Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Interview: Brendan Twomey, AIB

3 September 2010

A final interview from our annals.

Interview date: 15 January 2010

What book do you wish you had written?
There are so many possible choices – but deep down for me it would have to be a book on Dublin and particulary one focussing on Swift’s Dublin. Therefore my choice would be Dublin 1660-1860 by Maurice Craig first published in 1952. It was one of the first history books that I ever bought as a teenager.

What would you do if you were not a historian?

In my case, I am not a professional historian, having worked in banking for over 35 years. However, if I had not pursued the career in banking I would of course have wanted to be A HISTORIAN (when I grew up).
When was the last time you looked at Wikipedia?
This week to get some biographical information on eighteenth century Irish landscape painters who had painted the Salmon Leap Cascade in Leixlip which I am currently researching.

What event had the greatest impact on history in Ireland?
Battle of the Boyne – it set the scene for all that has followed.

What are you reading now?
Brean Hammond’s new (2010) critical appraisal of Jonathan Swift in the fine Irish Academic Press Irish writers in their time series. It is both an excellecnt summary of the current state of Swift scholarship as well as a clear statement of Hammond’s own views on the various controversies which still surround all things Swiftian over 260 years after his death.

Interview: Prof. Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, NUI Galway

27 August 2010

Another one of our long-delayed ‘bests’!

Interview date: 14 January 2010.

What book do you wish you had written?

Well, Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization sold so many copies, and made so much money for the author, that I’m tempted to plump for that one! But I’m sure you expect a more serious answer! Hmmm. Either James F. Kenney’s Sources for the Early History of Ireland (1929), or perhaps Helen Waddell, The Wandering Scholars (1927), or John Erickson’s The Soviet High-Command (1972).

What would you do if you were not a historian?

If I were not a historian, I might’ve been a spook! Have a curious fascination with spies & spying, codes & ciphers, and could imagine myself in some place like GCHQ or Langley! In fact, a job as archivist in the new Yasenevo KGB-HQ outside Moscow could be very interesting! On the other hand, I was once offered a (lowly) job in a bank …

When was the last time you looked at Wikipedia?

Can’t remember when I last looked at Wikipedia, but as I warn my students —under pain of death — NEVER to quote the thing as a source in their essays, I shouldn’t waste much time on it myself. Someone recently advised me to check myself out in Wikipedia! He meant it as a compliment! (I haven’t done so). Read more

Interview: Dr Eoin Magennis, IntertradeIreland

13 August 2010

It’s been a while since we posted an inteview on Pue’s, so to make up for lost time, here are two of the best we’ve been saving for you.

Interview date: 14 January 2010

What book(s) do you wish you had written?
In the history field, EP Thompson’s Making of the English Working Class was the history book that first got me interested. But for fun I’d love to have been sitting down to write Gore Vidal’s The Golden Age.

What would you do if you were not working for a cross-border body?
In many ways I’m lucky to be paid for doing what I enjoy – research for InterTradeIreland (usually) gets someone to look at a policy/barrier to cross-border cooperation and (even sometimes) gets them to remove it! Still, if I wasn’t doing this it would have to be the gardening!

When was the last time you looked at Wikipedia?
A few months ago to check a question about econometric equations – you don’t want to know. Read More

Interview: Dr Ruth McManus, St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra

13 August 2010

Interview date: 26 January 2010

What book do you wish you had written?
I’m not sure that there’s a particular book I would have written, but there are many which have influenced me and, I suppose, inspired my own work, among them urban historian Jim Dyos’s seminal study of Camberwell – Victorian Suburb: A Study of the Growth of Camberwell (1961) – which opened up a whole field of research.  I admire the meticulous scholarship of many authors, but won’t name them here for fear of offending those that I’ll inevitably forget to mention!

What would you do if you were not a geographer?
My childhood ambition was to be a rural postman, but I suspect that I would have found myself working in education in some way, at some stage.

When was the last time you looked at Wikipedia?
Yesterday, when I was looking for some background on Ivor the Engine.   Read More

Who are the Irish? Review: Outside the Glow by Heather K. Crawford

18 May 2010

By Kevin O’Sullivan

For the majority of individuals in this country, the concept of being Irish, of what ‘Irishness’ means, remains an elusive concept. Is it defined by religion? Sport? Music? Language? The written word? Is it based on identification with the land or the island of Ireland? Do the Irish share a particular concept of culture and politics? Do we see ourselves in terms of our postcolonial identity – i.e. not being British? Or, as Tom Inglis hinted in his excellent Global Ireland: Same Difference (2008), is it in fact hypocrisy that emerges as the defining trait of the Irish character? (Not that we are unique in our fealty to the hypocritical, but simply that we are better at it than everyone else.)

In attempting to answer those questions we’re led to another, equally vexed and elusive: just who are ‘the Irish’? We are happy to embrace the 70 million or so who claim Irish ancestry across the world, those for whom Mary Robinson lit a candle in the window of Áras an Uachtaráin. But what of the millions of others who love Riverdance, Yeats and U2 and drink just as much in Irish pubs in Shanghai, Dubrovnik and Boston as south Dubliners manage on a Leinster weekend in Toulouse? Closer to home, what of our Polish and other central and eastern European neighbours, of the Chinese-Irish communities in Dublin’s city centre, groups of Nigerian-Irish in its western suburbs, or the large Brazilian-Irish community working and living in Gort, Co. Galway? How do these communities, families and individuals view their role in Irish society and sense of identification with their adopted home? And what of Ireland’s religious minorities and their relationship with the overwhelmingly (if declining) Catholic ethos of modern Ireland?

Based on one hundred anonymised interviews with members of both Protestant and Catholic confessions, Heather Crawford’s new book, Outside the Glow, examines the lives of Protestant Irish men and women across rural and urban communities since the foundation of the state. Their histories and the identities they assumed are unsurprisingly diverse: separate in many ways from the dominant Catholic and nationalist culture, but no less part of the consciousness of the newly independent Ireland. Together they offer an alternative view of the emerging state, challenging the widely-held assumption that ‘there’s no such thing as a poor Protestant’, and exploring the construction of the country’s dominant stereotypes, including knowing and unknowingly derogative stereotypes like the land-grabbing ‘planter’, ‘English pig’ and ‘Protestant bastard’. Read More

Interview: Dr Peter Crooks, Irish Chancery Project and organiser of the ‘Archives in Crisis’ public meeting

12 April 2010

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Fintan O’Toole showered praise on those foregoing the Grand National. Nuns sat on stairs. Historians peered over shoulders at the back. It was, Diarmaid Ferriter told the audience, highly commendable that so many had given up the first rays of summer to sit in a dark windowless room and listen to historians rambling on about the travails of history and ‘forgotten’ archives. But dark, windowless rooms are the historian’s natural habitat, and the 250 or so packed into Trinity College’s Emmet Theatre on Saturday afternoon exuded an energy born of their collective concern at the state of Ireland’s archives.

Immediately after the event, Pue’s cornered its chief organiser, Dr Peter Crooks of the Irish Chancery Project, allowed him a brief respite to gather a box laden with pens, notepads and flyers in one hand, a bunch of fresh daffodils in the other, and began an impromptu interview by asking if he felt the event had been a success. Crooks’s response was characteristically understated; he was happy, he ventured, that it turned into something more than a ‘professional whinge’. But even his natural reticence could do little to hide his enthusiasm at the levels of awareness the meeting had raised, far beyond even the positive indications they had been receiving since posters and flyers for the event had begun to circulate in the last month or so. Read More

Interview: Donough Cahill, Executive director, Irish Georgian Society

8 March 2010

What book do you wish you had written?
Maurice Craig’s Dublin: 1660-1860.

What would you do if you were not working in conservation?
Quite possibly I’d be working in field archaeology as that’s where I was before starting with the IGS.

When was the last time you looked at wikipedia?

What event had the greatest impact on history in Ireland?
The famine because of its broad social, cultural, economic and political legacy.

What book are you currently reading?
I’ve just finished The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and trying to decide now between fiction and non-fiction – any suggestions?

Interview date: 8 November 2009

Celebrate the printed word: World Book Day

4 March 2010

Today is World Book Day; the biggest international celebration of books and reading. This is the thirteenth year that World Book Day has been celebrated in Ireland and in conjunction with the Irish branch of World Book Day will leave books in public places throughout Ireland to encourage people to pick up a book and read. The aim is to encourage people to recyle their books and be more eco-friendly and yes- this means giving books away but you can get one in return!

Looking for a book to read? To mark World Book Day today we thought that we would remind you of some of the answers that were given when we asked a range of historians ‘What book do you wish you had written?’ Read more

Freeeeeee Nelson Mandela

12 February 2010

By Kevin O’Sullivan

I woke up this morning with a song in my head. ‘Freeeeeeee Nelson Mandela. Free. Free. Freeeeee Nelson Mandela.’ Twenty years and one day since the ANC leader left prison? Now there’s an anniversary worth celebrating. Too often in recent times we in the West have been quick to criticise the rainbow nation. Has violent crime damaged the reputation of a diverse and massive country, confusing Cape Town with Durban or Johannesburg in the minds of Westerners? Yes. Will the World Cup be ruined by the noise of the vuvuzela? No. Did Thabo Mbeki talk a lot of nonsense about HIV/AIDS? Undoubtedly. Has the polygamous Jacob Zuma sent out a stereotypical message about African men? Probably. Could both have done more to halt Robert Mugabe’s destruction of neighbouring Zimbabwe? Yes. Has the concentration of economic power in the hands of a small group of businessmen caused difficulties for the country’s continued growth? Possibly. Is positive discrimination hindering economic and social development? Maybe. Was it better under apartheid? Eh, no.

There have been thousands of column inches, a film, and much hot air expended on the Mandela anniversary, but there’s one interview that stands out as the most interesting thing I’ve read, seen or heard in the last two weeks. On 22 January the Financial Times published a chat over lunch with FW de Klerk, the man who as South African President made the decisions to lift the ban on the ANC, release Mandela from prison and begin the process that led to majority rule after the first free elections in South Africa four years later. By then de Klerk had won a Nobel Peace Prize (1993) for his initiatives. But did he, in 2010, believe that apartheid was wrong? Read More

Interview: Dr Conor Kostick, historian and children’s author

8 February 2010

Interview date: 29 September 2009

What book do you wish you had written?
I’m with Cathy Hayes on this one: A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

What would you do if you were not a historian?
Well, I divide my time between history and writing fiction as it is, so ‘author’.

When was the last time you looked at wikipedia?
Sometime during the week. Its very handy for authors wanting to get technical details right, like how a combine harvester works. I don’t use it as a historian, it is not yet reliable enough, but a generation from now perhaps … Read More