Guests were welcomed with champagne and Irish-themed cupcakes (green and orange icing), while a flutist played traditional Irish songs.Once seated, The Fields of Athenry was performed - setting the stage perfectly for the first book to be launched, Our Love Was on the Wing: From Athenry to Botany Bay by Regis Hickey and Mary Murphy (written under the pen names Jim Healy and Mizpah Closkey).
Regis was introduced beautifully by his agent, and went on to speak about the origins of the book; that he couldn't find a conclusive account of the story behind The Fields of Athenry, so he decided to make one up. What resulted was a story that seamlessly blends fiction and history, giving readers a great insight into what life might have been like in Sydney's convict settlement in the 1800s.
The second novel to be launched was Brian O'Raleigh's The Storyteller of Inis Mor, a story about an Australian man of Irish heritage who returns to his homeland. Brian was introduced by one of his readers, who raved about the book and its ability to bring the west coast of Ireland to life, through authentic dialogue and an unmatched talent for describing its scenery.
Brian spoke about how the book was something he'd wanted to write for a long time, a story about the intrinsic human need to find our purpose or calling, and the transformation that happens when everything is stripped away and we're forced to get in touch with our emotions. He spoke about how the novel is very much derived from his own experiences, and his pleasure that people seem to be getting the message he wanted to send out through it.
The evening ended with book sales and signings, and was a real testament to how many people are interested in Irish culture and heritage; the seating area was packed out.
Both books are available in-store at Mary Ryan's, or online via Amazon. Brian will be holding a retreat in Byron Bay based around the same themes as the novel: more information about this can be found at thewritersjourney.com.au