27 March 2012

Fictional Ulster: In Development

Ballybeg, the fictitious setting for Brian Friel’s plays, is more famous than most real villages in Ulster. Despite not existing, the village has a kind of geographic life. This is part of what the map Fictional Ulster is about. Fictional Ulster will locate and chart Ulster’s fictional places - places invented by writers down through the years.

The map is made from thick pieces of cork. It does not include County Cork, I mention this as it has confused some people.
So far, I’ve got a dozen or so localities for the map. A few, I’ve come up with myself. Others were contributed by members of the public, via this blog or by email. Some were contributed via a pin board map that I have installed in the Seamus Heaney Centre, Belfast. I have invited staff, students and visitors to the centre to pin the places directly where they think they belong.

Tumdrum is in North Antrim, it is the setting of Ian Sansom's Mobile Library series.
Fictional sites located so far include: Tumdrum, Buggleskelly, Weirtown, Newtonhamilton, Carn, Puckoon, Ballycarnamaghery and Belfast's Eureka Street.

Thank you to everyone who has helped.

12 March 2012

Introducing Fictional Ulster

So far I have made three maps of Ireland’s border. Now I am beginning a new project, this time covering the nine counties of Ulster. Fictional Ulster will locate and chart Ulster’s fictional places, places created by writers and artists down through the years. I hope the map will be fun and intriguing and that it also might offer an insight on how we see ourselves and how others see us. In addition the map may reveal themes in the naming and placement of fictional sites in Ulster.

Where is Ballybeg? Where is Ballycarnamaghery?

Mining the entire history of Ulster literature is too big a task for one person. I welcome contributions from anyone who has knowledge of such fictional places. Perhaps you recall one from a book you’ve read or a film you have seen? Please email me or comment on this blog. The places could be from any art form. Movies and plays as well as books, in or out-of-print. The sites could be towns, rivers, forests, estates, streets, mountains or any other sort of locality.

I’d also like to hear your views on the exact location of sites. Where exactly, for example, is the setting of Brian Friel’s plays, Ballybeg? Where is the setting of the 1937 comedy film ‘Oh, Mister Porter’, Buggleskelly?

Messing about in a border train station called Buggleskelly. Oh, Mr Porter, 1937.

In Belfast, I am attempting to tap the knowledge of the Seamus Heaney Centre to gather the elements for this map. I have made a pin board map of Ulster, cutting each county from a thick piece of cork to produce a wall map a metre and a half wide. I will be installing it in the Seamus Heaney Centre this week and inviting students, staff and visitors to pin up their suggestions directly to the map.

I will report on the progress of Fictional Ulster on this blog in the oncoming months.