Author Colm MacDonnell.

Castlebar native releases new book

CASTLEBAR native Colum MacDonnell has released a new book - Torre del Mar, an Admirer’s View of Spain.

How many of us would like to move to a life in the sun, without the rush and bustle of everyday life here? Where the people are friendly and polite and like to practice their English, although Spanish is the world’s second most widely spoken language - the language which gave the world the first modern novel, Don Quixote de la Mancha, by Cervantes, in 1605.

The attractions of Spain are not always obvious to those who make a flying visit and may spend much of their time recovering from excessive periods in the sun or overdoing the sangría. Attractions such as fine weather for your sports, low house prices and rents, restaurants offering excellent value for money, a good health service, and frequent direct flights to Ireland are often overlooked.

Author Colum moved to Madrid after the establishment of Spain’s democracy with the brief to promote Ireland’s exports, researching business opportunities and introducing suppliers to a country about to join the European Union.

With his wife, they have owned a house in Andalucía for over two decades and spend much of their time there every year.

This wide ranging book takes a hard look at a Spanish history which has seen a brave and resolute people badly served by its monarchs and politicians - a story of feudalism and corrupt officials - before modern government and the establishment of democracy finally tackled these historic malfunctions. Spain’s modern constitution has unshackled the political extremes of the past, establishing a country with respect for human rights, tolerant of immigration, increasingly feminist and an upholder of gay rights.

The historical context ranges over five centuries. Spain’s unsuccessful attempt to invade England with its ‘invincible’ Armada and overthrow its Protestant Queen Elizabeth I is widely known but this book reveals for the first time to many readers the disastrous English attempt to invade Spain a year later. This English tragedy, with an estimated loss of 20,000 men, was kept secret at the behest of ‘good queen Bess’ and has remained so for over four centuries.

A series of international encounters since that time, including defeat by Nelson at Trafalgar, an invasion by Napoleon’s troops in pursuit of a French empire, a war with the USA which saw Cuba and the Philippines gain their independence and the end of Spain’s empire, was followed by an internal crisis and a bloody civil war and four decades of Franco’s dictatorship.

The Irish have played a part in many critical areas. The rector of the renowned Irish College at Salamanca effectively ran a spy ring to support Wellington’s army during the Peninsular War against the French. The mid 19th century saw wild geese descendant Leopoldo O’Donnell appointed Prime Minister and awarded the title Duke of Tetuán in recognition of his services to Spain. General Kindelán (descendant of the Irish family Quinlan) proposed and supported General Franco as overall commander of the Spanish nationalist forces at the start of the Civil War.

That war saw support from Irish troops on both sides. Eoin O’Duffy’s Irish Brigade sailed out of Galway Bay singing Faith of our Fathers to join with Franco’s nationalist rebels, to be sent home less than a year later. On the other side, Frank Ryan led his smaller Republican force to join the International Brigade to support the Spanish government. This force would leave Spain when the government there withdrew all the international brigades, hastening the end of the war.

This comprehensive book brings the reader up to date with the modern Spanish economy, and the Catalán conundrum, still a live issue. At times, Spain can be overly bureaucratic, resulting, perhaps, from having 17 autonomous governments and regions with very different characteristics in its people, from the Celtic outlook of many Galicians with their small land holdings and bagpipes to the industrious and business-like attitude of the Cataláns.

There is one principle that is universal, however - every problem has a solution if you know how to go about solving it.

Somebody has the key and the answer, but, you must know where to look. This involves listening and therefore a knowledge of Spanish, whether Castellano, Catalán, Basque or Gallego.