An island writer for all to enjoy

Michelle Nic Phaidin


Michelle Nic Phaidin

As the summer sun casts its radiant colours across the horizon as it sets, an island writer sits with his pen in his hand, his brow furrowed as he carefully considers his next sentence.

As the summer sun casts its radiant colours across the horizon as it sets, an island writer sits with his pen in his hand, his brow furrowed as he carefully considers his next sentence.

Fron an early age, Proinsias Mac a’ Bhaird was a creative thinker. His family on Árainn Mhór come from a strong lineage of storytellers and in his youth he seldom fell asleep without somebody imparting a story to him.

It was in his later years that he realised the literal treasures that they had imparted to him. The richness of their vocabulary, their wonderful imagination and their soothing words have in later years inspired the young writer who has to date published eight books which cover a wide spectrum of genres.

This year, Proinsias has won first prize in the drama category, first prize in the song writing category and the overall prize for best new novel at the coveted Oireachtas Irish writing competition. Each year, hundreds of people from throughtout the country compete in the much anticipated competition.

“Oireachtas na Gaeilge provides an excellent forum for writers of the Irish language throughout the country. On this occasion you get the opportunity to meet with other people who write through to the medium of Irish. Writing in Irish can at times be lonesome in respect that there are fewer Irish language readers out there,” he said.

A teacher of Irish and history at Colaiste Ailigh in Letterkenny he spends his days imparting important knowledge to the younger generation a job which he greatly enjoys.

“Árainn Mhór is a source of inspiration to me when I write. I love going to the island and I feel that island life is exceptionally important. I spend as much time as I can there with my family,” he said.

Proinsias has been writing for around a decade. The first book that he published was a collection of folklore from Árainn Mhór called Cogar san Fharraige which was a huge success. The book demonstrated a great understanding of Irish culture and stories affiliated to it. Since that departure, Proinsias has written many other books and he has chosen to fluctuate from children’s books, poetry, song writing to historical novels. His knowledge being vast and extreme in relation to his chosen subjects he captivates each audience with the same level of professionalism.

In 2009, Proinsias wrote the words to a song which was then set to music by Gaoth Dobhair musician and sean-nós singer Doimnic Mac Giolla Bhride and both men took first place in their chosen category.

This year, Proinsias and Doimnic echoed the prestigious win again by taking first place in the song writing category. “This is a great competition in the respect that there are not that many new sean-nos songs being written,” he said.

Like many writers, Proinsias finds that he does not have as much time as he would like to spend at his hobby. “I like to write drama, songs, stories. I normally have an idea and then I write it down and then come back to it after a while. It takes time, it is a hobby but I have to say I do enjoy it. I love old stories and old stories from this area. I read historical novels in my spare time. I enjoy mysteries,” he said.

The busy father of three is currently reading a novel by Christopher John C.J. Sansom, a British writer of crime novels who graduated from the University of Birmingham with a PhD in history.

“I like many authors but I have read a lot by C.J. Sansom lately,” he said.

As yet, Proinsias has not published any work in English. However, the teacher is not against the concept stating that he may yet write a book in English in the future.

“The last time that I tried to write creatively in English, for one reason or another it didn’t really work out. I would like to do it sometime. When I have an idea or a story in my head, I write it down, I never consider whether I am writing it down in English or in Irish that is just the way in which it transpires. I have nothing against writing in English,” he said.

His latest work Rún an Bhonnáin is a highly imaginative, humorous and well written work which documents the movements of a killer who thrives on murdering sean-nós singers. The author was reluctant to reveal the well thought out plot but he did add that the killing is associated with Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna, poet and composer of the famous song An Bonnán Buí. However, the secret which has stood the test of time is causing great consternation for much loved sean-nós singers.

“My latest story is about a serial killer who kills sean-nós singers. It is a story of conspiracy. I will say that there is a connection between the killings and the poet Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna who wrote the poem An Bonnán Buí, he said.

The writer is taking a well-earned rest from writing at present however it is hoped that during his free time he will be considering his next novel.