Recent books in brief

Croagh Patrick: Irelandís Holy Mountain

edited by Harry Hughes 

(Croagh Patrick Archaeological Committee, €14.95 / £12.70; Croagh Patrick Visitor Centre, Teach na Miasa, Murrisk, Co. Mayo; email:

We are all familiar with the photographs of pilgrimages making their slow way up the slops of Croagh Patrick at the time of the annual pilgrimage. The shrine is, as the title of this book righty suggests, Irelandís holy mountain.

This book, however, provides many superb images of the mountain at other times of the year, times when masses of visitors are rare. Here are images of the peak for instance in the winter snow, when the little chapel is half buried. But the pictures cover every season of the year and every aspect of the mountain from wherever it can be seen.

Harry Hughes provides a succinct account of the ancient background along with an account of the revival of the pilgrimage in 1903 and its progress since. This book will make a wonderful souvenir, but even for those far away from Mayo its pages will evoke the ideas and feelings of the pilgrimage in a very vivid way, for though the mountain is the subject of the book, the pilgrims are everywhere present with their devotion.


Godís Needle: How Lily Gaynor brought hope and healing to the land of the witchdoctors

by Lily Gaynor and John Butterworth, foreword by Helen Roseveare 

(Monarch Books / Lion Hudson, €10.60/£8.99 pb)

This very personal book tells the story Lily Gaynorís work as a medical missionary in Guinea-Bissau where she arrived in 1957. She was working for the Worldwide Evangelisation for Christ,   a mission founded over forty years before by the cricketer Charles Studd. The title refers to her hypodermic syringe with which she was able to administer the recently introduced penicillin as a cure for TB and other infections. Over the years her medical skills improved and extended.  She and the mission met with difficulties, both from those high up and at village level such as the local animists.  As a Portuguese colony, the Christian minority was largely Catholic. But as she recounts in her books the work she did amongst the Papel of the western coastal region of Biomba against great difficulties was fruitful. Independence came in 1974, but the country remains one of the poorest in the world, now in danger of becoming a transit station for international drug dealers and the corruption that comes with their trade. This is a heartening story, and one which any one interest not only in evangelisation in its many form but in third world development as a whole. Facing all of this she suggests that the missionary has to ìkeep the fire alive in their heartî.


Welsh Rarebits: Bite-sized chunks of Welsh humour 

by Aubrey Malone 

(Y lolfat, €9.40/£7.95 pb)

According to Bob Monkhouse, a well-resourced comic if ever there was one, an Irishman, an Englishman and a Welshman walked into a pub, and the bar tender asked them: ìIs this a joke?î Laughter is as often as not a blessing in disguise, especially when it comes to the relations between the peoples on these islands. Aubrey Malone gives a fairly wide definition to Welsh humour, but that is all to the good. Welsh rarebit is a saucy stir-up made from cheesy bits sharpened by mustard. It well describes this selection. Aside from Richard Burton and Dylan Thomas, who are always welcome, I was delighted to be reminded of that now almost forgotten humourist of the valleys, Gwyn Thomas. But there are many others being satirical and delightful by turn about all things Welsh, especially the rain!  This might handy little volume is ideal as a bedside book to beguile those midnight hours when sleep in elusive.