Since well before Marco Polo’s fabled journey, the literature of travel has always made for grand reading. In The Irish Way: A Walk Through Ireland’s Past and Present, Robert Emmett Ginna has written a memorable contribution to the genre, for here is Ireland, viewed by a veteran traveler intent on depicting the country as it truly is and describing what has made Ireland and the Irish what they are today.
In his eighth decade, Ginna set out to walk the length of Ireland, some 350 miles from its most northerly point, Malin Head, in Donegal, to Kinsale, on the Atlantic coast of Cork. Familiar with the country for many years, Ginna had seen the influx of high-tech industries and membership in the European Union transform Ireland from a poor, largely agricultural country into the prosperous “Celtic tiger.” He wanted to judge for himself what the Irish had gained—and perhaps lost—and what they have preserved from a rich yet tumultuous heritage.
Ginna encountered a host of interesting Irish men and women from many walks of life on his trek through three counties of Northern Ireland and ten counties of the Republic. Among them were the soldiers of the British garrison in Omagh, the young woman who directs the annual film festival in strife-scarred Londonderry, the self-made man who founded the Famine Museum at Strokestown, captains of high-tech industries, and farmers whose families have worked their lands for generations. At Birr, he visited the Earl of Rosse in the castle his family has held for nearly four hundred years and where a forebear constructed what was for seventy-five years the world’s greatest telescope. In Tipperary, Ginna was regaled at a show by rollicking priests, talked horses with a successful racehorse trainer, and met a gentleman farmer who had unearthed an early medieval chalice valued at more than £6 million. In the thriving city of Cork, the Republic’s second largest, Ginna sought out the Lord Mayor, spoke with an innovative police superintendent, explored Cork’s vibrant cultural scene, and met the woman who is probably Ireland’s youngest feature-film director. And of course, all through his journey, Ginna enjoyed serendipitous encounters with engaging characters in the pubs that are at the center of so much of Irish social life.
Weaving song, poetry, and story into his narrative, Ginna brings to life the heroes and rogues, saints and patriots, who have shaped Ireland’s turbulent and colorful culture and history.
About Robert Emmett Ginna
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Published July 1, 2003
by Random House.
Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel.