The West Cork History Festival, taking place near Skibbereen from August 16-19, 2018, is for everyone who is interested in history. With a broad range of speakers including historians, curators and writers, the festival reflects the complex and engaging history of Cork, while also dealing with broader national and international themes.
This year the festival will mark the centenary of 1918, a momentous year in Ireland and globally, with talks on events in Europe and Ireland in that year. This will include the dramatic General Election, Irish women’s suffrage, and the impact of the influenza epidemic. Professor Alvin Jackson will open the festival by focusing on two giants of Irish politics in the period, Edward Carson and John Redmond, who died in 1918.
One hundred years from the end of the First World War, the festival will look at aspects of that conflict. Professor John Horne will discuss the new frontiers, and in some cases conflicts, created in 1918 and the years immediately afterwards, in Europe and the Middle East.
Two films that focus on the First World War will be screened, the influential ‘Oh! What A Lovely War’, released in 1969, and journalist Ronan McGreevy’s ‘United Ireland: How Nationalists and Unionists fought together in Flanders’. There will also be talks on Irish airmen in the Great War and Irish war veterans in the revolutionary period.
The festival organisers continue the discussions on the revolutionary period in Ireland, which they began at the 2017 festival, with a range of speakers including Cal Hyland discussing Protestant experiences of the revolution, Dr Andy Bielenberg, speaking on ‘Disappearances in Co Cork 1920-22 and the case of Mrs Lindsay’, Professor Linda Connolly speaking on ‘Addressing the violence suffered by women during the Irish Revolution’, and Dr Brian Hughes on community interaction with the IRA and how this was reported in Ireland and Britain. Also featured is Terri Kearney of the Skibbereen Heritage Centre who will speak on ‘Stories of the Revolution’, a schools’ folklore project collecting accounts of the 1916-23 period in West Cork.
Organisers are delighted to be joined by Dr Niamh O’Sullivan, curator of the exhibition Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger, which is currently on show in Skibbereen. The exhibition is drawn from the collections of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. Dr O’Sullivan’s talk will be part of another Festival theme, history as mediated through art. The former director of Cork’s Crawford Art Gallery, Peter Murray, will be speaking about Victorian geologist and antiquary George Victor Du Noyer, about whom he curated a widely praised exhibition. Niamh MacNally of the National Gallery of Ireland will speak about neglected Irish artist Margaret Clarke. Also screening is the film Citizen Lane (2018), which provides a vivid portrait of Irish art collector, and Cork-born, Hugh Lane. Lane perished on the Lusitania returning from New York.
With a more local focus, Dr Connie Kelleher of the Underwater Archaeology Unit in the National Monuments Service will describe her work on the wreck of the Spanish treasure galleon Santa Ana Maria, lost in Castlehaven harbour. William Casey will talk about West Cork cillíní (unconsecrated burial grounds), while Finola Finlay, co- author of the Roaringwater Journal blog will focus on Agnes Clerke, pioneering astronomer who was born in Skibbereen. A Dunmanway double bill will feature Reverend Cliff Jeffers introducing a documentary on the town’s community bells, while historian Kieran Connolly will speak about one of Dunmanway’s most famous sons, Sam Maguire.
The festival organisers are very pleased that on the Saturday night, acclaimed singer Jessie Kennedy and Lady Patsy Puttnam will perform a concert Lady Mary Carbery’s West Cork Diaries, 1898-1901 – A Musical Narrative. This is based on the memories of Lady Carbery, who lived at Castle Freke in the early years of the 20th century. The festival will end on Sunday evening with a reading by Jeremy Irons of poetry provoked by the First World War and Irish Revolution.
For the first time, walks and field trips are arranged to historically and archaeologically important locations in and around Skibbereen, which will both complement themes explored at the festival, and enhance understanding of them. The Thursday History & Archaeology field trip is already sold out, but there are still tickets available for the Friday field trip concentrating on An Gorta Mór, History and Art.
Excellent West Cork food and drink will be available throughout the three days of the festival. There will also be book tent selling new, second-hand, and rare books, run by Cathal O’Donovan of the Skibbereen Bookshop and Holger Smyth of The Time Traveller’s Bookshop.
More information is available at www.westcorkhistoryfestival.org, where tickets can also be booked for all the events.
Rosebank, Russagh, Castletownshend Road, Skibbereen, Co Cork P81 HF61
087 356 1871