Give yourself a St. Patrick’s Day gift

By Regina Villiers. Originally published March 10, 2004 in The Suburban life, added March 13, 2019.

     At this time of the year, if you find yourself humming “Danny Boy” and searching for shamrocks, give yourself a gift of “Forever Green,” subtitled “Ireland Now and Again.”

     The book was written by Cathal Liam, a writer who lives in the Kenwood-Madeira area and who is about as Irish and as charming as it’s possible to be.

     His brogue is so thick as to be almost indecipherable to one who, though proud of her Irish ancestry, has lived for the bigger part of her life in Southern Ohio.

     But the book is not indecipherable.  It’s easily understandable.

     “Forever Green” is a collection of essays, commentaries and poems about Ireland, examining a changing Ireland from the 1916 Easter Rebellion to the 1998 Good Friday Peace Accord, brought about by the efforts of President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

     But the real charm of the book, to me, is the author’s ability to spin a yarn.  Liam is a storyteller, and the book contains a lot of Irish lore.

     There’s the story of St. Valentine and how his remains reside in a small neighborhood church, the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church at 57 Aungier St., tucked away in the heart of Dublin.

     Liam relates the many legends surrounding St. Valentine and says you can believe what you like, but he makes the story of St. Valentine seem real and true.

     Then he goes into some springtime lore and customs derived from St. Valentine:  the crocus is known as a St. Valentine flower.

     Some believe that if a woman sees a robin on St. Valentine’s Day, she will marry a sailor.

     Another narrative relates the story of Albert O’Toole, a Galway woodcarver who carved from a block of native Irish walnut, the die which produced the City of Tribes’ famous memorial to the Irish-American 35th president of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

     Throughout the book there are tributes to priests who died for Ireland and who remembrances of other heroes.

     But the book is also a tour guide.

     If you’re planning a trip to Ireland, you really should read about the oldest building in Galway, a 13th century medieval hall.

     The site has been excavated, revealing what was once a single-story, one-room building whose walls were almost3-feet thick.

     Records indicate that the excavated ruin was once Du Burgo Hall, a meeting place for the De Burgos and the Red Earl Himself.

     In 1169 William De Burgo and Anglo-Norman from Wales, joined in the early exploitation of Ireland.  William’s son, Richard, had his eye on the west of Ireland.

     In 1232, Richard led an array of soldiers and opportunists across the River Shannon, taking over land where Galway City stands today.

     No doubt, it was Richard or his son, Walter, who selected the site on which to build the meeting hall.

     It seems likely that the De Burgos used this hall for about 200 years.

     “Forever Green” also contains Galway reminiscence.  “Grand Olde Galway Town,” about tours Liam himself led around the city in the 1960s in an old 1963 Leland double-decked, open topped bus.

Some of the pieces in this book were previously published in Irish publication such as Tuam Herald, Galway Advertiser and Offaly Independent and in U.S. publication Midwest Irish News and The Irish Echo.

     Cathal Liam was born in the United States, but his mother came from Donegal.

     He was taught at all levels, elementary to college, in both Ireland and in this country.

     Now retired from teaching, he devotes full-time to writing.

     He writes short stories, poems and Irish commentary.

     He continually returns to Ireland to renew old friendships and to research new material.

     This is his second published book.   His first was a novel, “Consumed in Freedom’s Flame.”

     He is currently working on a sequel, “Blood on the Shamrock,” which he predicts will be available by the end of this year.

     Liam says that “Forever Green” is a book to be read at leisure, a few minutes each day.  “And it’s a book you can read to your children,” he said.

     The book is an interesting take on the Emerald Isle, and it’s available from St. Padraic Press, P.O. Box 43351, Cincinnati, OH 45243.

     His e-mail address is