Irish as a vernacular language in Athlone and its hinterland, 1600-c.1970

Sheraton Hotel, Athlone – 8.15pm, Wednesday, 8 March, 2017

Talk by Dr Aengus Finnegan

Ireland, Language, Gaelic, History

Map drawn by former Taoiseach, Garret Fitzgerald, detailing rates of pre-famine Irish speaking

Summary – The Irish language survived as a natively spoken language in the Athlone area as recently as the 1960s – something which will no doubt surprise many. And yet the story of the Irish language in Athlone, and the midlands in general, is very much a neglected one. This lecture will trace the changing fortunes of the Irish and English languages in and around Athlone from the early 17th century to the present day.

Speaker – Aengus Finnegan, a native of Glassan, is a lecturer in Irish at the University of Limerick. He completed a PhD on townland names in Co. Westmeath at the Department of Modern Irish, NUI Galway, in 2012. From 2013 to 2015 he was employed in Fiontar, the Irish-language unit of Dublin City University. While there, he worked as a Research Editor on a number of Irish-language digitisation projects, including over a year as Project Coordinator of, The Placenames Database of Ireland. His interests include: Irish placenames, surnames, and personal names; Modern and Early Modern Irish-language literature; folklore; and the historical dialectology and sociolinguistic heritage of the Irish language in central Ireland.

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‘Showmen and the RFC: Early Aviation in Ireland 1909-14’

Lough Ree Yacht Club, Athlone – 8.15pm, Wednesday, 22 February, 2017

Talk by Guy Warner

Summary – “Few people nowadays are able to visualise the difficulties and dangers of learning to fly in 1910…flying was in the experimental stage, it was impossible to predict how the frail and flimsy structure would behave in the air.”  – Captain Frederick Sykes, writing in 1940.

Guy Warner, Aviation, Ireland

The cover of Guy’s latest publication

This lecture will be based on Guy Warner’s brand new, fully illustrated, account of early aviation in Ireland. He will describe and examine the key events in the field of aviation during the years between Harry Ferguson’s first flight and the outbreak of the First World War. The lecture will cover the people, the aircraft and the places involved, and will make much use of contemporary sources to reveal the story through the eyes of those who witnessed these exciting times. All the main personalities will be covered, as well as new research on several hitherto lesser known pioneers.
Speaker – Guy Warner is a retired schoolteacher and former MOD civil servant, who grew up in Newtownabbey in Northern Ireland, attending Abbots Cross Primary School and Belfast High School before going to Leicester University and later Stranmillis College. He now lives in Greenisland, County Antrim with his wife Lynda. He also has two grown up daughters and three grandchildren. He is the author of 28 books and booklets on aviation past and present and has written hundreds of articles for magazines in the UK, Ireland and the USA. He also reviews books for several publications, gives talks to local history societies etc and has appeared on TV and radio programmes, discussing aspects of aviation history.
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‘Reflections on the Centenaries’

Sheraton Hotel, Athlone – 8pm, Wednesday, 25 January, 2017

Talk by Dr Brian Hanley


Summary  There is a sense of almost universal relief that the 2016 Centenary was an outstanding success. But what politics underpinned the commemorations and will we see more dissension when we reach 2019 or 2022? This talk will look at the politics and controversies of the current decade of centenaries, from the First World War to the Easter Rising and will look forward to War of Independence and the Civil War. How will the Irish state and the Irish public react to those centenaries and what can the commemorations tell us about modern Irish life and politics?

Speaker – Dr Brian Hanley is a historian who has written extensively on Irish republicanism and radicalism. He is the author of the ‘IRA, 1926-36’ and co-author of ‘The Lost Revolution: the story of the Official IRA and the Workers Party’ (Penguin, 2009), which was awarded the Political Studies Association of Ireland Brian Farrell award in 2010. He is a regular contributor on TV and radio and, during the the course of 2016, has spoken on various aspects of the Irish revolution to audiences across Ireland, in Bradford and Edinburgh, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Montreal.
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The Hill of Gathering – Assembly Places and Practices in Gaelic Ireland

Lough Ree Yacht Club, on Wednesday, 7th December, 2016, at 8.00 pm

– Talk by Prof. Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, NUI Galway

Summary – Professor Fitzpatrick’s lecture for the Old Athlone Society on ‘The Hill of Gathering’ is about the places chosen to hold seasonal assemblies, royal meetings and inauguration ceremonies of Gaelic kings and lords in medieval Ireland. Some important gathering places in Westmeath are included.


Tulach Mac Amhalghaidh, the gathering place of the Magawleys of Calary, near Moate, County Westmeath (History Ireland)

Speaker – Elizabeth FitzPatrick is a personal professor of historical archaeology at the School of Geography and Archaeology, NUI Galway, a director of the Discovery Programme and a fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. Her research and publications address landscape and settlement among Gaelic peoples of Ireland and Scotland from the 7th to the 17th century, with a focus on social organisation and cultural practice, topographies of power and territorial boundaries in medieval Ireland. She has published widely on assembly places and inauguration sites including a book on the subject Royal inauguration in Gaelic Ireland c.1100–1600: a cultural landscape study. She is currently completing a book on the landscapes and settlements of Gaelic learned families in Ireland 1200-160AD. She also leads cross-disciplinary publication projects important to Irish identity and cultural life among them Food and drink in Ireland and Domestic life in Ireland published by the Royal Irish Academy.

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‘Eoin O’Duffy – Founding Father or Floundering Fascist?’

Officers’ Mess, Custume Barracks, on Tuesday, 22 November 2016, at 8pm

– Talk by Maurice Manning, D.Litt MRIA, Chancellor of the National University of Ireland

Eoin O'Duffy, Police, Ireland, Free State

Eoin O’Duffy in 1922

Summary – The key force in shaping the Garda Siochana, a founder member and first leader of Fine Gael and the youngest army general in Europe at the time, O’Duffy’s achievements were considerable. But today, if one thinks of him at all, it is in connection with his latter-day flirtation with fascism. The man who was one of the most respected figureheads of the fledgling Irish Free State saw his successes being eclipsed by a decade of failures before he died in 1944.

Speaker – Maurice Manning (D.Litt MRIA) is Chancellor of the National University of Ireland and currently chairs the Government’s Expert Advisory Group on the Decade of Centenaries. He has written extensively on modern Irish history and politics.

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Liberating Ireland: Daniel O’Connell and the Civil Rights Campaigns of the Nineteenth Century

Lough Ree Yacht Club, on Wednesday, 26th October, 2016, at 8.00 pm

– Talk by Prof. Patrick Geoghegan, TCD
(with an introduction by Mr. Justice John Mac Menamin, Supreme Court)

Daniel O'Connell, Patrick Geoghegan, TCD, Repeal, Ireland

Daniel O’Connell ‘defending the rights of his countrymen in the courts of Dublin, Feb. 4, 1844’ (US Library of Congress)

Summary – On 18 June 1843 Daniel O’Connell addressed a monster meeting in Athlone where he urged the huge crowd to throw their enemies into the River Shannon. But despite proclaiming ‘Freedom or death’, the campaign for Repeal ended in failure later that year. This lecture will look at O’Connell’s major campaigns in the nineteenth century, from his successful campaign for civil rights in the 1820s, to his ongoing war against slavery in the United States, and through to his failed campaign for Repeal in the 1840s. Towards the end of his life Eamon De Valera admitted that the revolutionary generation of 1916 had never given O’Connell the respect he deserved, and he acknowledged that they would never have achieved independence without him. This lecture explores what De Valera meant.

Speaker – Professor Geoghegan is an expert on the Anglo-Irish relationship in the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as on the competing themes of constitutional nationalism and republicanism between 1782 and 1848. His acclaimed two-volume study of Daniel O’Connell completed his examination of the tensions and conflicts which emerged following the abolition of the Irish parliament. The first volume provided a new analysis of the winning of Catholic Emancipation in 1829 while the second discussed the attempts to repeal the Union which failed so dramatically in the 1840s. A Vice-President of the College Historical Society (and a former gold medalist for oratory at the L&H), Professor Geoghegan has always been interested in the role of oratory in political debate and how oratory shaped political discourse. His current work develops from these interests and examines how Edmund Burke both succeeded and failed in using oratory to change the nature of imperial debate in the eighteenth century. He has also been commissioned to write the official history of the College Historical Society for its 250th anniversary.

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The Trial of Roger Casement

Officer’s Mess, Custume Barracks, on Tuesday, 4th October, 2016, at 8.00 pm

– Talk by Mr. Justice Donal O’Donnell, Supreme Court

Roger Casement, Easter Rising

Roger Casement (US Library of Congress)

Speaker – The Hon Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell is a Belfast-born barrister who comes from a distinguished legal family. He was a leading constitutional law practitioner and a law reform commissioner who has worked on a number of high-profile cases before being appointed to the Supreme Court in 2010. Mr. Justice Donal O’Donnell was educated at St Mary’s C.B.S., University College Dublin (B.C.L.), King’s Inns (B.L.) and the University of Virginia (LL.M). During his time at UCD, he excelled as an orator who, with his debating partner, was part of the only team to win the Observer Mace debate twice in 1978 & 1979. The Observer Mace  is the annual debating tournament contested by universities in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. He was called to the Irish Bar in 1982, commenced practice in 1983 and was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland in 1989. He took silk in 1995 and has practised in all Courts in Ireland, in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). While at the Bar he published articles in the Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly (NILQ), Judicial Studies Institute Journal (JSIJ), and Bar Review. His father, Lord Justice Turlough O’Donnell, was a member of the Northern Ireland High Court and the Court of Appeal between 1971 and 1990 and subsequently became a part-time member of the Irish Law Reform Commission. Donal O’Donnell has been a member of the Law Reform Commission since 2005. He is also a member of the Royal Irish Academy Committee on the Origins of the Constitution.

Summary – Roger Casement’s conviction for treason was a hugely controversial event at the time and the focus of world attention. His execution, in August 1916, was the final execution associated with the events of the Easter Rising. Mr. Justice Donal O’Donnell will provide an analysis of the circumstances and the course of Casement’s trial.

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