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Book of the Week – GPO Garrison, Easter Week 1916


The GPO Garrison
Easter Week 1916
A Biographical dictionary
Jimmy wren

Geography publications
It is the centenary of the Easter rising this year. 100 years on from an historic event and we will continue to be plagued with books on the matter, and rightly so. Many will tell stories of what happened, some may even have my nana’s tale of how she was playing in Parnell street in Dublin City Centre as a 5 year old girl when a British soldier brought her in off the street for her own safety but not before looting a handful of sweets and placing them in her apron. Many will be factual accounts of what happened but Jimmy Wrens book has taken a different angle. The General Post Office is the symbolic point of the rising but it was here where the leaders read out the proclamation (a remarkable document) and here where the winning and losing was to be. Donnycarney native, and old neighbour of mine, Jummy Wren has decided to list all those who were in the gpo, all 572 of them. Not only that we get an illustration and a breakdown of all the people involved, in fairness to the author the rank and file equal coverage. Those executed soon after may, in some instances, get a few extra lines, not many though in this book of equals.

There are some some amazing facts hidden in the collective tales. O’Connell’s boys school taught 29 of the participants, the age profile (like any army) is so young, 28% of combatants were under 20, more kids gone off to war which has continued through the generations.  Liverpool provided some people and buenos aires was the furthest someone came to fight  for the cause  with many hailing from Dublin’s north side and of course many soldiers ended up in opposite sides a few short years later in our countries Civil War.

There are some fascinating insights into many of the 572 soldiers who participated in the GPO garrison with many of today’s politicians having ancestry involved. There’s the human story of people like Mary (may) Gahan, a 17 year old revolutionary who fought in the rising and subsequent Irish civil war, after fighting for the cause of what she believed to be Irish freedom May then emigrated to Australia and had 10 children before dying in 1988. There must have been some fascinating dinner parties around her house!

Or how about Antil Makapaltis, a merchant seaman originally from Finland who appeared at the GPO and offered his services until his ship was due to depart the following Thursday. Antil never made it for that trip and stayed for the week until the GPO was evacuated and he was then incarcerated.

Or Eamon (Ted) O’Kelly who lived through a hunger strike, a Black and Tans ambush and the Easter Rising only to be fatally wounded during the Second World War when the Germans bombed London during his time living there.

The historic element will be written about in many other times wren has written about the people. As it marks an event 100 years gone past all the participants have passed away, thankfully their stories haven’t and works like this are essential to keep it in public knowledge and discourse. It’s amazing how such a bloody and initially unpopular event has polarised our country  and the spotlight will shine until the summer months at least whilst those of all persuasions claim the heroes to themselves.

One striking aspect of the human side to this story is how people who ended up as enemies during the Civil War and then became citizens, with many leaving their revolutionary days behind as they participated in society, some politicians, many civil servants and business people. It’s a fact of life that things progress but Wren lists their future careers in a kind of “where are they know” dialect which is fascinating at times

Finally the 16 men who lost their lives are all listed, and subsequently the 6 who were executed to accompany the 69 who were injured over the week of fighting for the GPO garrison.

Great stuff



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100 year old man going strong

The one hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared published by Hesperus Press

It’s been a long time since I was in school. Back in those days it was something that got in the way of playing football or playing cards or hanging around talking about football or cards. There were some some subjects I took a passing interest in and the older and wiser head now wishes I paid a bit more attention to these. The subjects were namely history and English. They were probably the only two classes I stopped daydreaming for, doesn’t mean I did anything more but at least I listened….. Sometimes

Of course with history i thought I knew best and preferred modern stuff to all the talk about Romans and Greeks. I scoffed at the tsar of Russia, laughed at hitler and did spend a few minutes thinking about the mess in Korea and china but then thought about what was happening in ireland instead. It was when I joined the school of punk rock that I got interested in Paris 1968 or the Spanish civil war. That showed another world was possible. I then got interested in modern day politics and how corruption is still very much rife.

This book charts many events of the 20th century and has one person Allan karllson hanging out with Stalin, Mao tae tsung, us president Truman and many others. But it is a story of this Mans life and travels much more than discussing the history of the past.

It also tells the tale of how Allan stepped out of the window of his retirement home when he was 100 and embarked on another journey. The journey leads from
One bizarre event to another and whilst leafing through the pages my imagination was running wild. This is the screenplay for an amazing movie. A lovely tale of life and how to live it whilst taking incidents from the past and explaining the tragedy in 1 or 2 sentences. If only mr ward was Able to explain history and English like this back in the day

niall hope


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The family fang – reviewed

The family fang by Kevin Wilson published by picador books

This is a smart story. The concept behind the whole thing is compelling. 2 people interested in challenging people’s perceptions in the name of art become husband and wife (for real after many times doing it for their art) and have a family.

The conundrum that follows is the plot that holds this book together. They were artists before being parents, can that order ever change? They bring their children into their world and have them as active participants in their prank world for exhibitionism. Child A and B then become young adults and seek to experience the world outside the fang creative art way. This is when the parents really need to decide what is more important

Along the way there is reference to black flag and bad brains which is enough to pique my interest for a hundred pages and some scenes of madness that makes you wish you had been there to witness it. Except it never happened of course, this is a book after all. Flash mobs created for the art world on an unsuspecting public by the family fang are described in great detail.

My problem was I didn’t get to like the two kids. Buster became a failed writer and Annie a failed actress. It didn’t matter to me whether they cold turn things round. Their failures brought them back to their parents and the story takes off from there.

It had enough to want me to keep going to page 396 but my relation was to the parents who had the dilemma and I kept flicking to see what ultimate art experience lay in store for them, if any. I didn’t really care how it effected their children and what it brought into their adult lives. Maybe you would though.


6/10 one for the charity shop or library for sure



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