Published in Issue 2 (March/April 2015), Reviews, Volume 23

Robert Savage, Seán Lemass (UCD Press, €17 pb, 128pp, ISBN 9781906359874).
The Lensman, The 1980s: Ireland in pictures (O’Brien Press, €14.99 pb, 176pp, ISBN 9781847173218).
Orla and Terry Kelly with Michael Lenihan, Cork in the 1960s (Mercier Press, €29.99 hb, 240pp, ISBN 9781781172490).
Paul Duffy, Galway City: snapshots through time (Currach Press, €19.99 pb, 128pp, ISBN 9781782188384).
Seán Duffy (ed.), Medieval Dublin XIV: proceedings of the Friends of Medieval Dublin symposium 2012 (Four Courts Press, €24.95 pb, 312pp, ISBN 9781846824999).
James Joyce: apocalypse and exile (Marsh’s Library, €10 pb, 96pp).
Joseph Brady, Dublin, 1930–1950: the emergence of the modern city (Four Courts Press, €29.95 pb, 498pp, ISBN 9781846825200).
Ciarán Reilly, Strokestown and the Great Irish Famine (Four Courts Press, €17.50 pb, 228pp, ISBN 9781846825545).
Gerard MacAtasney, The dead buried by the dying: the Great Famine in Leitrim (Merrion, €24.95 pb, 304pp, ISBN 9781908928504).
Jonathan Bell and Mervyn Watson, Irish farming life: history and heritage (Four Courts Press, €24.95 pb, 224pp, ISBN 9781846825316).
Barry Kennerk, Temple Street Children’s Hospital: an illustrated history (New Island, €24.99 hb, 224pp, ISBN 9781848403895).
Maria Luddy and James M. Smith (eds), Children, childhood and Irish society, 1500 to the present (Four Courts Press, €65 hb, 448pp, ISBN 9781846825255).


Viewers of RTÉ’s recent series Charlie (reviewed elsewhere in this issue) might have been bemused by the absence of the Haughey family. But while Haughey himself got a mini-series, his father-in-law gets a biography: Robert J. Savage’s Seán Lemass. The vaguely curmudgeonly Lemass is generally held in high regard, thanks to the perception that as taoiseach in the 1960s he dragged Ireland into the modern era, pipe clenched firmly in teeth. The undoubted achievements of this legendarily pragmatic politician are teased out in this new addition to the UCD ‘Life and Times new series’ (the first edition of which was published in 1999). Unusually, it takes a thematic structure, usefully examining Lemass’s career in terms of economic policy, church–state relations, Anglo-Irish relations, and even the introduction of TV! An intriguing visual account of Lemass’s Ireland (or one part of it) is provided by Cork in the 1960s (compiled by Orla and Terry Kelly with Michael Lenihan), a handsome and well-produced anthology of images taken by Anthony Barry (a former lord mayor of Cork and member of the eponymous tea dynasty). And while on the subject of Irish cities, a novel take on the genre of photo-histories is provided by Paul Duffy’s Galway City: snapshots through time, which covers the history of Galway and Salthill from the 1890s to the 1960s through postcards. It is a companion to the same author’s Galway: history on a postcard (mentioned here in 2013), which took the same approach for County Galway. Duffy’s new book is an attractive and novel modern history of the ‘city of the tribes’. A more recent era is revealed in the latest anthology of images from the Lensman Photographic Archive: The 1980s: Ireland in pictures. While pride of place on the cover goes to Jack Charlton rather than Charlie Haughey, the latter pops up in quite a few images, but a great deal of Irish life is here: from the Heinz baby of the year to the Stardust fire. It makes for another impressive addition to the series: roll on the 1990s.


There were no photographers in the Middle Ages, but that keeps archaeologists in a job. Their activities feature prominently in Medieval Dublin XIV, edited by Seán Duffy. The latest instalment in this ongoing series contains articles on excavations in Meeting House Square and at St Patrick’s Cathedral, along with studies of, amongst other things, everyday life in Viking Dublin and the Viking take on the Battle of Clontarf. Another, less regular series on Dublin from the same publisher gains a new addition in the form of Joseph Brady’s Dublin 1930–1950: the emergence of the modern city. This substantial study tackles a neglected but significant era in the history of the capital: the post-independence decades in which the new suburbs began to emerge. Amongst its pages are intriguing accounts of shopping and tourism in the capital in the same period, subjects that don’t always get a look-in. Mention should also be made of the latest publication from an eighteenth-century institution: James Joyce: apocalypse and exile, the most recent exhibition catalogue from Marsh’s Library. It takes as its subject the myriad medieval and early modern books that James Joyce is likely to have read there when he visited in 1902; unfortunately there is no record of what exactly he looked at, but a close reading of his fiction gives some clues. Either way, this attractive catalogue makes for an interesting excursion into Irish and European intellectual history. The exhibition itself runs until June 2015.


There was much indignation recently at the news that Channel 4 was contemplating the production of a comedy set during the Great Famine. Regardless of what one thinks of the idea, it got people talking about the Famine, which hopefully spurred some people to find out more about it. For those interested in doing so, Ciarán Reilly’s Strokestown and the Great Irish Famine is as good a place to start as any. Strokestown in Roscommon is the home of the National Famine Museum, located in Strokestown Park House. The house also comes with an exceptionally rich archive of over 50,000 items belonging to the Mahon family, the former occupants (one of whom, Major Denis Mahon, was shot dead in 1847, apparently owing to his predilection for evicting tenants). Reilly’s book describes itself as an introduction to the archive but it also serves as a very impressive micro-history that covers a great deal. It should be said that Four Courts Press have done a very impressive job of producing this beautiful and copiously illustrated study. Alongside this, Gerard MacAtasney’s The dead buried by the dying: the Great Famine in Leitrim offers a comprehensive and scholarly account of the impact of the Famine in a neighbouring county. We should also give an honourable mention to Jonathan Bell and Mervyn Watson’s Irish farming life: history and heritage, which offers an engaging social and cultural history of Irish rural life through a study of the family farm.


Finally, in recent years the abuse of Irish children throughout the twentieth century under the auspices of church and state has been an issue that rears its head with depressing frequency. A more edifying aspect of children’s experience in modern Ireland is explored in Barry Kennerk’s Temple Street Children’s Hospital: an illustrated history. A more specialised academic anthology on the same broad subject is Children, childhood and Irish society, 1500 to the present, edited by Maria Luddy and James M. Smith, which contains a diverse range of studies on child welfare, the representation of children and children’s education in modern Ireland.


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