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 – westcorkhistoryfestival@gmail.com




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.

The Lusitania camisole

104 years ago today, the Cunard liner Lusitania was sunk off the coast of Cork by a German submarine. The ship went down in only 18 minutes, and more than 1,100 people died, while around 760 survived. One of those who died, and whose body was never found, was the Irish art collector and dealer Sir Hugh Lane. We screened the excellent film Citizen Lane about him, at the 2018 Festival.

One of the most impressive Lusitania artefacts is the one pictured below, held at the Imperial War Museum in London. It’s a camisole worn by Margaret Gwyer on the Lusitania. After the ship was torpedoed, she fell out of a lifeboat into the water and was sucked into one of the ship’s funnels at it sank. An explosion in one of the Lusitania‘s boilers blew her back to the surface and she was eventually picked up and reunited with her husband, who she had married a month before. She kept the oil-stained camisole as a reminder of her ordeal.


The sisterhood at The Royal Irish Academy

A fascinating series of lectures held recently at the Royal Irish Academy celebrating sisterhood and the lives and achievements of five families of sisters who made their mark on Irish life – you can hear them all here. They include the Gore-Booth and Yeats sisters, Hannah Sheehy-Skeffington and her sisters, and the less well-known Quaker Shackleton sisters.
A beautiful illustration from the RIA website associated with the lecture series.

On this day in 1509….

On this day in 1509, Henry VIII acceded to the throne. His prescription for relations with Gaelic Ireland was “sober ways, politic drifts, and amiable persuasions”. Easier said than done, but in 1541, Henry was proclaimed King of Ireland by a parliament in Dublin which included, for the first time, Gaelic as well as Anglo-Irish lords. He is one of a number of ‘bad’ English kings: John and Richard II being others, who were ‘good’ in Ireland, in so far as they paid more attention to the relationship than most. It was a lesson that has had to be relearned.