“They” say that everything happens for a reason. “They” say that there are no coincidences in life. I don’t know if I really believe that, but certainly I’ve begun to believe in destiny over the past year or so.
Some time ago, I began an e-mail friendship with an Irish actor whom I’d written to on a previous occasion. Over the course of our e-mails, I asked him many questions pertaining to the theatre and acting, since the hero of my current work-in-progress is also an actor. He was unfailingly generous in sharing his theatrical insights and experiences with me.
Eventually I sent him a copy of my first novel, In Sunshine or in Shadow, and I asked him if he thought the cover was as evocative of Ireland as I’d hoped. In reply, he informed me that my cover looked like Dunguaire Castle in Kinvara, Galway. The castle holds medieval banquets during the summer season, and has a show, a literary history of Ireland, that is performed after the meal.
Well, naturally, as soon as I heard that, I had to find out more. So I Googled Dunguaire Castle, and much to my amazement, Dunguaire Castle looked identical to Ballycashel House, as depicted on the cover of In Sunshine or in Shadow.
Here’s what I found out about Dunguaire Castle: Built in 1520 by the O’Hynes clan on the shores of Galway Bay, the castle is believed to have been the royal palace of Guaire Aidhne, the legendary King of Connacht and progenitor of the clan.
This is the backstory I created for Ballycashel House (yes, I do write backstory for my settings): a medieval castle in Galway, by the sea. The name Ballycashel means “town of the castle,” and Ballycashel House sits on the ruins of the castle of the ancient chieftain, Sean Donnelly. It’s said the ghost of the chieftain appears to forewarn of a death in the family.
Fate? Destiny? Coincidence? I don’t know for sure, But I was able to visit Dunguaire last July, and I’m convinced that Dunguaire and Ballycashel are one and the same.
Here’s a lovely bit of a verse taken from the entertainment at Dunguaire Castle, written by Carolyn Swift:
For Guaire, King of Connacht, was famed throughout the land
For unrivalled hospitality and a generous giving hand;
And since the seventh century his right arm legend told,
Was longer than his left from giving gold.
He had a royal palace on a river isle near Gort,
But on this very ground there stood Rath Durlois, his fort,
Which often-we are told-was called “the fort of lasting fame,”
And “white-sheeted fort of soft stones”' was another of its names.
Alas King Guaire feared the saintly bishop of Kilmore,
Though he renounced the crown that should be rightfully his by law,
And determined to settle it without a shade of doubt,
Guaire had the Bishop murdered-but was all too soon found out.
So then, in guilty sorrow at the wrong which he had done,
He traveled to the monks of whom his victim had been one,
And there-in Clonmacnoise,-he died ,within the monastery,
Respected once again by all-the year; six, sixty three.