Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Oranges and Sunshine

27 April 2011

Contributed by Joanne Mc Entee

 ‘Did you want to come to Australia?’ ‘I thought I was going on holiday. They told me I was going on holiday. Said I would be away for six weeks. I didn’t know where Australia was.’

(Child migrant, Perth, 1988)

The holiday proved short lived. Within two days of arriving in Australia the child was scrubbing floors in an orphanage.

Oranges and Sunshine (2010) directed by Jim Loach tells the story of the children who were sent abroad under state-sponsored migration schemes to various parts of the British empire from the mid- twentieth century until 1970. Through the courage and determination of one social worker from Nottingham the issue was brought to international attention. This film is her story too.

In 1986 social worker Margaret Humphreys who was known for her interest in adoption cases, received a letter from a woman named Madeleine who claimed she had been sent from a children’s home in England to Australia over forty years earlier. She was requesting assistance in finding her family. Humphreys was intrigued by the letter and although initially a little sceptic, subsequent investigations corroborated Madeleine’s claims. Thus began the long and emotionally draining process of uncovering a heart breaking state secret that had been concealed for decades. Read more

The Bit of Spade Work!

18 April 2011

Contributed by David Garreth Toms

Long before I began my PhD in 2009, I would pick up a copy of the Waterford Soccer Monthly from time to time. My favourite part, perhaps predictably, was the old photographs of teams from the 1920s and 1930s. There is often something otherworldly about photographs of sports teams from that era. Thinking more on it, it is the formality of the occasion of having one’s photograph taken – after all, the photographic image was not then as ubiquitous as it has since become. The rigidity of the subjects (out of technical necessity) also ensures photographs from that era have an idiosyncratic strangeness to them.

This piece isn’t really about the photographs that appeared in the Waterford Soccer Monthly (WSM) though. Instead, it is about the old-fashioned digging around, the donkey-work of historical research. I remembered those photographs when it came time for me to begin research on grassroots football in Waterford city as part of my thesis. Typically, the old copies of the WSM had long been consigned to the bin in my house. So it was with hope that I e-mailed the editor of the magazine, and sure enough he kept his entire back-catalogue. What’s more, he had original scans of many of the photographs I was looking for, and much more besides. Read more

W(h)ither the humanities?

6 April 2011

By Kevin O’Sullivan

The outlook – to borrow a typically understated phrase from our friends in Met Éireann – is changeable. Academic discussion in the last two months in Ireland has been dominated by comment (informed and less-so) about changes to university structures and the future of the humanities in a period of deep recession. In the UK, the frightening prospect of diverting state funding through the Arts and Humanities Research Council to the study of the ‘big society’ has prompted a strong defence of academic freedom. At the same time, a parallel debate has been raging at secondary school level, where commentators like Niall Ferguson bemoan the ‘ruination’ of history, hemmed in by national boundaries while the world – and academic profession – becomes transnational. At each turn, the image of the good ship humanities listing violently in an economic storm has become increasingly difficult to ignore.

A little over two weeks ago, Ireland’s own Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences, the source of funding for so much that is positive about research in Ireland over the last eleven years, hosted Martha Nussbaum, the University of Chicago-based philosopher and author of Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, in the second in its lecture series on ‘The Public Intellectual’. At the heart of her address was a plea for recognition of the importance of the humanities to democracy: Read More

What is the point?

21 March 2011

By Juliana Adelman

As Lisa has already highlighted, the academic job market is currently in full swing (or half swing, given the ‘e’ word).  Applying for jobs tends to turn one cynical in the best of times. The process of composing cover letters that summarize years of one’s life in 500 words or less can be soul destroying.  The type of self-representation which is required by those engaged in the academic job hunt tends to reinforce the distance between ‘professional’ historians and everyone else with an interest in history.  With this in mind, I thought it might be good to get a discussion going as to why we do history since I think this represents common ground for everyone with an interest in the subject.  I have given 5 reasons below and I hope others will add theirs in the comments section.

1. I am nosy and I bet you are too.  People like to know about other people.  I have recently read (in On Deep History and the Brain by D L Smail) of a theory in neuroscience which suggests that gossip is a form of addictive behavior.  Gossiping releases endorphins and helps people to combat psychological ‘slumps’.  And really what is history at its most basic but a form of gossip?  On a more serious note, history is a means of examining ourselves and may be considered, as Roger Smith argues, an integral part of what it means to be human. Read more

Horse with no name?

14 March 2011

By Juliana Adelman

When I was in high school there was nothing more powerful or desirable than the licensed driver with their own set of wheels.  The most cherished phrase in the suburban American teenage vocabulary: ‘My dad said I can have the car tonight’.  A car is freedom.  This understanding recently brought me to a somewhat surprising identification with one of my sources and his horse.

JCK, as I will call him, was a lucky young man.  He came from a wealthy Dublin family with a stable of four-footed vehicles at their command.  JCK, an angsty student moping about town, often did his rounds on the back of a mare called Flora or a gelding called No Go.  Sometimes he chased women, sometimes he rode aimlessly into the countryside and less often he did errands for his parents.

I was struck, although I suppose I should not have been surprised, at the power that the horse gave JCK.  He was free to do as he pleased and he had the means to do it.  This was in striking contrast to his sister who did not ride alone but was always drawn in the family carriage.  JCK’s horseback jaunts were the ultimate in male power and freedom.  So far so similar. Read more

International Women’s Day: 100

8 March 2011

By Lisa Marie Griffith

Forget Pancake Tuesday- Today is the 100th International Women’s Day. The Irish Feminist Network are celebrating by hosting a night in the Mercantile on Dame Street so if you are in Dublin get yourself down there. Looks like a good night! On Thursday, 10 March, Dr William Murphy is giving a paper entitled ‘Voteless, Alas; Women Suffragists and the 1911 census at Dublin City Library and Archives at 6.30. The event is free but the interested are advised to reserve a place by emailing: You can read about the history of the International Women’s Day here.

The JFK Presidency: a 50-year retrospective

4 March 2011

Contributed by Felix M. Larkin

To mark the 50th anniversary of the start of the Kennedy presidency, the JFK Presidential Library in Boston recently hosted a conference bringing together a number of historians, journalists and former officials of the administration to discuss the man and his place in history. The stellar list of participants included Harris Wofford (JFK’s special assistant for civil rights), Richard Reeves (historian and JFK biographer), Ted Widner (a former Clinton speechwriter) and journalists Matt Bai and Gwen Ifill. I attended the conference while on a short holiday in the US.

The Library is a centre of study and research, but also a shrine to JFK’s memory. You would not expect a conference there to be critical of him, and nor was this one. It seemed to me, however, that the participants made a strong case for Kennedy – certainly a remarkable president, one who might have been among the very greatest but for the brevity of his time in office. Read more

Honest to Blog: Programme

17 February 2011


The Pue’s Occurrences blogging symposium takes place Friday 4 March in Trinity College Dublin. Our participants include: Myles Dungan from Myle’s Dungan’s history site, Conor Brady from the Rosnaree Archeological Project Blog, Orla Murphy from Orla Murphy’s Blog, Niamh Cullen from The Little Review, Ciaran Swan speaking on behalf of the Irish Left Archive , Jonathan Wright from Trinity College Dublin, and our own Juliana Adelman from Pue’s Occurrences. Topics to be discussed include blogging as a teaching tool, blogging to teach, web legitimacy and blogging in Ireland. There will be attendance from across the Irish blogging community and a roundtable session at the end for an inclusive discussion from all attendees. You can register on our site here and lunch will be provided. The programme is now available and can be found here.

Who was St Valentine?

14 February 2011

By Lisa Marie Griffith

The Saint Valentine most of the world celebrates (the government has banned the sale of Valentine’s cards in Saudi Arabia) on 14 February, is actually not one saint, but possibly three. We know so little about this third century saint that in 1969 Pope Paul VI revoked the day as a religious holiday stating “though the memorial of Saint Valentine is ancient… a part from his name nothing is known of Saint Valentine”. Too many details about Saint Valentine have been lost to build up a credible account of the saint’s life. Indeed, it is not until ten centuries after his life that we have the first written evidence of his link with love and romance.

We know that there were two or three Valentines who can be linked with the date of 14 February. Read more

The challenges of contemporary history

8 February 2011

By Kevin O’Sullivan

I’ve been thinking a lot (again) recently about how we do what we do. First, the squeeze on public sector spending and comments made in The Irish Times by Glen Dimplex chairman Martin Naughton– ‘it’s crazy for the Government to borrow money and then give it away on overseas aid’ (3 December 2010) – put me in mind of the travails of the Irish aid industry in the 1980s and the lessons they offer to today’s policy-makers. Then, as I sat distilling my thoughts – we’ve been here before, don’t you know – an invite came from the Irish Historical Society to take part in a roundtable discussion on the challenges of writing contemporary history. More time for reflection, further opportunity to think and talk out the future of our profession – what procrastinating historian wouldn’t jump at the chance?

Of course, holding opinions is one thing; articulating them is another. Read More