Thomas Rice tells us about FAR FROM THE LAND: AN IRISH MEMOIR. He left his beautiful but hardscrabble family farm to emigrate to America in 1959. Also, we hear excerpts from a 2008 interview with Alphie McCourt about his memoir, A LONG STONE’S THROW.
Americans like to honor Saint Patrick’s Day by downing green beer and watching the colleens high step Irish jigs on the parade floats passing by. But it’s a good time to remember that it wasn’t all sweetness and light back in the old country. There was a reason why so many of Ireland’s young men and women had to leave their verdant homeland and make their way to the gritty streets of America. The brutal British rule over Ireland impoverished their families and their nation, forcing the families apart in a quest for survival.
Thomas Rice was one of those young men. He grew up in a remote farming community, Ballinvalley, Ireland, near the foothills of Mt. Leinster. He left his family farm at the age of 16, coming to the U.S. Rice eventually made the transition from barely educated Irish farm boy to professor of sociology. But, as with all emigrants, the bittersweet memories of his youth continued to percolate through his mind for the next fifty years. Now he’s come out with his memoir of his Irish youth, FAR FROM THE LAND.
Correction: The “video montage” mentioned in the audio is not of Thomas Rice’s homestead in Ireland.
Alphie McCourt isn’t as famous a writer as his two older brothers, Malachi and the late Frank McCourt. In fact, until he wrote his 2008 memoir, A LONG STONE’S THROW, he wasn’t a writer at all. He was a restauranteur and then a building manager in New York City. But he’s got the same talent for memoir as his more celebrated siblings. In A LONG STONE’S THROW, he writes about growing up in Limerick, Ireland and, after emigrating, his life here in the U.S. I visited him in his apartment in New York in 2008, where I recorded an interview we aired that year.