Liverpool Irish Festival is always on the lookout for emerging talent. Through commissions and recommendations, we often find new talent. As a platform for Irish and Northern Irish arts and creativity we do our best to ensure we create a supportive platform for those breaking through. Nicola Lavelle is one such writer, who we came to know through our Gael Linn commissions. Nicola has just released her first children’s book, based on Irish mythology. Below she tells us what drew her to form of storytelling, her history and her next steps.
Glór ar Inis Gluaíre
Nicola Lavelle (Nicola Ní Mhaolábhail), from Belmullet (Co. Mayo), is a primary school teacher and author of Glór ar Inis Gluaíre. An adventure story, the book tells of two young boys -Séamaisín and Cormac- who attend the Mayo Gaeltacht summer school for the first time. The book is aimed at 7–10-year-olds, but anyone with a love of the Irish language; myths, legends, flora and fauna will enjoy it. If that does not entice you, knowing that all proceeds will be donated to Children’s Health Foundation (Crumlin) may.
From an early age Nicola enjoyed reading and writing. Mum Breege is a retired librarian who inspired a love of books and reading. “Mum introduced me to Ladybird books such as The Little Red Hen and The Elves and the Shoemaker. I loved Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five adventure books as well as school stories schools such as St. Clare’s and Malory Towers. I’d always have a new pile of books from the library waiting to be leafed through! Writing is my passion; I vividly remember primary school teachers reading my stories to the class. Reading helped immensely with my writing”.
During summers away from university, Nicola held story-telling workshops in her local library, developing her craft of keeping young audiences enthralled in every word. “As a teacher, I engage in shared reading with the class and model writing with the children. Our favourites are Roald Dahl and, more recently David Walliams; both of whom have a wonderful way of weaving a witty tale! Modelling writing exercises and stories, helps to ignite the children’s imagination, and motivates them to create their own stories”. These experiences have provided Nicola with an insight into various genres of writing and what is popular in children’s storytelling.
Dad John hails from the Gaeltacht’s Surgeview, Blacksod. Having used Irish from the cradle, her Dad -like many others- emigrated to London in 1960’s in search of work. “I will always admire him -and people like him- who had to leave their home country to find work. How foreign everything must have seemed. Having a language barrier would made the simplest of day-to-day interactions difficult”.
The Gaeltacht is an area in which the Irish language is the predominant language spoken. Using her work Nicola “wants to encourage visits to Gaeltacht speaking areas in Mayo and throughout Ireland. Through immersion, children and adults alike can acquire a language. It’s also beneficial to those that would like to improve their Irish. In writing Glór ar Inis Gluaíre, I hope to instil a love for reading through the Irish language, particularly in children”.
Irish heritage, History and culture are especially important to Nicola. Inis Gluaíre, Inishkea and Duvillaun are three islands off the Erris Peninsula, Co. Mayo. “My grandparents came from the Inishkea island, but it was the island of Inis Gluaíre that really captured my interest and attention. The barony of Erris -and indeed, County Mayo- is one of the most picturesque parts of Ireland. Inis Gluaíre is an area of peace, tranquillity and natural beauty; it is steeped in history.
“There are several ecclesiastical remains on the island. The ruins of Saint Brendan’s Church are visible, as well as Teampall na bhFear (Men’s Church) and Teampall na mBan (Women’s Church). The self-sufficiency required to live then is still evident in the remains of three beehive huts, potato ridges and wells. I felt compelled to write a children’s story acknowledging all of this”.
The island is best known as the final resting place of ‘The Children of Lir’, famous in Irish mythology. These children -Aodh, Conn, Fiachra and Fionnuala- were believed to have spent 300 years on Lake Derrevagh, 300 on the Straits of Moyle and a final 300 years on Inis Gluaíre, where they are believed to be buried.
“I did most of my research in the Language Culture Research and Genealogy Centre (Clogher, Co. Mayo). The centre is cleverly named Turas Siar in Irish meaning ‘Journey Back’.
“I spent a lot of time searching for an illustrator that I felt would suit the voice of the book and was very lucky to find Aidan Courtney. Aidan’s been a pleasure to work with, making my ideas come alive. His interests suited my book’s themes, and subsequent books I’m planning. Aidan has a “grá” (love) for the Irish language having, founded and published Irish language comic books, Coimicí Gael”.
Nicola’s keenly interested in mental health and wellbeing, currently “studying a Higher Diploma in Counselling Skills online with Letterkenny Institute of Technology. Charitable work is always something I’ve wanted to do. I’ve chosen Children’s Health Foundation (Crumlin) to donate all proceeds of the book to. They provide critical care, support and funding to over 120,000 sick children -annually-from Ireland who attend Crumlin Hospital for diagnosis, treatment, and care”.
So, what’s next for Nicola? “I’m working on a sequel to Glór ar Inis Gluaíre. After that, I intend to study for a Masters in Educational Management and Leadership. In Ireland, just 40% of junior management roles are occupied by women and only 17% of CEO’s are female. I want to change that!”.
Glór ar Inis Gluaíre is available to purchase from An Siopa Leabhar – Díoltóirí leabhar agus earraí Gaeilge: siopaleabhar.com (0035314783814) or from
To find out more about the work of Children’s Health Foundation, Crumlin visit olchc.ie