Tales of the West of Ireland
Edited by Gertrude M. Horgan
21.6 x 13.8 cm.
Published first by Dolmen Press in 1966
During a period spent in the west of Ireland in 1964-65, Gertrude Horgan discovered the tales which James Berry had contributed to a local paper, The Mayo News, during the last years of his life, and decided to edit the present collection, first published by the Dolmen Press in 1966. In doing this she added an important body of work to 19th century Irish literature and rescued the author from oblivion.
Like William Carleton, James Berry, a native of County Mayo, came from peasant stock. He spent his whole life in the West until his death at the age of seventy-two in 1914. The material of his tales comes from the people of Mayo and Galway, and introduces the smugglers, the packmen and the raparees of the West. Mainly handed down to him by word of mouth, they tell of poor communities living in a bleak and beautiful countryside against a background of secret societies, man-hunts, smuggling, murders, wakes, rebellion and starvation. Some go back hundreds of years, evoking the legendary past of Connemara, while others are Berry’s own tales of the Ireland of his youth when the shadow of the Famine hovered over the West.
Gertrude Horgan was, until her retirement, Professor of English at Aquinas College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
‘When I left down the book, I had a deeper understanding of rural Ireland in the 19th century than I ever had before, because in Berry’s tales it comes to meet the reader, open-eyed and unembarrassed.’ Augustine Martin in The Irish Press
‘A marvellous book, readable, amusing and educative.’ Etienne Rynne in Hibernia
‘A book I would wholeheartedly recommend.’ Eileen O’Brien in The Irish Times
‘A notable addition to Celtic lore. ’ Choice