Posts Tagged ‘Commemoration’

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

Katyn: a Polish tragedy in two acts?

19 May 2010

Contributed by Julia Eichenberg

On April 10th a Polish plane crashed at the small airport in Smolensk in Russia. No one on board survived the crash, the most famous victim being the then Polish president, Lech Kaczyński. A month after the crash the causes are still being investigated, but the discussion mainly focuses on history. The crash proved to be cataclysmic for the Polish nation because of the plane’s destination, because of the composition of the passenger list, and the political impact of the tragedy. Surprisingly, the tragic event might have had at least some positive side effects.

The plane was heading for Smolensk but the real destination of its passengers was the nearby town of Katyń, to commemorate a horrendous massacre committed during World War II. In 1940, the Soviet Army executed about 20,000 Polish Officers in the area, aiming to extinguish the Polish elite and facilitate Soviet rule over Poland. When the mass graves were discovered in 1943, Soviet Russia blamed Nazi Germany for the massacre. The official Soviet narrative of Katyń as a German war crime was held up, in Russia as well as by the Soviet-influenced Polish historiography, until the downfall of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev was the first to admit Stalin’s orders to commit the massacre of Polish officers; Yeltsin opened Soviet archives containing historical sources proving Soviet guilt. But still in 2009, Polish victims of Katyń were denied the status of victims of Stalinist terror. Only this year did Putin agree to a binational commemoration ceremony in Katyń on 7th April 2010. While refusing to accept Katyń as a Russian responsibility, Putin now supported the recognition of its victims as Stalinist victims. Read more

More On Remembrance

18 December 2009

Contributed by Peter Rigney

Ceist: Which serves commemoration better- wearing a poppy for half the autumn or lobbying councillors to retain a British Legion Hall in Killester due to be demolished to make way for a crèche?

The Northside People recently carried a story about the controversy over the proposed demolition of this structure, built in the 1920s and described as the last remaining structure of its kind in Ireland. A protest meeting was called by Labour councillor Aodhan O Riordain and was attended by Artane man Noel Cullen, secretary of the local Royal British Legion branch. We are not told how the hall went out of the possession of the legion.

The Killester development, where 247 bungalows were built for the families of men who fought in World War 1 was part of the ‘Homes fit for heroes’.  Killester railway station was built to serve it, and the competing private bus line was called ‘The Contemptible’: using the brand image of the ‘Old Contemptibles’, those who had served since 1914.  The statement that the hall is unique is an error: there is a hall built by the British Legion in the CIE estate near Inchicore Railway Works which is now home to a boxing club. Read More

Kanchanaburi and the World War 2 Thai-Burma railway

2 December 2009

Contributed by John Griffith

Between December 1942 and October 1943, 60,000 Allied Prisoners of war and 177,000 Tamil, Malay and Burmese worked for the Japanese to build a strategically (for the Japanese) important railway through the jungles of Burma and Thailand. For nearly two hundred kilometres of its journey the railway ran alongside a river called the Khwae Noi or ‘little river’. Around 12,500 Allied soldiers and more than 85,000 Asian labourers died during its construction and it became known as the ‘Death Railway’.

In Sept. 2009, while holidaying in Thailand I visited Kanchanaburi. Today the town is a pleasant, easy going city with a population of about 52,000 located about 150 km to the north-west of Bangkok. During WW2 however, it was the location of the Japanese construction headquarters for the railway’s construction on the Thailand side. Today it carries no visible evidence of the horrors which took place there, and in the dozens of other camps scattered along the length of the railway, during those terrible years. However a visit to the Commonwealth war cemeteries in the area quickly reveals the stark reality of the deaths which took place as the railway was built. The cemetery at Kanchanaburi holds the graves of approx 5,000 Commonwealth and 1,800 Dutch soldiers and it is located very close to the site of the actual base camp where many of them died. Read more

The Cult of Collins

21 August 2009

Contributed by Justin Dolan Stover

JDS and Collins

You have seen him around.  His portraits line the walls of the Military Archives at Cathal Brugha Barracks; his imposing civilian bust barks at you from Archbishop Ryan Park; his disciplined torso overlooks your pint at The Bank on College Green.  He is remembered and celebrated (and commercialised) to an extent unequivocal of modern Irish historical figures.  His death mask resides within the Museum Barracks which bares his name; fresh flowers line his grave at Glasnevin year-round, accompanied occasionally by elderly women praying the rosary; idols bearing his likeness are peddled at nearly every heraldic shop in town; and the annual pilgrimage to the place of his death that will take place this Saturday to Béal na mBláth in Cork, draws thousands. He has transcended the traditional form of historical conveyance to grace both screen and stage.  The musical portrayal of his life c.1916-1922, initiated in 2005 by the Cork Opera House, has launched in Cork, Waterford and Dublin.  The film, in which Liam Neeson portrays him as the tragic hero opposite Alan Rickman’s sinister interpretation of Eamon de Valera, is currently on the four for €22 shelf at HMV.

On the anniversary of this death it seems like a good time to ask why are we as historians, and to a larger extent as a nation, so interested in Michael Collins? Read More