Galway City Tribune - Opinion Piece
Late bloomer Máire finds success as a novelistJuly 5, 2012 - 10:26am
It’s not everyone who can claim to be a published author and it is rare that someone starts at the age of 80 but that’s exactly what one city woman has done.
Máire Uí Fhlatharta, now 84, has just published her second novel and is already working on her third publication, this time a collection of short stories.
Máire, though not born inside the city walls but in the Connemara Gaeltacht, considers herself ‘a townie’ after living here since she first came to work in the city at the tender age of 17.
Máire, who now lives in Crestwood, spent most of her adult life in the city centre, in Eyre Street to be exact, with her beloved husband Seán who passed away eight years ago.
She still speaks with pride about the day Seán’s funeral cortege went up Eglinton Street and how his former GPO workers had not only closed the post office but lined the street in a guard of honour, though he had retired from there 12 years previously.
“It was very good of them to do that. I didn’t expect it but Seán had kept in contact with his post office colleagues and I know he was very well thought of and liked. That meant a lot to me that day,” says Máire who still speaks Irish like she never left her native Carraroe. Her brother, Tomás Mac Eoin, a well-known sean-nós singer and composer still lives there and she visits often, especially since she was widowed.
She had three miscarriages but this didn’t take away from her good relationship with Seán, who until the day he died was her constant companion.
In fact it was Seán, who on retirement and wanting something to do, suggested they take up some classes. As it happened, Máire found a creative writing class given by writer, Máire Holmes, who suggested she write in her native language. She did and Seán helped her research the story.
“He loved history and loved looking up what I needed for my story which involved Germans coming here in U-boats and concentration camps. It gave us something to do together.
“I had the idea for the first book Ná Gabh Thar Tí Stíofáin (published by Coisceim) that a high ranking officer in Hitler’s army would come to Ireland after his wife, a Jew shoots another army officer and is sent to the concentration camp. He escapes from Berlin with his child and lands in Connemara! And this man, Stíofán gives them shelter. Sure it never happened but it was fun making it up!” she laughs heartily.
She and Seán did discuss taking a trip to a concentration camp but it never happened as they holidayed mostly in the US where they both have relations.
That first book is now on the curriculum for mature Irish language students in Trinity College. No mean feat for a woman who never wrote fiction until her late seventies.
She does admit though to liking romantic and historical fiction, though Seán only ever read factual books and loved historical documentaries, hence the two complemented each other perfectly when it came to writing that first book.
Máire was surprised at the excellent reception it received and was encouraged to write a follow-up, though she stresses, this is no trilogy and with the publication of her latest book, Tí Stíofáin agus Níos Faide Ó Bhaile, that particular saga ends.
For more, read this week's Galway City Tribune.