Saturday, September 29, 2018
Is there no end to it?
Last night (28/9/2018) saw the launch of a most unusual book in the Oak Room of the Mansion House. The Decade of Centenaries (or whatever it's called) has seen the appearance of many books but this one must take the biscuit (apologies to Jacobs) for both its obscurity and its simplicity.
It covers the range of weapons used by both sides in the Rising and presents new insights into both what went right and what went wrong and reveals many ironies lurking beneath the surface.
It is published by Mícheál Ó Doibhilín's company Kilmainham Tales Teo and is a great addition to their range. Mícheál reminded us (he has told us before) that when he was workingg as a guide in Kilmainham Gaol he felt the need for books that explained Irish history in an authoritative but readable way, and this is what he has been doing for some years now. Maith thú.
I think he said this was his 25th title, but you can see the spread yourself in this display panel and go to the website to follow them up.
These occasions are great for networking and renewing old acquaintances and there was plenty of time for this while the attendance were waiting for the arrival of the Lord Mayor, Councillor Nial Ring, who was a full hour late. In fact we almost had another Rising until the order came through to prematurely break out the beer.
I'm sure the Mayor must have apologised to the organisers. It would have been nice of him to have included the audience. But as Mícheál remarked it was his house and we were his guests. Nevertheless.
Anyway, when he arrived and took to the podium he was both entertaining and brief, and he remembered to actually launch the book.
And then to the main act of the night. Kieran McMullen's talk effectively walked us through the book. Now you may think that a talk which went into the most obscure details of a wide range of weapons would end up being a bit of a bore for non-aficionados, but the way Kieran told it made for a fascinating tale and produced new insights into many aspects of the Rising.
Apart from the pure mechanics of the weapons themselves, which were really interesting, what struck me most was the intensity of the training of the Volunteers, the lack of it in the "new" British army, and the frequent mismatch between weapon and ammunition, all having serious consequences for how events played out.
I learned that there are different designs within the same calibre bullet and that the fixed sights on guns are calibrated for a particular design. Using the wrong bullet of the right calibre will have them going all over the place. This appears to have been a particular problem with the British army during the Rising. Also even very slight variations in manufacture can produce unpredictable results.
Kieran's talk was followed by some presentations. The Lord Mayor was presented with an imposing volume, the title of which I didn't catch. Mícheál assured him that it would be a great help to him in both his work and leisure.
Closer inspection revealed the book's secret.
Kieran's brother, Damon is Mayor of the village of Northport on the north shore of Manhattan Island since last April. He invested Nial as an honorary Mayor of the village, complete with imposing ID.
Kieran retired from the US army as a lieutenant colonel. He served in the Korean DMZ and in Desert Storm and went on to do a stint in the Fire Brigade and a further 12 years in law enforcement. You can read his bio and more besides on his website.