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Professor explores history of Irish immigrants in Maine in his first novel 'Murky Overhead'

Retired professor Michael Connolly used the pandemic to finish his first novel that follows a family of Irish immigrants living on Munjoy Hill in 1900.

PORTLAND, Maine — Professor of history and political science, Michael Connolly, has poured a lifetime of experiences, research and stories into his first novel, Murky Overhead. The book, which is a work of historical fiction, follows one day in the life of an Irish family that has immigrated to Portland's Munjoy Hill. 

"What goes on in one day is probably more than I could fit into a whole year but for the sake of the novel it's very action-packed," explains Connolly. 

Connolly retired from teaching at St. Joseph's College in Standish a couple of years ago and wanted to try his hand at writing something that would have a wider audience than academic papers. Much of his career, has been devoted to studying the history of the Irish in Maine and Connolly has worked extensively with the Maine Irish Heritage Center. 

Growing up on Munjoy Hill and of Irish descent himself, the novel is a patchwork of experiences from his own life. Stories Connolly heard from neighbors, his family, and what he learned living and studying in Ireland for three years getting acquainted with his relatives on the other side of the Atlantic, all helped him breathe life into the fictitious family the Folans. 

As much as Murky Overhead is a story about a family and immigration, it is also about the power of the places we call home. Connolly says Munjoy Hill in the 1900s was a far cry from the expensive homes that now crowd this neighborhood in Portland. 

"I wanted to have people know what Munjoy Hill and what the East End in Portland was like when it was a rough scrabble working-class town," said Connolly. 

Murky Overhead was published by a Maine publisher in Standish called Towers Publishing. 

Connolly hopes that even people who don't live in Portland or have Irish ancestry can enjoy and relate with the characters in Murky Overhead.