The 95-year-old, who hails from Strokestown but has been living in Dublin for most of her life, was in fine form when chatting to the Roscommon People earlier this week.
“My sons, Declan and Seán, started all of this and got the book published. I didn’t think it would work…but it has,” she said.
‘In My Mind’s Eye’ is a collection of 95 stories and poems, compiled over a lifetime of writing, and takes the reader back to Brigid’s childhood and growing up in rural Roscommon.
“I never regarded myself as a poet but I took part in a writing class some years ago. Our tutor, Áine Miller, would give us homework each week and it would include writing poetry,” she added.
Brigid’s writing career began at the age of 12 in 1938 when she was asked to contribute to the Folklore Collection in primary school. She wrote a story, given to her by her father, John Shiel, about the Mahon Landlords who once ruled Strokestown.
“I attended the convent in Strokestown and we were given great encouragement by our teacher, Sister de Sales, who used to get me to write compositions as part of our English classes. She was related to the Gately family in Roscommon and she really wanted us to do well and would always encourage us to read too,” she said.
Brigid’s book contains wonderful stories which offer a glimpse into daily life in Strokestown and County Roscommon during an era when the young Irish Republic struggled through difficulties such as the Land Wars. It’s part social history and part personal memoir in memory of Brigid’s late husband Michael and parents, Mai and John Shiel.
‘In My Mind’s Eye’ was compiled and edited by two of Brigid’s sons, Seán and Declan Kavanagh during lockdown. Declan is currently living in Strokestown with his family, where Brigid was still a regular visitor prior to Covid-19.
“It was all their idea,” she says. “I was flattered and just glad they liked it. I told them if they wanted to publish it then they could go ahead!”
Brigid’s family, including her six children, are understandably proud of the publication, and so too is its author.
“I thought it was wonderful when they presented it to me with a poem in each chapter. It just goes to show that it’s never too late apparently. Even though I thought it was!”
‘In My Mind’s Eye – Walking Amongst Ghosts’ is available in local bookshops and online at www.buythebook.ie, through the Boyle Craft Shop and by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the ‘In My Mind’s Eye – Walking Amongst Ghosts’ Facebook page for further updates.