Mark puts mythical Irish beasts at centre of story

The Fomorians were traditionally regarded as a malevolent race of gods. Balor of the Evil Eye was their most famous member.
The Fomorians were traditionally regarded as a malevolent race of gods. Balor of the Evil Eye was their most famous member.

Lifestyle – Artist and businessman Mark Joyce was concerned that Irish legends were being eclipsed by tales from other countries.  He tells JUDY MURPHY how he delved deep into folklore to bring these tales to a new generation.

The wonderful wizard Harry Potter is much loved by 11-year old Sadie Joyce and her sister Alice who is almost 10.

Their father, Mark, an avid reader himself, is totally supportive of his daughters’ enthusiasm for JK Rowling’s magical creation, but their fascination with all things to do with Harry and Hogwarts got the Recess man thinking.

“When it comes to Irish mythology, there’s an element that’s being lost,” he says. “We’re so familiar with other mythologies and that’s great, but we have our own stories and they were being left behind.”

But there was no need for that to happen, he adds. “It was just a question of mining what was there.”

And so, he mined. The result is the beautiful hardback book, Mythical Irish Beasts, which he has written and illustrated and which has been flying off the shelves since it was published by Currach Press last month. Its fans include RTÉ’s Ryan Tubridy who gave it special mention on The Late Late Toy Show – an accolade that boosted sales enormously, according to a grateful Mark.

He’s the fourth generation of his family to run the renowned Joyce’s gift shop in Recess, having returned to the business by accident in his 20s after initially pursuing a career in visual art and film.

Mark is a graduate of the Dún Laoghaire College of Art and Design where he studied model-making and special effects for film, after which he worked with the Corman Studios in Connemara and also freelanced on several feature films in Dublin and England.

Since taking over the craft shop, he has put his own stamp on it, working hard to promote and support Irish craftworkers, and stocking unique items not available elsewhere.

“I’m very interested in Irish crafts but that’s my day job,” he says, keen to keep the focus on Mythical Irish Beasts.

Mark, his artist wife, Kathleen, and their two girls live just a stone’s throw from the craft shop in a beautifully restored house that reflects their broad artistic tastes and which offers amazing views over the wild Connemara landscape.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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