Sunday, 12 June 2011

Wet Summer Reading

A few weeks ago, a school I had been working in over the last while, presented me with a thank you card and a book voucher - £25.00, for helping them throughout the year.

I had intended to keep the token until September, then perhaps buy a couple of books to read up until Christmas, well with all this rain I trooped to the book store on Friday - where I bought two books of general interest to me. I had been in the local bookstore and spied a couple of books, one recently recommended to me - so here they are!

With Loughries new banner in mind, I explored a little local history around 1910 - 1921 and found the subject fascinating.

Book 1. Fred Crawford - Carson's Gunrunner.

As anyone who has studied the Home Rule Crisis in the opening decades of the 20th century will be able to tell you, tens of thousands of guns were smuggled into Ireland to arm both the Irish Volunteers and the Ulster Volunteers. Some may even be able to tell you the name of the man who masterminded the gun-running in Ulster - Fred Crawford. But how many can tell you what he was really like?

One who can is Keith Haines who, in his new book Fred Crawford, Carson's Gunrunner, throws new light on this complex man. Fred Crawford claimed that he was born an Irishman and died an Ulsterman. He was a God-fearing Christian who believed in Divine retribution yet masterminded the largest illegal shipment of arms in the twentieth century. He was a founding member of the Ulster Volunteers who protected his Catholic workers during the Troubles of the 1920s.

Keith Haines has used private and public records to paint a fascinating portrait of a complex and surprisingly cosmopolitan man, at odds with the more usual public perception. The dichotomy at the root of Fred's character is discussed and analysed in this authorative biography of the God-fearing gunrunner. Keith's meticulous research allows a man who, until now, has lurked in the shadow of Carson and Craigavon, to take centre stage and step into the light.

Book 2 Oliver Cromwell - Gods Executioner.

Cromwell spent only nine months of his eventful life in Ireland, yet he stands accused there of war crimes, religious persecution and ethnic cleansing. In a century of unrelenting, bloody warfare and religious persecution throughout Europe, Cromwell was, in many ways, a product of his times.

As commander-in-chief of the army in Ireland, however, the responsibilities for the excesses of the military must be laid firmly at his door, while the harsh nature of the post-war settlement also bears his personal imprint.

A warrior of Christ, somewhat like the crusaders of medieval Europe, he acted as God’s executioner, convinced throughout the horrors of the legitimacy of his cause, and striving to build a better world for the chosen few.


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