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
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
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
"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
"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).]