Malachy Doyle

Malachy Doyle

Malachy Doyle grew up in Northern Ireland, and after living in Wales for many years he has now returned to Ireland. He and his wife Liz bought an old farmhouse on a little island off the coast of Donegal.

From pop-up books for toddlers to gritty teenage novels, his work encompasses many age groups and is available in a range of different languages. Over the years he has won many prestigious book awards.

Malachy Doyle's 100th book Tad-cu's Bobble Hat was published by Pont Books in 2014.

Q&A with Malachy Doyle - Tad-cu’s Bobble Hat

Gomer: Congratulations on your 100th book! Did you ever imagine you would reach such a landmark?

Malachy Doyle: I didn’t start writing till I was 40. My first book came out four years later. So no, I would never in my wildest imaginings have thought that I’d be seeing my 100th book into print. (and especially within twenty years of going along to that very first creative writing evening class in Ysgol Bro Ddyfi, Machynlleth)

Gomer: What keeps you motivated in what is predominantly a solitary occupation?

Malachy Doyle: “I love being a writer. It’s far-and-away my favourite occupation. I love living in the world of imagination. I love having total freedom as to when to write and what to write. Writing’s hard, but I love the buzz you get when you know you’ve cracked it. I love that young children are so open to joy, to excitement, to wonder. I love living in the mind of the four year old, five year old, six year old Malachy, of seeing the world through his eyes and trying to capture some of that joy and wonder and excitement on the page. I love making books and working with illustrators and good editors. I love the first time I get my hands on the finished product. I love seeing my book in the hands of a reader and hearing a child’s response to something I’ve written. Books have brought me so much joy - it’s wonderful to be a part of bringing some of that joy to the next generation.

Gomer: What inspired you to write Tadcu’s Bobble Hat?

Malachy Doyle: It’s about love. Most of my books, in one way or another, are about love. It’s about a love of mountains, but more importantly it’s about the love between a child and a grandparent. I became a grandparent for the first time two years ago, but I’ve been ready for it for a long time! It’s about how love is passed down through generations, in the form of stories and artefacts, photographs and memories.

Gomer: We are interested to know do you have a collection of bobble hats? I have one very special bobble hat. My brother’ s girlfriend knitted it for me about thirty years ago. I’ve worn it on every mountain walk and winter walk since then, taking great care never to lose it. Sadly my new puppy dog chewed a large lump out of it last year and it doesn’t now fit me properly. However I found a beautiful Icelandic one washed up on the beach recently. Hopefully that will now last me for the next thirty years.

Gomer: What was your relationship like with your grandparents?

Malachy Doyle: I never met either of my grandfathers – both had died before I was born. My father’s mother – Momma – was, to me, rather intimidating, and I never really got to know her. My mother’s mother, Gran, was smaller and friendlier, and I have fond memories of her. Both though were dead by the time I was eight. My mother died when I was twelve, so the major loss in my life was hers. My father, though, lived into his nineties, so he became the paterfamilias to a large and extended family.

Gomer: Interestingly, your title is bilingual, was this intentional or having lived in a bilingual nation such as Wales, it allowed you the freedom to work in this way?

Malachy Doyle: I lived in Wales for 25 years, bringing my children up there. It’s where I became a writer. Many of my stories are, therefore, set in Wales and a number have come out with Welsh publishers. I didn’t plan this story specifically with Wales in mind, but it’s about a mountain, and the mountains that inspire me are the ones I know best – Snowdonia and specifically Cadair Idris. Once I could see that it’s setting was Welsh, it seemed right for the grandfather to have a Welsh name - so he became Tadcu, and I called the hill Foel Goch. It is fitting that my 100th book is a story of Wales and a story that celebrates life in all its fullness.

Gomer: Do you think issues of loss are not discussed enough with children in both fiction and life in general?

Malachy Doyle: I think it’s hard to write about this sort of loss without becoming mawkishly sentimental. It’s also hard to write about it for a young audience without the book becoming too ‘sad’. But it’s such an important area, and one that so many children have to go through, that I was determined to give it a go. I wanted the story to be positive, to stay warm, despite how the relationship changes. Love endures, and we stay alive in our children and in our grandchildren.

Books from this author