Five Book Reviews by Frank O’Shea
LOOKING BACK. The Changing Faces of Ireland. By Eric Luke. O’Brien Press. 146 pp. h/b €24.99
Eric Luke worked at The Irish Press and later The Irish Times. His book is laid out in a number of chapters – Personalities, The North, Sport, Tory Island, for example – and he tells the background story of each of his photographs, a number of which appeared on the front page of one of his employer’s newspapers.
Here you will find actors Martin Sheen and Fred Astaire, politicians Charlie Haughey and Garret FitzGerald, sports people like Brian O’Driscoll, Jack Charlton and Paidi O Se, musicians like Liam Clancy, Sting, The Dubliners and a young Christy Moore, all in unusual situations.
My favourite photograph is in the chapter on Personalities, a picture taken during the visit of the Queen to Dublin in 2011: it shows her Majesty with gloved hands appearing to call back President MacAleese who seems to be walking in front of her, a position that is not allowed even to the Duke of Edinburgh.
IRELAND’S WILD ATLANTIC WAY. By Carsten Krieger. O’Brien Press. 160 pp €12.99
The Wild Atlantic Way is a signposted tourist itinerary officially launched in Ireland in 2014. It runs some 2,500 km from Malin Head in Donegal, down the West coast, around the tip of Mizen Head to the Old Head of Kinsale and contains some of Ireland’s most stunning scenery. It seems a shame that it has taken until this century to tell the world about it.
Carsten Krieger’s book of photographs and accompanying text give a wonderful feel for the landscapes and panoramas of the route. Almost any page you open will have you exclaiming ‘wow!’; even those like this reviewer who lived on that stretch of coast are reminded of how much we took for granted. Donegal, the Achill Islands, Clare, the Kerry peninsulas have scenery that would be envied anywhere in the world and they are captured magnificently here. Some shots are in full light, others in dawn reds or in the russets of dusk; and every so often there is the deep blue or evening sheen of the Atlantic.
Krieger’s photographs sell in postcards and calendars. This is a collection of more than 200 that will delight you.
IRISH THATCH. By Emma Byrne. O’Brien Press. 192 pp. €24.99 h/b
The most surprising thing about this book is to learn that, even today, there are many thatch houses in Ireland. Indeed, the author confesses that she was herself surprised as she went around the country with a camera photographing many of them. There must be several hundred in this wonderful tribute to the old art of thatching. Some counties such as Wexford, Mayo and Donegal seem to be particularly blessed with them and it is pleasing to note how well kept they are.
The book opens with a short account of the different raw materials used for thatching, the implements required and the four main ways of carrying out the task. The photographs are beautifully composed, the landscape sometimes drawing the eye as much as the dwellings.
THE REPUBLIC. By Seamus Murphy. Allen Lane. 224 pp h/b €55
Seamus Murphy’s book of photographs shows a country that is far from attractive.
It may be that much of the empty space in the pictures is filled in black as though they were taken in the semi-dark. The effect is not helped by having most of them spread over two pages, across a stiff boundary. The only clue to what the photographs mean is a listing at the end which indicates where they were taken, though one wonders what Pat Galvin and Kieran Donaghy were doing running around the back of a housing estate in Listowel in full Kerry football gear – the word photoshopping comes to mind.
GREAT MOMENTS IN HURLING. By Sportsfile. 206 pp. h/b €24.99
This year’s All Ireland final between Galway and Waterford was a magnificent exhibition of what is best in sport, the kind of thing that has you urging your friends to watch it, all the more so when contrasted with the crowded melees that the major Australian sports have descended into. (It can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8Rprks-RXY)
All the hurlers wore helmets, unlike the great Christy Ring in his cloth cap, pictured in this book in the section on the 1950s. Each decade has a chapter, and the greats are all here: Jimmy Doyle, Eddie Keher, Jimmy Barry Murphy, D J Carey. There are reminders that it was not all Cork, Tipperary and Kilkenny, with many pictures from the great teams from Offaly, Galway, Clare, Wexford and Limerick and also from minor counties in the North and the midlands. Seán Óg Ó hAilpín is here in his famous Hogan Stand speech “Is fada an turas é ó Fiji go Corcaigh” (It’s along way from Fiji to Cork) and there is a fine action shot of his younger brother Setanta, Young Hurler of the Year before moving to AFL with Carlton.
The photographs are from Sportsfile, described as ‘Ireland’s number one photography agency.’ A book you can display with pride on your coffee table.