Paperbacks: Tom Widger
Following in the Footsteps of the Four Famous Flannerys -- A Walk Across Ireland
By John Mulligan
The Connaught Telegraph €10. 177pp
WONDERFUL to read how the famous four found fortune at the far end of the world. Their Spartan journey (they stole potatoes from fields) began with a 120-mile trudge from Sligo to Dublin in the 1860s and from there by ship to New Zealand. Mulligan set out in the opposite direction, first by walking the banks of the Royal Canal (the motorway of its day) to the Shannon and from there to the western seaboard. Charmingly digressive, Mulligan is a keen observer. He deftly weaves in anecdote, history, and while he walks he ponders the story of the Flannerys, fills in the details of the terrain, the famous houses he passes - the Antarctic explorer Shackleton's in Co Kildare - he notices neglect, vandalism. He is told by a small boy interfering with the Famine sculpture on Dublin's dockside to "f**k off". Charming. No, not the boy, the book.
Irish Mountain Log, Summer 2007
Following in the Footsteps of the Four Famous Flannerys
Who were they, and why were they famous?
In the 1860s, four Flannery brothers walked from their home in Clooncunny in County Sligo to Dublin, and took the ship to New Zealand. Nothing famous in that. The Otago gold rush was on and they got what was known to be a rich claim, but which had no access to water for separating the gold dust. With pick and shovel they dug a canal over twenty miles long to get water to their claim. It took them two and a half years, but they found enough gold to make them all very rich men -- and they became famous in New Zealand.
The author, a great grand nephew of the Famous Flannerys, did their walk in reverse, with Dubliner turned Mayo man, Joe McDermott. Unlike the Flannerys who were peniless and near starving, the worst the author and Joe had to put up with was one continental breakfast of cereal but with no tea or coffee.
The most interesting part of the book is Mulligan's visit to New Zealand to trace his forbears, where he found out that they were truly famous, the original owners of the Undaunted Goldmine Company, surely the right name for such an enterprise.
Irish Mountain Log