I now live in Galway on the Wild Atlantic Way coast of Ireland. I have been writing for most of my life and there is more about my writing here.
In brief, I have written novels, short films and radio stories. I have also worked in television and have produced and directed documentary.
I have enjoyed most of it, but I have to admit that one of my favourite projects is Ballyyahoo.
As a young girl I loved watching the Waltons. I loved it so much I wanted to be one.
I wanted John and Libby to take me to the mountains and let me play there every day, but of course, they never came.
Truth is, I lived as far from Walton’s mountain, or Ballyyahoo, as it was possible to get.
I grew up in Toxteth in Liverpool and I was surrounded not by fields and trees but by terraces and tower blocks.
Our street led out on to a main road which was nick-named ‘The Murder Mile’ by the press. You can guess why.
Instead of friendly donkeys with soft expressions trotting over to be petted, like the one John-Boy Walton rode around his mountain, there were fat, sweaty kerb-crawlers with blurred faces.
Kerb-crawlers who from time to time, thought it was okay to approach nine-year-old me and ask how much I charged!
FAR FROM WALTON’S MOUNTAIN
The gentle voice of John Walton and the humming of his lumber mill were nothing like the sounds I heard around me.
Poverty screams, and the screams of poverty were so commonplace they were considered normal in those streets. Kids and wives were ‘smacked around a bit – to ‘shut their faces.’
KEEPING MY FACE SHUT
I used to try really hard to keep my face shut, but it was difficult without the scent of Walton’s mountain flowers to distract me from streets that stank of dog-dirt, blood and last nights spewed up ale.
It wasn’t a bit like Walton’s mountain.
Don’t worry, it is not my intention to make this a misery memoir and it certainly wasn’t all miserable.
I made good friends on those streets and there were lots of really great people.
But, I just want to be honest about my past.
I know that in many ways I was a lucky child because every year I was sent to Ireland.
My dad emigrated from Ireland to Liverpool in the 1950s and we went back there every summer.
For whole six weeks I stayed in in my granny’s house which was in the beautiful Wicklow countryside
Ireland is where I was truly free. Together with an assortment of cousins I could go anywhere I could cycle to.
I would be given a Tupperware box with a sandwich, a plastic beaker of orange juice and then set free to explore for the entire day, with just one warning – to be back home before the Angelus bells rang at six o’clock for tea.
I can still remember the smell of my granny’s fried black and white pudding greeting me when I came home tired and hungry after a day spent exploring.
Ballyyahoo is the place I dreamed of living in as a child.
It is the result of my imagination blending my dreams of Walton’s mountain with those real memories preserved in my mind from my holidays in Ireland.
I have spent hours, days, months, and years, dreaming about this magic place.
Ballyyahoo has the most beautiful countryside I can conjure up in my mind. And, of course I had to put it near the sea, not to mention the Witchy Woods as well.
There has to be beaches and bays in a dreamland and so of course there is in Ballyyahoo.
Oh and there is magic – there always must be magic.
Once I start thinking about Ballyyahoo, it’s very hard to stop.
I hope I am always able to add something more to Ballyyahoo. I want it to be a safe world for children to visit whenever they want.
Especially those kids who live in the city and don’t get to enjoy the freedom I had as a child.
There’s not much freedom for children now. For some kids every second is supervised.
How do children get to explore?
I remember half the fun of exploring was being free of adults.
The anticipation of the undiscovered is twice as much fun when you are about to discover it on your own, or with a little friend.
I place lots of free stories here on the site as well as some you can buy.
I really do know how it is important to encourage children to read and use their imagination – rich or poor.
I hope that children who enjoy reading about Ballyyahoo can add to it in their own imagination – the way I did as a girl.
If there’s one thing I do know, it’s that no matter what happens in your life, nobody can take your imagination away.