Almost too much history this week…..

… it has been quite a week for interesting historical content, with the centenary of Bloody Sunday and associated events in the War of Independence.

Croke Park have lots of information on their website about events there 100 years ago when British forces killed 14 people. There is a good overview and a short film about their centenary exhibition (sadly currently closed) which includes some extraordinary artefacts from that day including an original match ticket.

On the morning of the same day, 15 men were killed in an IRA operation targeting British intelligence operatives. Ronan McGreevy had this article in the Irish Times, focusing on the story of one of those men, boarding-house owner Thomas Smith.

There was also a History Ireland Hedge School discussion on Bloody Sunday – featuring Joe Connell Jnr, Siobhán Doyle, Brian Hanley and Fearghal McGarry – and asking did these events mark a decisive turning point in the ongoing War of Independence?

The Military Pensions Archive has a blog listing the individuals whose files are available online and who either claimed involvement in the IRA operation on Bloody Sunday, or whose involvement is stated by others within the collection. This totals 153 men and 12 women – it was to that date the largest single operation undertaken in Dublin during the War of Independence.

A more local connection – Skibbereen Heritage Centre had a fascinating blog post on a photograph taken the morning after Bloody Sunday at a wedding reception in Dublin. The bride and groom – Michael J. O’Brien and Lil Clancy – were both from Skibbereen and Lil’s brother Joe ran the Eldon Hotel. He was good friends with Michael Collins and Gearóid O’Sullivan, and not only did they both attend the wedding reception, but they allowed themselves to be photographed (although Collins is not looking at the camera!)

Finally more broadly on the Decade of Centenaries, Festival contributor Eunan O’Halpin has authored, with Daithì Ó Corráin, a new book entitled The Dead of the Irish Revolution (Yale University Press) which aims to be the first comprehensive record of all deaths arising from the Irish revolution between 1916 and 1921. We are sure it will be well worth a read. Eunan has also recently had a book on Kevin Barry published, entitled Kevin Barry: An Irish Rebel in Life and Death (Merrion Press) – Barry was in fact his great uncle.

Our weekly round-up

Lots of really interesting things to read and listen to this past week…..

The always excellent blog on the Irish American Civil War by Damian Shiels had this post on the famous song Paddy’s Lament and its origins and history. The image below is by John Ross Dix and was published in 1864 (Library of Congress).


Ireland and the Middle East in the British Empire is the latest podcast from the Irish History Show, presented by John Dorney and Cathal Brennan – an interesting listen and a subject we’d love to return to at the West Cork History Festival.

On his blog, the Irish Aesthete profiled Father Frank Browne, best-known for the photos Browne took on the Titanic’s maiden voyage (he disembarked at Cobh) but a prolific and talented photographer of many other subjects – in fact he took 42,000 photographs in all. This blog post focused on Browne’s photos of country houses in Wicklow, which have been published in new book Wandering Wicklow with Father Browne.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography adds new lives each month, and this month’s new ones included Henry Swanzy (1915-2004). A fascinating figure, Swanzy was born in Glandore in Cork and after studying in England, went to work for the BBC Overseas Service. He became very influential in providing a platform for Caribbean writers to make their work better known in Britain via his programme Caribbean Voices. He also lived and worked in Ghana. Henry Swanzy must be related in someway to the painter Mary Swanzy, to whom the Crawford Art Gallery recently devoted an exhibition, and to Oswald Swanzy, the RIC inspector killed by the IRA in Lisburn in 1920 as a reprisal for the killing of Tomás Mac Curtain, Lord Mayor of Cork.

And on the subject of Swanzy and of Cork-Ulster connections, Professor Brian Walker’s talk for our 2020 digital festival has been published in a shortened form by the Dublin Review of Books and can be read here. Its title is Cork, Lisburn and Belfast in 1920: connections, controversy and conflict.

Finally, a really impressive project – the Atlas of Lost Rooms – which aims to contextualize the voices of women in the Magdalene Laundries, and particularly the former Laundry on Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin. The building has been recreated digitally and testimony of some of the women incorporated.

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Remembrance Sunday today, and an interesting article by Edward Madigan on ‘Remembrance and the British Dead of the Irish War of Independence‘ on the Historians for History blog.

Closer to home, this is a picture of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone of Private Patrick Collins of the Royal Irish Regiment who died in August 1916 and is buried in Abbeystrowry Graveyard near Skibbereen. The Graveyard is well-known for its Famine connections, with mass graves there thought to contain the bodies of 8-10,000 famine victims. But we haven’t been able to find out much more about Patrick Collins, other than that he was the husband of Ellen Collins who lived at 2, Clark’s Lane, Skibbereen. One to ask the Skibbereen Heritage Centre… 

A recent talk on the website of Epic Ireland focused on the important subject of ‘Ireland and the Black Atlantic‘ as part of Epic’s Hidden Histories of the Irish Abroad series. The talk was by Maurice Casey but the presentation also includes a discussion with Leni Sloan of the African-American-Irish Diaspora Network.

The Scotsman had an article recently which also connected Ireland with black history. A tapestry depicting the Battle of Culloden in 1746 includes a figure, wearing a frock coat and wig who is believed to be the West Indian manservant of Captain Thomas McNaughton. McNaughton was from Kiltimurry in Omagh and fought for Jacobites at Culloden with the ‘Wild Geese’ – a regiment of Protestant Irish troops who supported the Jacobite side. Research is now underway to try and find out the identify of the manservant. The detail of the tapestry below is from the National Trust for Scotland, who own the tapestry.

And finally a historical perspective on living in a pandemic: a fascinating photo-story by Simon Norfolk on how the residents of the small village of Eyam in Derbyshire, in England’s Peak District, quarantined themselves during the bubonic plague epidemic of 1665-6. It’s on the Wellcome Collection’s website, which has lots of other fantastic content exploring the connections between science, medicine, history life and art.

Our weekly update

Lots of excellent Halloween / Samhain related content recently some of which we’ve included below our own Halloween visitors:


  • a Three Castles Burning podcast in which Donal Fallon explores Bram Stoker’s Dublin as part of the Bram Stoker Festival.
  • the blog of the Irish Humanities Alliance had this on the ancient Irish festival of Samhain, written by Marion McGarry – “a merry gathering in the face of fear” as she describes it.
  • a while back, the Irish Women’s Writing Network featured this post on Elizabeth Bowen writing about ghosts and haunted houses, but it seemed appropriate for the season – it’s by Dawn Miranda Sherratt-Bado of QUB.

On another subject entirely, Edward Burke wrote a really interesting post for his University of Nottingham blog on political violence in Ulster. The subject is “A 50 Years War? Republican and Loyalist Paramilitaries Active in the 1920s and the 1970s” and he looks at three individuals who fought in both periods.

In the Decade of Centenaries today marked a significant date – 100 years since the execution of 18-year old medical student Kevin Barry by the British authorities for his part in an IRA ambush which resulted in the death of three British soldiers. The Irish Times‘ Ronan McGreevy interviewed two people who are descended from Barry’s sisters, and both of whom have written books about him. One is Festival contributor Eunan O’Halpin of Trinity College, Dublin.

Finally, Festival contributor Linda Connolly has edited a new book, Women and the Irish Revolution: Feminism, Activism, Violence which will be published this month by Irish Academic Press. There are essays by a number of others who have spoken at past Festivals, including Louise Ryan and Andy Bielenberg. His essay looks at the murder of Mrs Lindsay by the IRA about which he also spoke at our 2018 Festival.