Wilfried F. Voss is the author of The Bleeding Hills. For more information see his website at http://wilfriedvoss.com.
There is a good reason why my first novel The Bleeding Hills is based on the controversial theme of the Irish Troubles. My Irish-American, red-haired, green-eyed wife is a staunch supporter of the Irish Republican movement and that includes an admiration for Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Féin, the second largest political party in Northern Ireland.
I am now officially an "Irish-By-Marriage," wearing a Claddagh ring on my right hand, and a wedding band with a Celtic Knot design on my left. The Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish ring given as a token of friendship, love and/or as a wedding ring. The design and customs associated with it originated in the Irish fishing village of Claddagh, located just outside the city of Galway.
My wife's grandmother, Anne (Tierney) Sargent, immigrated from Ireland, specifically the little isle of Inishbofin off the coast of Galway, to the United States in the early 1920s. She was seventeen years old at the time, and she never returned to her native country. As a result, my wife (and now I) have relatives, the King Family, who live on the island. A few years back we visited them, and, again, thanks to Peadar King, who introduced me to Colm O’Donnell’s CD Farewell to Evening Dances during our stay. Listening to the CD, especially The Boys Of Barr Na Sraide, sparked the idea to my novel.
Inishbofin (derived from the Irish Inis Bó Finne meaning Island of the White Cow) is an island lying about 8 kilometers (5.0 mi) off the coast of Connemara, County Galway, Ireland. It is about 5.5 km (3½ mi) long and 3 km (1.9 mi) wide, and has around 200 inhabitants. The island is popular with artists. Inishbofin can be reached by ferry from the pier in Cleggan. There is also a helipad, and an airstrip has been built on the island. There are three hotels on the island, Day's Inishbofin House Hotel, Murray's Doonmore Hotel and the Dolphin Hotel, as well as a hostel. A community centre includes a small island library. Inishbofin hosted the 2008 All-Ireland Islands Football Tournament.
The island's English name Inishbofin is derived from the Irish name Inis Bó Finne (Island of the White Cow). The name has its origins in a local legend. The island has been occupied continuously since the Bronze Age. In 668, Saint Colmán founded a monastery on Inishbofin which survived until the 10th century. It is also home to the ruins of Cromwell's barracks, constructed in 1652. When the much hated Cromwell was in power, Inishbofin was transformed into a penal colony for Catholic clergy. An unfortunate bishop was tied to "Bishop's Rock" at low tide and drowned as the waters rose.
Inishbofin is also home to Dún Gráinne, the remains of a fort used by the legendary Gráinne O'Malley, Ireland's pirate queen, as well as the ruins of a Celtic fort dating to 1000 B.C. Inishbofin is believed to have been continuously inhabited for up to 10,000 years. Islanders refer to the fort, which is a good example of a 17th century 'star' fort as 'Oliver Cromwell's Fort'. It was built in the 1650s during the Cromwellian wars to command the harbour entrance. Inishbofin was one of the most important shipping havens on the West coast of Ireland in the days of sail. It was one of the last Royalist strongholds to fall to Cromwell's army and was garrisoned by them until the end of the century. The Cromwellians used it as a staging post for Irish men and women who were being transported to the West Indies.
The current population of approximately 200 is down from a historical high of over 1000 in the 1840s.
An aspect of the island is that it has no trees or forests whatsoever. Any wood was cut down and used as heating fuel. Because of the salt-enriched air, trees were never able to re-establish themselves. Instead, a popular fuel on the island is peat turf. Cut from peat bogs, the turf is dried and makes a pleasant-smelling fire. (Source: Wikipedia.org)