Contributor Evelyn Brady pictured with Anthony J Quinn, editor of the anthology. Photo: Adrian Donohoe

Legends and landscapes

“A celebration of childhood and an elegy to what has been lost,” is the beautiful description of a new anthology of stories launched recently.

‘Teddy Cool and Other Stories’ is the third volume of The Lost Landscapes Storytelling Project. The stories got their first public airing at a launch event in the new Virginia Library on Saturday, January 27.

The collection emerged out of creative writing workshops led by novelist Anthony J Quinn.

“The best stories are waiting right before us, in our own landscapes and pasts,” observes Anthony. “The Covid lockdowns of a few years ago galvanised a readership drawn to writing about the natural world.”

Anthony says the “autobiographical stories and vignettes” reflect the rural and urban settings of the writers’ childhoods, “giving the reader a kaleidoscopic vision of Ireland, north and south.”

Bob Gilbert is amongst the writers to contribute to the collection. He’s “very honoured” his story Teddy Cool was selected for the title of volume three.

Bob’s story follows the adventures of teenager Teddy McCool, however it wasn’t the character who came first.

“Anthony Quinn wanted us to describe a landscape from our youth and then we had to put people into the landscape.

“Then we had to weave a story around the people with a wee bit of conflict and a little bit of romance or whatever,” says Bob, who also self-published a book of poetry during Lockdown.

While Munterconnaught has been home for Bob since his retirement 20 years ago, he originally hails from County Wexford. A hill where he was raised provides the setting.

“When I was a young fella I was very interested in all the myths and legends of Ireland,” recalls Bob, crediting a teacher for giving him a book of legends to feed his insatiable appetite for reading. “I used to roam the hills and imagine myself as one of these heroes such as Fionn MacCumhail. I transferred my imaginings to this character I wrote about in the book, so it’s possibly a bit about myself as a young teenager.”

Anthony provided guidance as the participants submitted their works in progress. Bob says the workshops and the process of writing for the collections - have greatly improved his writing.

“I just wish I had done it 20 or 30 years ago, rather than at this late stage in my life,” he says.

Pleased by how his story turned out, Bob has tentative plans to develop Teddy Cool.

“I’m looking at possibly doing a sequel to it now, maybe put it into another landscape. I lived and worked in Dublin most of my life, and one of my favourite places was Howth so I might have the sequel set around Howth Head.”

Contributors to Teddy Cool and Other Stories are Evelyn Brady, Ann O’Donoghue, Olga Maughan, Bob Gilbert, Veronica Williams, Marie Quinn, Nollaig Byrne, Deirdre Tighe, Kathleen Grogan (née Kelly), Marian Dudley, Cecilia O’Neill, Deirdre McKenna, Ellen McKenna and Anne O’Connor.