LURGAN features heavily in a new book written by an esteemed literary critic hoping to demonstrate that Irish people are all ‘cut from the same cloth’.
‘A Twisted Root’ by Patricia Craig tackles the question ‘Can we truly belong to one tribe or another?’
In answering the conundrum that has divided the country for centuries the Antrim woman talks openly about her own family background including ancestral links to IRA men and founding fathers of the Orange Order.
Lurgan features prominently in the book as Patricia’s grandmother was a Catholic from the town while her father’s side of the family were Protestants from Wexford.
She told the ‘MAIL’: “First and foremost the book is anti-sectarian. I want to demonstrate that most of us in Northern Ireland are more like each other than anywhere else.
“I thought it was time that somebody pointed this out and made it absolutely plain that we’re all the same.
“As well as making that point I wanted to write an oblique history of Northern Ireland using family information. It is not at all an academic history, it’s a bit more conversational.
“I use my own experience. I’m half and half, I have a Catholic mother and a Protestant father.”
She continued: “I’m not remotely interested in family history. The book came about by accident.
“I am fortunate to have two cousins on each side who had gone into their family history a bit. They gave me the fruit of their research.
“I use my family’s history to show how we’re all intertwined.
“My mother’s family were Catholics from Lurgan. Her mother was Sarah Tipping. Many of the Tippings were involved in the Republican movement in the 1920s.
“When you go further back into the family tree one of my grandmother’s collateral ancestors was William Blacker, one of the founders of the Orange Order.”
As Patricia eloquently puts it: “We were a heterogeneous lot - down and up the social scale (mostly down), in and out of church and chapel, Lurgan Papes and Wexford Prods, hanged and hangmen, street-brawlers and full-blown scholars, full-blown Orangemen and Republican activists.”
She adds: “When it comes to a question of identity, many may choose to believe they are indissolubly one thing or the other. They are not.”
Patricia’s first book was a study of girls fiction called ‘You’re a Brick, Angela’ in 1976 written along with Mary Cadogan. Another of her books ‘Asking For Trouble’ deals with her expulsion from convent school at the age of 16.
She said: “After I was expelled from the convent I went to art school. After three years there I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I went to another art school in London.
“I decided it was all a mistake. I wanted to write.”
She has become a leading critic and anthologist, who regularly contributes to the Independent, London Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement, Irish Times and New Statesman.
She has also written Ulster and Belfast Anthologies as well as a Brian Moore’s biography.
Patricia returned from London in 1999 and moved to Antrim where she lives with her partner Geoffrey Morgan from Wales.