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Book aims to unwrap history of Limerick’s landmarks

In her new book Siobhan English begins with King's Island and recalls the sieges of King John's Castle. Picture: Paul Sheridan

In her new book Siobhan English begins with King's Island and recalls the sieges of King John's Castle. Picture: Paul Sheridan

  • by Siobhan English
 

Siobhan English has launched a new book, Come Stroll With Me in Limerick, this week, writing in it about how love for her native county and its ancient city inspired her to write it.

“…It is my native land and my home, my home is there.”

This particular line from There is an Isle always resonates with me and reflects my own feelings for my native county and its ancient city. My pride in my native Limerick has inspired a book. Its title, Come Stroll With Me in Limerick, is an invitation to share the scenery and story of this wonderful region.

The Treaty County, a rich land, a sporting capital, a city of three towns, an ancient city, well studied in the arts of war – such are the many faces of Limerick. Limerick has been at the heart of major national and international events over the course of centuries. Throughout the city and county are historic sites, ruins, and old buildings which tell many tales of our rich heritage. I have always had a fascination for stories and, growing up near Sarsfield’s Rock, with its connection to the Siege of Limerick, I developed an interest in the story of Limerick. This book looks at the stories behind many of the landmarks of our city and county.

Studying Geography in first year at Mary Immaculate College, I was introduced to the concept of Limerick as a city of three towns, an idea which inspired me to delve a little more deeply into the wonderful body of historical knowledge which has been collated by Limerick historians through the years.

Villages and towns, whose stories form a few paragraphs of this book, are, in many cases, the subject of excellent works in their own right. Prominent among those historians who have left a rich legacy, is Mainchín Seoige, or Mannix Joyce. Also writing under the pen name An Mangaire Súgach (the Merry Peddlar), he contributed numerous excellent columns to the Limerick Leader from 1944 until 2002, as well as writing a number of books, including Portrait of Limerick, one of the works to which I have referred in researching this book.

Each year, from 2004, I have had the privilege of designing and delivering a week-long Summer School course for teachers, Exploring Local History. Every year, the course has brought me into contact with many people who eloquently express the story of Limerick. This book has partly sprung from a desire to share their interesting stories with a wider audience.

In preparing it, I have selected a number of beautiful walks and drives around Limerick county and city, routes which allow the visitor to enjoy history, scenery and story.

This book begins in one of the oldest and most beautiful parts of the city; Kings’ Island, in the Englishtown. It recounts stories and legends of St Mary’s Cathedral, recalls the sieges which have ravaged King John’s Castle, explores the tales associated with historic buildings such as Bourke’s House as well as Fanning’s Castle and the Bishop’s Palace, to name but a few.

The book follows the development of Limerick city towards the Irishtown and pauses to examine the effects of the Sieges of Limerick on this area. A visit is paid to many of the most important sites of historic interest in the Irishtown, including John’s Square, St John’s Church of Ireland Church and graveyard, and St John’s Cathedral. Newtown Pery, the Georgian area of the city, is explored in terms of its architecture and, indeed, the lives of its citizens.

Leaving behind the city for a while, the journey continues through picturesque and historic villages by the Mulcair River, such as Annacotty and Castleconnell, into Murroe, Cappamore, Doon, Oola, Pallasgrean, Boher and back to Limerick. Another expedition takes the reader through the nearby villages of Ballyneety, Herbertstown, Galbally, stealing across the county border into Emly, before heading back towards Knocklong, Knockainey, Ballylanders and Kilfinane, pauses to explore the magical and storied Lough Gur as well as exploring the ancient towns of Hospital and 
Kilmallock.

Along the way, some Limerick’s most ancient settlements at Bruff and Bruree, are visited. Turning west, one route travels through the lovely Patrickswell, the picturesque Adare and continues through the towns of Rathkeale, Newcastle West, and the bustling market town of Abbeyfeale, with its distinct flavour of the music and traditions of Kerry. Another route into the west brings the reader through the ancient monastic sites of Mungret and Askeaton, passes such historic places as Clarina, Pallaskenry, Kilcornan and Curraghchase on its way to the port of Foynes and journey’s end.

I approached the researching of this book from the point of view of a visitor, wandering into coffee shops and post offices in the various towns and villages which I visited, engaging in a chat with the local people about the features of interest in the area and paying them a visit, before returning to the library for further research.

For me, this was the most satisfying aspect of writing the book, - exploring the local history on foot, enjoying being a tourist in my native county and city.

Looking back on the photos included in the book evokes the atmosphere of each place and a happy memory of my visit. Limerick, during one of our wettest summers in recent years and in the middle of a recession, looked pretty well!

Unfortunately, as any visitor knows, it is not always possible to learn everything about an area on a brief visit, such as this book affords the reader. Of some parts of the city and county I have had to echo the sentiments of Robert Frost in The Road Not Taken and leave some roads for another day. I hope that, even though “way leads onto way,” I shall have the opportunity to return to these Limerick roads and streets left untravelled.

The result of my losing myself in the pages of a book, as well as on the highways and byways of our city and county, is not a comprehensive history of Limerick, merely a survey of some of its most interesting stories. This is a book written for Limerick people at home and abroad, for visitors and for families who wish to take an evening stroll or Sunday drive.

It may be a timely and useful resource for those who will welcome family or friends to Limerick during The Gathering in 2013. It is also a book for schools, where future citizens of our county and city are developing their knowledge and appreciation of our history. Above all, I hope that this book will be a useful companion on many a stroll along the pathways of history.

 

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