Featured Author – Raymond McCullough

Raymond_2010Hi Raymond, thanks for taking the time to answer a few of my questions.

Being from Belfast, how important are your Celtic Roots?

Hi Lucy. And thanks for having me on your blog. I guess my Celtic roots are quite important to me. I’m an Irishman, specifically an Ulsterman, so I sing songs and write about life very much from that cultural perspective.

Because, I believe, of things like Riverdance, and all the offshoot shows that it has spawned, Irish culture and music have become very popular all over the world. I happened to begin a podcast show in 2008 – Celtic Roots Radio – which has also become popular, I think, due to the doors that Riverdance, etc. have opened up. CRR is downloaded in over 100 countries, with around 10,000 downloads per month.

Could you ever imagine leaving Ireland?

I did once for four months, back in 1973. I lived in the town of Kirkby, near Liverpool, from September until just before Christmas that year. Liverpool, of course, has a very Irish background, so I felt pretty much at home there – and I’ve been back for one or two visits since.

In the future, I would love to spend a whole winter in Israel – researching and filming interviews, etc. for a TV series (and book) I have in mind. I’ve been there five times so far (twice with my wife, Gerry). I’m interested in the so-called ‘lost tribes’ of Israel and there are many people currently living there who would be great subjects for interview.

If you couldn’t write what else would you do with your life?

Well, I’ve actually done a lot of things already in sixty one years. I’ve run a construction business, re-built a classic wooden boat, sold French perfume, been a college lecturer in Computing, published an Irish magazine for seven years. Now, in addition to writing and publishing, I produce and host satellite radio and podcast shows and I’ve also filmed most of a TV documentary in Canada, called ‘Broken Treaties’ – about native Americans (First Nations) and their link to Israel.

Currently, though, I’m pretty much engaged in the process of converting an old stone barn in the heart of County Down into a home for Gerry and myself. The location, in a townland called Listooder, is very peaceful and quiet – so, hopefully, very conducive to being creative in the future.

Is there any food or beverage that is a constant factor in either your books or life?

There are foods that I used to enjoy, but which research has shown are very bad for your health – like shellfish, pork and gluten – so I try to avoid them along with most highly processed food. I’d like to ‘live long and prosper’ so I try to eat things which are good for me – very difficult these days when most food is ‘manufactured’ and ‘real food’ is more expensive!

What is your favourite dish and can you give me the recipe?

Hmm, I love Greek food, and Chinese, and sometimes I cook both these and other types of food. I like stir fries and dishes with chicken or lamb – chilli, too – but the recipe wouldn’t be that unusual. I do like to add a few herbs and spices – e.g. a teaspoonful of turmeric when cooking rice gives it a sharper flavour and a nice yellow colour. In the case of chilli, a wee taste of mustard (a natural emulsifier) stops the oil and water from separating.

What is the title of the book you would like to talk about, and can you give us a small taster of it?

I’ve written four books, to date, with several more in the pipeline. So far, they have all been non-fiction, but I’m part way through the first novel of an apocalyptic thriller trilogy, called Six hours to change the world – which you can find a chapter or two of on WattPad.

The book I have in mind today is called, A Wee Taste a’ Craic!.



It’s based on the scripts from the first 25 of my Celtic Roots Radio shows. There may well be a follow-up, to be called, 24 Shades a’ Green! The book features Irish (and Northern Irish) culture, landscape, history, language, legends, etc. – from my own northern perspective. The chapters have the same titles as the original shows, such as: ‘The more ye know, the less, the better’, ‘Yous three’re a pair if ivver there was one ..’ and ‘Aye, ye’re funny, but yer face bates ye!’

Here’s a wee bit from Chapter 6 – ‘Aye, there y’are now! Where are ye?’:

Now last show, I promised we’d talk a bit more about the different Irish accents. Remember I said there wasn’t just one Irish accent, but a whole clatther a’ them, dependin’ on what part of the country yer talkin’ about?
So, where better to start than here in Belfast? Well,for a start, people who live in the city don’t even call it that – it’s ‘B’lfaast!’ An’ people from B’lfaast talk a wee bit different, now.
For instance, that word, ‘now’, seems to come up in every other sentence, nearly. ‘Are yez all right, now?’ ‘ Ach, is’n that a pity, now?’ ‘Ach, c’mon, now! Catch yerself on!’ See what I mean? ‘Ach’, by the way, is just the Irish word for ‘but’ – y’know, like French people say, ‘Mais, non!’
And that’s another phrase we use a lot, ‘Y’know’. ‘Y’know, I was jus’ thinkin the o’rr day ..’ Y’see, we don’t say ‘other’, or ‘brother’, or ‘father’, or ‘mother’ – it’s ‘bro’rr’, ‘mo’rr’, ‘fa’rr’ – aye, an’ ‘no bo’rr’, too, instead of, ‘No bother!’
I had a Canadian friend over a few months ago and we went into a pub for a few minutes to get directions – honest! When we came out again he admitted that he hadn’t understood three quarters of what had been said, including what I’d been sayin’!
We also have this ability in B’lfaast to talk for quite a while without saying very much. For example, ‘There y’are, now! Where are ye?’ Or, ‘I say, like, y’know what a mean, like? Ye know?’ Or we relatea conversation, ‘So, I says ta the bro’rr, like, ‘Y’know, like, what are yez gonna do, like? Y’know?” And, like our cousins over in Scotland, we use the word ‘wee’, meaning small, a lot. People in the south of Ireland don’t say, ‘wee’ at all!
I remember being over in Liverpool, in England – years ago, now – and a English girl asked me if I would like sugar in my tea? I said, ‘Aye, one an’ a wee taste, please.’ There was a reasonable silence and then she asked me again if I would like sugar!
When ye go to pay for yer petrol in the garage, the wee girl’ll always say, ‘Put yer wee number in, love.’ And then, ‘Take yer wee card out, now’. It’s quite normal for a man to say to a woman who’s a complete stranger to him, ‘Ach, are y’all right there, love?’
We tend to be much more familiar with strangers than say, English, or German, people. The person behind the counter’ll say, ‘Are ye gettin’ there, love?’ Or, ‘Are y’all right, now, dear?’
Another thing we do quite well, is sarcasm. When we’re a bit sceptical about something we’ve been told, we’ll say, ‘Aye, right!’ – meaning we don’t thinkit’s right, at all! And the word, ‘right’ has other uses. We’ll say, ‘It’s right ‘n’ warm in here’, or, ‘It’s brave ‘n’ cold, today, now’ – both words meaning, ‘quite’.
If the weather’s good we’ll say, ‘That’s a right sort of a day, now’, or, if someone’s got a new car, we’ll say, ‘That’s a brave dacent motther yer drivin’, now?’Oh, yeah, we drink ‘watther’, spread ‘butther’ on ourtoast and when we’ve been sick we’ll, hopefully, then get ‘betther’ again.
I mean, people have actually written whole series of books about how we talk in Belfast – and Northern Ireland in general. We’ll educate yez a wee bit more in the next show. ‘All right, now?’

What do you do marketing wise and what do you think generates the most attention to your books?

Hah, marketing! I have been thinking on this one for while, now. Fiction and non-fiction are quite different from a marketing point of view, I think. There was a time when a couple of days free on Kindle led to 21,000 downloads and 2,300 sales in the following month, but no longer! With non-fiction I think the starting point is getting the right keywords (which really means key phrases) on Amazon Kindle. Those seven phrases are going to filter the right people to your book – or NOT! – depending on how you’ve chosen them.

Otherwise, it’s a question of getting on blogs and doing interviews – such as this one! – anything to get the word out there. Funnily enough, my books tend to sell better in the USA, than UK. I’ve produced a trailer video for one of my books and hope to do a few more for the others, soon. But I think marketing strategy for independent authors/publishers is an ongoing question – it seems the goalposts keep moving. Ask me again when I’m rich and famous, lol!

Would you be able to come up with a credible excuse why you haven’t written a whole day? Remember, I have to believe it!

Yes, definitely! I don’t write everyday, by any means. I tend to do so in bursts. With the thriller series, I tend to muse on the storyline for a chapter for a few days, then sit down and write maybe 2-4,000 words in one go. With ‘A Wee Taste a’ Craic’ the scripts were already written, so it was just a matter of assembling it into chapters and editing. With my other recent non-fiction books I would often spend several hours in research (read: wading through absolute rubbish!), then write just a few paragraphs.

Okay, now that we have the mandatory questions out of the way, shoot your mouth off. Tell me whatever you want to blab about. Make us laugh, or cry, or even envious. Tell me something none has ever heard before from you. I love those little dirty secrets, real or make believe. 🙂

Well, as I’ve said above, I’m writing a thriller trilogy at the moment, among other things. I find no problem with visualising scenes and writing convincing dialogue. The problem I have yet to get to grips with is how to write a storyline – a plot – which successfully draws all the different threads and people together into a cohesive story, that people will want to read. We’ll have to see how that goes – watch this space!

I tend to put a lot of my own personality into things like Celtic Roots Radio and WTC. Listeners/readers seem to appreciate that. To a lesser extent, I have done that with my other books as well. I have an outgoing personality – my Cree name is mistaheyamu, which means, ‘he who talks a lot!’ I got that name while travelling around Israel in 2006 with a bunch of Inuit and native Americans – a unique experience.

I love travelling. As well as Israel (and the West Bank) I have been to Beijing, China (for a 444km charity cycle ride, which they said not to make a song about, but I did – 11 verses long!), Canada (visiting native reserves and Toronto/Winnipeg/Vancouver Island) and the USA. I’ve also been to Corfu, Greece and Tenerife, Spain – just for holidays, though.

If possible, I’d like to do some more travelling, though these days the security threats have made it much less of a pleasure. I love to pick up bits of the native languages – I still say ‘Ni hao’ or ‘Li ho’ when I go into a Chinese restaurant, which usually makes them smile.

All this, of course, will have to wait until we’ve moved into our new home – hopefully, later this year – which will probably involve a bit of stress and adjustment. Then, all being well, a new surge of creativity will result in more books, radio shows, trips abroad … Who knows?

So, for now it’s, ‘Slan, agus beanneacht Dia’ (Irish: bye, and God bless!) – or ekosi (in Cree), ‘yassas’ (Greek), ‘zhao zhan’ (Mandarin Chinese), ‘Ila leeka’ (Arabic), ‘l’hitraot’ (Hebrew) or ‘Bye bye, now!’ (Norn Iron).

Thank you very much, Ray. I’ve not been wished farewell in so many languages by one person at one time before. 🙂 

Now for those that want to follow Raymond on his path to wherever it may lead, you can find him on:

Site | Radio station | Blog | Precious Oil


2 thoughts on “Featured Author – Raymond McCullough

  1. Nice interview. The Igbo Jews of Africa claim they are one of the Lost Tribes. I believe they’ve even have had blood tests done to prove the fact. I haven’t studied much about them lately.

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