Saturday 24 February 2018

Eoghan Harris: We did forget but now we must put old ghosts to rest

Eoghan Harris

Eoghan Harris

They'll call me a coward if I return, but a hero if I fall.

Private Patrick McGill, of the London Rifles and Glenties, Co Donegal, pithily summed up the cheerless choice of fates faced by the 500,000 Irishmen who took part in the First World War: to die by shot, shell, gas and disease, or survive and come home to hide out and keep the head down.

McGill's mordant lines also provide the title for Neil Richardson's remarkable new book, A Coward if I Return, A Hero if I Fall, (O'Brien Press), a moving collection of stories about Irishmen who fought in that war, backed up by photos, diaries and documents that bring us closer to these men than any book I have read before.

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