Old Travel Books and Ireland

This is obviously a far from comprehensive list of old travel books dealing with Ireland.  It is just a mention for a couple that I have read, and since they are available free on line, I thought a plug for the sites that host them would be worthwhile.

I love travel books, particularly old ones.  While a modern travel book can show the reader what they are likely to encounter after jumping aboard a flight for a couple of hours, reading some of the great travel classics transports the reader to worlds long gone, and to which only the hardy could make their way.  They have nothing to do with Ireland, but do yourself a favour and find a copy of books like “Two Years Before the Mast”, or ‘Sailing Alone Around the World’.  The first of these is a tale of travel from Boston to California, when Cali was only a series of trading posts. The second title is more self-explanatory, but still a great tale of adventure and resilience.  Both are available as free downloads in a number of formats at Project Guttenberg, (https://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page), a worthy site in its own right which is full of out of copyright literature.  I will mention it again, probably frequently!  One word of caution is necessary when dealing with books written long ago.  They are written in the context of their times, and the writers attitudes may not be particularly acceptable to modern conventions.  You don’t have to agree with the author’s mindset to enjoy the books, and often reading these attitudes in the context of the times will expose the reasons why we have moved so far from them.

Meanwhile back to something more relevant to our island. J

‘A Vagabond Journey Around the World’, by Harry A. Franck

In my misspent youth I did a bit of hitch-hiking, including one memorable trip over many, many months when I made it as far as Israel, but that story is far beyond the remit of this site.  An Ebay search some years ago for old travel books led me to buy this book, and there is a very short piece in it on a visit to Ireland, the full text on Ireland is below.  There is however an interesting picture from Belfast (see below), probably dating from 1904?  Franck seems to have made a career of his travels, publishing many books from many continents. He redeemed himself by returning to Britain and Ireland in the 30’s, and there are hundreds of pages on Ireland in this book.  I have it, but haven’t read it yet so will report back or scan the whole Ireland content at some stage if time permits.  Don’t hold your breath!  If you would like to read A Vagabond Journey, it is on Guttenberg along with a few of his others (but not the Britain and Ireland one).

The whole book is 502 pages, and Ireland gets this!

“Tucking my Kodak into my coat pocket, I sold my bag for the price of a ticket on the night steamer to Belfast.  A two days’ tramp along the highways of the Emerald Isle was a pleasant “limbering up” for more extended journeys to come.  It might have been longer but for an incessant rain that drove me back to Scotland.”

MOTORCYCLE ADVENTURER: Carl Stearns Clancy: First Motorcyclist To Ride Around the World 1912 – 1913.

By Dr. Gregory W. Frazier

This one links so many of my interests.  Old bikes, travel, Ireland, etc. etc.  Clancy had Irish ancestry, so he and a colleague started their trip by shipping their two bikes to Dublin, and heading for Donegal.  They descriptions of the roads, the real difficulties of even finding petrol to run their bikes, and their security worries that made them travel with a loaded gun to hand are all a real snapshot of Ireland at the time.  His partner dropped out fairly quickly in their travels, but Clancy was made of sterner stuff.  It is a great book, compiled from magazine articles serializing the trip.  It is free to read on Google books too.


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