Cover image for The back of beyond : a search for the soul of Ireland
The back of beyond : a search for the soul of Ireland
Roy, James Charles, 1945-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boulder, CO : Westview Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xi, 219 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1240 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DA910 .R68 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



James Charles Roy, a noted authority on Irish history and travel, escorts a disparate group of Americans through the lonely backwaters of ancient Ireland. Visions of a glorious enterprise evaporate as he sees a dejected and weary handful of aged American tourists disembark at Shannon Airport. Fortified by Guinness, Roy hurls himself into sharing with them the joys and wonders of Ireland's twisted byways.Determined to avoid cliché, Roy leads his group to obscure Celtic coronation sites, monasteries, and remote abbeys as he spins a narrative that pulls Ireland's chaotic story into coherence. His unsuspecting charges begin to shed their hesitancies, relishing their guide's idiosyncratic approach to Ireland. Black comedy aside, Roy touches an emotional chord: how the economic phenomenon known as the Celtic Tiger has transformed Old Ireland into a high-tech power. At the tour's end, Roy embarks alone for the inaccessible Ardoilean, a seventh-century Celtic hermitage in County Galway. His vision of an Ireland lost forever is an emotional tour de force.

Author Notes

James Charles Roy has been a peripatetic independent scholar since 1970, when he left Time Inc. He has written innumerable articles on Irish history, and five distinguished books. He divides his time between Moyode Castle in County Galway and his home in Newburyport, Massachusetts

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Rather than into the arms of tourist luxury, Roy leads some mostly elderly, jaded Americans on a historical tour of Ireland, taking them to monasteries, abbeys, and sacred sites far, as he says, from the Ireland of "donkey carts" and "faerie forts." An atypical guide, he can be impatient and curmudgeonly. Reporting on the expedition, he is refreshingly honest, revealing embarrassing incidents other authors wouldn't. The adventures his motley crew experienced were often humorous, beginning with slowly getting to know one another and learn of their host's idiosyncratic tastes and continuing as Roy opened their eyes to an Ireland few of them knew existed. Roy compares the complex and troubled Irish past with contemporary Ireland, the so-called Celtic Tiger that has transformed an ancient culture into a highly sophisticated, technological society. Beyond recounting an offbeat Irish excursion, Roy weighs in on Ireland today, on what he sees as its cultural deterioration, and on the effects on it of massive tourism. --June Sawyers

Library Journal Review

Roy, a noted authority on Irish history and travel, divides his time between a home in Newburyport, MA, and Moyode Castle in County Galway, Ireland. Using his experience leading a tour of elderly Americans around Ireland as the basis for this travel essay, Roy paints a rather grim even dreary picture of Ireland and its past. Perhaps because he has long studied Ireland (he has written some historical studies of Ireland, most recently The Fields of Athenry: A Journey Through Irish History), his views have become jaded, for he avoids showing his readers or potential travelers anything of the romantic and beautiful Emerald Isle of public opinion. While it is true that Roy takes his charges to the parts of Ireland that are off the beaten path, his purpose seems to be to show that Ireland is somehow overrated and not at all what the Travel Board tries to communicate. Still, this book is admittedly an interesting read, since Roy shares an abundance of historical knowledge about Ireland. Recommended for large travel collections, but readers should not expect this book to entice them overseas. Sandy Knowles, Henderson Cty. P.L., NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

List of Photographsp. xi
1 You're Welcome to Irelandp. 1
2 Cleaning House, Cleaning Mindp. 9
3 Heading Westp. 18
4 The Bones of Omeyp. 25
5 Culture Shockp. 37
6 Martyrdomp. 42
7 Frontierp. 54
8 "Princes Do But Play Us"p. 65
9 The Rock and the Palacep. 75
10 "With Head Held High, I Will Touch the Stars"p. 84
11 Ashtownp. 98
12 Moyode Castlep. 112
13 "It's Getting Old She Is, and Broken"p. 129
14 Israelp. 138
15 Purgatoryp. 151
16 The Work of Angelsp. 161
17 Semenp. 174
18 "Dublin, O Dublin, Fumbling and Tumbling"p. 186
19 "Unnatural Insurrection!"p. 198
20 Saint MacDarap. 203
21 Loca Sanctap. 209
22 The Holy Landp. 213
Acknowledgmentsp. 219