Joe McGowan

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((essay)) Joe McGowan (7 January 1944, Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo, Ireland) is an Irish historian, folklorist, and author specialising in the history and heritage of Ireland. He is based in Sligo.

Sligo Champion interview Wednesday 5 August 2009:

"If there is truth in the saying that 'a man in his life plays many parts' then this adage is surely epitomised by Sligo author and historian Joe Mc Gowan. Farmer, soldier, builder, fisherman, now turned writer, his latest work "A Bitter Wind" was unveiled recently at an Irish night starring Sligo's own Sandy Kelly in the Pier Head Hotel Mullaghmore.

Born on the family farm at Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo Joe lived the life of a small farmer on the family holding until emigrating to the U.S.A. in the ‘60s. Drafted into the U.S. Army six months after arriving in Yorktown Hgts., N.Y., he underwent infantry training in Fort Dix, New Jersey. On graduation he was stationed with the 87th Engineer Bn. in Fort Belvoir, Virginia where he served during President Kennedy's stand-off with the Russians, known as the 'Cuban Crisis'. The balance of active service was with the 557 Quartermaster Co. on Évreux-Fauville airbase in France. This being the period of the Vietnam war, the 557 th's mission, composed mostly of 82nd and 101st Airborne troops, was the delivery of supplies and personnel to the combat zone in Vietnam.


Given his keen interest in heritage it is not surprising that he was the driving force behind the erection of the famine monuments 'The Famine Family' on the quayside in Sligo and the 'Faoin Sceach' in the famine graveyard behind St John's Hospital. Asked what he felt was his greatest achievement Joe said: ‘My proudest moment was the day of unveiling the Markievicz Memorial in Rathcormack. This tribute to Sligo and Ireland’s greatest heroine is an appropriate memorial to Con Markievicz’s lifetime of struggle for Irish freedom and for the poor of Ireland. It is fitting too that a plaque there also memorialises the local men who fought in the War of Independence and the Civil War. We owe to them all the freedoms we enjoy today!”.

Realising that the new order of transmitting information is on the World Wide Web Joe set up Sligo’s first and only heritage information website www.sligoheritage.com in 2005. It is replete with local news and information as well as articles on history and heritage. Now a full-time writer his books, backed by meticulous archival research, are inspired by countless nights spent visiting the older generation and listening to their tales. His short stories, usually cameos of Irish life both past and present, feature frequently in magazines and on RTÉ radio. He is also a Heritage Specialist with the Irish National Teachers Organisation ‘Heritage in Schools Scheme’:

The days of the fireside story-tellers are gone, but their stories and lore, happily, live on in Joe Mc Gowan’s books, and on his SligoHeritage website."

Bibliography[edit]

  • 1993 In the Shadow of Benbulben: A Portrait of Our Storied Past, Aeolus Publications
  • 1998 Inishmurray: Gale, Stone and Fire, Aeolus Publications
  • 2001 Echoes of a Savage Land, Mercier Press,
  • 2003 Constance Markievicz: People's Countess, Cottage Press
  • 2004 Sligo: Land of Destiny, Aeolus Publications
  • 2005 Inishmurray: Island Voices, Aeolus Publications
  • 2007 "A Fairy Wind",short stories, music, songs and monologues, Aeolus Publications
  • 2009 "A Bitter Wind", an account of Irish country life as it was lived up to and including the 20th century.

External links[edit]