Love, is­land roy­alty and lo­cal his­tor­i­cal colour

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - BOOKS REVIEWS - PAUL CLE­MENTS

An in­sight into life in late 18th-cen­tury Done­gal is re­vealed in

(Mata­dor, £15) edited by Martin Shep­pard. The ro­mance re­volves around a se­ries of let­ters of a young cou­ple, Ed­mund Cobb Hurry, a mer­chant from Great Yar­mouth, and El­iza Lid­dell, a governess in charge of five young girls on the re­mote is­land of Inish­coo next to Rut­land Is­land in The Rosses.

They were both drawn there by an am­bi­tious plan, based on the red her­ring, to cre­ate an in­dus­trial hub and de­velop a north­west fish­ery. They fell in love but af­ter just five weeks he was called away to sea through his job and the re­sult was a se­ries of pas­sion­ate let­ters be­tween them. Typ­i­cal of the Ro­man­tic pe­riod, the let­ters present an in­ti­mate por­trait of their lives and sharply ob­served de­tails on res­i­dents of both is­lands as well as oc­ca­sional vis­i­tors.

Re­mark­ably a to­tal of 51 let­ters over 13 months have sur­vived, shin­ing a light on an area which was at the cen­tre of a ma­jor fish­ing port. They re­flect a range of sub­jects, graph­i­cally doc­u­ment­ing the wind and weather, nau­ti­cal ob­ser­va­tions and food. The let­ters cover their feel­ings, love and sep­a­ra­tion and show her anx­i­ety for his safety. The story has a happy end­ing since they mar­ried at St Mary’s Church in Put­ney on Au­gust 20th, 1788, one year af­ter they met.

Love on Inish­coo 1787: A Done­gal Ro­mance

An­other Done­gal is­land, north of Inish­coo, is cel­e­brated in

The King of Tory: From City to Crag,Pat­syDanRodgers

(Ben Madi­gan Press, £20) edited by Dr Art Hughes. Rodgers, who was born in Dublin, was adopted by a car­ing cou­ple on Tory in the late 1940s at the age of four. He was el­e­vated to the po­si­tion of king in 1993 and died on Oc­to­ber 19th this year.

As a fish­er­man, farmer, artist and mu­si­cian he fiercely re­sisted at­tempts to have the is­land aban­doned in 1980. Hughes recorded Rodgers in de­tail, ar­rang­ing his life the­mat­i­cally around 16 chap­ters. The book re­counts, in both Irish and English, the main events from ships and boats wrecked on Tory, to mu­sic and song, the de­cline of the corn­crake and the ar­rival of the chough. With the help of English artist Derek Hill, who came first to Tory in 1956, the is­land de­vel­oped a school of naive paint­ing. Lo­cals brought Hill milk and eggs, as well as mack­erel and pol­lock, and in re­turn he sup­plied a nip of whiskey.

With an imag­i­na­tive mix of au­thor­i­ta­tive ar­ti­cles,

Fa­milia Ul­ster Ge­nealog­i­cal & His­tor­i­cal Re­view No 33

(Ul­ster His­tor­i­cal Foun­da­tion, £15) edited by Trevor Parkhill, presents a bumper edi­tion of 300 pages. Through schol­arly and ex­ten­sive ar­ti­cles, along with 14 sep­a­rate book re­views, the hun­gry his­to­rian’s cu­rios­ity is well sated. One fea­ture fo­cuses on the study of a sur­viv­ing pre-1901 cen­sus re­turn for the parish of Bal­ly­haise, Co Ca­van, in 1821. Most records were de­stroyed in the burn­ing of the Pub­lic Record Of­fice in Dublin’s Four Courts in June 1922, but frag­ments still ex­isted for roughly 44 per cent of Co Ca­van. The cen­sus shows that the big­gest sur­prise in the town, then with a pop­u­la­tion of 726, was the large num­ber em­ployed in con­struc­tion. The au­thor de­scribes the cen­sus re­turn as an al­most 200-year-old trea­sure.

A fas­ci­nat­ing story in Fa­milia re­lates to Charles Coslett’s travel di­aries from a jour­ney round Ire­land and Bri­tain in the 1790s. Two di­aries are held in the ar­chives of St Malachy’s Col­lege, Belfast, while the other six are in the Li­brary of the Univer­sity of Michi­gan at Ann Ar­bor. It is not known how the di­aries came to be in the States nor how the first two ar­rived in St Malachy’s, al­though re­search is on­go­ing.

Coslett recorded his trav­els on horse­back in Ire­land, Eng­land, Scot­land and the Isle of Man from 1793-1795 when he was be­tween 18 and 20. It was a time when Ire­land was in­creas­ingly threat­ened by the un­rest that would erupt a few years later in the 1798 Re­bel­lion. In the eyes of the au­thor, Hugh O’Neill, Coslett, who was of the landed gen­try, was snob­bish and en­joyed a so­cial whirl. The di­aries are strewn with fa­mous names of Irish his­tory such as John Philpot Cur­ran, Tom Le­froy and Archibald Hamil­ton Rowan.

The di­arist was out­spo­ken in some of his com­ments on the places through which he passed, of­fer­ing frag­men­tary glimpses. He found Newry “a mean one, dirty with nar­row streets and bad houses”, while Larne was “a good large sea-port town but con­tains noth­ing worth the at­ten­tion of the trav­eller”. Belfast was cel­e­brated for the “ac­tive, tho’ of late rather vi­o­lent, part it has al­ways taken in the de­fence of the Lib­er­ties of its Coun­try against the ar­bi­trary hand of a cor­rupt Gov­ern­ment”.

Artist, mu­si­cian and King of Tory Is­land Patsy Dan Rodgers, pos­ing in 2008 with his paint­ing

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