Saturday, February 24, 2024

Bringing to life the historic ties between Ireland and America

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Not many people can claim that they were able to have a great future because of the influence of a particular teacher. I know I can’t do it, but Anne Madden can. She was a pupil at the Royal Academy of Belfast, where her history teacher made a strong impression on her by bringing the subject to life. Eddie McCamley is proud of his students.

Through his teachings, she became fascinated with American history, specialized in the Civil War in college, and wrote a book that I can’t put down now. I just wanted to keep reading as the story unfolded. In my case, every time the phone rang or someone offered me tea, I wanted to scream, “Leave me alone!”

Anne Madden and her former history teacher Eddie McCamley who inspired her at Belfast Royal Academy
Anne Madden and her former history teacher Eddie McCamley who inspired her at Belfast Royal Academy

Wilderness Way caught my attention and kept me glued to the page. I fell in love with stories of those happy days when we lived in villages of white-painted stone huts, dug lawns, and made poteens. I despise murderous landowner John Adair, whose ambitions were realized when he built a castle on his Glenveagh estate. I felt like I knew a young Declan Conaghan. I gave him a voice, I once stood on the pier his father helped build, and I was a frequent visitor to the town workhouse.

I know Portnabla. One of my memories is of standing on the pier early in the morning and hearing the sound of someone hammering nails into a tree across the bay. I love the sound of it and it was important to me in my childhood.

And this book was important because it introduced me to events that I knew little about, particularly the eviction of my family by landowners in Donegal in the 1860s and the Civil War of 1861.

devastating history

Anne Madden wrote a book based on past events and imaginatively embroidered a family that endures brutal treatment and torture, a small cabin destroyed by Adair’s men, and divided by immigrants.

In fact, Adare was the landowner of Glenveagh in 1858 and his castle is now a major tourist attraction in the heart of Glenveagh National Park. He was responsible for the eviction of his 244 tenants, including 159 children. He married Cornelia Wadsworth Ritchie. Ritchie’s father was a Civil War general and she spent much of her time working with the locals in and around Glenveagh. Indeed, there were Conaghan families, and Anne brought them to life in a fascinating work of fact and fiction.

Anne Madden and her new book, ``The Wilderness Way.''picture mark marlowe
Anne Madden and her new book, “The Wilderness Way.”picture mark marlowe Anne Madden and her new book, “The Wilderness Way.”picture mark marlowe

The American Civil War era was clearly thoroughly researched. The depiction of the trauma experienced by Declan and his brother Michael was difficult to read at times. When they hurt, I hurt too. Michael died from his injuries in his brother’s arms, and Declan was taken prisoner. On his way into Salisbury Prison, he passed a wagon with the arms and legs of a corpse sticking out. This is what he was told. “We had to dig new burial holes, because the last five were filled quickly.”

After the war, he returns to his hometown of Derry, opens a pub, drinks and lights a lawn fire. Bartender Joe welcomes him. “It seems the fairy tale of the New World has ended with the war.” Declan begins to relax. This was when he remembered his homeland and fell into a conversation with complete strangers.

But he had to come back to get revenge on Adair, find a wife, find a job, and come to terms with what had happened.


On the way back to Dunfanaghy, the golden gorse along the hedgerows seemed to light the way home after the hell of a wild battle. During those dark hours, bullets were flying overhead, I was lying face down in a muddy ditch, thinking I would never make it out alive. Anne Madden paints a picture of you walking in and living with the man she created.

Ann is a former journalist who works for this newspaper and is now part of the charity Sutrans, which works to improve walking and cycling routes across the UK and Ireland. She also spent time as a publicist at the Lyric Theater, where she met writers and actors who inspired her, especially Rosemary Jenkinson, who advised her to consider a career as a full-time writer. Ta. Although she considered it, she instead continued with her day job, so it took her ten years to research, write, and complete “The Wilderness Way.”

The depiction of the trauma that Declan and his brother Michael experienced was difficult to read at times.When they hurt, I hurt too.

What’s next? She has a wide range of interests in history in general. One day, she met Helen Lewis, an Auschwitz survivor, on the bus, and she made sure to strike up a conversation, and Helen invited the young woman for tea and cake. This is an example of her thirst for knowledge.

Anne Madden is determined to bring history to life the way she was taught. “I want to wake up the past, just like the Donegal evictions, and the Irish Famine, which is the biggest event in Irish history and a shocking event that should be taught in all schools. .”

The Wilderness Way by Anne Madden, published by Harper Collins, £9.99

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