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Remembering Michael Courtney

On Sunday 21 December 2014 we attended one of the most unique book launches we have ever been to. The venue was the RDS (Royal Dublin Society) Library in Ballsbridge, Dublin, and the book being launched was “The Blinding Light” – the story of Michael Courtney, Irish freedom fighter and father from Kilmainhamwood, Co. Meath.

The book was written as a tribute to his father by Ultan Courtney (below) and is the result of many years’ intensive research.

Beautifully designed and laid out by Ultan's son Michael, the book is hardcover, and landscape rather than the usual portrait format. Running to 465 pages, it is comprehensively illustrated. All illustrations are on the right-had pages, with text on the left, giving the impression of a scrap-book or photo-album with notes.

There are old photographs, new photographs, specially drawn-maps and diagrams, newspaper cuttings etc. All illustrations are in their original colours, and the simple dust-jacket has as a centrepiece on its front cover a photograph taken by Ultan in Kilmainham Gaol, where his father was held in 1921, illustrating the quote in the title.

The book was launched by successful author and historian Liz Gillis, (below, with author Ultan Courtney) and local historian Dr Danny Cusack from the Meath Historical Workshop in Kells.

Ultan himself also spoke about his reasons in writing and publishing this book. MC for the proceedings was his son Michael – named for his grandfather.

The audience was an invited one, consisting of family and friends and, after the speeches; copies of the book were presented to Michael’s immediate family.

Next we were shown a slideshow of Michael’s life in pictures, to beautiful music, before copies of the book were distributed to all present. Finally, we were invited to a superb lunch in the RDS members’ dining hall.

After lunch Michael Courtney Jnr., David Courtney and

 Dave Thornton played some of Michael Senior’s favourite music including the haunting “Grace”.

Truly a unique occasion in memory of a unique and brave man, one of the many unsung heroes to whom we owe our freedom. Ultan told us that his father never sought the limelight, but I think he would have been pleased with this tribute to him by his son.

The book will not be on public sale, unfortunately but anyone who wishes to read a little about Michael Courtney can do so here (link to website page), written specially for us by Ultan.

Copies of the book are being distributed to the major libraries Including Fingal County Council, Meath County Library and Dublin City Libraries shortly and relevant archives including the National Library and the main University Libraries and can be read there.

The book is being distributed to the following libraries, and should be available to read in them shortly:

Bodlein Library Oxford

British Library

Cambridge University Library

Dublin City Library

Dublin City University

Fingal Library

Kilmainham Gaol Archive

Kilmainhamwood School

Meath County Library

National Library of Ireland

National Library of Scotland

National Library of Wales

National University of Ireland, Cork (UCC)

National University of Ireland, Dublin (UCD)

National University of Ireland, Galway (UCG)

National University of Ireland, Kildare (Maynooth)

Trinity College Dublin

University of Limerick

Below are some of our photos of the launch, with others supplied by Ultan Courtney and taken by Paul O'Shaugnessy.

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