BOOKWORM

Published in Book Reviews, Issue 2 (March/April 2016), Reviews, Volume 24

The Journal of the Old Athlone Society, Vol. III, No. 10 (2015) (Athlone, €22 pb, 194pp).

Diarmuid Ferriter and Susannah Riordan (eds), Years of turbulence: the Irish Revolution and its aftermath, in honour of Michael Laffan (UCD Press, €36 hb, 302pp, ISBN 987910820070).

UCD Press Centenary Classics Series box set, with a series introduction by Fearghal McGarry (UCD Press, €54 pb, 6 vols, ISBN 20098073):
Joseph Johnston, Civil War in Ulster, with an introduction by Roy Johnston and foreword by Tom Garvin; Darrell Figgis, A chronicle of jails, with an introduction by William Murphy; Ernie O’Malley, Rising out: Seán Connolly of Longford, with an introduction by Cormac K.H. O’Malley; P.S. O’Hegarty, The victory of Sinn Féin, with an introduction by Tom Garvin; Padraig de Burca and John F. Boyle, Free State or Republic, with an introduction by Patrick Murray; Mossie Harnet, Victory and woe, with an introduction by James H. Joy.

Lauren Arrington, Revolutionary lives: Constance and Casimir Markievicz (Princeton, £24.95 hb, 294pp, ISBN 9780691161242).

James Franklin, Gerald O. Nolan and Michael Gilchrist, The real Archbishop Mannix, from the sources (Connorcourt, Aus$29.95 pb, 267pp, ISBN 9871925138344).

Marguerite Helmers, Harry Clarke’s war: illustrations for Ireland’s memorial records 1914–1918 (Irish Academic Press, €29.95 hb, 264pp, ISBN 9870716533085).

Ciaran Brady, Shane O’Neill, Historical Association of Ireland, Life and Times New Series (UCD Press, €15.30 pb, 112pp, ISBN 9781910820056).

Nicola Gordon Bowe, Wilhelmina Geddes, life and work (Four Courts Press, €50 hb, 483pp, ISBN 9781846825323).

Hiram Morgan, Ireland 1518: Archduke Ferdinand’s visit to Kinsale and the Dürer connection, with a translation by Dorothy Convery (Crawford Gallery, €23 pb, 128pp, ISBN 9781874756248).

Finola Doyle O’Neill, The Gaybo revolution: how Gay Byrne challenged Irish society (Orpen Press, €17.95 pb, 250pp, ISBN 97819098959-4).

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Exciting studies of the Irish Revolution continue to be produced at an astonishing pace. Changes in the nature of access to archives and advances in print technology have seen much more sophisticated research emerge from both professional historians and less-experienced authors. The Journal of the Old Athlone Society, Vol. III, No. 10 (2015), is a fine example of a local journal with national ambition. This year’s edition represents the proceedings of a conference held in 2011 to examine the Civil War in the midlands. Eleven essays by emerging and experienced historians, including Ian Kenneally, Gavin Foster and Anne Murray, examine a range of social and economic dimensions of the conflict.

Professor Michael Laffan has influenced several generations of emerging historians in University College Dublin. Years of turbulence: the Irish Revolution and its aftermath, in honour of Michael Laffan is edited by Diarmuid Ferriter and Susannah Riordan. Sumptuously produced by UCD Press, the volume consists of twelve essays by former students of Professor Laffan covering some of the more intriguing aspects of the revolutionary period, including the role of the GAA, spies and informers and the Civil War in the west.
Also produced by UCD Press is a timely re-release of its Centenary Classics Series, featuring six first-hand accounts of aspects of the Irish Revolution. These reproductions of seminal works are bound in an outer sleeve, with a series introduction provided by Fearghal McGarry. One small quibble is the lack of design quality, with all six studies sharing the same cover and layout. One assumes, however, that this has kept the price of the reproduction affordable, and this series represents an essential component of any library on the Irish Revolution and an example that other publishers should endeavour to follow.

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The set consists of Civil war in Ulster by Joseph Johnston, originally published in 1913; A chronicle of jails by Darrell Figgis, originally published in 1917; Rising out: Seán Connolly of Longford by Ernie O’Malley, a seminal account of the War of Independence in Leitrim, Roscommon and Longford; The victory of Sinn Féin by P.S. O’Hegarty, originally published in 1924; Free State or Republic by Padraig de Burca and John F. Boyle, which consists of eyewitness reports of the Dáil Éireann debates on the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921; and, finally, Victory and woe by Mossie Harnet, an account of the Civil War in north Munster.

The role of women in the Irish Revolution can no longer be described as forgotten, with a plethora of valuable monographs and edited collections over the last number of years. Lauren Arrington’s Revolutionary lives: Constance and Casimir Markievicz adds to the growing body of knowledge about this endlessly fascinating dimension to the emergence of modern Ireland. Drawing on new archival material, including previously untranslated newspaper articles, Arlington presents Constance Markievicz as a serious thinker, influenced by European political and cultural contemporaries.

The real Archbishop Mannix, from the sources, by James Franklin, Gerald O. Nolan and Michael Gilchrist, examines the life of one of Australia’s most famous Irishmen through his own words and the actions and words of others. For students of the Irish Revolution, this unusual book is a valuable ‘go-to’ source on one of the Republic’s most influential inter-national supporters. On a visit to workers in Broken Hill, New South Wales, in 1922, Mannix proclaimed: ‘Let the Church approve no social order … in which there is a great discrepancy between the luxury and wealth of the privileged few, and the wretchedness and material indigence of the many’—shades of the current pontiff, Pope Francis, perhaps?

Harry Clarke’s war: illustrations for Ireland’s memorial records 1914–1918 by Marguerite Helmers is a beautifully produced and timely reminder of the celebrated artist Harry Clarke and his role in decorating the 108-volume sets that record the names of the 49,435 enlisted Irish men killed in World War I (although the actual figure remains a matter of debate). The book places Clarke’s illustrations centre stage in the text and examines the process that led to the commissioning of the records.

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Shane O’Neill by Ciaran Brady has been re-released as part of UCD Press’s Historical Association of Ireland, Life and Times New Series. These studies have proven invaluable to students seeking an introduction to seminal Irish historical figures, and this brief overview of the career of one of the sixteenth century’s most intriguing characters is the perfect starting point for anyone wishing to get to grips with a turbulent period in Irish history.
Nicola Gordon Bowe’s Wilhelmina Geddes, life and work examines an almost forgotten figure in contemporary Irish art. Wilhelmina Geddes (1887–1955) was a vital figure in the Irish Arts and Crafts movement and, in particular, the British stained glass revival. Sumptuously illustrated, and running to almost 500 pages, the book has been supported by the Heritage Council.

Gaybo

On 6 June 1518, Archduke Ferdinand of Habsburg arrived in Kinsale after his fleet was forced to land in Ireland because of stormy weather. The prince’s remarkable four-day visit has been neglected because so much orginal comment was in Old French. Ireland 1518: Archduke Ferdinand’s visit to Kinsale and the Dürer connection, by Hiram Morgan, with a translation by Dorothy Convery, is a beautifully illustrated account of the episode produced by the Crawford Gallery in Cork, replete with lavish production designs.

Bookworm is honoured to give the final word in this edition to Gaybo! Love him or loathe him, Gay Byrne was one of the most powerful figures in contemporary Ireland for several decades. Finola Doyle O’Neill’s The Gaybo revolution: how Gay Byrne challenged Irish society will have a wide appeal; it examines the many controversies that shocked the nation, including the ‘bishop and the nightie’ affair (there was no nightie!), the Ann Lovett letters, and interviews with Gerry Adams, P. Flynn and Terry Keane, among others.

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