Book Reviews

And the cow jumped over the Moon

by Kathrin Kobus.

Writing competitions often use a prompt to encourage people with an interest in writing stories to get going. It can be a phrase, quotation or just a single word. Brid Fitzpatrick got her inspiration for “The book of the born calf Moo Calf” from a story competition of a UK newspaper.

“It was a short story competition in The Guardian. And then it just expanded and got longer and more elaborate.” She chronicles the adventures of the brown calf Moo Calf, which featured as a drawing in girls comic series during the 60’s and 70’s and shifted the focus from the three girl heroines Bunty, Judie and Jackie to one particular add on of those magazines.

So the slightly overweight, plain speak, fat, Moo Calf which is forever stuck on the crayon drawn page on an evergreen meadow, constantly chewing the green grass and not getting enough exercise.

Until, of course, one day, or rather night, the library book of “The Adventures of Bunty, Judy and Jackie on their Summer Holidays” is left on top of the pile overnight and the particular page with Moo Calf gets bathed in the magical light of the moon. “It was as if the moon was bestowing its reflective light especially on our heroine. She wished, oh she wished, she could slip and slide up and down those moonbeams, jump over the moon and make her way to the Milky Way. It was amazing the way knowledge seemed to come with light. Without really trying, a consciousness of the names of all the beings that existed in the night and sky was becoming clear.”

Moo Calf comes literally to life and begins exploring her new pathway to liberty and onto her very own adventures. It is a children’s book and a fantasy novel rolled into one. “My nephew, when he was eleven said it was for nineteen-year old students!” Maybe students who have read James Joyce’s novella of “The Artist as a young man” will find another hook to relate to the Moo-Calf. Though obviously, it is a light hearted, easily told, children’s whodunnit story starring the little brown calf.

It encourages the imagination and lets the words create the pictures. It is a world of words and accompanying pictures that allows that unhappy, overweight Moo-Calf an adventure all on her own, to defy all the stereotypes the original writer put down for her in those dull-describing characteristics, colour brown and eats too much grass.

In Brid Fitzpatrick’s story the Moo-Calf turns detective, goes to Tirbook, meets new friends, encounters foes and at the end takes a final leap into a new existence.  Libraries are magical places (L-Space as Terry Pratchett used to describe them) stories can take you somewhere else without leaving a comfortable couch, chair or bed. The adventures of brown Moo Calf are a light-hearted joy for young readers who will discover a revelatory answer to the nursery rhyme question: Where did the cow go when she jumped over the moon? Read the book to find out.

The Book of the brown calf Moo-Calf is published by Swans Press and available through them or to order at €10.

Journal of Old Dublin Society

Recently Professor Frank Barry, Professor of International Business & Economic Development, Trinity College Dublin, launched the Spring/Summer issue of the Dublin Historical Record, edited by Dr. Séamas Ó Maitiú, the twice yearly journal of the Old Dublin Society, at a reception in the Chocolate Factory, Dublin, attended by members, their friends and guests of the Society.

Ms. Catherine Scuffil was presented by Professor Barry with the Old Dublin Medal for her article ‘All Quiet on the Southern Front: South Circular Road on the eve of World War 1’ which was judged as the most outstanding article published in the Dublin Historical Record during 2017.

Articles featured in this issue of the Dublin Historical Record, which has the wider world of Dublin’s industrial business and economic life as a common theme, include the following

‘Around the Town’, by Dr. Séamas Ó Maitiú.

‘The Leading Manufacturing Firms in 1920s Dublin’, by Professor Frank Barry.

‘Dublin’s precious relic recovered’, recalls the recovery of the heart of St. Lawrence O’Toole stolen from Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin, in 2012.

‘The lost village of Milltown and its houses’, by Patrick Salmon.

‘Buried in the archives: A history of Dublin undertakers and their records from the late eighteenth century to the present’, by Lisa Marie Griffith & Ciarán Wallace.

‘A Huguenot in late seventeenth century Dublin: the world of David Cossart and his family’, by Professor Raymond Gillespie.

‘So Many Sweet Flowers: From Clontarf to Killiney – Watson’s Nurseries 1882 – 1967’, by Bernardine Ruddy.

‘Three Whiskies and a Coffey’ by Kurt Kullmann.

‘World War 1 servicemen from Capel Street, Dublin’, by Clare Beausang.

‘Pre-Famine Dublin: A Calamity Waiting to Happen?’, by Vincent Ruddy.

‘The Friar’s Walk, Tallaght’ by Tomás Maher.

‘The case of the Fenian Joe Poole’ by Robert Delaney.

Also included are book notices and reviews.

Copies of this issue of the Dublin Historical Record can be ordered from the society by emailing: Website: ​​ 

The First Irish Railway

Kurt Kullmann’s newest history book is an exhaustively researched, passionate and evocative look at the first railway in Ireland, which ran from Dublin City to Kingstown (which would later become known as Dun Laoghaire.)

The book is a compilation of meticulous facts combined with passionate writing and a dry, subtle wit. Excellent use of photographs throughout add further to the sensation of watching history unfold in front of our eyes.

Kullmann discussed his process and the extent of the research undertaken when I caught up with him at his packed book launch. “I have a lot of photographs and I’m interested in local history. I take photographs even if I don’t have a book in mind yet. When I get an idea for my book, I check through all the photographs to see what will go with what.”

Kullmann tells me that generally the research process takes him “eight months to a year.” The hard work he put in is certainly clear to see in this strikingly comprehensive tome.

As well as painting a vivid historical picture, the book also shines a light on issues at the time this first railway was built. Kullmann confirms that an examination of these social issues was a key motivating factor behind the book. He says that while it’s not possible to know how much the workers earned, nor to compare this with modern times, he describes the working hours as “appalling” citing their 90-110 hour working days per week leaving them with only “seven to eight hours to sleep or eat.”

Similarly, a story that stood out for me while reading the book was how a devastating breakout of cholera affected the areas of Ringsend, Irishtown and Sandymount.

The manual building of the railway should have been a godsend to local people and led to much-needed employment for them, however, such was their weak condition, they were ignored in favour of healthier people from the country.

The scale of the book’s insight ranges from the socio-historic (such as the above example) to personal tidbits like the fact that William Dargan – described in the book as “the father of Irish railways” and “the most important Irish engineer of the nineteenth century,” – turned down an offer of a baronetcy from Queen Victoria on the grounds of his nationalism.

It also engages with the passage of time in a quietly philosophical way: How a relic of the steam engine era, the water tank, is now used by graffiti artists as an object on which to spray their art. This notable example is one of many rich juxtapositions that highlight Kullmann’s astuteness as an observer, as well as, his intelligence as a writer.

In person, Kullmann exudes a drive, hunger and passion to work. As I ask him how he feels now the book is finally being released, he tells me with a chuckle: “It’s my fourth book. I’m quite glad it’s over so I can concentrate on the fifth.” We look forward to seeing what he does next.

The First Irish Railway: Westland Row to Kingstown, Kurt Kullman, The History Press of Ireland, €18.99

Available at Books On The Green