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On wing and a prayer: Lorna spreads word of the angels



Lifestyle – Judy Murphy talks to the best-selling author Lorna Byrne who sees angels and talks to God

 Lorna Byrne has to deal with sceptics and Doubting Thomases all the time. That’s no surprise, given that the best-selling author says she sees angels all the time, and talks to them and to God.

But Lorna, who discusses angels as matter-of-factly as most people would talk about family members, has no problem with her detractors. The woman who says that “everything I know I have been taught by the angels”, has high regard for sceptics.

“These people are questioning and I think it’s good that they are searching to know what everybody is in search of.”

For her, that truth is that we all have soul and that God has designated a guardian angel to each of us to help to protect that soul and bring us “safely home to Him”. Lorna’s job is to “give people hope” and make everybody aware that “you live because you have a soul and a guardian angel, who is the gatekeeper of your soul”.

Lorna says she knows this for a fact, because she has seen angels since she was a toddler – her first experience of life on the other side was via her brother who had died as a child. She remembers playing with him, she says. God came to her then, as did the angels.  “They told me they were angels and I understood.”

Not surprisingly her family warned her not to tell anybody about this.

But as Lorna grew older, angels kept appearing. Life wasn’t easy for the young girl who was born into poverty, as she recounts in her successful book, Angels in My Hair. Because of these visions and the fact that she was dyslexic, Lorna was regarded as being slow and she never learned to read or write properly. In fact, she had difficulty pronouncing the word dyslexia.

“I have no education at all, but it’s all about putting the message out there and helping people to change for the better.”

These days she can laugh about her inability to pronounce dyslexia because she knows she has been given a job to do – to make people aware of their guardian angels and of the importance of being guided by them. And given that her books have been published in more than 50 countries and translated into 27 languages, she is succeeding in that task.

 “Every single day, I am never alone but neither are you, even in the loo or in the shower. Your guardian angel is someone God has chosen and created for you. But you and I are greater than any guardian angel, because we have soul. Your soul is more beautiful than any angel and your angel stays with you because they are in the presence of that speck of light that is God. Angels don’t have that soul. We are more perfect and beautiful than any guardian angel, even in our worst state.”

Each guardian angel is specially appointed and goes with us when we die.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune

Connacht Tribune

Galway poet’s new chapter as debut novel hits the shops



Elaine Feeney....debut novel.

“I hated school so much I thought if I could be a teacher, I could make it a bit better,” says novelist and poet Elaine Feeney about her day-job as an English and History teacher at St Jarlath’s College in Tuam.

The Athenry woman certainly has made it livelier and more relevant. Her students who were studying Hamlet for this year’s Leaving Cert departed from the text to give the troubled prince psychotherapy sessions, with different boys taking on the roles of Hamlet and the therapist as they explored the plot. Elaine laughs as she recalls how they got totally caught up in it. There’s always an entry point to good writing, she says, adding that she loves Shakespeare – in part because of the soap opera element to his drama.

“You can compare it to the latest episode of EastEnders”.

The Handmaid’s Tale by contemporary Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood is also on the curriculum. Her novel might seem more relevant to the boys, especially given its global success since being adapted for television. When Elaine learned that Atwood would be visiting Galway in early March this year for a Galway 2020 event, she asked the organisers if it would be possible for the class to meet her and discuss her work. That’s what happened and 25 young men in their school blazers spent three hours discussing the novel with Atwood.

Elaine lectures in Creative Writing at NUIG and has been involved in the university’s project archiving the stories of the survivors of Tuam’s Mother and Baby home. So, watching her students engage with a woman whose books deal with the misuse of power and oppression of women was a great moment.

It’s an example of how far she’ll go to give the students the best preparation for exams and for life. Elaine has a great relationship with them, something she’ll miss next year as she takes a career break to promote her own novel, As You Were, published by UK company Harvill Secker.

Read the full interview with Elaine Feeney in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

New book unpicks the mysteries of Salthill



Salthill. It’s familiar to anyone who lives in Galway, whether as somewhere to go for a walk and ‘kick the wall’, or as a place to visit during sunny summer days for the beaches, the ice-creams and the funfair. But as a new book by retired teacher and broadcaster Paul McGinley shows, there’s much more to this seaside resort than meets the eye.
Salthill: A History, Part 1, tells how this once-rural hamlet on the outskirts of Galway developed into a seaside resort from the mid-1800s.
Paul who was reared in Salthill and is fascinated by history, had observed that while rural parts of Ireland have a rich folklore tradition, passed on from generation to generation, the same wasn’t true of Salthill.
He’d gone to school in the Bish where his teachers included the late Dónal Taheny, a well-known local historian who died in 2014 at the age of 95.
“He had a great sense of the local and a real pride in Salthill,” recalls Paul. Dónal used to stress the importance of local history and it was through him that Paul first began to notice that Salthill’s lore didn’t stretch back through the generations as it does in other places.
As he delved more deeply, that makes sense.
“People move to Salthill and they say ‘I’m a blow-in’, but in a way, everyone is. It just depends on for how long,” Paul notes as he gives examples of families who are well known locally. Very few go back more than a few generations.
Those who are well-established include the Stewarts of Stewart Construction, who can trace their paternal Salthill roots back to 1900 when James Stewart married Mary Ann Gill of Lower Salthill and two years later, set up the company that’s now so well-known. The Toft family of Tofts’ amusement were first recorded as having visited in 1883 – they were seasonal until 1941-2 when they settled permanently.
Another well-known family established roots in 1933 when Frank Hallinan arrived. He became head of a group known as the Castlerea Consortium which bought a field known as the Monks’ Field and sold plots and houses there. The only stipulation for buyers was that they couldn’t open a butcher shop, as Frank owned one, across from Seapoint in the days before it became a ballroom, Paul explains.
The Monks’ Field was so-called because it belonged to the Christian Brothers who owned the Salthill Industrial School – they farmed it, often causing annoyance to local farmers, whom they undercut on prices.
After the Finan family opened Seapoint Ballroom in 1949, Frank Hallinan launched the Oslo Hotel, which had 13 bedrooms and registered it with the Irish Tourist Board.
“Frank didn’t know then that Johnny Cash and June Carter would stay there,” says Paul referring to the legendary singers who toured Ireland in the early 1960s.
Another man to make a lasting impression was Tom O’Connor who arrived to Salthill from Moylough in 1942, having sold a farm and other business interests, to invest in the premises now known as O’Connors’ Famous Pub. The Finans, who owned the Bon Bon as well as Seapoint, settled when Martin Finan married local woman, Mary Ellen Glancy in 1907.
Paul traces all this history and more as he recalls his own youth. As someone who loved music, Salthill was heaven, mainly because of the Hangar, which opened in 1924 and ran for decades before being closed.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Gort’s Lisa lost for words



Gort author Lisa McInerney with the Baileys prize for fiction which she won for her novel The Glorious Heresies

Gort author Lisa McInerney is in no danger of getting a swelled head after winning the UK’s most prestigious fiction award for woman authors for her debut novel, The Glorious Heresies.

A week after she won the £30,000 Bailey’s prize, beating five other authors including fellow Irish novelist, the Man Booker winner Anne Enright, she’s still bemused.

“I still haven’t got my head around it. Even looking at the long list, I’m thinking there were some amazing writers on it, so how did this happen?” says the author of this pacey, blackly comic novel set in Cork.

But, as she points out, “a lot of writers are probably their own biggest critics anyway” and that’s definitely true in her case.

McInerney, who was born in Gort in 1981, has been writing since she can remember and has, somewhere in her possession, a ‘book’ she wrote at the age of seven or eight.

“It was maybe six pages long, in a copybook,” she says adding that she used to read a lot and “a child’s imagination sees no barrier. If they can read stories, they don’t see why they can’t write them as well”.

That’s what she did, all through school and college – “all rubbish” – but helping to hone her skills.

“It’s a compulsion, something you can’t help but do,” she says of writing, adding that even when it comes to trying to make sense of events in her own life, she puts pen to paper.

“I see the world through text and prose and words. Other people might see it through maths or in pictures.”

Lisa’s world was an interesting one from the get-go. Born to 19-year-old single mother in Gort in 1981, she was adopted by her grandparents after birth.

People wonder if that was traumatic, she says, but it wasn’t one bit. At the time, children born to single parents were regarded by the State as illegitimate, a situation that wasn’t amended until 1987.

“From their point of view, they were worried it might affect my status in future,” she explains.

Lisa always knew the story of her birth and adoption and was fine with it.

“Kids are very adaptable if you tell them when they are young, as opposed to telling them when they are older. That’s when people have a harder time, when their views are set.”

Her mother subsequently met and married another man and Lisa has a half-sister. They all have a very good relationship, she says.

She loves Gort and still lives there, but when she finished her Leaving Cert at the age of 16 and was offered a place in UCC, she leaped at it.

“In South County Galway, I have a huge family I was very much the youngest and nobody ever listened to me,” she says with a laugh. So Cork, which she knew through her cousins in Carragaline, offered a chance to forge her own identity.

“I went down there at 17, the kind of age when you are learning who you are. Me and Cork got very intertwined at that stage. Even though Galway is home, I was always very happy in Cork.”

That kind of mixed emotion about the home place is very strong in Ireland, she says, adding that her husband, “who is from Cork feels very happy in Galway”.

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