Archive for May 11th, 2010

Review: The Fethard-On-Sea Boycott

11 May 2010

By Lisa Marie Griffith

Micro-history has pioneered a whole new genre of historical analysis where we look at history from the ground up. Irish writers have produced some fantastic micro-histories that examine various periods in Irish history and provide a unique insight into the mindset and lives of ordinary citizens. I am a big fan of this type of history and a couple of my favourite Irish micro-histories, which I think can rival even the best European micro-history, include Toby Barnard’s The abduction of a Limerick Heiress (Dublin, 1998), Des Elkin’s The Stolen Village (Dublin, 2006) and Brendan Twomey’s, Dublin in 1707: A year in the life of the city (Dublin, 2009). A personal favourite is Angela Bourke’s The Burning of Bridget Cleary (London, 1999). The in-depth research that Bourke undertook for this book brings Bridget Cleary, her husband and their Tipperary community back to life.

It is with this in mind that I picked up Tim Fanning’s The Fethard-On-Sea Boycott which was released earlier this month. The Fethard-On-Sea Boycott recounts the story of a Catholic boycott of Protestant business people in a small Wexford village in 1957. The boycott became so bitter that it took the personal intervention of  Eamon De Valera to call a halt to the boycott. The incident started with a family dispute. A Protestant woman, Sheila Cloney, argued with her Catholic husband, Sean, about which local school to send their daughter to. The local Catholic clergy intervened and, with mounting pressure from both within her home and outside, Sheila left the village with her two daughters and went to Scotland. The boycott was carried out under the direction of the local parish priest who maintained that it would be upheld until Sheila returned her daughters to her husband for them to be sent to the local Catholic school.

The story offers up a lot of themes and possible threads. Read more