Jessica Eden has a bachelor's degree in English literature and a love of reading (particularly British history).
Short stories have been published in local magazines and Jessica has been a publisher of histories and memories for other writers through her Lifetimes Publishing company. Julia of Bunnamairgie Friary is her first full-length novel of the historical period of 16th century Ireland.
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The Black Nun of Bunnamairgie, (Julia MacQuillan) lived in the 15th and 16th centuries in Ballycastle, Ireland (known then as Margeytown because of the proximity to the Margie River.) She was called the “black” nun because of the color of the cloak (habit) that she wore.
The nun's story unfolds as a present-day McQuillin (Cathleen) is searching for her family’s history and travels to Ballycastle, to find out more. She comes across Julia's journal and the story of this beautiful young lass who is a mystic with prophetic visions. The visions eventually have repercussions for her in Margeytown village. Her benefactors, Count Randall, and Countess Mary MacDonald were historically long-time foes of the MacQuillins but become her friends.
Julia is smitten by the older, Bonaventure McGinnis, who is the Bishop of the small friary. Her desires as a woman are put in conflict with her faith. Then, a crisis for Julia (stemming from her visions) forces the Bishop to step in and defend her, confirming his love for her.
Julia is a woman of her time, caught up in the violent events of in-clan fighting and the northern Irish skirmishes against Queen Elizabeth I’s troops during their fight for freedom against English rule. While living a simple life as a “lay” nun she still can't avoid the political conflict, sexism, and dilemmas any woman would face at that time and place in history.
The Bonnamargy Friary (present-day spelling) stands today on the road to Cushendall. Julia’s round-stone grave is at the entrance to the ruins of the friary. She wished it to be at the entrance so those entering the church would trample upon her simple grave.
Julia of Bunnamairge Friary
The Black Nun of Bunnamairgie Friary, (Julia MacQuillan) lived in the 15th
and 16th centuries in Ballycastle, Ireland (known then as Margeytown due
to the proximity of the Margie River).
Book Excerpt or Article
I must write of something that happened last night while it is still fresh in my mind. I was at the front of the friary, near the Nave. I had just taken in some vegetables out of the garden to prepare for Friar O’Dornan’s early evening meal but wanted to kneel and say a prayer for Sister Margaret as she has been taken to her bed in the gatehouse, sick with an ailment that I think is more from the mind than body. As I kneeled down, I felt as though I was going to faint. I was shivering, but it wasn’t from the cold. In fact, I sensed a great heat rising up from the floor. I sniffed and smelled the unmistakable scent of fire burning. But there was another smell, one that I’ll never be forgetting. It was the pungent odor of burned flesh, both human and horseflesh. I closed my eyes and listened. I could hear faintly the screams of men and the wild neighing of horses, but it was far off and muffled. With my eyes closed, I could see, in my mind, a soldier struggling to make it to the door of the friary, his back on fire and his arms waving wildly. A horse was galloping down the length of the friary, lifting his heavy front legs right where I was kneeling as if he would stomp on me!
It was as if the horse jumped right over me and crashed through the large window at the front of the friary, then galloped off with a scream as terrified as the soldiers’ screams. To me, it was as sure as I was standing there in the middle of it with men yelling and running all around me, paying me no heed.
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