Peter Berresford Ellis reviews Fron-Goch and the birth of the IRA by Lyn Ebenezer, Gwas Carreg Gwalch, ISBN 0-86381-977-X, £7.75 pbk
WHEN I was a boy I read With the Irish in Frongoch by W J Brennan Whitmore (1917). This was the internment camp near Bala in north Wales into which Irish prisoners were taken in the wake of the 1916 uprising. It was a fascinating read and I still have that very copy on my bookshelves. Fron-Goch is the official Welsh spelling of the name.
I always thought someone should write a detailed account of the camp and when Sean O'Mahoney produced his Frongoch: university of revolution in 1987, I wondered if there was anything more to be said.
However, Welsh journalist and broadcaster, Lyn Ebenezer, has produced an excellent and very readable account of the internment camp that had once been, ironically, a distillery. He had met Joe Clarke, a Frongoch veteran, in 1966, and became fascinated by the history of the camp. He confesses that he writes, not as an historian, but as a journalist.
Well, if you are a good journalist, you cannot help but be a good historian. Ebeneezer also writes, importantly, from a Welsh perspective.
This volume is as fascinating as those books about prisoners in Colditz in the second world war. Here we see the story of the relationship between the Irish prisoners of war and their British captors.
The only criticism I have, of the book, is a lack of index for it is choc-a-bloc with fascinating little details that it would be handy to make notes of.
It is an excellent contribution to the literature on the war of independence and, because it comes from a Welsh perspective, compliments the earlier efforts of Brenan-Whitmore and O'Mahoney.
Connolly Association, c/o RMT, Unity House, 39 Chalton Street, London, NW1 1JD
Copyright © 2007 Peter Berresford Ellis