Michael O'Sullivan reviews Rising Out: Sean Connolly of Longford (1890-1921) by Ernie O'Malley (Cormac O'Malley, ed.), UCD Press Classics of Irish History series, ISBN 978 1 904558 89 7, £13.95/€20 pbk
A NEW work from Ernie O'Malley can always be considered an event, and this book is no exception.
Since his war of independence classic On another Man's Wound appeared in 1936 there has been a steady flow of memoirs, journals and correspondence making him one of the most prolific writers among twentieth century Irish revolutionaries, and probably the best.
This latest offering is the first publication of the story of Brigadier Sean Connolly, O/C of the Longford brigade of the IRA killed in action against British forces in Leitrim in March 1921.
The book is based on the manuscript of a series of interviews O'Malley conducted with survivors of the conflict in the early 1950's. Prepared and edited by O'Malley's son Cormac K H O'Malley, with the support of Sean Connolly's surviving family, it is a very full and detailed account of IRA campaigns in Longford, Roscommon and Leitrim.
Despite his own high rank in the volunteers O'Malley himself was ever conscious of the vital importance to the movement of small regional commanders such as Connolly with their invaluable local knowledge and popular support.
Again and again he records hair raising episodes and outstanding feats of bravery in the face of impossible odds; and yet without this book it is unlikely that the valour and sacrifice of any of those involved would become known beyond their own community.
It is a tribute also to O'Malley's skill as a writer that he manages to render such a large and involved series of oral interviews into a narrative at once lucid and compelling.
This is a remarkable account of one man's heroic struggle against a cruel and relentless tyranny and required reading for anyone interested in the events of that period. Such is the debt owed to Ernie O'Malley that without him our appreciation of twentieth century Irish history would be substantially reduced.
A debt of gratitude is owed as well to Cormac O'Malley for his meticulous editing. Let us hope that there is more where this came from.
Connolly Association, c/o RMT, Unity House, 39 Chalton Street, London, NW1 1JD
Copyright © 2008 Michael O'Sullivan