What is it about Ireland that captures the imagination so much for you? When did you first feel drawn towards that country?
I first felt drawn to Ireland the moment I landed and ironically landed in the midst of the beginning of the Troubles. The calm and steady approach to it all captured my imagination.
When did you first travel to Ireland? Can you describe your first impressions?
My first impressions in August 1969 were an agog admiration of the joy and peace among those I met, despite bombs going off around them and incessant shootings.
Obviously the works of Irish writers have become very special to you and you quote from many of them throughout the book. Is there a specific character to Irish writers that sets them apart for you?
It is the ethereal nature of Irish literary authors that is special, and linked with that otherworldliness is a foundational wit and humour.
You mention a number of different places you’ve visited: historic buildings, areas of natural beauty, famous locations in Irish folklore… Is there any one place that stands out above all others for you?
The West coast of Ireland just blows me away and the Famine sites and cemeteries all over hold a drawing card which is irresistible.
‘A Year in Eire’ is full of ruminations on all areas of life, but your Christian faith is a constant theme, underpinning your observations on other areas. Do you find Ireland to be a place that stimulates your faith particularly?
Yes, Ireland stimulates my faith because of the inherent and seeming religious intolerance – it is so ironic that religion which pins itself on faith has caused such angst. I glean my own faith from watching its foil there. At the same time, the Irish are very religious, at times superstitious and their culture has been founded on sticking to a faith amid the turmoil from as far back as Druid times.
You have visited Ireland frequently over 45 years and met your wife there. You still live in British Columbia, Canada but, now you are retired from teaching, do you feel like you might ever make the move to Ireland permanently?
Yes, I would for sure move to Eire or Northern Ireland, given the correct circumstances which would involve some employment and a Canadian style house!!
Should we look forward to any further Irish-themed books, or will future works be focused elsewhere?
I might just engage in writing a novel which relates the tale of a traditional, rather old-fashioned Irish couple in a small village coping with the modern age. Maybe autobiographical to a degree!!
James Craig Bell is a resident of Tsawwassen, British Columbia. Recently retired, he has taught English, French and Japanese at High Schools in Canada and England. He is a public speaker and a leader in both Christian and secular circles.
A Q&A with the author