I am a huge Woody Allen fan, not only for his pithy dialogue and adorably flawed characters, but his use of beautiful cities as more than just a backdrop. In ‘Midnight In Paris‘, the city becomes another character, weaving a magical spell around the characters which I just loved.
Having a strong connection to the city in which a novel is set can create a wonderful space in which the reader can lose themselves completely. For my novel, The Cross Of Santiago, I tried to create a similar effect by setting it in my hometown of Galway, a vibrant, bohemian city on the West Coast of Ireland. What’s more, I had the privilege of setting half of the novel in medieval Galway, giving the reader an insight into what the city was like when the tribal families ruled and the merchants of Europe brought their goods to her port.
Galway is full of brightly coloured shops, bars and cafes, so in the story, Amanda’s brother Jay Morrison is the proud proprietor of ‘Novel Idea’, an old-fashioned bookshop on Dominick Street. Across the river lies the Latin Quarter café owned by Dave, where Amanda spends much of her time drinking coffee and meeting friends. The Latin Quarter of Galway is full of cobbled streets and interesting characters, so it was always going to be the setting for the main action in my novel.
In my research, I discovered that the Augustinians came to Galway in the middle ages and set up a monastery on Forthill. After being kindly asked by King Henry VIII to jog on or face the consequences, they set up secretly in the city and continued to do their work amongst the poor. The Augustinian Church can now be found on Saint Augustine Street, and this is where Amanda discovered the true meaning of the Latin motto ‘Tolle Lege’ (Take up and read) .
Next on the tour is the Claddagh, a part of Galway famed for it’s Claddagh ring and the people who lived in this area in tiny thatched cottages, on the shores of Lough Corrib. Please check out some of the fantastic images taken of this area here in the early 1900’s, before the cottages were razed to the ground. When writing The Cross Of Santiago, I often pictured Annora wearing the kind of traditional Claddagh dress shown in these images. Here I am standing close to the Spanish Arch and Nimmo’s Pier, the location of the Boutique Hotel No.7 in the novel and the guarded city wall in Medieval times, where merchant ships landed their goods. The Spanish Arch was the fish market where people from the Claddagh sold their catch.
Finally, the most poignant stop on the tour is the aforementioned Forthill. This is the site where many Spanish soldiers of the Armada were murdered by the English and today, there is a plaque inside the main gate commemorating the greatest act of mass murder in Galway’s history. Erected in 1988 by members of the La Orden Del Tercio Viejo Del Mar Oceano, the oldest marine corps in the world, the memorial is only written in the Irish and Spanish language as an intended snub to the language of the perpetrator.
LA ORDEN DEL TERCIO JIEJO DEL MAR OCEANO,
A LOS MARINOS Y SOLDADOS DE LA GRAN ARMADA
AQUI PIADOSAMENTE ENTERRADOS POR EL PUEBLO DE GALWAY EN 1588
DECANCANSEN EN PAZ
22 DE JUNIO DE 1988
AR DHEIS DE GO RAIBH SIAD
There is so much history in Galway City and this is only a snippet of what can be found. I really hope to add to these posts in the future, giving a more in-depth view of the historical events that inspired me to write The Cross Of Santiago. And if this tour has whetted your appetite to read an exciting historical fiction set in Galway, then why not check my book here 🙂