Monday, February 16, 2015

"Fadó Tales of Lesser Known Irish History" a review

Fadó was reviewed by The Tuam Herald recently. This is what they had to say:

FADÓ Ronán Gearóid Ó Domhnaill Matador €14

HAVE you ever wondered what it is like to be a tour guide? Most of us have done our share of it as we proudly or reluctantly shepherd visitors from one beauty spot to another, desperately trying to remember the significance of whatever pieces of Irish history we pass along the way. We have all experienced hospitality in other places, and when the favour has to be returned, it’s handy to have a set itinerary. One of my favourites is the road through Headford to Cong, past the back gate of Ashford and along to the spectacular viewing point that provides the first glimpse of Lough Corrib, stretched out to the south with the first of its many islands punctuating the glistening waters. Glistening, that is, if you are lucky enough to get a fine day. I remember once bringing some French friends there on a damp, drizzly day in June when the mist shrouded everything, and telling them what they would see if they had time to come back another day. They didn’t, of course … Even if it’s damp, you can still stop at Cong to admire the superb Harry Clarke windows in the parish church, and visit the ruins of the abbey where Turlough O’Connor spent his last years. But start trying to remember the precise details of Turlough’s career, and that of his son Ruairi, and you may find yourself in trouble. So it’s no surprise to learn that these days, tour guides have to pass an exam before they can be accredited. It’s not an easy exam — I know of one teacher who failed it the first time. I’m sure Rónán Gearóid Ó Domhnaill passed his tour guide exam first time around. He has a passion for history, and his book Fadó is subtitled “Tales of lesser known Irish History”. It’s a real mixthrum-gatherum of tales from around the country and far beyond, and is the kind of thing you can dip into for a mental break from time to time. Hardly any chapter is longer than 1,000 words. While in no way is this a history of Ireland, the chapters are roughly chronological, starting with Crom Cruach, the idol attacked with a sledge hammer by St Patrick. I’d heard of Crom Cruach, but knew nothing of it. Apparently it was at the centre of a cult of human sacrifice. Not the kind of thing we like to associate with our Celtic ancestors. Skip forward a few chapters and a few centuries and you come to Dunmore Cave in Co Kilkenny, in which 1,000 people were massacred in the year 928. Human remains have been found there, as well as a hoard of Viking coins. Another skip in time brings you to Roscommon and the hangwoman known as Lady Betty. A Kerrywoman originally, she moved north to Roscommon in search of a better life but was condemned to death for the murder of her son. (She didn’t know he was her son, but that’s another story.) She was sentenced to hang and her execution was due to take place on the same day as that of 25 Whiteboys. When the hangman did not turn up, she volunteered to do the job in exchange for her own life, and spent the rest of her life as the executioner, living in Roscommon jail until her death in 1807. She was a nasty piece of goods. Also from Roscommon was one James Brady, born in Strokestown in 1920. He joined the British army and was stationed in Guernsey, and was in jail there when the Germans invaded. Taken prisoner of war, he joined the German army (which was trying to set up an Irish brigade) and ended up a sergeant in the SS. There are over 50 chapters in this highly diverting book, and even if you don’t have a bus to catch, there are many other situations closer to home in which a short read would be useful.

David Burke’s Bookshelf, The Tuam Herald , 5 February 2015

1 comment:

  1. I will look for Fado and see for myself...well written blog tho. Thanks