BITE-SIZED HISTORY

Published in Issue 2 (March/April 2017), News, Volume 25

BY TONY CANAVAN

A timely return
A remnant of a 1916 Tricolour has been donated to Glasnevin Trust. The piece of the flag was handed over by the chief minister of the island of Jersey, having been donated by David Blake, great-grandson of Jersey native John Le Provost, a member of the Jersey ‘pals battalion’ who obtained it whilst fighting in the Rising. Le Provost sent the piece back to his fiancée, Mary La Singe, in Jersey, where it remained for the next hundred years. This was a part of the Jacob’s Tricolour, which was made after the GPO flag had been either shot to pieces or burnt as the GPO came under fire. The flag was nailed to a flagpole above Jacob’s biscuit factory before being removed from its position on Sunday 30 April after the official surrender. John Le Provost and two other soldiers climbed onto the roof of the Jacob’s factory and hauled it down. How the flag came to be divided remains a mystery, but John Le Provost was given three pieces of it, one green, one white and one yellow.

Troubles archive
Members of the public are invited to contribute to a new archive being established by Belfast’s Ulster Museum. Their contributions will help form part of a new exhibition called ‘Collecting the Troubles and Beyond’ about the social and political changes of these years, which will be part of a revamped Troubles Gallery in the museum. There will be a number of public events in which people will be given the opportunity to tell their story and share memories of the Troubles. Anyone interested in this project should contact Karen Logan of the Ulster Museum at karen.logan@nmni.com or phone 024 (048 from the Republic) 90395160.

City Assembly House
The Irish Georgian Society (IGS) has launched a campaign to raise €600,000 to complete the restoration of Dublin’s City Assembly House (formerly the Civic Museum), South William Street. Some €900,000 has been pledged so far through the support of Dublin City Council and the US-based Jerome L. Greene Foundation and Gilbert & Ildiko Butler Family Foundation. The IGS is appealing directly to its friends and members in Ireland, the UK and the USA to raise the €600,000 required to reach the overall target of €1.5m, which will enable it to commence the final phase of works on the building. All donors will be recognised on the donors’ board displayed in the City Assembly House. Works are scheduled to commence this year and will see the restoration of the great octagonal Exhibition Room, the provision of services to ensure that the building will be wheelchair-accessible, and the preparation of a space that can be rented out to generate sustainable income for the building. To learn more, visit igs.ie.

Above: Part of the October 2015 ‘Describing Architecture’ exhibition in the currently stripped-back octagonal Exhibition Room in Dublin’s City Assembly House, due for restoration this year. (IGS)

Thar’ she blows!
Renovations at a County Donegal graveyard have focused attention on a forgotten aspect of Irish history—whaling. Inver graveyard is the last resting place of Thomas Nesbit (d. 1801), inventor of the first mechanised harpoon-gun. Nesbit developed the device to aid whalers operating out of the port of Inver. Up to then, whalers manually threw a harpoon at their prey. Nesbit’s invention meant that the whale could be hit at a greater distance from on board ship with greater accuracy. This enabled the wholesale slaughter of whales, which has ultimately resulted in the near-extinction of several species. Nesbit’s grave today is marked with a broken gravestone.

Raise the Titanic!
In what sounds like the plot of a novel, there are plans to reconstruct a life-size replica of the RMS Titanic, the famous Belfast-built ship that sank in the Atlantic in 1912 on its maiden voyage. It will take pride of place in a theme park in China’s Sichuan province, where it will be moored in a reservoir. It was James Cameron’s 1997 film of the maritime disaster, starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, that made the Titanic famous in China. Cameron built a 90% scale replica of the ship for the film, while in 2012 Australian billionaire Clive Palmer announced plans to build a 98% scale replica, but nothing appears to have come of that idea.

The man who saved Barcelona FC
A bust by Dublin sculptor Joe Moran of Patrick O’Connell, credited with guiding Real Betis football team to their only La Liga title, is to be unveiled at the Spanish club. Members of the Patrick O’Connell Memorial Fund have commissioned the bronze bust, which is to be presented to Real Betis in February, when the club takes on Sevilla, another team that O’Connell managed during his illustrious career. However, O’Connell (who played for Belfast Celtic) is probably better known as the manager who saved Barcelona FC during the Spanish Civil War, when he took them on a tour of Mexico, Cuba and New York, raising funds that ensured the club’s survival.

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