By way of introduction it must be placed on record that local man Thomas Glenny in his new book ‘The Ground We Stand On’ has placed before his readers a well researched local history, and in its 250 pages this Birches author unfolds for us stories which start in the local townlands before spread to involve people far removed by geography and time.
In particular his tale of Robert Hart, born at Milltown on the Lough Neagh shoreline, the son of a simple miller, who went on to modernize China in the nineteenth century, not only gives us an insight in to his personal life but goes on to amplify the respect in which he was held around the world.
Who knew for instance that Norway presented him with the Grand Order of St Olaf, or that he was honoured by Italy, Belgium, France, Japan, Russia, China, Japan, Holland, Portugal, Austria, USA, The Vatican, not to mention the UK?
The author mixes tales of the big names like Hart and Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson of American Civil war fame, with those who ventured forth without acclaim, but whose lives led them to momentous places and events such as the Maori wars, the Boer war and WW1. The book for instance covers the formation of the 9th battalion Royal Irish Rifles under Lt. Col. Coulson Fitzgerald in 1914 and something of their exploit and sacrifices in WWI.
The landlord family The Verners so well known in the wider rural communities left a bolder mark than most and here Tommy’s research has unearthed some fascinating facts. The family home Churchill House at Mullankille near Peatlands Park sent forth a series of military heroes and members of parliament, and in many ways the Verners were a classic ‘establishment family’ of the time.
But from their midst emerged one Jenny Verner who was a rebel at heart and who blazed an Irish republican trail across the world, and when she died on the very last day of the 19th century the Irish nationalist community of New York erected a large Celtic Cross to her memory.
Thomas Glenny is well known as a modern day poet and he makes good use of verse and song from many ages past to illustrate and enliven the pages of this comprehensive 250 page book. His stories are always entertaining recalling businesses and characters long gone. Tributes are paid to such well known poets as WF Marshall and Moses Teggart, John Montague and Alice Milligan to mention but a few. One chapter deals at length with rural life and the important place turf cutting held in the economy of the times detailing the generosity shown to each other among those who had little to spare.
Liberally illustrated with eye catching photography, overall the book is a compelling read not only for the local but for those interested in Ireland’s past and who want to learn more about it. Without doubt this book will appeal wholeheartedly to the many exiles and their descendants, who once left this land to seek a life in the wider realm.
Covering early history and going back in time to the Christian influence of St Patrick, the book covers a sweeping history and the author is to be congratulated in the use of his knowledge of local families and their part in such watershed events as the Battle of the Diamond 1795 and in bringing events up to the present day during which many commemorations will be taking place not least the events of WWI.
Indeed by making good use of photography, maps, poetry, music and song, the reader can not fail but to grasp a sound understanding of the ground we all now stand on today.
Published privately as a limited edition copies costing £12.50 may be had from Thomas Glenny, 13 Derrylileagh Rd. Derryadd, The Birches, BT62 1TQ. [Telephone 028 3885 1795] email; TJRGlenny@aol.com Or currently from, Verner’s Inn Stores; Cohannon Service Station; Wrights Derrykeevin, Winnies Newsagents, and the Offices of South Lough Neagh Regeneration Assoc.