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Last of the Donkey Pilgrims: A Man's Journey Through Ireland

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  223 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews

Kevin OâHaraâs journey of self-discovery begins as a mad lark: who in their right mind would try to circle the entire coastline of Ireland on footâ”and with a donkey and cart no less?

But Kevin had promised his homesick Irish mother that he would explore the whole of the Old Country and bring back the sights and the stories to their home in Massachusetts. Determined to r

Paperback, 432 pages
Published February 1st 2005 by Forge Books (first published February 1st 2004)
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Mar 19, 2012 Shell rated it really liked it
There is a passage in the book that offers a good summary of this informative, enjoyable book:

The book "extolled the beauty and bounty of the island...
the spirit and cheek of the natives...
the commerce and customs,
the history and poetry of the land."
janet Burke
Jan 06, 2014 janet Burke rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. Kevin O'Hara, after serving in Vietnam, was a bit lost and confused in his life and decided to make a trek around Ireland, just at the time the country was bracing for great changes. He did it in the old style, with a donkey and cart - leaving his Irish grannie's home in the West and taking a full year, going clockwise around the entire country. His memoir is very funny, as well as, insightful and at times even spiritual. It took him 30 years to finally finish this ...more
Jan 06, 2014 Glenn rated it liked it
I chose this book as a complete change of pace from scholarly/MFA readings…and as a salve to a breakup with an Irish girlfriend. Kevin O'Hara is a lovely man, aka British vet James Herriot, and his kindness comes across in his telling of his adventures riding 1,800 miles around Ireland in a donkey-drawn cart. If one is ever feeling cynical about humanity, this is a good book to restore your faith in people. O'Hare and his donkey Missie bring out the best in people, even in places like war-torn ...more
Bernard Farrell
Oct 28, 2016 Bernard Farrell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: autobiography
Kevin O'Hara walked around Ireland with his donkey in the late 1970s because he longed to learn about the country where his mother grew up. His tale describes choosing the right donkey and setting off despite the disbelief of people in his starting point. His aim was to return there by Christmas, giving him about 8 months to complete the trip.

Along the way he paints achingly beautiful pictures of the people and places (and pubs) he encounters. He becomes a kind of seanachai (Irish storyteller),
Jan 06, 2014 Leslie rated it liked it
It was a good book, but very slow. Man walks around Ireland with a donkey. They walk during the day, at night they find a house to spend the night at, he tells stories and amuses the children. Occasionally stops at a pub. Over and after 300 pages I was bored. But I learned a lot about Ireland's history and culture. The donkey is pretty amusing.
Jan 06, 2014 Jannekb rated it really liked it
A delightfully charming memoir of an Irish-American man’s journey around the “ring” of Ireland’s coastline with a donkey (dear Missie McDermott) and cart. His affection for Ireland’s people, his passion for their history and struggles, and his uncanny ability to reproduce the rhythm and timbre of their colorful speech, made this book exceedingly enjoyable. Not too heavy, not too light – just right. I lingered over it for many long weeks – almost two months. I could have finished it more quickly, ...more
Mar 11, 2008 Carrie rated it liked it
Recommends it for: travel aficionados
Shelves: nonfiction
This book recounts a man's journey around the perimeter of Ireland, accompanied by a donkey and cart, surviving on the goodwill and open hearts of Ireland's people. It's slow-going as he recounts every meal of mutton stew and pint at the local village pub, but hearing about the generous people he meets on the way makes it worth the read.
Jan 23, 2010 Jonny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This author is my coworker in the hospital where I work, and so it certainly helps to know his voice and to picture him in these settings. A gentle, slight and incredibly genial man, a VietNam vet, he took a donkey and travelled around the coastal perimeter of his parents' native land, Ireland, in 1979, including right through the Troubles in Northern Ireland. A great tale (get it?)
Susan W. Waflart
Apr 29, 2009 Susan W. Waflart rated it it was ok
I wish the author had shared more of their "self" in pub crawl after another!
Jp Perkins
Oct 26, 2016 Jp Perkins rated it liked it
A good read...nice prep for my trip to Ireland!
I picked this off the shelf based on title and back cover summary. It was a pleasant, engaging read, which made me want to go to Ireland. (Pretty much everything I know about Ireland comes from internet writer, so it was pretty much all new to me.

The 1979 he described seemed much farther back in time in spots (burning turf! everyone has an opinion on hitching donkeys!). This was during the Troubles, and that made the Northern Ireland part pretty tense in spots. (You know going in that he did thi
Aug 21, 2016 Susan rated it really liked it
Having found this at a library sale, with nothing to lose I was still uncertain if I wanted to commit to yet another pilgrim's story. I seem drawn to the memoir, especially physical journeys, "A Walk Across America", "A Walk in the Woods", "Wild", "The Oregon Trail", countless accounts of Appalachian Trail treks. But my last few were wearing on me. I could'nt get to the finish with William Least Heat Moon's "River Horse". Just. did. not. care.
But I could immediately tell that Kevin O'Hara has a
Michael Mccormick
Dec 29, 2015 Michael Mccormick rated it it was amazing
This book chronicles the journey of Kevin "The Yank" O'Hara and his noble steed Missy as they travel the coast of Ireland way back in 1979. Kevin set off from the local pub (a mile from his grandmother's place) on this journey as a way to discover the Ireland that he had missed (he was born in England to Irish parents, and grew up in Western Massachusetts) and to help get himself sorted out after serving in the Vietnam War. Traveling ten miles a day by donkey cart (Kevin never rode, but walked ...more
I had the pleasure of meeting Kevin and Belita when they visited our library last week. I am glad I waited to read this book after their talk -- It has been helpful to have his photographs and voice in my head as I read.

This book is exactly what it purports to be: a recollection of his walk around the perimeter of Ireland, accompanied by Missie the donkey. It is at its best when Kevin is describing the sites and giving glimpses into a kind of life that does not exist anymore. I am finding myself
Jul 05, 2015 Colleen rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Faith Weldon
Kevin O'Hara managed to share his insights into the Irish people and culture--at least that of 1979. His idea of walking around Ireland with a donkey was brilliant. Missie, the donkey, became a true character in the tale and besides that broke down any barriers between the traveler and those he encountered. He always over nighted with locals with Missie put out to pasture or stabled in a byre (barn). She provided him unwavering company and a sounding board as they slowly made their way around ...more
David Powell
Apr 26, 2013 David Powell rated it really liked it
Does it sound interesting to read about a guy taking a donkey and a cart around the perimeter of Ireland on a voyage of self-discovery? Read it and see. My guess is that you will enjoy the book, and, if you have Irish roots, you will find it even more entrancing. The first part, which sets the premise and gets Kevin started, is a bit slow. Once on the move, every encounter and stopping point is interesting and makes one wish one could have joined Kevin in his pilgrimage. Also to be admired is ...more
Apr 14, 2015 Elizabeth rated it liked it
Shelves: travel, ireland
Let me preface this by saying I love Ireland. It's one of my favorite places and this is the fourth Ireland-specific travel narrative I've read. That being said, at times I felt it was a sheer power of will just to finish this book. While there were delightful insights into the people and the culture with pearls of wisdom sprinkled in, I felt it was entirely too long. I did enjoy following along on Mr. O'Hara's adventures and reminiscing about my own experiences in the Emerald Isle, it took ...more
Jun 05, 2016 Amy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel, ireland
American Kevin O'Hara walked the coastline of Ireland with his donkey Missie in 1979 and wrote his book 25 years later. I read it in preparation for an upcoming trip to Ireland, and felt like I walked the coastline accompanied by the two of them. The author's ability to describe the landscape, individuals and challenges encountered in his 1800 mile excursion never becomes repetitious. The section dealing with Ulster and Belfast is particularly affecting. And the warm reception almost everywhere ...more
May 24, 2014 Ann rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've ever read. Mr. O'Hara's gift for storytelling is top-notch. This healing, historical, loving journey around old Ireland by this Vietnam vet aka psychiatric nurse and his asal Missie can be read on so many levels. Humor, pathos, adventure, recovery, myth, community-building, family values, and a bit of "touched by the faeries" -- this one has it all. I can't wait to ride Missie's likeness on the Berkshire carousel. Or to read Mr. O'Hara's Memoirs of a Bearded Nurse, ...more
Apr 17, 2015 Paula rated it it was amazing
What a Good Read! The author has taken an ordinary travelogue and turned it into a great story about Ireland, in every aspect: most of all about it's people both past and present, but also it's history, current events, geography, beauty, and traditions. And most of all, a wonderful story about the unexpected star of the story, his trusty companion on his trek, Missie the Donkey. The author has gift of Irish storytelling, for sure, and now his book provides us with a excellent tale, just as he ...more
Jan 05, 2013 Sandy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sandy by: my husband & our bank's manager
I am still enjoying this wonderfully fun and light book..... but I've been traveling a lot lately so small paperbacks or audio books have been my constant companions..... I'll get back to it when I get back home. It IS fun! ............ my husband is loving it! .... now, in october, a cheerful and fun book to take a break from more serious works! More later!!

Pick up again sometime and start at chapter 36!
Dec 06, 2014 Rose rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-faves
This was my second read of this wonderful book. The author and I are in the same position with lives in the US and close family in Ireland. He made his journey one year before I arrived to live and go to school for a couple of years there. The scenes he writes about are very familiar to me and resonate with my memories of the place that it was at the time. A wonderful, nostalgic journey for me!
Sep 17, 2014 gini rated it really liked it
Loved this and envy the journey except for the almost total reliance of the kindness of strangers, a few of those mountain climbs and the Atlantic gales, other than that perfect! It was hard to keep remembering he was rebelling a journey 25 years past, but would love to share a pint, and a story with Kevin and missy
Erica Hudson
May 13, 2016 Erica Hudson rated it it was amazing
I registered a book at!

Beautifully descriptive account of a journey round the coast of Ireland with a donkey and cart. Complete with Irish history as it relates to the land and location.
Paul Bauer
Feb 17, 2012 Paul Bauer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kevin O'Hara is the perfect traveling companion: curious, engaging, sunny, and honest. Missie the donkey was a lucky lady. I'd jotted down quotes but gave up when I filled a full page. And the opening of Chp 43 is one of the saddest but most beautiful things I've ever read. I'll be thinking about that paragraph for a long time.
Jan 01, 2011 Linda rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
I started reading this book out of curiosity and then got hooked. It was so interesting to follow Kevin's travels around Ireland and meet,along with him, the many and varied types of people as he walked around the country. It inspired my husband and I to take a wonderful trip this year and drive around Ireland.
Apr 22, 2009 Ashley rated it it was amazing
Having traveled across Ireland a few times and gone the way of Kevin O'Hara in this book I was so happy to read stories from some of the same places, read about how the island "was" (people, customs, places) and O'Hara's story telling gene is most certainly passed down to him.

I loved this book and was very sad when it came to an end.
May 25, 2015 John rated it really liked it
Shelves: irish-authors, owned
This is a great read. It is about a society that we can only imagine in the present day. A society where people took in other people in an effort to help them and to be just plain kind. Very interesting look at many personalities,places, and ways of life.
Absolutely charming! Makes one want to find a donkey, cart, some provisions and head out on a pilgrimage too. It reminded me of an Irish version of Travels With Charlie, only sweeter. Whether Ireland is on your must-see list or not, do yourself a favor and read this book.
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