Ireland—A Short History, Johnny Connolly, Tommy Graham and Mícheál Ó Siochrú. (Historical Insights Ireland, cassette £6.99, CD £9.99)

Published in 18th–19th - Century History, 20th-century / Contemporary History, Book Reviews, Early Modern History (1500–1700), Issue 2 (Summer 2000), Medieval History (pre-1500), Northern Ireland 1920 - present, Pre-history / Archaeology, Pre-Norman History, Reviews, Volume 8

Historical Insights Ireland has been organising historical walking tours Dublin for ten years or more. The walks commence at the front gate of Trinity College and are led by history graduates of the college. During the leisurely two-hour perambulation from Trinity to the old parliament (Bank of Ireland), Temple Bar, Dublin Castle, Christchurch and the Four Courts, the history of Ireland from the arrival of St Patrick in the fifth century AD to the recent Good Friday Agreement is concisely dealt with. From October to April there are tours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 12 noon; from May to September there are two tours per day (11am and 3pm), every day.
My wife and I attended a recent Saturday walk. About seventy people showed up and were divided into two groups, each with a historian to lead and to instruct. Many visitors were from the United Kingdom, with some Americans and a scattering from the Continent and from further afield. The walk was really in the nature of a peripatetic seminar with some audience participation, mostly by way of questions. The otherwise non-stop dissertation of the leader covered to a remarkable degree all the major historical events over the past fifteen centuries.
At the end of the walk, I spoke to several visitors, an American, an Italian from Milan, and a few English. All expressed their appreciation of the talk and were pleased to have gained an insight for the first time into the complex and sometimes arcane story of our country. However, having gained this understanding of our country’s history, I expect it would be difficult for many to retain their new insights without some form of reinforcement. This has now been provided by a cassette tape and CD issued by Historical Insights Ireland which in the course of sixty minutes conveys almost word for word the contents of the walking seminar.
There were few Irish attending the recent walk, but there is little doubt that most Irish people would greatly benefit by listening to this tape/CD. It provides an excellent framework for one’s understanding of Irish history, and clarifies the long-standing and often misunderstood relations which existed since the time of the Norman invasion between Ireland, its neighbouring island, and the Continent. I do not think the text could be bettered in terms of historical relevance and continuity.
Four songs by Karan Casey (formerly of the traditional Irish-American group, Solas) are included which evoke the travails of the native Irish during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The lyrics are reproduced in the sleeve notes, which should prove particularly useful to foreigners, who may not readily understand her monotonic sean- nós style. According to the narrator, Michael Collins led the War of Independence (he did not; Richard Mulcahy was the military head and Cathal Brugha was the political head). It is also stated that Collins led the delegates to the Treaty negotiations in October 1921 (he did not; Arthur Griffith did). These errors are commonly repeated, even by some of our leading historians. Apart from these caveats, the text is clear, concise, authoritative and objective about every aspect of our history, including recent events in the North.

Risteárd Mulcahy


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