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Book Review: To School Through the Fields
by Alice Taylor

“This is the story of a childhood. In its day it was an ordinary childhood but, with the changing winds of time, now it could never be.” The very first line of this charming memoir sets the scene for what’s to come - a description of Ireland fifty or more years ago; still on the first page, the author goes on to tell us of a time when “sharing was taken for granted, from the milk in the winter when the cows went dry to the pork steak and puddings when the pig was killed. Work was also shared from the saving of the hay to the cutting of the corn and the preparing for the stations. It was an interlaced community and it’s structure helped those within it to support each other.”

It comes as no surprise to this reviewer that this book is a bestseller in Ireland, where the author tends the market and post office of Innishannon. She brings to life the simple delights of growing up on a farm in a large family ruled by a loving mother and a father who had "a high level of intelligence and a low threshold of tolerance."

The children were reared in an environment structured according to the cycles of nature, enjoyed relative freedom and observed the facts of life unfolding daily before them. A delightful evocation of Irishness and of the author's deep-rooted love of "the very fields of home," this picture of bucolic life in an earlier time, with its rituals of religion and the antics of local characters, has universal appeal. It also goes far beyond the bleakness of life in Limerick according to Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes. For while his recollections are at the same time both brutally honest and hilarious, Alice’s memories are much more gentle. As one reviewer put it - If Angela's Ashes and it's clones is your only taste of Ireland during the economic hard times, you're only getting half the story. This best seller speaks of the Ireland our grandparent's held dear to their hearts. but fair warning - people who feel good writing must be driven by inner turmoil will hate this book!
For the rest of us, To School Through The Fields is a breath of fresh air.

About the Author
Alice Taylor lives in the village of Innishannon in County Cork, in a house attached to the local supermarket and post office. Since her eldest son has taken over responsibility for the shop, she has been able to devote more time to her writing. Indeed she has a dozen or more titles to her credit!

In much earlier times, Alice worked as a telephonist in Killarney and Bandon. When she married, she moved to Innishannon where she ran a guesthouse at first, then the supermarket and post office. She and her husband, Gabriel Murphy, who sadly passed away in 2005, had four sons and one daughter. In 1984 she edited and published the first issue of Candlelight, a local magazine which has since appeared annually. In 1986 she published an illustrated collection of her own verse.

 

Fri, Nov 24, 2017

Holly and Ivy hanging up and
something wet in every cup*

Not so long ago, Irish Christmas decorations were much simpler than they are now. The children gathered holly and ivy for adorning, windows, doorways, mantles and pictures, and the father would carve out a turnip in which would be placed a large red candle. This would go in the window to light the way for the Holy Family on Christmas Eve. Only in relatively recent times did an Irish family have a Nativity scene and a decorated tree in the house. As for Mistletoe, it's quite rare in ireland and is generally associated with ancient Celtic and Druidic fertility celebrations; this is most likely where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from.
*Old Irish Christmas toast
Image: Pashley Manor Gardens.



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Gardens of Ireland

Visit 30 of Ireland's most beautiful gardens. Includes a stunning collection of 200 full-color photos.

 

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