Sable Wings Over
Ciarán Ó Murchadha
The Irish Times, September 1998
In Ciarán Ó Murchadha's
authoritative study, Sable Wings Over The Land - Ennis, County Clare and
its Wider Community during the Great Famine (CLASP Press, Price: €20.00),
the Clare Journal's selective reports are balanced by the efforts of the
three Limerick-based newspapers that circulated in Co Clare, the Limerick
Chronicle, the Limerick and Clare Examiner and the Limerick Reporter.
In a foreword, Professor James S. Donnelly, Jr., of the University of
Wisconsin, draws attention to Ó Murchadha's extensive use of these
invaluable sources: "Among all the recent historians of the Great
Famine, no one else has made more effective use of local newspapers than
Ó Murchadha, or has shown more tellingly how much they can contribute
to our understanding of this social disaster."
This is a book which espousers of the
doctrine of "shared experience", should read and re-read, particularly
passages descriptive of the appalling conditions of the time, such as
this: "The women and little children, crowds of whom were to be seen
scattered over the turnip fields, like a flock of famishing crows, devouring
the raw turnips, mothers half naked, shivering in the snow and sleet...
whilst their children were screaming with hunger..." This is a comprehensive
and scholarly study of a small community battling with catastrophe.
Sable Wings Over the Land