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‘On Dangerous Ground’ – Wexford and the revolution recalled in new book on Máire Comerford

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Máire Comerford: 'On Dangerous Ground'.

Máire Comerford: 'On Dangerous Ground'.

Máire Comerford (centre).

Máire Comerford (centre).

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Máire Comerford: 'On Dangerous Ground'.

goreyguardian

WEXFORD’S PAST is showcased through the eyes of revolutionary 20th Century woman Máire Comerford in a new memoir ‘On Dangerous Ground’.

Edited by documentary maker Hilary Dully and published by Lilliput Press, the book is based off the original memoirs, memorabilia and photographs of Máire Comerford collected during the 1940s and 1950s.

Born in Wexford in 1893, Máire Comerford was an Irish Republican who came from a gentile background who witnessed central events of the Irish Revolution 1916-23 and remained a committed historical researcher, republican activist and writer until her death in 1982.

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She worked as a journalist for the Irish Press for over thirty years, editing the Women’s Page, and was last arrested in 1974 for her republican activities.

She died less than a decade later, and is buried at Mount St. Benedict, Hollyfort.

During her active years, she befriended Enniscorthy man Seán Etchingham, and writes in her memoirs about how they kept in touch while he served time in jail and up to his death in 1922.

The book has been well received at this significant time of the centenary of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty approaching 2022.

Throughout the book, Máire speaks of her home in Wexford, growing up in Ballycourcy, work organised in Gorey and Courtown along with her experience of raids, prison vigils, funerals of her comrades and dangers of all kinds.

She sees the signing of the Treaty as a betrayal, and accounts being a worker for Cumann na mBan, Sinn Féin, the Dáil and the White Cross travelling throughout the country, moving arms, carrying dispatches, finding safe houses, and researching atrocities.

Máire Comerford was described by the media as the “Jeanne d’Arc of the republican cause”, but like many women of the period, found herself excluded from the historical canon of the period and so her book gives giving voice to the experience of revolutionary women.

Comerford’s memoir places the reader in the lived reality of the time, showing how ordinary lives crossed over with history.

In the chapter on Etchingham, Máire recalls an “impulsive act" of bringing stolen rifles to Etchingham’s shop and recalling how her mother had known Johnny Etchingham from her youth, when he had been employed in different stables in the area.

But her admiration for Seán came as he was the author of a column in the Enniscorthy Echo, which came out every week under the name ‘Patsy Patrick’.

"The Echo was far better than the English satirical Punch magazine to us, simply because of Etchingham’s column; the humour was local and relevant to the times, and anyone in Wexford who did not follow the musings of Patsy Patrick was lost indeed,” she writes.

At the end of the piece, editor Hilary Dully who has a family connection to Máire includes an epilogue which chronicles the years between 1927 and her death.

Having access to original documents, photos and stories, Hilary also knows directly personal impact Comerford had on the lives of people around her.The book is available at local book shops and online at  www.lilliputpress.ie.


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