Rich and varied stories and memoirs in latest Ireland's Own anthology
Three Wexford writers, and another, a lady based in the United States but with strong connections to the county, feature in the recently-published Ireland's Own 2017 Anthology of Winning Irish Short Stories, the eighth annual collection from Ireland's leading family magazine which has been produced in Wexford town since 1902.
Thirty seven stories and memoirs were selected from an entry of over 500 in the annual Ireland's Own writing competitions, including the major prize winners and those that were highly commended.
Kevin McDermott from Kyle, Crossabeg, was a prizewinner with his piece The Lad Who Played With Meccano, about a classmate from what was considered a posh family; their paths diverged after school until Kevin saw him again in London years later.
Born in Cavan, Kevin knew London well as he served as a fire fighter there for 25 years before retiring to Wexford. He is an accomplished musician and storyteller, specialising in comic recitations, and is a regular MC and performer with the Wexford Folk Orchestra.
He published his autobiography some years ago, The Time of the Corncrake, and recorded a CD of recitations, Many Miles of Potholed Road that included three of his own compositions.
Tina Sweeney from Eden House, Oylegate, was the overall short story winner two years ago and she appears in the anthology for the third year in a row with her story Freedom, a fictional piece based around the true events of the 1916 Rising in Enniscorthy.
She began writing in the 1980s and took to the keyboards again in recent years after a long hiatus.
Siobhan Flynn, from Clonroche, makes her first appearance in the anthologies although she has had some stories published in Ireland's Own.
Her entry is The Solution. She works with Wexford County Council.
It is about the struggles of an old couple living on an isolated farm, beset by advancing age poor ill-health after sharing a lifetime of hard work. He is ill but is desperate to stay at home despite the concerns of the district nurse; she finds herself considering even more desperate solutions to their plight.
Hilary Daly Castine is living in Parker, Colorado, in the USA but has very strong links with the Tomsollagh and Monageer areas where her father still lives and she frequently visits.
She was born in London but the family moved back to County Wexford when she was in her teens and she worked in retail in Enniscorthy before marrying in Monageer and emigrating to the States.
The Last Summer is a fiction but very much based on childhood memories of holidays spent on a county Wexford farm. She says she learned the art of storytelling through her parents, Peter and Mary Daly, who filled her childhood with their stories.
The other 34 stories and memoirs in the new anthology, are from all over Ireland, London and the Channel Islands and include tales of love, loss and nostalgia, all laced with a good dash of humour.
President John F. Kennedy features twice with memories of his visit to Wexford and Ireland in 1963, and then his death just a few months later in November.
The foreword is written by popular columnist, author and publican Billy Keane, son of legendary playwright, John B. He recalls:
'My Dad had his first piece published in Ireland's Own and he told me the recognition gave him great confidence. There was also a small cheque he said, but a more likely a postal order in those days which was a big deal for a small boy and the first money Dad ever earned as a writer.
'We are a nation of story tellers and talkers.. the stories and memoirs in this anthology follow on in a noble tradition,' Billy Keane writes.
If you are among the many thousands of weekly loyal readers of Ireland's Own, you will love this book, but it should also appeal to a much wider audience and it would certainly make an ideal Christmas present for Irish people at home and abroad.
The Ireland's Own 2017 Anthology of Winning Irish Short Stories is published by Wexford company, Three Sisters Press, at €14.99, and is widely available through bookshops or on the internet through www.irelandsown.ie
It is also available directly from the offices of People Newspapers.