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Heritage Week 2014: the First World War, poverty and welfare, and urban history

By Ciarán McCabe

With Heritage Week 2014 fast approaching, I have been wondering how best to compose a post which took in a few interesting things to do but did not mirror our regular listing of events (updated weekly!) that we at Holinshed already provide. To negotiate this, I have decided to look at a few themes which are addressed by various lectures, walking tours and related events across the country during Heritage Week (23-31 August).

The First World War, needless to say, is generously covered and many communities throughout Ireland are hosting events addressing a local angle to this aspect of Irish history. In Kilkenny a commemorative brochure detailing the city’s history on the eve of the Great War is being launched (23 August, John’s Green House), while a walking tour of the city (28 August, beginning at St Canice’s Cathedral) will outline the stories of local people who fought in the war. The Hunt Museum in Limerick is hosting lectures by Dr Tadgh Moloney, Dr Deirdre McMahon and Dr Jerome ann de Wiel (25, 27 and 29 August respectively) on various aspects of the Irish and Limerick experience of the war. Anyone in Waterford city on 30 August can avail of a particular treat in this year’s programme, with Prof. Diarmaid Ferriter (UCD) speaking on ‘Ireland in 1914: liberty, loyalty, living and longing’. This lecture, examining the generation of 1914 and the potential for political change as well as wider social threats and possibilities, is being held in the city’s Central Library. Other events are being held in, to name but a few places, Portlaw (Co. Waterford), Swords (Co. Dublin), Longford town, Douglas (Co. Cork), Celbridge (Co. Kildare), Virginia (Co. Cavan) and Monagear (Co. Wexford).

Farmers-of-Ireland-join-up-and-defend-your-possessions-first-world-war-recruitment-poster

For those interested in the history of poverty and welfare in Ireland, there are a number of events. Margaret Hickey, who is currently writing a book on the history of Irish food and drink, will present a talk on the potato and the Great Famine in the Irish Workhouse Centre in Portumna on 31 August. A guided walking tour from the workhouse in Callan, Co. Kilkenny to a pauper burial ground at Cherryfield (two kilometres away) is taking place on 27 August. A lecture entitled ‘Cootehill and the Great Famine’ will provide a valuable local insight into the Famine of the late-1840s. This event is being held in Cootehill Library and Arts Centre, Co. Cavan on 26 August.

Children in Workhouse

 (Courtesy of the Irish Workhouse Centre, Portumna)

Urban history also figures prominently in this year’s programme, particularly in terms of the history of urban development and planning. Architectural historian Louise Harrington is presenting an illustrated talk on one of Cork city’s most famous thoroughfares, ‘Washington Street: an architectural history’. This is taking place in Cork City Library on 25 August. A walking tour of some of Cork’s oldest streets is being held on 23 August.

The most important project in transforming our understanding of urban history, the Irish Historic Towns Atlas initiative which is linked to European partner projects (www.ria.ie/research/ihta), is represented in this year’s schedule of events. John Martin, who has been commissioned to compile the Towns Atlas on Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, is speaking on his ongoing research in the Town Hall Theatre, Dungarvan on 25 August. The work of the Wide Street Commissioners between 1757 and 1849, who played such an important role in shaping the streetscape of modern Dublin, is the subject of a lecture by Dr John Montague in Dublin City Library and Archive on 25 August. The commercial history of County Carlow will be the subject of three short lectures in Cobden Hall, Carlow College on 27 August. Mark Shaw, Michael Johnson and Robert Duffy will each present a twenty-minute lecture on Shaw’s of Carlow, Johnson’s Tailors of Tullow, and Duffy’s of Hacketstown respectively. Held under the auspices of the Carlow Historical and Archaeological Society, this event will provide an insight into the interesting topic of the commercial history of a provincial town.

Before finishing, I want to highlight what sounds like a truly fascinating event and one which I would love to attend if I was anywhere near Carrick-on-Suir. A re-enactment of a traditional Irish wake is being held in Nell’s Farm House on 31 August, from 8-11pm. Admission is €10. The re-enactment will include an explanation of the customs and practices surrounding death in previous generations. Music and story-telling will add to the event, and audience participation is encouraged.

An Irish Wake painting

 ‘An Irish Wake’, sketch by M. Woolf (n.d.).

The details of all the above events are taken from the Heritage Week 2014 website (www.heritageweek.ie), from which further information (such as times and contact details) are available.

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