Folk tales come alive in new book

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A renowned Larne storyteller has helped pen a fascinating new book which depicts the rich heritage of myths and legends in Co Antrim.

Billy Teare, originally from Ballycarry, teamed up with his long-time storytelling partner Kathleen O’Sullivan to co-write Antrim Folk Tales.

Published by The History Press, Ireland, the unique book features a collection of 30 folk tales; some of which are mythological, some of which come from folklore and some of which are based in truth.

Billy said: “One of the tales from the Larne area featured in the book includes that of the Spanish chestnut tree that grows in the graveyard at St Patrick’s Church, Cairncastle..

“The story goes that when the Spanish Armada was passing these shores, a sailor was washed up at Ballygally. A few local people took the body and buried it in the church graveyard.

“After a while a tree emerged from the grave and grew into what we see today, a Spanish chestnut tree. It is believed the tree grew from a chestnut the sailor had in his pocket when he was buried.

“While that is a true story, there are also some more light hearted tales, such as the Portmuck mermaid.”

Billy has collaborated with Kathleen – a renowned Irish singer – since 2003 and together they have developed popular programmes of stories and songs for all ages.

When they were approached in December last year and asked to undertake project book together, they jumped at the chance.

Billy added: “Being given the opportunity to write some of these stories has been amazing.

“Like all creative ventures, it may appeal to none, some or all, but still, we thought it worthwhile to take some time to honour the tradition and culture of storytelling in a book.”

And as much as he enjoyed the experience, Billy also found it tough at times.

He added: “While we both had a lot of fun doing research for this project, there was a tight deadline to work with, so it sometimes felt like I was doing a fast-tracked degree!

“Despite all that, it was a very worthwhile experience and I’m glad I did it.”

Kathleen’s son, London-based artist Chris Warminger, has also provided some of the illustrations for the book.

Billy is hoping to launch the book in Larne in January 2014.

Antrim Folk Tales will be on sale through large retailers such as Amazon, but Billy is also hopeful it will be available to purchase at smaller book stores.