Sumptuous book on Waterford history
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Scéalta agus Seanchas — Potatoes, Children and Seaweed: Forgotten tales of a coastal community in the Waterford Gaeltacht Áine Uí Fhoghlú €30 Review: Barry Coughlan