Alumni Spotlight

Jacqueline O’Mahony - Author

24 Oct 2019
Jacqueline O'Mahony, BA 1994, MA 1996.

Former Tatler and Vogue journalist, Jacqueline O’Mahony, is turning the page on a new chapter in her life, as a debut author. Her first novel A River in the Trees is written from the point of view of two Irish women, living exactly one hundred years apart. The narrative is inspired by her own family’s experiences during the War of Independence and the stories that she heard growing up. The Arts graduate now lives in Notting Hill, London, with her husband and children, where she writes in the drawing-room of her Victorian house. She takes some time out to remember her time at UCC and how it shaped her.

Despite spending her formative years in the countryside outside Cork, it was her experience of studying abroad that really changed the course of Jacqueline O’Mahony’s life. After graduating with a BA from UCC she set off on an academic journey of discovery, culminating in a PhD in History and a scholarship at Boston College where she met her husband.

"I did a BA in English and History and graduated in 1994 – I’d started the degree in 1990 but studied in Italy on Erasmus for a year. Then I completed an MA in History from 1994 to 1996. I began my PhD in History in 1997, did a Fulbright at Duke University, North Carolina from 1997, and studied at Boston College as the Boston College Scholar, in 1998."

Despite studying in some of the world’s most prestigious universities, and even being taught by the great Umberto Eco in Bologna, the education she received in her Cork alma mater made a profound impact.

“The quality of teaching at UCC was outstanding. I’ve studied in universities in Italy, in England, in America, and UCC outshone them all.”

At UCC, she delighted in the history lectures of Professor Joe Lee and Professor Tom Dunne. Professor Lee in particular, was a huge inspiration.

“I was very influenced by Professor Joe Lee, who taught me how to think about history, and how to think, really. He was very encouraging of me as a student and allowed me to begin to consider myself as a historian and a writer. He was a very eminent teacher and writer but hugely interested in his students. He encouraged me to apply for a Fulbright scholarship and a Boston College scholarship and winning both those awards changed the direction of my life.”

Having had so much experience of student life, what is Jaqueline’s advice to today’s students?

“Go to all your classes! Don’t skip any; it doesn’t pay off in the end. Take copious notes during classes and work as hard as you can. And enjoy yourself! You’re young, you’re relatively free, you’re at the start of your life; take advantage of all the opportunities presented to you.”

And, when asked if she was involved in clubs or societies at UCC, Jacqueline is refreshingly candid.

“No. I wasn’t a clubs kind of person. I was more a ‘go to the Old Bar’ kind of person!”




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