Bookworm

Published in Book Reviews, Issue 2 (March/April 2010), Reviews, Volume 18

Hats off to the hard-working editorial team—Mary Ann Lyons, Fearghal McGarry and Dominic Carroll—at Irish Historical Studies (ISSN 00211214), which continues to be published on schedule and to a high standard (albeit with its trademark austere presentation). In the latest issue (Vol. XXXVI, No. 144, November 2009, and received shortly thereafter) Fergus Campbell (‘Reign of terror at Craughwell’ in the last issue) maintains his interest in law and order, but from ‘the other side’, by looking at ‘The social composition of the senior officers of the Royal Irish Constabulary, 1881–1911’. But what is really impressive is the number (42) and range of ‘reviews and short notices’, a threefold increase in the number (14) in the equivalent issue ten years before (although, to be fair to the previous editors, advances in information technology may have had something to do with it). Reviews relating to items that recently featured in History Ireland include: Mícheál Ó Siochrú on Patrick Little’s Oliver Cromwell: new perspectives; Patrick Little on Mícheál Ó Siochrú’s God’s executioner: Oliver Cromwell and the conquest of Ireland (what you might call a Mexican stand-off!); James Sharpe on Andrew Sneddon’s Witchcraft and Whigs: the life of Francis Hutchinson, 1660–1739; Maura Cronin on Patrick Geoghegan’s King Dan: the rise of Daniel O’Connell, 1775–1829; Patrick Maume on Fearghal McGarry and James McConnell’s (eds) The black hand of republicanism: Fenianism in modern Ireland; Robert McNamara on Michael Kennedy’s Guarding neutral Ireland: the coast watching service and military intelligence, 1939–1945; and Katie Drake on Piaras Béaslaí’s Michael Collins and the making of a new Ireland (reviewed by Peter Hart in this issue, pp 56–7). For a subscription (only Ä55 for two volumes per year) contact Dr W. E. Vaughan, Irish Historical Studies, Department of History, Trinity College, Dublin 2. And there’s a website on the way through which non-institutional subscribers will be able to access back numbers through JSTOR.
Other recent History Ireland contributors to be published include Benjamin Hazard (last issue), whose Faith and patronage: the political career of Flaithrí Ó Maolchonaire (Irish Academic Press, 222pp, Ä35, ISBN 9780716530480) has just appeared. It’s a pity that he has been ill served by the publisher in the quality of image reproductions, including the famous colour fresco from St Isadore’s College, Rome, of the man himself, reproduced on the dust-jacket in pixellated form. Irish Academic Press has done a (slightly) better job on Brendan Grimes’s Majestic shrines and graceful sanctuaries: the church architecture of Patrick Byrne, 1783–1864 (IAP, 198pp, Ä35, ISBN 9780716530732), but one wonders whether that’s good enough for a book on architectural history that relies heavily on the quality of its illustrations. Readers will recall Brendan’s article (HI 15.1, Jan./Feb. 2007) on one of the most famous of Byrne’s churches, St Paul’s on Dublin’s Arran Quay.
In the light of the ongoing scandal of child sexual abuse and its cover-up within the Catholic Church, Moira J. Maguire’s Precarious childhood in post-independence Ireland (Manchester University Press, 244pp, £60, ISBN 9780719080814) is indeed timely. While it is stating the obvious to say that the Catholic Church exerted influence (good and bad) over many aspects of Irish life, this is one of the few attempts to examine what this meant in practical terms, particularly for those otherwise ignored or marginalised in the historical record.
Clerical child sexual abuse features too, albeit as an epilogue, in Tim Fanning’s The Fethard-on-sea boycott (Collins Press, 234pp, Ä4.99, ISBN 9781848890329), whose subject-matter is summed up on the front cover: ‘IRELAND 1957 . . . THE CATHOLIC CHURCH . . . A SMALL VILLAGE . . . A MIXED MARRIAGE . . .’. The hero of this book is Seán Cloney, who, along with his Protestant wife Sheila, refused to bow to demands that their two daughters be brought up as Catholics, provoking a boycott of Fethard’s Protestant shopkeepers and farmers called for by the local Catholic curate, Fr William Stafford. While it is difficult to consider the boycott as anything other than an example of naked sectarian bigotry, treatments of it in the past, for example in the film A love divided, have been criticised for lacking historical context. This is not an issue here, where deep-rooted historical grievances over land ownership, 1798 and the Scullabogue massacre, etc., are all given their proper place. And as for Seán Cloney, if that wasn’t bad enough, nearly 30 years later he tried, but to no avail, to blow the whistle on the local curate, paedophile priest Seán Fortune. Yet, remarkably, throughout all his travails, Seán Cloney remained a regular Mass-goer.
Limerick is a place that often features in the headlines for the wrong reasons, much to the chagrin of natives of ‘the Isle’, anxious to defend the good name of their city. Their task has been made considerably easier with the appearance of Kemmy’s Limerick miscellany (Limerick Writers’ Centre, 412pp, Ä20/$35/£18, ISBN 9780956281005). Editor Denis O’Shaughnessy is to be congratulated for his courage in stepping into the (considerable) shoes of Limerick’s most famous stonemason, politician and socialist (a classmate of O’Shaughnessy’s in CBS Sexton Street), who graces the front cover. There are 184 short pieces divided into twelve sections: people; religion; stage and screen; fiction; history; the county; songs and poems; sport; the city; politics; travellers; and miscellaneous. Contributors range from Charles Dickens to Terry Wogan, from Brendan Behan to Richard Harris, and from William Wordsworth to Pat Shortt (a.k.a. Councillor Maurice Hickey). This is the perfect book for dipping in and out of, a task that would have been greatly facilitated by the addition of an index.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Irish Folklore Commission in 1935. In anticipation, towards the end of 2009, Cork University Press published Going to the well for water: the Séamus Ennis field diary, 1942–1946 (480pp, €49/£44, ISBN 9781859184370), translated from the original Irish and edited by Ríonach uí Ógáin. Ennis, best known as a piper (the best ever?), was a full-time collector of music and song for the Commission, and this diary covers his travels in counties Galway, Clare, Mayo, Donegal, Limerick and Cavan. It is beautifully illustrated (many in colour, particularly music manuscripts), contains a biographical index of the people interviewed, listing the material collected from each, and provides indices of places, music and song, as well as a subject index. HI

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