Q. The World of your novel. Is it invented, or based in a real place? (Two minute read.)
Updated: Mar 22, 2022
A. I began to write my historical novel, ‘Daughters of the Famine Road,’ I started with locations in Ireland that I was most familiar with: Waterford city, and Passage East, a small village eight miles to the south of the city, both city and village sit alongside the River Suir. These places are known and dear to me. My mother's family had lived in Passage East for generations, and I lived there for twenty or more years.
The photograph below was taken in 1890 and gives an impression of what Waterford would have looked like forty-five years earlier, during the time of The Famine, and the events in my novel. It's the place where my character, Annie Power, posted her poems to The Nation newspaper in Dublin, and where she and Jane Keating first met.
Photograph of The Quays, Waterford. County Waterford, Ireland. Taken sometime in 1890. The Library of Congress. No known copyright restrictions.
Set in a time, just a few years before the arrival of mass railway transportation, shipping was an important mode of transport, and Waterford was a major port on the south-east coast of Ireland. It is here that Annie sees the Persephone, a transportation ship, collecting young convicts to take to New South Wales. Transportation of convicts to Australia was coming to an end by 1845, but would continue in fits and starts for another few years.
Thomas Meagher (pronounced Marr), the Young Irelander whom Annie meets in Dublin, was the son of the Lord Mayor of Waterford, so he has a link to the place. Thomas Meagher is a great, historical figure, and I had fun writing his young self into the story of Annie and Jane.
Waterford, Port Láirge, is an ancient city with a history going back to the Vikings in the tenth century. I enjoyed incorporating the historic Apple Market, and the quays into the story. I hope you enjoy reading about them.
My Waterford character, Annie Power, was a country girl, living with her family outside the city, a few miles away from Passage East, on an imaginary Landlord’s estate. Her home place is imagined. I'll write about that next time, and her connection to Passage East.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this short blog. If you have written about the setting or world for your own novel, do share a link on the Contact page, or on Twitter. I'd love to read about it.
With best wishes,