I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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Sound, from Top to Toe

Carlo Gébler
Goat’s Milk: New and Selected Poems, Frank Ormsby, Bloodaxe Books, 192 pp, £12.00, ISBN: 978-1780371252 Fermanagh is a small inland county in west Ulster. It has two big lakes (Upper and Lower Lough Erne) and lots of little ones. In pre-medieval times it was a noted centre of Christian monastic practice. Towards the end of the reign of Elizabeth 1 the Tudor world began to exert influence and under the Stuarts who followed this process was deepened and consolidated by the injection of settlers, or colonists if you prefer, predominantly lowland Scots or English North Country people, most of whom were Anglicans rather than Presbyterians. The newly arrived colonists had a pretty torrid time in 1641 – the men were mostly beheaded, the women stripped naked and set on the roads to walk to Dublin – but British authority was reasserted by Cromwell. In the Williamite war thirty years later, Enniskillen (Fermanagh’s main town and the centre of settler authority), aligned with the House of Orange, raised two regiments (some feat given Fermanagh’s size) and kept the Jacobite Irish out. By the end of the century the better land was largely in the hands of Williamites, though in the poorer upland areas some Catholics held on. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Fermanagh’s history followed the Irish line: first there was the Ascendancy, then there was the Famine, then there was mass emigration, then there were the land wars and then … well, then there was the twentieth century with all its weird dislocations. Fermanagh, or large swathes of the county at any rate, was predominantly Catholic: however, in the settlement of 1921 it became part of Northern Ireland rather than the Free State, which might have been the more natural fit (at least in the opinion of nationalists). The next event of real importance was the Second World War. The county was used to warehouse a huge number of American troops before D-Day as well as being a base for the Catalina seaplanes used in the Battle of the Atlantic. Fermanagh was part of the allied war effort and because of the part it played it enjoyed the same rewards as the rest of the polity; it got the welfare state and it got the Butler Education Act and suddenly, those on the edge, like its disenfranchised and economically marginal Catholics, had access to services which had previously been…



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