Native Castlebar Releases New Book
A native of CASTLEBAR, Colum MacDonnell has published a new book – Torre del Mar, a view of an admirer of Spain.
How many of us would love to live in the sun, without the hustle and bustle of everyday life here? Where people are friendly and polite and enjoy practicing their English, although Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world – the language that gave the world the first modern novel, Don Quixote de la Mancha, by Cervantes, in 1605.
Spain’s attractions are not always obvious to those taking an aerial tour and can spend a great deal of their time recovering from excessive periods of sun exposure or overdoing the sangria. Attractions such as good weather for your sports, low house prices and rents, great value restaurants, good health care and frequent direct flights to Ireland are often overlooked.
Author Colum moved to Madrid after the establishment of Spanish democracy with the mission of promoting Irish exports, researching business opportunities and presenting suppliers to a country about to join the European Union.
Together with his wife, they have owned a house in Andalusia for more than two decades and spend a large part of their time there each year.
This far-reaching book takes a critical look at a Spanish history that saw a courageous and resolute people ill-served by their monarchs and politicians – a tale of feudalism and corrupt officials – before modern government and the establishment of the democracy does not finally tackle these historical dysfunctions. The modern Spanish constitution has freed the political extremes of the past, establishing a country respectful of human rights, tolerant of immigration, increasingly feminist and defender of gay rights.
The historical context spans five centuries. Spain’s unsuccessful attempt to invade England with its “invincible” Armada and overthrow its Protestant Queen Elizabeth I is well known, but this book first reveals to many readers the disastrous British attempt to invade Spain a year later. This English tragedy, with an estimated loss of 20,000 men, was kept secret at the behest of the “good Queen Bess” and remained so for over four centuries.
A series of international encounters since that time, including Nelson’s defeat at Trafalgar, an invasion by Napoleon’s troops in pursuit of a French empire, a war with the United States which saw Cuba and the Philippines winning their independence and the end of the Spanish Empire, was followed by an internal crisis and bloody civil war and four decades of Franco’s dictatorship.
The Irish have played a role in many critical areas. The rector of the famous Irish college in Salamanca effectively ran a spy ring to support Wellington’s army during the Spanish Civil War against the French. In the mid-19th century, Leopoldo O’Donnell, descendant of wild geese, was appointed Prime Minister and awarded the title of Duke of Tetouan in recognition of his services to Spain. General Kindelán (descendant of the Irish Quinlan family) proposed and supported General Franco as general commander of the Spanish nationalist forces at the start of the Civil War.
This war saw the support of Irish troops on both sides. Eoin O’Duffy’s Irish brigade left Galway Bay chanting Faith of our Fathers to join Franco’s nationalist rebels, only to be sent home less than a year later. On the other side, Frank Ryan led his smaller Republican force to join the International Brigade in support of the Spanish government. This force will leave Spain when the government withdraws all the international brigades there, hastening the end of the war.
This comprehensive book acquaints the reader with the modern Spanish economy and the Catalan conundrum, which is still relevant today. Sometimes Spain can be overly bureaucratic, resulting, perhaps, from having 17 autonomous governments and regions with very different characteristics in its people, from the Celtic view of many Galicians with their small land holdings and bagpipes to the industrious and commercial attitude of the Catalans.
There is, however, a universal principle: Every problem has a solution if you know how to go about it.
Someone has the key and the answer, but you have to know where to look. This implies listening and therefore knowing Spanish, whether it is Castilian, Catalan, Basque or Galician.