The Avondhu - By The Fireside


By John Breslin and Sarah-Anne Buckley, published by Merrion Press

- Tom Hurley

This sequel is a collection of historical colourised images of Irish life, which follows a similar formula to the first publicatio­n covering the themes of politics and revolution, childhood and youth, working life, sport and leisure, the Irish and the world and scenic Ireland. All thirty-two counties are represente­d with over 150 images included.

Breslin and Buckley went to great lengths to get the images as historical­ly accurate as possible, but there will always be those who disagree with the ethics, technology and process of colourisin­g blackand-white images. One featured photograph taken in 1910 at Coolmore, Fermoy is of two-year-old James Gerard O’Brien in a sailor suit holding a racquet, seated next to a ball and toy boat.

It’s predominan­tly books dealing with history that interest me and just like last year, it was a tough year for authors with many avenues usually available for conducting research largely off limits

due to the pandemic.

However, there are still some great publicatio­ns out there, such as the following twelve which caught my eye. Where possible, I have extracted relevant informatio­n, anecdotes, characters or place names from within their pages connected to The Avondhu circulatio­n area.

The tragedy that struck Ireland between 1845 and 1852 is often viewed through the lens of cold-hearted bureaucrat­s, greedy merchants or indifferen­t landlords who put profit, principles of political economy, and prejudice against the Irish poor, above the need to save lives.

This volume however, examines the contributi­ons of the numerous men and women who risked their lives and sometimes their livelihood­s in caring for the sick and the starving. One such example is of Boston mariner, Captain Robert Bennett Forbes, under whose leadership the U.S.S. Jamestown carried 800 tonnes of provisions to the starving people of County Cork. When it was distribute­d, Fermoy and its rural hinterland received between 60 and 100 tonnes.

This publicatio­n contains informatio­n on the history of the graveyard, headstone inscriptio­ns and iconograph­y as well as other interestin­g facts related to the location such as how Kilcrumper is now in the parish of Fermoy, but in historical records it was in fact once a parish in itself.

Many of the headstones date as far back as the 1700s, but burials have been taking place there for almost 1,500 years. The first record of a church at the site is from the Papal Tax records of 1291. The highwayman Willie Brennan was possibly buried in historic Kilcrumper in an unmarked grave after being hanged in 1809, while the cottage at Kilcrumper was built as a caretaker’s cottage in the early 1890s.

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