On Another Man’s Wound

A little late for St. Patrick’s Day, but timing has never been my strong suit.

I’m a Ryan by birth and a Donovan by osmosis. So Earnest O’Malley’s memoir On Another Man’s Wound was required reading in my teenage years.

O’Malley was studying medicine in Dublin when he witnessed the Easter Uprising and subsequently (secretly) joined the Irish resistance against the Black and Tans. He was in the IRA’s  flying column (they seemed to literally fly around the country on their feet). What I remember most about the book is the feeling of excitement (oh the hiding, dark county roads, and heaths: I could almost smell it), danger and the sympathy he provoked in me for other people’s pain and oppression.

It’s been many years since I read the book, but it has always stuck with me, not least of all because I love the title which according to searc’s web guide “comes from an expression in Irish, ‘Deacair suan ar chneidh gcarad’ meaning ‘It is hard to sleep upon a friend’s wound’, coined by the 16th century Fermanagh poet, Eochaidh Ó hEoghusa, in reference to Ireland’s ‘wound of oppression’.”

It’s a beautifully stirring book and by the way, the Irish soda bread pictured above (that I polished off this morning) is sublime.


5 responses to “On Another Man’s Wound

  1. another gem of a post. This seems to be the inspiration of one of the great literary frauds – the poet Ern Malley – invented during the last war by a couple of poets as protest against modern poetry.

  2. oh that is funny. The Emperor has no clothes indeed, although some of the verse as found on Wikipedia is not bad:

    Now I find that once more I have shrunk
    To an interloper, robber of dead men’s dream,
    I had read in books that art is not easy

    It’s a Rorschach test! Although what exactly it tests- the ability to find poetry or recognize bullshit or a combination of both- I have no idea!

    • The poetry is brillant – it even quotes the army mosquito control manual. Robert Frost used to use it to teach Shakespear and many of his students thought Ern was the bard. He is the most famous poet that never lived and evry year there is an Ern Mallly festival with a look alike competition.

  3. Damn girl, that shit looks good

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