Archive for June, 2009

How Macroom Remembers

17 June 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

‘Two men from Macroom died and went up to heaven and met Peter and they said to Peter, “Who’s in charge here? Because we’ll be agin’ him.”‘

MacroomIRABecause it’s too long to wait until our July recommendations and because it’s still fresh in my ears from the commute, I have to point you in the direction of the Peter Woods-produced ‘How Macroom Remembers’, part of RTÉ Radio 1’s ‘Documentary on One’ series. Woods’s piece tells a fascinating tale of how a Cork town has dealt with, assimilated and adapted its memory of the Kilmichael ambush and everything that has passed under its bridges since. When you hear radio like this, it’s a reminder that the written word sometimes just isn’t enough in expressing and exploring the subtleties and, more importantly, the human voice, of our history. In these days of media exaggeration, it’s all too easy to bandy about the superlatives ‘moving’ and ‘evocative’, but the subtle way this documentary is put together – juxtaposing the crisis about Irish pork, current when the show was recorded in 2008, with the still extant bitterness of the Civil War and reveling in the human simplicity of conversation, including at one stage being interrupted with the words ‘Sorry to interrupt now. Would ye adjourn for a cup of tea?’ – makes it a joy to the ears.

Hat tip by the way to the excellent Speechification site for pointing me in the direction of ‘How Macroom Remembers’. Listen to the documentary below and to find other episodes in the series, check the iTunes store (search for ‘documentary on one’) or the programme’s RSS feed.

Pue’s PhD Diaries

15 June 2009

booksOne of the regular features that we will have at Pue’s Occurrences is the PhD diary. The majority of people involved in history in Ireland are students and postgrads and there are a growing number of people undertaking to do PhDs every year. The most arduous part of learning your trade is completing your PhD. There are many ups and downs and when you are locked away in a foreign archive the process can often feel like a lonely one. Equally, doing a PhD is hugely rewarding, you can travel, engage in debate and meet fantastic people. The process encourages most people to pursue a career linked with history and certainly ensures they have a life-long love of the discipline. Just in case any of our readers are considering a PhD, or maybe have a mental block about completing the PhD at all, you might find this section interesting. We have asked students at various different stages of their PhD to write a short piece about the process that we will publish on the third Monday of each month. This month Ciarán Wallace, fourth year PhD student, has taken time out from writing up to give us a short piece on how he is finding it. We will ask each of our contributors 2 questions to begin.

PhD Diary: Ciarán Wallace

15 June 2009

Contributed by Ciarán Wallace.


Do you consider your PhD to be a job or a vocation?

From a project it became a job, then an obsession and now it’s my life.

In 20 words or less, tell us why you decided to do a PhD: It’s worrying- I actually can’t remember why I started

Ciarán’s diary: The end is near.  I’m working towards a submission date for my PhD thesis and everything else seems distinctly less important.  I presume that is a natural reaction. The pressure of a final deadline certainly helps you focus – but it comes with its own drawbacks.  Rewriting that dodgy paragraph or checking a footnote takes priority over (even basic) housework or meeting friends.  Every day I fear that someone will call around for a coffee and then phone social services, or pest control, as they leave.  As I would almost certainly be in the library (some library – any library!) when anybody might call by that tricky social situation is unlikely to arise.  If it does – please ask the men in the white coats not to take me away until after my viva.   

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The Irish Georgian Society: Traditional Building Skills Exhibition

11 June 2009

By Lisa-Marie Griffith

Pat Ronan Forge TBS Cork 2005

The Irish Georgian Society, now in it’s 51st year, is Ireland’s Architectural and Preservation Society. Anyone with a love of Irish architecture and period houses will be familiar with the society. Its stated aim is ‘to encourage an interest in and to promote the conservation of distinguished examples of architecture and the allied arts of all periods in Ireland’. The society was formed in 1958 to protest and prevent Georgian buildings around Ireland from being demolished and to promote the preservation of this wonderful Irish architectural heritage. In the 1950s the Irish state, and unfortunately many of the builders, architects and planners in Ireland, did not care about this heritage believing that these buildings were a symbol of the British regime in Ireland and a reminder of how repressive this regime was. In 2009 we should all know how ridiculous this is and how important these buildings are to our cultural landscape and yet many Irish Georgian buildings are still under threat. The society agitates for the preservation of these buildings through appeals, publicity and education, and throwing it’s weight behind groups who are fighting for the preservation of buildings in their locality. Of all of their education and outread programs, the one that has struck me as the most interesting is the Traditional Building Skills Exhibition that is taking place this Saturday and Sunday (and in conjunction with Roscommon Co. Council) at Strokestown Park, Roscommon.

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The Dublin by-election of 1782

9 June 2009

By Lisa-Marie Griffith

fishamble finalDue to the size of the Dublin city electorate in the eighteenth century, 3,000 freemen could vote, elections in the capital were hotly contested. Elections in the city were fought between the two city factions- the alderman, pro-castle (government) candidates and the anti-alderman, city radicals (patriots). The 1782 by-election occasioned by the death of Dr. William Clement was fought between the Presbyterian merchant and city radical Travers Hartley and the alderman and pro-castle brewer, Nathaniel Warren. The election was bitterly fought with the Castle newspaper The Freeman’s Journal backing Warren and slandering Hartley and was hotly contested when the Alderman failed to win his seat. 

The election was marred by a city incident in February 1782. A debate was arranged by the printers guild of St Anne at their house beside the music hall in Fishamble Street and was attended by a large number of potential voters. ‘The floor gave way and they all went through except a few who were in the windows. A great number of people had their legs and arms broke and several received great contusions by the fall which was not less than 14 feet.’ While no one died, Saunder’s Newsletter reported 7 February 1782 that many suffered severe injuries and The Freeman’s Journal reported five days later that over fifty people had received fractures. The two candidates escaped with minor bruising.

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What happens after the war ends?

8 June 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Laos_01On 4 June 2007 US Federal prosecutors in California arrested ten people on the charge of conspiring to overthrow the Communist government of Laos. The story behind the arrests reads like a Hollywood thriller. Earlier that year an undercover agent posing as an arms dealer named Steve Hoffmaster had contacted Harrison Jack, an American Vietnam War veteran associated with the group. In the months that followed Hoffmaster and Jack prepared an inventory list of weapons worth $9.8 million that included AK-47s, M-16 machine guns, rockets, mines, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and three shoulder-fired Stinger missiles designed to shoot down aircraft. When Hoffmaster finally turned the men in, among those arrested was 77-year-old General Vang Pao, senior leader-in-exile of the Hmong ethnic group and the man recruited by the CIA in 1960 to lead a ‘Secret Army’ to rid Laos of the influence of the communist Pathet Lao (the latter ably aided by North Vietnamese troops).

Vang Pao and over 100,000 Hmong had fled across the Mekong River into Thailand and on to the US after the Pathet Lao gained full control of Laos in 1975, but for those left behind the years of conflict had an even more devastating legacy. Read More

Pue’s Recommendations for June

8 June 2009

Pue’s Recommendations is a (mostly biased) monthly list of things worth reading, watching, listening to and attending, put together by the editors of Pue’s Occurrences. If there’s anything you think we’ve missed out on, or anything you think isn’t worth the mention, feel free to leave us a comment.

Helvetica Frankfurt

Juliana Adelman

I have belatedly discovered the brilliant documentary, Helvetica, released two years ago to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the font.  I had no idea so many people took font so seriously.  I’m also reading the free online journal Antennae.  Somewhat esoteric, but definitely thought-provoking, the current issue deals with mechanical animals including attempts to build some of Leonardo Da Vinci’s machines.

Lisa-Marie Griffith

The theme of this year’s Dublin Writers Festival is ‘The power of the word’. This opportunity to get up close and personal with some of your favourite writers and to discover the new talent emerging on the literary scene.  Arthur Miller’s ‘All My Sons’ plays until 12 June at the Gate and is well worth going to see and Dublin Shakespeare Festival 8-14 June.

Kevin O’Sullivan

My book to read this month is Wojciech Tochman’s excellent Like Eating a Stone: Surviving the Past in Bosnia (2009) (see my review here). In other media, I’m a late convert (via podcast) to Melvyn Bragg’s ‘In Our Time’ on BBC Radio 4, and had a sneak preview of the first programme (on Laos) in RTÉ1’s ‘What in the World?’ TV series, which starts on 11 June: moving stuff.

A Holy Show

6 June 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Gay ByrneSo the dust has settled on the news that Ryan Tubridy, that doyen of Irish radio and television, darling of grandmammies the country over, will take over as the new presenter of the ‘Late Late Show’ this autumn following the end of Pat Kenny’s ten-year (ten years!) tenure. Kenny’s undisguised desire to return to current affairs broadcasting,  a role in which he sounds so much more comfortable on his radio show than in front of camera, begs further questions of the relevance of the ‘Late Late’. Does anyone remember when the programme was something more than a vehicle for what RTÉ describes as ‘the biggest celebrities the world has to offer’, or, in lay parlance, whatever unknown British celebrity, Irish boy/girlband with a single to push or (when I saw it a few months ago) strange American plastic surgeon pitches highest? Or when its ‘memorable moments’ amounted to something more than those highlighted by Fiona McCann in last week’s Irish Times? The era when the longest running chat show on television (in the world, ever) was, we are told, at the forefront of breaking down taboos and pushing the boundaries of debate in Ireland, famously getting the Bishop of Galway in a twist over women’s nightwear, seem a long way away to TV viewers of my generation. Was it really that radical? Has it, like all things 1960s, been talked up by a nostalgic generation who yearn for the days when things were simpler, everyone walked to school in their bare feet and ate (s)mashed potato from powder in a bag? Or, more likely, have we simply lost sight of its power now that we live in an age of omnipresent news? (There’s a joke about one for everyone in the audience in there somewhere, but best leave it alone.) And, what, if anything, will take its place for historians of contemporary Ireland? Answers on a postcard to Pue’s Occurrences.

Simon Schama at the Dublin Writer’s Festival

4 June 2009

By Lisa-Marie Griffith

Simon SchamaLast night I spent the evening in the company of Simon Schama, Professor of History and History of Art at Columbia University. Admittedly I wasn’t on my own and as a lowly blog writer and unpaid historian I had to share Professor Schama with 383 Dubliners who had turned up as part of the Dublin Writer’s Festival. Not surprising, perhaps: Shama has written fourteen books on history and history of art and has hosted 3 BBC history series, including the Emmy winning Power of Art. His most recent publication, and the book he had been invited to speak on, is American Future.His presence at the festival was interesting for two reasons. Schama joined a line-up that included world renowned writers of poetry, fiction and non-fiction and his inclusion at the festival proves that history writing has become an accepted facet of the literary genre. Who better to represent the history field than Simon Shama. But is he a model historian and a figure head we would like to represent the industry? On TV I have found Schama clear, passionate and to be honest more likeable than his Channel 4 rival David Starkey. While a History of Britain is not without its flaws the series and follow-up books are clear, intelligent and most importantly accessible. I have to admit though that I arrived to hear his talk in a cynical frame of mind expecting not to like him but left with two signed copies of his book under my arm. What then was my problem with Schama and why have I changed my mind?

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Colonel E.D. Doyle (1919-2009)

4 June 2009

Professor Eunan O’Halpin of Trinity College Dublin has kindly allowed us to reproduce his memorial to Colonel E.D. Doyle who passed away last week.

Ned Doyle was the first Research Associate in the Centre for Contemporary Irish History in 2003. He gave freely of his vast experience, knowledge and insight, not only of military affairs but of Irish life, during and after the weekly seminars. He did this in the most self-effacing way, and it was sometimes hard to get him to talk about his own experiences, as opposed to events of which he was an observer. In 2006 he gave a brilliant presentation on aspects of signals traffic during the Second World War from an Irish perspective: I particularly recall his use of a morse trainer key to show just how individual operators developed their own distinctive ‘hand’. In the same year, he made a pithy and timely comment during a witness seminar involving relatives of 1916 veterans (his father had fought in Dublin), cutting into a rather inconsequential tour de table on the justification or otherwise of rebellion by saying: ‘At some point you had to fight to get them out’. This drew unprecedented applause and got us off the ‘what ifs’. Despite intermittent health problems, he attended many of the seminars in 2008/9 and when asked he always had something of value to say.

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