Ruth Fitzmaurice celebrated winning the Newcomer of the Year award at Tuesday night’s Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards by reflecting on the last ten years of her life as a “crazy, crazy adventure”, and far from the tragedy as suggested by her name of her group of friends who swim daily at Greystones Cove.
The Tragic Wives Swimming Club were part of the inspiration for Ruth’s bestselling memoir I Found My Tribe, which fought off very tough competition on Tuesday night to claim the award for it’s first time author.
The Ardee-born author celebrated her win just five weeks after the death of her husband – writer and director Simon Fitzmaurice. Simon lived with MND for nine years after an initial diagnosis gave him three to four years to live.
The book is romantic, honest, dark and funny too. It tells the story of how Ruth coped with the decline of her husband Simon’s health – having been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2008, he passed away last month – her family life and her coping measures when faced with the challenges it all brought, including regular swims in the sea near her home in Greystones. She would eventually find her tribe.
Speaking to RTE’s Evelyn O’Rourke after her win on Tuesday evening, Ruth said she was shocked by emerging victorious.
“I’m a rambling idiot,” she said apologetically. “I’m still in shock. I thought I was going to be sick out there on stage. I wasn’t expecting it.
“My people told me I wasn’t going to win! There was tumbleweed going round in my head, I was in my own little daydream. I’m totally in shock and I’m delighted.
“I have a red letter box outside my home and a very clever postman delivering letters addressed to Ruth Fitzmaurice – The Lady at the Cove (she might be at the beach) and stuff like that. They always find me. It’s lovely to have people tell you their stories, even if it’s sad.
“I didn’t expect it. I’m a writer and I like saying that. I was a housewife for a long time – and being a housewife is cool but writing is what I love to do. I would have been happy just to be nominated, genuinely. It was a very broad category with some very very cool people in the category,” she added.
Talking about how her kids will grow up with both their mum’s and Dad’s (Simon wrote his own memoir entitled It’s Not Yet Dark) to grow up with, Ruth said she hopes the books will provide an understanding about what life was like in their early days – a “crazy” time for all.
“When I started writing, the kids were a bit younger and now they’re a bit more self aware,” she said. “I have a 12-year-old who has started to get embarrassed. I do hope that they have a beautiful map – even an emotional map – to understand what our lives have been like. It’s been a crazy, crazy decade really.
“I’d rather define it as a crazy because there’s been some wonderful stuff in the midst of some shot stuff happening. I’d prefer to think of it as a crazy adventure instead of tragic.”
“You don’t have to have really ridiculous stuff happen to you to experience pain in your life. People relate to that. It’s part of life, it is what is it. It doesn’t mean that you have to fall under.”
You can watch the full interview on the RTE Player by clicking here. Full highlights of the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards are also available.