By Aisling Meath
Allihies is a magical and inspirational place and West Cork is a state of mind.
That’s according to Conal Creedon, professor of writing at UCC, playwright and documentary film maker who has strong ties to the area.
On July 5th, as part of this year’s Allihies Inspires festival, the Cork man will read from his latest novel Begotten Not Made.
He will also host a radio drama masterclass ‘Adaptation of Prose for Radio’
on July 6th. Although he grew up in the heart of the city, Conal’s West Cork roots run deep.
‘July will be a powerful and heartwarming homecoming for me. My mother’s people are Blake from Crooha in Adrigole on the Beara Peninsulaand my father’s people are Creedon from Inchigeela in the heart of Iveleary.’
Describing Allihies he says: ‘There is a deep mysticism, a visceral history in this land of myth and storytelling. Every townland, field, stone and turn of the road represents a signpost through history.’
He grew up in the familyshop in Cork, ‘The Inchigeela Dairy,’ which he describes as a ‘West Cork hub’ in the spaghetti bowl of streets in the heart of the city.
‘The shop served a bit like a Wells Fargo staging post to the Wild West; a drop off point for parcels and produce, where people gathered to talk with constant updates on births marriages and deaths,’ recalls Conal.
‘Sporting heroes such as Kevin Jer O’ Sullivan and Bernie O’Neill carried far more prestige than Christy Ring at our shop counter.’
Conal is looking forward to heading back to his roots to read from his latest book Begotten Not Made, a multifaceted fairytale which also gives a fresh twist to an ancient story - the life of Jesus.
The book deftly presents an insight into human frailty; through the complicated love which arose between Br. Scully and Sr. Claire on
the night that Dana won the Eurovision.
Equal parts hilarious and poignant, the story unfolds as Br. Scully grapples with his existence, his thwarted emotions and his sanity in a unique exploration of the nature of belief.
‘I was born and grew up in an Ireland which was steeped in religious culture,’ explained Conal, ‘but by my late teens the winds of change were blowing across the land, and I began to question the source of such strong beliefs.’
His meticulous Biblical research is evident in the book.
‘Over the past 20 years the New Testament is a col lection I have read over and over, and this is reflected in my writing including my novel Passion Play which was set on Good Friday, my Pageant The Trial of Jesus, my stage play After Luke and of course more recently Begotten Not Made.
The book is also resplendent with illustrations by the author.
The weekend-long Allihie Inspires festival promises a stellar line-up of artists writers and poets including Sarah Byrne, Paula Meehan, Theo Dorgan, Tony Curtis, Julie Goo, Danny Denton, Anita Brohil and Carina Mc Nally.
Family friendly and cultural events will also take place throughout the village.
The festival is run by volunteers Dee Collins and Claire Zwaartman along with MA creative writing students Niamh Twomey and Marie Haugh, Skyoni Celestine, Allihies Coastal Education Hub, and their ‘man on the ground’ Johnny Morrissey.
Meanwhile, on July 21st Conal will present the opening lecture at the Daniel Corkery Summer School in Inchigeela on his book The Immortal Deed of Michael
O’ Leary. This story was prompted by the discovery of a photo of his grandmother Nora Cotter who was postmistress in Inchigeela.
It was taken in 1915 outside the post office where she was greeting Micheal O’ Leary, a recipient of the Victoria Cross and poster boy for recruitment to the British Army.
This was the spark that lit the fire of Conal’s own personal odyssey to explore his Iveleary roots.
He’s really looking forward to being back in the heartland of Creedon country as well as his trip to his mother’s mystical homeland of Beara.
‘There is a special magic to both places, be it the rugged mountains, coastal roads, sandy beaches and
vast expanse of the wild At lantic Ocean of Beara; or the green and lush river valley of Iveleary with its lakes strung out like pearls along the river
‘West Cork is not just a destination, it is a journey into time; it is a sound, ascent, a state of mind,’ he mused.