We were in Ireland, my husband and I, and I saw this stretch of empty road ahead of us, so I pounded on his shoulder and said, “Do take a picture here, please!” And because he is a most obliging man he didn’t even sigh. He pulled over to the side of the road and took this picture.
I was working then on a book about an Irish rebel named Diarmaid MacGuinness. He and a young Donegal girl he’d taken along with him (mostly because he didn’t like leaving her in danger at the hands of her drunken father) had to get from the Inishowen peninsula in Donegal—which is as far north and west as you can get in Ireland—to Galway, where the rebel group he was planning conspiracies with were centered. It was a long distance, close to 300 miles, and this was 200 years ago, at the beginning of the 19th century.
That was easy enough to decide. But it has filled my mind ever since, thinking of those Irish roads they walked along. They would not have been empty roads, like the one my husband photographed. Nor, I imagine, would it be what we visualize as rush hour traffic. But there would always be somebody in view. Somebody ahead of them, somebody behind. There would be carts, and a farmer leading a cow from one place to another. There might be an occasional carriage—not a great many of them, most likely, because Donegal then was even more isolated than Donegal now is. There would be those riding on horseback, probably quite a few of them. There would be farm carts, and in some of them perhaps children, being given a ride by their father or grandfather from one place to another.
Mostly there would be others walking. Some would be going short distances—or what they thought of as short. A few, like Diarmaid and Muirne, would have longer journeys ahead of them. They would walk whatever the weather, and in Ireland it rains quite a lot. They would settle down in any field where they could when nightfall came, since even if they might encounter an inn they had to save their money, mostly, for the food they needed to eat, cooked over a small fire. In the morning they would wake and walk again, joining the others along the roads that linked the towns and villages and empty spaces of Ireland.
I can’t say that I envy them, or would have wished away the comfortable car we were riding in when we saw that patch of empty Irish road I wanted to remember. But that road, and those like it—dirt back then; pavement was a long way in the future—live in my memory with the people who walked them, one step at a time, because they needed to get from one place to another.
Back Cover Copy for Diarmaid the Irishman
It’s 1810. The English have a firm grip on Diarmaid’s beautiful green Ireland. But Diarmaid McGuiness is determined to make that grip impossible to maintain. In the first half of this two-volume combination (The Divided Heart) we meet the reckless, red-haired Irishman as he tries out his wings as a rebel to follow in his dead father’s footsteps. In the second half (The Defiant Heart) we find Diarmaid as the determined leader of rebels that he has become, and the equally fierce, equally red-headed girl whose resolve to free Ireland is as strong as his own. Their clash leads them into unforeseen complications and new ambiguous challenges.
Buy Link for Diarmaid the Irishman Amazon
Excerpt from Diarmaid the Irishman
Muirne was watching Diarmaid closely, but she nodded and her face turned back to the road ahead of them. “So where we going for tonight?”
“Donegal Town, I hope.”
She glanced at him over her shoulder. “Does County Donegal go on past the town, then?”
“Some, just a bit. Why?”
“Donegal goes up north past where we were. Toward Malin, I’ve heard? And we’ve been walking—what? Three, four days, and there’s still more of Donegal to come?”
He laughed a little. “Long, stretched out county Donegal is, sure enough. True, most of the t’other counties are smaller. But we’re close to putting Donegal behind us.”
Her mouth quirked. “An’ a queer feeling that gives me. Donegal born and never set foot out of the place. D’ye think the people down south will be able to tell?”
“An’ what difference would it make?” Their pace had slowed, and he almost stopped, wondering what she would say.
“Can’t say ‘cause I don’t know.” ‘Twas about as straight an answer as he could have asked for. She went on. “I’d just as soon they not think me a fool for not knowing much about anywhere else.”
“I’d have a word or two for anybody who said you were a fool.”
She gave him a long look, and shook out her bright red hair. “Then I’d better keep it to meself if anyone says so.”
How had he not seen that she was a beauty from the very beginning? With those direct blue eyes and a face—now it was generally clean—that was fine-featured and lively, she made him catch his breath every now and again.
About the Author
Beppie Harrison had the great good sense to marry an English architect, and consequently has lived a trans-Atlantic lifestyle. They now live in Michigan between trips to the old country and Ireland (which she despaired of during the years of the Troubles) and she remains fascinated by the complicated relationship between England and Ireland. Their four children have grown up and left the nest but two indignant cats remain—as good an allegory for England and Ireland as she can imagine.
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