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Did Tales Of Ireland Influence Writing Of Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell?

The Atlanta, Georgia US born Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell (Pen name, Peggy Mitchell, November 8th,1900 – August 16, 1949) was an American journalist and author who provided us with that great 1939 epic historical romance novel, “Gone With The Wind”; same being one of those golden American pieces of literature that readers and later film goers, worldwide, can truly never forget.

She too had been born into a family with ancestry not unlike that of her novels heroin, namely Scarlet O’Hara.

Philip Fitzgerald, Margaret Mitchell’s maternal great-grandfather, had emigrated from near Fethard, Co. Tipperary, same then a fortified, small walled town, shortly after the 1798 Rebellion.

The family were seen as Catholic refugees attempting to evade oppression. Philip Fitzgerald eventually settled on a slaveholding plantation, near Jonesboro, Georgia, US, where he had one son and seven daughters with his wife, Elenor McGahan, who herself was from an Irish Catholic family.

Margaret Mitchell’s grandparents, Annie Fitzgerald and John Stephens had married in 1863; her parents, father Eugene Muse Mitchell, an Attorney, was descended from Scotch-Irish and French Huguenots, while her mother, Mary Isabel or “Maybelle” Stephens, was of Irish-Catholic ancestry, and were both married at her parents mansion home on November 8th, 1892. For the young Margaret Mitchell, (latter regarded as a ‘Tomboy’); Annie Fitzgerald/Stephens, her grandmother, (latter often regarded as both vulgar and a tyrant), existed a great source of eye-witness information, when it came to stories of the American Civil War.

Published in 1936, her only novel ‘Gone With the Wind’, turned the 4 feet 11 inches tall Margaret Mitchell immediately into an instant celebrity; earning her the Pulitzer Prize in 1937. In the same year Mitchell sold the movie rights to film producer David O. Selznick for $50,000, (Equivalent value today of $838,615 or approx. €747,296), latter being the most ever paid for a film manuscript at that period in time.

The film version, a four-hour epic, starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, both being portrayed as ill-fated lovers Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler came out just three years later; winning a record-breaking nine Academy Awards in 1940.
Today more than 30 million copies of Margaret Mitchell’s Civil War Novel have been sold worldwide and same has been translated into 27 different languages.

We will never know just how much of her novel contained tales about Fethard, here in Co. Tipperary, learned from the knees of her parents and grandparents, for alas, on August 11th, 1949, Margaret Mitchell was struck by a car while crossing a street to attend a theatre engagement and, sadly, died five days later.

So how much ancestral Irish influence came to the fore in the fictional imagery of Peggy Mitchel’s mind, when she wrote “Gone with the Wind” ?

Rhett Butler: Would her grandparents have talked largely about the Butler lands which stretched from Co. Kilkenny across Tipperary to Cashel and Cahir? Would they have spoken of Cahir Castle, Co. Tipperary?
Cahir Castle, winner of the European Film Commissions Network (EUFCN) Location Award in 2021; is one of the largest remaining castles in Ireland. Today, sited a mere 23 minute drive from Fethard, on an island in the river Suir in Co. Tipperary; Cahir Castle had been built in the 13th century, before being granted to James Butler, then newly created Earl of Ormond, for his loyalty to Edward III, in the late 14th century.

Scarlett O’Hara: The name O’Hara has held a distinguished place in Ireland for centuries, mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters, (latter compiled between 1632 and 1636). The current spelling of O’Hara is an anglicized pronunciation of the original Irish ‘Ó hEaghra’, meaning “descended from Eaghra”, latter a 10th century Irish chief.

Plantation Tara : Tara is the name of the fictional plantation in the state of Georgia, in this historical novel “Gone with the Wind.”
There is little doubt that Mitchell modelled the fictional Tara Plantation after local plantations and establishments existing before the US Civil War, particularly the Clayton County plantation on which her maternal grandmother, Annie Fitzgerald Stephens (1844–1934), daughter of the Irish immigrant Philip Fitzgerald (1798–1880) and his American wife, Eleanor Avaline “Ellen” McGhan (1818–1893), was born and raised.
Tara is also an anglicization of the Irish name ‘Teamhair’. The Old Irish form is ‘Temair’. It is believed this comes from common Celtic, ‘Temris’ and means a ‘sanctuary’ or ‘sacred space’ cut off for only ceremony.
‘Tara’ was once also the capital of the inauguration place and seat of the High Kings of Ireland. The name also appears in Irish mythology. According to the aforementioned Annals of the Four Masters, five ancient roads or ‘slighe’ (Ways) meet at Tara, linking it with all the four provinces of Ireland.

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