Monday, May 22, 2017

The Cillini - An Irish Horror Story. Unfortunately Factual

The recent discovery of the corpses of up to 800 dead babies in Tuam, County Galway, set off a firestorm. The mass grave, located near a former home for unmarried mothers, tells a tale of neglect and ignorance. These wee bodies remind us too – as if we need reminding – of the unrelenting authority of the Irish Catholic Church and the suffering caused by its cruelty.

What is most unfortunate is this suffering – this warped, disquieting, horrific practice – has gone on for hundreds of years.

For you see, if you were a mother who miscarried, if your baby had not yet received the Catholic right of baptism, the remains of your child would be buried in a remote, unsanctified plot of disused ground. Only an unmarked bit of stone would tell its location.

There, in the Cillin, it would moulder. And you, the mother, would not be told where it was located. You were not allowed to ask for it. You were not allowed to find its last location. You were not allowed to mention your child again. 

Instead, you were forced to suffer in silence.

Ignored. Chastised. Beaten. 

Abused until at last, perhaps, you lost your mind.

Fields of Shame

In Tuam, the bodies of infants were thrown into a disused septic tank. However, the majority of forgotten unbaptized children were buried in Cillini.

A Cillin is a cemetery and a very unusual and disturbing one at that. Within these un-consecrated grounds the unbaptized are buried, and still remain. But not only unbaptized children rest within the lonely fields. Next to the wee small innocents others thought un-sacred also lie: murderers and rogues, foreign sailors drowned at sea, and those who died with the stain of sin upon them.

But to me it is not the unbaptized who give me most sorrow. No, it is their mothers who have suffered more; much more. To understand that suffering and the betrayal they experienced, I offer a short fictionalized account of one mother's tragic experience. Unfortunately, what I write below is based almost entirely on fact.

We’ll call her Mary. She is 20. It is 1970. The year after man landed on the moon. Nixon is still in office. The Viet Nam War still rages. Most Americans enjoy so many comforts: color television, dishwashers, refrigerators, modern telephone systems, food and housing. Abundance. And most experience a sense of safety. 

But not Mary. Because Mary doesn't live in America. She lives in Ireland.

She lives, in fact, in County Cork, in a small village by the sea. Her father is a farmer. Her mother a farmer's wife. Mary's schooling ended when she was 16 and she married a year ago to John. Together they hope to build a future: a family. A house. A small bit of land. John hopes to save to buy a trawler so he can fish for a living. And when they marry it is a grand occasion not only for the happy couple, but for their parents and the entire village as well.

They try for a child. And Mary's prayer is answered when she becomes pregnant. Their joy, they believe, will soon be complete. Mary blooms in the first months of her pregnancy and the excited couple pick names: John Junior if it is a boy. Brigid if they are blessed with a girl.

But as the months go on Mary becomes sickly. Neighbours and the parish priest say their prayers. The local doctor frets over her. But there is nothing to be done. And finally, on a dark night of horror, Mary's worst nightmare comes to pass.

She miscarries.

Her labour too early, the red-tinged fear and pain tells her something is terribly wrong. The priest is called. He gives her Last Rights, just to be sure. She survives. But the baby is still-born. And she knows, even as it leaves her womb, there is no hope.

The priest hurriedly blesses himself and leaves the room, not wanting to be a participant in an event so unholy. No kind words are spoken for the young woman. Nor any blessing for the small innocent deceased babe. Instead, the priest hurries into the darkness, leaving the woman to weep alone. 

Not even her husband John can help. Denied the opportunity to console his wife, he buries his own grief and waits to carry out what is expected. For here, as it is in many places across Ireland, traditions - even cruel ones - are unquestioned duties.

Instead, John's father is tasked with the necessary. With a blunt knife he cuts the umbilical cord. He wraps the small parcel, still warm, in a torn bit of blanket. Then he too hurries from the room.

Mary is not even allowed to hold the small one before this horrible leaving. She is not told if it is a boy or a girl despite her pleas. Instead she is ignored. Finally, exhausted, she cries herself to sleep.

At midnight, John and his father hurry furtively from the village. They enter a field dotted only with the white stones of the unnamed - the silent reminders of those who have been buried before and forgotten. John holds the dead young one as his father works a spade. Beyond the field, over a line of trees, John can see the spire of his Church. He tries to forget what he now holds in his arms will enjoy no Church Baptism. Her name will never be recorded on Church records. Her existence will be quashed as if she never existed. Her name will be struck out because she was never given one. 

John hides his tears as together they work. They lay the parcel in the pit and cover it, as if burying refuse. They place an unmarked stone at her head as if an afterthought.

In the days that follow Mary begs John, his parents, and her parents to tell of the location of her wee one. They will not. They can not. Mary is not permitted to talk about her child. She is not permitted to visit its remains. She is not permitted to grieve, at least not publicly. She lives in a world of humiliation, guilt, loneliness, sadness, and denial knowing her child will never be acknowledged. Knowing she will never be recognised as a mother who carried her loved infant for so many months. Not even her best friend can discuss what has happened, for discussion will give the infant substance and the infant has no substance because her birth never happened. Besides, her best friend is forbidden from talking to Mary.

Mary is ostracized by her community due to the sin of miscarriage.

Occasionally, secretly and only at night, Mary ventures out to the field. She stands at its edge, examining the many small rocks, wondering which one might hide her child. Her body wracks with grief but she fearfully puts it away, knowing she will be beaten if showing it. Knowing she must keep her sad longing a secret. 

She knows this to be true because only a month ago she tearfully asked her husband, "I don't know what to call it when I pray. Is it John Junior or is it Brigid?" 

Her question was met with the back of his hand and stony silence.

She never talked about it again. Two years later Mary was diagnosed as mentally unstable. That condition, too, was met with cruel silence. Silence until she eventually cracked under its dark hand; silence until she was placed in a psychiatric unit where she was treated only with more silence and neglect.

Silence until finally forty years later and on his deathbed, John's guilt also cracked. 

"It's Brigid," he wrote to her. "A small white rock on the left hand side of the field." 

And after John was buried, after the blessings of the priest and the tears of the villagers, after he was laid to rest in the well-kept, consecrated cemetery in the company of blood relations who had gone before... months after that... 

Mary, eventually released from lock up, finally ventured into the field. Next to a forgotten crumbling wall she found a small white stone overgrown with tall grass. But her grief was finally given a home, and she blessed the un-consecrated grave of Brigid with bright tears. And only days before she died did she finally erect a small plaque hidden deep in the corner of the field, a secret known only to her.

"To Brigid from Mammy. Never forgotten in my heart."

The Horror

What I have written above is fiction but it is all based on fact. Miscarried babies or the young who were not baptized were never recognised, never given final rest, never placed in consecrated grounds. Instead, they were buried in the thousands of Cillini dotted across Ireland like mothers' tears. Once again, the Irish Catholic Church turned its back on those deserving its greatest compassion.

Today, some within Irish society are recognizing the sin made against these innocent babes and their mothers and fathers. Some of the Cillini have been rescued. Grass has been tidied. Stones set properly. Crosses erected. Disused lonely fields finally sanctified by the Church who had ignored them for so long.

But others, many others, lie abandoned and forgotten, the children buried there lost for all time - until they are found, as they have been in Tuam, County Galway.

Only their mothers' tears, long since dried, can remember. Such was Ireland and the Irish Catholic Church as late as 1970. And, I’m sorry to report, for so many generations before.

May those days never return.

UnBaptized, as both screenplay and novel, is currently in development by Tom Richards. 


If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2017 Edition. Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish work visa in this country? Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2017 edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland by Tom Richards. Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom

Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Dawn's Chorus in Eyeries

Here on this 20th day of May the sun rises at 5:39 AM. It sets at 9:34 PM. And we still have a month and a day until 21 June, the longest day of the year.

During these summer months the household tends to get up early, just as dawn breaks over Coulagh Bay. Unless it's blowing a gale, the west lights in gold as the sun rises behind us. Scariff Island and the Kerry mountains are bathed in light, and sun glints off the caravans in distant Caherdaniel which looks like a village from where I stand on the top deck but isn't.

As the sun moves higher it baths Kilcatherine and its church ruins in glory and I wait expectantly. And then...

The Dawn Chorus. Starting first with a single note from a nearby hedge, a lone voice tweeting a welcome greeting. Quickly joined by others turning the solo into a quartet then transforming to a chorus.

Birds everywhere and of every kind greeting the sunlight and a new day. 

Frankly, until I moved down here to the beauty of this isolated village on the sea I'd never heard the Dawn Chorus. Perhaps I was too busy. Or maybe the rush of traffic from the roads frightened that local avian community. 

But though I didn't know it, when I hauled my belongings from the Big Smoke to paradise I didn't realise I was also buying a ticket. A ringside seat to a morning's splendid entertainment.

We'll try to count them, the many co-stars of this boisterous treat, and spot them as they hurry for new positions around the house, their combined voices a commanding forte. Many common types to be sure, the Willy Wagtails and sparrows and magpies contending with the A-list gold finches. Gulls wheel over head, trying to get in a line or two, and now and then - if we're very lucky - we hear the Cuckoo - hiding in his thicket across the fields - join in. His rich voice echoing then blending with the other choir members.

The chorus lasts until sunlight hits the back garden then dies as the curtain closes, the choir getting about its daily business. But we know, at  least until the sun backs down the horizon in November, we'll be up early to wake with these singing stars.

(Man am I lucky to live here. Wish you could join me. To see if you can live and work in Ireland read on).



If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2017 Edition. Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish work visa in this country? Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2017 edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland by Tom Richards. Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Write and Create in these Stupendous Irish Residential Writing Centres

Every now and then I pretend to myself that I'll write better if I lug my laptop to the top of a mountain. I'd have better views from a cliff up there. The fresh air would clear out the cobwebs. I'd be able to think more clearly.

I might even be able to write better. Well maybe.

Of course, no matter where I'd trek I'd still be lugging along the same old brain and heart, and invariably I'd still encounter the same creative struggles. But every now and then a change of scenery seems just the ticket. 

If you're a writer or an artist of any kind who occasionally feels the same way then I ask you this: Why not come to Ireland to write? If such a thought piques your interest, I kindly suggest you check out the following Residential Writers' Centres for some top-shelf treatment.

The Tyrone Guthrie Centre
If you envision yourself as something of a country squire and want the idyllic surroundings to go with it, try this stunning centre in County Monaghan.  Left  to Ireland by the visionary theatre maker William Tyrone Guthrie, the Centre offers a number of residential options.

I've stayed there twice to work on two different projects. The room I was given in this 19th Century mansion was stunning with views to match: a comfortable bedroom with a small yet stylish en-suite bathroom, all of which steps down to a front study area. The desk sits below a broad window, offering a vista of green fields and the Centre's very own lake. It's a heck of a place to work, let me tell you, and during the Spring with the windows open and the fresh air on my face, I felt the tension of life evaporate instantly.

But the room is only the start. The main house can hold a good 30 people, and they come from all over the world to write, or compose music, or choreograph dance in the on-premise dance studio, or perhaps paint in the art studio. 

The Centre insists that all artists join together for an evening meal - scrumptious fare prepared and cooked in-house by wonderfully caring staff - for a simple reason: forced to intermix, artists from many disciplines trade ideas. And when they do the results can be mystifying. For instance: I never realized a visual artist might have the same creative challenges as a writer. But they do. They can have issues with structure, tension, form, voice - the same mountains I have to climb when I write. And by talking with them I learned, and as I learned I was able to unravel some project challenges I was facing.

The good company is magic but that's not all on offer. The grounds of the house give way to an assortment of wooded walks. The garden is just that: fragrant soil filled with an amazing assortment of botanical wonders and growing veg. And when I sat by the blooming rose bushes to ruminate the house cat came over for a scratch and a bit of company.

If you'd rather something a little more isolated (and less expensive) you can also opt for one of five Farmyard Cottages which in addition to a bed and a spot for working offer kitchen facilities. So self-cater away as you figure out how to structure that next paragraph.

Fees are reasonable, and if you're an Irish citizen you may be able to offset some of the costs with a Bursary from your local County Arts Council. For more information on the Tyrone Guthrie Centre read on...

Anam Cara Writers' and Artists' Retreat


Or, if you've a mind, travel to the other end of the country, way down to Eyeries Village in the absolutely visually stunning Beara Peninsula, County Cork. Here, you'll find an absolute gem of a writers' and artists' retreat centre, Anam Cara.

Established by American Sue Booth-Forbes over 10 years ago, the Retreat attracts visitors from all across the world. Sue has transformed what had been a relatively modest bungalow into a comfortable wonderful place of solitude, perfect for any artist. Each resident receives their own splendidly turned-out bedroom complete with writing desk. And from most of the rooms the views of nearby Coulagh Bay and Scarrif Island are a wonder.

Meals are prepared and served by Sue who acts as parent, muse, and friend to her frequent visitors. To a morsel, the meals are all wonderfully delicious.

During downtime, residents can stroll up to the nearby village of Eyeries for a deserved Pint or two. Or walk down to the local strand for a dose of clean, fresh salt air served up by the Wild Atlantic. 

Or... simply traverse Sue's back garden and climb down the steps into a hidden valley. There, your senses will be assaulted by your very own waterfall and rock scramble which slice through any creative issues you may be experiencing.

I've been to Sue's place twice. I liked the area so much - well, I moved to Eyeries seven years ago and have been here ever since.

Read on for more information on Anam Cara Writers' and Artists' Retreat.

So if you've some itchy feet and want to take your creative passion for a spin, give Ireland's Residential Writing Centres a try. You won't go wrong.



If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2017 Edition. Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish work visa in this country? Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2017 edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland by Tom Richards. Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom

Saturday, May 13, 2017

WRITERS BEWARE! WannaCry Ransomware is on the prowl. BACK UP NOW!

Writers can sometimes be a funny breed - me included. Despite the fact I write fiction often incorporating some sort of personal trauma or disaster, despite the fact I also write business articles for tech companies and am aware of criminals ramping up malicious virus activities, I can sort of live in a bubble. 

Nothing bad is ever going to happen to me, is it? 

If you've not read the news today, you may be unaware of the following. Today, the world's press reports disturbing news. In the biggest attack of its kind in history, Ransomware criminals have launched malicious attacks across the globe.
  • ·         Almost 100 countries have been affected
  • ·         57,000 infections have already been detected
  • ·         IT systems have been shut down across the world
  • ·      In Ireland, my country of residence, the nation's health service is reported to have        shut down its entire IT infrastructure to avoid infection

The so-called WannaCry Ransomware virus is capable of locking up your computer and turning it to toast. If you’re infected you will no longer be able to access critical files. 

So you know that manuscript or screenplay you've spent the last year or more working on? You could lose it! You'll have to pay these criminals $1000 or more to get it  back.

Back up your important files and data now

Think about what you have on your laptop or tower PC. Your manuscripts, screenplays and other creative work, of course. But we all keep so much precious - and often irreplaceable - information and data on our hardware: financial information, Social Media files and graphics, photos, contact information - the list goes on and on.

As to your creative work: first of all, treat it as your most valuable asset. That is, it has an intrinsic value that may someday be realized in the market. If you lose it, you lose the potential monetary value, as well as those months and years of emotional toil.  And: can you imagine having to start writing your story all over again, from scratch, using only your memory as a backup tool? 

That's happened to me one time. I lost 30,000 words of a book I'd been working on. I want to make sure it never happens again. You should too.

If you're still not convinced, be aware of the following:

  • The frequency of ransomware, DDoS, and other malware attacks is up by a staggering 35 - 50 percent (depending on who you believe) year on year
  • Last year alone, over 1 billion records were compromised by such attacks
So what to do? Make sure you take periodic backups of all vital data.

Here's how

A number of different methods can be used to securely protect your data.

  1. Buy an external drive. Then simply backup your files manually to it. External hard drives are much safer than CDs. The only problem: make certain you unplug your hard drive following use. Otherwise it too could become infected if a virus strikes.
  2. Automatic backup - if you're a Windows user, most of their operating systems offer an automated backup process. You can then backup your data to a backup target of your choice. To find the backup process on your computer, type "backup" into Search Programs and Files. Click on "Backup and Restore" and go from there.
  3. Cloud backup - you can also backup your data to cloud-based infrastructure. Think Google Drive or Dropbox. For smaller Word documents or PDF files, this is a secure option that costs zero to implement.
  4. Do both - to make certain my data is protected, I backup everything weekly to an external drive. But I also manually backup selected files to cloud storage. What's nice too: because selected documents are in the cloud, I can access them from anywhere, at anytime, on almost any device.
So there you have it. A few ways to keep you - and those valuable creative works you've busted your gut on - safe.

If you haven't backed up recently, I hope you'll do it today. I certainly am!


If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2017 Edition. Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish work visa in this country? Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2017 edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland by Tom Richards. Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom


Friday, May 5, 2017

Do you want to get a job in Ireland? Do you want to move to Ireland? Here are the Rules

If you're an American wanting to live and work in Ireland; if you're a UK resident desiring to maintain your EU residency following Brexit; if you're a non-EU citizen hoping to move to Ireland and make a living here, you need to understand the rules.

Below find (pretty much) everything you need to know on how to get a work permit and how you may qualify to work in, live in, and become a citizen of this marvelous country.

(This is re-printed from a previous post. To see it in its entirely, go here: http://survivingireland.blogspot.ie/2016/11/getting-job-and-living-in-ireland-trump.html)

The Rules
In general, visitors to Ireland are allowed to stay in this country for 90 days. During that time they are not allowed to work. To live and work here for a longer period, there are a number of rules and requirements:

·         For non-EU citizens: Ireland is a member of the European Union. Citizens of EU member states are legally entitled to work and live in Ireland. Non-EU nationals do not have this right and must instead jump through many hoops.

·         If you are a foreign, non-EU student and studying in Ireland on an approved course: you may take up casual work without an employment permit, but only a maximum of 20 hours per week.

·         Working holiday agreements: Ireland has reciprocal agreements with a number of other countries including the United States, allowing non-EU nationals to stay in Ireland for longer than 90 days and work here. To do so you must apply for a Working Holiday Authorization. For more information go to https://www.dfa.ie/travel/visas/working-holiday-visas/

·         If you have Irish ancestry: Ireland has a ‘grandfather’ law. That is, if you can prove that your parents or grandparents were Irish you have the right to Irish citizenship. With citizenship comes the right to live and work in Ireland and anywhere in the EU. For more information go to http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/moving_country/irish_citizenship/

·         Employment permits: Ireland has 9 types of employment permits. Some allow non-EU nationals to work and live in Ireland: General Employment Permits are usually considered for occupations with an annual remuneration of €30,000 or more. Critical Skills Employment Permits are available in a number of categories. To apply, the prospective employee must have a job offer. Upon receiving a permit your family will usually be eligible to join you. Go to http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/employment/migrant_workers/employment_permits/green_card_permits.html for more information.

·         Obtaining Irish citizenship through marriage: foreign nationals who are married to Irish citizens can apply for naturalization. For more information go to http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/moving_country/irish_citizenship/becoming_an_irish_citizen_through_marriage.html

·         Obtaining residency through civil partnership: if you can prove you are in a long-term relationship with an Irish citizen, you are legally allowed to apply for long-term residency.

·         Retired and desiring to reside in Ireland: you may be granted permission to reside in Ireland for the longer-term if you can prove that you have: an annual income equal to €50,000 per annum and; savings equal to the cost of buying a home in Ireland and; comprehensive private Irish-based medical insurance. If you can prove that you will not become a burden to the state you can apply for longer-termed residency. For more information go to http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/non-eea-permission.

      Gaining long-term permission to live and work in Ireland if you are not an EU national is tough work but not impossible. If you haven’t been to Ireland make sure you visit first. Check out the place. See if you think you can fit in and survive in Ireland as I have. If your answer is yes, if you are determined and focused, you could well end up living the Irish dream just as I have. I wish you so much luck.


If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2017 Edition. Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish work visa in this country? Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2017 edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland by Tom Richards. Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom