In praise of Patricia Lynch, by Leeann Lane

Celebrating Irish women writers: ‘The tattered state of my copy of Lynch’s childhood autobiography A Storyteller’s Holiday was a testament to much re-reading’

Patricia Lynch: “I first read Lynch as a child, voraciously absorbing stories of magical animals, leprechauns and changelings, all set in a rural Ireland premised on simplicity and family values or in a Dublin whose inhabitants were closely linked to their rural roots”

Patricia Lynch: “I first read Lynch as a child, voraciously absorbing stories of magical animals, leprechauns and changelings, all set in a rural Ireland premised on simplicity and family values or in a Dublin whose inhabitants were closely linked to their rural roots”

 

Patricia Lynch (1894-1972) was one of the most popular children’s authors of the newly independent Irish State, publishing more than 50 books from the late 1920s and in the process garnering a number of prestigious literary prizes.

I first read Lynch as a child, voraciously absorbing stories of magical animals, leprechauns and changelings, all set in a rural Ireland premised on simplicity and family values or in a Dublin whose inhabitants were closely linked to their rural roots. The tattered state of my copy of Lynch’s childhood autobiography, A Storyteller’s Holiday (1947), was a testament to much re-reading, and I was very proud of the fact that it was illustrated by Harry Kernoff.

Recently, I returned to Lynch and spent one of my most pleasant periods of research in the National Library re-acquainting myself with Brogeen, her recurring leprechaun character, drovers, apple sellers and the turf-cutter’s donkey. While as an adult I could recognise the manner in which Lynch’s expression of Irish identity reflected the social and cultural conservatism of the new Irish State, on another level her books still retained a vestige of magic and vibrancy with likable characters and evocative descriptions of rural Irish life complete with hot stewed “tay”, potato cakes and Peggy’s Legs.

The description of Judy Leahy’s huckster’s shop in Cork: “Sugar-sticks and brandy balls glistened in tall glass jars and, on the counter, blue bags of sugar, packets of tea and cocoa leaned against a great slab of slat.”
A Storyteller’s Childhood

Other favourites: Norah Hoult and Kate O’Brien

Leeann Lane is Head of Humanities and Irish Studies in Mater Dei Institute of Education (Dublin City University)

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