Tag: Ireland

The Immortal Irishman by Timothy Egan Book Review

I read this book as part of the 2017 European Reading Challenge.

 

The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became An American Hero*

by Timothy Egan

(*Amazon Affiliate link)
 

Ireland Years

Thomas Francis Meagher (pronounced “Mar”) was born in 1823 into a wealthy merchant family in Waterford, Ireland. His father was a member of the British parliament and Thomas was well-educated, a graduate of Stonyhurst College, a Jesuit institution in Lancashire, England. Thomas could have lived the life of a wealthy heir; instead he became involved in the fight for a free Ireland. He witnessed the Great Hunger of the 1840s, when millions died from starvation and millions more emigrated. Known as “Meagher of the Sword,” Thomas put his enormous oratorical skills to work on behalf of the Young Irelanders, working for the repeal of the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland. It was this work that led Meagher to be a member of the core group behind the Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848, during which he was arrested, tried, and convicted for sedition. His original sentence of “hanging, drawing, and quartering” was commuted to transportation for life to Tasmania, a penal colony of Great Britain at the time.

Escape From Tasmania

Meagher’s stay on Tasmania was short, about a year and a half, and then he was able to arrange an escape to America in 1852. Within a few short years upon his arrival in New York City, Thomas studied law and journalist and made his living as a lecturer, traveling around the United States, drawing large paying crowds eager to hear him speak on Ireland, the Great Hunger, and his experiences. Meagher took a stand against the anti-immigrant Know-Nothing Party during the 1850s, which created some financial hardships for him. Thomas also married the daughter of a wealthy, old-blood New York family, Elizabeth Townsend, whose family disowned her due to their marriage.

The Civil War

When the Civil War began, Meagher helped enlist Irish immigrants to fight on the Union side, eventually forming Company K of the 69th Regiment, which became known as the “Fighting 69th” of the New York State Militia. Brigadier General Meagher commanded this brigade, which fought in some of the fiercest battles of the Civil War – Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg – with distinction and suffered great losses.

Montana

After the ending of the Civil War, Meagher was appointed territorial governor of Montana, where he became embroiled in a dispute with a group of vigilantes. He died in 1867 under mysterious circumstances, falling overboard from a steamboat in the Missouri river. There was much speculation at the time whether he was murdered or simply fell over as a result of drunkenness, but nothing was ever proven one way or another and his body was never found. Thomas Meagher is honored by statues in numerous locations – the Montana State Capitol in Helena; Waterford, Ireland; the Antietam battlefield – and also has received numerous honors in the years since his death.

Conclusion

I consider myself a bit of an Irish history buff, so I was a bit dismayed to realize the scope of Meagher’s accomplishments and realize that I had never previously heard of him. Obviously I need to do more reading! I’m very glad I saw this book on the “new arrivals” bookshelf at my local public library and picked it up simply because it dealt with an Irish personage. This was a really interesting read; Meagher lived a varied and exciting life, witnessing great events across several continents, and yet felt that he never really found a place he could call home. His home was Ireland, where he could never return due to his conviction of treason, and while the United States eventually became his home, he always yearned for one last glimpse of the old country.

Books Read 2015

It’s been a long time since I mentioned the books that I’m reading.  2015 was my “Irish” year.  I read 25 books and 14 of them dealt with Ireland in some fashion.

Here’s the Irish list:

  • The Lion of Ireland, Morgan Llywelyn
  • Finn MacCool, Morgan Llywelyn
  • 1916: A Novel of the Irish Rebellion, Morgan Llywelyn
  • Bard, The Odyssey of the Irish, Morgan Llywelyn
  • Pride of Lions, Morgan Llywelyn
  • The Last Prince of Ireland, Morgan Llywelyn
  • 1921: The Great Novel of the Irish Civil War, Morgan Llywelyn
  • 1949: A Novel of the Irish Free State, Morgan Llywelyn
  • 1972: A Novel of Ireland’s Unfinished Revolution, Morgan Llywelyn
  • 1999: A Novel of the Celtic Tiger and the Search for Peach, Morgan Llywelyn
  • The Princes of Ireland, Edward Rutherford
  • A Short History of Ireland, John O’Beirne Ranelagh
  • Grania: She-King of the Irish Seas, Morgan Llywelyn
  • The Rebels of Ireland, Edward Rutherford

And the rest:

  • Lyndon Johnson and The American Dream, Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • Elantris, Brandon Sanderson
  • The Girls of August, Anne Rivers Siddons
  • Effortless Savings: A Money Management Guide to Saving Without Sacrifice, Richard Syrop
  • How To Compost: Everything You Need to Know to Start Composting and Nothing You Don’t!, Lars Hundley
  • 365 Days of Vegan Recipes, Katie Emma
  • Pizza Pie In The Sky: A Complete Guide to Pizza, Penguin Cooking
  • You Are A Writer, Jeff Goins
  • Daily Self-Discipline: Everyday Habits and Exercise to Build Self-Discipline and Achieve Your Goals, Martin Meadows
  • The Book of Fate, Brad Meltzer
  • Here’s to Not Catching Our Hair on Fire: An Absent-Minded Tale of Life with Giftedness and Attention Deficit-Oh Look! A Chicken!, by Stacey Turis

If you are interested in Irish history and Irish lore, I highly recommend most everything that Morgan Llywelyn has ever written!

In the second list, I highly recommend those that are highlighted in green.  The rest were either fluff or so-so.  And the books highlighted in red, don’t waste your time!

I’m a bit amazed at the number of books I read this past year.  In recent years, my norm was 10 – 15 books.  But, many of the books listed above are shorter than those read in previous years.  Some I’ve read more than once.  Plus I began reading electronic books on my phone at night when I couldn’t sleep, and then I acquired a Kindle in December, so I think that accounts for much of the increased read time.

Next week I’ll list the books I’ve read since the first of the year.