Eithne Coyle, Eileen Gray & Knockdrum Stone Fort

Leading Irish republican Eithne Coyle was featured recently on the BBC website. She was one of the few women who used a gun during the War of Independence, speaking about her experiences to the Bureau of Military History – read more here. The image above shows Eithne (centre) at rifle practice at an IRA training camp in Carlow in 1922.

The wonderful designer Eileen Gray was included in an article in the Guardian about house museums this week. Her villa E-1027 in the south of France was featured alongside the houses of photographer Lee Miller (Sussex), architect Luis Barragán (Mexico City), Kawai Kanjirō (Kyoto) and sculptor JB Blunk (California).

The Irish Aesthete’s blog featured the sad story of Drum Manor in Co Tyrone, rebuilt from an earlier house in 1829 and demolished in 1975. The image below from the blog and further information about the house can be found on the Archiseek website.

Yesterday was International Archaeology Day and to mark this, we were re-reading some of the excellent posts on archaeology on the Roaringwater Journal blog, including two about Knockdrum Stone Fort near us in West Cork: one on the Fort itself and another on the man who excavated it, Henry Boyle Somerville, younger brother of writer Edith Somerville.

And finally, as part of the Decade of Centenaries commemorative programme Cork County Council is undertaking a project to audit commemorative memorials across Cork, including memorials relating to the Irish revolutionary period. The public is asked to submit details of sites in their locality to Click here to see the Project Statement. Click here for the Survey Form.


Black History Month & Tissot’s Irish muse

There have been many fascinating stories published and broadcast as part of Black History Month this October – here are just two. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography had this on John Blanke, a trumpeter of African descent who played in ceremonies at the courts of Tudor kings Henry VII and Henry VIII. He is the only identifiable black person portrayed in sixteenth-century British art.

Also for Black History month, the Wartime NI website had this on race relations in Northern Ireland during the Second World War. The image below is from the US National Archives (Photo: 8208-AA-46G-1) and shows African-American soldiers drawing rations at their camp in Northern Ireland in around August 1942. An excellent book which looks at the experiences of American troops, including African-Americans, in the UK during the Second World War is Rich Relations: the American Occupation of Britain (1995) by Festival contributor David Reynolds.

African-American Troops in Northern Ireland

The Ulster Museum has recently acquired a painting by French artist James (Jacques) Joseph Tissot entitled Quiet and featuring his Irish lover Kathleen Newton (1854-1882) with her young niece. Born in India to Irish parents, she had an unhappy arranged marriage, was divorced, lived as a single mother and then became Tissot’s lover. He painted her frequently. She died of TB at the age of 28. More on this in the Belfast Telegraph and the NMNI website. Image below courtesy of the Belfast Telegraph.

Captivating: ‘Quiet’, the painting of Kathleen Newton by Jacques Tissot in the garden of his house in London

And finally our friends at the Dublin Festival of History had some fantastic talks this year – we tuned in to a talk called Wartime Work Opportunities for Irish Women by Dublin City Council Historian in Residence, Dr. Mary Muldowney, which I don’t think is online. However, the final event can be viewed – it’s Diarmaid Ferriter in conversation with Ronan McGreevy with a talk entitled: Between Two Hells – The Irish Civil War.


Rockall, Alaska and West Cork

The Royal Irish Academy has a new series of Podcasts called ‘Shelfmarks’ exploring how people have written about and observed the natural world over the centuries. The first episode is about an expedition to Rockall funded by the RIA in 1896.

The Irish Times‘ Extraordinary Emigrants series profiled Richard Henry Geoghegan, a linguist and Esperanto enthusiast who ended up living in Alaska, and carried out pioneering work recording the Aleut language. The image of Geoghegan in around 1895 is from the article. You can read more about him here.

The Irish Sea and Atlantic Slavery is a short but fascinating article published on the Ports Past & Present blog, written by Chris Evans from the University of South Wales.

And opening at the Crawford Art Gallery on 2 October, an exhibition of their works by West Cork’s most famous writer, Edith Somerville, including the wonderful sketch below.

Centenaries 1912-1923 News

The Anglo-Irish Treaty

This week we’re highlighting a number of events coming up focused on the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed in December 1921, and the negotiations leading up to it.

There’s an interesting series of talks at the National Archives, many online, relating to events 100 years ago in the lead up to the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. These include Festival contributor Marie Coleman in conversation with Michael Portillo, former British politician who has presented programmes for RTÉ on the centenaries of the Easter Rising, the War of Independence and the creation of Northern Ireland. Tickets can be booked here.

If you are in London, the Irish Embassy is hosting an exhibition and talks focused on the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921. The exhibition is called The Art Of Negotiation: John Lavery’s Anglo Irish Treaty Portraits and shows portraits of 14 Irish and British political figures who were involved in the negotiations, on loan to the Embassy from Dublin’s Hugh Lane Gallery, National Gallery of Ireland and Áras an Uachtaráin.

John Lavery, The Ratification of the Irish Treaty in the English House of Lords, 1921. National Gallery of Ireland

The National Museum has a good online feature about the Truce & the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations here with some interesting photos.

Finally, and not in any way related to the Decade of Centenaries, a new website has been launched dedicated to architecture & design events all over Ireland – Ireland Architecture Diary.


The Battle of Jadotville & the Battle of Britain

The Military Archives has a new online exhibition about the Battle of Jadotville, which took place 60 years ago this month. The image above is from the Archives and shows Irish troops departing for the Congo.

And on Battle of Britain Day, remembering the Irish men who fought in the RAF, including John Hemingway, the last surviving pilot from the Battle of Britain. Hemingway is now 102 and was profiled in the Irish Times in 2019.

Moving away from the military, to medieval manuscripts, Trinity College Dublin had a fascinating piece on its Manuscripts at Trinity blog about the journey of one early medieval collection of saints’ lives to Trinity’s Library, through the English Civil War.

And finally, from a Dublin library to a Dublin museum – a nice piece by Trevor White, who runs the Little Museum of Dublin, about starting and running a museum (well worth a visit if you haven’t been already).


Back to the regular posts: Dublin Festival of History, Eisenhower in Belfast & Arthur Griffith

We took a bit of a break after our digital festival, but we’re now back to the (relatively) regular posts with interesting historical content to read, watch and listen to. Obviously all the pre-recorded material from this year’s Festival is the most interesting historical viewing around at the moment – and all free-to-view on our website. It will shortly be joined by all our live, ticketed events, including talks by Fergal Keane, Mary Kenny and Roy Foster, and panel discussions on Partition and Ireland & Empire. But here’s some other interesting things which caught our eye:

The Dublin Festival of History programme has been launched, and can be booked now – some live, some digital, but many interesting speakers and topics from 20 September to 10 October.

The Wartime NI blog featured US General (later US President) Dwight Eisenhower’s visit to Belfast in August 1945. There is of course a close link between Eisenhower and West Cork, in the person of his wartime driver and close companion Kay Summersby, born Kay McCarthy-Morrogh at Inish Beg near Baltimore. Dan McCarthy wrote more about her in the Examiner in 2018. Our featured image shows Eisenhower departing from the airfield at Long Kesh, Co. Down and is courtesy of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

The Irish Story published Colum Kenney’s review of a new book about Arthur Griffith – journalist, principal founder of Sinn Féin and president of Dáil Éireann : “a historical figure deserving of a reappraisal”.

And finally a documentary on the RTE History show – ‘I Am To Be Shot’, based on Donoughmore student Saoirse Sheehan’s secondary school project. It tells the story of Major Geoffrey Compton-Smith.who was captured by the IRA in Blarney in April 1921, held for two weeks and then killed. History Ireland also featured the story in 2018.


Press coverage of our 2021 Festival

Great to see coverage of our 2021 Festival in the Irish Times and Southern Star the last few days

On Saturday the Irish Times covered Flor MacCarthy’s talk about her family on two sides of the IRA’s attack on the RIC barracks in Rosscarbery in 1921: Broadcaster’s look to the past uncovers unlikely family war story (

Also in the Irish Times a report on our ‘Let’s Talk about the Black & Tans’ Panel Discussion on how we commemorate crown forces., featuring Professor Marie Coleman, Dr David Leeson, Dr Edward Madigan and Professor John Horne (Chair): Commemorating RIC next year might be less contentious – historian (

And in the Irish Times yesterday, coverage of Dr Edward Madigan’s contribution to the same panel discussion.

A short film featuring Festival founders Victoria & Simon Kingston was also on the Southern Star’s Facebook page last week: And we previously featured in the Southern Star in July in relation to funding we were awarded by Cork County Council from their Cork County Commemoration Fund: Projects to benefit from Council funds | Southern Star


Our 2021 digital Festival has started

Head over to our 2021 Programme page to find out more – we have many talks which are free to view. Our live events are ticketed – you can book tickets up to 30 minutes before each event begins – to find out more click here.

All posts News

A slight hiatus…

Our regular blog posts have been interrupted by all the work we are doing for the 2021 Festival, now less than 10 days away. Regular updates on interesting historical blogs, podcasts, exhibitions and films will resume after 8th August and the end of this year’s Festival!

In the meantime, there are lots of great audio and video recordings from our 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 Festivals on this website covering everything from medieval to modern Irish history, and more.

And Gus, the Festival dog, is still here.

2021 Centenaries 1912-1923 Free Event Friday West Cork Histories

Sean Boyne: The Execution of Bridget Noble

Fri Aug 6

The Execution of Bridget Noble – Sean Boyne

Sean is a retired journalist and a former political correspondent with The Sunday World. His book explores what happened to Bridget Noble, one of only two women known to have been disappeared by the IRA during the 1920s.