Eileen O'Mara Walsh

The Third Daughter

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“Fascinating both as a social history and as a portrait of a talented woman with a generous soul.” Susan McKay, The Irish Times

In this moving and elegant self-portrait Eileen O’Mara Walsh takes us from an unconventional Limerick childhood to years spent in Dublin, London and Paris, returning to Ireland in the 1970s to pioneer a burgeoning tourism industry.

The memoir begins with the marriage of her father Power O’Mara, War of Independence exile, to her mother Joan Follwell, English socialist and protegée of Bertrand Russell. As the family falls from middle-class comfort into genteel poverty among the literary and theatrical characters of 1950s and 60s Dublin, the reader is offered fascinating glimpses of Brendan Behan, Noel Browne, Micheál Mac Liammóir, Conor Cruise O’Brien and others.

Eileen leaves Ireland for London at eighteen, coming of age in her brush with left wing groups and then moving to Paris, where she falls in love for the first time with an older French artist. She returns to Dublin in 1962 to the bohemian milieu of painters and writers, among them Patrick Kavanagh, Sean O’Sullivan, Brian Bourke, Camille Souter and Aidan Higgins. There she meets Mayo painter Owen Walsh, embarking on a
lifelong and transformative relationship. In the Irish Times, Susan McKay notes that 'in the “maelstrom of male egos” that was literary Dublin she has already realised that “the women who survived in this society had to be Amazonian by force of circumstances if not by nature”.'

The deaths of her parents and sister Ruth are tempered by the birth of her son Eoghan in 1975. She describes how single motherhood galvanized her into establishing her own company and how she found herself at the forefront of Irish corporate life during the 1980s and 90s.

These memories yield shrewd and amusing views of politicians encountered along the way – O’Malley, Haughey, Ahern – as well as the colourful but lesser-known characters who populated Dublin at that time. This lively record traces the arc of a hundred years of family history, from the birth of her father in 1900 to the death of her great love, Owen Walsh, in 2002. The Third Daughter is a poignant, passionate chronicle of a fulfilled life, lyrically rendered.

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456 printed pages
Original publication
2015

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