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Friday, March 28, 2014

A Review of "O Come Ye Back to Ireland: Our First Year in County Clare"


On the surface "O Come Ye Back to Ireland:  Our First Year in County Clare" is a book about a married couple moving from New York City to a small farm in the west of Ireland. But on a deeper level it's about the changes in relationships that result from a life changing decision.

At first, the differences in the new place swell in importance. The driving on the "wrong" side of the road. The accents and local expressions.

Then the wetness, the unrelenting wetness slowly drives them crazy.

Slowly, the initial shyness and subsequent openness of their new Irish friends begins to reward their patience.

Still, the missed conveniences and special worlds in New York nag Christine and Niall. The lost excitement of densely populated New York gnaws at them. The variety and ease of food, in the metropolitan center they used to live in, is sorely missed.

Some images of Ireland, formed before they crossed the Atlantic, might not materialize.

Will Niall bond with the land? Could it start with the backbreaking work of cutting, drying, and collecting turf to burn through the long dark winter? Even with expert help, the task appears hopeless to achieve. 

Will Christine always be grinding out the existence that rural life demands? Can she catch up and get ahead enough to produce art strongly connected to the land and its people?

All these quandaries are told in the organic weave of unflinchingly truthful stories.  

Stories are the root core of memoir, but the stories in this book relate the surprises, the connections, the struggles, the disappointments, and the breakthroughs that are as stirring as any great fiction.

If you have an interest in the real Ireland, not just the tourist attractions, you will enjoy this book.

If you may have little or no interest in Ireland, think on this - from the lessons of people of different cultures relating, experiencing the lows and highs of emotion, and finding grace in the face of vast change, you will enjoy this book.
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"O Come Ye Back to Ireland: Our First Year in County Clare" Paperback,
 233 pages, a memoir by Niall Williams, Christine Breen
 
Look for it at your local used or new book store! My store for new books in the USA is Market Block Books.
 
Other reviews? Goodreads
 
 
 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ties Between Ireland and America Formed In World War II

I think many Americans tend to think of Ireland in the 19th century as when America and Ireland were most connected because so many Irish came to America in that century.

Perhaps the connections have been forming and reforming as long as America has had European settlement.

Another connection came to light when I had the opportunity to read two copies of articles which were printed in the  area newspapers for Middleboro, Massachusetts, USA.

The articles describe that Alton Logan of Center Street, Middleboro became a celebrity in Carrickfergus, Ireland.  Alton Logan was stationed at Prospect Camp in Carrickfergus in 1942 as an American GI. The Methodist Church ran a canteen at which Alton formed many friendships.  The strength of those friendships was so great that Alton kept in touch by writing to the friends for decades.

After being away for twenty years he revisited Carrickfergus.  That's when he heard there was a plan to build a new church hall.  Alton was so committed to his friends that upon his return to America, he started raising funds among the American GIs he knew had been stationed there.  He gave talks, accompanied by slides and films, to general audiences and raised even more money.

The Methodist Church in Carrickfergus was so appreciative of the funds he sent them, they didn't forget.  Whenever he went back for a visit he was treated as an old friend.  They told him the hall belonged to him as much as any member of the local congregation.

Officials and notables of the Carrickfergus would turn out to greet him.  On one trip with his brother Harold Logan he met with the Mayor and Councillor Sam Murphy, Deputy Mayor and Councillor Charles Johnston, village administrator Geoffrey Gordon, and Methodist Minister David McCune, all of Carrickfergus.

The Church also held a get together to show their appreciation.

And like old friends everywhere they would tease him.  Once he asked for his old room in the Dobbins Inn in Carrickfergus and was told it was reserved already.  When he got there from America, it turned out it had been reserved for him!

Alto Logan was consistently a contributor throughout his life. When age and heart disease started to take their toll, he knit mittens for the children of Middleboro.