Bookworm

Published in Book Reviews, Issue 3 (May/Jun 2005), Reviews, Volume 13

A relative newcomer in the field of Irish Studies journals, the third annual issue of Radharc has just been published (Wordwell Books and Glucksman Ireland House, 164pp, E20, $26, ISSN 15317293). In his preface the editor, Professor Joe Lee, director of New York University’s Glucksman Ireland House, defines Irish Studies in an inclusive manner ‘to encompass the totality of Irish experience insofar as it can be conceived and comprehended by intellect and imagination’. Four of the articles deal with the Irish emigrant experience in relation to Ulster, Scotland and North America, three are concerned with the European Union, while Allen Feldmen (‘Music of the Border: the Northern Fiddler Project, media provenance and the nationalization of Irish music’) explores the relatively uncharted waters (in Irish Studies journals at least) of ethnomusicology. In the first category Tom Devine reviews the striking growth of the field of Irish–Scottish Studies; Kerby Miller (interviewed in HI 13.1, Jan./Feb. 2005) contributes another in his series of seminal studies of the relation between Scots-Irish and Irish identities in America; David Doyle examines the role of Irish élites in the development of liberal democracy in the US and Canada; and Marion Casey probes the paradoxes of memory among, and about, business élites in New York City by a careful sifting of the internal records of the Emigrant Savings Bank and of public comment. In the second category Garret FitzGerald, Fiona Creed and Rosarie McCarthy deal with various aspects of Ireland’s relationship with the European Union.
The issue of IRA collaboration with Nazi Germany has always been a controversial one (see Brian Hanley’s article on Seán Russell in this issue, pp 31–35). Frank Ryan’s role in this has always been a puzzle, given his track record as a socialist and a fighter for Republican Spain. Adrian Hoar’s In Green and Red: the lives of Frank Ryan (Brandon, 300pp, €24.99 hb, ISBN 086322332X) is more sympathetic to its enigmatic subject than Fearghal McGarry’s short biography, Frank Ryan, published in 2002 (reviewed in HI 11.1, Spring 2003) and conforms more to Seán Cronin’s 1979 biography, but with the added advantage of access to sources then unavailable to Cronin.
Also from Brandon is ‘The Irish Zorro’: the extraordinary adventures of William Lamport (1615–59) by Gerard Ronan (332pp, €24.99 hb, ISBN 086322329). History Ireland readers who were interested in Fabio Troncarelli’s article on this remarkable adventurer in our ‘Spanish’ issue (HI 9.3, Autumn 2001) will find here a much fuller treatment. The son of a wealthy Wexford merchant, the child prodigy Lamport was sent to London to be educated. Aged 13, he was arrested for treason after publishing a seditious Latin pamphlet. Following a mysterious escape he was captured by pirates, with whom he served for two years, and fought for the French at the siege of La Rochelle (1628). By 25 he was a protégé of Spain’s Count-Duke of Olivares, had travelled most of the Continent and boasted proficiency in fourteen languages. Sent to Spain as a spy, following a scandalous affair with a young noblewoman at the Spanish court, he was arrested by the Inquisition in October 1642 for plotting a rebellion, the stated aims of which were to introduce land reforms, abolish slavery and establish an independent Mexican state. On Christmas night 1650 he escaped in a manner so brilliantly conceived that it was quickly rumoured that he had been assisted by demons. The pamphlets he posted throughout the city as he fled made him a local legend and inspired the works of several Mexican novelists and playwrights, which in turn were the inspiration for Johnston McCully’s fictional Zorro. But the life and adventures of this pirate, heretic and spy were stranger than any fiction.
The ‘sources’ section of the last three issues of History Ireland have all been concerned with the interpretation of Irish cartoons and caricatures. Readers interested in investigating this topic further might take a look at the recently published book of one of those contributors, Michael de Nie (HI 13.1, Jan./Feb. 2005). The Eternal Paddy: Irish identity and the British press, 1798–1882 (University of Wisconsin Press, 339pp, $50 pb, ISBN 0299186601) contends that chauvinistic notions of Ireland’s racial, class and religious identity were fundamental to British constructions of Paddy and Paddyism and to the hierarchical relationship of Ireland and Britain, and instrumental in how Britons interpreted the Irish question and Irish policy. The Eternal Paddy is part of Wisconsin’s History of Ireland and the Irish Diaspora series edited by James S. Donnelly Jr and Thomas Archdeacon. It is a pity that the publishers chose to reproduce the cartoons against a grey background, which considerably dulls their visual impact.
This is not a problem with Russell McMorran and Maurice O’Keeffe’s A pictorial history of Tralee (Lee Strand Co-operative Creamery Ltd, 216pp, €35 hb, ISBN 0954327438). Its many photographs and illustrations are excellently reproduced. They have even managed to render what were clearly ‘sows’-ears’ smudgy originals into visual ‘silk purses’. All too often, and in spite of advances in print technology, otherwise excellent local publications are let down by substandard image reproductions. But this is more than just a picture book. The chronological linking narrative takes the reader from Neolithic times up to 28 August 1958, when Oakpark Rangers went down narrowly to a German team from Killarney’s Liebherr crane factory:

‘Oakpark were far from downhearted. Like the Irish international teams of the period, who tended to out-play their opponents but score fewer goals, the Tralee players had the consolation of knowing they had won a moral victory.’

Finally, Mentor Books have republished in paperback John McCormack’s A story of Ireland (359pp, €15 pb, ISBN 1842101595) and A story of Dublin (310pp, €15 pb, ISBN 1842100726). Both books consist of a chronological narrative, interspersed with fascinating titbits of information and anecdotes. Did you know that ‘the brewers of beer in Dublin around 1600 were accused of charging twice as much for their products than the price in London’, or that ‘in 1963 Dublin barmen threatened to go on strike in protest at a plan to serve cooked meals in the pubs. They said they were prepared to serve soup, snacks or sandwiches, but no “heavy” meals’? As Michael Caine might say, ‘Not many people know that’.

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