BITE-SIZED HISTORY

Published in Issue 4 (July/August 2018), News, Volume 26

BY TONY CANAVAN

Raise the Endurance

An international effort to locate the lost ship of Irish Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton will take place next year. Shackleton’s 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition met with disaster when its ship, the Endurance, was crushed by ice in the Weddell Sea in November 1915. Three previous attempts to find the Endurance have failed. Professor Julian Dowdeswell, director of the Scott Polar Research Institute, will lead a 45-day expedition to Antarctica to study the Larsen C Ice Shelf, which last year created one of the biggest icebergs ever recorded. The Endurance was lost so close to this location that the team have decided to try and find it. ‘It would be a shame not to,’ Dowdeswell told the BBC. They plan to send autonomous underwater vehicles to map the sea floor looking for signs of the Endurance.

The Troubles as history

An exhibition exploring the history of the Troubles was opened to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. The Troubles and Beyond at the Ulster Museum examines Northern Ireland’s recent past through a range of objects reflecting diverse perspectives and experiences. Many objects were contributed by the public as part of a major collecting initiative, and the Ulster Museum collaborated with other museums, universities, community groups and the public to set up the exhibition. It collected material relating to everyday experiences, music and sports, as well as the experiences of the LGBT community and others, which are being exhibited alongside political posters and ephemera. In a related matter, items including posters, photographs, pamphlets, T-shirts, badges and stickers covering the Troubles era have been donated to Derry’s Tower Museum. Collected by retired architect Peter Moloney, the 48,000-item collection covers a 50-year period, providing insight into Bloody Sunday, the hunger strikes and the Peace Process. It is believed to be the largest private archive of memorabilia charting Ireland’s recent history. Libraries NI has also agreed to take over 2,000 books and 3,000 journals in the Moloney collection, making them accessible to the public.

A unique view of Leinster history

Above: Panel 7 of the Ros Tapestry—the marriage of Isabel de Clare, heir to the kindom of Leinster, and William Marshal.

The Ros Tapestry is a unique project ongoing in the south-east since 1998, involving over 150 volunteer stitchers working on fifteen giant tapestries. This example of creativity and community spirit on a grand scale depicts Norman history and links all the sites in Ireland’s Ancient East. The Ros Tapestry is one of the largest series of embroidered tapestries in Europe. Each tapestry depicts a different historical event, with embroidered panels showing the Anglo-Norman arrival in the south-east of Ireland, the founding of the town of New Ross, Co. Wexford, by William Marshal and his wife Isabel de Clare, granddaughter of Dermot Mac Murrough, king of Leinster, and so on. The first tapestry was finished in 2002 and to date fourteen of the fifteen tapestries have been completed. From the inauguration of an Irish king to Hiberno-Norman commerce, the cultural legacy of Leinster is immortalised in crewel embroidery and hangs on permanent exhibition at 14 The Quay, New Ross, Co. Wexford, www.therostapestry@yahoo.ie, www.rostapestry.ie.

‘Wreck Viewer’

Many historically significant vessels are among the thousands of shipwrecks that can be found on a new interactive map recently launched. The ‘Wreck Viewer’ features exact locations for c. 4,000 recorded wrecks, while information on an additional 14,000 whose location has not been fully confirmed is also available to download. The oldest wrecks on the map are logboats found in inland lakes and rivers, many dating back to prehistory. Six Spanish Armada wrecks have been identified and plotted. Other noteworthy wrecks include the RMS Leinster (torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1918), the Muirchú (previously the HMY Helga, which shelled rebel positions in the 1916 Rising and became the first ship of the Irish naval service) and the RMS Tayleur (sunk en route to Australia from Liverpool in 1854 with over 300 lives lost). To view the map, go to www.archaeology.ie/underwater-archaeology/wreck-viewer.

A forgotten centenary

A sad centenary occurred recently that seems to have slipped by largely unnoticed. In May 1918, Mrs Emily Ricketts (formerly Mrs Dickenson) died in the South Dublin Union workhouse. What was noteworthy was that she was the sister of Charles Stewart Parnell. She had been living in Wales but had returned to Ireland to visit the Parnell ancestral home of Avondale, Co. Wicklow. There is some mystery as to how she ended up in the workhouse, as she was comparatively well off. Since she was 80 years of age, however, her family speculated that she was suffering from ‘mental trouble’ and was probably admitted for her own safety. Fortunately, the South Dublin Union was able to identify her and to inform the family. She remained in Ireland to be buried in the Parnell plot in Ballintone, near Rathdrum.

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