The long-awaited and much-anticipated new book from Cian Manning has hit the shelves for Christmas and it’s a cracker.
Cian is renowned for his fresh look at Waterford history, his unique style of writing, and his ability to extract the nuggets from the mire of times past. But Blaatherings is very different.
Waterford City – A History, gave a sense of his approach. Very much in the style of a traditional history book, Cian still dragged us off on tangents to the story, teasing out related narratives and adding context to what some might have considered a well-worn path of history.
Blaatherings goes much further, he’s thrown off the history book mantle entirely. 16 short historical biographical essays, the majority of which I had never even heard of, revealing the wonderous, awe-inspiring, and downright scandalous of the County’s past residents. And as befits a writer, trying to break new ground, this His-Story tries to bring Her-Story to the reader too – with at least five of his biographies, from the amazing, the bizarre to the profound. One of Cian’s attributes of course is the gentleness with which he reveals his characters and the attempts he makes to place them in their historical context.
I think this book will be well received in Waterford this Christmas 2023. I’m also relieved to see that it is Vol 1! Suggesting he has more to come…I certainly hope so. Our history belongs to us all, and we need new writers, young writers, and writers from various and diverse backgrounds to add to the story. Cian Manning is one of our finest.
His work can also be enjoyed in a variety of outlets including the Irelands Own – where a recent story of his on Mount Congreve made the front cover.
Blaatherings is currently on sale in the Book Centre Waterford and retails at €10 its also available online
Recently my good friend David Carroll made a gift to me of Cormac Lowth’s newly published comprehensive and beautifully illustrated book – Ringsend Sailing Trawlers. With Some History of Boatbuilding in Ringsend. The book captures the maritime, fishing, and seafaring industry connected to the Ringsend area of Dublin. Spread over 32 chapters it charts the origins of the small fishing community on the bank of the Dodder backing onto Dublin Bay, the arrival of Brixham trawler families, the conflict that emerged with local fishers, and the reality of life in the area, particularly in the 19th and early 20th Century.
I think for Cormac the stars of the show are the people of the community, but they are firmly staged against the backdrop of Dublin Bay and the vessels that became synonymous with the area, not alone as fishing boats, but as sailing boats in regattas, pilot boats and workboats. There was also a thriving boatbuilding industry which Cormac charts in a very detailed manner.
What stands out for me in the book is the detailed descriptions of many daily activities now lost to the steady march of progress. For example, he gives an account of beam trawling from the setup of the system, the launching, and the fishing practices. How many in the country at present would even know what a beam trawl was, let alone know how it was fished? It evoked a wonderful memory of working the same system here in the Ross River with my father and Uncle John in my childhood. In other cases, he mentions almost as an aside, that glass balls, which were used for buoys on the nets, were made by the local glass manufacturers in the village. I remember them on the mantelpiece at my Grandfather’s and only now thought to wonder where they were made – perhaps locally in Waterford? I was also reminded of my grandmother Moran recalling her mother making nets and string for long lines at the fireside all those years ago, the toughness of the life, but the skill and resilience of the people. Although I have never met Cormac I think that this is an admiration and appreciation that we share if the book is anything to go on.
Perhaps my favourite part of the book is the introduction, where he recalls his early years with his father who had bought a boat called the Pride of Ardmore and with local help had established a safe mooring and over time converted her to a motor sailing vessel and also rigged her to trawl. These local salts were the direct descendants of the sailing men, many now fishing part-time and they shared the knowledge and love of the Bay that seems to have had a direct bearing on Cormac’s life.
There are so many other wonderful pieces to the book, the street names prior to redevelopment including Ropewalk Place, the names of the fishing families, and the ancillary trades that abounded. Although I was already aware via David Carroll, I was delighted to read about Pill Lane where the fish market once thrived before the corporation made efforts to impose order. Obviously, I updated my recent Pill placenames blog as a result of Davids’s guidance. It’s a book filled with such historical nuggets that shine through.
If I had to be picky and find fault, I guess it would be against myself and my own lack of knowledge about the area, that certainly would have added some clarity and context. All told I can only heartily recommend this book and urge you to get it before the limited production is sold out. If I had to bet, I’d say it’s one of those books that won’t be found in second-hand bookshops, the owners like me will cherish it.
The book Ringsend Sailing Trawlers By Cormac Lowth is published by Peggy Bawn Press. It retails at €27 I believe and can be ordered directly from Cormac by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org Or you can order via eBay
I finally received my long-anticipated copy of Pete Goulding’s book on Irish lighthouse fatalities, and I can heartily recommend it to anyone with an interest in lighthouses, maritime heritage, or Irish history in general. When the Light Goes Out, a clever title by the way Pete, is 224 pages of first-class research including maps and images (145 as it happens and many in colour).
Pete is the chap behind the blog page Pete’s Irish Lighthouses which I have followed for several years now. He lives in Dublin and works in a warehouse. He’s a prolific writer including humorous verse, serious verse, a book of essays, a novel, and a biography. He’s also one of these history bloggers who have a passion for League of Ireland soccer just like Cian Manning and David Toms…Maybe that’s where I have gone wrong!
Anyway back to the review. The purpose of When the Light Goes Out is to shine a light – yes a pun but as Pete is the king of them, it is rubbing off on me – on those men, women, and children associated with the long and proud family tradition of lighthouse service in this country. It tells this story through a prism of deaths from 1786 to 1972 in the service of the Irish Lights whether at lighthouses, lightships, pile lights, or light tenders.
If that sounds like a rather gloomy and depressing subject can I just reassure you that it is anything but. Yes there is sadness, anger, rage, and in some cases perplexity at what occurred but it is also a treasure trove of lost lighthouses, a glimpse into a way of life now (regretfully to my mind) extinguished and a wonderful companion to anyone interested in the lighthouses around our coastline. You will also learn about families of the lighthouses, the tasks of those employed, the social history of the lighthouse families who travelled almost like nomads from post to post, often leaving their loved ones in graveyards that would not be seen for years later if at all.
The household names of lighthouses feature such as Hook, Fastnet, Tuskar, Poolbeg, and the Skelligs. But many were new to me as were the stories of fatalities associated with them. And as I said it’s not just the deaths, it’s the story of the light, its historical context, the politics and the drama that sometimes went on, the isolation, loneliness of the service, and just how unfortunate a person can be – the wrong place at the wrong time!
I was surprised to learn that I had no awareness of the Beeves Rock Lighthouse on the River Shannon until now. I was amazed at the history of the Pidgeon House and family on the Great South Wall and wondered how I had never been. I don’t know how I missed the Puffin Lightship disaster at the Daunt Rock in 1896. And of course, there were so many fascinating details on one of my favourite lighthouse constructions – the Pile lights to which we owe Alexander Mitchell such a debt.
Many of the stories stood out in this book and some have been featured on my own blog, for example about theILV Isolda, a recent guest blog by David Carroll. Another that was new to me was a tragic incident aboard the ILV Ierne(1898) which was the tender vessel used in the construction of the Fastnet light. Ierne departed Castletownbere in West Cork on Thursday 11th January 1906 to land a relief crew and supplies to the Bull Rock, a lighthouse on the SW tip of Ireland open to the full fury of the Atlantic Ocean. As the vessel rounded Crow Head the long finger of Dursey Island was coming into view and the seas grew in size. As the crew hurriedly completed their deck duties Captain Kearon spotted a rogue wave tumbling towards the ship, from the bridge. His cry of warning was only out of his mouth when the ship was engulfed in seawater. The Ierne went over on her beam end and everything on deck not secured was lost over the side. As she righted herself the captain pulled himself out of the scuppers, several of the crew were seriously hurt, but one man was lost overboard. As the Ierne came about, Thomas Kearney was seen holding onto an oar struggling to keep his head over water. With their lifeboat stove in, there was little the crew could do but throw life rings and try to get as close as possible to haul their colleague aboard. The elements were against them, however, and in horror, they watched as Kearney slipped beneath the waves.
Now although that may sound sad, and it is, Pete takes four pages in the telling. There’s the service of the Ierne, Thomas’s back story, the inquest, the aftermath, and also a poem written to commemorate the event. Such rich detail and a fine way to remember such sacrifice to such an important way of life. Pete has over 70 such events, each with its own unique back story.
If I had any criticisms of his book, I might have changed the chronological order of telling to include the various events at Hook for example, or Belfast Lough. In the latter, I found that some repetition was needed just to remind me of the context of the lights, and I needed to go back to the earlier stories just to be sure for myself. But that is a small matter and perhaps just an issue for me as a slow, meticulous reader…I love the details, and be sure of my ground. However, his contents page and his index at the end ensure that those searching for a particular lighthouse or a specific event, or a lighthouse family will easily locate them in the text.
As I said at the outset I would highly recommend this book. It’s also a read of small chapters, some only a page or two, it can be picked up and laid down and come back to time after time. It also has a very clear contents section that gives you the name of the deaths and the location of the event. So as a lighthouse fan, you can read up on a tragedy(s) before you set off to visit.
Pete is selling the book “When the Light goes out” through his blog via a Paypal button on the sidebar. One book will cost €18, which includes post and packaging worldwide. (For those ordering on a phone, you may have to scroll to the bottom of the page and click ‘View web version’ in order to see the sidebar.) Pete will distribute to Ireland himself but for orders outside Ireland, he will arrange for these through his publisher. All orders, Ireland or overseas can be made through his blog page. The book will also be available on the Lulu bookstore and on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Ingrams amongst others. But as an author who knows, can I plead with you to consider buying direct from Pete…financially it’s a very big difference to an author after the years of work.
I wanted to acknowledge this wonderful achievement by a blog regular, David Carroll. David wrote his first guest blog for us in January 2017 and has been a firm favourite since. In that story, Memories of a Harbour Boy, David recalled growing up in Dunmore East including the comings and goings of the lifeboat and crew. His obvious love of place and subject has been one of the most significant elements I think, in the success of his book on the Dunmore East Station. But the wonderful achievement of raising over €31k in the challenging covid times, bears testament to not just his engaging writing style or attention to detail, but also to the genuine respect and high regard the lifeboat crew and wider volunteers are held. I have already shared the news via my usual social media channels, this post is specifically aimed at the tides and tales community who subscribe by email and who may have missed the details. Andrew Doherty. The official communication starts from here:
Dunmore East RNLI was delighted to receive monies raised from the sales of the book Dauntless Courage by author David Carroll.
‘Dauntless Courage’: Celebrating the History of the Dunmore East RNLI, their crews and the Maritime Heritage of the Local Community, was written, published and sold out during lockdown. Restrictions and lockdowns made it impossible for author David Carroll to be in Dunmore East while writing his book but, thankfully, David and his family were able to visit the Dunmore Lifeboat station recently, where he was wholeheartedly welcomed by the volunteers of Dunmore East RNLI.
David Carroll the son of Captain Desmond Carroll, a former Harbour Master in Dunmore wrote a book on the history of the Dunmore East RNLI Lifeboats and the community from which the crews are drawn. David grew up in Dunmore East and whilst moving from the village in his 20s to pursue a career he has always retained a great love for the maritime heritage he inherited growing up in the village.
After several years of researching and writing, it has been a labour of love for author David Carroll to produce such a fine book, with all proceeds going to the RNLI. A publishing committee was formed and consisted of members of Dunmore East RNLI and a total of 66 businesses contributed to the cost of printing, therefore 100% of the price of the book is going to the RNLI. Recently David was finally able to hand over the huge cheque to the very appreciative volunteers of Dunmore East RNLI.
David Carroll, author of Dauntless Courage said: ‘I felt very privileged to have been invited to write a history of the Dunmore East Lifeboats. I enjoyed every single minute carrying out the necessary research and writing the various chapters, but the success of the book is down to all the volunteers and the great team, organised by Brendan Dunne who promoted, packaged, and distributed the book in difficult circumstances. A special word of thanks is due to all who gave us permission to use their interesting photographs and wonderful paintings. Our printers, DVF Print and Graphic Solutions, designed and produced a magnificent book that we all can be proud of and will be a fitting testament to all who served in the station since the Henry Dodd first arrived in Dunmore East.
Brendan Dunne, Dunmore East RNLI Crewmember, said: ‘As volunteer crew of the Dunmore East lifeboat we are delighted with David’s book Dauntless Courage and grateful for such a significant amount being raised for our charity. The book itself is well written and researched. It truly captures the legacy of those that have crewed the lifeboats here since 1884 and of the lifesaving and maritime heritage of the village. It ensures their contribution to saving lives at sea in all weather conditions will not be forgotten’.
I was thrilled to be asked onto Tom MacSweeneys Maritime Ireland Radio Show to talk about my new book and to specifically talk about the Spider Light at the Spit bank, Passage East. Tom’s show is published online, but it also goes out on 18 community radio stations around the country. You can subscribe by email so that you never miss an episode by emailing Tom at email@example.com
Regulars will know that Tom has long been a voice in the wilderness in focusing attention on Irelands Marine sphere, and has been a great support to me on a number of occasions. Perhaps most significantly he wrote the foreword to my first book Before the Tide Went Out.
The Long Legged Spider Light makes up Chapter 11 and I was so fortunate to get an image of it in its Victorian era splendour from John O’Connor. Tom was curious to know the origins, the build technique and the work that it did. I was also delighted to call on the help of Pete Goulding of Pete’s Irish Lighthouses fame to help inform the discussion.
In recent weeks Naomi Foley completed a Heritage audit of the harbour and acknowledged the importance of the Spider. I heard the CEO of the Port of Waterford on WLR FM this week speak about it too. In the past local individuals and groups including the Barony of Gaultier Historical Society have expressed an interest in seeing it preserved. Maybe the tide is shifting in its favour.
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