AS regular readers of this column know I have been involved for a very long time in the campaign to protect and develop as a historic and cultural quarter the Moore Street terrace and its environs in Dublin. The entire terrace at 10 to 25 Moore Street was occupied by the evacuated GPO garrison at the end of Easter Week 1916. The developer – Hammerson – wants to demolish much of the terrace.
The Moore Street Preservation Trust, with the support of relatives of the 1916 leaders, is working with a legal team to prepare a legal challenge should An Bord Pleanála decide to grant Hammerson permission to knock down any part of this historic terrace. All of this will involve significant costs. As part of the Trust’s campaign to raise awareness, and to raise funding for any legal challenge, the Moore Street Preservation Trust will next Monday be launching a new image of the last meeting of the Provisional Government following the Easter Rising in 1916 by the renowned Irish artist Robert Ballagh. The launch and presentation of the print will take place in the Mansion House in Dublin at 7pm.
The limited edition 200 prints (60 by 60 cm) are individually signed and numbered by Robert Ballagh on museum-quality paper and printed with archival inks.
The scene depicted in his painting captures the last meeting of the Provisional Government that took place in No.16 Moore Street following the retreat from the burning GPO. It was there at this meeting attended by Pádraig Pearse, Seán Mac Diarmada, Joseph Plunkett, Tom Clarke and a wounded James Connolly that the decision was taken to surrender to the British forces. Also present at the meeting were Volunteers Winifred Carney, Julia Grennan and Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell, who a short time later accompanied Pearse when he presented the notice of surrender to the British. The women of 1916 are rarely given their proper place in that story. Robert Ballagh’s print redresses this through the inclusion of these three republican activists who played a central role in those historic events.
This striking new print, entitled simply ‘HQ Moore Street 1916’, is being released for sale at €150/£150 per print. Each signed print is sure to become a valuable collector’s piece. The print will be available from Monday evening following the launch at the Mansion House. I have my copy ordered. I am confident that these unique prints by Bobby will go quickly.
You're never alone with a book
I’M glad to say I finished reading a few books over the last month so I will update you on them over the next couple of weeks.
First off is The Ghost Limb by Claire Mitchell. This is an intriguing read and Ms Mitchell is a persuasive writer: gentle, witty and positive. She describes herself as an alternative Protestant and Ghost Limb has a sub-title, ‘Alternative Protestants and the Spirit of 1798’. In this compelling book a group of these citizens retrace the steps of the United Irishmen – and women– who worked for the unity of Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter over two hundred years ago as a means to end the connection with England.
They trek across graveyards and old churches, pubs and battlefield sites in Counties Antrim and Down and in Belfast's back entries. They rediscover this part of their heritage and explore why it has been misremembered, or not remembered, except by a faithful few who reject the notion of northern Protestants as a monolithic right-wing, insular, anti-progressive, anti-Irish group. Northern Protestants are not all like that they say. Not historically. Not now.
Ms Mitchell also presents the vision of 1798 – of a rights-based anti-sectarian equality-proofed society – as the democratic solution to our political problems. I recommend this book to anyone trying to understand the dynamics of northern society in this time of change. There is a lot of learning to be done by us all. Making space to rediscover who we are is part of that. Claire Mitchell’s book has made a mighty and positive contribution to that necessary task.
The Ghost Limb is published by www.beyondthepale.com
Michael Magee was one of the guests at Scribes at The Rock during Féile An Phobail. He read from his new novel, Close To Home. Scribes is a Féile highlight, a creation of Danny Morrison, now twenty-two-years old. Scribes, not Danny. Michael Magee was joined by Michelle Gallen reading Factory Girls and Paul Murray reading The Bee Sting. More of these at another time. All in all another great event. Well done, Danny. Belated apologies to the woman who appeared to be annoyed at me bunking the queue to have my books signed. Mea culpa.
And well done Michael Magee and the other Scribes readers. Close to Home is an in-your-face, fast-paced graphic account of twenty-year-old Sean and his mates and family living in West Belfast and mired in poverty, addiction and trauma. Sean has just returned from university in England but he is soon sucked back into the life he had temporarily escaped from. His story is told by Michael Magee with brutal honesty. Sean knows that a better life is possible, but surviving the daily challenges of existing on the edge of a community coming out of conflict with multiple social and economic challenges threatens to drown him in excesses of drug and alcohol binges and casual, random violence. So he struggles to survive and to readjust.
I read Close To Home in two goes. I am undecided yet about whether Michael lets the reader fully into Sean’s emotional responses to the definitive stages of his transition. That element of the novel has stayed with me. I consider it a good thing that I am unsure of this. I read Close To Home two weeks ago and I am still puzzling over this part of it.
Undoubtedly, Close To Home does convey the young man’s emotional sense of his community, of family, particularly his relationship with his mother and his estranged father and the multi-traumas endured by friends, workmates and his brother Anto. His depiction of the people of West Belfast, or that part of us which is portrayed in his novel, also rings true, including his mother’s attitude to the IRA. So a very fine novel indeed and one which will stay with you long after you read it.
Close To Home is Michael Magee’s debut novel and is published by Picador.
Annie's spirit lives on
Our mother, Annie Hannaway/Annie Adams, died on September 4,1992. Her spirit lives on in the memory of our family and those who knew her. Here’s a little poem I wrote a few years ago.
Walking with my Mother
My mother died in 1992.
In 2007 I met her.
On the back road above Cashelnagore.
The August sunshine lit up
The scarlet fuchsia and the montbretia
And the white of her hair.
As I walked behind her
She picked wildflowers
From the ditches.
Then at a gap in the hedge
She turned and smiled at me.
‘Lá deas ata ann,’ she said.
‘It’s a nice day.'
I walked on.
Wondering how this could be.