Sump­tu­ous book on Water­ford his­tory

Irish Examiner (Saturday) - Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Books -


so of­ten a book will land on your desk that craves im­me­di­ate at­ten­tion and one is the re­cent pro­duc­tion from for­mer teacher and now full-time writer Áine Uí Fhoghlú who lives in the Ring (An Rinn) Gaeltacht in Co Water­ford.

To say it is a mag­nif­i­cent pro­duc­tion is some­what of an un­der­state­ment; it’s also an heir­loom for any­one with any sense of his­tory and for those in the area an ab­so­lute must-buy pro­duc­tion.

It un­doubt­edly has lo­cal ap­peal but will have a wider au­di­ence for sure, and part of the rea­son for that is the fact that it is bilin­gual.

The blurb de­scribes it as a beau­ti­fully il­lus­trated book — it’s that and some more — that tells of a way of life that has van­ished.

“It’s the tale of a Water­ford coastal com­mu­nity where the Ir­ish lan­guage has en­dured against all of the odds.

“Dur­ing the first half of the last cen­tury, neigh­bourli­ness and sur­vival went hand in hand. Whether sow­ing crops, mend­ing fish­ing nets, de­liv­er­ing the new­born or lament­ing the dead, all work was a com­mu­nal act. The women har­vested sea­weed and planted pota­toes while the men went to sea.

“With­out tele­vi­sion or in­ter­net, elec­tric­ity or run­ning wa­ter, en­ter­tain­ment was pro­vided by their singers, dancers, mu­si­cians and story tell­ers,” the book states.

The author has put this gem to­gether over a long num­ber of years. It re­volves around the mem­o­ries/ in­ter­views with 21 men and women who re­count tales of ar­ranged mar­riages, evic­tions, ghosts, Fe­ni­ans, holy wells, Straw­boys, gun run­ning and a wealth of other cus­toms and tra­di­tions which will never be known again.

It’s just as well she set her sights on such a pro­duc­tion many moons ago — ac­tu­ally be­tween 1991 and 1994 — be­cause, of the 21 in­ter­vie­wees, only two are still alive.

This is a self-pub­lished book but was pub­lished with the help of UCC and Water­ford County Coun­cil among oth­ers.

At a re­cent launch Pro­fes­sor Pádraig Ó Macháin from UCC de­scribed it as a work of art.

“It surely qual­i­fies as a can­di­date for ‘Book of the Year’ in any lan­guage. This com­pares with what was called a ‘seod flaithe’ in an­cient Ire­land; that’s an exclusive gift given on spe­cial oc­ca­sions to princes and chief­tains.

“It’s a sub­stan­tial con­tri­bu­tion to her com­mu­nity and to the Ir­ish lan­guage which will be val­ued for gen­er­a­tions to come,” he said.

The book has a wide col­lec­tion of pho­to­graphs sourced over a num­ber of years from var­i­ous in­di­vid­u­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions in­clud­ing the Na­tional Li­brary, Na­tional Mu­seum, the Lawrence and Poole Col­lec­tions, Water­ford County Mu­seum and it also in­cludes some beau­ti­ful artis­tic con­tem­po­rary pho­tog­ra­phy by the author her­self.

For non-Ir­ish speak­ers, English lan­guage tales are pro­vided at the end of each chap­ter and of the more than 260 his­tor­i­cal pho­to­graphs each has a bilin­gual cap­tion which gives it a wide au­di­ence ap­peal.

Scéalta agus Sean­chas is avail­able ■ from An Siopa Le­ab­har, 6 Har­court Street, Dublin; The Book Cen­tre, Water­ford City; Read­ers Choice, Dun­gar­van and on­line from gaeil­ge­

Scéalta agus Sean­chas — Pota­toes, Chil­dren and Sea­weed: For­got­ten tales of a coastal com­mu­nity in the Water­ford Gaeltacht Áine Uí Fhoghlú €30 Re­view: Barry Cough­lan

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