For Winter Reading - 17th Sept. 1949


For Winter Reading: Text Version

17th September 1949


October is almost here, and we are forced to admit that, no matter how brightly the sun may shine on any of these days, summer has sped for another year. Somehow, we do not like to have to make this admission. Is it because in the interlude between summer and winter we seem unable to adapt ourselves to the season, and, consequently, dislike the weeks that usher in the winter proper? Winter is the time for reading; or, perhaps, I should have said was, for pictures and wireless have completely changed the old order of things.


For winter reading you cannot beat the old well-thumbed books, those ever-green favourites of many generations – classics or near-classics many of them. Though times may change, and wars may rage and cease, you can still enjoy the company of Dickens at your fireside. To us his dialogue may sound slightly artificial, and his language may seem a little antiquated, when compared to the slick speech one finds in modern books. But the men and women who crowd his pages are full of life and character and colour. You feel you could identify most of them if you met them on the road. There is something solid and lasting about Dickens: that is why we like the feel of this stories.


Canon Sheehan is another author who will help us to while away the long hours. If you haven't already done so you should read a few of his books this winter: "Glenanaar," for example, and "The Graves at Kilmorna," "The Blindness of Dr. Gray" and "My New Curate." This last mentioned, I read somewhere, has been translated into Russian. This certainly seems rather odd. I wonder if you'd find a copy of it on a certain Mr. Stalin's bookshelves? A number of Canon Sheehan's books have been translated into various European languages. And if any one among you has not read "Knocknagow" let not Christmas find him the same to say. No book dealing with Irish life has enjoyed such long and such wide-spread popularity; none has earned it so well. A new impression is now available for 7/6. If you want to get a gracious picture of mid-nineteenth century Ireland read Kickhom's immortal "Knocknagow."


One could think of many authors and many books worth reading. After the established classics one would like to see young people reading the historic novels of Mrs. Pender; "The Felon's Track," by Michael Doheny; "Corkery's Hidden Ireland"; the fine historical tales of Standish O'Grady. In Irish, I suppose, Padraic O Conaire would come first: you can read him again and again. Then there is "Maire," with the charm of the Donegal Rosses in his stories. And if we are to have a Munster representative, all I'd ask are the Irish tales of Clare's Michael O Griobhtha. Pictures may be entertaining; the wireless may be wonderful; but you can't beat a good book.


I have just finished reading Maria Edgeworth's "Castle Rackrent." I found it tiring. In its favour it can be said that it gives a good insight into the lives of the hard-drinking , duelling, landlord caste who brought such woe to Ireland. Once, I waded through ~Tolstoy' "War and Peace," with its amazing catalogue of princes and princesses: Pierre Bezukhov, Prince Andrew Bolkonski, Natasha. The story is vast, like Russia itself. Tolstoy, the ist, saw in the advance of Napoleon and his subsequent retreat, with the Russians at his heels, evidence of a law that makes the people of Europe move east to west, and west to east, like the tide-disturbed oceans. Had he lived to see the German advance east to Stalingrad, and the long retreat westward to Berlin, he'd have been firmly convinced that his strange theory was right.


Ta na daoine ag treigint na tuaithe fos, d'aimhdheoin Coimisiun Rialtais agus gach leighis fhonta eile. Ta a lan cur I gceill ag baint le sceal seo an treigin. Gach Seachtain sa bhliain, beag nach, gheibheann muintir na tuaithe comhairle bhreagh bhog, ag cur in iul doibh, gur mor na h-amadain iad, a bheith ag imtheacht o na pairceanna glasa fearmhara, o chainteoiri a theich on dtuaith iad fein, na fanfadh sa tuaith da bhfaghaidis a rogha, a's na fuil uatha ach soar-fhogruiocht os choir a phobail. Nuair a chifidh muintir na tuaithe duine eigin des na cainteoiri sin ag tabhairt druimlaimhe leis an gcathair in a gcomhnuidheann se, tabharfaidh said aird eigin ar a chuid chainte.


How many of you have just skipped the foregoing paragraph? Have you, oh good reader, done so? If so, is it because you do not know Irish? If you do know Irish, is it because you are too lazy to read the Roman type? There should be no difficulty about the Roman type. In the Gaelic type the aspiration stands for "h"; thus an aspirated "m" in Gaelic type ("m" with a dot over it) would be rendered "mh" in Roman type, and pronounced "v." Young people who learned Irish at school should make themselves familiar with writing and reading the universal Roman type. And you with little or no Irish may be interested to learn that "Oiche Mhaith" (Good Night) is not so unpronounceable as you think. It sounds like "eeha vah."


From an American priest, An tAthair Sean C. Ua Duinn, of the Mercy Hospital, Portsmouth, Ohio, I received, a few weeks ago, a very welcome letter, part of which I feel I must quote.

"Our hope," writes an tAthair Ua Duinn, "is that action will be taken to stop the denationalisation of the Irish people and especially the youth. As has been shown in the past, and by the passing of the Atlantic Pact measure here lately, Ireland will have to depend largely on her own efforts to attain the goal of an Ireland 'not free merely but Gaelic as well, not Gaelic merely but free as well.' It is a big task, but when Pearse and his comrades went out in 1916 things looked even blacker than they do now."


"The writer of this letter," continues an tAthair Ua Duinn, "is a native-born American of Irish , but like many others over here he sympathises heartily with Irish national aspirations. It is hard for us to understand the apathy of so many native-born Irish in this matter. We especially are puzzled by the actions of those who enter British military service where they may be called upon at any time to fire on their brother Irishmen in Ireland. Surely they must be lamentably ignorant, or they totally lack national spirit. Your work for enlightenment and for a complete Irish revival is an ently worthy work, and you have the good wishes of the Irish Irelanders here for success in it.

"With best wishes to yourself, to the 'Leader' and to Limerick in general."

This letter prompts me to reiterate words I read to-day: "When will Ireland be worthy of its exiles?"


This week's old Song of Limerick was received from Mrs. Ellen Sampson, Spittal Cottages, Ballylanders. It takes us back to the days of the Land League, when brave men like Father Sheehy and Willie Condon were pitting themselves against the might of Clifford Lloyd and his crowbar brigades.


They marched into Ballylanders village,

And faced down Clifford Lloyd,

With Willie Condon at their head,

The Galtee Mountain pride.

But hark! A wall of bayonets

Await those heroes bold,

The Land League days were dark, my boys,

With coercion hard and cold.

The mountain men they knew no fear,

That bold guerrilla clan;

It was only spades they had that day,

To uphold that noble plan.

In Mitchelstown of wide renown

The Galtee men were there,

The green old banner of the hills,

It waved upon the square.

For the dear old cause upon that day

They fought, they bled, they died,

And Willie Condon led them on,

The Galtee Mountain Boys.

In wild Kilclooney's lonely wood,

Where Peter Crowley stood,

They laid the Cross upon that spot,

Where fell that martyr good.

The glorious words upon it

I now repeat again:

"One true man for liberty

Is worth a thousand men."

In youthful days of manhood's pride,

By false coercion laws,

His country and his lands he gave,

For the sake of holy Ireland's cause.

The farmers' rights he fought with might

By night and day of yore

. . . . . .

But alas! He sleeps this humble chief,

In Kilgullane's lonely grave,

Where he fought his way,

To emancipate the slave.

His memory will be honoured,

And a monument will rise,

To tell the fame of Condon bold,

Who led the mountain boys.

A few lines seem to be missing in the song. I wonder could any reader supply them.


This is to remind you that my Local History Competition closes on September 30th. Book prizes for best entries. Young and old expected to compete.

previousPrevious - I Meet Roddy The Rover - 18th May 1946
Next - Love Of Learning - 11th Nov. 1950next