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Is the writing on the wall?

Updated: Oct 2, 2020

Welcome to my blog, which will be added to occasionally rather than on a regular basis. This first short piece concerns the new reality facing historians and writers now that we are all living with covid-19.

Much of my life, particularly since retirement, has been taken up with research and writing. I’ve always enjoyed these occupations. For me, history is fascinating, and this has prompted me to try to discover more about it. Rather than focus on already well-researched national/international history, I usually concentrate on more localised topics, where there are rich untapped primary sources to be uncovered. Admittedly, it is a laborious process, and there are many days when one draws blanks. However, unearthing the odd historical gem goes some way towards compensating for the fruitless days. The challenge then is to interpret and write up one’s findings.

In recent years I’ve also tried my hand at other forms of writing. These have included poetry and prose essays, but principally short stories. I joined the Dunlavin Writers’ Group a couple of years ago and I’ve really enjoyed our monthly meetings. The group is full of very talented people, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming and the pleasant surroundings of the upper room in An Lár complete the trio of company, cordiality and comfort which made our gatherings so enjoyable – as did the excellent cakes, scones and treats in An Lár, in which I usually indulged not wisely but too well!

Then came covid-19. In a very short space of time, all changed. The Writers’ Group meetings have been cancelled – or at least postponed indefinitely. The West Wicklow Historical Society’s programme for 2020 has suffered the same fate. History lectures and many other live events such as seminars and book launches are no longer being staged. Opportunities to wear the ‘good suit’ (as in the accompanying picture) have dried up, as many of my usual social outlets have been taken away in one swift, fell swoop. Moreover, the pubs closed down. I couldn’t even raise my spirits there! 😊 However, I note with anticipation and exhilaration that wet pubs are set to reopen next week…

At a time when group and society meetings have been cancelled, when academic libraries, archives and other repositories are either closed or have such ridiculously long waiting lists for such short allotted research slots that it is pointless visiting them and when travel to repositories elsewhere (especially in Britain) is impossible and not to be contemplated even were it possible, the historian and writer might well begin to despair! That is not the case though. Even though there are obstacles, there are also glimmers of light at the end of the historiographical and literary tunnels.

Online lectures, such as those arranged by the recently-formed group ‘Trasna na Tíre’ have provided some excellent papers on very diverse topics. Similarly, online podcast-type events surrounding the County Kildare Decade of Centenaries and the Irish Military Seminar have been a joy to watch. County Wicklow has weighed in with the Wicklow Decade of Centenaries articles (to which I contributed) on the Our Wicklow Heritage website. My own Dunlavin Diversions were very well received on Facebook during the initial coronavirus lockdown, and I have been persuaded to publish them in hard copy format. The book should be available shortly – and more about that will appear on this website soon D.V. The 2020 Ireland’s Own anthology of short stories (which features a contribution from me) has just been published. Yes, glimmers of light exist!

Covid-19 is the new reality, but life is changed, not ended. So is the world of local publishing, but I am hoping that the availability of my work via this website will help to compensate for the absence of book launches and the closure of retail outlets. Therefore, hopefully, the writing is not on the wall for this writer and his written works…


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