Often we hear about how we never finding out about our past until it’s too late and the people we want to speak with have left us. Today I’m delighted to welcome M. Mc Donald to Linda’s Book Bag as Maria has managed to write a book about her great-grandfather that she’s come along to share with us today.
Staying in with M. Mc Donald
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Maria. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
I’ve brought Charlie Mac as it is my first novel. It is semi-biographical, historical fiction based on the life of my great-grandfather, Charlie McMullen.
(It must have been fascinating to research then Maria.)
What can we expect from an evening in with Charlie Mac?
Charlie lived during the most turbulent time in Irish history. Born at the start of the Home Rule campaign, he died just short of 50 years later after the campaign died with the partition of Ireland.
But this story is not about the events of those 50 years but about the ordinary people who lived through those extraordinary times. Charlie was a Protestant from East Belfast who married a Catholic girl from the Mourne mountains. Theirs was a mixed marriage in a sectarian city but they only cared about each other and their family.
This book is an easy read, a lovely story about good people trying to do their best for their loved ones during traumatic times.
(I think we all need books like Charlie Mac at times so that we can experience lovely stories.)
What else have you brought and why?
I used to watch my granny McMullen bake soda bread on her griddle pan as a child. We ate it hot off the griddle with the butter melting onto our fingers. I made some this morning and brought it with me. It is just as good cold, with real butter and strong cheddar.
(Ooh. That’s definitely my kind of food Maria. Thanks for bringing it!)
We can eat while we listen to Brian Kennedy’s version of ‘You raise me up’, it is the most haunting rendition of that song. Like myself, Brian is a Belfast native.
Great choice of music! Thank you so much for staying in with me to introduce Charlie Mac. Maria. I think your great-grandfather would be delighted to find himself the subject of a book.
Charlie was born in East Belfast in 1873, at a time when Belfast was one of the leading industrialist cities in the British Empire. He was born at the start of a very long-running Irish Home Rule Campaign and he died just short of 50 years later after that campaign died with the establishment of the border dividing Ireland. He married a country girl, Mary Jane from Annalong, County Down, who had a completely different upbringing. Brought up on a small holding on the lowest slopes of the Mourne Mountains, Mary Jane practised a different religion but they both thought that the love they felt for each other was more important than any differences in upbringing. Their families disagreed, their neighbours disagreed but they persevered, happily devoted to each other and devoted to their family.
This story follows Charlie and Mary Jane from they met and set up home together until Charlie died, three days after being shot in his own home as he sat in his favourite armchair. It follows their lives together bringing up their six children, one son who died at eight months and the pain that premature death brought on them, one son who was seriously injured in World War 1 fighting with the Royal Irish Rifles in support of Home Rule, two sons who fought in the War of Independence with the Irish Volunteers while their section of Ireland was in the process of partition, one daughter who lost her sweetheart at the Somme and argued with her brothers over their choices at every stage and one daughter who played peacemaker at every stage.
It follows the divisions that existed in Irish society at that time, the differences and the similarities of each opposing section and the effect on those living through it. Charlie and Mary Jane had a mixed marriage in a sectarian city, a city which was divided by religion and politics and eventually led to the division of a country. Theirs is not a story of rebellion and heroism, of freedom fighters or socialists; their story is not even a love story. This is just an ordinary tale of ordinary people trying to live their lives in extraordinary times.
Charlie Mac is available for purchase here.
About M. Mc Donald
Maria McDonald lives in Kildare, with her family, an avid reader who loves to write. Maria’s debut novel ‘Charlie Mac’ is available on Amazon. She has had several short stories and articles published in Woman’s Way and Ireland’s Own among others. Maria also writes a weekly blog here. https://mariamcdonaldblog.wordpress.com/