On the Road with Sarah Through Ireland’s Ancient East

Rep on the Road

Our sales representative, Sarah Cassidy, tells us all about being on the road, exploring Ireland on a daily basis and Ireland’s Ancient East.

The job of being a sales representative for The O’Brien Press involves visiting bookshops and other retail outlets throughout Ireland. One day you can be in Belfast and the next Galway or Waterford. It is a great perk of the job to be able to visit every corner of the country, particularly when the sun is shining, the sky is clear and Ireland’s breathtaking scenery is at its best. Some days the Atlantic Ocean is so blue I think about pulling the car over and going for a paddle but I soon remember I’m in Ireland and the likelihood of my poor toes being frozen off is quite high! Instead I grab my lunch from the car, perch on a nearby stonewall and listen to the sound of the rolling waves as I munch on my ham sandwich. Feeling energised by Ireland’s natural beauty (or the bucket of coffee I picked up at Barack Obama Plaza), it is back to the car and on the road again to the next customer.

The Rock of Cashel

It is not just Ireland’s coastal roads that offer beautiful scenery; the countryside and rolling hills that are often dotted with the ruins of castles and monasteries can be so vibrant and green in spring and summer, riotous with russet and gold tones in autumn and captivating coated in early morning frost in the depths of winter. This year in particular, the O’Brien Press reps gained a new appreciation for the countryside and the sights that can be found on the eastside of our beautiful island. We have been selling Carsten Krieger’s fifth book with The O’Brien Press, Ireland’s Ancient East. Filled with fantastic photographs and captions from this talented photographer, Ireland’s Ancient East is the perfect book to guide you around the east side of the country. Linking the Stone Age period with Saint Patrick, the Vikings with the Normans, Ireland’s eastern counties are abundant with monuments and relics that bring to life the stories of our ancestors. Whether you are an armchair traveller or looking to get out and explore the delights of our ancient east, this book is a great place to start! We put it to the test as we took to the roads to sell our autumn list.


Ireland’s Ancient East spans the area outside of Dublin and east of the River Shannon, extending from Carlingford in County Louth to County Cavan and south to Cork City, including East County Cork and East County Limerick and across to Rosslare Harbour. There is so much to see and do! We started in Meath at the UNESCO World Heriatage Site, Brú na Bóinne (meaning the ‘palace’ or the ‘mansion’ of the Boyne). This is the site of Newgrange, a passage tomb found in the Boyne Valley area. Built around 3200 BC this phenomenal structure is older than both Stonehenge in England and the pyramids of Giza in Egypt! Newgrange is a large circular mound, 85 metres in diameter and 13.5 metres high. The mound is surrounded by 97 kerbstones, some of which are engraved with megalithic carvings. Inside is a 19 metre stone passageway, chambers and a roof-box. It is here that Newgrange reveals itself to be more than your average megalithic tomb. Every year on the winter solstice as the sun rises over the tomb, the beam of light travels through the roof-box, illuminating the chamber within for 17 minutes. The visitor centre holds an annual lottery for tickets as only a limited number of people can actually enter the passage tomb and witness what our ancestors created almost 5,000 years ago. So if you do visit make sure to get your name in the draw!

Trim Castle

From here we travelled on to the heritage town of Trim which is alive with history. Close to the River Boyne it is surrounded by rich, fertile land that provided an ideal location for a medieval settlement. Trim Castle on the outskirts of the town is one of the finest examples of a Norman castle in Ireland. You might recognise it: Trim Castle and its surroundings featured heavily in the movie Braveheart (‘They may take our lives but they’ll never take our freedom!’). Sloping down from the castle gate is a winding path leading down to the town and what would have been a busy medieval market place. Although little evidence of shops or taverns remains in Trim, street names indicate that such establishments did exist. Take Fishamble Street, for example. This street name survived as such up until the 18th century. Likewise Cornmarket Street suggests an area where corn was sold. From Trim we headed south towards the garden of Ireland, County Wicklow. This gorgeous county is a haven for day-trippers from Dublin and meandering Sunday drivers for a reason. There are so many glorious sights: the majestic Powerscourt waterfall where you can picnic on a sunny day, the valley of Glendalough and St Kevin’s monastery, the many walkways, hills and mountains calling out for a climb and, of course, the gorgeous beaches, seaside towns and locally made ice-cream!


The Wicklow Mountains

We headed on to the medieval town of Kilkenny with its cobblestone streets and magnificently preserved 12th-century castle but the skies opened up and the rain poured down meaning the camera never made it out! The same happened in Waterford, Ireland’s oldest city founded by Viking raiders in AD 914. Waterford is the largest settlement in Ireland to retain its original Norse- or Viking-derived place name, Vaderfiord, meaning ‘haven from the windswept sea’. It wasn’t quite the haven we hoped for but beautiful none the less!

Brittas Beach

This is only a fraction of what is out there to discover on Ireland’s Ancient East. Carsten’s gorgeous photos have given us ideas about where we would like to explore next. It was great to take some time and become tourists in our own country, appreciating the beauty and stories right on our doorstep. We would encourage you to get out there and embrace Ireland’s Ancient East! It has a lot to offer with plenty of history, nature, locally produced food, photo opportunities and, of course, bookshops! Or you could always just pick up a copy of the book and go touring in your mind…

Sarah Cassidy, July 2017

Thank you to our sales reps Sarah and Brenda for the photographs.

Ireland’s Ancient East is available here and in all good bookshops!

Eric Luke Looks Back

Upon the release of his photographic collection, Eric Luke looks back over forty years capturing the changing faces of Ireland.

The Garda put his two hands together to form a stirrup. I placed my foot in the hold and he hoisted me over the high wall. Shimmying down the other side, I looked for a gap in the crowd of protesters, then landed squarely on Lansdowne Road. Not a glamorous exit from the oldest rugby ground in the world, but I was on a mission. I barged my way through the mass of people and headed for Jury’s Hotel, Ballsbridge. There, a telex-operator took the Press Association copy and transmitted the breaking news directly to London.

The occasion was an international rugby match between Ireland and South Africa in 1970. A large group of anti-apartheid protesters had gathered outside Lansdowne Road, and I was delivering copy for my brother, a news reporter with the Press Association in London’s famous Fleet Street. This was my first time to experience the excitement of a hot news story, breaking before my very own eyes, and I was a part of it. A small link in the chain from eyewitness to reader. While I didn’t own a camera to capture this bit of history, I believe it was here I got my love for a great news story.

Moving from being a press messenger for one day off school to being a staff photographer with the largest newspaper group in Ireland proved as big a jump as over that stadium wall. Yet in 1973 I was offered the position of staff photographer with the Irish Press Group. Shooting pictures for the morning daily and The Evening Press, alongside excursions for The Sunday Press, saw the start of a forty-three-year journey that culminated with my current position on The Irish Times. A four-decade whirlwind, and a bit of a blur.

I photographed presidential inaugurations and state funerals, rioting on the streets and peaceful protests, everyday life in rural Ireland and a vastly changing capital city; the job was never predictable. But what was predictable was the necessity to put ‘my old negatives’ in some form of order. And so when I was invited by The O’Brien Press to publish a selection of my work, I jumped at the opportunity.

Poitín-making in Mayo shot on colour transparency film in the 1980s, Tory Island life in black & white in the 1970s, rock music by Rory Gallagher, Thin Lizzy and U2 over three decades – it all fell into place. With a good editor and a great layout, all that was required of me was to assemble a selection of work and write some copy to accompany the images.

Everybody at The O’Brien Press came on board, and with their guidance and encouragement I managed to put my photographs in order. In many ways the experience was as much fun as taking the original pictures.

Dalkey barber Dom McClure:

Photograph: Eric Luke

It’s funny how we overlook what’s sitting on our own doorstep. Growing up in Dalkey, County Dublin, the local barber, Dom McClure, featured regularly, providing a short-back-and-sides to satisfy the demands of the local school principal. Years later in the 1980s, I went back to photograph his barber shop, and spending the day observing him at work helped to produce a small piece of local history which I now look back fondly on. The interior of his establishment looking somewhat like a theatre set, with Dom on stage in the spotlight. These pictures provided a neat selection for the chapter on Dalkey in Looking Back.


Photograph: Eric Luke

Martin Sheen on Main Street:

Sifting back over ‘my old negatives’ I also came across a photograph of local man Des O’Brien with the actor Martin Sheen. This was not a Hollywood-style photo shoot but a pint interrupted and a favour for a friend, recording the movie star’s appearance on Dalkey’s Main Street to film the Hugh Leonard film Da.


Photograph: Eric Luke

Tory Island, Donegal:

My first visit to photograph Tory Island in the 1970s was not as simple as planned. Without transport to the island, I worked my passage by helping to load a boat with turf. On arrival I was surprised to find the island didn’t support a hotel or pub, and I was eventually accommodated in a local cottage. With great hospitality the islanders welcomed me, and the selection of photographs taken over the following ten days provided the bones for a chapter in the book on Tory. Many trips since have brought this work up to date.

Looking Back has given me a platform to show photographs that otherwise would be gathering dust in my attic; the archive of forty years has now got a new lease of life. Working for newspapers, I’m used to a photograph getting great exposure on the front page only to be replaced twenty-four hours later by a new front page and a new accompanying photograph. This lovely hardback presentation by The O’Brien Press is here to stay, and I look forward to leafing through the pages for years to come.

Eric Luke, December 2016

Looking Back – The Changing Faces of Ireland is available here and in all good bookshops!