In the preface to an early book of mine An Unexpected Diagnosis, still available as an eBook on Amazon – I tell of the Irish storytelling tradition that stretches all the way back to the time of the ancient Gaelic storytellers. The Seanchai’ travellers, who used to wander along the lonely roads of Ireland.
It was a tradition that carried stories of myth and fantasy, but it was also a means of spreading news to isolated communities living in desperately poor conditions, with little or no contact with the outside world.
I mention this because I am reminded of the occasions I have spent in hotels and bars in Ireland and overseas, listening to total strangers telling their stories and passing on local news. It is not so surprising, as we all love to hear a yarn, don’t we? I must admit, I have listened to quite a few, good and bad!
Since the earliest days of human existence, all of us have been nurtured by the passing on of stories and news, fiction and non-fiction. It is the most important part of our existence, as everything we do or achieve is based on information, written or otherwise.
All of this leads me to the in-depth research I carried out for the The Timecrack Adventures series – available on www.williamlongbooks.co.uk – in which my wife is also usually involved.
Her interest in genealogy led to an unexpected discovery recently, through a cousin’s research, that revealed she is in the direct line of descent to an important figure in American literary history.
Samuel McClure, 1857-1949, left Clough, Ireland, in 1866, for the farmlands of Indiana in America. During his early career, he secured employment with the Century Magazine, but later decided to form an agency that would support authors and their engagement with a string of magazines and newspapers across the USA.
It was a highly imaginative enterprise, destined to include, little known at the time, Rudyard Kipling, to whom he paid the incredible sum of over £6,000 for the literary rights to Kim. He would continue this success by serialising the work of Robert Louis Stevenson across America, along with the works of Rider Haggard and Arthur Conan Doyle.
This was a staggering achievement for an immigrant from the north of Ireland, with little knowledge of the literary world, to introduce some of the greatest writers to a growing American population.
It is also a reminder to writers; how serious research can reveal those unexpected gems of information that are so invaluable to a work in progress!