Northern Ireland news

Poet and novelist inspired by the romantic landscape of the Glens of Antrim to be honoured with blue plaque

The cover of Moira ONeill’s best known work, ?Songs of the Glens of Antrim ?, first published in 1900

A POET and novelist, whose work was inspired by the romantic landscape of the Glens of Antrim, is to be honoured with a blue plaque.

The Ulster History Circle will commemorate the work of Moira O'Neill, the pen name of Agnes Higginson Skrine, on Saturday when a plaque is unveiled at Cushendun Old Church by her granddaughter Sally Phipps.

Born in 1864 in Mauritius, she lived in Cushendun which influenced and inspired much of her work.

Best known for her work, Songs of the Glens of Antrim, it included 25 ballads and poems, mainly written in the dialect of the Glens.

Her subjects include townland names, aspects of rural life and themes of exile and return, reflecting her emigration to Canada, before she returned to Co Antrim.

She also wrote a poem called 'The North-West - Canada', but was mostly influenced by the landscape of the Glens and her work celebrates the area.

She also wrote three novels, 'An Easter Vocation', a society novel set in England, 'From Two Points of View', also set in England and Canada and 'The Elf-Errant', a story for children based in Glendun that explores the cultural differences between Irish fairies who live there and a visiting Engli

Her work also influenced some of the leading names in the musical world, including composers Charles Villiers Stanford and Hamilton Harty.

She later settled in Ferns, Co Wexford, where she died in 1955.

Chris Spurr, chairman of the Ulster History Circle, said: "Moira O'Neill had a special voice which found expression in sensitive poetry that contains many memorable lyrical images, and the Ulster History Circle is delighted to commemorate this distinguished writer with a blue plaque.

"She was highly regarded by other poets, critics and writers, and in his book ?In Praise of Ulster, Richard Hayward, who filmed ?Devil's Rock in Cushendun in 1937, said that: ‘Her ?Songs of the Glens of Antrim ? cannot fail to be a permanent contribution to Irish literature'.

"Although Moira lived in Canada for some six years and later in the south of Ireland, the Glens of Antrim always held a particular place in her heart, and the church she attended remains an important landmark building."

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