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Órflaith Foyle   Contributor -- Ireland


Órfhlaith Foyle's first novel Belios was published by Lilliput Press (Ireland) in 2005.  "Revenge" - an anthology of her poetry and short fiction was published by Arlen House (Ireland), also in 2005.  Her first full collection of poetry, "Red Riding Hood's Dilemma," will be published in 2009 by Arlen House.  And "Postcard Poems," a poetry collaboration with fellow poet and fiction writer, Nuala Ní Chonchuir will be published online this year.



My Sojourn at Annaghmakerrig




A Snapshot Recollection in Words and Pictures.


             Photo of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre



Last October 2008, I spent a week at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre,  Annaghmakerrig, Ireland. It was my first ever writer’s residency. I enjoyed walking through its hallways and coming across odd and old things. I loved the lake and the woods. I loved the fact that I was far away from my normal environment and I relished the romance of living in a large period house, complete with rumours of a ghost that I never met.


Ghost Stories and Dark Nights

Her name is Mrs Warbrigg. She was a companion to Lady Guthrie.  While I am at The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, the staff is busy preparing a short film of her life to be entered in the Clones Film Festival, and late one night, a newly arrived resident tells us ghost tales from the Yaddo writing community.  We all get very quiet around the small breakfast table in the kitchen. It is an impressive collection of horror and invisible malignant things that flew through the air, as well as terrible noises from an unlived-in attic room.


So when I went up to my bedroom later, the floorboards creaked as they always did, and as I lay in bed, there were twin shining lights above the high mantle piece, staring eyes that stared at me in my bed. My rational mind knew the reason straightaway…the light from the hallway had made its way through the chinks surrounding my bedroom door…but I have an intense imagination and sleep was difficult that night.




       Another view of the Tyrone Guthrie House

The Tyrone Guthrie Centre is a beautiful house on acres of land and it exists for artists, writers, composers etc.  You can stay for a week or up to three months. On my first morning there, I am met by one of the cooks coming in from the back of the house as I come down the stairs from my room. ‘Are you one of the artists?’ That is how you are seen and how you are treated. The main house is silent during the day. We all walk in socks or slippers. I explore the house on my tip-toes when I’m not working.




        A headless frog. Poor thing. I think either one of the cats – Portia or
        Romeo ate it

You are left to your own devices for breakfasts and lunches but everything is provided for you.  Outside the kitchen there is an organic garden patrolled by Portia and Romeo, the house’s two cats. They are not allowed inside but they sit and stare at you from beyond the glass door. They like mice and frogs, I’m told.




        My writing desk. Sunlight and windows. It has a romantic feel.


My room is up a narrow back stairs from the kitchen and along a hallway.  Just outside my door is a picture window where now and again someone might sit with their laptop, just on the off chance that the internet connection could magically appear in that spot. It happened once. There is no television allowed at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, although you can play DVDs and yes, there is an internet connection but it is tempermental, unreliable and it causes rows late at night.





        My room. Actually John Jordan’s but mine for a whole week

My room is called John Jordan’s Room. It is large with the most beautiful bathroom that somehow reminds me of the 1920’s – a favourite era of mine… just the chrome and white tiles; a turret-like window with a heavy and a bright red shutter, and a white wooden chair.  All I need to do is to drape silk camisoles and think of poems.



            View from my window at the Tyrone Guthrie House

My desk is at the main window and faces the lake. It is a glorious view. Swans, herons, and an odd fishing boat.



            Photo of my room interior:  Painting over mantlepiece

The room is a mixture of old and new. A large dressing table with doilies and tiny boxes, an indecipherable note attached to a frayed string; a well-oiled wardrobe that makes no noise despite its age, and a large fireplace overlooked by a painting of a semi-naked woman.


On the mantle-piece I find a tin box and inside it is note someone wrote on a snippet of envelope paper:    ‘Nice. It’s all nice.  Ssh…’  It’s signed with a kiss by either ‘Diane’ or ‘Dime’.

Dinners and Late-night Meetings

Everyone has dinner together in the evening. It’s the only rule. You bring or buy your own wine and you meet artists, composers, poets, novelists. On my first night there are only four of us, all poets and writers. I burn my hand cooking pasta. It is a Saturday night and the staff night off, so they prepare the meal but we cook it. All the food at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre is marvellous and catered to carnivores and vegetarians alike.

As the week progresses, there are new artists and the table fills up in the evening. Conversation can be daunting at first. People are tired from a day’s work but it is wonderful to meet like-minded or opposite-minded artists from New York, Greece, Brighton, Dublin, Wisconsin, Leitrim, San Francisco and Donegal. Talk flies from one end of the table to another.

I think I am very lucky for my week at Annaghmakerrig. I meet wonderful artists and have amazing late night discussions, on art, poetry, and love of words. We talk about travel, fashion, writers, Paris and Berlin and New York. We talk and hope that Barack Obama gets in.


Then someone mentions astrology and tarot cards and the table gets quiet again so a few of us make our way back to work, or the drawing-room or the library. Or just journey around the house, chatting in whispers and making plans for the next day.


          Photo of my writing with lake view. I couldn’t write one afternoon; sat
          back in my chair and stared out the window. Then I thought I’d take a
          photograph instead.

The silence takes getting used to. Sitting at my desk during odd bouts of day-dreaming, I can feel the quiet almost like another person’s breath close by. I didn’t bring any music and I didn’t have my laptop either, so the silence is raw and strange to begin with, just me and my pens and notebooks. A friend of mine gave me a picture of Emily Dickinson for my desk and if I cannot write, I just imagine how the silence in my room was probably the same as Emily’s and then I write something.

Second Breakfasts




I get up early every morning and I am down in the kitchen at seven a.m. It’s still dark and the cooker’s pilot light thrums.  Sometimes the cats appear and meow to get in. There is no radio to turn on, so the silence is encompassing.  Just the noise I make getting my food ready and the sudden electric jump the fridge performs every now and again. By the time I get back to my room and my writing, it is dawn. Everyone else here is a night worker. I always envy those kinds of writers and artists. They look suitably ‘worked’ by the time I meet up with them.  I call these meetings my ‘Second Breakfasts.' They happen at about 10.30 or 11.00 a.m. and if it is a hard day, it just helps to realize that you are not alone; that words are difficult for everyone.


          I took this photo while I was circumnavigating the lake in ankle-deep
          mud. There are two swans if you peer hard enough.


         Autumn Trees. Another walking expedition. And I love Autumn scenes.


          Three chestnuts




So sometimes it’s better to go for a walk.  I and another writer decide to explore the lake and its environment.  We have to go through a Hansel and Gretel woods and since I’m not bad at orientation and I had good Wellington boots on, I acted as point. Because it is October in Ireland, the weather is weird. It rains but it is clammy with warmth and the mud sucks up at my boots like alien slime.  When we break through one set of woods and onto a large green hill, the view is magnificent.  Swans fly across the lake. We take photographs of the Tyrone Guthrie House in the distance, and as we travel through the next woods, we keep as close to the edge of the lake as possible. We can hear the bubble of fishermen’s talk. Nothing distinct but it reminds us that if we ever think we are lost then we can yell for rescue.


         Taken from the jetty. As near to water as I can stand. There was a heron
         but it flew off





The lake is beautiful. Still and lit up from the October afternoon light. There is a jetty to stand on. Someone tells me it used to be a common sight to see naked poets jumping off into the water below. A couple of others contemplate the idea. I leave them contemplating it and go admire the horses instead. They push their noses at my hands. I am careful since I know one of them tried to bite another artist a couple of days ago. But the horses seem to like me. They are large, rather skittish and their lips move across my fingers searching for something sweet that I don’t have.


          A horse by lake’s edge. It stood so still for such a long time.


           I went for long walks. The land is rich-looking; not like the West which
           can appear brutal in comparison. But both are equally beautiful to me.


            A half-hidden house behind the woods




You don’t see people much. You have to go into Newbliss village for that. The people in the shop are used to artists buying up chocolate and wine, as well as more mundane necessities.  Since there is no television at the house, newspapers are the only way to see how the world is working outside. If you have a car, you can travel the winding, hilly roads around Annaghmakerrig.  It is easy to get lost and road signs aren’t reliable, or don’t exist.  A few of us take a detour after shopping and drive to the old church where Tyrone Guthrie is buried.  The rain pelts down. Everyone shivers. We sit in the car and stare at the church gates. I would like to go in but I’m outvoted. It’s not my car and the driver has to be back at the house. And I’m not feeling Emily Brontë enough to walk back through pouring rain and risk getting lost in farmland or cowsheds.


            The hallway outside John Jordan’s room.




When I can’t write, I walk around the house which is full of memorabilia from the past. Old diaries in glass cases, postcards propped up against vases; trinket boxes, combs, letters and stories written in faint beige ink on scraps of paper.  Old portraits vie for attention with more modern art. You pick something up and marvel at how you are touching a once treasured; or a once ordinary possession of someone who is now history.


             Photo of Lady Guthrie’s room 




As I explore, I come across odd corners in hallways and sudden bathrooms where you would expect  bedrooms. If you walk up from John Jordan’s room, you pass by Lady Guthrie’s, and a few steps from that you are in another corridor that leads you to the large staircase and close by is Mrs Warbrigg’s room. A Greek poet is staying there at the moment. He swears he hears nothing.


Down the stairs and you reach the main entrance hall from where you discover the Library and the Drawing Room. The Library is wall-to-wall books that range from three centuries ago to relatively recent publications of all writers in residence at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre. There is an impressive Oval table at which to read or write but as far as I can tell, the Library is used by us just to find books which we then read in our rooms.


           This is the front drawing room or parlour. Period speak for sitting
           room. Someone played the piano one night and we all drank wine.



Across the hall is the drawing room.  I suffer from an acute and incurable fascination with Period films and dramas - anything with Edwardian and Twenties’s dresses, absinthe and dangerous artists in the corners of disreputable houses.  I cannot help it. So one evening we all retire to the Drawing Room or Best Parlour and we drink wine while one of us plays the piano.

It is the sort of night where conversations just trail in and out of each other; wined and dined with talk and stories.

Artists Unite




To celebrate World Poetry Day, we arrange an impromptu evening of literature and music after dinner. We sit around the large dinner table and read poems and stories; listen to music and drink wine. Later someone produces their whiskey, and is soon followed by someone else who presents their rum.

A poet stands at the head of the table and recites "Donal’s Lament," a great old Irish love poem: "You have taken the East from me. You have taken the West from me and my fear is great that you have taken God from me." Another poet reads a poem from Shelley. A writer reads her story. There is a poem about a night of dancing and singing in Greece, and another about Icarus in a hotel room. Someone remembers his dead and dear friend and recites a poem in his memory. A composer plays her music. 


It is one of those dark, brilliant nights that no one wants to finish but in the end, it is just you in your room with the shutters open and moonshine on the lake and the sharp, silent cold air creeping through…just enough to make you shiver, close the shutters, and switch off the light…and go to sleep.

All info on the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Newbliss, Co. Monaghan, Ireland to be found at:


         The drawing room/parlour

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