The Ivy Leaf: the Parnells remembered

Michael O'Sullivan reviews The Ivy Leaf: the Parnells remembered,em> by Donal McCartney and Pauric Travers, UCD Press, ISBN 978 1 904558 59 0, £17.95/€25 pbk

The Ivy Leaf

THIS NEW collection of essays about Parnell is not a historical work in the ordinary sense, in that its purpose is not to critically re-examine the events of Parnell's time, nor to evaluate his motives and actions.

Instead, what we have is an introduction to what is called 'Commemoration History', a recent genre or theme whose object is to record and publish details of the ceremonies, events and celebrations held to mark significant historical occurrences or anniversaries of the births or deaths of important national figures.

In recent years the anniversaries of 1798, the famine and the 1916 rising have been remembered publicly on a grand scale, and subsequently written up to become part of this growing corpus of commemoration literature.

This compilation is the latest such offering and is published to accompany the series of events organised by the Parnell Society, recently formed to commemorate the centenary of the death of 'The Chief on 6 October 1891, traditionally known as Ivy Day.

Covering a wide range of topics, this is an interesting if largely uncritical appreciation of Parnell the family man as well as Parnell the politician.

'Parnell: Nationalism and Romance' is a very readable outline of Parnell's politics. There is an illuminating insight into his visits to America and his tremendous success there in harnessing the political and financial support of the emigrant Irish.

'Parnell's Women' takes a fresh look at the female influences on Parnell. His mother, a complex and unconventional woman, appears to have had little influence on his political formation. The same cannot be said of his two sisters Anna and Fanny, both political agitators and active in the Ladies' Land League.

The Katharine O'Shea episode is briefly described as a prelude to the bitter divisions it caused in the party, Parnell's subsequent tragic death and his extraordinary funeral in Glasnevin.

'At The Graveside' brings together four orations delivered on behalf of the Parnell Society at the gravesides of Parnell, Katharine and his two sisters. In a similar vein, the history of the Ivy Day commemorations from its inception to 1991 is traced, showing how, as the authors put it, 'Parnell and Ivy Day have passed from memory into history'. Eclectic and stimulating, and full of interesting insights, this collection is a significant and timely addition to the field of Parnell studies.

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