‘Percy Jackson’ author Rick Riordan to graduate from UCC

Best-selling author plans to use master’s in Gaelic literature to write about Irish heroes

Mythical Irish heroes such as Fionn mac Cumhaill and Cúchulainn may soon be found featuring in blockbuster movies as best selling US author Rick Riordan confirmed he plans to write a novel about Irish heroes after studying them at University College Cork (UCC).

Riordan (56), whose Greek myt-inspired Percy Jackson books have been adapted into two blockbuster movies, has revealed he plans to incorporate Irish legend into his works after he graduates on Monday with a master's in Gaelic literature.

One of 1,115 graduands set to receive their degrees in a virtual ceremony on Monday, Riordan has been studying for the degree from his home in Boston for the past year. He said he chose to study at UCC in the hope that Irish legends may inspire his next best-seller.

“I’ve written children’s books about many world mythologies - Greek and Roman, Norse, Egyptian - but I’ve not yet tackled Irish mythology, which is ironic as it’s one of my favourites, and also part of my own ancestral heritage,” said Riordan.


"My branch of the Riordan family was originally from Cork city, in fact, and their homestead was just a stone's throw from the UCC campus," said the Texan-born writer who will receive his master's from UCC's College of Arts, Celtic Studies & Social Sciences.

“I’ve loved mythology ever since I was a child. I began writing children’s books based on the myths when I told The Lightning Thief to my son as a bedtime story. He encouraged me to write it down, and the Percy Jackson series was born.

“Fifteen years later, much to my amazement, I have tens of millions of books in print. I think this speaks to the enduring power of myth . . . my hope is to use what I’ve learned at UCC to explore Irish mythology in children’s literature, much as I did Greek mythology in my Percy Jackson books.

"Before I turned to Irish myth, I wanted to be sure I had done as much research as possible, even though I knew the stories fairly well . . . being a full-time writer and based in Boston, I wouldn't have been able to study Irish mythology in Ireland for an extended period of time.

“But UCC’s online Gaelic literature MA provided me with everything I needed. UCC allowed me to immerse myself in the subject, interact with students from all around the world, and have access to the finest faculty available for Gaelic studies, all at my own pace and on my own schedule.”

The online master’s course in Gaelic literature was drawn up by Professor of Modern Irish at UCC, Padraig Ó Macháin. Riordan described the course as “a fantastic programme for anyone interested in Irish history, literature, language or mythology.

“The fact that any Irish myths exist at all is a testament to how powerful and important these stories are. The Irish were oppressed for so many centuries, their language and culture dismantled by colonialism, and yet the stories survived - not just in manuscripts, but in oral tradition,” he said.

“Given everything these stories have been through, I am optimistic they will continue to survive. I hope I can contribute in some small way to refreshing them for a new generation of young readers, but I am just one of many storytellers who will work to keep that tradition going.”

UCC’s interim president, Prof John O’Halloran, congratulated Riordan and his fellow graduands, who will be conferred at eight ceremonies as part of UCC’s Virtual Spring Conferrings which will be live streamed on the UCC website starting at 3pm.

“At any time, to complete a degree is difficult but to do so at this time is exceptionally difficult. But you have endured - you have persisted through tough times in achieving something truly remarkable. Your resilience, your hard work and your commitment have brought you to this moment today.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times