Our regular historical selection

This week we have the centenary of Partition along with the photographs of Helen Hooker O’Malley, a medieval manuscript associated with St Colum Cille and Edith Somerville’s birthday.

On Partition there was a lot to read and hear, including the Irish History show podcast with Cathal Brennan and John Dorney interviewing Cormac Moore; the Creative Centenaries website, based in Northern Ireland has lots of good content on this and many other subjects; the Irish Times interviewed a woman born in the year of partition while this was a good summary on the BBC website.

The National Library of Ireland has a wonderful online exhibition looking at the work of photographer Helen Hooker O’Malley. Born in the USA, she met Irish revolutionary and author Ernie O’Malley and they married in 1935 and moved to Ireland. Although they were divorced in 1952, she continued to love Ireland and photographed both urban and rural lives and landscapes.

Another online exhibition, this one from the Royal Irish Academy and telling the story of the manuscript known as the Cathach of Colum Cille, Dating from the 6th century, it contains a copy of the psalms written in Latin and is closely associated with Saint Colum Cille (c. 521-597), in this year which marks 1500 years since his birth. A Cathach was an object believed to have protective power in battle. One page, taken from the RIA website, is shown below.


And finally yesterday, 2 May, was the birthday of one of West Cork’s most famous writers, Edith Somerville (1858-1949). She was born in Corfu, but spent most of her life at Drishane House in Castletownshend – the house is still lived in by the Somerville family and you can find out more about it on their website.  Read more about Edith herself on the Dictionary of Irish Biography website. The image below was drawn by Edith herself and is on the cover of her book Maria and Some Other Dogs. She wrote this book, as so many others, with her cousin Violet Martin.

A fortnightly round up of interesting things to read, listen to & watch

A fortnight’s worth of history-related content to read, listen to and watch today including dark tourism, the American Civil War and Ireland’s first trade fair, held in Cork in 1852.

As part of Cork World Book Festival, a digital event hosted by Nano Nagle Place about  ‘Dark Tourism’. The talk is a conversation between Gillian O’Brien, author of the fascinating book The Darkness Echoing: Exploring Ireland’s Places of Famine, Death and Rebellion and Danielle O’Donovan for Nano Nagle. Full disclosure: Danielle is on our Festival Committee.

See the source image

Gillian’s book is pictured left. And there was a related article in the Examiner on the same subject by Michael Moynihan with the catchy title – ‘Should we start marketing Cork as a destination of death and misery?’







Damien Shiels, whose really excellent website Irish American Civil War has so many fascinating stories to tell, has a new post on Irish American experiences, particularly those of Irish New Yorkers, in the Battle of Williamsburg on 5 May 1862.

The Irish Story featured the tale of HMS Wasp, which was wrecked off the coast of Tory Island in Donegal in 1884 with the loss of over 50 crew. The ship was on its way to to pick up a group of police and bailiffs who were to carry out evictions for non-payment of rents. Was it cursed, or sabotaged or was it simply human error ?

The Crawford Art Gallery highlighted this amazing digital version of the catalogue of The National Exhibition of the Arts, Manufacturers and Products of Ireland from the US National Archive, which you can flick through. The Exhibition was held in Cork in 1852 and was Ireland’s first trade fair, intended to boost morale and commerce in the aftermath of the Famine. It was located on the site where City Hall now stands.

Finally, the Ulster Museum has some good articles on its Collections blog, with various themes illustrated by images and artefacts from their collections. The one on the period 1500-1700 includes the intriguing Dungiven Costume, found in a bog in 1956 near Dungiven in Co Londonderry and pictured below. Probably dating to the early 17th century, there were the remains of a jacket, mantle (cloak) and tartan trews (trousers), along with shoes and a leather belt. Apparently, the jacket reflects English fashion and the tartan trousers Scottish influences, while the mantle is distinctly Irish. All are heavily patched and repaired.

Image result for dungiven costume ulster museum




A post-Easter post

This was supposed to be a post for the Easter weekend, but somehow that came and went …. so instead it’s a summary of a fortnight of interesting historical content including the Belfast Blitz, the 1918-19 flu pandemic and the history of emotions.

The Irish Examiner recently featured a fascinating story of the MacCarthy family and their links to both sides of the IRA attack on the RIC barracks in Rosscarbery in March 1921. We’re delighted Flor MacCarthy, who has been a great supporter of the Festival, has agreed to speak about this part of her family’s history at our 2021 Festival.

We are also really pleased that Sean Boyne will talk at this year’s Festival about the killing of Bridget Noble by the IRA in the Beara Peninsula in March 1921. Sean’s research was featured in the Irish Times this week. Bridget Noble is one of only two women known for certain to have been ‘disappeared’ by the IRA during the War of Independence.

7 April marked 80 years since the start of the Belfast Blitz – four nights of raids between 7 April and 6 May resulting in up to 1000 deaths and widespread destruction in the city and beyond. This new website tells the story and lists the casualties.

See the source image

An intriguing series of podcasts from the RIA on the theme of the History of Emotions (and below the very striking illustration which accompanies them).

A year into the Covid pandemic, the RTE History Show this week featured Festival contributor Ida Milne talking about the 1918-19 influenza pandemic. Ida is on from around 0:09 to 0:27

The Late Late Show featured artefacts from the National Museum of Ireland, with Audrey Whitty from the museum talking to Ryan Tubridy about objects from the revolutionary period including Michael Collins’ slippers and Éamon de Valera’s sock!

And finally, the Decade of Centenaries newsletter is well worth subscribing to for updates on all kinds of events all over the country – you can sign up via their website.

More of a fortnightly round-up this time…

… and first up, Skibbereen Heritage Centre which now has a brilliant interactive map on its website with lots of information about different sites in and around the town. It includes individual buildings, streets, clubs, graveyards and even post boxes.

Lots of good content posted in connection to St Patrick’s Day including from the National Museum of Ireland on St Patrick’s Day traditions while the Dictionary of Irish Biography launched a new open access website, with nearly 11,000 lives. Over 2,300 of them reference Cork – we checked – but lots of other interesting lives as well! The image below is also from the National Museum, and is of the Bell of St Patrick and its shrine. You can find out more about these beautiful objects here.

To mark the end of the Six Nations, this post from Wartime NI on Irish rugby internationals in the Second World War. And also connected to the Second World War, the We Have Ways of Making You Talk podcast featured Joseph Quinn of UCD (although he also works at the Imperial War Museum in London) discussing the Irish in the Second World War with hosts comedian Al Murray and historian James Holland. Holland also co-founded the Chalke Valley History Festival which was very supportive to the West Cork History Festival when we first started.

And finally another history festival that’s worth a look, this one in early April in London in early April – but as it’s digital accessible to everyone. It’s called theHistFest and you can find out more about their 2021 programme here.



A few recommendations for historical reading and watching

This week’s recommendations range across Irish coins, the blog of the Military Service Pensions Collection, old photos of Cork, Harry Clarke’s stained glass and the Benin Bronzes.

We’re bit late to this, but we’ve just seen Mr Yeats & the Beastly Coins, an entertaining (and informative) short film made in 2016 about creating a new coinage for the Free State. Worth a watch – it’s available on the IFI Player.

The blog of the Military Services Pensions Collection always has interesting posts, including on the Clonmult ambush in east Cork on 20 February 1921. On that day the IRA suffered its worst defeat of the War of Independence. The photo below shows members of 4 Battalion, 1 Cork Brigade, IRA Flying Column the day before the ambush.

Dan Breen of Cork Public Museum gave an interesting presentation on some of the Museum’s recently acquired photograph collections, including some of the oldest known images of Cork City.

Another presentation, this time on Harry Clarke’s stained glass window The Eve of St Agnes, by Jessica O’ Donnell of the Hugh Lane Gallery. It was part of the Crawford’s Spring Lecture series.

Image result for harry clarke the eve of st agnes

And finally this article from the BBC website which links art dealers, the Holocaust and the Benin bronzes.

Our regular round up

This week we have some great pieces connected to International Women’s Day (8 March) and a Decade of Centenaries podcast focusing on events in Limerick 100 years ago.

Cork Public Museum featured the story of nurse and suffragette Violet O’Brien on social media, and appealed for a photograph of her. O’Brien trained as a nurse in Cork and moved to London where she became an active suffragette – she earned the medal shown below for going on hunger strike while in prison, with metal bars to show she endured force-feeding twice. The Museum also has medals she earned in Serbia and France for her work in the First World War. O’Brien was included in an exhibition at the Museum in 2018.

Relating to the experiences of suffragettes in Ireland, The National Archives published a useful guide to sources for women’s history on its website including an online exhibition about suffragettes and prison conditions in Ireland.

The Royal Irish Academy has some excellent online exhibitions highlighting the contribution of women, with this on Creative Women who include Sophia Rosamond Praeger and Katharine Tynan. There are also links to a lecture series from 2018 on five women selected as Honorary Members of the Academy in the nineteenth century – amongst them Caroline Herschel and Maria Edgeworth.

History Ireland marked 100 years since the Limerick Curfew murders with a Hedge School featuring editor Tommy Graham in conversation with Brian Hanley, Helen Litton, John O’Callaghan and Tom Toomey.  On the night of 6/7 March 1921, George Clancy, Mayor of Limerick, his predecessor, Michael O’Callaghan and IRA volunteer Joseph O’Donoghue were killed by Auxiliaries.

Finally, the always interesting blog on the Ports, Past and Present website recently included this one on The Dublin Time Ball…..  we never knew about Dublin Mean Time, 25 minutes and 21 seconds later than Greenwich Mean Time.





Our regular update of stuff to read, to watch and to listen to

This week we have cricket bats, Second World War letters recovered from the sea bed, a virtual tour of Cork’s Crawford Art Gallery and West Cork gates but, very unusually, nothing relating to the Decade of Centenaries.

Starting off this week with a blog – not a new one but one we’d like to recommend, and with the best title: The Cricket Bat that Died for Ireland. It’s written by Brenda Malone at the National Museum of Ireland and features objects from that Museum. Here’s Brenda’s first ever post – on the cricket bat in question.

Saturday’s Financial Times featured an article on Anglo-Irish houses – much of it probably new for English audiences but not for Irish ones – however, it did include some wonderful images and recommendations for reading. Closer to home, and much more down-to-earth, our friends at the Roaringwater Journal blogged this week on gate posts in West Cork.

The Crawford Art Gallery has added a virtual tour to its website – not quite as good as the real thing, but enough until the Gallery can open again.

And finally, a really compelling story that we re-Tweeted this week but is worth coming back to – the sinking of the SS Gairsoppa off the coast of Galway in 1942. Letters recovered from the wreck in 2012 have been restored – the Guardian featured them this week and London’s Postal Museum  had previously done an online exhibition on the letters. The most tragic part of the story is the fate of the crew, of whom only one survived. One lifeboat was launched with seven crew on board. By the time the lifeboat reached the coast of Cornwall a month later only three were alive, but two drowned trying to swim to shore. The photo below shows fragments of one of the letters featured in the Guardian article, to a woman named Iris from an unknown serviceman stationed in the Waziristan region, now part of Pakistan.


Regular historical round-up

An eclectic mixture of subjects in our latest round-up – 18th century plates, the Anglo-Zulu War, the most haunted house in Ireland, medieval pilgrimage and, of course, the Decade of Centenaries.

Creative Centenaries is a new website which brings together information and resources about the Decade of Centenaries and the work of Northern Ireland’s creative sector in commemorating these events. Its partners are mainly NI-based but include the Irish Department for Foreign Affairs. Lots to read there….

RTE Brainstorm published a piece on the preoccupation with tableware in 18th century Ireland – there are worse things with which to be preoccupied!

John Dorney wrote an interesting piece on the Irish Story website about Ireland and the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, in which many Irish soldiers died fighting for the British empire. It’s a subject to which we hope to return at our 2021 Festival.

The Ports, Past and Present blog recently has this post on the Welsh Chapel in Dublin, and also a post on the Hook Peninsula in Co Wexford, including the lighthouse and what claims to be the most haunted house in Ireland – Loftus Hall.

All credit to Titanic Belfast for marking Valentine’s Day with a post that mentioned that Titanic love story (entirely fictional) but went on to tell a real life love story from the sinking.

And finally, the always excellent In Our Time on BBC Radio 4 had this fascinating discussion on Medieval pilgrimage.

A miscellany of historical content

Here’s our regular round up of interesting historical content to read, listen to and watch, this week ranging from India via Suffolk, Dublin and Cork City to Drimoleague.

The Irish Times had this interesting piece on new research about Sir Michael O’Dwyer, Irish colonial official in British India, who as lieutenant-governor of the Punjab was responsible for the troops who carried out the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar in 1929. The writer Séamus Nevin observes that “British imperialism and Irish nationalism were not then the mutually exclusive binaries many now suppose…”

If you’ve watched The Dig on Netflix, this is an excellent blog post by Sue Brunning, curator of Early Medieval European collections at the British Museum who looks after the treasures from Sutton Hoo and advised on the film. The image below is courtesy of the British Museum, and is of a gold belt buckle discovered at the site.

If you are interested in the history of Dublin, we’re sure you’ve visited 14 Henrietta Street. They have produced ‘Teatime Talks‘ inspired by the history and people of the house. Themes include the Dublin Dockers and the 1913 Dublin Housing Inquiry, as well as interviews with guides at the house and a former resident.

The Crawford Art Gallery has produced the fascinating Sculpture Stories looking at some of the sculpture highlights in their collection. These include the Canova casts, pictured below:

Skibbereen Heritage Centre has the latest in a series of excellent films on local history, and in particular focusing on graveyards, this one on Drimoleague Old Graveyard. It includes the Famine-era mass grave at the entrance.

And finally, Finola Finlay who is on our Committee and who with her husband writes the Roaringwater Journal blog (as well as running our Festival Field Trips) gave a lecture on The Castles of West Cork for Dúchas Clonakilty Heritage which is well worth a watch.



Our regular update of interesting historical content

More of a fortnightly than a weekly update this time around – some interesting articles, an online talk from Bristol, via Belfast, on the legacies of slavery and a podcast from History Ireland on intelligence in the War of Independence. You can also listen to our very own History Ireland podcast from 2020 – exploring the theme of Ireland, Empire & the Sea – on our website here.

27 January was Holocaust Memorial Day – to mark the day, the Wartime NI blog posted this piece on Holocaust survivors who arrived in Northern Ireland in 1946.

The Mary Ann McCracken Foundation has recently been launched by the Belfast Charitable Society, It celebrates the life and builds on the legacy of Belfast-born social reformer, abolitionist and activist Mary Ann McCracken. Historian David Olusoga was the key note speaker at their launch – he spoke on the ‘Legacies of Slavery’ across the UK and Ireland. You can see his excellent talk here.

There is a recent History Ireland podcast on the ever fascinating subject of ‘Spies and informers beware – intelligence and counter-intelligence in the War of Independence‘. It features Festival contributors Andy Bielenberg and Eunan O’Halpin, as well as Cécile Gordon and Gerry White.

Festival contributor Liam Kennedy wrote about new President Joe Biden’s Irish-American ancestry in the Spectator magazine recently.

Finally, on the subject of Irish-Americans, Damian Shiels’ always interesting Irish American Civil War website had a photo essay about the Pension Building in Washington DC, from where Irish American Civil War pensions were administered. One of Damian’s photos of its splendid front hall can be seen below – it is now the National Building Museum.









Our regular historical round-up

Starting this week with a wonderful online exhibition ‘Mapping History’, put together by Dublin’s Marsh’s Library and Armagh’s Robinson Library. It showcases Irish and world maps and atlases published in the three centuries after the year 1536, drawing on the collections of both libraries. The map featured shows Ireland from Edmund Halley’s Atlas Maritimus and Commercialis (London, 1728) which focused on ports and coasts around the globe.


A profile in the Belfast Newsletter recently of a fascinating man – Thomas Carnduff, shipyard worker, Orangemen and poet who signed the 1912 Covenant, served in the First World War and had a play staged at the Abbey in 1932. The author, Connal Parr, spoke about Carnduff for an online event for Belfast’s Linen Hall Library on 18 January which will hopefully be available to hear/see. Carnduff was once the caretaker at the Library and is pictured below.

More locally, our friends at the Roaringwater Journal blog had a great post on the Legends of Mount Gabriel and particularly a pool near the top. This appears as Poulanenine on old maps, with the most likely etymology being Poul an Oigheann – the Pool of the Cauldron. I have used one of their great photos below.

UCD’s History Hub’s podcasts feature academics from their School of History include Fionnuala Walsh on the campaign for women’s suffrage in Ireland and Diarmaid Ferriter discussing the Anglo-Irish Treaty. Also focusing on events in the Decade of Centenaries, Festival contributor Brian Walker recently published an article discussing the Government of Ireland Bill, which received royal assent on 23 December 1920, and which led to partition as well as becoming the corner stone for the establishment of Northern Ireland.

Finally, the Irish Story’s latest blog focuses on boxing in Ireland (with gloves). If that interests you, you may also like to listen to Lar Joye’s talk on duelling in Ireland, which we had at our first Festival in 2017.



Our weekly round-up

First off the Bad Bridget podcasts, which tell the story of Irish women who emigrated to America and whose American dream did not end so well – we really enjoyed the first few episodes. They are all based on the research of, and presented by, Dr Elaine Farrell of Queen’s University Belfast and Dr Leanne McCormick of Ulster University who are joined by Derry Girls’ actress, Siobhán McSweeney.

Also linked to the USA, but a slightly more successful (or lucky) life story – a profile of Rex Ingram in the Irish Times caught our eye. He was a pioneer in the early days of Hollywood who directed The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, in its time one of the biggest movies ever made. It took six months to shoot (unheard of at that time) and involved 12,000 people. Born in Dublin in 1892, he spent most of his childhood in Kinnitty, Co Offaly where his father was the Church of Ireland rector. Rex emigrated in 1911 and never returned to Ireland. Ironically his original surname was Hitchcock, but in 1915 he took his mother’s name as a surname instead.

An interesting post on the Irish Family Detective website about a celebrated 19th century murder case from Coachford, Co Cork, when a doctor Philip Cross was convicted and hanged for the murder of his wife after having an affair with his children’s governess.

The National Library of Ireland has a number of excellent online exhibitions on its website which are listed here and which showcase its collections. Subjects include the Dublin Lockout: 1916; W.B. Yeats and the First World War.

And finally, something completely different and not specifically Irish history either – a fascinating article in History Today magazine about clerical celibacy and its consequences in the medieval period. Its author, Dyan Elliott, is Professor of History at Northwestern University in the USA.


A bumper end of 2020 post – and a Happy New Year !

Christmas rather interrupted our regular-ish weekly posts, but we’ve got a lot of really interesting historical content to post today. We’d also like to wish all our friends and supporters a very Happy New Year, and keeping our fingers crossed that we can have a real, live Festival in 2021.

21 December marked the Winter Solstice and Abarta Heritage has a three-episode series on their website looking at Newgrange,  famously aligned on that solstice. They feature three people who know the monument very well – Professor Muiris O’Sullivan and Dr. Jessica Smyth, both from UCD, and Clare Tuffy, who manages the visitor centre at Brú na Bóinne. Festival co-founder Victoria Kingston worked with all three to develop the new exhibition at Brú na Bóinne which opened earlier in 2020 and interprets Newgrange and the many other Neolithic sites in the area. The Discovery Programme also shared some wonderful 3-D models of the mound, passage, chamber & art at Newgrange.

Ghost stories are traditionally told at Christmas, and MOLI (the Museum of Literature Ireland) has a wonderfully spooky short story on their website – Sheridan Le Fanu’s ‘The Familiar’. It was originally published in 1847 as ‘The Watcher’ but set in late 18th century Dublin.

A wonderful online exhibition from the Crawford Art Gallery – Harry Clarke: Marginalia – which looks at his watercolour studies for The Eve of St Agnes window, now in the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin.

A new blog called Belfast Between the Wars, written by Victoria Millar who is a senior curator at National Museums of Northern Ireland, features stories she has uncovered from the city’s newspapers in the 1920s and 1930s. The first one is great: “Ballymena Lady’s plight in closed Belfast premises….”

We’ve just discovered a podcast called Irish Stew – “the podcast for the Global Irish Nation… whether hyphenated or not” which featured this interview with historian and archaeologist Damian Shiels (whose work on the Irish in the American Civil War we have featured frequently on this blog), including Damian’s work on battlefield archaeology.

The UK Parliamentary Archives have put together this short film on the significance and legacy of the Government of Ireland Act, passed in December 1920.

And finally the RTE website featured a fascinating interactive map on different ways the Irish border could have been drawn.



Our not-quite weekly at this time of year round-up

Well, it’s been a while since the last post but there has been a lot going on. So here goes – another big centenary on 11-12 December, which marks 100 years since the Burning of Cork. And lots of other interesting content too…

St Peter’s church and Nano Nagle Place, both in Cork City, are hosting fascinating exhibitions focused on Cork in 1920 – we have partnered with them this year to publicise the events we have all run connected with #Cork1920. The exhibition at Nano Nagle is called Small Lives: At Home in Cork in 1920 and looks at ordinary lives in Cork City in an extraordinary and tumultuous year.

St Peter’s exhibition focuses specifically on the events of December 1920. They very kindly let us use a short film from their exhibition, which you can see as part of our digital festival, but do go and see the exhibition too.

The painstaking research of Festival contributor Jim Herlihy is highlighted in this article by Ronan McGreevy in the Irish Times. It reveals for the first time the identify of an Auxiliary who wrote an eyewitness account of the burning of the city in December 1920: …”many who witnessed scenes in France and Flanders say that nothing they had experienced was comparable to the punishment meted out in Cork.”

Photo from the National Library of Ireland

Meanwhile away from the Decade of Centenaries, but a piece connected to a Second World War anniversary. Wartime NI website (and their newsletter) records the history of Northern Ireland during the Second World War and features many, many interesting individual experiences. This story from exactly 80 years ago this month caught our eye as it highlighted the dangers for coastal shipping in wartime, not just the long-distance convoys. On 5 December 1940, the SS Privet was sailing from Birkenhead to Belfast with a load of coal when the ship disappeared. It’s not known if the ship sank as a result of enemy action or bad weather, but no trace of the Privet or her nine Northern Irish crew was ever found.

The BBC website featured this very moving feature on Irish mixed race children, many of whose fathers were students from Africa or the Caribbean studying in Dublin in the 1960s and 1970s.

And finally in a rather gloomy December, a wonderful, sunny piece of footage of Lough Hyne in the 1960s posted by the Skibbereen Heritage Centre – wish there was more of it!

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.

Our weekly update

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.




Our weekly historical miscellany

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

A major Cork-related Decade of Centenaries anniversary falls today – 100 years since the death in Brixton Prison, on hunger strike, of Cork Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney. There have been lots of articles on the subject in the last few days, but two of the most interesting looked at the impact on MacSwiney’s family. Firstly Ronan McGreevy in the Irish Times on MacSwiney’s widow Muriel and daughter Máire and on RTE History, a profile of his sister, Mary. Depicted below in an image from the National Library of Ireland, Mary MacSwiney was a prominent suffragist, republican and one of the country’s first female TDs.

Also in Cork, but back to the early 17th century, our friends at the Roaringwater Journal blog have this piece on the depiction of West Cork’s Roaringwater Bay in a (secret) 1612 map.

An intriguing post on the often excellent Writing the ‘Troubles’ blog called Researching the Troubles through the Study of Architectural Heritage Destruction by Andrew G. McClelland.

Also related to Northern Ireland, a huge archive of BBC Northern Ireland footage is now available on the BBC website – so many interesting films to watch.

Finally, Liverpool University Press have just published a really interesting-looking collection of essays entitled Southern Irish Loyalism, 1912-1949 which is co-edited by Festival contributor Brian Hughes. You can hear his talk at our 2018 Festival – entitled ‘Gossip, rumour, and propaganda: depictions and perceptions of Irish revolutionary violence’ by clicking here.


WCHF’s (mostly) regular round-up

The play Embargo by Deirdre Kinahan had its premiere last week as part of the Dublin Festival of Theatre. Inspired by the embargo placed on the transport of British troops and weapons by Irish workers during the War of Independence, it was appropriately enough sponsored by Dublin Port Authority and Iarnrod Eireann. Well worth a watch and available on YouTube until 25 October:


Also relating to the War of Independence – some astonishing and shocking footage was shared widely on social media this week, courtesy of the IFI. Taken exactly 100 years ago, it shows the aftermath of the shooting of Sean Treacy, leader of the IRA’s Third Tipperary Brigade and British military intelligence officer Arthur Gilbert Price, killed on Dublin’s Talbot Street after a gun battle on 14 October 1920.

Terror in Ireland


The Sligo Champion featured a fascinating article this week by academic Sinead McCoole, who is trying to trace the identity of a young nationalist woman from Sligo who appears in an April 1920 newsreel taken outside Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison. Through careful archival research, McCoole thinks she has identified the woman in question as a Miss Elizabeth Jane Crotty……  and her father was in the RIC. She is appealing for further information.

Finally, the Irish Story reviewed a very interesting sounding new book by Eimaer O’Connor called Art, Ireland & the Irish Disapora: Chicago, Dublin, New York 1893-1939 (published by Irish Academic Press). Its cover is depicted below. One for the reading list.