Locations: For A Man of Insignificance (AMOI)
When I was first inspired to write the book in May 2013, I was on holiday with my wife Elaine in Beaumaris, Anglesey. Beaumaris is a charming place with many attractions that appeal to us and we regularly visit it. I was intrigued by the address ‘Gaol Street,’ which actually exists and decided to give Danny Senetti a holiday home there.
I didn’t write AMOI in chronological order. I think that there are a lot of advantages to a writer if you can actually discipline your mind to work in this way. I seem to become distracted when things are too ordered and so far I have been unable to overcome this. In contradiction, I did actually write chapter one first but very soon after that the whole sequence went awry.
The second real location which features as Winton Kiss in the book and wherein most of the story takes place is the true-life peak-district, foothill Village of Marple Bridge.
Marple Bridge started life as an Anglo-Saxon settlement and then trundled through British history becoming respectively a medieval village, a canal town, a mill town, and to quote from Cheshire Life its current situation is described as:
“Visit Marple Bridge and fall in love with the picturesque bridge spanning the River Goyt, indulge in real foodie delights at its delis and cafes and shop at a much more relaxed pace.
There’s a youthful energy about the area and while Marple Bridge is in all senses a modest village its low key nightlife revolves around two foodie pubs and a buzzing restaurant.”
The location of County Mayo came organically out of the plot of the book itself and almost wrote itself into the book. In reality I had actually written most of Chapter 24, ‘Noel O’Malley and the Holy Conception’ in England.
I did visit County Mayo subsequently and the pink house on Castle Street really does exist, I stayed there. It is owned by the father of a friend of mine and when she knew that I was visiting Mayo, she generously offered me the loan of it for the time that I was there. I was impressed with the house itself and have tried to describe it as it struck me the first time I saw it.
We have an image of the spectacle that is St. Muredach’s Cathedral, located on the bank on the River Moy. Building commenced in 1834 in the Victorian gothic revival style and was completed without the spire in 1845. This interruption was due to the Great Hunger. The spire was then completed in 1855. In AMOI Danny Senetti walks past St. Murdach’s on his way to Harrison’s Bar, a well known local meeting place.
Although there are only five chapters in AMOI which are located in County Wexford, these are crucial chapters and span time; 1848, 1917 and 1942/3. I have had to use my imagination for the Wexford of those years but in pursuit of some research, I did visit there in the summer of 2013. Finbarr’s Enniscorthy of the 1840’s is long gone but I found Enniscorthy to be a vibrant town.
Antoinette Dubois alights the train at Wexford Station in 1917 and I was pleased to see the building in all its civic splendour with its low level roof and its trio of chimney stacks. When researching Wexford of the period I came across a very interesting web site that has a movie clip of people arriving on a train at Wexford station. If you view the clip you can visualise Antoinette Dubois alighting from the steam train. It is probably true to say that of all the locations featured in the book the most significant were in County Wexford.
The final location really belongs to my wife or more to the point her sister who actually lives in Mayfield Rd, Edinburgh an address which features in the chapter: ‘The Widowers Photograph’. Dr Maxine Wells arrives at Waverley Station in pursuit of the photograph. This is an historic station named after the Waverley novels by Sir Walter Scott.
The ‘widower’ Hamish Lennox lives in a house made of Craighleith Sandstone this material was used extensively in the building of Edinburgh. It was in fact used in the construction of many famous buildings including Edinburgh Castle and Nelson’s Column. In the chapter The Peasant’s Decree’ there is a mention of a statue of Nelson but this is not the one that still stands in London. The one mentioned in the book is the Dublin statue, known as the ‘pillar’ and it stood in Sackville Street now O’Connell Street Dublin, from 1809 to 1966 when it was destroyed by a bomb allegedly planted by IRA dissidents. Another disaffected Irishman ‘The Captain’ leaves his hotel room in Dublin’s Gresham Hotel and observes the pillar as he walks through Dublin on his way to the de Hay sisters’ house on that fateful evening in 1883.