Literature

Irish Literary Society – Resting Places

Join us for the London launch of a fascinating new work by Dr Ellen McWilliams. Resting Places: On Wounds, War and the Irish Revolution could be read as a memoir or a collection of personal essays, but it is neither – literary scholar Lucy McDiarmid describes it as ‘the creation of a new literary form’. Resting Places offers up an Irishwoman’s elegy for two revolutionists, Oliver Cromwell and Terence James MacSwiney, a meditation on the unexpected correspondences between the English Civil War of the seventeenth century and the Irish Civil War of the 1920s, a prayer to John Milton and William Shakespeare, and a keen for a Famine Road and for the troubled history of the plantation town of Bandon in Co. Cork. The book emerged from an article in the Irish Times.

At the centre of McWilliams’s threnody is a massacre that took place a century ago in West Cork but might as well have been yesterday. It is unforgotten and will continue to be so as her son learns about that “exquisitely painful” time and finds the solace she found in taut prose which is a balm even though it treats of colonial crimes, republican crimes, the contagion of faith, the weight of history and fractured families.’Jonathan Meades

McWilliams reflects on her Catholic upbringing in West Cork in the 1980s and 1990s, and on relations with her Protestant neighbours. She is haunted by the killings in the period of Ireland’s War of Independence and Civil War, and in particular by the ‘Dunmanway massacre’ of April 1922 which marked the area where she grew up. Her great grandmother was active in Cumann na mBan and her granduncle fought for independence as well as in the anti-Treaty IRA. The book reveals why the events of those days remain deeply personal and how they shape her adult life as she moves to England, marries an expert on Cromwell and the English Civil War, teaches Irish literature at an English university, experiences pregnancy and childbirth, and nurtures her son in his early years.

Image: Crowds of onlookers throng St Patrick St on the day following the burning of Cork City centre by crown forces.

The event will be followed by a signing.

Mon 27 November 2023

Starts 7.30pm

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