The organisers of book festivals have been getting a bit of flack from authors recently for their lack of generosity and for generally making us feel we should be grateful to be invited in the first place. The Mountains to Sea Festival, held last week in Dun Laoghaire, in the picturesque outskirts of
is a glowing example of how things should be done. A well organised festival, a
beautiful location, delightful, generous people, I can’t recommend them enough.
If they come knocking on your door with an invitation bite their hands off and
take the opportunity to spend as much time in and around the city as possible.
The visit was filled with happy co-incidences. In April a book that I ghosted, Secret Child by Gordon Lewis, is being published by HarperCollins. It is based in
and is the inspiring story of a boy who was born and brought up in a secretive
home for unmarried Catholic mothers in the 1950s. It was sheer chance that I
was invited to be interviewed in the same city a few weeks before publication. On
top of that I was being interviewed by Sue Leonard, a journalist I talked to
for the first time a few months previously when she interviewed me for the Irish Examiner upon the publication of
my memoir “Confessions of a Ghostwriter”.
It seems like the whole thing was just meant to be and on top of that an old friend that my wife and I had not seen for at least ten years turned up in the audience.
Secret Child is a touching story. Gordon had no idea what his mother had gone through before she arrived at Regina Coeli and he had no idea that he was a secret from her family and from everyone else in the outside world. No one outside the hostel knew that he even existed.
In fact he knew nothing of the outside world until he was old enough to start getting out of the hostel buildings and up to mischief in the streets of
That was when his mother realised that she was going to have to do something to
save her boy from the sort of bleak future that faced so many illegitimate
children in Ireland
at that time – and save him from the dangers of his own reckless high spirits.
So, at the age of eight, Gordon was introduced to a much older man called Bill and told that he and his mother were going to be leaving the hostel, which had been the only home he had ever known, and travel to England to live with Bill. Over the following years, as the three of them struggled to survive, Gordon came to realise that there was more to his mother’s and Bill’s story than he could ever have imagined.
They had been lovers who had been separated by the religious divides of the time and by the ignorance of their families. Gordon knew Bill was not his real father, but no one ever talked about that, just as no one ever talked about their past life in
It was like it had never existed. Gordon’s whole life was full of secrets and
puzzles and only when he returns to Ireland fifty years after leaving it, is he
finally able to make sense of the whole story and understand the full horror of
the hardships his mother suffered and the depth of the love story between her
It was wonderful to get to spend a weekend in the city that I have been so recently writing about and experiencing so vividly through the eyes of another.