Below you will find details of the programme for our 2019 Festival (8-11 August). It is not yet complete but will give you an idea of the diversity and quality of the speakers and subjects this year. Tickets are now on sale here.

Excellent West Cork food and drink will be available throughout the Festival.

Festival field trips – this year we have four separate field trips covering the History & Archaeology of West Cork, the Beara Peninsula and the Mizen, along with a Walking Tour of Historic Skibbereen on Thursday 8 and Friday 9 August. More details are available here:  Field Trips WCHF 2019.

Friday 9 Augustevening (18.30-22.30)

The Festival will open with former Taoiseach John Bruton in conversation with Carl Dinnen, ITV News political correspondent, on a range of the historical topics that the Festival will cover.

Late night entertainment will follow with the History Disco in the Secret Garden, featuring a range of historically-inspired disco numbers.

Saturday 10 August – morning (10:00-13:00)

The morning in the Arena will begin with an exploration of the life of Percy Ludgate by Dr Brian Coghlan and the launch of an appeal for more information about this mathematical genius, born in Skibbereen in 1883 and after whom the Ludgate Hub is named. Then we’re delighted to welcome HE Dan Mulhall, Irish Ambassador to the US, back to the Festival talking this year on ‘Declaring Independence: America 1776, Ireland 1919’.

Meanwhile in the Secret Garden, we will have the first contributions in a series about the triangular relationship between Ireland, Britain and continental Europe which will include John Dorney, of The Irish Story, on Florence McCarthy and his Spanish connections and Dr Sylvie Kleinman on United Irishmen in the French army in the 1790s.

In conjunction with the Ludgate appeal, we will be running ‘Searching for Percy: discovering the every day lives of West Cork’s most famous residents’, a digital history quest for 8 years olds and up (and their grown ups) in conjunction with the Ludgate Hub. This will take place at Skibbereen’s Ludgate Hub on the morning of Saturday 10 August.

Saturday 10 August – afternoon (14:00-18:00)

Back in the Arena, the discussion of the triangular relationship will continue with Professor Brendan Simms giving a long view Britain’s relationship with Europe with special reference to its impact on Ireland. This will be followed by Professor John Horne discussing the transformation of British-Irish relations in the post-First World War period in a European and global context. Professor Mary Murphy will speak about the impact on Ireland of membership of the EEC/EU. The afternoon will conclude with a panel discussion between Brendan, John and Mary, who will be joined by Ruth Dudley-Edwards, to discuss the latest manifestations of the triangular relationship  including Brexit.

In the Secret Garden, Saturday afternoon will see a series of fascinating talks focusing on aspects of local and regional history and the arts. Professor Claire Connolly will speak about the Deep Maps Project on West Cork Coastal Cultures of which she is Co-Principal. Orla Murphy will speak about her father, renowned Cork sculptor Seamus Murphy. Local historian Gerald O’Brien will discuss Daniel O’Connell’s ‘Monster Meeting’ at Skibbereen in 1843. Miriam O’Donovan will talk about Canon James Goodman and the music and language of West Cork.

Saturday 10 August – evening (19:00-20:30)

Jessie Kennedy and Justin Grounds will be joined by one of Ireland’s leading pipers, Eoin Ó Riabhaigh, in a concert of music inspired by the work of Canon James Goodman.

Sunday 11 August – morning (10:00-13:00)

In both the Arena and the Secret Garden, the talks will focus on events of 1919 and their significance in the Decade of Centenaries. In the Arena, Professor Brian Walker will speak on ‘Southern Protestant Voices during the War of Independence and Civil War’ and Professor Liam Kennedy will discuss the Protestant experience of the Troubles of the 1920s and later 20th century in Northern Ireland. Professor Eunan O’Halpin will look at the broader political situation in Ireland in 1919. The morning in the Arena will close with a panel reflecting on the challenges which lie ahead in the Decade of Centenaries. The panel will include Liam Kennedy.

In the Secret Garden, we will screen the film Keepers of the Flame (2018) which draws on material emerging from the Irish Military Pension Archives.

Sunday 11 August – afternoon (14:00-18:00)

In the Arena, Ida Milne & Ian D’Alton will discuss their recently published collection of essays Protestant and Irish (2019), followed by Ruth Dudley-Edwards reflecting on attitudes in southern Ireland to Northern Ireland.

In the Secret Garden, Jim Herlihy of The HARP Society will discuss the neglected history of the RIC and DMP, followed by Stephen Collins of the Irish Times talking about why he has chosen to write on this subject over many years.

The Festival will conclude on Sunday evening with a contribution, to be confirmed shortly, by a mystery guest. In 2018, Jeremy Irons closed the Festival with a reading of poetry inspired by the revolutionary and First World War period, while in 2017 Michael Dobbs was our final speaker, discussing the historical context for his writing of House of Cards.


Please note, this programme and the timings are subject to change.