Book Review: Recalling the first summers ‘home’ of UK Irish kids

Recalling the first summers ‘home’ of UK Irish kids

This Christmas The Irish World have put together a self confessed ‘not at all definitive guide’ to some of the more interesting Irish books to give or read over the holiday.

For the full listing of our recommended books, pick up a copy of this week’s paper at your local shop now.

A Fly Never Lit – Delving into characters and events of a past generation in rural Ireland

This book by PJ Cunningham is the third in a trilogy of short stories about the highs and lows of growing up in rural Ireland.

PJ’s The Long Acre was shortlisted for the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Of The Year in 2014.

The stories in A Fly Never Lit are formed from the events and characters of the author’s youth and shine a sometimes harsh, sometimes soft light on family and community relationships as they juggle with legacies of loyalty and feuds handed down through generations.

In this book, there is greater emphasis placed on older people filling out their days in sometimes mad, sometimes sad ways as they interact with their neighbours.

In the title story the author’s mother continues to play the game with a neighbour obviously in the throes of dementia who gave out about his parent while thinking she was someone else.

In The Man Next Door a resourceful next door neighbour raises money with the unwitting help of a bishop in Liverpool on the day after a Grand National and uses the same ploy with his confessor on his deathbed..

The author also recalls a calf being shot accidentally by visiting cousins and being blamed for a big gorse fire. “My father was a traditional farmer from the horse and cart era who never changed up until his death in the mid 1970s,” writes the author.

“He was of the opinion that tractors cost money to buy and money to run while the mare only needed free grass and water to do the work around the farm. The old and new ways came together in an amusing way when one day we put a bet on with him to see if our Morris Minor car could pull a cock of hay in quicker to a reek we were making in a corner of one of our fields than the mare.”

He stresses that Ireland back then was a more complicated place than we imagine now, inhabited by fairies and other supernatural creatures lurking in every dark corner and cohabiting side by side with the church as it wielded a powerful influence that permeated daily life.

It was a world different than any previously experienced in Ireland because the emigrants of the 1940s and 50s began coming back in 1960s summers with their first generation of British-born Irish children.

The author notes their fleeting integration from London, Birmingham or Northampton into a tight and closely-knit community in the Irish midlands.

“The strange thing is that those fortnightly annual friendships I made back then, have continued right through to this day in a number of cases,” he writes.

The Summer Invasion describes the coming and going in those weeks, and the sadness the night before the emigrants made their boat journeys back to England.

A Fly Never Lit is published by Ballpoint Press Ltd and is available in all good bookshops or from Rosemary at 00 353 87 9946787.


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