Archive for August, 2011

The writing is the hardest part

29 August 2011

By Juliana Adelman

So here I am again, surrounded by notes and papers and books littered with colorful sticky tabs.  I have more than enough material and yet I find myself making a list of other things I should look up.  This will give me a number of tasks in the library that will make me feel as though I am accomplishing something yet I will be no closer to the end result.  Of course writing is the hardest part because it is the task through which we add up facts to make something more than the sum of their parts.  Writing is the creative part of the historical process, the one in which you allow yourself into the picture.  You have to put all your flaws, or your potentially flawed arguments, on display for everyone to read.  It is much easier to keep gathering ammunition and hope you can simply bombard potential readers with facts until they beg for mercy and agree.  Not that I like to read anything written in this way, but at least it has the appearance of solidity.  This is my effort at breaking writer’s block and hopefully providing you with some interesting reading/listening as well. Read more

Back to school

26 August 2011

By Lisa Marie Griffith

As a child I always feared seeing the ‘back to school’ signs in shop windows becuase they meant the end of summer and the return of dark, wet days stuck inside the house. I must admit I still get a shiver up my spine when I see ‘back to school’ signs. These days it probably has more to do with the fact that I haven’t completed the long list of things I set myself to do at the start of the summer but I have probably finished the pile of fiction by my bed- oh well! At least I have accomplished something this summer!

Strokestown Famine Museum Project

24 August 2011

Contributed by Joanne McEntee

‘Twas the black potatoes the scattered
our people
Facing the poorhouse or overseas
And in the mountain cemetery do they
in hundreds lie …’

The above verse, taken from Amhrán na bPrátaí Dubha (The Song of the Black Potatoes), starkly reveals the immense impact of the Great Famine 1845-50. While it is easy to get lost in figures with the 1851 census revealing how at a national level some 2,400,000 or more than a quarter of the population were lost through death or emigration, one can only imagine the effect of such losses at a local level.

Various museums exist across the country that exploring different aspects of the famine from a local perspective. From Doagh to Donaghmore, and from St. Mary’s Church, to the Jeanie Johnston to mention but a few, such local sites act as significant reminders in their vicinities and beyond of both the suffering and immense endurance of man. Although billed as the Irish national famine museum, the Strokestown Park museum, Roscommon appears to remain outside of the consciousness of many. Read more

Most popular tourist attractions

23 August 2011

By Lisa Marie Griffith

As a tour guide I am always interested in what history attractions  people visit while they are visiting Ireland. If you thought Dublin’s most popular attraction was the Guinness storehouse you were wrong. It may be well visited but it’s not what people talk about when they go home. It may also surprise you favourite tourist sites change year in year out and depending on weather, advertising, revamping and of course new sites opening up. Here are what the top-rated and most popular attractions in and about Irish cities  according to contributors to

Dublin: 1. An evening of Food, Folklore and Fairies at the Brazen Head (quite a few of my tourists have mentioned this one to me and it is definitely a visitor favourite), 2. Glasnevin cemetery, Read more

The Tenements on TV3

22 August 2011

By Lisa Marie Griffith

I am currently watching the Tenements on TV3, presented by actor Brian Murray. If you haven’t been watching (you can catch up online), the programme is exploring tenements in Dublin by focusing on the tenements in Henrietta Street. Shockingly, there were tenements in Henrietta Street right up until the 1970s. The show features one brave family, the Winstons, who were born and raised in one of the Henrietta Street tenements who then return with their children to spend 3 nights in cramped conditions of a 1911 tenement not an easy- task they stayed last winter during the snow! While some of the introductory history in programme was a bit over simplistic, and so not necessarily accurate, the programme has maintained my interest.

Clubs and Societies in Eighteenth-Century Ireland

19 August 2011

By Lisa Marie Griffith

This week I have been reading James Kelly & Martyn Powell (ed) Clubs and Societies in Eighteenth-Century Ireland (Four Courts, 2010). The image attached is of the Limerick Hellfire Club and was painted by James Worsdale. I did not know until reading David Ryan’s excellent article on the Dublin Hellfire Club that the painter of this fantastic image also painted both the Dublin and the London Hellfire Clubs earlier.  Although David Ryan says that Worsdale held a ‘limited artistic ability’ I love this painting. Ryan says that Worsdale ‘demonstrated a knack for obtaining lucrative commissions. Over the course of his career his subjects included George II, Princess Louisa and Mary, William, duke of Devonshire, and the duchess of Newcastle.’ The image of the Dublin Hellfire Club, which is held in the National Gallery, is the image used on the cover of Kelly and Powell’s book while the painting of Limerick Hellfire Club (above) has also been used recently for David Fleming’s book, Politics and Provincial People: Sligo and Limerick 1691-1761 (Manchester University Press, 2010). Both paintings are interesting in that they put a face to elite clubs in eighteenth century Ireland but I find this one in particularly because it includes a woman.

Heritage week at St Patrick’s Cathedral

17 August 2011

Contributed by Andrew Smith

St Patrick’s Cathedral have a fantastic Heritage Week line up this year (19th-23rd August), events include; talks on Jonathon Swift, the British Legion in Ireland, tours of the Cathedral, family trails, free organ recitals and a historical re-enactment of a fight which took place between medieval knights and which gave rise to the expression “to chance your arm”. All events are free. For full listings go to

Second-hand bookshops: my latest discovery

15 August 2011

By Lisa Marie Griffith

Like most of our readers I imagine, I love second-hand bookshops especially ones where you are guaranteed a good find and a bargain. I came across a fantastic second-hand bookshop recently while in Midleton, Co. Cork visiting family. It is a particularly well-stocked St Vincent de Paul book shop just off the main street in Midleton on Connolly Street and you can find a map here. Every book is 1 euro with the exception of children’s books which are 50 ce. That said I walked away with so many books the very friendly shopkeeper gave me the book I had purchased for my three-year-old niece for free! Apart from a mermaid book for her, I picked up 3 John Le Carre books (I am becoming a bit obsessed), Diarmaid MacCulloch’s, Reformation: Europe’s House Divided, Sebastian Faulk’s, Birdsong, Ed Moloney’s A Secret History of the IRA and John MacGahern’s, That they May Face the Rising Sun. They have a good selection of history books (particularly for a charity shop) and shelves of good fiction. Some more books to stuff on to my already packed bookshelves!

My working week

12 August 2011


With only slight exaggeration… – Tina


Re-viewing Reviewing

10 August 2011

By Christina Morin

My musings on networking on Monday led me to ponder other sometimes difficult professional situations in which we find ourselves, and one with which I am grappling even now, as I write this piece – namely, reviewing. There’s something so thrilling about getting a monograph normally priced at €85 for free, that I frequently find myself soliciting coveted texts from various reviews editors. Of course, in my excitement, I forget that nothing ever comes completely free. As with Ryanair, in fact, I find that I always underestimate the cost, getting sucked in by the thought of cheap goods (in this case, scholarly studies rather than flights) without fully considering the ramifications. In short, I forget that this is an exchange economy and that the ‘price’ of my supposedly free book is a review.

It’s not that I find writing such pieces particularly difficult, especially when the book in question is well-written, well-edited, and well-argued, but I do find reviews incredibly time consuming. Perhaps it’s just me, but I read a book very differently when I’m reviewing it than I do if I’m simply reading it for my own ongoing research. I’m much more thorough in my reading (meaning I don’t skip any paragraphs or pages!), take copious notes, and think very carefully about how best to underline the text’s strengths while still pointing out its potential deficiencies or weaknesses. What I’m aiming for is an objective account of the book in question, written with a view to the professional expertise I share with the author. The point of a review is, as I understand it, to highlight the book’s contribution to existing scholarship and, thus, its value for fellow scholars. Read more