Bookworm

Published in Issue 4 (July/August 2014), Reviews, Volume 22

John Dennehy
In a time of war: Tipperary 1914–1918 (Merrion, €19.95 pb, 288pp, ISBN 9781908928214).

James Durney
In a time of war: Kildare 1914–1918 (Merrion, €19.95 pb, 288pp, ISBN 9781908928856, August 2014).

Mark Cronin
Blackpool to the front: a Cork suburb and Ireland’s Great War, 1914–1918 (Collins Press, €14.99 pb, 264pp, ISBN 9781848891951).

Ken Kinsella
Out of the dark, 1914–1918: South Dubliners who fell in the Great War (Merrion, €22.95 pb, 450pp, ISBN 978-190892).

Terence Denman
Ireland’s unknown soldiers: the 16th (Irish) Division in the Great War (Irish Academic Press, €22.95 pb, 216pp, ISBN 9780716532583, July 2014).

Myles Dungan
Irish voices from the Great War (Irish Academic Press, €19.95 pb, 280pp, ISBN 9781908928801, July 2014).

Stephen Sandford
Neither unionist nor nationalist: the 10th (Irish) Division in the Great War (Irish Academic Press, €24.95 pb, 280pp, ISBN 9780716532613, August 2014).

Eugene P. Ryan (ed.)
Haig’s medical officer: the papers of Colonel Eugene ‘Micky’ Ryan (Pen and Sword, £19.99 hb, 222pp, ISBN 1781593167).

Trevor Parkhill (ed.)
The First World War diaries of Emma Duffin, Belfast Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse (Four Courts Press, €29.95 hb, 240pp, ISBN 9781846825224, July 2014).

A.W. Zurbrugg (ed.)
Not our war: writings against the First World War (Merlin Press, £12.95, 276pp, ISBN 9780850366143).

Patrick S. Dinneen
The queen of the hearth (ed. Philip O’Leary, UCD Press, €20 pb, 122pp, ISBN 9781906359720).
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Books about Ireland and the ‘Great War’ can broadly be divided into two categories: studies of the Irish at war and studies of the Irish ‘home front’ (though the two are bound to overlap). Irish Academic Press and its trade imprint, Merrion, have lined up an impressive array of publications in both categories. Last year they published the first of what is intended to be an ongoing series: John Dennehy’s In a time of war: Tipperary 1914–1918. In this evocative account of how the war impacted on a single county, Dennehy digs up some interesting nuggets on mainstream nationalist views on the war. There was strong support in Tipperary for John Redmond’s call to enlist, though the fact that this involved joining the British Army did cause some consternation. Thus Redmondite MPs emphasised that this was a war against Germany, and that if Ireland shirked its part it might meet the fate of Belgium. Recruiters continually made the point that it was worth enlisting to fight the Germans, on the grounds that they were much worse than the English ever were. The same recruiters were often scathing of another unfamiliar villain: the farmer’s son who allegedly shirked his duty in order to stay at home and profit from the war. Tipperary housed both German POWs and Belgian refugees, so the war was by no means out of sight and out of mind. On a lighter note, travellers who have had the grim experience of changing trains at Limerick Junction might be interested in the fact, revealed in this fascinating book, that between January 1916 and November 1918 some 339,233 were served at a free buffet opened for soldiers at Limerick Junction. Would that such a facility existed in 2014!

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A similar account of the impact of the war is to be found in the companion volume to Dennehy’s book: James Durney’s In a time of war: Kildare 1914–18. Given the presence of the Curragh Camp, the relationship between the military and civilian society in Kildare is a key theme of Durney’s book. It also contains a sombre account of the human cost of the war as it was felt in Kildare, in terms both of bereavement and of the wounded and traumatised survivors who were a regular feature of Irish life for decades after 1918. This is the second in the series; further works are planned, on Cork, Dublin and Galway respectively. More localised accounts of Irish involvement in the war are found in Mark Cronin’s Blackpool to the front: a Cork suburb and Ireland’s Great War, 1914–1918—an account of how the war impacted on the industrial suburb of Blackpool in Cork City, and of the men of the locality who enlisted—and in Ken Kinsella’s Out of the dark, 1914–1918: South Dubliners who fell in the Great War.

Irish Academic Press have also reissued two seminal works on the war: Terence Denman’s Ireland’s unknown soldiers and Myles Dungan’s Irish voices from the Great War. The latter work, originally published in 1995, was largely based on the testimonies of Irish veterans retained by RTÉ and in the Imperial War Museum, along with other British repositories. Focusing on key campaigns in which Irish soldiers were involved—Gallipoli, the Somme, Messines, the 1918 offensives on the Western Front—it remains a vivid and engagingly human work that serves as an excellent introduction to the Irish experience of the war. Denman’s work, originally published in 1992, took as its subject the institutional history of the 16th Division, one of the three ‘Irish’ divisions raised as part of the New Armies in 1914. This is to be joined by Stephen Sandford’s Neither unionist nor nationalist: the 10th (Irish) Division in the Great War. Those curious about the third part of the picture need not worry: Timothy Bowman is currently working on a history of the 36th (Ulster) Division.

Yet not every Irish link to the war has a unique relevance to Ireland. Eugene Ryan was born in Cork—20 miles from Beál na Blath—in 1873. Having joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1901, in 1916 he became personal physician to Field Marshal Douglas Haig. His experience of the war is revealed in Haig’s medical officer: the papers of Colonel Eugene ‘Micky’ Ryan, edited by Eugene P. Ryan. As Haig’s biographer, Gary Sheffield, notes in the introduction, ‘Ryan’s papers are interesting for two principal reasons: the light they shed on Douglas Haig as a man and a general, and for the insights they give into the work of a Royal Army Medical Corps officer on the Western Front’. But an insight into the human costs lower down the ranks is revealed in The First World War diaries of Emma Duffin, Belfast Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse, edited by Trevor Parkhill. Duffin was born in Belfast (a great-granddaughter of William Drennan) and served as a nurse in Egypt and northern France, tending to the wounded of Gallipoli and the Western Front.

One should not forget those Irish voices that spoke out against the war: the most famous is that of James Connolly, who is represented in Not our war: writings against the First World War, edited by A.W. Zurbrugg. This anthology of contemporary anti-war writings, largely from a left-wing perspective, is a reminder that opposition to the war was to be found across Europe and was not just the province of Irish republicans.

Finally, the war also prompted some individuals to reflect on how the world might be changed utterly. One was the great Irish-language scholar Patrick S. Dinneen. Philip O’Leary’s (ed.) The queen of the hearth is a previously unpublished work by Dineen, a relentlessly reactionary tract written during the war in which he argues that the place of Irish women was the home: a response to the emancipation of women that he feared might follow the war, or a bitter taste of what was to come in independent Ireland?

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