Bookworm

Published in Issue 1 (January/February 2015), Reviews, Volume 23

Angélique Day, Glimpses of Ireland’s past: the Ordnance Survey memoir drawings: topography and technique (Royal Irish Academy, €30 pb, 350pp, ISBN 9781908996459).

Garret Fitzgerald, Irish primary education in the early nineteenth century: an analysis of the first and second reports of the Commissioners of Irish Education Inquiry, 1825–6 (Royal Irish Academy, €35 hb, 180pp, ISBN 9781908996213).

Sparky Booker and Cherie N. Peters (eds), Tales of medieval Dublin (Four Courts Press, €24.95 pb/€45 hb, 228pp, ISBN 9781846824975).

Dublin Historical Record (Vol. LXVII, Spring 2014, Old Dublin Society, €14, 110pp).

Anghus Dwane, Donal Caird, Church of Ireland bishop, Gaelic churchman: a life (Columba Press, €19.99 hb, 246pp, ISBN 9781782181781).

Jerome Lordan, No flowers on a sailor’s grave (Old Head Press, €16.99, 144pp, ISBN 9780992945404).

Mount Trenchard Memorial Committee (ed.), Remembering Limerick’s gun-runners (€8, 62pp).

Cal McCarthy, Cumann na mBan and the Irish revolution (Collins Press, €12.99 pb, 320pp, ISBN 9781848892224).

Liz Gillis, Women of the Irish revolution: a photographic history (Mercier Press, €30 hb, 240pp, ISBN 9781781172056).

Cormac Ó Comhraí, Ireland and the First World War: a photographic history (Mercier Press, €30 hb, 288pp, ISBN 9781781172483).

Michael B. Barry, The Green divide: an illustrated history of the Irish Civil War (Andalus Press, €25 hb, 192pp, ISBN 9780956038364).

Shane Kenna, 16 Lives: Thomas MacDonagh (O’Brien Press, €12.99 pb, ISBN 9781847173362).

Mary Gallagher, 16 Lives: Eamonn Ceannt (O’Brien Press, €12.99 pb, 400pp, ISBN 9781847172716).

Cormac K.H. O’Malley and Vincent Keane (eds), The men will talk to me: Mayo interviews by Ernie O’Malley (Mercier Press, €19.99 pb, 352pp, ISBN 9781781172063).

Francis Devine (ed.), The Irish neutrality league and the imperialist war, 1914–18 (PANA, €5 pb, 46pp).
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The Royal Irish Academy publishes very attractive books. Alongside Michael Laffan’s new biography of W.T. Cosgrave (reviewed elsewhere in this issue), they have also released Angélique Day’s Glimpses of Ireland’s past: the Ordnance Survey memoir drawings: topography and technique. Day previously oversaw the publication of the unpublished Ordnance Survey ‘memoirs’, the narrative accounts that were originally intended to accompany the maps in the 1830s. The original memoir project was eventually abandoned, but not before it had covered most of Ulster. Glimpses of Ireland’s past compiles the previously unpublished sketches of artefacts, people and places in the counties of Antrim, Cavan, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, Monaghan and Tyrone that were meant to accompany the memoirs. This beautifully produced and scholarly anthology offers a wonderful visual account of pre-Famine Ulster. This focus on the early nineteenth century means that we must also take belated notice of the late Garret Fitzgerald’s Irish primary education in the early nineteenth century, another RIA volume that publishes the former taoiseach’s meticulous study of the 1824 Commission of Irish Education Inquiry. Copiously illustrated with maps and tables, and augmented by essays by Gillian O’Brien and Cormac Ó Gráda, this anatomy of Irish education on the eve of the foundation of the national school system makes a notable contribution to the social history of pre-Famine Ireland.

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Tales of medieval Dublin, edited by Sparky Booker and Cherie N. Peters, has its origins in the enormously popular monthly lunchtime lecture series of the same name organised by the Friends of Medieval Dublin and Dublin City Council in 2010–13. It contains fourteen of the original 21 lectures, each of which explored the life of medieval Dublin through the true stories of an archetypal character: a saint, a skeleton, a slave, a mother, a crusader, a knight and a poet, amongst others. This attractive and lively collection is an ideal introduction to its subject. The Spring 2014 issue of the Dublin Historical Record deals with later eras, and includes articles on entertainments laid on for the duke of Ormond in 1684, the fate of cannon from the Crimean War, sympathetic strikes during the 1913 Lockout and the founding of the Irish Volunteers in the Rotunda Hall in the same year. The remarkable career of one of the more recent Anglican bishops of Dublin is explored in Aonghus Dwane’s Donal Caird, Church of Ireland bishop, Gaelic churchman: a life. His tenure from 1986 to 1996 coincided with major political and social upheavals North and South. Caird is a Gaeilgeoir who taught and ministered in unionist East Belfast before rising through the ranks of the Anglican episcopate. From Peig Sayers and C.S. Lewis to Pope John Paul II and Desmond Tutu, Caird encountered them all.

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Readers of John R. Thullier’s book on Kinsale (mentioned in our last issue) might be interested in Jerome Lordan’s No flowers on a sailor’s grave, an attractive book detailing many of the shipwrecks to be found in the adjacent waters. A rather different slice of seafaring life is the subject of the Mount Trenchard Memorial Committee’s Remembering Limerick’s gun-runners (the Kelpie, the other yacht involved in the Howth gunrunning, set out from Foynes on the Shannon estuary). Alongside the Howth and Kilcoole gunrunnings, the other major republican centenary in 2014 was the foundation of Cumann na mBan. Cal McCarthy’s Cumann na mBan and the Irish revolution was originally published in 2007 but a revised second edition has now appeared; it makes a welcome contribution to our understanding of the role of women in the Irish revolution. This is also the subject of Liz Gillis’s expansive Women of the Irish revolution, one of two large photographic histories of the revolutionary period published by Mercier Press; the other is Cormac Ó Comhraí’s Ireland and the First World War. Both of these large-format books are copiously illustrated and well written, with far more substantial texts than is usually the case with such volumes. Each makes a very valuable contribution to the period by showcasing a remarkably diverse and striking range of images; for that, and for the quality of the accompanying texts, these deserve a wide readership. But one has to query the quality of some of the images: admittedly, photos don’t always age well, but there are images in both books that seem poorly reproduced, and none are in colour. This is more of an issue with Ó Comhraí’s book, given that it reproduces contemporary recruiting posters: surely colour versions of these could have been provided? Compare this with the crisp colour and black-and-white images to be found in Michael Barry’s The Green divide: an illustrated history of the Irish Civil War. This is a superb production from a much smaller publishing house and reveals the Civil War in extraordinary visual detail.

The latest of the O’Brien Press ‘16 Lives’ series came out last October and tackle two of the lesser-known signatories of the 1916 Proclamation: Shane Kenna’s Thomas MacDonagh and Mary Gallagher’s Eamonn Ceannt. The series should be complete by Easter 2016 (ten books done, six to go). Another series on the Irish Revolution continues to work its way up the west coast: following volumes on Kerry and Galway, there is The men will talk to me: Mayo interviews by Ernie O’Malley, edited by Cormac K.H. O’Malley and Vincent Keane, based on the copious notes of interviews with veterans conducted by O’Malley and now housed in UCD.

Finally, the (understandable) upsurge of interest in Ireland and the First World War seems to have overlooked those Irish people who in 1914–18 actively opposed the war (see Angus Mitchell’s piece in our July–August WWI issue). The Irish neutrality league and the imperialist war, edited by Francis Devine, goes some way towards rectifying this omission by gathering together a wide range of voices to explore how the war was opposed in Ireland and the implications for republicans and the labour movement, both very vocal constituencies who opposed the war and Ireland’s role in it. There are also articles on the peace movements in Britain and Germany. All in all, an admirable and illuminating read.

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