Edmund Hogan

I will leave the discussion of James’s literary contribution to those better fitted to assess and express. Instead, I want to pay tribute to the manner in which he created the space and time to undertake his life-long creative adventure. 

James is my elder brother, the first-born son in a family of three boys and three girls who lived in the city of Cork, on Ireland’s southern coast. Cork people regard their city as Ireland’s ‘real capital’, citing among its virtues its fine literary tradition, the beauty of its seascape and its unrivalled natural harbour. But James was not a typical ‘Cork man’. Having being compelled to leave his city in early adulthood to make a living, he was never to return to Ireland’s shores.

James grew up a relatively quiet boy, with a love of literature which went beyond admiration and excitement, but sought involvement in the creative process. This was not an easy aspiration to have in Ireland of the 1940s and 1950s where unemployment and poverty were endemic. James seems to have realised this at an early age and sought to keep his powder dry. Not an easy task, for as the first-born male child he attracted more parental attention than his siblings. His father, a professor of history, had taken a prominent part in the war for Irish Independence. Later he was to watch closely how the new Ireland developed and like many who had fought both in the Anglo-Irish War and the subsequent Civil war, became disillusioned.

Three times each week at about 6 p.m. we could see from a palm tree in our garden the passenger ferry Innisfallen, packed bow to stern with young, impoverished and untrained Irish boys and girls, heading down the river Lee, destined for the high seas and England. James Hogan senior was deeply affected by the loss of Ireland’s sons and daughters to emigration. His greatest fear was that his own children would also emigrate in poverty and become ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’. Anxious that their eldest son would set a good example to his siblings, his parents were determined that he should acquire a profession which, in the event of emigration, would enable him to stand on his own two feet and hold his head high.

James, on the other hand, craved a life of the imagination, tooled by the written word.

In the event, his schooling over, James was to negotiate his way through stormy academic waters for four years. He did so in a fashion that when it was time to leave home and fend for himself, he did it with the blessing of his parents and the admiration of his siblings. Henceforth he found himself free to immerse himself in the world of literature, becoming over the years a creator who would deliver an ever-growing corpus of fine work – in the forms of poetry and prose.

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The Duras Press

The Duras Press