As I read on about Ireland during the years 1939-1945, I am struck by some of the parallels with my own experiences and impressions coming here in 1968 to live permanently. Before I came I had little idea of the differences and similarities between the North and the South. Little by little I have become more aware but it has been a slow process. My husband Ian told me we were coming to a new country for both of us. Odd I thought, Dublin is only a little over 100 miles south of Belfast. And I thought well it’s a lot newer for me than it is for him. Before we came I tried to read up a bit about our new country. We were in Kenya and I can remember 3 books that I found in the bookshops in Nairobi. One by Mary Bromage, an Irish American writer whose book on De Valera was published in 1956. I still see paperback copies of it occasionally in book sales. Another book which I read was Maurice O’Sullivan’s Twenty Years A Growing. (photo from the internet, as is the following.
“Muiris Ó Súilleabháin /mʷirʲiʃ o: sˠu:lʲəvʷɑ:nʲ/ (aka Maurice O’Sullivan) (19 February 1904 – 25 June 1950) became famous for his memoir of growing up on the Great Blasket Island off the western coast of Ireland, Fiche Bliain ag Fás (Twenty Years a’Growing), published in Irish and English in 1933. As one of the last areas of Ireland in which the old Irish language and culture had continued unchanged, the Great Blasket Island was a place of enormous interest to those seeking traditional Irish narratives. Ó Súilleabháin was persuaded to write his memoirs by George Derwent Thomson, a linguist and professor of Greek who had come to the island to hear and learn the Irish language. Thomson edited and assembled the memoir, and arranged for its translation into English with the help of Moya Llewelyn Davies.“
The third book which I found was Cecil Woodham-Smith’s book about the Famine.
Reading these books in preparation for coming to Ireland was at least a start, but even after 40 years of living here I feel I’ still have a lot to discover. I wish there were some sort of term like Americo-Irish the way writers describe Anglo-Irish people; because I too now feel loyalty to Ireland, Britain,and America. These feelings of divided loyalties are explored fairly clearly in the book I’m reading now, That Neutral Island by Clair Wills. What I particularly like about the book is that she writes quite a bit about the literary figures of those years and what they wrote, for example Elizabeth Bowen, Kate O’Brien, Louis MacNiece, Denis Johnston, and Francis Stuart.