‘The role of The Congested Districts Board in post-Famine Ireland’

Tuesday 14th November 2017 at 8.15pm in Lough Ree Yacht Club

Talk by James Morrissey

A CDB house-plan

Summary – The lecture will discuss the setting up of the Congested Districts Boards in Ireland in 1891 and the various initiatives it supported with the goal of alleviating poverty and hardship along the Western seaboard. The Congested Districts Board remained in operation until 1923 and its successes and its failures will be described, as will its long-term legacy.

Speaker – James Morrissey is a leading international Corporate Strategy and Business consultant specialising in trade, commerce and communications. He advises leading national and international businesses in Ireland, the United States and the Caribbean. He is a director of several companies including Newstalk FM, Fleishman Hillard International Communications, and Crannog Books. He was a founder director of the Sunday Business Post and is a former Business Journalist of the Year. A native of Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo, he was educated at Kiltimagh Boys NS, St. Joseph’s College, Garbally Park, Ballinasloe and UCD. His books include ‘Inishbofin & Inishark’, ‘On The Verge of Want’, ‘Hot Whiskey’ and ‘A History of the Fastnet Lighthouse’.
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‘Bombs, bullets and the border- Irish border security 1969-1978’

8.15 pm on Wednesday, 25 October – Sheraton Hotel, Athlone

Talk by Dr Patrick Mulroe

 – This talk will cover a traumatic period in Irish history as violence erupted first in the urban centres of Northern Ireland before spreading to the border. The initial outbreak of violence saw the Irish government adopt a confused and haphazard security policy.


Irish soldiers patrolling the border, around 1970

As the conflict evolved, however, the state developed a more nuanced strategy: clamping down hard on republicans domestically but avoiding overt association with British security forces. This talk explores the evolution of this strategy.

Speaker – Patrick Mulroe is author of ‘Bombs, bullets and the border: Irish security policy 1969-1978′ (Irish Academic Press). He holds a PhD from the University of Ulster.

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Erasing our Past – The Plan to Demolish Athlone’s Castle

8.15 pm on Wednesday, 27 September, Officer’s Mess, Custume Barracks

Talk by Dr Paul Murray

Summary – The plan to demolish Athlone Castle was met with much opposition and little enthusiasm. Those proposing and opposing the plan put forward trenchant and unwavering reasons for advocating their respective standpoints. The plan was opposed by The Old Athlone Society, which resolutely established itself as the guardian of Athlone’s past.

Athlone Castle

Athlone Castle

The personalities on both sides of the conflict generated significant interest and attention from media outlets and Athlonians during the early weeks of 1967. This lecture will focus on whether the efforts to preserve Athlone Castle have endured in serving to promote a greater awareness of Athlone’s heritage, antiquity and past.

Speaker – Dr. Paul Murray was educated at NUI, Galway, Trinity College, Dublin and the King’s Inns. He was an Irish Research Council Scholar from 2000 to 2003. His book, The Irish Boundary Commission and its Origins 1886-1925, is recognised as the authoritative examination of how the prospect of a Boundary Commission aided the ratification of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921.
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Field Trip to Kilkenny, Saturday 16 September 2017

9.00 am, Saturday, 16th September, 2017
Field Trip to Kilkenny

– including Kilkenny Castle, the Medieval Mile Museum, and a walking tour of the historic town centre

On Saturday, 16 September, the Society will travel to Kilkenny on its latest field trip. A bus is available, which leaves at 9.00am from the bottom of the Fair Green car park opposite the Sheraton Hotel. There are spare seats, so there is no problem accommodating late entries. To book a place, email athlonehistory@gmail.com

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2017 William (Billy) English Memorial Lecture: ‘The Future of the Past: Revival Ireland 1891-1922’

Wineport Lodge – 8.30pm, Wednesday 26th April

Talk by Professor Declan Kiberd

Summary – The talk will explore the sources of the Irish Revival in ideas of ‘self-help‘, many rooted in the Protestant tradition. It will consider the ways in which key thinkers and artists of the period were  futurologists but also people activated by a rediscovered sense of Ireland’s past. The talk will also review our current Decade of Commemorations, looking for continuities and discontinuities.

Speaker – Declan Kiberd is Keough Professor of Irish studies at the University of Notre Dame. He taught for many years at UCD. Among his books are ‘Synge and the Irish Language’ (1979), ‘Idir Dhá Chultúr’ (1991), ‘Inventing Ireland’ (1995), ‘Irish Classics’ (2000), ‘The Irish writer and the World’ (2005) and ‘Ulysses and Us’ (2009). Recently, he co-edited the ‘Handbook of the Irish Revival’ (2014), whose texts are at the core of his talk to the society.
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The Pope’s Irish Battalion

Officer’s Mess, Custume Barracks – 8.15pm, Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Talk by Robert Doyle

Ireland and the Papal army

The Company of Saint Patrick in the Papal Army, 1860

Summary – For a nation that cherishes its history, it is remarkable how little is known in Ireland about Irish involvement in the Papal War of 1860. Although identifiable Irish units existed within the British army, this was a unique situation for that era, as fledgling Irish recruits fought with bravery and aplomb in Italy alongside men from Europe’s military super-powers.

They garnered praise from all, friend and foe, who witnessed their actions. However, to the victors the spoils, and, understandably, surviving statues and memorials in Italy only honour those who achieved Italian reunification. Although treated like heroes on their return to Ireland, the deeds of the Battalion of St. Patrick have dissipated with the passing of time. However, as American historian, Brian C. Pohanka, once insightfully remarked, ‘Without memory, we have no deeds’.

Speaker – A public health official by necessity and historian by vocation, Robert Doyle is a native of Baltinglass, Co Wicklow. He has studied the life and career of Myles Keogh for many years and is the co-creator of http://www.myleskeogh.org. He is also a frequent speaker on military history, has written for popular history periodicals including, Military Illustrated and History Ireland and is a contributing editor for the Irish heritage website, http://www.thewildgeese.com.

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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 Logainm.ie, 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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