Green Are the Hills Far Away by Kathleen O'Toole O'Connell

Photo:Kathleen O'Toole

Kathleen O'Toole

Mary Monaghan/Kathryn O'Connell

Photo:Cover of Green are the Hills Far Away

Cover of Green are the Hills Far Away

Mary Monaghan/Kathryn O'Connell

Photo:Kathryn (O'Connell)

Kathryn (O'Connell)

Photo:Mary (Monaghan)

Mary (Monaghan)

Ballinrobe - Posthumous release of memoir by native of Ballinrobe

By Mary Monaghan/Kathryn O'Connell

Kathleen O’Toole and Paddy O’Connell, both from Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo, married in 1947.  Kathleen’s childhood as “the red one on the hill” had earned her countless beatings from her teacher-nuns and her widowed mother; but her spirit survived undaunted.  With Paddy, Kathleen found genuine happiness—and against the medical odds, gave birth to Kathryn and Mary.

A few months before her death in 1988, Kathleen wrote a short memoir.  It painted a vivid picture of Ballinrobe in the 1920s; the Irish experience in England during WWII; and life as an RAF wife, including two postings to Cyprus.  The memoir, which she called "Green Are the Hills Far Away", took the form of a letter to her daughters, Kathryn O’Connell and Mary Monaghan. Mary Monaghan rediscovered the journal just before launching her book; ‘Remember Me?’ and she then incorporated excerpts from it in her second book, ‘Who Do You Belong To?

Realising that it was a valuable record of the social history of Ballinrobe Kathryn and Mary decided to publish ‘Green Are the Hills Far Away’, together with many photos of days gone by, as a tribute to their mother’s memory; an unabashed account of a bold, spirited life lived to the full.

Excerpt from book

"Across the road from us lived my father’s sister, Aunt Nora; her husband, Joe Loughrey; and my cousins, Kitty and John Loughrey. To me, Aunt Nora was wonderful, she always listened to me, and I really loved her.

On Main Street were the Murphys: Mother’s aunt and family, four boys and one sister.  During ‘The Troubles’ in 1921 they had to stay in our house for a while as their shop was bombed. It was a puzzle who did it as their father was RIC police and Martin J was a graduate in Galway University and he was interned for being in the IRA. Lord Haw Haw (William Joyce) was in his year; he then was an informer for the British.

I loved going to Murphys and to Grandma Honor O’Toole’s in Glebe Street. Grandma Honor was very tall and had a great sense of humour.

Grandda Peter O’Toole was a character, always taking the mickey out of people. He had two nicknames, ‘Tell Me’ and ‘Shake the Barrel’—‘Tell Me’ because he used to stop people and say, “Tell me, what time is the three o’clock train leaving for Claremorris?” When he was near death his grandchildren were brought to his bedside. When our Aunt Bridie said to him we had come to see him he replied, “Pity they wouldn’t and I dying”. He died that night; he was seventy years".

About Kathryn

Kathryn O’Connell is a teacher based in London specialising in the teaching of children with Specific Learning Difficulties. She spends most of her holidays in Knockgloss, Ballinrobe and enjoys being part of Ballinrobe life. She enjoys playing and listening to Irish music and plays the concertina, mandolin and fiddle and is a member of the West London Comhaltas group which has participated successfully in the Fleadh Nua and the Fleadh Cheoil over the years. Earlier this year they released a very well received CD ‘A Few Tunes Amongst Friends’. She is an honorary member of Ceol na Locha in Tourmakeady having regularly taken part in the Music School there since it began over 10 years ago.

About Mary Monaghan

Mary Monaghan is based in South Africa, where she works as a writer and consultant. Mary is the author of Remember Me? and Who Do You Belong To? which relate the story of Mary’s search for her missing husband John who went to Australia for three months backpacking never to return - and of her sudden, shocking encounter with him, fourteen years after his disappearance. She visits Ballinrobe regularly and is an active member of the Irish Association in Cape Town.


Green Are the Hills Far Away at a glance

Price €5.00

Number of pages 40 pp (56 photos) Soft cover 210mm x148mm

Author: Kathleen O’Toole O’Connell

Cover Photos from O’Toole, O’Connell collections

Publisher Tortoise Press

ISBN Number 978-0-620-48437-4 - Available August 2011

From:  Martin Murphy’s Main St. Ballinrobe 0949541064

On line orders from:

Kathryn and Mary can be contacted via phone or e-mail as detailed below:

Contact details:

Kathryn O’Connell Tel: 086 284 7119


Mary Monaghan Tel: + 27 83 625 9470



Mary Monaghan

Tel: 083 625 9470

Intl: +27 83 625 9470

This page was added by Averil Staunton on 15/08/2011.