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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Some Experiences of an Irish R.M.

Odd title, isn't it? That's why I picked it actually. Some Experiences of an Irish R.M. by E. Somerville and M. Ross is on the list of 1,001 books and yes, I chose to read it based on the title alone. I've got a thing for Ireland - I readily admit it!

First, the basics. This book was published in 1899. It was written by Edith Somerville and "Martin Ross", aka Violent Martin (Edith's cousin). There are other books in the series as well, but I can't seem to find out how many.

, now to summarize. This is a bit tricky actually, because each chapter is almost a short story in and of itself. The entire book is told from the point of view of Major Sinclair Yeates, an English gentleman recently posted to Skebawn in Western Ireland. He holds the position of Resident Magistrate. Each chapter relates his (mis)adventures as he deals with his landlord, the residents of the town, and his wife. There is also a great deal of English condescension* toward the Irish, as you'd expect, as well as lots of that dry, situation humor you expect from the Brits.

I think what I enjoyed the most was the dialect. The authors really captured the sound of the Irish accent and the peculiar turns of phrase so common to Ireland. I loved how they used unique spelling to convey the sound of the words. A few of my favorites were: rosydandhrum (rhododendron), dhrownding (drowning), and charackter (character). There were lots more though.

It took me a few months to read this because I kept putting it aside to read other things. Much of it was quite entertaining though, and it really isn't a difficult read. The characters are all quirky and fun to read about. I never could guess where each story would take them. If you are a fan of short stories and old-fashioned adventures - fox hunting, balls, etc. - you'd likely enjoy this book.

To give you a taste of the writing style, here's a quick excerpt from Chapter 5: Lisheen Races, Second-Hand:

Had it not been for a large stone lying on the road, and had the filly not chosen to swerve so as to bring the wheel on top of it, I dare say we might have got to the races; but by an unfortunate coincidence both these things occurred, and when we recovered from the consequent shock, the tire of one of the wheels had come off, and was trundling with cumbrous gaiety into the ditch.

I recently learned that this book was made into a TV series in the 1980s. I'm glad to know that, because this book lends itself to being read (or acted) aloud. I'm including a clip from the show, but only watch it if you like British TV - otherwise you'll be bored stiff!

This book had a lot of words that I was unfamiliar with. Inspired by Open Mind Insert Book, I decided to keep track of those words. Unfortunately, I only wrote down a few. Here's my list though, along with the definitions:


  1. the use of two metals, ordinarily gold and silver, at a fixed relative value, as the monetary standard
  2. the doctrine or policies supporting such a standard


  1. an old-fashioned hooded chaise
  2. a rickety, old-fashioned conveyance

(noun) - actually, I knew this word from reading this book - it's a weapon used by various African tribes

So, has anyone else out there read this book? I'm guessing not, but maybe you'll surprise me. If not, would you consider reading it? Let me know what you think.

*In this context I do mean condescension in the modern sense (as in "looking down upon") and not the Jane Austen sense (as in "Mr. Darcy condescended to speak to Mr. Collins"). ~LOL~


Anonymous said...

I ADORE Brit TV and the lead in your clip is also in To the Manor Born. Where did you find it? I am so excited.
Ophelia's Mom

Amanda said...

Oh this totally looks like it's up my alley. I'll have to check it out. Thanks for adding the clip! I'll have to check that out too :)

wolfie said...

Reading this book at the moment. Full of affectionate bemusement with the Irish as befits the log extinct landlord class there. Certainly improved my knowledge of fox-hunting and can't help a wry laugh now and then. Worth reading. Thanks for reminding me about the series. Remember it from days of yore.

An Irishman said...

The other books in the series are -
Further experiences of an Irish RM.
In Mr.Knox's Country.
If you liked the first ,then you'll enjoy these.

An Irishman.

Anonymous said...

There's a lovely recording of these stories at

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