The Book of Fifty Irish Writers
They were rogues, adventurers, idealists, romantics, shrinking violets, ego maniacs and all the other wonders and failures of human nature besides. The men and women of established Irish Literature were once living, breathing people – ‘The Book of Irish Writers' releases them from their dust jackets and brings them to life!
Through this chronological series of easily digestible short programmes, the listener will be led in a clear and entertaining way through what might be considered by some as a stuffy and academic subject – Irish Literature! By illuminating the lives of our famous and forgotten writers – with all their foibles, weaknesses, triumphs and tragedies unveiled – the series will be a gripping listen for all those who enjoy social history, great characters and a good story!
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Chapter 36 - James Orr, 1770 - 1816
James Orr is honoured today as 'The Bard of Ballycarry'. He represents a group of Ulster Scots poets known as 'The Rhyming Weavers'.
Orr was born near Ballycarry in County Antrim - and he received the whole of his education from his father:
He strove to form my taste and heart,
My hand he trained without a rod
He is remembered for his poems about the United Irishmen's rising, as well as later works that celebrate everyday things like potato and tea!
Chapter 37 - Percy French, 1854 - 1920
William Percy French was born at Cloonyquin House in Co. Roscommon.
He is celebrated for comic songs like 'Phil the Fluther's Ball' and 'Slattery's Mounted Foot'. Those traded on stereotypes which were affectionate enough to please both Irish and English audiences.
Some of French's songs have satirical targets. For example, 'Are Ye Right There Michael' satirised the state of the railways in Co. Clare - French was later sued by the railway company!
He is held in particular affection in the north of Ireland for his sentimental song about emigration, 'The Mountains of Mourne'.
Chapter 38 - Amanda McKittrick Ros, 1860 - 1939
When Anna Margaret McKittrick was born in Drumaness in Co. Down few could have predicted what would be unleashed on the literary world.
Celebrated by the great and the good, her novels are conventional in terms of their plots - they don't stray far from the basic story of an innocent, orphaned heroine at the mercy of dastardly villains. What distinguishes them is their over the top quality and Ros's flowery prose style.
The adventures of characters like Madame Pear and Lord Raspberry saw Ros acclaimed as the worst writer in the world. Yet she was supremely confident of her writing talents and high status - her calling card stating that she was 'At home always to the honourable'.
Chapter 39 - James Joyce, 1882 - 1941
James Joyce wrote one collection of short stories, and three novels - all were revolutionary. Joyce was born into a prosperous family - but his father's spendthrift habits ruined them forcing a move from the comfortable suburbs in Dublin's slums.
His exceptional abilities meant that he was given an excellent education by the Jsuits and at University College in Dublin. However, he really educated himself and from about the age of 15 he aspired to be a writer. He would go on to create what some say is the greatest novel in English, 'Ulysses'.
Chapter 40 - Sean O'Casey
Sean O'Casey was born in Dublin. He was baptised John Casey - but the name was second-hand: two other sons who had died young had been given the name before him.
At the time of his birth his father was a clerk for the Irish Church Mission and the family was reasonably secure - but only in comparison to the appalling conditions of many fellow Dublin tenement dwellers.
O'Casey's formal schooling was frequently interrupted and he was mostly self-taught. He presented his education as a struggle in which he often hadto choose between buying bread and buying a book - his solution was to buy bread and steal the book!