Interviewed by Sue Leonard.
Published in the Irish Examiner on 2nd November 2013
Beginner’s Pluck. Maura Mulligan
As a teenager Maura was a servant in a big house. Then, sailing for America, she worked as a telephone operator before becoming a nun. Eventually leaving, she had occasionally acting parts, and she ran a language school. Then she taught English in the New York system.
“I started writing in the nineties. I took a writing course on Achill Island, led by the poet, Macdara Woods. That was where I first heard the echoes of childhood mingle with the winds of emigration.”
Who is Maura Mulligan?
Date of birth: May 1941 in Aghamore, County Mayo.
Education: “I left school in Ireland at 12, but I gained a BA when I was in the convent. Afterwards, I earned an MA in Arts at Hunter College, New York.”
Home: New Jersey, near New York. .
Family: A sister Bridie, and a brother John.
The Day Job: Retired teacher. “I still teach Céilí dancing, and, occasionally, Irish to adults.”
Interests: “I love attending dance and music summer schools in Ireland.”
Favourite Writers: Edna O’ Brien, Frank McCourt, Colm Tóibín. Nuala O’ Faolain and Anne Lamott
Second Novel: I’m working on a novel based in Ireland.
Top Writing Tip: Enjoy the process. If it’s not fun, do something else.
The Debut: Call of the Lark. Greenpoint Press: €10.70.
This memoir follows Maura’s childhood in forties rural Ireland, and shows how emigration, back then, seemed the only choice. It’s a vivid portrait of life as a nun; the joys, frustrations, the humour, and, finally, after Vatican 11 brought in changes, the decision to leave the confines of that life.
“Leaving Ireland didn’t feel like a free choice. It was what was expected of you. All that was familiar stayed firmly planted in my head, and in my heart. I simply had to write it. And besides, someone needed to give witness to living in that corner of Mayo.”
The Verdict: A beautiful, gentle memoir of life in a convent. And of a woman unafraid to change her life.
© Sue Leonard. 2013.