Keepers of the Flame

We are delighted to be screening the documentary Keepers of the Flame (2018) in the Secret Garden on Sunday 11 August at 10am. This feature-length documentary brings to light the diverse experiences of ordinary Irish men and women who made claims for active service from Easter 1916 to the end of the Civil War and whose records are held in the Irish Military Service Pensions Archive. Read the Irish Times review here.


Festival Food & Drink

There will be plenty of excellent West Cork food and drink available at the Festival, with Chris Hedges providing food for Friday and Saturday evening and lunchtime on Saturday and Sunday, while Nicky Smythe of Skibbereen’s Antiquity Vegan Cafe & Bookshop will be doing coffee & snacks. There will also be a separate coffee stand with coffee from The Golden Bean Coffee Roasters as well as plenty of cold drinks.  A range of Glen Ilen products will also be available.

Festival Menu

Chris’ menu for the Festival will be as follows:

Evening – Friday 9 August

New potato, broad bean and pea quesadillas (€8.00)

Gubbeen hot dogs ((€8.00)

Lunchtime – Saturday 10 August

Spinach and feta borek (€10.00)

Falafel wraps (€10.00)

Grilled tofu skewers (€8.00)

Grilled minute steak with onions and tomato concassé in a Syrian flat bread wrap (€14.00)

Evening – Saturday 10 August 

Chicken with lemon and olives, rice pilaff (€14.00)

Charcoal grilled Moroccan leg of lamb, tzatziki, rice pilaff (€14.00)                         

Melanzane alla Parmigiane with green salad (€12.00)

Apple Strudel & Creme Chantilly (€8.00)

Lunch – Sunday 11 August

Grilled Korean breast of Chicken, broccoli slaw  (€12.00)

Red lentil and spinach curry, rice (€12.00)


West Cork History Festival Concert 2019

This year’s concert, curated by West Cork musician and writer Jessie Kennedy in collaboration with the West Cork History Festival, celebrates the work of Canon James Goodman. Canon Goodman was a renowned uilleann piper and musicologist, who spent much of his life in West Cork. Composer and violinist Justin Grounds will join Jessie for part of the concert, where they will perform pieces from their recent album of ancient Irish songs and music, relating to the spirit, nature and history of West Cork, and the work of the great Canon Goodman.

We are delighted that acclaimed piper Eoin O Riabhaigh and flautist/fiddler Johnny McCarthy will headline this year’s concert. Most fittingly Eoin has restored and plays Goodman’s original pipes. A one-off, special gathering of some of Cork’s finest musicians. Not to be missed!

Eoin O Riabhaigh









Piper and pipemaker Eoin is the son of the late, well known Cork piper and teacher, Micheál O Riabhaigh. He began his piping career at the tender age of 9 under his father’s watchful eye, and continues to play regularly. Eoin headed up the workshop at the National Sculpture Factory in Cork for 10 years where he developed an appreciation of materials and a flair for design. Later, he set up his own business and continued to work with sculptors, galleries and private collections. During this time he also started to make pipes on a part-time basis and completed several fine full sets in D.

He has since also restored some old and historically significant instruments, and owns uilleann pipes originally belonging to Canon James Goodman. Eoin has enjoyed a very varied career as a piper, having performed and recorded with, among others,  Dolores Keane, Mary Black, Iris Demente (US), Tom Russell (US), Matt Cranitch, Frankie Gavin, The Xenia Ensemble (Turin), Tim O Brien etc.. He has played and taught throughout Europe and the U.S.

Johnny McCarthy









Johnny is a lecturer in traditional music and classical flute at CIT Cork School of Music and is highly regarded as both a composer and performer in classical and traditional music. He studied at the Konservatorium and Musickhochschule, Zurich, Switzerland under Professor Jean Poulain. He has performed extensively throughout Europe, the US and Asia. Johnny has presented and performed on radio and TV series such as Geantrai, Glaoch an Cheoil, Faoi Lan Cheoil, The Rolling Wave, The River of Sound and Bringing it all Back Home. He has collaborated and recorded with Michael O Suilleabhain, John Spillane, Antonio Breschi and Pat Crowley. He is a member of the renowned traditional group The Four Star Trio, whose music concentrates on the Sliabh Luachra tradition.

Jessie Kennedy






Jessie is a vocalist, writer and violinist from West Cork. She is a member of The Vespertine Quintet, and has released four studio albums, most recently “We are the Dark Night Ocean” with long-time collaborator Justin Grounds. Other works include the acclaimed “The Carbery Songs”, inspired by the lives of generations of women who lived at Castlefreke, West Cork, which Jessie performed at last year’s History Festival with collaborator Patsy Puttnam and other guests.

Jessie has headlined venues such as St. Barrahane’s Classical Music Festival, National Digital Week, National Concert Hall Dublin, Cork Opera House and Rosscarbery Cathedral. Jessie has collaborated and performed with music legend Donovan, Maurice Seezer, Nigel Kennedy, Paul Tiernan, Interference, Sacha Puttnam, Adrian Crowley, Liam O’ Maonlai, Glen Hansard and John Spillane among others.

Upcoming shows include St. Andrew’s Church in London with Westminster Abbey organist and composer James McVinnie, and a tour of Boston and Martha’s Vineyard in the autumn.  October sees the beginning of a year-long film and recording project in various parts of Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda) where Jessie will collaborate with local musicians for a charity that she works with, Five Talents. Recently Jessie and Justin performed with Jeremy Irons as part of the “Coming Home” commemorative event at Reen Farm in West Cork, home of renowned artist John Kelly. Jessie sang the Irish lament “I am Stretched on Your Grave”, followed by Jeremy’s powerful reading of the famous NM Cummins famine letter.

Justin Grounds









Justin is a violinist, composer and electronic music producer based in West Cork. He studied baroque violin in his home town of Cambridge, UK, and went on to do a degree in Music and Theology at Durham University. Justin toured as violinist with the electronic band Keiretsu as well as producing 5 albums of solo music. His work for orchestra and chamber ensembles has been celebrated for its ‘minimalist musical aesthetic, with an almost rhapsodic arch of movement’. His “Passacaglia Apis” won the inaugural East Cork Early Music Festival composers competition in 2014 and was premiered by Maya Homburger and Barry Guy.

He performs regularly as a solo violinist, as a composing member of The Vespertine Quintet, the Barefoot Baroque Project and with bands Idiot Songs, Fir Beag and Farewell JR. He also works as a record producer and string arranger, teaches workshops with young people and is a member of the Arts for Health team bringing music to hospital and clinical environments.



2019 speaker Professor Brendan Simms in Irish Times this week

One of our 2019 speakers, Professor Brendan Simms from the University of Cambridge, has given an interview to the Irish Times this week, which you can read here. Simms’ talk at the Festival is entitled ‘From Back door to Back Stop. Britain, Ireland and Europe in historical perspective’ and forms one of a series of talks at this year’s Festival which examine the triangular relationship between Ireland, Britain and continental Europe through different historical lenses. You can buy tickets for Professor Simms’ talk, and all the others, via this website.

Closing speaker announced for 2019 Festival !

We are very pleased to announce that our closing speaker this year will be screenwriter and novelist Daisy Goodwin, who wrote the hugely popular TV series ‘Victoria’. Daisy will speak about Victoria and her own West Cork connections. Her great-great-great grandfather Robert Traill was Rector of Schull during the Famine and worked hard to help its victims, eventually dying of ‘famine fever’ (typhus) in 1847.

Goodwin wrote Traill into the TV series, saying “I thought his story would be a good way to illustrate the terrible way in which the Irish were treated by the British government.”

Find out more about Daisy here

12th July

For the day that’s in it, we’re looking forward to Ruth Dudley Edwards speaking at our 2019 Festival on attitudes to Northern Ireland in the Republic of Ireland. Ruth is a journalist, historian and writer – find out more about her via her website and see some of her recent articles there too, including for the Belfast Telegraph.

Dan Mulhall returns to WCHF

We are delighted that Dan Mulhall, the Irish Ambassador to the USA, will return to speak at this year’s Festival, having spoken at our first Festival in 2017. His subject this year will be ‘Declaring Independence: America 1776, Ireland 1919?’ To listen back to his fantastic 2017 talk ‘War & Peace: two Irish writers in 1917, Francis Ledwidge and AE’, click here.

The photo below shows Dan Mulhall at WCHF 2017, along with Micheál Martin.

Treaty of Versailles 100 years ago

On 28 June 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed. Here is a short film to mark that centenary, made by Ronan McGreevy of the Irish Times, along with Professor Alan Kramer, Professor Margaret MacMillan and Dr John Gibney. Ronan spoke at last year’s West Cork History Festival when he screened his brilliant film United Ireland: how Nationalists and Unionists fought together in Flanders.

[Interesting aside: MacMillan is the great-grand-daughter of David Lloyd-George, British Prime Minister in the final years of the First World War, and during the negotiations at Versailles.]




West Cork connections to D-Day

6 June marked 75 years since D-Day. An interesting West Cork connection relates to this lady, Kay Summersby, who was born a MacCarthy-Morrogh at Inish Beg near Baltimore. She was driver, secretary & invaluable help to Dwight Eisenhower during his time as Supreme Commander overseeing the Allied landings in Normandy. There has been much speculation about the real nature of their relationship, but whether or not they had an affair, she provided him with much-needed emotional support during incredibly difficult times. At the end of the war he returned to the US, later becoming President, and they never saw each other again.

Our friends at the Roaringwater Journal wrote a nice piece on Inish Beg and Summersby here.

Festival volunteers wanted

The West Cork History Festival will run from 8-11 August 2019, just outside Skibbereen in West Cork.  Now in its third year, the Festival is for everyone interested in history, with a diverse and engaging programme including talks, discussion and film screenings. Our speakers include leading historians, journalists, curators and writers.

We are looking for volunteers with a passion for history to help us run the Festival. We can’t offer payment, but if a volunteer works a morning or afternoon session then they will have free access to all the talks and events for the other half of the day. If you need accommodation we might be able to help as well. Tasks volunteers will be expected to undertake include selling and checking tickets, helping visitors, stewarding one of the two Festival venues and escorting speakers.

As well as help during the Festival, we will be running a Festival Box Office in Skibbereen in the weeks beforehand. We would love some volunteers to help sell tickets and spread the word about the Festival in our local community.

Our 2019 programme can be seen here.

If you are interested please email Victoria Kingston –




Professor Claire Connolly

We are delighted that UCC’s Professor Claire Connolly will speak at our 2019 Festival on the Deep Maps project, which explores West Cork’s coastal cultures from the mid-18th century. Earlier this year she gave the Charles Stewart Parnell Lecture at Oxford University with the intriguing title  “Too Rough for Verse? Sea Crossings in Irish Culture”. A version of the lecture was subsequently published in the Irish Time and you can read it here.