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Patricia Lynch (Mrs. Richard M. Fox)

I BELIEVE THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT A STORY writer is the stories, but if readers would like to know more about me, I will tell them. I was born in Cork City in 1898, and have written stories ever since I could write. I began by telling them and, when I was a child, I was selected by popular acclamation to tell stories to the class in convent school during sewing lesson. As I did not like sewing, we were all satisfied. I was so small the nuns made me sit up on a high desk facing the class.

The stories were bits of folklore and legend I had heard in Cork, tales told me by my mother and by Mr. Hennessy, a famous "shanachie" who visited our house on Faer Hill. I read a good deal too, but I soon found that to keep my class going I had to make up stories of my own. This was not difficult for there were the quays, the river, the old houses, and the bells of Shandon church pealing out from where it stood amid a huddle of rising streets. Cork is really an island with bridges and water all around, and it is just the right place for stories.

I didn't stay very long in Cork, for I left the city while still a child and spent several years in various schools, convent and secular, in Ireland, England and at Bruges. My father had interests in Egypt for, at one time, he edited a journal there. But he died when I was too young to know him. After his death, my mother and brother led a wandering existence, first in search of a fortune he v.:as supposed to have and secondly for business reasons.

The changing scenes of my schools and the varying people I met were of great help in making me a story-teller. They enlarged my experience and understanding. But I often felt very lonely and driven in on myself when I was left at a new, strange school. I would dream about Ireland and think of its people, its hills and valleys. These dreams would centre on Cork and I would try to recapture all the stories I had ever heard in Ireland. Perhaps that is one reason why all my books are rooted in Irish life and character.

A curious thing is that my Irish stories have appealed to a wide circle of readers outside Ireland. In France there are now five of my books published in translation. They have also been issued in the United States, in Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Sweden, even-strangest of all-in Malaya. In spite of different national customs and traditions, readers find a common ground of appeal in books which have the sun, the wind and the rain in them, as well as the joys and longings of ordinary humanity. And that is what I hope may be found in my books.

What do I write about ? One of the earliest of my books is called The Turf Cutter's Donkey and tells of the whitewashed cabins on the Irish bog, of Long Ears, the patient little grey donkey, of the turf-cutter and his wife but, most of all, about the adventures of Eileen and Seumas, the two children who meet with the tinkers and leprechauns but who keep their simplicity and kindness even if they do-like Long Ears-kick over the traces once in a while.

Critics have said that they find in my writing a blend of ordinary life and of fantasy. I appreciate the compliment, for usually it is meant that way. But I have always considered that ordinary life-all life-is a fantasy, though it is certainly reality as well. What can be more fantastic than those bonds of friendship and affection that spring up out of nowhere and bind people together? What is more fantastic than our world of sea and sky, of red sunsets and golden moons. Yet if among the waving white bog cotton (canavaun), I spy just one little leprechaun, people who accepted all the other wonders as "ordinary," think that this is most fantastic. It is time we saw life as a whole and realized its magic. What I have tried to do in my books is to reveal the magic of ordinary life.

Perhaps because I began by telling stories, my books have been found specially suitable for reading aloud and for radio. My Brogeen stories-Brogeen is a leprechaun who keeps running away from his home in the fairy fort because he likes humans-have proved very popular with children over the B.B.C. and other stations. The Brogeen books have been dramatized in serial installments. In France they have given Brogeen the name of Korik, which is, I understand, a little gnomish creature who belongs to the Breton country. Brogeen, in Ireland, is the little shoemaker with the golden hammer. The name has the same derivation as that of the shoes we call "brogues."

In Knights of God I have written about the saints of Ireland. This book was a choice of the Catholic Children's Book Club in New York. I see there saints as brave, adventurous people who were warriors on the side of spiritual truth. They have the same qualities of humour, common sense and kindliness that we can find everywhere in humanity but, because they were more richly endowed and had greater resolution, they became saints. I have also written of the old Irish legends in my Tales of Irish Enchantment, for I believe that these legends enshrine what is worth preserving in the early history and memory of the race.

Most of my books-I have now written twenty-five-are stories, with an Irish background, stories of fairs and firesides-with the turf glowing on the hearth-of journeys and of home. Sometimes my people travel on ships and sometimes they set out across the bog with a little grey donkey and a load of turf. But everywhere they go they find adventure, whether they turn to the heroic past or the unknown future.

There are no desperate fights with gangsters in my books, with bands of children defeating hordes of crooks and criminals in pitched battles, over roofs and- through alleyways. I do not care for the unreal "tough" books because I do not know of any groups of children who fight with gangs of robbers. That is altogether too fantastic! And I do believe that reality-including imaginative reality-is essential to a good book. I am not keen on "mamby-pamby" books either. My characters have their temptations and meet their villains, because there are plenty of temptations and villains to be met with in life and we must all-children and grown-ups-be on our guard against them. Yet, like most story-tellers, I do not want to preach. I want the story to tell its own lesson just as the lives of the saints do.

I have written of my early life in some detail in A Story-teller's Childhood. Of the many incidents recorded, I will pick out one, the day I met Sister Francis in the garden at a convent school where I went to stay during the holidays before the other girls came back. As the gate clanged shut she looked up and leaned on her spade, watching me, and when I came nearer, her eyes smiled. I stopped at the edge of the earth she had been digging.

"I am Sister Francis," she told me.

"I am Patricia Nora Lynch!"

Her face was brown but very thin, her golden brown eyes were dancing. They changed every moment, they laughed, they grew serious, sad, kind.

"I dig too much. I walk too much!" she said in a breathless whisper.

"Are you sick?" I asked fearfully.

"I have been near the doors of death," she told me. "They opened a little way, then closed. I remained on this side."

"Were you frightened?"

Sister Francis looked at me. Her strange eyes were keen.

"When you came to the high wall with the barred door, and the bell clanged, you were frightened. Unknown eyes looked through the grille. You heard bolts pulled back and you stood there, alone and suffering. The door opened and you came in to find a garden and a friend!"

Such chance encounters helped me to understand the direction in which I was going. So, too, did my meeting with Miss Carmichael who stayed at the Baerasel's pension in Bruges. I had been left there by my mother when I fell ill during our journey to Egypt. Miss Carmichael wrote travel articles and would pound them out on her typewriter. I brought her hot, creamy coffee in the mornings and we talked. I told her about my family and their quest for riches.

"Perhaps writing will be your gold mine," she said. "You've had a few little nuggets already. You should learn shorthand and typewriting. With them and a good knowledge of English, a girl can go through the world."

"You mean I'll be a writer-like you?" I asked.

"It's a good life!" said Miss Carmichael.

Later I had a letter from Egypt. My mother wrote saying that a cotton factory had been built on my father's land. There was money, though not very much, because a~great deal had to be paid in taxes. But there was enough for me to go to college and become a teacher or a civil servant.

"Which will you be ?" asked Miss Carmichael. "A teacher or a civil servant?"

"I'll learn shorthand and typing and go through the world!" I declared. And I drank my glass of wine.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Books by Patricia Lynch include Strangers at the Fair (Browne, 1945), A Story-teller's Childhood (Browne, 1946), Lisheen at the Valley Farm (Grayfield Press, 1949), The Seventh Pig (Dent, 1950), The Dark Sailor of Youghal (Dent, 1951), The Boy at the Swinging Lantern (Bentley, 1952), Grania of Castle O'Hara (Page, 1952), Brogeen and the Green Shoes (Burke, 1953), Delia Daly of Galloping Green (Dent, 1953), Tales of Irish Enchantment (Clonmore, 1953), Orla of Burren (Dent, 1954), and Knights of God (Regnery, 1955).]

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