Sunday, 28 June 2015




The launch was in Dubray Books, Grafton Street, Dublin, Ireland and we had a full house. Campbell Brown and Alison McBride of Black & White Publishing  were kind enough to fly in for the launch.

 They presented me with scented peony roses - so Ballroom Café!

We had wonderful mini cupcakes that Ella O'Callaghan would be proud of  beautifully displayed on three tier cake stands.

See Reviews Below  

"A lovely first novel," Bestselling  author Cathy Kelly.'
A warm and engaging story in a unique and original setting. I loved journeying through the lives of these fascinating characters. A beautifully drawn, skilfully written, well-researched novel.' --KATE KERRIGAN, New York Times bestselling author of The Ellis Island Trilogy

'A lovely story of two women with the courage to confront the injustices of the past, bringing light to a dark corner of Ireland s recent history.' --KATHLEEN MACMAHON, bestselling author of This Is How It Ends


The Ballroom Café’ features heady brew of hate and scandal

Irish Examiner journalist Ann O’Loughlin last night launched her debut novel based on the forced adoption of Irish children in institutions to the US.

'Irish Examiner' journalist Ann O'Loughlin launches 'The Ballroom Cafe' in Dubray's Bookshop, Grafton St, last night. Ms O'Loughlin's noveluncovers an adoption scandal dating back to the 1960s involving religious institutions. Picture: Fergal Phillips
Set at the height of the recession in Ireland in a crumbling mansion, The Ballroom Café focuses on two elderly sisters, Ella and Roberta O’Callaghan, who live alone with their secrets, memories, and mutual hatred. When they are threatened with bankruptcy, Ella converts the mansion’s old ballroom into a café.
But Ella finds herself reliving painful memories when Debbie, an American woman searching for her birth mother, begins working at the café. As the local convent comes under scrutiny, the O’Callaghan sisters find themselves caught up in an adoption scandal that dates back to the 1960s and spreads all the way across the Atlantic Ocean.


Wednesday, 17 June 2015


Read the stories of the women who inspired The Ballroom Café and the shameful secret in Ireland's past of forced illegal adoption of children to the US

Click on the link here or read the story below.

Ireland’s shameful secret of forced adoptions was a story I had to write

Ann O’Loughlin’s The Ballroom Cafe was inspired by the ‘small voices’ of unmarried mothers she interviewed who were forced by the church to surrender their children

Ann O’Loughlin: One woman in her 80s wanted to see the son she had lost before she died; the pain of this mother, whose child had been taken from her, as raw as the day she lost him. “I just want a chance to tell him I am sorry, but I had no say in it. It was all wrong, but mine was and is a small voice,” she said Ann O’Loughlin: One woman in her 80s wanted to see the son she had lost before she died; the pain of this mother, whose child had been taken from her, as raw as the day she lost him. “I just want a chance to tell him I am sorry, but I had no say in it. It was all wrong, but mine was and is a small voice,” she said
They are the forgotten women; the women who were pregnant and unmarried, turned out by their families and who lost their children to forced illegal adoptions to the US.
Treated harshly and despicably, they hid under a burden of shame for decades. Now in their senior years, they dared to highlight their cases, to speak of a shameful time in Irish history, when young unmarried mothers were treated so badly; in many cases their children taken from them and sent to wealthy couples in the US. Some of those children were taken without consent. Some went to already dysfunctional homes.

Ann O'Loughlin on writing The Ballroom Cafe

I first came across the mothers left behind many years ago as a working journalist; their dignity and the raw pain and shame they carried almost unbearable to witness. One woman in her 80s wanted to see the son she had lost before she died; the pain of this mother, whose child had been taken from her, as raw as the day she lost him.
“I just want a chance to tell him I am sorry, but I had no say in it. It was all wrong, but mine was and is a small voice,” she said.
She was right; her voice was a small one, but unforgettable.
There were many other “small voices” over the years brave enough to tell their stories publicly; they cast aside the shame heaped upon them by a Catholic country for bearing an illegitimate child and shone a spotlight on the harsh practices of the past, which saw them treated as outcasts and their children taken, often without their consent, and sent to the US for adoption.
It was these “small voices” that I drew upon to write The Ballroom Cafe.
All fiction reflects life and The Ballroom Cafe is a novel concentrating on the “forced adoption story” from both sides, moving between 1960s America and Ireland in 2008. It is a solid fact that ordinary life trundles on no matter what tragedy is heaped on our shoulders, so the challenge for me as a writer was to examine this issue, reflect the pain and suffering caused to so many women, while at the same time making sure the story rather than the issue drove the book.
It seemed fitting then to set The Ballroom Cafe in a crumbling old mansion, Roscarbury Hall, Rathsorney, Co Wicklow in Ireland, where two sisters, Ella and Roberta O’Callaghan, lived among the misty parkland and the overgrown gardens running down to the sea. A deep silence lasting decades dominated their lives; they only communicated through notes, short sharp notes slapped down on the hall table.
When Ella, to keep the bank from repossessing the house, opens a cafe in the old ballroom upstairs, her sister is furious. An American, Debbie Kading, here in Ireland tracing her roots, befriends Ella and starts to work in the cafe. Debbie is looking for answers, but meets a wall of silence at the local convention. An adoption scandal is uncovered that reaches far beyond the convent and the tiny village of Rathsorney.
The Ballroom Cafe may be a story filtered through life in Rathsorney village and the cafe, where people gossip and sip tea from china cups, but it reflects the tragedies of those ordinary lives lived under the shadow of a shameful secret.
There are strong women in The Ballroom Cafe, women who have been dreadfully wronged and suffered pain at the hands of society. But these women also love to take tea, chat, eat glorious cakes and indulge in a bit of romance and a lot of gossip. The humour in the novel provides the lighter moments.
The research for The Ballroom Cafe involved listening to the stories of women who were forced to give birth without painkillers; who looked after their children for two or three years until the nuns deemed them ready for adoption. Some saw their children dressed up for a nice photograph which was then sent to prospective parents. Many of the children were simply taken from their beds; a lot of mothers did not get to say goodbye. Even those who wanted their children put up for adoption did not know that a home as far away as America had been found.
The religious organisations who arranged these adoptions to the US were given a generous donation for each child. There was no follow-up on these children and only in recent years, as mothers here have cried in public looking for their children, have men and women in the US come forward with stories of far from idyllic childhoods with their adoptive US parents.
The practice was not confined to Ireland, but Australia has been the first to apologise. A national apology was issued to thousands of unmarried mothers who were forced by government policies to give up their children for adoption over several decades.
In The Ballroom Cafe Ella O’Callaghan finds solace in the beautiful Weiss brooches she keeps in silver boxes on her dressing table. In truth my research among the bright colours of these American-made vintage brooches was also a break for me to delight in some of the good things from times past.
The Ballroom Cafe was the book I had to write; the story I had to tell. It is essentially a tale of family and second chances. We can only hope that the mothers left behind and the children taken away can get a second chance to meet and look in each other’s eyes once again or feel a sense of justice that a State apology could bring.

Monday, 15 June 2015


Do drop in and join me. Lots of blog posts, reviews and interviews; all about The Ballroom Café.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015


The Ballroom Café  is a Bord Gais Energy Book of the month for June on TV3's IrelandAm
I joined Mark and Sinead on the early morning couch to chat about the novel. Why not click on the link and listen to the conversation about Roscarbury Hall, the O'Callaghan sisters and the many twists and turns in The Ballroom Café.

Here are a few of my favourite stills. I hope you enjoy the interview. It was certainly a new experience for me to be in front of the cameras, but the crew at IrelandAm made it a very enjoyable occasion. You can listen for yourself here.

 Do feel free to enter a review of The Ballroom Cafe  - just 50 words by Friday 26th June to
You might win some goodies!

Monday, 1 June 2015


     There have been many exciting twists and turns since I first was told my novel was about to be published and this has got to be one of the big ones.
     With only days to go before The Ballroom Café is in bookshops, I give you this - Ann O'Loughlin on camera talking about the characters, the fun and the story that makes up The Ballroom Café.
      It was great fun making this small film with the help of young filmmaker Clara O'Keeffe and her assistant Roshan Naylor. A big thank you too to my publishers Black&White Publishing, Scotland. 
  I do hope you enjoy watching it and reading The Ballroom Café published on June 18 and available on Amazon kindle now. .