Blanton - The Drive to Tell Stories

My sisters and I grew up celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, hearing our Dad sing songs like It’s the Same Old Shillelagh, Harrigan, I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen, Peg of My Heart, My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean, When Irish Eyes are Smiling, and Toora-Loora_Looral. That last one still brings tears to my eyes because he sang us all to sleep with it. We were Irish. It didn’t really matter how much.

Our family descends from two brothers, John and William Daugherty, who fought in the American Revolutionary War. My grandmother was Kitty Daughtrey, the tall, auburn-haired daughter of Joseph, a long-bearded Florida farmer who descended from the North Carolina Daughtreys and moved to Florida from Tennessee. Those who immigrated to the U.S. with that name may have been listed as Daughertys, Doghertys, and at least a dozen others, and spellings changed over the years, but apparently, all come from the O’Dochartaigh Clann of County Donegal. Some branches of the clan scattered across the north and west of Ireland and as far south as County Clare. Family lore has it that our origins were in County Clare, and this is where my father's ashes were scattered.

The last time I saw my father alive was in the fall of 1996. By then, I was married, had a masters degree and a management-level job, and lived in Seattle. I was visiting him in Florida. He took me to lunch and asked, “When are you going to start writing again?” I don’t think he knew about the squirrel stories, but he'd always been proud of the newspaper ones. I shrugged and said I didn’t know if I could write anymore. My writing was all bureaucratic then. 

He said quite simply, “You’ll write when you’re ready.”

We lost him on the Ides of March of the following year when he was just 75.  Almost exactly a year later, I was awakened from a deep sleep as sure as if someone had shaken me, and a phrase was in my head: A snow path to Dingle. A snow path to 

Dingle — a phrase so strong and nonsensical, it had to come from somewhere, for some reason, and it refused to leave me alone. Hardly having any choice, I resolved to do some research to discover its meaning.

And, because I already loved historical fiction and had twice visited Dingle in the west of Ireland to explore our family’s Irish heritage, I felt I had a clear place to start. And so I was off…on a real adventure.

That phrase inspired my first novel, the story of the plantation Sharavogue, republished as A Snow Path to Dingle in 2022. The title reflects the chapter in which protagonist Elvy Burke makes a decision that changes her life. 

It has most certainly changed mine.