“My Tale Untold” is an independently published picture book by the Friends of Sligo Gaol in conjunction with author/illustrator Wayne O’Connor. It was published to mark the 200th anniversary this year of the foundation of Sligo Gaol, a building which partially remains intact to this day.

Set sometime in the 1800s and inspired by real life characters and events, the book tells the story of young Bridget McFadden who is forced through circumstances to sing on the streets to make ends meet. Having been deceived by local petty criminals, Bridget is arrested and taken to Sligo Gaol on the outskirts of the town.

Told from the point of view of Bridget, the book relates the experiences of prisoners – men, women and children – who were incarcerated in Sligo Gaol at the time. Living in harsh conditions and having to “slop out”, Bridget is thrown a lifeline when she is asked to work in the Governor’s residence.

However, Bridget is again the victim of unfortunate circumstances when she is accused of harming the Governor’s daughter. She is sentenced to deportation to Australia. Bridget eventually finds some good luck and makes a new life for herself in Australia.

Author and illustrator Wayne O’Connor has created what P.J. Lynch referred to in his foreword as “the unique look” of the book. Lynch says that reading the book is akin to watching a movie at the cinema:

The story races along at a great pace, and Wayne O’Connor uses the framing devices of an expert cinematographer, leading the viewers gaze right into the action with his dynamic compositions.”

For an independently published work, this book is beautifully presented with excellent production values. What is noticeable is the great attention to detail in the finished product – the evocative colour scheme chosen for the majority of the book; the clever device of having Bridget wear a striking red shawl to make her stand out against the backdrop; the weaving of an authentic storyline into the landscape in which it is set.

Included in the book is a history of Sligo Gaol and a timeline of events surrounding the history of the gaol.

This picture book would be a welcome addition to any school or class library, especially in an Irish context. However, this is not to limit the universality of the story contained within the 48 pages of the book. The book could also act as a stimulus for so much other work in the classroom.

“My Tale Untold” can be purchased in local bookstores in Sligo or online on the Sligo Gaol website HERE costing €15 + €7 P&P.