A Galway Christmas book stocking

IN TIMES of recession, when uncertainty is the name of the game, there is something solid and comforting about a book. It will always be there on the shelf, a source of strength, consolation, and reassurance.

Even more important, at a time when we all want to mark our love and appreciation of our relatives and friends by giving them a gift, the book is relatively inexpensive but has a permanent value.

Take the four lines from the poem Bright City in Moya Cannon’s wonderful collection Carrying The Song, published earlier this year:

Five swans beat their way in past the mud dock,

heavy sounding their own clarion

carrying the world’s beauty

in on their strong white backs this Saturday morning

This declaration of joy and celebration is present in the Galway books published during the year thus providing us with a delightful and inexpensive way of expressing our love and appreciation this Christmas.

Connemara

For those with a literary mindset, there is the volume celebrating the beauty of Connemara and more particularly Ballynahinch in that excellent anthology edited by Des Lally and published by Ballynahinch Castle Hotel - Captivating Brightness, which includes many incredible contributors, among them Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, and Edna O’Brien.

There is also the second volume of Tim Robinson’s wonderful trilogy on Connemara entitled The Last Pool of Darkness which takes us from Leenane to Clifden.

For the historian there is the most informative book by Miriam Moffitt, Soupers and Jumpers which tells of the Protestant missions in Connemara from 1848 to 1937.

Still staying in Connemara and for those interested in our early Christian heritage there is Anthony Previté’s Guide to Connemara’s Early Christian Sites which is a useful, concise, and invaluable survey of 25 of the early Christian sites to be found all over the western seaboard.

Remaining with archaeology, there is the intriguing biography of the amateur antiquarian Patrick Lyons in Máire Lohan’s book An Antiquarian Craze, and which tells the story of Tipperary man Patrick Lyons who was stationed in Athenry while a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary and there developed a keen interest in documenting the field monuments he noted on his patrols.

Leabhair as Gaeilge

As Gaeilge tá dhá athcló an suimiúl ar an margadh. Ó Cló Iar Connachta tá cnuasach scéalta Pádraic Ó Conaire roghnaithe le Diarmuid De Faoite ina bhfhuil na scealtaí is cailiúla den Conarach idir eathrú M’Asal Beag Dubh agus Nell.

Freisin uaidh An Gúm, tá cló nua den ard saothar sin le Colm Ó Gaora Mise ina bhfuil cuir síos aige don páirt a glach sé i gCogadh na Saoirse I gConamara. I gcomhar páistí in ár teanga dúchais, tá cuid maith leabhar an dathúil agus den scoth ón foilsoithóir Spidéalach, Futa Fata, idir eathrú Frog Sa Spéir agus An Oíche Dhorcha!, dhá leabhar an fheiliúnach go deo do páistí óga.

Children’s books

It is good too, that Galway’s children classics are still in print. Choices include Walter Macken’s Flight Of The Doves, Eilis Dillon’s The Island of Ghosts, and the late Pat O’Shea’s The Hounds Of The Morrigan, a wonderful fantasy that out potters Harry Potter.

Mercier Press has just reprinted Ultan Macken’s neat biography of Daniel O’Connell for children and William Henry has shown that he is something more than a local historian with the appearance of his delightful modern version of Tir na nÓg.

Galway city

Moving closer the Galway city, there is Gerard Donovan’s truly accomplished collection of short stories Country Of The Grand in which the first story opens with an early morning swim in Blackrock. This collection firmly establishes Donovan’s international reputation as a writer of note.

English lecturer John Kenny’s knowledgeable and informative book on the life and work of Booker Prize winner John Banville has just appeared. Ken Bruen forges ahead in his own inimical way with the seventh of his Jack Taylor series Sanctuary and amid stories of imminent films being produced based on his work.

Speaking of inimical ways, Dicky Byrne brings us back to the days of the Jes and the Bish in the 1950s and of Seoda in the sixties in his autobiography Tell ‘Em Who You Are. Full of anecdotes and fun, this is a celebration of a Galway life that was the foundation for all the good times since.

Still in the world of days gone by there is the remarkable book Viking Summer by Mary Murphy which recalls that heady summer of 1968, the filming (and subsequent flop ) of the film Alfred The Great. Meticulously researched, Murphy literally takes us behind the scenes of this curious chapter in Galway’s social history and it is a book well worth the reading.

Speaking of memoirs, To The Light - Johnny Duhan Unsung tells the story of songwriter, Limerick man, and adopted Galwegian, Johnny Duhan. Duhan takes us through his Limerick childhood, which had its own difficulties, his somewhat less than successful earlier life as a songwriter, and final coming to terms with his own demons in a candid and full narrative which is imbued with faith, hope, and a deep sense of spirituality. In recessionary times, this is a book that will give heart and courage.

Another book that, as it were, came in the Oranmore road, is the excellent anthology edited by Michael O’Loughlin entitled Galway - City of Strangers and in which many of our new citizens describe their initial experience of Galway.

Christmas is also a time when we meet old friends and walk down memory lane. Leading the pack here is Peadar O’Dowd with his Final Christmas Tales of Galway but coming in close behind are the stories of oars been dipped in the Corrib with the story of Galway Rowing Club and Bridie Egan Mitchell with her descriptions of the happy Galway men and their flying machines in her superbly illustrated book Western Wings which is the story of the Galway Flying Club from its beginnings until the building of Galway Airport.

Mary Naughton’s much sought for history of Woodquay has just been reprinted. Just published also is Down Memory Lane Ballybane and its People - my own erstwhile neighbourhood bringing back many happy memories, particularly in the contribution by Mary Griffin describing her youth on Achill Island.

Reading it evokes homeliness, friendship, and the warmth of her wonderful laughter. May it ever resound on the hills and in the valleys.

A happy Christmas to one and all.

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