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Twin Cities authors bring Ireland to Roberts

Erin Hart (right) and her husband Paddy O'Brien (left) held an unusual book event at the Hazel Mackin Community Library Thursday, March 7. The couple read selections from their respective books, "The Book of Killowen" (Hart) and "The Road from Castlebarnagh" (O'Brien). O'Brien also played traditional Irish music during the event while the audience kept time with tapping feet.1 / 2
Paddy O'Brien (left) plays the two-row button accordion at an event at the Hazel Mackin Community Library Mach 7.2 / 2

The Hazel Mackin Community Library was decorated in bright green Shamrocks, for an event that brought a little taste of Ireland to Roberts.

Author Erin Hart and her husband, musician-turned-author Paddy O'Brien, held an event March 7, filled with storytelling and traditional Irish music.

Hart and O'Brien have been presenting events at libraries for years. Hart said she started speaking at libraries after her first book was published.

"When they found out my husband was a musician...they were really excited by that," Hart said. Now she and O'Brien often do a program that is half concert, half book chat.

Born in County Offaly, Ireland, O'Brien is an expert in traditional Irish music.

He has recently written a memoire titled "The Road from Castlebarnagh," telling of his life growing up in Ireland and how he became a musician.

O'Brien said one of the things he wrote about is the informal dances that were held in people's houses when he was young. Friends would come over and start playing music, tables and chairs would be moved and people would start dancing.

"I didn't participate very much. I was sitting in the corner watching," O'Brien said. "I was only about 7 or 8 or 9, just a very timid little boy, afraid to speak, but I remember everything."

O'Brien eventually became a musician himself and now plays the two-row button accordion. He has played for audiences across the United States and Ireland.

Hart writes mystery novels set in Ireland that deal with bog bodies, or bodies found preserved in peat bogs.

Before starting her first novel, Hart said she heard the story of a red-haired woman's severed head found preserved in an Irish peat bog by two farmers, cutting peat.

"I thought, that is the opening for a mystery novel if I ever heard one," Hart said. "I couldn't find any, so I thought 'well, maybe I'll give it a try.'"

She said O'Brien grew up in an area with many peat bogs and his experience helps her write her novels.

Both Hart and O'Brien read selections from their books at the event. O'Brien also played traditional Irish music on his accordion.

The couple, who met at an Irish music event where O'Brien was playing, said they enjoy bringing Irish culture to other people.

Hart and O'Brien visited the Hazel Mackin Community Library last year, and said they would like to come back again.

"We had a really nice visit here last time," Hart said. "We're thrilled to be coming back."

Hazel Mackin Community Library Board Director Dora Rohl originally came up with the idea to bring Hart and O'Brien to Roberts after seeing one of their events at another library. She said it is exciting for her to see Hart and O'Brien at the Hazel Mackin Community Library.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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