Denis was born into a large family on a threadbare holding in the west of Ireland. Many of these stories are drawn from the experience of growing up on a small, stubborn and indebted farm in the 1950’s and 60’s. That bygone era was a time when all farm work was completed manually and the use of horse and cart was then the closest that the farm came to mechanisation.
In later years his professional work took him to settle in Monaghan, where he now lives, in retirement, with his wife Josephine (nee Mc Donald) and daughter Bróna, whenever she makes the occasional return from her exploits overseas. Josephine (nee Mc Donald), is a native of Monaghan. She also grew up on a small farm in this less progressive period. Her voice is occasionally heard on RTE Radio’s Sunday Miscellany programme when reading her selected chosen stories. One inclusion in this book, “I met her at the Maple Ball” relates the initial then-fairytale meeting of Josephine and Denis at the Maple Ballroom at Rockcorry, Co. Monaghan.
Other writings flow from the experiences and reminiscings from family camping days, which took them all over Ireland and included the occasional sojourn abroad to Scotland and France.
They rarely pass an old graveyard without inspecting it’s headstones and recording some of the many interesting scripts. They often find that the ingredients for unique stories are found hidden in such repositories of history and silent resting places.
by PJ Cunningham
Author of The Long Acre
(Short-listed for Irish book of the Year 2014).
In this book, Denis O Higgins shows us his gift of being able to write stories that are snapshots in time. From his youth on a farm and right through his adult life, his eye is a camera giving us photographic stills of a rapidly changing Irish countryside that in many cases has faded in the rear view mirror of modern life. ‘Fireside Miscellany’ as a collection of these stories is almost an anachronistic label now as people prefer to sit watching boxes in the corner of their living rooms. Yet it was around the kitchen hearth where the art of story-telling was perfected in rural Ireland to keep alive tales and people of times past.
I strongly commend these stories for the way they too build a bridge for our future generations about how their forbears lived in the past. By sharing stories of his past, Denis transports us to the farming days of yesteryear using humour, love, realism and honesty. An engaging and compelling collection of short stories.