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When Jeremiah Buckley buries his baby sister and his mother in a hillside in County Cork in the midst of An Gorta Mor,(the Great Hunger), his grief turns to rebellion and endless work, as he becomes determined to achieve a dream which will echo over the centuries as far away as America.
The soft weeping that came from his ma filled the silence with a respectful air — it wasn’t a moan, for she was too sick to give rise to much sound. Rather it was a quiet, rhythmic sighing, that had the cadence of prayer, the tones rising and falling in a regular pattern. Jeremiah found it oddly consoling, if only for the fact that he knew his mother to be alive.
At the height of the Irish famine of the 1840s, in a small town of Ahadallane, north of Cork City and south of Mallow, Jeremiah joins the rebels in the fight for Ireland's freedom from British rule and learns firsthand the futility of violence. He and his best friend and brother-in-law, Father Michael Riordan disagree about the means to the end and ultimately take diverse paths when Michael is assigned to a parish in America. Jeremiah's journey brings him into the bare heart of his homeland where he endures the evils borne of domination. His hunger isn't satisfied until he almost loses himself in his quest.
Jeremiah's Hunger began in 1994 when I traveled to Ireland for the third time. This time I carried with me a worn photograph and five carefully preserved letters from the early twentieth century. This time, rather than tour the West Coast with friends and relatives, I went alone. And this time, I found my grandmother's home hidden in the hills of Adadallane.
Father Michael Twohig, pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Fornaught, Donoghmore accommodated my request for church records for the Buckleys. As he thumbed through the yellowed pages of the great red leather bound volume of births, deaths and marriages, he held a page and ran his manicured finger down the right hand side of it. "Here 'tis," he said, looking up at me, his round pink face and clear blue eyes, so emblematic of the land. "A Jeremiah Buckley married a Margaret Riordan on February 1, 1859. Might that be who yer looking for?"
It was indeed. From that day to this, I have visited, read, researched, talked with townspeople and listened to stories about people from this locale. I have written about what I have learned. Jeremiah's Hunger is the result.
Playwright Conal Creedon of Cork, Ireland presents a talk on Cork, the Center of the Universe at the Rochester Chapter of the Irish American Cultural Institute in April 2008 as part of the IACI Perception Series. Creedon's work has been premiered at the Irish Repertory Theatre in New York City as well as many international venues. Most recently he has completed a project in China.