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Book Review: Meda Ryan: “The Day Micahel Collins Was Shot”

I studied history for the past 4 years as part of my undergraduate. I think thats how I became a history teacher. During this time I didnt get to read many books from cover to cover. I just had to zone in on whatever topic my assignment or essay was on and hope that the person who had the book before me had underlined the relevant parts.

When I finished my degree I decided that one thing that would do me well in my future career would be to read more history books. So I decided that the only books I will read for the next while would be historical. Some would be straight up history books, others would be biographical, others would be history based novels. Did I mention that I’m an exciting guy? No, oh pardon my rudeness. I’m an exciting guy, I sometimes go to the toilet in a nightclub and don’t tip the attendant. Rarely.

I’m a pretty slow reader and because of that it has been quite sometime since my last book review. And even longer since the one before that. So the book that took me so long to read was: “The Day Michael Collins was Shot” by Meda Ryan.

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Michael Collins was shot dead in an ambush at Béal na mBláth, Co. Cork, on 22 August 1922. The manner of his death and the identity of his killer have been the source of intense speculation and controversy ever since.

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In her book, Meda Ryan attempts to tackle a very difficult task: determining who shot Michael Collins on that ill-fated day in 1922. In the book’s preface, Ryan shares her reasons for wanting to examine the topic and her research methods in compiling the book. In Part I of the introduction, Ryan provides a short biography of Collins’s life from his birth to June 1922. In Part II, she covers the last two months of Collins’s life and then the main body of the book begins.

Ryan supplies several great pictures and several maps of Béal na mBláth. Her evidence consists of eye-witness accounts, letters, telephone conversations and newspaper clippings. The Day Michael Collins Was Shot is both an exciting and suspenseful narrative and an invaluable work of primary historical research. In the book, Ryan states several theories in how Michael was ambushed. These are:

  • Collins was hit from behind by IRA members headed to Kerry.
  • Collins was hit by a member of his own party by a close range bullet from the armored car he was travelling in.
  • Collins was hit by a ricocheted bullet.
  • Collins was hit by a bullet fired by an IRA member.

After dissecting the response of the medical examiners, the embalmer, the men who supposedly buried the cap Collins was wearing on the day he was killed, and the testimony of Emmet Dalton, Collins’s friend and comrade who was with him that day, Ryan does give a firm conclusion as to who the shooter was. She dispels the theories that Collins was shot by a bullet from a Mauser pistol and that Collins was killed by a ricocheted bullet. So who shot Michael Collins according to Ryan’s studies? Ryan concludes from her evidence: “Michael Collins was not shot by a bullet from a Mauser pistol. Michael Collins was not killed by a ricochet bullet. Michael Collins was shot by the Republican who said, ‘I dropped one man.'”

Funeral Percession for Michael Collins

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and clocking in at 161 pages, it was quite an easy read compared ot other history books. This book would be a fantastic resource for any one who is undertaking a project on the death of Michael Collins as part of their history course. The first hand accounts, pictures and interviews are great examples of primary sources that would compliment any work being done on the topic. This book is a must read for anyone who is interested in the life, and more importantly death, of the hero, scoundrel, legend, enigma, god, and icon (depending on your political leanings) that was Michael Collins

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“One day he’ll be a great man. He’ll do great work for Ireland.”

– Michael Collins’ Father on his deathbed about his son, who was 6 at the time.

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Book Review: Simon Sebag Montefiore: “Jerusalem: The Biography”

I studied history for the past 4 years as part of my undergraduate. I think thats how I became a history teacher. During this time I didnt get to read many books from cover to cover. I just had to zone in on whatever topic my assignment or essay was on and hope that the person who had the book before me had underlined the relevant parts.

When I finished my degree I decided that one thing that would do me well in my future career would be to read more history books. So I decided that the only books I will read for the next while would be historical. Some would be straight up history books, others would be biographical, others would be history based novels. Did I mention that I’m an exciting guy? No, oh pardon my rudeness. I’m an exciting guy, I once knew a guy who knew a guy who won €100 on a scratch card. He wasn’t 18.

As I have been blogging an awful lot about the Holy Land recently, it is only fitting to review a book that I read in preparation for the trip. The book I am going to review is Simon Sebag Montefiore’s; “Jerusalem: The Biography”.

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“Jerusalem is the universal city, the capital of two peoples, the shrine of three faiths; it is the prize of empires, the site of Judgement Day and the battlefield of today’s clash of civilizations. From King David to Barack Obama, from the birth of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to the Israel–Palestine conflict, this is the epic history of 3,000 years of faith, slaughter, fanaticism and coexistence.”

I loved this book. Very enjoyable to read about the history of a fascinating city. I first came across Simon Sebag Montefiore during my undergraduate while researching an essay on Stalin. His style of writing makes his books very accessible and, unlike a lot of history books, his chapters are short and easily read while not skimping on the details.

Throughout history Jerusalem seems to have been at the hub of where the world can come together – and then also pull itself apart. The city, from King David’s time to the present day, has served as a place of worship and a prize to be won. Simon Sebag Montefiore has written an expansively researched but pacy account of this desert town which, even now, somehow resides at the centre of the world. In many ways the author’s Jerusalem is a stage, upon which players make their entrances and exits – but what characters they are: prostitutes and prophets, crusaders and caliphs, worshippers and warmongers.

“Drawing on new archives, current scholarship, his own family papers and a lifetime’s study, Montefiore illuminates the essence of sanctity and mysticism, identity and empire in a unique chronicle of the city that is believed will be the setting for the Apocalypse. This is how Jerusalem became Jerusalem, and the only city that exists twice – in heaven and on earth.”

A fascinating read that was thoroughly enjoyable. So much so that I actually saw it printed in Hebrew in the gift shop of the Holocaust museum in Israel and considered buying it for the novelty factor. It’s length makes it not suitable for sole classroom use but its insights and observations would compliment any lesson you may be doing on the holy city, be it in R.E or history class.

Highly recommended!

עד לפעם הבאה שנפגש.

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Book Review: “I Was a Boy in Belsen”

I studied history for the past 4 years as part of my undergraduate. I think thats how I became a history teacher. During this time I didnt get to read many books from cover to cover. I just had to zone in on whatever topic my assignment or essay was on and hope that the person who had the book before me had underlined the relevant parts.

When I finished my degree I decided that one thing that would do me well in my future career would be to read more history books. So I decided that the only books I will read for the next while would be historical. Some would be straight up history books, others would be biographical, others would be history based novels. Did I mention that I’m an exciting guy? No, oh pardon my rudeness. I’m an exciting guy. I butter my bread on both sides and don’t care if it falls.

Anywho, the first book I read was: “I Was a Boy in Belsen” by Tomi Reichental.

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This was Tomi’s account of his time spent in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during the holocaust. Its an easy read with short, broken up chapters. A good lay out to get me into the swing of this reading lark.

The book tells Tomi’s life story from his early years growing up as a Jewish boy in post WW1 Slovakia. Aged just 4 when the Second World War starts, Tomi tells how life changed in the early years of the war for his family leading up to his capture and detainment in the concentration camp aged 9.

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Tomi lost an amazing 35 members of his family due to the atrocities of the Nazi regime. It was very nearly more as himself and his mother were on the verge of death due to malnutrition and illness when the camp was liberated in 1945.

The book tells the story of Tomi’s life in three main parts: During the war, During imprisonment and after liberation. It culminates in Tomi’s early adult life in Israel and his eventual settling in….wait for it…..Ireland.

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Since writing the book Tomi now gives talks to schools and institutes, about the story which he didn’t bare to think about for 50 years, through the Holocaust Education Trust of Ireland. Maybe you’d like to get him for your school? Yea, you! Do it!

 

Overall I found his book as enjoyable a read as this subject can be. His age at the time probably meant that he did not understand a lot of the things that he saw and therefore may have forgotten about some of the more sinister details. Its a book that is well worth a read and I would recommend it to those history students you may have in your classroom who would be mature enough to deal with such a topic with respect.

The most important thing about any books on the holocaust is that they keep this event in our minds and in doing so remind us of the lows the human race can slip to and help us to ensure that it never happens again.

Never Forget.

Dovidenia!!