Revelatory new book on pivotal point in local history
World War 1, the War of Independence and the Civil War, all happening within a nine year time frame, form the backdrop to a new book by Ballina author Terry Reilly.
But it’s not all about war – though the struggles are dealt with in graphic details. The narrative covers Ballina and its environs at a pivotal time in Irish history. All aspects of life and times are drawn upon to sketch out an enthralling story that will intrigue, enchant, shock and inform about events that took place between 1880 and 1923.
During this period many of the tattered old buildings were pulled down and rebuilt along the main streets though the poor lived in disease-ridden hovels along many of the lanes. With over 80 pubs and leading merchants, including Strongs, Laings, Lipton, Hughes, Moyletts, Mullen’s, Strong’s and Gallagher, Ballina was a busy market town with the contrast between rich and poor stark.
While the have-nots went about barefooted, some merchants lived in comfort and luxury with private schools for their children.
The political mood was changing, though. The GAA, the Gaelic League, and the Gaelic revival were gaining traction and the mood of locals was becoming much more assured and determined. Strong characters were emerging.
The Volunteers were parading in defence of Home Rule but many of them found themselves in the trenches of WW1. Some did not return: in fact the number of fatalities from the vicinity numbered over 200.
The War of Independence followed and then the bitterly divisive Civil War with its bank raids, ambushes and diametrically opposed views . Anecdotes garnered from senior citizens over the ears enliven the narrative over 432 compelling pages.
Ballina – One Town, Three Wars & More casts a wide net around the vicinity, reaching to Foxford, Crossmolina/Lahardane, the ambush at Glenamoy in which many died during the Civil War, Enniscrone and West Sligo – Ox Mountains, setting fore to Enniscrone coastguard station, Corballa ambush, McGuinness (Carns) shooting, etc.
A feature of the book is QR coding which allows the reader to step back in time to experience some of the events described in the book through smart ‘phones.
From research for this 432 page hardcover blockbuster came inspiration for the play We’ll be Home Before Christmas – the narrative of a town and the trenches during WW1 – which will be performed in Ballina Arts Theatre.
A prolific writer and historian, the former managing editor of the Western People is also the author of ‘On A Wing and A Prayer,’ the story of legendry Mayo churchman, Monsignor James Horan who overcame impossible odds to construct an international airport at Knock, and ‘Dear Old Ballina’ a history of the North mayo capital.
His other works include ‘The Green Above The Red,’ the history of Mayo GAA, ‘The Goal of Victory,’ a history of the Ballina Stephenites, ‘Amazing Mayo Stories,’ ‘A Rambling Tour Through Dear Old Ballina,’ a musical based on ‘A Wing and A Prayer,’ which has raised more than €200,000 for the Mayo/Roscommon Hospice, a DVD : ‘Ballina, The Town We Love So Well,’ and a play: ‘We’ll Be Home Before Christmas,’ based on his book surrounding events of World War1.
He was the inaugural winner of the John Healy award for highlighting lopsided development biased against the west of Ireland, has been recognized as a Champion of the West by the International Humbert Summer School, and is a recipient of the GAA McNamee media award.