Reviews - What do customers think about Ella Young: Irish Mystic and Rebel?
Young at Heart Apr 4, 2008
Sometimes life reaches out and gives you a gentle nudge where it is least expected. I was reading the wonderful new HELEN ADAM READER, edited by Kristin Prevallet and published by the National Poetry Foundation, and I was expressing my interest in seeing this book get picked up by our local library's program "Everybody's Reading the Same Book At the Same Time," a program that changes every month but often enough, focuses on books with some relation to San Francisco. And the Helen Adam book would be perfect for that, I enthused to the woman at the Friends of the Library desk, because she, Helen Adam, though Scottish by birth and aura, and something of a mystic, came to San Francisco in the 30s and 40s and in her fifties became an integral part of the art and poetry scene sweeping the city in the postwar era, singing her enchanting ballads and listening to her cats speaking to her, like a modernday witch. The woman at the Friends of the Library listened politely and then asked if I was aware of Ella Young and the way that the Library was sponsoring a talk about Ella Young by Rose Murphy, an Irish biographer visiting San Francisco. Well I knew nothing about her!
It sounds like Ella Young and Helen Adam had a lot in common, added my informant, except that Adam was from Scotland while Young was from Ireland. Quickly I got a copy of the book, published in Dublin by the Liffey Press, and I must say I had to agree! They're practically the same story, or perhaps the same odyssey would be more apropos. Young was born in Ireland and became close to the circle of artists, poets and rebels around Yeats and Maud Gonne, those who believed in an anthropological approach to the peasant people in the west of Ireland, for they had held on longer to the magical Celtic way of living, and also of course to Gaelic and other pre-industrial forms. As Rose Murphy shows, even though Ella Young believed elves walked with her and that fairies produced symphonies of gorgeous music every time she went for a walk, she was also a stone cold revolutionary and ran guns and ammo during the Easter Rising of 1916. Before you could say boo to a goose, she had packed bag and baggage for the West Coast once again--but this time the West Coast of the USA, where her simple ways and heartfelt patriotic songs made her a hit among the intelligentsia like Robinson Jeffers, Gavin Arthur, and Ansel Adams.
I wonder if the fairies helped her write her anthologies of the folk tales she collected. There were quite a few of them, not all that well known today, except perhaps among children or old people. CELTIC WONDER TALES is one, THE TANGLE COATED HORSE, and THE UNICORN WITH SILEVR SHOES are two more. Now that I know her life, I'll be delving into her work, thanks to Rose Murphy, whose lighthearted, slight, and cotton-candy biography of Young had opened my eyes and given me hope that, somewhere down the line, a more serious biography might be undertaken soon.
Irish Folklorist and Eccentric: Ella Young Mar 30, 2008
Rose Murphy's book is a delightful exploration of the life of an eccentric and talented Irish writer and folklorist. Ella Young (1867-1956) was a protestant who left the safety and comfort of her upper middle class life in Dublin to journey to the West of Ireland, a land of traditional people and a surviving outpost of Celtic culture and language. Young not only recorded the stories of magic, elves and spirits, she was something of a mystic herself. She heard fairie music, met elves and communicated with the trees. During her numerous trips to the West of Ireland to collect ancient myths, Ella returned often to Dublin to tell the stories she heard from the farmers and country folk. Her earliest audiences were Irish school children, and her books were generally writen for children as well.
Remarkably, in her 58th year, Ella moved to America and became a favorite on the lecture circuit, telling Irish stories and drawing nostalgic crowds of Irish immigrants wherever she spoke. Although Young started life in America on the east coast, she continued her travels westward and settled in the Bay Area where she lectured at the University of California at Berkeley for seven years. She often drew audiences of up to five hundred listeners.
Young retired to Oceano, a central coast community with a beach commune of Dunnites (utopoians and pacifists), many of whom she counted among her friends. Her American social set included Ansel Adams, Robinson Jeffers and Gavin Arthur, grandson of the American president. In Oceano Young enjoyed owning her first real home, a cozy cabin with a garden...although far from her Irish roots. She wrote her memoirs there and spent her remaining years in her adopted homeland.
Murphy's portrayal gives us rich insight, not only into the life of Ella Young, but also into Ireland's revolution, its literary renaissance and American culture between two wars.
A Feast of a Book! Mar 26, 2008
I was captivated by the mix of lively stories, enchanting photographs and the glimpses of well-known Irish writers that Ella gives the reader. Most moving, however, is the story of this strong woman's constant westward journey told through her letters, her poems, and the recollections of her friends.