Crescent Witches: A haunting Belfast tale

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Just over a century since the Great War had ended witches and wizards had defeated the evil Johnagock and banished them to a hell dimension forever. Many years then passed with all magical creatures living in peace across the veil hidden from the human world.

Then one dreadful night the young witch Amelia Crescent’s worst nightmares returned to haunt her once more; the Johnagock were back.

It’s now up to Amelia, with the help of her sister Georgette, to uncover the dark secrets of their family’s past and discover the truth behind their parents deaths in order to defeat their evil foe once again.

Author Margaret McMahon is from the heart of Belfast city. She has a daughter and a son. Margaret trained and worked as a professional florist and also worked in an Irish language school. This is her first novel.

The Hotel Waiter with The Holy Water

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Alois Hitler, Jnr the older half-brother of Adolf Hitler, spent some months in the latter half of 1909 working in Dublin’s premier hotel – The Shelbourne. From Dublin he eloped with a teenage Dublin girl, Bridget Dowling, ten years his junior, to Liverpool. Surprisingly, there has been very little attention paid to this fascinating historical detail.

This darkly comic novel focuses on the elder Hitler’s short time in Dublin. It is based on the few facts known to us – that in his spare time from work in The Shelbourne, he liked to gallivant around Dublin while posing as a Hotel Consultant. A con-artist, in fact. And that he first encountered Bridget Dowling at the Royal Dublin Horse Show in Ballsbridge. As well as the fact that they had their first date in The National Gallery, Merrion Square. Among the celebrities whose brief presence in Dublin in 1909 coincided with the longer stay of Alois Hitler, Jnr, were Enrico Caruso, Ernest Shackleton (who stayed in The Shelbourne) and James Joyce who set up the first motion picture house in Dublin in December 1909, called the Volta. Each is rewarded with a walk-on part and one even with a small talking part as well.

Shakespeare: What’s the Problem?

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A fascinating book from Shakespeare scholar Tom Hall. As he says: “I have tried to communicate interesting possibilities about Shakespeare’s early life when seen against what is known or likely concerning his environment; particular emphasis is placed on the ‘lost years’. I have dealt with the reasons why theories have arisen regarding these years, 1564-1581, before suggesting how problems can be experienced about the authorship in later years. My approach is deliberately personal rather than intellectual or scholarly, and is intended to be accessible to readers without a detailed knowledge of the plays.” Definitely plenty of food for thought in this book.

Dreaming Refuge

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My name is Patrick Doyle, which is an unusual name for a person coming from the loyalist working class Shankill Road in Belfast, Northern Ireland. My early life was set against a backdrop of orange parades during the marching season’s flute bands and loyalist murals. My story starts in 1972 when I was almost twenty two years old. It tells of my transformation from violence to finding other means of solving differences. The change was brought about by extremely strange circumstances. This is my very strange story.

Belfast, With Dinosaurs, 1979: A Prehysteric Farce

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This is a novelistic love-letter to Belfast City & environs, and a rather comedic one at that. It follows the trials & tribulations of a newbie journalist (and dino-enthusiast!), his drinking pal, a pompous middle-aged archaeologist at Queen’s, a legendary German palaeontologist, a mischievous young couple under their tutelage, and a 16-year-old schoolboy who dreams of other worlds… They gradually become connected, and all because of dinosaurs. The story unfolds amidst the strife & chaos of the Troubles -and a bit of how it was 66 million years ago, too.

The book celebrates and re-imagines 1979 Belfast in meticulous detail. It also, rather mischievously, celebrates the recently confirmed discovery of Ireland’s first dinosaur fossils. This somewhat Swiftian story pokes fun at just about everything living, half-living or just plain extinct. It will appeal to lovers of Belfast and to those fascinated by the ancient beasts who used to roam its streets… before they were streets… Might dinosaurs, wondering whether to engage in fisticuffs or not, have first quizzed each other on their religious affiliations? Find out in the pages of this wild, and thought-provoking, romp. 

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Against the Tide

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It is the job of historians to revise earlier accounts of history. As new public records, for example, continually become available, it will be necessary to revise previous accounts of certain periods of history and actors in that history. But the dominant narratives of Irish history since the 1960s have been written by a group whose revisionism claims for itself the virtues of value free and objective empirical research as exclusively forming their accounts of Irish history. As Bertolt Brecht said, however, “Whenever there are great virtues, it’s a sure sign something’s wrong”. What is wrong in this case is that such revisionism masks a particular set of ideological beliefs that result in, for example, the displacement of the Famine as the central, immiserating event in nineteenth century Ireland. This collection of essays, some previously published and some new, revises the Revisionists on their general approach to Irish history, the early history of Ulster, the Famine, the Plantation, Ireland’s status as colony, and challenges their findings through advancing counter-arguments in the spirit of academic debate and research. It is the first such collection that challenges Revisionism in various intellectually thoughtful and stimulating ways, and establishes a dialectical counter-narrative to it. Terence Bradley

War and Peace

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‘War and Peace’ was written in order to provide the Renaissance song ‘Watkin’s Ale’ with a decorous text. The poem has already appeared in FoMRHI Quarterly 121 (May, 2012), whose genial editor, Mr Christopher Goodwin, does not object to its new manifestation. You won’t understand the rhythm of the poem unless you look up the tune of ‘Watkin’s Ale’ on the internet.   ‘War and Peace’ has a perceptible all-Ireland dimension. Bray town centre appears on the front cover. Offaly, Belfast, and Cork feature in three of the pictures. (‘Old Friends’ is based on a medieval icon of Naboth.) For its part the rear cover involves a severely stylised view of the Blue Lough, near Annalong, Co. Down, where the author sometimes goes for a swim, and where Snow White is believed to have conferred with Arthur O’Shaughnessy. History can be a jolly complicated business. David Crookes

They Came in Cars and Carts

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The first edition of They Came in Cars and Carts was published in 1989 by the North Eastern Education and Library Board’s Resources Centre primarily as an educational resource. The book acquired a wide readership and eventually sold out the relatively small number of copies printed. This reprint is meant to appeal to those who missed the original edition but are interested in the importance of fairs and markets in the development of Ballyclare. In this context I believe the book should attract the attention of younger generations who have had no direct experience of the fairs and markets held in the town. Nowadays books benefit from the digital revolution in printing technology and allows a quality of product impossible to achieve when the first edition of the book was published. This edition has been printed professionally making creative use of such modern digital technology. The 1989 publication appeared along with the gradual return to normality following the decline of the rigid security measures associated with The Troubles. The improved security situation encouraged official and local community groups to return to the organisation and promotion of events traditionally associated with the annual May Fair carnival. It is quite a co-incidence that the present book is published amid similar efforts from local groups to revive the May Fair activities abandoned as a result of the restrictions imposed upon large group gatherings to deal with the Covid 19 pandemic. Ballyclare is presently experiencing a surge in new housing developments. The recent opening of a long – awaited by-pass to alleviate traffic congestion has proved a popular benefit and is certain to lead to a further increase in the population of the town. I hope that the reprint of They Came in Cars and Carts will enjoy a wide readership among new arrivals keen to discover how the markets and fairs of former years added significantly to Ballyclare’s prosperity and renown. I am confident, too, that the sadly dwindling band of ‘auld residenters’ will find many prompts in the book to rekindle treasured memories of happy times spent at the Ballyclare May Fair.

Rhymes & Ructions: Ballads and Banter from Ballyclare

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Each Day is a Farewell

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The Diary of an Irish Pedaller

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The Slot

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The Deep Heart’s Core

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When Nora Gallagher leaves Donegal to work in a college in Edinburgh she is torn between the excitement of her new career and the call of home. Lodging with Rosie, an elderly family friend, she sees how lonely a city can be for the old and vulnerable. Nora sets out to help Rosie and to improve the prospects of the troubled teenagers she supports in college.

Astute and determined, Nora attracts the praise of her maverick colleagues and the jealousy of her conniving boss, Liz. She also attracts the attention of Gerard Falconer, a wealthy landowner, who opens his estate to disadvantaged students. Nora struggles with her own values, her growing fondness for Gerard and her desire to support her ailing grandfather at home.

By foiling the plans of local criminals preying on Rosie, Nora is unaware of the danger both women now face from a more serious predator – a danger which tracks them back to Donegal, where Nora has returned.

The King of Love

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John is the different Gospel, the most difficult but the most
enriching. It begins in the eternal loving heart of the Trinity,
‘for God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, so that
everyone who believes in Him may not perish, but may have
eternal life’ (3:16), and ends in an Hour of Glory, as John sees the
death and Resurrection of Jesus, and the outpouring of the Spirit.
The author gives a guide to all 21 chapters of the Gospel, with 22
passages for Lectio Divina, and 10 Stations of the Cross according
to John, to supplement our traditional ones. It’s the fruit of a long
pondering and love for this Gospel, so it is personal and, from
experience, medicine for a faltering spiritual life.
It is for everyone from student to pensioner, a challenge to all
to deepen their spirituality and their relationship with the living
Lord. It’s a sipping drink to be savoured slowly, rather than a
binge. Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Albert McNally, a priest of Down and Connor, studied scripture
at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome 1968-71. He spent 30
years teaching at second and third level and 17 years as a Parish
Priest before retirement.

Silver’s City

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Silver McKee was probably the best-known man in Belfast at one time. This excellent book from Fra McCartney recounts some of the tales and tribulations of Silver’s time in Belfast.

Fra McCartney was born in Belfast in 1949 when the world was starting to change dramatically. Early in his life he developed a love for horses, horse dealers, and the ordinary man or woman who made good in this great city or in far off distant lands they emigrated to.

His days in the merchant navy took him to many countries but the lure of Belfast always brought him back and this book is very much about the characters rather than the city itself.

Stories of a Lifetime

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Jack McKinney retired in 2003 following four decades as an assistant and principal teacher in primary schools in
East Antrim. While working in Ballyclare he developed an interest
in the local history and culture of the town. This led him to compile
a series of accounts of Ballyclare’s history – notably its markets
and fairs, elementary education and the town’s celebrated papermaking
In 1980 he founded the Ballyclare and District Historical
Society and in 1993 was a founder member of the Ulster-Scots
Language Society acting as the first editor of Ullans, the society’s
This book draws on Jack McKinney’s interest in local cultural heritage and his feeling for the lore and language
of rural communities as expressed in the colourful speech and anecdotes of the eccentric characters he regularly
encountered in Ballyearl and Mossley.
The stories of the time he spent as a pupil in Mossley Primary School and a teacher in Abbots Cross and Ballyclare
Primary Schools contain lively descriptions of unusual events and eccentric behaviour by pupils and staff.
There is also much to learn and enjoy from contrasting pupils’ experiences and the conditions in schools in the 1950s
and 1960s with what is normal in today’s technological age.
This book, unashamedly nostalgic, will be enjoyed by all readers as an authentic but
light-hearted picture of the life of an ordinary teacher toiling at the chalk face.

Lakeland Lockdown Reflections

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The year 2020 will be remembered by many as the year of many days of ‘lockdown’ to counter the spread of CoVid-19 pandemic. ‘Lakeland Lockdown Reflections’ illustrates how to find and communicate with God in a strange time of anxiety and uncertainty. The reader will encounter how God spoke to the author through his Word and the beauty of creation, in the lakeland county of Fermanagh. These reflections by Deacon Martin Donnelly and images of quiet places so beautifully photographed by Fr Brendan McManus SJ, illustrate how the beauty of the environment provides stimuli for silent prayer. The words challenge the reader to reflect upon experiences of God in everyday life and to see God in the little things we often take for granted. In addition to being a pleasurable read, it is also a useful resource for meditation and prayer. The images enable the reader to look at the ‘ordinary’ with new eyes. The reflections warm the heart and open it to wonder and awe of God’s presence. is unique about this book is that Rev. Martin brings his experience of being a Deacon to bear in these reflections he wrote during Lockdown 2020. Being a married deacon is a new ministry in the Irish Church and we get to see his formation, his prayer and his work expressed in these pages. In some ways it represents a bridge between clergy and lay people, Martin has a foot in both camps and we get the benefits of both: the experience of married life, grandparenting and its demands, along with the commitment to prayer, liturgy and making the Scriptures talk to our lives.

The Hollowed Path

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A beautifully written and illustrated collection of poems and short stories by writer and artist Joan Mac Cabe. The writings echo a rich tapestry of the years between the 1940’s and the 1990’s. The author has included poems that move her, comfort her and make her laugh and cry! The short stories are generally set in the early years and take you inside the characters hearts and minds, most having a wee twist at the end! Definitely a must-read book.

The Swot

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THE SWOT is David Z Crookes’
second verse-essay in the Carrollean manner.
It contains 72 verses of superb writing.
The poem contains a few sober moments, for which
the author apologises.
David Z Crookes (born 1952) is a mostly academic writer who lives and works in Belfast.

Kids Rules – OK

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Franass and the Princess

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Franass and the Princess is a modest and tall story, orginally told by the author Marius Mulligan, to his young daughter.
Two evil men try to acquire the secret receipe for a best-selling delectable jam. They kidnap a beloved donkey from the lady who holds the receipe, and warn her to hand over her secret if she wants to see her donkey alive again. 
An eight year old girl is there to record the events when some of her eccentric but affectionate neighbours contrive to defeat the evil men. 
Franass and the Princess will introduce you to a little-known world, and to some of the bizarre characters who live in it. Sometimes, what is essential is invisible to the eye. 
Delightfully illustrated in colour by Rita Pimenta, hopefully this book will conjure the imagination of both the reader and listener. 

An Invitation to be where Love is : A Journey in faith in the company of St Francis de Sales (1567-1622)

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A book by Fr. Patrick Delargy.

“At a time when there is much talk about cultural Catholicism this book gives an insight into how our lives can be transformed when we see faith and life flowing as one, impacting, shaping and challenging each other. ‘To be where Love is’– that is the key.”

– Bairbre Cahill

Counselling The Abused : A Study of Trauma

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A Wider Circle publication.

Rich in meaning, answers and solutions this manual is a must read for survivors of sexual abuse.

Originally written as a work to assist counsellors in their efforts to bring healing to victims of abuse, its gentle and easily understood prose it has become preferred reading for victims themselves.

As you dip back and forth through this book you will gain greater insight as the myths explode and bring greater impetus to your healing journey.

Feel the power of resolution and regain control over your life.

If you are a survivor this book is for you. If you are a counsellor this book will help you to help victims of sexual abuse.