‘Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson – Soldier and Politician’

Wednesday, 6 December, 8.15pm in the Officer’s Mess, Custume Barracks

Talk by David Cook

Summary Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, a native of Ballinalee, Co Longford, is  a major and controversial figure in Irish and British history. An Irish unionist, he gained a reputation as an intensely ‘political’ soldier, especially during the ‘Curragh crisis’ of 1914.

A sketch of Wilson’s Assassination in London on 22 June 1922

During the First World War, he became Chief of the Imperial General Staff, the professional head of the British army, a post he held until February 1922. After Wilson retired from the army, he became an MP and was chief security adviser to the new Northern Ireland government. David Cook’s lecture will assess Wilson’s career, particularly during the First World War, and after. Despite his high ranking, Wilson’s reputation was left in tatters by his outrageously indiscreet diaries, published not long after he was shot dead in London on 22 June 1922. His life makes for a remarkable story.

Speaker David Cook is a solicitor and former Deputy Leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland. He was Lord Mayor of Belfast from 1978 to 79, and Chairman of the Police Authority of Northern Ireland from 1994 to 1996.

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‘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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