Tuesday, November 04, 2014


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Four Courts Press have once again given us food for thought. This time it is filling a serious gap in the study of the Irish press. The area of periodicals as journalism has tended to be ignored in favour of the literary periodical, but no more.

The volume is edited by Felix Larkin and Mark O'Brien and it covers a representative sample of twentieth century Irish periodicals with contributions on individual periodicals from experts in the field. You can see more on this on the Four Courts Press website.

As someone who once had a printing press, I really appreciated the cover which came from the wonderful Print Museum.

Felix Larkin

The launch was in the distinguished surroundings of the Royal Irish Academy and I think this was only my third time inside the door. The Statistical Society used to meet there and I went once. Then there was the recent launch of Michael Laffan's Judging WT Cosgrave.

Felix kicked off the proceedings, as only Felix can, and we all settled down to be erudited.

Mark O'Brien and Terence Brown

He was followed by his co-editor, Mark, who said Felix was great to work with and went on to thank the contributors, who he said tend to get a bit passed over at these launches.

The high point of the evening was Terence Brown's speech launching the book. Terence is Emeritus Professor of Anglo-Irish Literature at TCD and is the supreme authority on that subject. So it was good to hear him praise the book and underline the importance of the periodicals as journalism and as providing a space for radical thought in an otherwise conservative society with its more or less tame press.

He mentioned many of the personalities who brought these periodicals into existence and sustained them in hard times. He contrasted the Capuchin Annual which, while providing an outlet for journalism, was itself quite conservative, with the Furrow which was very progressive both before and after Vatican II. Both these periodicals were run by priests.

He also mentioned the latecomers from my own time, Hibernia, Magill and even Hot Press, but he wondered why we don't now have a thriving journalistic periodical scene like before.

In part, he put it down to the lack of the towering personalities and backers of old, though he appeared to toy with Vincent Browne as a candidate, and he tantalisingly mentioned the advent of the digital era but didn't develop this very interesting theme.

Peter Murtagh has an interview with Felix Larkin on the book in the Irish Times (8/11/2014)

After a very interesting evening, I am very much looking forward to reading what is promising to be an excellent book.

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