Not Irish Enough

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Title: Not Irish Enough: An Anglo-Irish Family's Three Centuries in Ireland
Published by: New Academia Publishing
Release Date: August 3, 2021
Pages: 610
ISBN13: 978-1734865974


Not Irish Enough is an engaging, richly annotated account of three hundred turbulent years of Irish history, highlighting the experiences of an Anglo-Irish Protestant family and their relations and friends who lived through and contributed to that history. Drawn in part from family records and memories, the book is the product of intense factual research into events from the mid-seventeenth century through the Irish War of Independence, 1919-21, when the author’s family, the Heads, were among the Anglo-Irish landowners forced to flee for their lives as their homes went up in flames. Examining these fraught centuries from the unique perspective and varied experiences of generations of Anglo-Irish Protestant landowners with deep roots in Ireland, and more specifically in predominantly Catholic County Tipperary, the book addresses many questions still debated today. This deeply researched and balanced narrative—which affirms the veracity of William Butler Yeats’ statement that the Anglo-Irish “are no petty people,”—is an important addition to the existing body of work on Irish and world history.



“Sara Day’s astute and arresting study draws out patterns of family history, landownership, and the vagaries of provincial politics to illuminate the broad themes of Ireland’s violent and contested history. Like Elizabeth Bowen’s Bowen’s Court, her book traces the establishment of an Irish ‘gentry’ family in the seventeenth century, and its decline and dispersal in the twentieth, using family records and traditions. But it is also deeply grounded in archival research and acutely conscious of the broader context, with a thoughtful and balanced commentary bringing the story up to the present day. Not Irish Enough makes a decisive contribution to ‘the story of Ireland’ and the complex issue of Irish identity, from an original and engrossing perspective.”
R.F.Foster, Emeritus Professor of Irish History, University of Oxford

“Sara Day's Not Irish Enough makes a very important contribution to the historiography of the Anglo-Irish landed elite. As an experienced researcher, she has worked assiduously through an impressive array of primary and secondary sources, including her own family records, to present an informative and stimulating book that rather uniquely charts the history of a family from their arrival in Ireland and beneficiaries of the Cromwellian land system in the seventeenth century to the destruction of their country residence, Derrylahan, burned by the IRA in July 1921. Written in a thoroughly erudite but eminently engaging style, this book will appeal to both academic and wider audiences.”
Terence Dooley, Professor of History, Maynooth University, and Director of the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates

“For this Irishwoman who initially learned her country’s history in the post-independence National School system, Sara Day offers a compelling and insightful perspective on the Anglo-Irish absent from our classrooms. The very human stories of her family living through and participating in the maelstrom of events in Ireland over three hundred years makes Irish history come alive and especially accessible to general readers seeking to understand Ireland right up to the present day.”
Anne Mullin Burnham, writer and editor

Not Irish Enough is a family history with a difference. Sara Day skillfully weaves the story of her own Head family’s more than two centuries in North Tipperary into the wide and varied fabric of Ireland’s often troubled history.”
Daniel Grace, local historian, author of The Great Famine in Nenagh Poor Law Union, Co.Tipperary, 2000

“Far from an apologia, and definitely not simply a family memoir, this book sheds new and compelling light on three centuries of tumultuous Irish history. Unique in its scope and perspective, Not Irish Enough fascinates and informs the reader who seeks to better understand the world of today through the compellingly presented experiences of those who came before us.”
Margaret E. Wagner, historian, author, editor, and former managing editor of the Library of Congress Publishing Office

“This book cuts to the chase and reveals the sad and frequently frustrating (to read) acts of wanton death and destruction that have marred Irish history for a longer and a more consistent period than I had ever imagined. It is painfully clear there are faults on all sides – enough reason for anyone of a closed nationalistic view (of whatever colour) to make this essential reading... The author sums it up best in the Epilogue when she talks about the warm and generous people and yet the Island of Ireland can also be capable of ‘visceral hatred, violence and shameful deceit.’ It’s a feeling many of us have had without really understanding why. ‘Not Irish Enough’ helps answer that question.”
M. R. Hamilton, U.K. (read the full blurb)


See Sara Day's article about her quest for the story in The Irish Times


Of the many stories my father told me about growing up with his family in County Tipperary, Ireland, the one that made the deepest impression was of the night the IRA burned Derrylahan Park, his family’s home. The IRA’s real target, however, was my grandfather, Charles Head, a twice retired British army officer, local justice of the peace, and outspoken Unionist—for Ireland’s continued inclusion in the United Kingdom—whom they had failed to assassinate two weeks earlier and who had already wisely departed for England. The burning of Derrylahan occurred just days before a truce ended the Anglo-Irish War on July 11, 1921. During those last weeks, a number of others in the area of Birr―six miles away in Co. Offaly, then known as King’s County―were murdered, or executed as spies and informers by the IRA, and other houses belonging to Anglo-Irish landlords were torched.

My grandparents obviously thought that the best chance for saving their property was for my grandfather to leave Ireland until peace was restored. Women and children were generally not targeted during this conflict or the civil war which followed. About seventy-six such houses were burned during what the Irish termed the War of Independence (1919-1921), mostly in Munster, the conflict’s heartland; approximately 199 more were reduced to smoldering ruins during the subsequent Irish Civil War (1922-1923), including many of outstanding architectural merit, along with priceless collections of paintings, furniture, objets d’art, and family and estate documents. Many of the owners, like my grandparents, had fled to England before or after the Free State of Ireland was inaugurated in 1922.