Sidelines

Published in Issue 4 (July/August 2010), News, Volume 18

  • n Roll up! Roll up! There’s one for everybody! The next decade or so has a virtual conveyor belt of centenaries coming—1912, Home Rule and the Ulster Covenant; 1913, the Dublin Lockout; 1914, the First World War; 1916, the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme; 1918, the end of the First World War, general election; 1919, the first Dáil, the War of Independence; 1920, the establishment of Northern Ireland . . . and so on. Taoiseach Brian Cowen has warned northern Unionists that they had better join in commemorating them all along with the rest of us, even the ones they don’t like.
  • n Before getting stuck into all these centenaries, one group of historians has banded together to oppose a new motorway. The new M22 from Cork to Kerry will cut though the 1921 ambush site at Coolnacaheragh. Described as one of the largest and longest encounters in the War of Independence, the ambush was an all-day battle between the IRA and the British Army. It marked a turning point in the war, and now historians like Diarmaid Ferriter, Ruan O’Donnell and a host of others argue that the site should be preserved and commemorated, not buried under tarmac. It’s like Tara all over again.
  • n Oh dear, the Ulster Museum does not seem to have had much luck since it reopened earlier this year after its major refurbishment. The North’s culture minister, Nelson McCausland (DUP), thinks it isn’t doing enough to celebrate the Orange Order and Ulster-Scots. But all the news has been about his ‘suggestion’ that it should do more to explain creationism. Like many in his party, Mr McCausland has no truck with the Big Bang or evolution and believes that the universe is the work of God alone. What exhibits could be used to explain this belief? Those evolutionists have fossils and things, but what have the creationists got? Perhaps all of Mr McCausland’s concerns could be addressed by an exhibition on creationism in Ulster-Scots sponsored by the Orange Order?
  • n Is there no end to Irish history coming up for auction? Just after letters from the Great Famine were saved for a national archive, an eyewitness account of the Battle of the Boyne was sold at auction by Bonhams in London in June. Written by a Jacobite, Capt. John Stevens, it is a report on the battle and what went wrong. He blames the bad leadership of King James and his generals but also reports that over 1,000 Jacobite soldiers were too drunk to fight. On the morning of the battle they were delivered brandy in error and of course drank it. Would these 1,000 men have made any difference to the outcome of the battle? We think not.
  • n Documents are all very well but people can be just as important when it comes to finding out about the past. Transition Year students are taking part in a project promoted by Friends of the Elderly to record a biography of every elderly person before they pass on. Microsoft is lending a hand and all the recordings are going into an on-line archive. So far memories of the two world wars, the War of Independence, the hungry ’30s and so on have been recorded in this worthy collaboration between the generations. If you want to take part as a contributor or recorder, contact Friends of the Elderly at +353 (0)1 8731855 or their website friendsoftheelderly.ie.
  • n For centuries it was the home of robber barons, tax collectors and even judges, but now the thirteenth-century hall in Galway’s Druid Lane will be open to the public. Originally belonging to Richard de Burgh, earl of Ulster, the hall was built over and around in modern times, meaning that no one knew that it was there until the Revenue Commissioners wanted to extend their premises. The hall and part of an adjoining castle were discovered by accident when the work started. They resisted their first instincts to demolish it (we assume) and instead restored it to something of its former glory. Visitors can now see the original walls and the archaeological excavation that was carried out there.
  • n A Donegal town is split between All Blacks and Bhoys over the proposal to name a new park. Ramelton is the birthplace of Dave Gallaher, first captain ever of the mighty All Blacks rugby team of New Zealand. Some councillors think it’s fitting to name the park after him. But Ramelton is also the home town of Glasgow Celtic legend Patsy Gallagher, and some want the park named after him. The current All Blacks team are scheduled to be in Ramelton later this year for the official naming of the park so it looks like they won the argument. Surely they can find something else to name after the Bhoy Patsy Gallagher?
  • n It’s all happening in Dundalk. Thanks to the Louth County Museum, local schools are linking up with two schools in Dundalk, Maryland, USA, on the internet. Recently, local man Harry Lee chaired the six-hour-long webcasts on Irish Dundalk’s rich history. The county museum has also got local schools to apply to participate in a new RTÉ series, Ireland—Dig it!, to be broadcast later this year. This is a quiz show in which the students must use their knowledge of local history and archaeology to answer questions and win prizes.
  • Dublin Civic Trust has put forward an ambitious proposal to return the capital to its Georgian glory. As well as restoring the buildings and squares from this era, the plan envisages burying cables underground, using tunnels to divert traffic, creating pedestrian areas and much more. In terms of beautifying Dublin and improving the quality of life for its citizens, the plan has much to recommend it. Under the proposal, the areas around College Green, the Rotunda and O’Connell Street, for example, would become pleasant pedestrian piazzas designed to show off the beauty of the architecture and make life more pleasant for all concerned. To find out more about the plan and to give your opinion, see the trust’s website, dublincivictrust.ie
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