His previous books include: Echoes of a Savage Land; In the Shadow of Benbulben; Inishmurray: Gale Stone and Fire; Inishmurray: Island Voices; Constance Markievicz: The People’s Countess; Sligo: Land of Destiny; and A Fairy Wind CD
‘There was two foot long recesses in the bottom of the kitchen walls. There’s where they used to hatch the geese. I saw them in our house. We closed them off one time the station Mass was coming. The space under the dresser was used for nesting too. I knew a brood of goslings to be hatched in our house at home. The goose died an’ would ye believe it, the gander went in an’ hatched the eggs — that will happen. Did ye know that if ye pet the goslings, take them away from the goose, ye could go to the bog an’ the whole lot’d follow ye? They’re very aisy petted, an’ pigs the same.’ This anecdote and many others inside take us on a journey into the secret heart of Irish country life in the 20th century. It depicts too the universal battle of man against the elements. Beginning with an account of the villagers’ death-defying efforts to recover wreckage from an unforgiving ocean, A Bitter Wind is a ramble through an Ireland of the heart that no longer exists. Unfolded here are the beliefs of ordinary people, their superstitions, customs, fears and joys, their struggle to extract a living from the ruthless extremes of Nature on land, sea and shore. In these pages we re-live the adventures of ordinary individuals who, in snatching a livelihood from the forces of nature, lived extraordinary lives. Here you will meet the bewitched hares that stole milk from the farmer’s cows and learn of the preventive measures and antidotes used against them. Stories of the Evil Eye, red-haired women and the seachrán ramble through the pages: all an integral part of the warp and weft of everyday life not so long ago. Home grown remedies for toothache, arthritis, mumps, ‘elf-shot’ cows and many other ailments are revealed and much, much more…
Joe Mc Gowan is a native of Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo. Born on the family farm, he worked there in his early years until emigrating to the U.S.A. in the ‘60s. Shortly after his return to Ireland in the ‘70’s, Joe, becoming keenly aware of the accelerating pace of change in the Irish countryside, decided to record the old lore before it vanished completely. For many years he has been dedicated to preserving, visually and orally, Ireland’s disappearing traditions and customs. His books are inspired by countless nights spent listening to the stories of the older generation augmented by meticulous archival research. His short stories, cameos of Irish life both past and present, feature frequently in magazines, on local radio and on RTE. The days of the storyteller are gone but their knowledge and lore will, happily, live on in these pages.
A Bitter wind
The history of a nation is not in parliaments and battlefields, but in what the people say to each other on fair days and high days, and in how they farm and quarrel, and go on pilgrimage. W.B. Yeats, Introduction to Stories from Carleton
What the critics say about McGowan’s previous work: ‘Enthralling… The writing is poetically descriptive flowing along enthusiastically from the laptop of a talented researcher, and chronicler, about a life unchanged for centuries and then, suddenly gone… A valuable addition to a genre whose formidable icons have been Kevin Danaher and Robin Flower.’ Joe Kennedy The Irish Independent