchehaun became a  destitute figure and died in Scotland in 1937. The crime, the trial and escapes, and the island tensions are unravelled in this gripping account.

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