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Location writing for THEY SHUT ME UP or: We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Part 1)

I've always been strongly drawn to ruins and archaeological sites as an inspiration for writing; my second collection, the folk-horror New Music For Old Rituals, started off as a photographic project based on spectral sites in the south-west of Ireland. In Ireland, there is a sense that other times and spaces are but a breath away; sleeping quietly under the surface of the earth.

Since 2018, I've been lucky enough to live in Co. Clare - one of the most beautiful counties in Ireland, and one with a very rich architectural and archaeological history of prehistoric tombs, medieval monasteries, castles and tower houses built by Gaelic chieftains, and Anglo-Irish Great Houses built during periods of colonization by English settlers. There's something so beguiling about ruins; the fractured homes, their mysterious former lives, half-glimpsed in what remains. When I decide on a location I want to use in my writing, I love to spend time exploring it and making location notes - trying to capture the sights, the sounds, the scents and, above all, the feeling of the place.

One of the locations I chose for They Shut Me Up was Dysert O'Dea castle. This 15th century tower house dominates the landscape near Corofin. Originally the stronghold of the O'Dea clan, it was damaged in the Cromwellian invasion of Ireland in 1651. Nearby is the beautiful Dysert O'Dea Abbey also known as St. Tola's Church, with the remains of a round tower behind it. St Tola was a hermit turned bishop who is now venerated as the patron saint of Co. Clare, and as a healer of toothaches. His monastery is remarkable for its Romanesque doorway, decorated with stylised carvings of human and animal heads. In the next field is one of the finest stone crosses in Ireland; the crucified Christ and a huge, stern figure (presumably St. Tola himself) on one side, abstract decorations and carvings of Adam and Eve on the reverse.

I've made several visits to these sites. The buildings at Dysert O'Dea are especially beautiful this time of the year; the mellow, low light of autumn on the rich texture of stonework. So many layers of history, but the one I'm especially interested in is the character of Daniel Neylon (d. 1639), a colonel in the English army...


I guess you'll have to read the book...

Pre-order They Shut Me Up here


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