2021 marks the 100 year anniversary of the establishment of The Irish Free State, the culmination of a 700 year battle for Irish Freedom from The British Empire.
Much has been written about the top leaders of the decisive 1919-1921 Final Rebellion - especially Michael Collins and Eamon DeValera. Many of the well-known patriot commanders have also been rightly lauded - Tom Barry, Dan Breen, Ernie O'Malley, Tom Maguire, Michael Kilroy and others.
Ireland's victory would not have been possible without the unsung heroes, the men and women who fought on the front lines of what the Irish called The Tan War, who sacrificed their lives daily. Other heroes were the families of these fighters who bore the brunt of the reprisals meted out by the British Forces, especially by the Black and Tans, and the Auxiliaries. The Plain People of Ireland sheltered and fed these Freedom Fighters at enormous risk to their own safety.
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Book 1 'Just One Of The Boys' is the story of Thomas Kane, one of these regular frontline fighters who left his tailor's bench in County Mayo to put everything on the line for Ireland. He tells his story directly to the reader, recounts centuries of turbulent Irish history with the help of his Shanachie( Gaelic storyteller) Grandmother, and brings the reader into the daily life of a guerilla fighter as he navigates his way through the final rebellion for Irish Independence.
The 1921 Treaty signed with Britain created an Irish Free State consisting of 26 counties, and the entity of Northern Ireland consisting of 6 northeast counties which were to stay under the control of Britain. This contrived partition of Ireland resulted in a bitter split between Pro-Treaty and Anti-Treaty factions that soon afterwards pushed Ireland into a Civil War. Thomas was Anti-Treaty and he had to find a way to survive this savage conflict which pitted former comrades against each other and took the lives of far too many Irish patriots on both sides. He chose neutrality but was still arrested and imprisoned by the pro-treaty Free State Army where he and thousands of others suffered inhumane treatment and conditions.
Book 2 'An American Dream Fulfilled' is narrated by Sean Kane, youngest son of Thomas Kane. As a child he experienced his father's regret for not having emigrated to America in search of a new and better life, like some of his comrades had done at the end of the Irish Civil War. Sean made a promise on his fathers grave that he would fulfill that lost dream.
He recounts his long journey - from growing up poor in the West of Ireland, paying his way through college, changing careers several times as he moved between Ireland's cities, then onto England and South Africa, as he followed his dream until he finally settled in America and built a successful business and a new life in South Carolina.
This two-book story carries the reader along with the Kane family, from the old and free mystic Ireland, through conquest by Britain followed by centuries of Irish Rebellion, the Great Irish Potato Famine of the 1840's, the Land Wars, the Easter Rising of 1916, the Irish War of Independence resulting in The Irish Free State and Northern Ireland via partition, followed by the horrific Irish Civil War.
Peace then followed, resulting in the modest prosperity that an agriculture based economy could muster through the World War 2 years. The Kane family story is picked up again by young Sean as he grows up in this modest Ireland of the 1960's, then pursues a quest on behalf of his father, which leads him to his promised land -- America.
He finds himself among the large throng of undocumented Irish immigrants, together with multiple other ethnic immigrants all chasing the holy grail -- a green card. This book is both a lesson in Irish history and an inspiring story of determination to fulfill dreams. It is a must-read for everyone who is part of the Irish diaspora and for those who aspire to beat the odds and achieve their personal dream.
Author Bio Michael Gerard
I was born and reared in rural County Mayo, Ireland – the youngest of five children.
My father was a veteran fighter of the Old IRA flying columns that had won the Irish War of Independence, and he had survived brutal imprisonment by the Free State Army during the ensuing Irish Civil War – he was an old man when I was a child.
My mother was a resourceful homemaker who herself had narrowly survived the German bombing Blitz during the World War II in Manchester, England. We were a poor family among poor neighbors, living on the meager earnings of a tailor in an era when readymade suits were killing off Dad’s tailor business. His tailor workshop was the meeting place for his Old IRA comrades where I listened in on their stories from the Tan War – stories that were imprinted into my brain and stored there.
Our lives changed when Daddy died suddenly before my fourteenth birthday. Mother pulled us through, and we all received a good education, including college. My first job was as a junior chemical engineer with CRH at a cement factory but I could not abide the routine of an industrial plant, and I left to pursue a career in chemical sales which changed my life.
I had the gift of the gab and did well but I had itchy feet – in part because I remembered my father’s face when he admitted to a small child his regret at not emigrating to America like many of his Tan War comrades had done.
I honed my sales skills until I found an opportunity to get hired by a Northern Ireland company to sell their Irish-made mining machinery to the World. After stints in Ireland, England and Africa, I earned a shot at the American market. Arriving in South Carolina in 1985, my wife and I set up a processing machinery business with less than $5,000. That business has since grown and has continued to be successful – we still operate it today with our two American-born sons.
Having always been inclined to write poems and essays I happened upon a creative writing course in my local city in the late 1990’s. That resulted in my first book, ‘The Kimberley File’ – a fast paced adventure novel set in the apartheid era diamond mining industry of South Africa and a large portion of it is set in Ireland.
My kids were very young then and my life was consumed with our family and my constant traveling with my mining machinery business. In about 2015 I found time to rekindle my writing passion once again and I began to mine the Tan War stories of my childhood from my brain. This resulted in the 2021 publication of ‘Ireland’s Final Rebellion and An American Dream’ – a historical novel based on my father and his comrades - the unsung foot soldiers heroes that were pivotal in winning the Tan War, and I added a second part to the book where the protagonist who searches and finds the American Dream is based on my own life experiences.
I have just completed the manuscript for ‘The Irish Merchant of Alicante’ – an historical novel based on the four generations of the Irish aristocratic Moore family and the dynasty they created around the magnificent Moore Hall, built on the shores of Lough Carra in County Mayo. Based on the positive feedback from my proofreaders, I am very pleased with the outcome of this book and plan to publish it in May 2023.
Other than that, I am blessed to live in America and enjoy two grandchildren, a successful business and find time to indulge in my writing passion.
Readers comments and suggestions are always welcome and appreciated.