Friday, 26 September 2014

Heligan Wild

Heligan Wild – a Year of Nature in the Lost Gardens. Author Colin Howlett.  Victor Gollancz 1999 pp 126, Illustrated .

This review was written on March 3rd 2013 and updated on September 20th 2014.

The lost gardens of Heligan were discovered by Tim Smith in 1975 when he was wandering about Cornwall as an archaeology student. They were restored by him and John Nelson over the next twenty five years. The area was a total wilderness at the time of his discovery.  The author of the book, Colin Howlett, joined them later and he became a remarkable jack-of-all- trades in organising and running the restored gardens. The estate now measures 200 acres.  There is immense detail on the internet for the potential visitor about the gardens, their history and attractions.

The records provide an exhaustive list of the wild life which emerged there as the gardens were developed or which are now being attracted to the restored area. These include wild flowers, shrubs, ferns, water plants and trees, and a bewildering list of fauna including insects, amphibians, fish, butterflies, mammals, birds, shrews, voles and snakes! etc. It is a sad reminder to us when we witness the loss of bees, butterflies and other insects which have disappeared from our city gardens and the inevitable effects of these losses to birds and other fauna. There is also the loss of or threat to our trees such as the elm, chestnut and ash. It is sad in particular because these changes are a reminder of a more serious threat to Nature and to humanity.

He writes a note of about half to one and a half pages for every week of the year and these notes are descriptive of various aspects of the gardens and wild life during the twelve months.

Heligan Wild makes an ideal bedside book.  The paragraphs for each week should be consulted every Saturday or Sunday morning to remind the reader what is likely or should be happening in his or her garden.  I have now left the book on the locker beside Louise’s bed and I have suggested that she should adopt the weekly chore of reading the appropriate section of the book and comparing its finding with the changes of the fauna and flora and the weather as we experience in Ireland.  Clearly Cornwall, which is south of the Wexford coast in Ireland and which is heavily bathed in the Atlantic, may have a different climate and natural ambience than that of the more northerly east coast of Ireland in Dublin on the Irish Sea. The Gardens have become a popular place for visitors in the UK and Ireland, and are now well known to visitors from abroad. There was still some remaining wilderness there, at least when this book was published in 1999. At that time the gardens extended to at least one hundred acres and much progress must have taken place during the last 15 years since the book was published. It is enhanced with striking illustrations by Mally Francis of the flora and Angus Hudson of the fauna of the area. It is well suited beside one’s bed or to be visible and enjoyed by visitors to one’s home.

Apart form the wealth of the flora and fauna which are such a source of interest in this most south-westerly extension of England’s mainland, Heligan Lost, through its weather station, has become an important source of information about the weather conditions in that part of western Europe.

A view from one of the many hidden webcams
The above paragraphs were written by me in April 2013 and since than I found its predecessor published first in 1997 and written by Tim Smit and entitled The Lost Gardens of Heligan. It is a book of 285 pages, larger than the first book I reviewed above. This copy must have been acquired by me some years earlier and, as one might expect, it was only one of many books acquired and never read.  It opens with an introduction and is followed by 16 chapters and a postscript. In these chapters Smit describes the development and content of each section of the Garden and it is handsomely illustrated by photographs and maps.  It is an informative and detailed account of the widest aspects of gardening and of country development and will remain a historic source of information about the retrieval of a large wilderness.  There are numerous photographs, black and white and coloured. Those of the birds are outstanding as are the flowers and flowering shrubs and trees. Chapters include a history of the development over the past 40 years, the description of special gardens such as the Italian garden and of other structures and areas which have been developed. 

Heligan staff circa. 1900
The Heligan estate is described by Smit as being in its prime before the 1914 war.  It had been developed in 1901 by its then owner, Jack Tremayne who had a great love of Italy and who was active in developing the site in those early years.  The decline of the gardens was rapid and complete after the 2nd World War and is described in Chapter 10 but the remarkable change which has taken place in recent years is described in Chapter 11.  The other Chapters deal with various aspects which include flower gardens, trees and shrubs and a huge walled garden used for the production of vegetables and other flora.  Like the first book reviewed by me, The Lost Gardens of Heligan by Tim Smit should be on the desk or beside the bed of all those interested in the development of our country life and in the joy of having a nice garden.

Heligan Piglets - Happy as a pig....well, you know the rest.
Colin Howlett, in his book Heligan Wild – A Year in Nature in the Lost Gardens writes ‘restoration and reclamation of the outer reaches of the estate will continue for many years to come-----.  Our main objective will remain the same as those formulated at the outset of the project: to cause the minimum disturbance to the existing flora and fauna, to re-establish the many lost habitats and, by doing so to attract back an ever-increasing number of species’.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Me and my bike

Me and my Bike, September 2014

Written on September 12th 2014

The first contribution to my blog was in March 2013. It was about Dublin. It was based on the city’s unique character, and in particular it was aimed at the tourist and visitor.  However, in describing its more important attractions I omitted to refer to its advantages as a suitable ambience for the cyclist, both citizen and visitor. With the exception of a small eminence of about 300 feet at Deer Park on the south side, the city is almost entirely flat and is ideal for cycling, Although the facilities for cyclists are not up to the standards of certain European cities, they are improving steadily as our city fathers are responding to increasing pressure from the active bicycle lobby, particularly thanks to a few cycling lord mayors and the Dublin Cycling Campaign of which I am a longstanding member.

In 1994 I was a member of a commission set up in Dublin by the lord mayor, John Gormley, to make recommendations about the future of cycling in the city. We provided a prompt and detailed report. Much of our advice was ignored or long postponed but at least the authorities began to act in building cycling tracks on our main thoroughfares which was a good first step.

Hired bicycle facilities have been provided by the city authorities since 2009 and this facility is extending in the city. It has been outstandingly popular and it confirms the excellent suitability of the bicycle as a means of urban and inner suburban transport. It is only one manifestation of the increasing popularity of the bike and this facility is now extending to our inner suburbs. Other factors are adding to the bikes popularity – better and more extensive cycle tracks, some of which are separate from the road and not accessible to motor traffic; the increasing restrictions on motor traffic in the centre city; the growing increase in the number of sturdy cycle stands and greater efforts to discourage the all too frequent stealing of bikes.

There is a slow but welcome improvement in the relations between motorists and cyclists as the latter become more familiar with the rule of the road, already well established among motorists. I find drivers in Dublin, with few exceptions, treat cyclists with caution and courtesy. Cycling is often described as dangerous. I do not agree with this contention but far too many cyclists drive dangerously. And most accidents and deaths among cyclists are caused by lack of care and ignoring the rule of the road.

A big factor in the safety of cycling is the recent banning of all lorry and heavy vehicles from the city centre and the provision of the 5-kilometer tunnel and the city’s encircling M50 which have taken much of the heavy traffic off the inner city. There are also financial inducements provided by the civil service and industry to those who cycle to work and on business. It is hoped that the S2S scheme (Sutton to Sandycove) pathway and esplanade will soon be completed and will allow walkers, runners and cyclists to travel the 15 mile coastline and outer docks of the city. This exciting proposal should have been completed by now but is being delayed by one of our local authorities on the grounds of a bird sanctuary which may be endangered. No city can boast a more accessible and attractive coastline and its many opportunities for leisure pursuits.

2nd from right with my siblings and cousins at Lissenfield.
I acquired my first bike in 1937 when I was 15 years old. It cost one pound and was bought at a police auction. We were a big family with two acres of land in the inner suburbs beside Portobello Bridge on the Grand Canal but we had little money and no luxuries. We did however, have an orchard, an extensive vegetable garden, our own poultry and a milking cow which we maintained by renting the adjacent military field in Portobello (now Cathal Brugha) Barracks. We sold some milk to nearby cousins and eggs to our neighbours on Rathmines Road.  We were in many ways self-supporting thanks to my mother’s genes derived from her farming family in Co. Wexford.

When the cow went dry after months of service it was necessary for Ned, our outdoor amanuensis, to lead the beast across the city to be sold at the cattle market in Smithfield.  On one occasion while I was in my mid or late teens I was encouraged by my mother to accompany him, a prospect which did not appeal too warmly to me, and which was greatly increased when, as we passed the popular Bewley’s Café in Grafton Street, the beast suddenly stopped and relieved herself of the full contents of her innards in the middle of the street and to the amusement of the surrounding passers by.

According to my mother the family – parents, six children, a cook, an early child minder and later teaching overseer, and an outside worker as gardener and cowhand (who lodged with his wife and children in the lodge at our gateway) - we lived on a total income of £640 in 1936 derived from my father’s TD salary of £350 and his army pension of £300.

In order to acquire a bike I was obliged to plant and care for a plot of onions which provided me eventually with the money to attend the police auction. From that time I travelled everywhere on my new acquisition which survived its many vicissitudes of punctures, broken chain links and occasional buckled or broken spokes for eight years until I departed to London for four years of postgraduate studies. I travelled across the city for the last two years of my school days and then for six years to the university and hospital which I attended closer to my home.

Because of the problems of transport created during the war years, I and my friends in the university travelled the four corners of Ireland on our bikes during the holidays, despite the number of breakdowns and problems suffered by our heavily laden bikes. On one occasion we cycled the 132 miles from Galway to Dublin in eleven and a half hours, including a stop at Athlone to climb to the top of the campanile of the new cathedral which had just been consecrated there. We left our one female friend to leave Galway at midday by train. The train by this time late in the War depended on turf for fuel and needed to  have the fuel and the ash replaced every 20 miles or so. We arrived in Dublin at 11.30 pm and had still five hours to await the arrival of the train at Westland Row. Her journey lasted 16 hours!

In later years and on better bikes I and my brother-in- law, Tommy Bacon and his daughter, Helen, did the maracycle from Dublin to Belfast in eight hours with a nasty north-easterly wind which made an unwelcome appearance as we reached Drogheda. We ended in glorious sunshine, lying exhausted but happy on the lawn of the City Hall in Belfast, supplied with champagne and sandwiches by northern friends. It was surely the most heavenly moment of my life. During the next three days we cycled the coasts of Antrim, Derry and Donegal and finished in Cavan with the bikes in the back of a bus for our return to Dublin.

The Record Raleigh
At the age of 24 I went to London as a postgraduate doctor and my cycling days came to an end for the following 35 years whilst I was a consultant in my two hospitals in Dublin. In 1981 I found myself close to my hospital and able to resume some limited cycling. My colleague, Ronan Conroy, was a member of my research team whom I described in my autobiography Memoirs of a Medical Maverick as a polymath–"gifted conversationalist, writer, linguist, statistician, maths and computer genius, instrumentalist and musician". In my biography I omitted that he was an ardent cyclist. He had acquired a new bike and in 1981 offered me one of his older models, a cruising Record Raleigh of recent vintage which he valued at £100. I thought the bike rather expensive but, after further independent advice, I yielded to his arm-twisting. (The most expensive bike I found at last year’s cycle exhibition at the RDS was priced at Euro 7,000!) It was expensive at the time but no bike has ever served its master more faithfully than my Raleigh over 33 years and no bike has had a more proud or protective master. I was too well aware of the frequent theft of bikes and I took the greatest care to avoid such an event, even to the point of insisting that I carry it into a shop or house in vulnerable areas and by carrying the most effective (and expensive)  lock.   

My new bike gave some service for the final eight years before I had retired from my hospitals. At the same time I had taken up running and did three marathons in the early 1980s. Cycling remained a limited part of my daily life until I had a hip replacement in 1994 which terminated my running.   Since then cycling and walking remain important in my daily life, particularly after I retired from driving at the age of 90 years.  Thirty three years of cycling has contributed to fulfilling the mantra "Keep you legs strong". Like walking and running, it has greatly contributed to my health and vitality over the years.  Most of the debility we find in ageing people can be attributed to allowing the legs to lose their strength prematurely. Keep your legs strong will ensure that you will never spend the latter years of your life bent and disabled, unless of course you are unfortunate enough to suffer some catastrophic injury or illness.

And if you are a cyclist, choose your bike carefully and protect it from theft or injury. It is a great tribute to my "expensive" bike, and to its design and quality, that it has lasted  in full heath for  its 35 years and hopefully it will serve its next owner as long and as faithfully. 

Young lovers and their  steeds.
I am grateful to the staff in the bicycle shop at University College in Belfield for their many years of attention and care. There is a wealth of information and history about the bicycle in the following books:

Richard’s Bicycle Book. Richard Ballantine. Pan Boooks, 2nd ed, 1975, pp 332

The Penguin Book of the Bicycle, London, 1978, pp 333

Bicycling Science. Frank R. Whitt and David G. Wilson. The Mit Press 1982, pp 364

Friday, 12 September 2014

What a name, what a guy.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel – Engineering Knight-Errant. Adrian Vaughan. John Murray, London, 1991. pp 285.

This review was written on November 28th 2010

Isambard Kingdom Brunel –what a wonderful name! You are already halfway to fame. I can imagine the reverence the grubby boys in my Christian Brothers school in our city centre in Dublin would have revered me with such a title!!

I borrowed this book from the RDS Library. Brunel always fascinated me as one of the great inventors and engineers of the early part of the 19th century and as one of the great British figures during those most productive years of British history in terms of politics, science, education and the advancement of English as the great Lingua Franca of the modern world. Vaughan’s biography was a riposte to previous biographies which the author deemed to be too kind to Brunel, particularly in terms of his personality and his treatment of his workers, and his unwillingness to acknowledge them and  his peers in the world of engineering and science.

Since I was young I was aware of his role in designing and building the Great Western Railway system from London to Bristol and to the south western parts of England, starting in the 1830s The track was built with a wider gauge than the railways built in the rest of the country. The necessary change from the wide gauge of Brunel to conform with the rest of the country must have been a cause of great inconvenience but uniformity was achieved countrywide by the late 1860s The Irish railways were also built with a wider gauge but not quite as wide as that of the Great Western.  The Irish main lines have not changed and its many peripheral narrow gauge lines have been closed,

It is said by historians that Brunel did make some mistakes  during his relatively short career but he was enormously inventive  and was the leader in many engineering firsts such as tunnelling under rivers, designing suspension bridges and employing propelers to drive ships and other modes of transport.

He was famous for his advanced design and construction of ships including the SS Great Britain built and subsequently launched in 1843. It was by far the largest ocean-going passenger ship and the first propel-driven vessal of that sort.  

The Thames Tunnel
From the point of view of his accomplishments, I would say that this biography has added little new to Brunel’s remarkable contribution to the building of the British and international railways, ships and bridges, and his major contributions to the advancement of engineering in general.  He was remarkable for his enormous energy, his attention to every detail and his unwillingness to acknowledge the contribution of other colleagues. He was less than willing to address the financial aspects of his undertakings and was constantly short in settling financial obligations and in dealing fairly with the financial needs of others.

The SS Great Britain abandoned near the Falkland islands
He was motivated by an indifference to money and its vital role in the planning of his many undertakings rather than having a selfish interest in accumulating richness for himself and his family. He was deemed by the author to be jealous of the reputation of his "competitors" in the engineering world although he remained on good terms with such outstanding figures as Stephenson of railway engineering fame and with those in the financial and conservative political worlds.

The SS Great Britain today.
Much of the less personal and professional shortcomings of Brunel are based on newly acquired primary research by the author, but in fairness to the author he does not take from Brunel’s seminal contributions to the advances in engineering which were so much part of Britain’s heritage in the first half of the 19th century. Because of the revisionist nature of this work, Vaughan’s book will raise more questions which will need be added to the wealth of knowledge about Brunel and his times. Of course, as we live through the early years of the 21st century and as we realise the serious conflict which is evolving between humanity and nature and which threatens our natural world and the human race, we should be forgiven for remembering the Luddites who were opposed to the advances of Brunel and his professional colleagues, and who feared the gathering philosophy of material advancement at the time. We might go back even further and be reminded of Milton’s warning in Paradise Lost "The Angel Rafael said to Adam ‘Do not try to understand the stars’ ".

Friday, 5 September 2014

David and Winston

David and Winston – How a Friendship changed History. Robert Lloyd George. John Murray, publishers. 2005, pp 303

This review was written on June 19th 2012

I borrowed this book from the RDS library. I borrowed it for two reasons. I have been interested in English history, as is evident from the titles in my list of book reviews. Secondly, I noted on perusing the biographical section of the RDS library that this book was published in 2005 and had been borrowed on nine occasions since it had been acquired by the library. This was a borrowing rate which was well above the average for the library. With so many books in the biography section the frequency of borrowing is an important criterion in choosing titles to read.

There was certainly an early, unusual and very lasting relationship between Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, considering their age differences and their many political and personality contrasts. David Lloyd George was born in 1861 and Winston Spencer Churchill in 1875. Lloyd George was born in Wales and in modest circumstances while Winston was born into one of the wealthiest and most aristocratic families of the land. While Winston was part of the Liberal party and a cabinet member for many years under the leadership of Asquith and later Lloyd George, he was by nature more of a conservative and had started his political career and ended it as a member of the Tory party.

Lloyd George with his underprivileged background was consistently devoted during his political life to the wider social affairs and welfare of the wider population. He also strove for land reform. As Chancellor of the Exchequer under Asquith, he was the architect of the great reforms of 1911, the People's Budget, with the introduction of old age pensions and support for the unemployed. The author states that Lloyd George’s radical proposals were inspired by the policies of Bismarck in Germany. Churchill had less regard for social reform although he supported Lloyd George in driving the People’s Budget and the author attributes important penal reform to the influence of Churchill. Lloyd George was in favour of Home Rule for Ireland from the early days of his career.

Churchill was an early and outspoken exponent of rearmament and was most concerned about the German menace. His campaign demanding the building of new battleships as early as 1911 was a constant thorn in the sides of Lloyd George and his Prime Minister, Asquith, and was perceived by them as a serious threat to the exchequer. Churchill was spurred more than his colleagues on all sides of the political world by military and empire aspirations. Unlike Lloyd George he was to support Britain’s entry into the first Great War. Churchill’s insistence on the building of new battleships was the greatest source of division between the two leaders from 1911 but nevertheless did not alter their warm and intimate friendship.

Lloyd George was consistent during his entire political life in his support of the common man. He was more reserved and certainly in terms of characters more private and less demonstrative than Churchill. Churchill was famously impulsive, bellicose, ambitious and self-centred. He was often accused of lacking judgement but his courage, energy, enthusiasm and buoyancy was evident during his entire political life and provided a balance to his many failures of judgement.  His military and political mistakes were well known and the source of much distrust but his early support of rearmament before the two great wars and his leadership and opposition to the Germans played a fundamental part in winning both wars.

The friendship of the two men survived many differences of opinion and of policy but it was respect by the younger for the older and admiration for the younger by the older that cemented their lifetime affection and trust. They shared many differences of opinion and could be critical of one another openly as well as privately. That the older man had a profound admiration for the gifts of the younger is evident in the five paragraphs in pages 150 and 151 of the book where the author quotes from Lloyd George’s War Memoirs written in 1933.  On page 211 Churchill gives a frank and moving account of their friendship during Lloyd George’s 73rd birthday.

Both leaders played prominent parts in the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations in the autumn of 1922, Lloyd George as Prime Minister and Churchill as a member of the Cabinet. It was clear that Churchill in particular was attracted to Michael Collins. I suspect that both men shared some things in common, including the same wealth of energy and affability.  

Both British leaders believed in curbing the power of the House of Lords and were with Bonar Law, the conservative leader in 1921, the greatest influence among the British in favour of granting Ireland dominion status subject to recognising the Crown and excluding the six Northern counties. From his earliest political days Lloyd George was in favour of Home Rule for Ireland. 

Lloyd George was in favour of the Jewish settlement in Palestine and the question of a Jewish settlement as a separate state gets some mention in the book. Earlier in his life he was generally unpopular as a young politician because of his strong opposition to the Boer War.  I was also interested to read that Lloyd George played a leading part in forcing Chamberlain to resign as prime minister in 1940 and having Churchill appointed to replace him.

It is of interest to those of us who are familiar with the parliamentary system in Ireland, where loyalty to party is so stringent and traditional, that leaders such as Churchill could be less attached to the same party and the same policies and that policies in the same party need not always attract the loyalty and support of all its members. Reading recently the life of Disraeli brought out the same sense of instability among members of parliament and indeed the diverse policies which can be found among members sitting on the same side of the House.

I would strongly support a less rigid whip system in our own parliament. This would lead to greater influence by the Dáil and its members and to the reduced power of the Cabinet and the Executive. At present the balance of power in parliament is too much in favour of the Executive.

Lloyd George's funeral 1945
Lloyd George died in 1945 at the age of 82 as the World War was drawing to its close.  His eulogy was delivered by Churchill to the Houses of Parliament the following day and, like Lloyd George’s earlier tribute to Churchill, referred to above, the eulogy by his lifelong political friend was equally revealing of the warmth and fastness of their friendship.

Churchill's funeral 1965
The final chapter includes short biographical notes on 33 of the chief characters who appear in the full text. It is a useful device for the more casual reader as are the final six pages providing the relevant chronology.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

More food for thought

Crowned Harp Memories of the last years of the Crown in Ireland  Nora Robertson.  Allen Figgis, Dublin, 1960. pp 183 illustrated with drawings.

This review was written on July 31st 2012

Jim Cooke, who has been corresponding with me lately about my father, mentioned this book where the authoress describes her meeting with my father and with Kevin O’Higgins and other leaders about 1925.  I borrowed the book from the RDS, read the first forty five pages or so and the last chapter 16.  The rest I skipped. This book was added to the RDS library in 1964 shortly after its publication.  I was informed by the staff that I was the first person to read it in their library!  That is 48 years later.  It cost five shillings.

Robertson was descended from a number of old Munster families who had taken part in the Munster plantation of the 17th century.  Their names included Parsons, Spencers, Boyles and Graves.  They were the victors of the Desmond Wars and of the wholesale destruction of the local population and of the old Celtic landlords, the Geraldines, the Ormonds and the Butlers.  The authoress says little or nothing about the ravages created by Sir Walter Raleigh, supported by Queen Elizabeth. With her connivance, he and his henchmen behaved drastically in slaughtering so many of the indigenous Irish population.
Robertson’s father was in the British military and finished as a senior officer with the title of General Colonel with diplomatic as well as military responsibilities.  She and her family lived much of their earlier time in Ireland and one is struck by the distant relations the privileged Church of Ireland population had with the local people and their remoteness from the Catholic majority. She understands, however, that no minority can ever hope to control the majority in perpetuity and, of course, the widespread establishment of the Catholic schools after the Catholic Emancipation and the gradual control of local politics through the admission of Catholics to the electoral register in the late 1800s made majority control by the local Irish population inevitable.

The entrance hall at Huntington Castle
Despite the Robertson military background and their limited income, they maintained high-brow social contacts with the gentry and were involved with their pastimes such as riding, croquet, tennis and game shooting.  At times, during their time in Ireland they seemed to find little beyond the garrison horizon and the drawing rooms of their privileged titled companions.  The book gives a good insight into the relations between the Anglo-Irish, the military and the Church of Ireland people and later with the emerging educated Irish and the political leaders of the new State.   Her book covers the period from the late 19th century to her publication of 1960. She underlines the major, almost exclusive, role the Protestant minority played in the great Celtic revival at the turn of the century, a revival which was to contribute indirectly but significantly to the nationalist movements which gathered in Ireland during the 20th century.

When discussing the book with my daughter Barbara, we talked about the relationship between the Irish and the English.  Barbara spoke about the happy and binding effect of the Queen’s visit in 2011 in bringing the two races closer together.  I added the view that the great majority of people in Ireland were pro-British even if the warmth had improved and became more obvious following the Queen’s visit.  My father said to me more than once that he admired the British people and that his quarrel was between Irish nationalists and the Tory party.  It stimulated my further thought that, with improving relations between and within both islands, we will be finally left with the unsolved problem of the Crown if we hope to achieve perfect amity within the four countries England, Scotland, Wales and a 32-county Ireland. Already it is clear that the relations between North and South are very close at every level apart from the political divide maintained by a nexus of Presbyterians and unionists who appear to be no nearer a political union to-day that  they were a century ago. And perhaps the answer to this quandary of political reunion within Ireland would be our rejoining the Commonwealth.  This solution might also lead to a federation of the four countries – England, Scotland, Wales and a united Ireland,

The Anglo-Irish clearly accepted the early leaders of the Irish Free State and became friendly with them despite their earlier concept of the Irish leaders as being terrorists. It is not surprising that the middle class Protestants and Catholics in the South gradually merged as one society in view of the first Free State government’s generosity towards the Protestant minority, consonant with the Treaty undertaking by the Irish delegates during the negotiations in London. 

It was clear from the author’s text that Sir Henry Wilson, who was assassinated some months after the Treaty settlement, was a major figure supporting the more recalcitrant Tories in resisting Irish nationalists’ aspirations, including the limited Home Rule of Parnell and Gladstone. He was the personification of my father’s Tory who showed little feeling for the unique difference between British and Irish culture and national identification. 

I found the contents of this book rather tedious, with much name dropping and the feelings of superiority and self-satisfaction of the Protestant minority in Ireland. However, it also inspired a few moments of wider thought about the history of the two islands, the conflicts which were part of our heritage but also I was reminded about the culture, the language, the worldwide influence and the international standing which these two islands played in recent centuries.

The RDS Library - for those of us who haven't had the pleasure.
There are some drawings illustrated by Ian Gray scattered in the text.  Nora Robertson’s newspaper death notice was attached to the title page of the RDS copy I read.  She died in 1965 at her residence, Huntington Castle, Clonegal close to Ferns.  Her husband’s name was Manning Robertson.