An affectionate portrayal of the eccentricities and charms of western Ireland by a quintessentially self-deprecating British traveler.
Following in the footsteps of Eric Newby and Redmond O’Hanlon, BBC writer McCarthy takes us along on his rather pointless but colorful wanderings in western Ireland. Raised in northern England, as a child the author often spent long holidays with his mother’s family in Eire—well before the country became the trendy, buffed-up place that it is today. Like Frank McCourt (whose Angela’s Ashes put considerable fat into the fire of the current craze for the Emerald Isle), McCarthy occasionally waxes sentimental about the old days when things were gray and parochial. Early on he wonders, “Is it possible to have some kind of genetic memory of a place where you’ve never lived, but your ancestors have? Or am I just a sentimental fool, my judgement fuddled by nostalgia, Guinness, and the romance of the diaspora?” Mercifully for us, McCarthy (although he rightfully bemoans the theme-park atmosphere that accompanies economic prosperity and development) is no self-righteous moralizer ruing the fact that his ancestral countrymen now have a bit of money in their pockets. Neither is he a know-it-all bore. Well aware that a good companion is the first necessity of a good trip, the author scrupulously avoids pedantry and never misses a chance to ridicule his own ineptitude. (Chancing upon a 19th-century sheep shed that has recently been remodeled into a bed and breakfast, he gleefully relates the landlady’s remark after shaking his hand: “Sure, ye can see ye’ve never done a hard day’s work in your life.”)
Unfailingly sharp, good-humored, and offbeat: sure to please Celtophiles of every greenish hue.