It is a grey Saturday December 1st and like someone who has not swam for some time I am tentatively beginning to place my toe back into the writing pool. What distance, if any, it swims we’ll see but if you are reading this then I’ve stayed in, splashing at the keyboard with all thumbs for fingers. ‘Tread softly for you tread on my dreams’.
Books, Books and more Books
I love books and I especially like those which touch on sport and local history. There are always subjects to be written about and luckily there are people who will do that.
‘We Are the Survivors’ Barry Feely.
On Friday November 16th I attended the launch by Dr. Jason King of the Irish heritage Trust of Barry Feely’s important book ‘We Are The Survivors’ Boyle Workhouse and Emigration in Famine Times’. The book while focussing on the regional experience of the greatest trauma in Irish History gives a focussed view of a national disaster. While there was a population decline of nearly two million people in a very short time from 1845 to 1852 through emigration and death by starvation, up to six million people actually survived employing a considerable range of initiatives which Barry explores. ‘We are the Survivors’ of the survivors who were our grandparents and great-grandparents. Boyle Workhouse the remains of which existed from 1842 to the late sixties played a central role in all that. A rare unanswerable question that I have is; while the Workhouses are stigmatised as locations of horror and death what would have happened if they had not been there as an infrastructure of assistance during the high Famine years?
Probably the most poignant story in Barry’s book is the journey of two groups of young girls to Australia under The Early Grey Scheme and their subsequent lives in that then very distant country. Barry used all possible sources to unearth relevant material for his work from Workhouse Minute Books, local newspapers, Australian records to his brother Joe in tracing long deserted homesteads. Dr. King a native of Canada was a very appropriate individual in launching the book as Canada was one of the great recipient countries of those fleeing from the horror and his launch address captured to essence of the book and its significance clearly.
So congratulations to Barry on a huge achievement and it has been enthusiastically received by general and academic readers alike.
‘The Landed Estates of County Roscommon’ by Paul Connolly from Mount Talbot near Ballygar.
This was launched in Gleeson’s in Roscommon on November 3rd and I recommend it also. Its central focus lies with the four Big Houses that have survived in the county, Strokestown Park House, Clanalis House of the O’Connors in Castlerea; King House and Castlecoote House with which I am familiar. It is a beautifully illustrated book with a myriad of photographs old and new. These include a large number on what may be referred to as the lesser houses such as the Conmee House in Kingsland. While the big houses are secure a number of the 'lesser houses' are an endangered species. In photographing these for the record Paul has done a historians duty. I believe Paul will be in Boyle soon and again next summer so there will an opportunity to share his enthusiasm and be prompted to look again at the ‘lesser houses’ with a necessary curiosity.
Ballintober Old Graveyard & The Grave Memorials of County Roscommon by Mary B. Timoney
Mary and her husband archaeologist Martin live in Keash and are pretty visible around Boyle. Martin was a classmate of mine in UCG and we involved in the founding there of an Archaeology Club. This book has a confusing title but the reason for it being that Mary began with a project on Ballintober and it expanded over the years to include all Roscommon. It is a major work (for the ages as it were) on headstone decoration and meaning going back to the 1600s. Graveyards/Churchyards are a source of multiple artistic displays. When we go to a graveyard we invariably look at the names but there too are represented the skills of generations of craftsmen and this continues. We should be well aware of this in Boyle. Headstones are statements and memorials now. In famine times simple rough stones were the humble markers. Perhaps my own might have the caption ‘could have done better’. Anyway one has to commend Mary Timoney on this majestic niche book.
‘Through the eyes of Margaret Cousins…Irish & Indian Suffragette by Dr. Keith Munroe (a relation of hers). (Tuesday Dec. 4th at 7 in King House)
This book is well flagged here on the homepage of realboyle (scroll down). We have become more aware of this remarkable woman from our town through the plaque on The Crescent and Marie Paul Egan’s championing of her with various talks at the Arts Festival et al. It is well for us to be aware of her particularly this December the Centenary of the eventual access of women to ‘THE VOTE’ in 1918 which elected the first lady to Westminster Countess Markievicz in December 1918. Margaret Cousins was there in the early days being at the forefront in Suffragette campaigns to achieve such rights.
Roscommon History and Society… Launch Wed. Dec. 12th @ Roscommon County Council Office @ 6.30
This book will be launched on Wednesday December 12th at 6.30 in the County Council H.Q Roscommon town. It is a very substantial volume covering as it does from Archaeological times to the present - a once off - an important book of reference for Roscommon with Keadue resident and academic Kieran O’Connor as one of the Editors. There is a bevy -75% I'd guess, of top academic writers with essays on their specialist subjects and some peasants like myself. My contribution is a twenty page summary of Roscommon GAA’s great years of the forties including photographs.
I was going to let a few people know about the launch but after I enquired as to the price I shied away from that. It comes in at the challenging price of circa €60!
So I assume that it will be a library or college book and is part of a national series of county histories. I am looking forward to seeing how it turns out - 1000 words.
A very good place to get local history books including all of the above is in the Una Bhan shop at the entrance to King House.
(I thought I might refer to the An Post Book Awards which was transmitted in RTE on Thursday night but you have enough to be considering in above for now. Suffice to say that women writers shone through and that there is a multitude of books to choose from. There is an ongoing vote there for ‘The Irish book of the Year. I was very pleased to see that there was a Mayo winner for the Sports Book of the Year and it was that legend of a footballer Cora Staunton with her book ‘Game Changer’. I may get back to those awards anon.)
SOME HIGHLIGHTS OF THE YEAR GONE
I was thinking of what I might write about and jotted down a few ideas on the wall beside the phone. I suppose every year has so much happening that one needs to keep on top of it all. The newspapers and television will ‘reel’ all that in the end of December editions.
Brexit of course is top of the charts with ‘Don’t keep breaking my heart’.
The commemorations of the end of World War 1. The vandalism of the ‘Haunting Soldier’ sculpture in St. Stephen’s Green.
Sports, the World Cup/ The Ryder Cup/ Limerick winning the hurling/ Dublin’s football brilliance/ Ireland’s rugby team reaching for the stars/ Boyle girls minors and under 16s big wins/Boys minor and under 14s/ the march of FUERTY to the county intermediate title and contesting the Connacht final.
So many deaths including great musicians;
Alec Finn the Yorkshire man who became a unique part of a great Irish band De Dannan. Alec lived in Oranmore in Galway and was ‘knocking around Galway city when I was there studying!
Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin founder of Irish World Academy of Music and one of Ireland’s best-known composers. A pioneering musician and composer and brought traditional music in from the cold to be a part of the university music curriculum at The University of Limerick
Liam O Flynn brilliant uilleann piper and member of many groups including Plantxy which was managed back in the day, if I remember correctly, by Boyle resident Kevin Flynn. Liam also collaborated with the poet Seamus Heaney.
Sonny Knowles beloved of Dubliners.
Tommy Peoples great Donegal traditional musician domiciled in Clare.
**As I conclude for now, I send my congratulations to Kevin Tiernan who married Anne Lynch in Galway yesterday. I wish you both well. Not many people remember that Kevin played in Croke Park once. I forget if it was All-Ireland Final or Semi-final day.
Boyle GAA AGM at 7 o’clock on Sunday Dec. 2nd.
P.S. This return is motivated by a recent communication from P.J. in Washington State plus some others especially some other friends in the U.S. Feichimid le fheicmid !!