Popularity and respect for a local author were highlighted in a packed pub at the weekend.
Friday was a particularly good one for Callan man of the pen John Fitzgerald whose latest book Invaders was launched by local Heritage Society aficionado Joe Kennedy.
It was a warm and friendly occasion at Keogh’s Pub, Mill Street where local lovers of a good read were joined by friends from Kilkenny City, surrounding areas and further afield.
The newest member of a humble book family that has given and continues to give millions so much pleasure was at the heart of a convivial event at a pub that has quenched the thirst of Callan folk and visitors for generations.
A well organised and varied programme included informative and entertaining speeches, poetry readings and a bar of a song from popular raconteur Jimmy Rhatigan of Smithwick’s Brewery fame, aka Patrick Kavanagh.
Invaders (Book 1) is part of a two-volume publication with Effusion of Blood (Invaders Book Two).
Describing Invaders as an epic work, Joe Kennedy commended John Fitzgerald on the hectic months of research and writing that went into the story of how Callan fought against overwhelming odds against the all-conquering and supposedly invincible Cromwell and his army in 1650.
Volume one takes readers from the day Cromwell’s powerful expeditionary force landed at Ringsend in Dublin right up to the his arrival at the walls of Callan.
Volume two takes up the story from there, recreating the tumultuous events that followed Callan’s decision to say ‘No’ to the invader.
Joe alluded to John’s previous books detailing aspects of Callan’s rich heritage and antiquities. He expressed the hope that future generations would cherish the town’s national monuments and its wealth of local folklore.
Lower Bridge Street man John thanked Joe for launching Invaders and said a few words about how it came to be written…that he first conceived about the brave captain who led the defence of Callan many years ago when John was a mere 10 years old, getting around to writing it only when Covid closed down our country in 2020.
John said he was especially grateful to Joe Kennedy because his lengthy non-fiction article on Cromwell in Callan, published in the Old Kilkenny Review of 1984, proved invaluable in his research
Historian Philip Lynch recited a moving poem recalling a dark chapter of Irish history, elaborating on the real events that form the backdrop for Invaders.
He drew parallels between Cromwell and present-day tyrants in the world reminding that human nature doesn’t change whatever about weapons or technology.
Judy Rhatigan recited one of her acclaimed poems. She had a launch a few weeks ago of her own Raggedy Bush poetry collection.
Her husband Jimmy delighted with his renowned Patrick Kavanagh act, adding an unexpected cultural layer to the night’s proceedings in Keogh’s pub.
Jimmy sang a few verses of Raglan Road to round off his riveting and highly entertaining act.
Mark Townsend, author of a popular biography of Brother Damien Brennan also commended Invaders, and spoke of the long and devoted hours of work and dedication that writing any kind of book involves.
Peter Brabazon who recently launched a poetry collection in Fennelly’s, was there too and regaled with a carefully-chosen ode from his vast and varied repertoire.
Marianne Kelly of Kilkenny Heritage Walkers added her praise for the novel saying that it deserved to be adapted for a film or major drama.
In the shorter term, she envisaged a guided tour of Callan battle sites mentioned in the novel.
Invaders, volumes one and two, is available from Amazon in both paperback and ebook format, and will be on sale in Kilkenny bookshops later this month.