Bookworm

Published in Book Reviews, Issue 6 (Nov/Dec 2010), Reviews, Volume 18

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‘MARRIED WOMAN GETS DEGREE’ was the immortal headline in a Mayo newspaper in 1955 when local woman Sheila Mulloy (née O’Malley) was awarded a Ph.D for her research on correspondence between France and Ireland during the Williamite War. Over the following years she raised eight children yet still found time to edit and index the work (finally published in three volumnes in 1983–4), edit Cathair na Mart, the journal of the Westport Historical Society, and contribute to various other journals and books. Her latest edited collection is Victory or glorious defeat: biographies of participants in the Mayo rebellion of 1798 (Original Writing, 312pp, E17, ISBN 9781907179754), in which she profiles James Joseph MacDonnell, John Moore of Moorehall and Father Manus Sweeney, while John Cooney deals with General Humbert, C.J. Woods with Bartholomew Teeling, and Conor MacHale with Baron James O’Dowda. On the loyalist side, Denis Browne of Westport House is profiled by Desmond McCabe, Bishop Joseph Stock by Patrick Comerford, and General Lake by James Quinn. In addition, Ruan O’Donnell writes on Mayo rebels in Australia and Guy Beiner on rebels in folk history.

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One of the articles in John Quealy’s miscellany of poetry and local history, Down by the chapel gate in Cooraclare (Choice Publishing, 116pp, €12, ISBN 97819071071460), corroborates the detective work of Eoin Shanahan (‘Telling tales: the story of the burial alive and drowning of a Clare RM’, HI 18.1, Jan./Feb. 2010), whose discovery of a death certificate established beyond doubt that local RM Captain Alan Cane Ledrum in fact died of gunshot wounds in 1920. According to John Quealy, even that death was unintended. The original intention of the four IRA volunteers involved was to relieve Ledrum of incriminating information, his guns and his car.

 

Rob Goodbody’s The metals: from Dalkey to Dún Laoghaire (Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council, 134pp, €10, ISBN 9780955782930) relates to the 4.75km route of a railway line (hence ‘metals’) that in the early nineteenth century conveyed granite from Dalkey’s quarries to the harbour being built at Kingstown. It is the perfect short cut since it was laid out long before anything of substance was built around it and cuts through areas that a pedestrian would otherwise have to go around (very important in a neighbourhood notorious for litigious boundary disputes!). But this is considerably more than just a rambler’s guide and includes biographies of the key figures involved, discussions of technology, industrial relations and living conditions. It is also beautifully illustrated, often in full colour.

 

Fancy a roasted calf’s head, or a pig baked in a pan, or black cherry beer? Then check out Mary Cannon’s commonplace book: an Irish kitchen in the 1700s (Lilliput Press, 158pp, E15, ISBN 9781843511854), a miscellany of 300-year-old recipes edited by a descendant, Majorie Quarton, and illustrated by another descendant, Alice Bouilliez. In addition, there are fragments of family history, from Jacobite leaders and Huguenot refugees to tales of the Indian Mutiny.
Fenian authors feature in the two most recent publications in University College Dublin Press’s ‘Classics in Irish History’ series (general editor Tom Garvin). A mingling of swans (318pp, €24/£20, ISBN 9781906359003), edited by Mairead Maume, Patrick Maume and Mary Casey, is a collection of the correspondence, newspaper articles and notebooks of Cork Fenian John Sarsfield Casey, transported to Western Australia in 1865. Edited and introduced by Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre, For the liberty of Ireland at home and abroad (168pp, €20/£17, ISBN 9781904558996) is the autobiography of J.F.X. O’Brien, a Waterford Fenian jailed in 1867 but amnestied in 1869. Like many republicans since, O’Brien made the transition to constitutional nationalism, becoming a Home Rule MP and treasurer of the Irish Parliamentary Party from 1885 until 1905. UCD Press has also taken over publication of the Historical Association of Ireland’s ‘Life and Times New Series’ (originally published by Dundalgan Press) and have reissued Fearghal McGarry’s Frank Ryan (114pp, €17/£14, ISBN 9781906359362), originally reviewed in HI 11.1 (Spring 2003) by Manus O’Riordan.

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It is very unusual for a book to be re-published twice in the same year, but such is the case with With the IRA in the fight for freedom, 1919 to the truce: the red path of glory (Mercier Press, 448pp, €19.99, ISBN 9781856356879). Nine of the 37 essays, originally published by The Kerryman in the 1940s, have also been brought together by the Belfast Historical and Educational Society under the title The Anglo-Irish War (196pp, ISBN 9781872078144), with a 64-page introduction by Brendan Clifford. In a thankfully short (three-page) introduction to the Mercier book Gabriel Doherty observes that:

 

‘It is an oblique commentary on the evolution of elite attitudes within the independent Irish state since the 1970s that some would now be tempted to dismiss the work out of hand . . . [because] . . . it is an unreconstructed, one-dimensional expression of a narrow republican interpretation of the “Irish question” as it stood in the early to mid-twentieth century . . . but from a historiographical point of view that adds to, rather than diminishes, its interest and significance. It is an excellent—one might say classic—example of the dominant school of writing on the War of Independence during the middle decades of the twentieth century . . . [and] . . . provides useful insights into that still grossly under-researched topic in Irish history: mentalité.’

 

It’s a pity that, unlike the BHES book, it doesn’t list the authors of the essays on the contents page. Both books are indexed.
And finally, if you’re looking for a coffee-table book with a historical theme to fill a Christmas stocking (How can you fit a coffee-table book into a stocking?—Ed.), look no further than Tarquin Blake’s Abandoned mansions of Ireland (Collins Press, 348pp, €27.99/£24.99, ISBN 9781848890619), a sumptuous full-colour compendium of 51 ruined ‘big houses’ spread over 21 counties. HI

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