Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, General, Issue 5 (Sep/Oct 2009), News, Volume 17

A bizarre theft has taken place off the Donegal coast. A two-tonne Mass rock has been stolen from the uninhabited island of Inishtrahull. The island was home to many families until it was evacuated in 1929 and has symbolic significance as it was the last part of Ireland passed by nineteenth-century emigrant ships sailing from Derry. The stone was used for centuries as a Mass rock but its significance may date back to medieval times, when Inishtrahull was a monastic hermitage. It was well known to the island’s many summer visitors. The chief suspects are a midlands couple who may have taken it as a garden ornament. If someone in a pub offers to sell you a second-hand Mass rock with a distinctive Maltese Cross carving, report them to the Gardaí right away!

The camera doesn’t lie—or does it? Doubt has been cast on one of the most famous images of the Spanish Civil War. Robert Capa’s iconic photograph of a Republican soldier falling dead after being shot was much used in anti-fascist propaganda at the time. It is now believed to have been staged at a site 50km from the front line. Recent research shows that the photograph was not taken where Capa claimed and has identified another location.
n New evidence has emerged that the GAA’s Rule 42 was broken years before its repeal. A newspaper cutting recently unearthed reveals that members of the British armed forces played a Gaelic football match as far back as 1956—not in Ireland but in Hong Kong! On St Patrick’s Day 1956 two teams of Irish RAF men put on an exhibition match. While living in Britain they had been obliged to do national service. The ‘China’ team was made up of Leinstermen and ‘Hong Kong’ consisted of Munster players. We can’t tell you the score but we do know that ‘China’ won.

The oldest known musical instrument in the world was recently discovered in a German cave. The 35,000-year-old flute is made from a vulture bone, 20cm long with five holes. It is 5,000 years older than any other flute found by archaeologists. Flutes are the only positively identified musical instruments surviving from prehistoric times. It may not, however, have been our ancestors who made music with it but Neanderthal Man, who also inhabited this cave at different times. With the North’s marching season just over and the sound of flutes still ringing in our ears . . . better not go there!
n The Hollywood star Maureen O’Hara is unmistakably Irish and has always maintained contacts with the oul’ sod. As one of our living legends, she is about to be rewarded with a heritage centre in her honour. It’s ‘Lights, camera, action!’ for a Ä5m centre to be built in the West Cork village of Glengarriff, where she now spends most of her time. The 89-year-old star has agreed to donate photographs, letters, awards, jewellery and costumes to the legacy centre. O’Hara bought a house in Glengarriff in the 1960s and holidayed there for many years before deciding to make it her main home. The red-haired beauty is best remembered today for The Quiet Man, but she began her career in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and also starred in She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, How Green Was My Valley and other blockbusters of the 1950s and 1960s.

The MacCurtain/Cullen Prize in Irishwomen’s History is offered by the Women’s History Association of Ireland ( in recognition of the outstanding contribution to Irishwomen’s history by Dr Margaret MacCurtain and Mary Cullen. It is open to any MA/MPh. student (who is a member of WHAI) in any Irish university working in the area of Irishwomen’s history. Submissions can deal with any period, any historical subject relating to women and any geographical location within Ireland, in English or Irish. Articles (6,000–8,000 words, including notes and bibliography) must demonstrate originality of research, skilful use of analysis and recognition of the important role of gender in the historical process. Send one e-copy to WHAI president Dr Maryann Valiulis ( and another e-copy to the secretary, Dr Mary McAuliffe ( Don’t forget a separate cover sheet with your personal details, academic affiliation and contact information, as well as a signed statement of original work. NB: closing date 25 January 2010. The winning entry will receive a Ä150 bursary and be published in the Irish Journal for Feminist Studies, as well as online at

A selection of 20,000 photographs of Ireland from 1870 to 1954 is now available on the National Library of Ireland website. Adding to its facilities for the public, the NLI has introduced a new online service whereby 20,000 photographs from the Lawrence, Poole and Independent Newspapers collections can now be viewed on the Library’s website,
n Where have all our letterboxes gone? Throughout Dublin and across the country An Post is quietly removing letterboxes with no apparent consultation or information on what is being done with them. Some of these are of historical significance, dating from the Victorian era or bearing the arms of Saorstat Éireann. Ireland’s oldest letterbox, from 1855–6, is on display at Collins Barracks. These other letterboxes are worth keeping in either the National Museum or in local museums. But is An Post sending them off for scrap?


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