Book Reviews

 “The Missing Postman”

A few weeks ago my colleagues in the Active Retired County Civil Defence Association presented me with a birthday present of a book token. The book by Fachtna O Drisceoil which was recently published recounts the tragic story of how a local postman from the village of Stradbally in Co. Waterford went missing on the night of Christmas Day 1929 and how, despite widespread and thorough searches, his body was never found. When we were young lads growing up in a rural townland in North Kerry sometimes we used hear the older folks mention the mystery of the missing postman, but we never heard any worthwhile detail concerning who he was or where even the tragedy occurred. So Fachtna O Drisceoil’s book was certainly a revelation to me.  Apparently the unfortunate postman met his death, whether by accident or violently, in Stradbally village on that fateful night and while there was rumour and counter rumour emanating from the tragedy, after that just as in other mystery cases a wall of silence descended on the village and by all accounts most local people kept their mouths closed.

Many of the local pillars of society in Stradbally were somehow drawn into the intensive investigations, the Gardaí, business folk, a schoolmaster and even perhaps on the fringe some of the clergy. It was also a time of political upheaval in the country, the IRA were still very active and the newly formed Garda force were lacking in experience of  police work, so this caused a great deal of tension between members of the Gardaí themselves and their superiors which was all reflected in the events that were unfolding in Stradbally.  The pro-Treaty side from the Civil War Cumman na nGaedhael were in Government at the time and there were a whole lot of political tensions still in the country in the aftermath of the Civil war. Fianna Fáil had been founded in 1926 and led by Eamon de Valera they were fast gaining support among the population and helped in their progress by the IRA. The existing Government Cumman na nGaedhael had appointed many of the pro-Treaty elements to various positions around the country and one of these high profile appointments was to the rank of Garda Commissioner was General Eoin O’Duffy who according to the book took a very active part in the investigation of the Missing Postman. It will be recalled of course that General O’Duffy was no longer the Garda Commissioner shortly after Fianna Fáil came to power in 1932 but it was there he became leader of the Blue Shirts which was an upshot of The Army Comrades Association, an organisation of former Free State soldiers and Army Officers who had fought on the pro-Treaty side during the Civil War. The Fianna Fáil Government soon proscribed the Blue Shirts as an illegal organisation and according to newspaper headlines at the time O’Duffy himself was on the run from the guards which certainly was a strange turn of events. 

There is no suggestion however in the book that the death of Larry Griffin was politically motivated in any way even though in his younger days like thousands of other young Irishmen at the time he had served as a soldier in the British Army. One of the recurring themes recorded by Fachtna O’Drisceoil in his book are all the libel cases brought by local people who had been drawn into the investigation into Larry Griffin’s death.  These were mostly against various newspapers that had to pay out large sums of money in compensation. The Missing Postman is a fascinating book well written and fully describes the intrigue and wall of silence that descended on the village of Stradbally and its surrounding areas in the wake of the tragedy.  Once started it holds the reader’s interest not alone in its detail of the investigations surrounding the death of Larry Griffin but more so of the high profile people who through some unfortunate circumstances were caught up in it. The Missing Postman is published by the Mercier Press and is most likely available at the usual outlets. It also contains some great photographs of the people and places which became involved in the dramatic events which are recorded in the book. 

 Abbeyfeale Writers Publication

Abbeyfeale Writers Group who recently published their 1st edition of Musings and Ramblings in a well designed and colourful 68 page book which came my way during the past week when one of the members on behalf of the group presented me with a copy. By all accounts the Abbeyfeale Writers Group originated in 2007 when a few people came together who wanted to see if they could write. They have now a maximum of 13 members with between 8 and 10 meeting regularly at the West Limerick Resources Office in The Square. The members are, according to the introduction, all novice writers except for one of the group who has had several articles published and another has self-published a novel. They do not have a resident tutor but occasionally one is provided for a few weeks by the VEC.  For amateur writers the contents of the book which consists of articles, short stories, old Irish customs, many Christmas seasonal stories and recollections of times past all well written and make pleasant and interesting reading and are equal in many ways to some material written by experienced, semi-professional and even some professional writers.  There are also a number of well written poems in the book, but if one was to make a suggestion it would be nice to see a greater number of poems, recitations  with perhaps a few newly written songs, ballads and even maybe some Limericks all of which would give a little more variety to a publication.  But that of course is merely a suggestion and is something to ponder on for another day, as no doubt the Abbeyfeale Writers Group will surely be bringing out further publications in the future.

In the meantime well done and congratulations to the Group on their first production, it certainly was a great effort to produce such an interesting publication on their first attempt to get into the competitive realm of written material. So far as we are aware the book will be on sale between now and Christmas and it deserves every support and we also wish every success to the Group in all its future activities.

 “A Kerryman’s Limericks”

There was a good attendance at the Seanchaí Heritage Centre, Listowel for the launch of Dan Keane’s book “A Kerryman’s Limericks”. These are all Dan’s own compositions and while many of the Limericks are humorous and full of wit there are also some as well portraying a more serious context but they all have the hallmarks of a great poetic mind. All Irish counties are mentioned in this book of Limericks and all make interesting reading. The launch on Friday night November 18th was performed by Gabriel Fitzmaurice and David Browne was MC. After the launch music was provided by Domhnall de Barra and Donie Lyons. The book of “A Kerryman’s Limericks” will be on sale at all the usual outlets including Athea. 

Death of Taoiseach’s Mother

The death during the week of Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s mother was widely regretted throughout the country by all sections of the population.  Late Mrs Kenny, who had reached the age of 93, was the wife of the late Harry Kenny who was a prominent Mayo County Footballer in his younger days whom we had all heard about back in the ‘forties. Sympathy is extended to the Taoiseach, his family and other relations. ‘May her soul rest in peace’.