For Fair Haven native and author Mary Beth Connor Gibson, going home a second time is definitely a charm when it comes to her latest book signing.
The book: Harps Upon the Willows, second in a trilogy dubbed a Duncellen Saga, an 18th century Tipperary tale of love, hate and murder. And its publication came a few months shy of year after the first, Aroon.
While all intentions were to again bring the signing to the Fair Haven firehouse, where her family spent much of its time, and still does, that plan didn’t pan out this juncture.
But, to Gibson there’s still nothing quite like being back in the area again to celebrate the milestone and honor the family and friends in her upbringing who were there when the bug to write first bit — or stung and left a permanent welt. It’s a rite of Connor family passage, as she sees it. Not the bite, the homecoming signing. So, Fair Havenites and Gibson fans from the area migrated a bit south to sister Evie Connor Kelly’s house in Long Branch to celebrate and sign on Sunday.
Gibson, now a South Carolina resident, looks at her Fair Haven journey as one that brought her to writing. It’s where her mom toted her to the library to get her first library card.
And now, many years later, Gibson has spent 25 years as a writer, mostly of children’s books and now on her second in a series of adult 18th century sagas steeped in Irish history.
How did she end up on that road to Tipperary? Well, she said, she was intrigued with the martyrdom of 18th century priest Nicholas Sheehy, opened her own Pandora’s box of research and started writing.
“I brought my work to a writing group, a few pages at a time,” Gibson said, “and someone said, ‘This isn’t a book for children.’ So, then, taking the advice and giving myself the then freedom to expand the content to adult audiences, I ended up with Aroon and the full exploration of 18th century Tipperary’s challenges and struggles of all classes and the fictionalized story of this priest.”
Aroon, came out about a year ago. Now, the second, Harps Upon the Willows, has arrived.
How did she do it so quickly? Well, Gibson tells us that this series kind of works its way back and half of Harps was already complete when Aroon was published.
Aroon, she said, was more a true fiction, while Harps Upon the Willows is “based on historical fact and a real character with whom I became fascinated as I was doing research for the books,” she said on Sunday. “The more research I did, the more I wrote. I just kept finding more and more and getting more and more intrigued and involved. The character, this real priest, Nicholas Sheehy, Alistair Moore in the book, is just fascinating.”
According to the book’s synopsis, here’s how the Harps story unfolds …
“It is 1766. Nan Scully is surrounded by obscene poverty, worsened by the landowners’ heartless eviction of family after family. Realizing secret agrarian rebels are taking a stand, Nan is hell-bent on doing her bit. Little does she know her greatest enemy is her father, Sir Richard Lynche.
“When Alistair Moore, local priest and boyhood friend of Sir Richard, speaks out against the gentry’s oppression, he becomes their prime target in the battle to crush the rebels. Yet, his own demons might do him in first.
“Unbeknownst to either, Nan and Alistair’s fates become entwined on a treacherous road leading directly to the gallows.
“Harps Upon the Willows is based on actual incidents that rocked 18th century Tipperary.”
There was so much information that came gushing forward from her research, that Gibson said she could have easily filled another book. And so the author’s journey goes …
The song It’s a Long Way to Tipperary, by Jack Judge, isn’t one about a walk to the Fair Haven Library, but Mary Beth Connor Gibson’s journey by pen to the Irish county is one that started on that first trek with her mom and always winds its way home.
Take a look at our photo gallery for a glimpse into the signing with the author …
— Photos and story/Elaine Van Develde