EXETER – Local author Arnold Mathers looked to his Irish roots for inspiration to write From Ireland to the Queen’s Bush, a collection of 10 short stories about families leaving Ireland and coming to Canada.
Mathers said, “They’re stories about undertakers and musicians, different folks coming from Ireland.”
Irish immigrants in the stories find their way to Derrymore, Ont., a fictional village inspired by where Mathers grew up in Belmore, which sits in what was once known as the Queen’s Bush, an area between Waterloo County and Lake Huron. Though the stories are fictional, Mathers based them off research from six trips to Ireland as well as personal experience.
Mathers said, “I’d done the research on my own particular family, and written the book on it, and researched a few hundred branches of the family back in Ireland and here in Canada. I heard stores, and wove those stories into a book… In Ireland we did the research in the provincial records of Northern Ireland. We visited churches, grave yards, tracked down people who were related, tracked down half a dozen branches of family who still live in Ireland, and saw the area they came from. Then here in Canada, I just knew some of the families and their stories.”
The story that first brought Mathers’ imagination to life was Katie’s Locket, a tale of a young girl whose locket is her last physical tie to Ireland, and in an effort to keep it from being sold, hides it away, but loses it in the process, only to find it years later due to lucky circumstances.
“I wrote Katie’s Locket as the first story, and I had no intention of writing a book of stories about Ireland,” said Mathers. “I showed it to a couple of other people who were reading my stories, and one of the people reading them said I should write more stories like that, so I started doing that. That was the beginning.”
Mathers has been writing for about 25 years, starting after retiring from his career as an educator, deciding to preserve the stories of his father for the younger generations in his family at the suggestion of his mother. He said, “My dad was a character. He invented things, he was very unusual, he grew up during the Depression, went back to high school when he was 21. He was the oldest student to go to the high school in Wingham.”
Some of his other works have included a book about his family’s history, The Owens’ Saga, and his first step into humourous short stories with Homemade and Hand-Me-Downs.
Mathers released his latest work in the spring, but he’s already working on his next book. He said, “I have another 25 short stories written on another book, which will probably take me another two years to finish. Each book has taken me about four years of writing time.”
From Ireland to the Queen’sBush is available in Exeter at the Times-Advance, the Restore, and Gregarious Cravings, as well as The Garden Gate in Grand Bend.