Published in Book Reviews, Issue 5 (Sep/Oct 2006), Reviews, Volume 14

‘A vague feeling of melancholy . . . tempered by . . . relief’, eh? If the prospect of your kids going back to school elicits the latter rather than the former emotion, then two recent publications from the Liffey Press are what are required. For the kids 2 (222pp, ?14.95 pb, ISBN 1904148859), ‘a family-friendly guide to outings and activities for children in Ireland’, updates and revises the 2003 publication and adds 66 new entries to the c. 300 of the original. While fun-parks, adventure centres, zoos, etc. are included, a large proportion of the entries are history- and heritage-related. Its senior companion, The museums of Ireland: a celebration (246pp, ?19.95 pb, ISBN 1904148883), follows a similar format with entries listed alphabetically on a province-by-province basis, with basic information—opening times, entry fees, etc.—clearly set out. The more numerous entries of the Kids book are further divided on a county-by-county basis. The Museums book is produced to a higher standard, generously illustrated throughout with high-quality colour prints. In keeping with its subtitle, there is little by way of critique beyond the basic (and very useful) information and descriptions given. Readers will have to continue to rely on our own beady ‘Museum Eye’ for that sort of information.
Maurice and Jane O’Hea O’Keefe continue to publish their Irish Life and Lore series with collection V, The Premier County of Tipperary: living voices (160pp, ?20 pb, ISBN 095432740). Like the others, it is accompanied by an audio CD (70.41 mins) containing samples of the 45 featured interviews, with additional background information and colour provided in the text. The text itself is produced to a high standard, with good-quality black-and-white photos. For those interested in hearing more, the interviews (c. 40–55mins) are available from the authors for ?20 per CD or ?800 for the entire 45-CD set. The others in the series are: I, Kerry & Clare, 120 CDs (2002); II, North Cork, West Limerick, Galway & Kerry, 213 CDs (2004); III, Recollections of 1916 and its aftermath, 33 CDs (2005); IV, North Kerry, 54 CDs (2005); and VI, Kerry (Archives in profile), 12 CDs (2005). Enquiries: Ballyroe, Tralee, Co. Kerry, +353 (0)66 7121991,,
The latest batch of NUI Maynooth’s excellent Studies in Local History series (Four Courts Press, general editor Ray Gillespie, all ?9.95 pb) are in the shops. In On the edge of the Pale: the rise and decline of an Anglo-Irish community in County Meath, 1170–1530 (64pp, ISBN 1846820049) Linda Clare analyses the area around Syddan, Co. Meath, a flashpoint between two civilisations—the Gael and the Gaill—in late medieval times. Mervyn Busteed’s Castle Caldwell, County Fermanagh: life on a west Ulster estate, 1750–1800 (64pp, ISBN 1846820065) focuses on the life and times of an improving landlord. Gerard Moran examines the career of another improving landlord in Sir Robert Gore Booth and his landed estate in County Sligo, 1814–1876: land, famine, emigration and politics (72pp, ISBN 1846820057). His paternalistic scheme to assist the passage of 1,500 of his tenants to North America during the Famine proved controversial: the Canadian authories were severely critical of their poor condition on arrival. The Famine also provides the context for Michael McMahon’s The murder of Thomas Douglas Bateson, County Monaghan, 1851 (72pp, ISBN 1846820081). Was this land agent’s murder part of a Ribbon conspiracy or simply a desperate measure taken by a desperate tenantry? In The Planters of Luggacurran, County Laois: a Protestant community, 1879–1927 (72pp, ISBN 1846820073), Leigh-Ann Coffey provides the background to the eviction in March 1922 of two Protestant farmers from their homes and concludes that the violence was motivated by more than just sectarian animosity. Finally, Brian Coughlan’s Achill Island tattie-hokers in Scotland and the Kirkintilloch tragedy, 1937 (64pp, ISBN 1846820030) examines how a fire in a Scottish outhouse that led to the deaths of ten seasonal potato-pickers from Achill Island brought the plight of young migratory workers into the public domain.
John Hartnett McEnery’s Fortress Ireland: the story of the Irish coastal forts and the River Shannon defence line (Wordwell, 208pp, ?35 hb, ISBN 186985795x) outlines the development and execution of the policies that between 1550 and 1945 led to the construction and arming of the various Irish coastal fortifications and the River Shannon defence line. It also describes their role in the wars that took place in this 400-year period. A detailed chapter on the Second World War, drawing on hitherto unpublished official British assessments, concurs with the view that Irish neutrality probably helped more than hindered Britain’s eventual Atlantic victory. Illustrated with a range of 60 black-and-white photographs, the book details the importance of Ireland’s coastal defence monuments, which often don’t get the attention they deserve in archaeological surveys.
Long-term readers of History Ireland will be familiar with both the author and subject of Kathleen Villiers-Tuthill’s Alexander Nimmo and the Western District (Connemara Girl Publications, 248pp, ?25 hb, ISBN 0953045536). In June 1811 the Scotsman Alexander Nimmo made the career shift from schoolmaster to engineer, and came to Ireland to take charge of the south-west (mainly County Kerry) district of the Bogs Commission (see Arnold Horner, ‘Napoleon’s Irish legacy: the Bogs Commissioners 1809–14’, HI 13.5, Sept./Oct. 2005). Over the next two decades, until his death in 1832, he was to make his mark contributing to the modernisation of many parts of Ireland by building harbours, bridges and roads, including 243 miles of road in the Western District, which ran from Sligo Bay to Galway Bay, encompassing counties Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon. Nimmo’s remarkable reports to the Fishery Board provide an invaluable picture of conditions on the west coast of Ireland at a time when relatively few travellers documented the region and are reproduced in their entirety in the appendices. This large-format book also carries beautiful reproductions of Nimmo’s drawings of his piers, maps and charts of the coast.
Two other large-format publications are worthy of mention. While the title of Michael Corcoran’s Our good health: a history of Dublin’s water and drainage (Four Courts Press, 236pp, ?35 hb, ISBN 0946841772) might not seem too exciting at first glance, this is in fact a fascinating social and engineering history, beautifully illustrated with colour maps, diagrams and plates. The other handsome large-format publication is Paul Mulhern and Kieran Fagan’s The story of HB: 80 years of Ireland’s favourite ice cream (Unilever, 144pp, ?29.50 hb, ISBN 9780955229206), which charts the production of ice cream by the Hughes brothers (HB in the title), James, William and George, from 1926 to the closure of the Rathfarnham plant in 2003. Since then ‘HB’ has been little more than a brand name. Similar products are sold in other jurisdictions under other brand names (Walls in the UK, for example). The only product unique to Ireland was the ‘block of ice cream’. It was so popular (and apparently still is) that advertising was deemed unnecessary.


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