Photographer and oral historian Jackie Elger on her books, publishing company , old photos, and small cats.
One day my postman arrived at my gate and said: ‘We should do a book together.’
Not the typical conversation you have with your postman! It was 2007, and I was
living in Co Waterford, having returned from the UK a few years previously. I was
attempting to earn money through my newly set up photography business, Fiántas
Photography. Unfortunately, the norm for that business seemed to be more ‘freebie’
than ‘pay me’. The book sounded like a good plan and I took him up on his offer.
The postman was Tom Power, a (now-retired) postman, who is also a talented poet
and writer. Together we produced, ‘Waterford in Pictures and Verse’, (now out of print)
with his poems and my photographs and it proved to be a great success. I put the
book together myself - typesetting, layout, etc and so was born my little publishing
company, Cat Beag Books. Cat beag is Irish for small cat and the company was
named in memory of a much-loved (and very small) family cat.
In 2010, I said goodbye to the beautiful Comeragh Mountains and upped sticks with
my family once more, returning to my native Co Clare. I persevered with the
photography business, but it began to take a back seat when I (under the guidance
of oral historian Dr Tomás Mac Conmara) started recording the older generation of
Co Clare. Over the past ten years I have recorded the memories of many people
across the county. I find it a fascinating and rewarding occupation.
Two more books have also been published under Cat Beag Books,
One, in collaboration with local historian (and old
school-friend) Dolores Meaney, entitled ‘The Islands of the Fergus Estuary’, and the
other, ‘Three Men from Clare’, with fellow oral historian, Patricia Sheehan.
I also have an interest in collecting and restoring old photographs and run a
Facebook page called ‘The Vintage Lens – Looking at Times Past in Co Clare’,
Despite Covid-19, Cat Beag Books is still alive and kicking, but new book production
has been slightly delayed. Another oral history book is on the starting blocks (which
will give you a clue to the subject matter), and I hope to publish that later in 2021.
Both titles from Cat Beag Books are for sale on www.thebookshop.ie as follows - ( Postage within Ireland is included in the cost in both cases) Two excellent examples of social and local history from a fascinating part of Ireland.
And oral histories of Clare - Three Men From Clare