This eloquent memoir provides an unrivalled insight into the life of a child reared in a working-class Irish Catholic community in late nineteenth-century Britain. No other author succeeds in depicting so vividly the texture of a life delimited by manual work, home and community ties as experienced by Irish migrants of the period. At the same time, it charts the tortuous route by which a young man struggled to free himself from a life of manual labour by using his literary talents to become a journalist and a popular novelist. Published in 1916, it reflects the world and assumptions of an emigre community between the failure of the Fenian movement and the Easter Rising, and it includes a telling vignette of the aged Fenian Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa. An insightful picture of the world of those Home Rule supporters who lived outside Ireland emerges from this book.
JOSEPH KEATING (1871-1934) was the son of Irish migrants to south Wales. He received a rudimentary schooling before starting his working life labouring in the coalmines. Subsequently, he educated himself sufficiently to embark on a career in journalism. He wrote short stories and popular novels, and some of his work achieved a degree of acclaim during the decade before the First World War. PAUL O'LEARY is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Wales Aberystwyth. He is author of Immigration and Integration: the Irish in Wales, 1798-1922 (2000) and editor of Irish Migrants in Modern Wales (2004).