Gander at the Gate
Knocknagoshel, north Kerry, in the 1930s. Autumn mornings with mist rolling over a ‘kindly and fertile land’; the pungent smoke of turf fires; open-air wrestling contest; convoys of tinkers with their piebald ponies; farm boys and servant girls aching with desire; and a cast of remarkable men and even more remarkable women, fiery and forthright, their lives ‘teeming with the emotions of love and jealousy, and human conflict, common among all the simple people of the world’.
Through the lyrical prose of Rory O’Connor, Gander at the Gate tells of an Irish farmhouse, the family who lived there, and the community of which they were part. We discover the imaginings and adventures of the local ‘goboys’; the widow Delia and her sons lost to America; and the eccentric Uncle Jack, full of ‘riddles, and recitations, and the latest rhymes and small poems’. As the gander of the title – the fiercest beast of the farmyard – begins to intrude on his consciousness, O’Connor describes his father’s experience of Ireland’s civil war.
This is the most magical evocation of people and place to be published in recent Irish literature. Rory O’Connor gives a potent life to the ghosts of time in a book that has all the hallmarks of a classic.
“The poet W.B. Yeats desired to produce written work that, while it had been arduously crafted, would appear as immediate and spontaneous as the ordinary spoken words of people. It is a testament to the achievement of Rory O’Connor that he has accomplished just that by writing a memoir that connects closely to the oral tradition. … It could be hoped, perhaps, that every community – urban and rural – would have a Rory O’Connor among them who would possess the ability of capturing that society in all its vitality, colour and mystery. If that were possible they would – like this present book – make for fascinating reading.” -Derek Hand, Sunday Business Post.
“I loved the book …. I carried Rory O’Connor’s vivid images and phrases around with me in my imagination long after I had finished reading. He seems to have had the type of magical, untrammelled childhood, populated with extraordinary characters, to which we have all aspired.” – Deirdre Purcell
“Gander at the Gate is the best book of its kind since Twenty Years A-Growing. It is vibrant, humorous, delightful, nostalgic and deeply moving to the point of tears …. The characters are wonderful, especially Uncle Jack, who deserves a book to himself sometime. This is a book full of the magical lunacies of a family and it is also a history of a troubled time in which the author’s father was a major figure … I shall read it again and again.” – John B. Keane
“Rory O’Connor is a gifted writer, so gifted, in fact, that he can turn the reader into a listener. O’Connor’s style of writing is also a style of oral telling. And he is a master storyteller, evoking what he calls “the wonders of life” with consummate skill. He deals with a past that ranges from the gentle to the murderous, the violent and grim to the humorous and fantastical. Gander at the Gate is completely authentic, a gripping feat of memory, a candid, detailed evocation of a lost world.” -Brendan Kennelly
RORY O’CONNOR was born in 1928. A former journalist with the Irish Press and news editor of the Sunday Press, he was also head of RTÉ’s television news for fifteen years until his retirement in 1993. In the 1980s he was elected Honorary Chieftan of the newly formed O’Connor Kerry clan. In 1997 he was executive producer of Rivers or Words, a series of five television films on leading Kerry writers.
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