THE NUMBER of books produced by Galway publishers or written by Galway authors over the last number of months has been as prolific as it has been varied and allows the Galway reading public the ideal opportunity to support local presses and writers, thus celebrating the scribes of their native city.
Fittingly, the Galway County Heritage Forum sets the tone with its sumptuous book fittingly entitled Glorious Galway: Hookers, Curachs, Lake and River Boats. The book consists of an audit of all the boats built and used in County Galway and is magnificently set out. Leabhar dhá-theangach den scoth é seo in a bfhuil learaidi de chuile sort bád a gheofar ó Oileán Áran go dtí an tSionnain.
Reg Gordon’s Tribe: A Portrait of Galway is an extraordinary collection of photographic portraits celebrating the many personalities who, according to the author, make this town tick. These portraits underline the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Galway streets and are imbued with a delightful and refreshing sense of humour.
There was an overwhelming sense of celebration in Galway this year when our native adopted son Michael Daniel Higgins (somehow it does not seem proper that we should call our new President Michael D) became the new resident in Áras an Uachtaráin. This can be marked by picking up his recently published volume of speeches and writings entitled, somewhat appropriately, Renewing the Republic.
Volume 63 of the Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society is brimful of a wide variety of fascinating and eclectic essays varying from one on an early medieval broken dogwhelk midden at Culfin, Connemara, to one entitled Lady Gregory and Popular Theatre in Irish.
Our historians too have been busy during the year. Peadar O’Dowd’s History of the Diocese of Galway, Kilfenora and Kilmacduagh is a wonderful production, while Willie Henry has been bringing us down the hidden laneways and byways of our city in the book published by Mercier Press entitled Hidden Galway.
A cause of personal celebration is that the nephew Tomás Kenny joined our motley crew of published historians with his monograph Galway: politics and society 1910-23. Published in the excellent series, Maynooth Studies in Local History, the book is, despite my total prejudice, a fascinating and informative account of this watershed period in Galway’s history.
Another excellent monograph in the same series is Miriam Moffitt’s Clanrickarde’s planters and land agitation in East Galway 1886-1916.
Neither has there been a lack of memoirs over the last year. Padraig J Higgins, erstwhile proprietor of the now gone Tavern Bar and Restaurant at the top of Eyre Square, regales us with his County Roscommon childhood in his self published book Chapters From Childhood, while Gerry Hanberry paints a fascinating panorama of several generations of the Wilde family in More Lives Than One. His portrait of Lady Wilde or ‘Speranza’ is particularly interesting.
An altogether different type of memoir, but nonetheless intriguing, was published during the year by the Old Chapel Press in Oughterard. ‘La Maison’ in Connemara is a translation of the memoir published in Breton by Yann Fouéré. A political exile, Fouéré had to flee France after World War II where he was wanted for collaborating with the Nazis.
He ended up in Connemara where for many years he managed a lobster and crayfish industry exporting mainly and ironically to France. His descriptions of Connemara in the fifties make for riveting reading.
Staying in Connemara, Tim Robinson’s final volume in his ‘Connemara Trilogy’, A Little Gaelic Kingdom, has just been published. This has been an extraordinary project and Robinson completes it in the same magical way as he began it leaving us with a wonderful panacea of Connemara beauty and magic.
In a more sentimental mood is the book written by Harriet Leander entitled simply Nimmo’s, which features her tenure of that now famous Galway restaurant. Filled with many reminiscences, it is also chock a block with wonderful recipes and bears witness to the social history of Galway over the last 20 odd years or so.
Speaking of recipes, erstwhile chef Gerry Galvin has turned his hand to sleuthing with a gastronomic flavour in his first thriller published by Doire Press entitled Killer a la Carte. This has proved so popular that the first printing has already sold out but I am informed that there will be a second printing available before Christmas.
Ken Bruen’s latest Jack Taylor novel, Headstone, has just reached the shelves, while there has also been a reprint of the little known Walter Macken classic The Bogman. Salthill publishers have given us the satiric Banjaxed by Johnny Kelly which is a hilarious coming of age story of set in County Mayo, or as the author puts it “Growing up to Rage”.
Galway publishers have also given us a host of short story collections. From Doire Press we have And from Jim Mullarkey whose stream of consciousness style flows freely. Wordsonthestreet gives us Moya Roddy’s excellent debut collection Other People, while Arlen House’s Somewhere in Minnesota by Órfhlaith Foyle is a tour de force.
Space does not allow for anything near a proper airing of all the poetry that has been published in Galway or by local poets over the last year.
Collections have appeared from such eminent poets as Rita Anne Higgins, Nuala Ni Chonchuir, Moya Cannon, Peter Mullineux, and dozens of others, too many, sadly, for me to mention here. However it would be remiss not to leave the last word with Jessie Lendennie whose contribution to the Galway poetry scene is legendary not to say heroic.
These lines are from her outstanding collection Walking Here and the poem therein, ‘Galway Haiku Sequence’ allows us a precious moment of peace and with them I wish you all a Happy, Joyful and Peaceful Christmas: