Unsung country and western – The Irish Times

The past and present of the West of Ireland continue to shape the work of historians, artists and writers. The Art of Place: The People and the Landscape of County Clare (The Liffey Press, €35) edited by Peadar King and Anne Jones, with color photographs by John Kelly, brings together 31 thought-provoking pieces in an immaculate anthology. Some contribute as residents of Clare, others as visitors, but all have thoughtfully reflected on how the county nurtures them and its defining influence on their work. Many musicians and composers, sculptors and artisans, photographers and filmmakers present their reflections.

Mary Hawkes-Greene, who runs the Burren College of Art in Ballyvaughan, has been enchanted by the area since she first caught sight of the limestone hills in the summer of 1981. She writes about the artists, poets and philosophers attracted by the Burren: was the ineffable call to the essence, to the return to the source – the source of the imagination. The music of Martin Hayes, who grew up in the parish of Killanena in northeast Clare and whose father played fiddle in the Tulla Céilí Band, is inextricably linked to the county. For him, music “comes out of the ground and the earth of Claire, of people, of ways of life, of her history… a sweet deep melancholy which was for me the gateway to a world of music. ”

Kenmare: history and survival (Eastwood Books, €20) by Colum Kenny focuses on events in the town of Kerry between 1600 and 1900. The centerpiece of the book looks at the work of Father John O’Sullivan, parish priest of Kenmare from 1839 in 1874, who during the Famine lobbied influential bankers in London on behalf of the poor and testified before a select committee of MPs.

The author has researched records from Kenmare’s workshop and O’Sullivan’s unpublished journals and depicts the difficult aspects of life during the Famine. An intriguing chapter, Amazon, Slattern or Saint? is devoted to the women of Kenmare’s past. Nurses, nuns, lacemakers and the “soupeuse” Katherine Franks-Mahony, known as Yellow Kate (Cait Bhudihe an tSúip) whose heart was said to be as “painful as a rotten crab”, are introduced. She had a notorious reputation in folklore, ran a Protestant school of proselytizing, and was described by a priest as a “viper” and a “wicked one”.

Another study of part of the west, Tourmakeady: history and society (Mayo Historic Estates, €25) by Brigid Clesham is an engaging analysis of ultra-local history. A comprehensive volume, the book embraces a multiplicity of topics, including the social, economic, and cultural evolution of the parish, emigration, geography, education, and law and order.

Located in a remote part of County Mayo on the western shore of Lough Mask, Tourmakeady is sheltered by the Partry Mountains and is part of the Gaeltacht. It has long been a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Twenty-one chapters trace the development of the region in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The final chapter focuses on famous people with ties to Tourmakeady. Among them are actor Mick Lally, who played the character of Miley Byrne in the television series Glenroe, Knock Airport promoter Bishop James Horan, Gráinne Seoige, Irish-speaking television host, artist Patrick Tuohy and songwriter and songwriter Brendan Graham who wrote the lyrics for the song You Raise Me Up.

Historical aspects of life in the neighboring region of Lough Corrib and Cong are explored in Westward Ho! A trek through Galway, 1840-1950 (Galway Public Libraries, eds. Josephine Vahey and Patria McWalter). A collection of essays examines how travelers documented the region in their writings and paintings. They include the Victorian polymath Sir William Wilde who wrote about Loch Corrib, Anna Maria and Samuel Carter Hall’s tour of Galway in the 1840s, and in 1942 Richard Hayward, who published Corrib Country and wrote two books on Connacht in his series This is Ireland.

Delightful 19th century watercolors of the streets of Galway and the Connemara landscape by William Evans of Eton, as well as mid-20th century work by James Humbert Craig and Raymond Piper are dotted throughout the pages. This beautifully produced book is available free of charge from Galway City and County Libraries.

Since its official launch in 2014, the Wild Atlantic Way has generated considerable interest. About 30 places along the route are at the center of Richard Butler’s action Towns on the Wild Atlantic Way (O’Brien Press, €12.99) which mixes historical details and today’s life alongside color photographs. The author believes that cities have sometimes been relegated to the background compared to mountains, lighthouses or beaches, and rebalances this balance.

A similar style with factual references accompanied by sketches, The Little Book of the Wild Atlantic Way (History Press, £14.99) by Helen Lee is a sweet treat mix. The chronological timeline describes how, in November 1755, an earthquake in Lisbon led to a tsunami that hit the west coast of Ireland. This led to severe flooding, siltation of an estuary at Timoleague in Cork and damage to the Spanish Arch in Galway. Scientists now believe the quake measured between 8.5 and 9 on the Richter scale.