John Young's review

Paddy McEvoy, Author and Teacher


TTG Publications, 2013, by John Young MA(Oxon) MEd FRSA published in Humanism Ireland, December, 2013

With a third volume due to be published on January 1st, 2014, it is timely to cast an eye over the first two books in Paddy McEvoy’s four part “A Disobedient Irish History: Awkward Questions and Divergent Answers”.
The format of these “histories” will be familiar to readers of McEvoy’s burgeoning Humanist “Catechism” series. Choosing episodes and themes from the full span of Irish history, the author shares his highly personal views and perspectives in a series of short, punchy, mini-essays. There are fifty such essays in each book.
There is no attempt here at keeping to historical order, as he island-hops through the millennia like Doctor Who in an out of control Tardis. Attempts at a chronological approach are abandoned after the first few essays. McEvoy’s odyssey may start in the mists of meseolithic Ireland, but a few pages later he is unleashing the first of many heartfelt and frenzied attacks upon the historical legacy of Patrick Pearse. We never know where he is going next and quite often our Tardis revisits the same eras and events to battle again with the republican Daleks and the clergy.
In an earlier review I pictured our author “ploughing the foamy seas of Irish history like some modern-day Brendan, undeterred by leviathans, reefs or stormy weather, and not at all phased by a lack of discernible maps or navigational aids.” These reflections are indeed very much a personal voyage for the author who is seeking to question the orthodoxies and hypocrisies of the history of Ireland drilled into him as a schoolboy by the Christian Brothers and which he has seen visited on Ireland throughout his adult life. Anyone seeking here for a detached and balanced view of Ireland’s story will be disappointed, but those who admire passionate forthrightness will be drawn into the author’s kaleidoscopic perspective on the past. He even dismisses the orthodox calendar, in favour or a new ordering of the years which currently places us in year 12,013.
As he makes abundantly clear, the Brothers may not have educated the young McEvoy in a sensitive and humane manner. Something somewhere in his education, however, has helped him develop a capacity to write in a vivid and entertaining fashion. His extensive vocabulary is further augmented by words of his own invention -“faitheist” would be an example – and he has a Tardis full of anecdotes and eclectic references that add an incandescent illumination to his chosen topics.
And what a varied set of topics he has assembled for us! In Book 1 we are treated to his insights into national identity and language, relationships with Britain, Ireland’s place in Europe, unionism and the Rose of Tralee. In the second volume he lays into the armed struggle, including the Easter Rising and the Civil War, and continues to deconstruct the role of the priesthood in stifling progress in modern Ireland. His thesis generally leans towards an Ireland that should never have endured the internal violence of the 20th Century or sundered from England and the Commonwealth. He also lambasts the hypocrisy of the Irish Church and the tyranny of Rome for crippling thought in Ireland for centuries.
Most readers will initially respond emotionally, rather than intellectually, to the loud and clear assertions and vehement opinions Paddy McEvoy fires at us. Additionally, though, I find myself regularly stimulated to carry out my own research to follow up on the topics he opens up. These are not books for bedtime reading, as they will set your thought processes whirring. The book is sub-titled “Awkward Questions and Divergent Answers” and this is an accurate summary of what this entertaining, energetic and emancipated series of short essays is all about.
To be truthful, Paddy McEvoy’s style is not for everyone, particularly his frequent returns to Ireland in the period of the First Great War and afterwards. Having made his point, he does have a tendency to “do a Mrs Doyle” and “g’wan, g’wan, g’wan” about it. For the reader who can navigate past this, there is a world of fascination to explore and a great deal of thought-provoking material in these first two volumes. With more to come.
The works are dedicated to an Irish people “whose lives have been thwarted either by religious dogmatism and/or by political fanaticism”. Watch out you clerics and players! Paddy McEvoy’s Tardis will be paying you a visit!
The First Two Books can be purchased through Amazon: