Welcome to my new Friday Feature: Friday Facts! The wonderful Ruth Frances Long has kindly agreed to be our first participant and has shared some fantastic details about the real world locations that inspired her novels A Crack in Everything and A Hollow in the Hills. I’m a huge fan of the trilogy and am eagerly awaiting the release of the final instalment A Darkness at the End in September!
Because my Dubh Linn books, A Crack in Everything, A Hollow in the Hills and the forthcoming A Darkness at the End (O’Brien, September 2016), are set in the city of Dublin as well as its fae counterpart, here’s a quick guide to some of the real world locations. When teaching writing, I emphasise the need to ground the fantastic in the real and use the legends and stories associated with them to strengthen your own tale, so when writing about Dublin I make every effort to depict the city as realistically as I can. Every detail counts.
Dublin is a fabulous setting. Of course, I’m probably biased, as I’ve lived here all my life. There is something unique about the city, over a thousand years old and still growing. It is as the same time old and new, always changing but holding on to it’s past with greedy hands. The stories that riddle Dublin’s lanes and alleys are always with us, and everyone here has a story to tell. Some of these stories winnowed their way into my Dubh Linn. I couldn’t help it. In other locations new stories wove themselves around the landscape, taking bits and pieces of what is there and creating new ones.
Dublin lives on stories. So does Dubh Linn. And the magic of an Irish landscape is, if there isn’t a story attached to something already, a new one will soon turn up.
The Graffiti Angel
This image inspired the whole series. I was walking down South Great George’s Street when I saw it on doors leading into an alley. Graffiti is a fascinating art form, ephemeral and the street art in Dublin just keeps getting better and better. Every day something new and wonderful pops up. Just as quickly, it vanishes. For many years I thought the graffiti angel had gone forever, replaced with the entrance to a nightclub (which was also fitting). And then, last year, a friend told me he’d seen her again, on the walls of a bar further up the road. I haven’t got up the nerve to go in there yet.
The Casino Marino
In fairy folklore, the Sídhe are drawn to things that defy conventions, fascinated by puzzles and challenges. It’s no wonder that they would have purloined the Casino at Marino to serve them. The real building was designed by Sir William Chambers for James Caulfield, the first Earl of Charlemont and built between 1750 and 1775. It was a pleasure house, designed for entertaining rather than gambling. Jinx comments that the Sídhe don’t use it for gambling either, not for money anyway. It’s the most important Neo-Classical building in Ireland, in spite, or perhaps because of its diminutive size – fifty feet square to the outer columns. Though it looks like a single room outside, surprisingly it contains sixteen rooms on three floors. It is full of clever optical illusions. Is it any wonder the Sídhe of my books love it so much?
Formerly an open air market, the Smithfield area of Dublin is now a large plaza or square. The idea of setting the Market here was originally an echo of that older, earlier market which is now mostly gone. The Horse Market which was held here monthly is now only held twice a year following problems with violence and the treatment of the animals sold there. Strangely the plaza is usually empty and an article in the Irish Times on a 2015 study of urban space and teenagers gives a clue (Reclaiming Public Space: Sound and Mobile Media Use by Teenagers, referenced in http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/culture-shock-why-teenagers-huddle-in-city-doorways-1.2419703). Because of the open space and lack of use, the plaza has an eerie quiet and exposed feel to it to which teenagers appear to be particularly sensitive. What better way to keep the inquisitive away from the entrance to a Sídhe space?
The Wishing Stone
The most obvious monument on Killiney Hill, to the south of Dublin, is the white witch’s hat of the Obelisk. But a little below that stands a granite step pyramid. Yes, a pyramid. It’s locally known as the Wishing Stone. The story I grew up with is that if you walk around each level anticlockwise, climbing slowly to the top and sit there looking at Dalkey Island below, your wish will come true. Countless locals have done this, made their wishes. I wondered what happened to all those wishes, which are not so different from prayers—an attempt to change reality with will, a very human form of magic. Why is the Wishing Stone there? It’s later than the other monuments on the hill, many built to give local people work during famine times. No one seems to know. And does it grant wishes? You’ll need to climb it to find out for yourself.
The National Leprechaun Museum
Dublin is known for its museums and this is one of my favourites. Although it bills itself as a leprechaun museum it is more like a storytelling and folklore museum and makes for a fabulous day out. In A Hollow in the Hills it is the domain of the Storyteller, a sinister member of the Aes Sídhe Council, the rulers of the fae race. They’ve been very very patient with me… http://www.leprechaunmuseum.ie/
The Tiny Building
A building on College Green/Dame Street sandwiched between two others. Just a door, a strip of red brick and a white plaque depicting a ship. The Commercial buildings next door were rebuilt when the new Central Bank was constructed in 1980 and turned on a right angle which may account for the Tiny Building, but the truth has been very hard to track down.
The plaque commemorates the Ouzel Galley, which sailed from Dublin in 1695 only to vanish, presumed lost at sea. In 1700 the ship and crew returned, with tales of being enslaved by pirates and weighed down with booty, causing many to believe they hadn’t been enslaved at all but had turned to piracy themselves. Chaos ensued as insurers and investors clamoured for possession of the cargo, but in the end the same panel of merchants who had declared it lost, decreed that once creditors and insurers were paid the money remaining should be used for the good of the city poor. The Ouzel Galley Society became an arbitration society.
This odd little door leads, in my books, to a Sídhe safe space known as a Liberty. The Liberties is another area of Dublin, located elsewhere in the city, but once there were a number of areas known as Liberties which were manorial jurisdictions under Archbishops, Abbeys and Earls, where special laws applied.
The Hellfire Club
Founded in 1737, the Hellfire Club quickly became notorious for its evil antics. The former meeting ground is said to be haunted by some of these dark deeds.
The lone building known today as the Hellfire Club, perched on top of Montpelier Hill, was built as a Hunting Lodge by one William Connolly, the Speaker of the Irish House of Commons in 1725. He was one of the richest men in Ireland. When the lodge was built, however, the builders used stones from the stone cairn, which would have been known locally as a fairy fort. Disturbing one is considered very unfortunate and bad luck always follows their destruction. The slate roof blew off the building in a storm and a massive arched roof of stones was built to replace it, the flat stones from the cairn incorporated into this, further compounding the sin. Connolly didn’t get much use from the lodge. He died in 1729.
The lodge was let to the Hellfire Club, headed by Richard Parsons, the Earl of Rosse, and became the haunt for a number of Dublin rakes, notorious for drunkenness, debauchery, orgies and occult activities. Parsons was known as The King of Hell, and presided over the meetings. Perhaps it attracted some occult attention of its own. Stories began to grow about the club. Like the story of Loftus Hall, the devil is said to have arrived one night to play cards with the members, beating all there until someone discovered his cloven hooves, whereupon he vanished. A large black cat was also associated with the area, an evil creature which appeared to be at the centre of the occult activities. Stories vary as to whether this cat was part of a ritual gone wrong or a demon in feline form, but the cat has been seen there and in nearby Kilakee Stewards house. A young man who went to investigate the revels was found the following morning wandering the hillside in shock, unable to speak or hear for the rest of his life.
According to legend, the building burnt down when an unfortunate footman spilled brandy on “Burn-Chapel” Whaley’s coat, who retaliated by dousing the man in brandy and setting him alight. The resulting fire killed many members of the club and left the lodge a ruin.
With such a spooky place overlooking the city, I could hardly leave the Hellfire Club out of A Hollow in the Hills. The search for the Lord of Death himself, Donn, resolves itself here with terrible consequences.
These are just a few of the locations where I’ve set the Dubh Linn books. There are many more, and more to come in A Darkness at the End this September. Dublin is a fabulous location to explore, always offering something new, even if you’ve lived here for years. Hopefully you’ll come and explore it one day, both in reality and in the pages of the Dubh Linn books.
About the Author
Ruth Frances Long writes dark young adult fantasy, often about scary fairies, such as The Treachery of Beautiful Things, A Crack in Everything, A Hollow in the Hills and the forthcoming A Darkness at the End. (O’Brien Press, 2016). As R. F. Long, she also writes fantasy and paranormal romance (The Scroll Thief, Soul Fire, the Tales of the Holtlands series, The Mirror of Her Power).
She lives in Wicklow, the Garden County of Ireland, and works in a specialized library of rare, unusual & occasionally crazy books. But they don’t talk to her that often. Or maybe she’s learning not to listen. Maybe.
She recently won the European Science Fiction Society Spirit of Dedication Award for Best Author of Children’s Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2015.
Welcome to The Other Side …
Chasing a thief, Izzy Gregory takes a wrong turn down a Dublin alley and finds the ashes of a fallen angel splashed across the dirty bricks like graffiti. She stumbles into Dubh Linn, the shadowy world inhabited by the Sidhe, where angels and demons watch over the affairs of mortals, and Izzy becomes a pawn in their deadly game. Her only chance of survival lies in the hands of Jinx, the Sidhe warrior sent to capture her for his sadistic mistress, Holly. Izzy is something altogether new to him, turning his world upside down.
A thrilling, thought-provoking journey to the magic that lies just beside reality.
My review can be found here.
The sequel to A Crack in Everything. When an ancient and forbidden power is unleashed, Izzy, who is still coming to terms with her newfound powers, must prevent a war from engulfing Dublin and the fae realm of Dubh Linn. But by refusing to sacrifice Jinx – fae warrior and her ‘not-really-ex’ – Izzy sets in motion a chain of events which will see them hunted across the city and into the hills where she’ll face the greatest challenge of all.
My review can be found here.