Ballymena woman Lorraine Mulholland releases stunning debut book
Updated: Feb 7
Ballymena woman Lorraine Mulholland has just released her fantastic debut children's book, and it is a literary first that lovingly brings to life the stories of Ireland's female saints.
Penned from her family home where she grew up on a dairy farm between Ahoghill and Randalstown, in an old basalt stone house built by Lorraine's grandfather in 1896, Saint Brigid & Other Amazing Irish Women reveals the lives lived by 23 'amazing women of old Ireland', while quietly reflecting the passions, interests and life of the book's own author.
A former student of Cambridge House Girls' Grammar, Lorraine went onto study Zoology for one year at Queen's, before then completing her Divinity degree at Union Theological College under Queen's. She went onto complete her PGCE teaching degree at the same University before moving to England and teaching in a number of roles and subjects including History, Geography, and RE.
In recent years having long returned home to the rural County Antrim countryside, it was Lorraine's social media followers on her Irish History Bitesize! Twitter platform who suggested the local lady should write a book. It was at this point that her love of history, a keen sense of adventure, and her devoted faith came together.
"I thought and prayed about it and decided on Irish church history," said Lorraine. "Although I completed my Divinity degree, I had not learnt much about that subject. So, I began to teach myself about it."
The result of Lorraine's dedication is a treasure of historical stories uniquely brought to life for today's generation, and stunningly illustrated with the help of the author's 21-year-old nephew Matthew Jackson.
A former student of Ballymena Academy, Matthew is currently studying Animation at Dundee University, Scotland. When home, he lives with his family outside Gracehill, near the home farm.
"I asked my talented nephew Matthew to help with the illustration in the book because I knew he could do it," Lorraine explained. "He had to send his portfolio off to my publisher then audition again with an illustration of St Brigid of Kildare. He chose to draw her with the fox, relating to the story of how she tamed a young fox. Matthew completed all the illustrations last summer, whilst holding down his 3/4 days a week job delivering for Bob & Berts in Ballymena!"
Two of the female saints highlighted in the book with County Antrim connections are St. Li Ban the Mermaid of Lough Neagh (feast day 27th January), and St. Brónach of Kilbroney (feast day 2nd April).
Sharing a little of the stories of the Li Ban and Brónach, Lorraine said:
"Li Ban from Lough Neagh is a mermaid with a difference in my book - her secret hobby is surfing! Readers will hear not just of the overflowing well that was below the lough but the whole back history in Irish folklore of the giant peeing horse from the god Oengus (whose pee formed the water that made the well... that overflowed). It's very interesting!
"Li Ban gets caught in the Inver River and agrees to meet at Larne one year to the day to be baptised. And then is baptised by St Comgall, the monk founder of Bangor monastery, County Down.
"She is still particularly remembered in Bangor, though sadly not well enough known closer to Lough Neagh her home."
"The second saint has a link to Slemish. Brónach warned sailors and fisherman of storms on Carlingford Lough and started a church for them at Rostrevor.
"In my book singer/songwriter Rose Brennan from Rostrevor, allowed me to include her song about Brónach in my book. Brónach's name meant 'sorrowful' and throughout her life in my version of her story, she tried to be anything but sorrowful!
"St Brónach's father was called Milchú... and Milchú was St Patrick's master at Slemish, and Rathmore, Antrim where the headquarters of his kingdom was... the kingdom of Dál mBuain (what it was before Dalriada). So most people don't know it, but St Brónach before she left to start her church in Kilbroney, County Down, was a County Antrim girl, from no less that either near Antrim town or the Slemish area!"
Although the book was only released in the UK on 31st January 2023, it was recently released in the Republic of Ireland and has been selling well. And Lorraine is already at work on her second book in between her busy schedule of her debut book promotions and helping out at her church homework club. All she would say was:
"The only thing I will give away is that my next book is still on Irish Church History, and is on male saints (monks) this time! But the exact details are secret... and it won't be boring!"
Saint Brigid & Other Amazing Irish Women Has been published in hardback format, 200 pages, £17.99. The book contains 23 long stories, 23 activity tasks (for school and/or home), glossary, fun intro and conclusion and Lorraine's own poetry throughout... and not forgetting a 55 question quiz with answers provided.
The book can be purchased at Waterstone's Ballymena or you can purchase directly from the publishers website - Columba Books.
Follow Lorraine on social media for updates and more.
Twitter: Irish History Bitesize! (@lorraineelizab6)
Facebook: Lorraine Mulholland