The most charismatic figure to emerge during the struggles for the independence of Ireland was undoubtedly Michael Collins. This remarkable biography, which draws on much hitherto unpublished material, charts the dramatic rise of the country boy who became head of the Free State and the commander-in-chief of the army.
This biography of Michael Collins (1890-1922) is the first since Tim Pat Coogan's definitive Michael Collins: The Man Who Made Ireland in 1992, and admirers of Collins will find verification here for their sentiments. Mackay takes us from Collins's birth in County Cork (his father was 75 when he was born) and shows how his childhood was influenced by the Fenianism of his father and uncles. He looks at Collins's 10 years in London working for the post office and financial institutions (1906-1916), noting that, through the experience, he came to know the British well. The author traces Collins as he fights in Dublin's General Post Office in 1916; his emergence as a leader in prison for the Easter Rising in 1916 (a "tiresome barrackroom lawyer" to his captors); and his return to Ireland to set up the IRA and his own counter-intelligence group. Mackay also examines the events of "Bloody Sunday" 1920, when Collins's security squad assassinated the entire British Secret Service in Dublin ("I paid them back in their own coin," said Collins); his part in the negotiations of the Irish-Anglo peace treaty and his own assassination. Mackay speculates that Collins and Moya Llewelyn Davies had a baby; focuses on his idea for a "Sinn Fein Air Force"; his threats to "invade" Northern Ireland; and his brilliance as Finance Minister (he shot British bank examiners). Mackay (Burns) has written an enlightening bio that will add to the legend of Ireland's "Big Fellow." Photos.