Read Curious Journey: An Oral History Of Ireland's Unfinished Revolution by Kenneth Griffith Free Online
Book Title: Curious Journey: An Oral History Of Ireland's Unfinished Revolution|
The author of the book: Kenneth Griffith
ISBN 13: 9781856352123
Edition: Mercier Press
Date of issue: January 1st 1998
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 33.78 MB
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Reader ratings: 4.1
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One day as I was strolling through the used history book section of our local entertainment store, I came across Ireland's Unfinished Revolution: An Oral History (previously titled 'Curious Journey: An Oral History of Ireland's Unfinished Revolution'). It stood out because there are not many Irish history books to be found in my town. I took a look at it and was interested. It contained the first-hand experiences of several prominent participants in Ireland's Anglo-Irish War of 1916-1921 and Civil War of 1922-1923. I went home and considered it for a few days.
By the time I returned, I had discovered that one of the authors, Kenneth Griffith, was the same man who had made the Michael Collins documentary Hang Up Your Brightest Colours which I saw a little over a year ago. I didn't really like Hang Up... but it was good to see once. When I flipped through the pages of this book again, I found that there were reminiscences of people who interacted with Collins. I was especially interested in the interviews with David Neligan, one of Collins' spies in the Castle. Now I knew I had to have it. I purchased it and began reading it right away even though I was already in two other books at the time.
If you recognize and accept the authors' bias (they believe very strongly that the British should never have been in Ireland), then you can enjoy this book for what it is: first person narratives interlaced with historical information. It's a fantastic way to write history and makes for very compelling reading. This is the best book I have read on this period of Irish history.
The oral history segments are extremely fascinating and the book is worth the price just for these. The participants (now old at the time of interview in the late 1970s) relate where they were when the Irish Republic was declared during Easter week, 1916, what they thought of the surprising 1918 election and the formation of the First Dáil, how they helped as the guerrilla war with Britain broke out, interesting insights into Collins and De Valera, and why they chose the side they did during the Civil War. Several times when reading these narratives, I was deeply moved by the speakers' honest accounts of the troubles, trials, politics and of the blood and violence of daily life during this period.
Perhaps the most devastating of these accounts was Sean Harling's story of how he decided on which side to fight at the outbreak of the Civil War:
'On the morning the shelling of the Four Courts started, me father woke me up around six o'clock and he said, "Sean, there's heavy firing in town. Listen to it." So I got up and I heard the big gun going off. I dressed meself; I put on me breeches and the leggings of me uniform and me Sam Browne belt, and I put a civilian coat on over it and went out.
'Now when a civil war breaks out, it's brother against brother, and there's no saying what way you'd go. It all depended on which crowd you got into. That was the feeling of most of the lads. They were just depressed that there was any split at all, you see. So anyway, when I went out that morning I was in the middle of the Phibsborough Road, and I went up the road instead of down. Had I gone down the road the first group I would have met would have been the Free State side, and I probably would have fought with them. Going up the road I would be going towards O'Connell Street, to the Republicans, and I would fight with them. But my mind wasn't made up as to what I would do until I found meself in the Republican group. So I took part in the Civil War as a Republican' (page 285).
When belligerents are decided by who you happen to meet in the street, you know there's an awful civil war coming, and it was indeed devastating. To read these memories takes you closer to the events than you could ever be otherwise.
I highly recommend this book. It is one-of-a-kind and now holds a treasured place on my bookshelf.
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