Farewell to Annaghmakerrig

My month-long writing retreat at the beautiful Tyrone Guthrie Centre has come to an end. This morning I boarded a bus, along with fellow Australian, Ross Donlon,(an amazing poet by the way!) and took a bus to Dublin. I’m writing this post in the shadow of Christchurch Cathedral, one of Dublin’s greatest landmarks, built after the arrival of Christianity in the 13th century

It’s hard to put into words the effect of my stay at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre. On the writing front, I added 25,000 words to my manuscript. Not a huge jump in word count, but the dedicated time available to just mull, has set the novel on firm foundations. I know where I’m heading. The rest will be easy. What was more remarkable, and heartwarming, was the way the people of Annaghmakerrig embraced me, and I them. There was a kind of unbridled joy and enthusiasm about the place – a daily celebration of the creative human spirit. It was paradise, and I’ve made friendships that I hope might last a lifetime. There’s nothing wrong with listening to Irish accents all day either!

First dayBut it was time to leave my Shangri-la. Time to leave Tyrone Guthrie, that mystical, harmonious artist retreat isolated from the outside world. I hope one day I’ll be back. Here are two photos of the same magnificent oak tree that stood outside my window.



Last dayOne photo was taken on my arrival, and the other today. The tree is a metaphor for my time there, my imagination unfurling along with the leaves.

The Tyrone Guthrie Centre

In May I will take up a month-long residential exchange at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland, along with poet, Ross Donlon. This extraordinary opportunity is sponsored by Varuna – the Writer’s House, Australia’s only national writer’s centre.

The Tyrone Guthrie Centre is a residential workplace open to professional artists of all kinds. It is set in five hundred tranquil, beautiful acres amid the lakes and drumlins of County Monaghan. Irish hunters graze in the paddocks and badgers roam the woods. Everything is provided for the artists in residence, including apparently, delicious food.

Sir Tyrone Guthrie was an acclaimed English theatrical director who bequeathed his family home to the Irish State, with the proviso that it be used for the benefit of artists. It was an inspired decision that reshaped the cultural landscape of Ireland. There are obvious comparisons with Varuna, the large Katoomba home built by the Australian writer Eleanor Dark and her husband, Dr Eric Dark, in the late 1930s. Their son, Michael Dark, gave the house to the Eleanor Dark Foundation in 1989 so it could be used as a retreat for writers. Mick Dark and Sir Tyrone Guthrie have, through their vision and generosity, contributed enormously to the creation of a national literary identity in their respective countries.

I cannot wait to visit this enchanting place and make some real progress on my current novel Firewater, set on Queensland’s beautiful Darling Downs.