2021 Centenaries 1912-1923 Free Event Friday West Cork Histories

Sean Boyne: The Execution of Bridget Noble

Fri Aug 6

The Execution of Bridget Noble – Sean Boyne

Sean is a retired journalist and a former political correspondent with The Sunday World. His book explores what happened to Bridget Noble, one of only two women known to have been disappeared by the IRA during the 1920s.

2021 empire Free Event Saturday West Cork Histories

Patricia O’Sullivan: Irish Police in Hong Kong

Sat Aug 7

An unsinkable constable makes an arrest: the Newmarket Men who policed colonial Hong Kong – Patricia O’Sullivan

Patricia O’Sullivan started researching Hong Kong’s vibrant history in 2010, initially uncovering long-forgotten family stories for Policing Hong Kong – an Irish History, (Blacksmith Books, Hong Kong, 2017). Based in the UK, but spending upwards of three months of the year in Hong Kong (until Covid-19 arrived) she has written a number of articles on forgotten aspects of the city’s life, some of which can be found on her website, www.socialhistoryhk.comWomen, Crime and the Courts: Hong Kong 1841-1941, which explores the lives of ordinary women in Hong Kong’s early years through the stories of what happened when things went wrong, was published in 2020.

Policing Hong Kong – an Irish History

Hong Kong 1918. A tranquil place compared to war-torn Europe. But on the morning of 22nd January, a running battle through the streets of Wanchai ended in the ‘Siege of Gresson Street’. Five policemen lay dead, so shocking Hong Kong that over half the population turned out to watch their funeral procession.
One of the dead, Inspector Mortimor O’Sullivan, came from Newmarket, Co. Cork. He, along with a dozen and more from this little town, had sailed out to Hong Kong to join its Police Force between 1864 and 1950. 
Using family records and memories alongside extensive research in Hong Kong, Ireland and London, Patricia O’Sullivan tells the stories of these policemen, their families and connections in a setting about as remote from rural north Cork as it was possible to be. 
Policing Hong Kong  – an Irish History pub. Blacksmith Books 2017 ISBN 978-988-7792734 is available from bookshops worldwide, or direct from the author

2021 empire Free Event Saturday West Cork Histories

Robert Harris: Echoes of the Zulu Wars

Sat Aug 7

Echoes of the Zulu Wars in West Cork – Robert Harris

Robert Harris is co-writer – with Finola Finlay – of the arts and culture blog Roaringwater Journal which covers mainly West Cork history, archaeology, art, landscape and nature and can be found here: Roaringwater Journal

A now retired architect, Robert has lived overlooking Rossbrin Cove for a decade and admires the ruins of the O’Mahony castle at Rossbrin, the 15th century home of the clan Tánaiste Finghinn – known as the ‘scholar prince’. Finghinn gathered around him scribes and bards and created a great centre of learning on this now remote headland. Robert does not claim to be a ‘learned’ expert, but sets out to be an enthusiast, something which is perhaps vindicated by the 850 posts which Roaringwater Journal has published since its advent in 2012. A few years ago, Maura Cahalane – then Chair of the Skibbereen Historical society – asked Robert to investigate the part played by some West Cork residents in the Zulu Wars of 1879. This gave rise to the talk presented here: a new interest was born.

2021 Centenaries 1912-1923 Free Event Friday West Cork Histories

Flor MacCarthy: A family on both sides

Fri Aug 6

A family on both sides of the 1921 Rosscarbery RIC barracks attack – Flor MacCarthy.

Mark Hennessy, News Editor of the Irish Times, joins Flor to discuss her family’s experiences and the wider context.

Flor comments: “One hundred years ago, (March 30th 1921), two of my granduncles’ paths crossed in the famous attack which obliterated the RIC Barracks in Rosscarbery, Co. Cork. Sgt Ambrose (O’)Shea (46), my mother’s uncle, a father of 3 young sons, was killed instantly in the 400lb bomb blast. Jer Mac (24), my father’s uncle, known as ‘The Dauntless Man’ had quit his medical studies at UCC to join Tom Barry’s Flying Column, old IRA. He became Vice-Commandant of the 4th Battalion, 3rd West Cork Brigade and was one of those involved in the attack. Fierce fighting raged until dawn, when the garrison surrendered, the barracks ablaze.

The RIC lost two men that night, Sgt Ambrose (O’) Shea and twenty-two year old Constable Charles Bowles from Kent. It’s believed a third man, Constable Kinsella died of his injuries some time later, and 9 other RIC officers were injured. The death toll rose again the morning after the attack when a grenade exploded accidentally killing twenty-seven year old George Allen Wilson, a 60 year old local farmer, Patrick Collins from Derryduff, and a four year old child, Cornelius Francis Fitzpatrick from The Square, Rosscarbery.  The IRA suffered no casualties.

Ambrose was buried in secret in Baltimore where he’d been living; his wife & children left West Cork. Jer Mac left too, for the USA, never to return. Three decades later, just before a visit ‘home’ he was killed in Trenton, New Jersey. The two men had never met; they didn’t know eachother. With my parents’ marriage in the ‘50s, the families united; we’re the link between Ambrose & Jer – our granduncles…”.

Flor MacCarthy is a broadcast journalist who presents political debates on Oireachtas TV (Irish parliamentary TV) interviewing politicians and academics in Ireland and abroad. A former news reporter and presenter with RTÉ, she contributed to a variety of current affairs and arts programming across the RTÉ schedule. Freelancing these days and with a passion for history, she has worked on several events in the Decade of Centenaries. Flor is from Skibbereen and lives in Dun Laoghaire.

2021 empire Free Event West Cork Histories

‘Hope On, Hope Ever’: Festival Concert with Jessie Kennedy, Tess Leak & the Vespertine Quintet

Sat, Aug 7 2021 8.30pm Festival Concert: ‘Hope On, Hope Ever: a musical response inspired by elements of the Franklin Expedition’ with Jessie Kennedy, Tess Leak and the Vespertine Quintet

The full Festival programme is here:

‘Hope On, Hope Ever’ has been created by musicians Jessie Kennedy & Tess Leak, in collaboration with curator Dr Claire Warrior. This project was inspired by the well-known folk song “Franklin’s Lament,” which Jessie has performed live in recent years. The performance will feature re-interpretations of original folk music played on Franklin’s ships. Using books & other resources from the museum, the place of the Inuits in the oral keeping of the history and stories of the expedition will be weaved into the piece, using actual samples of their music and responses. These will be intertwined with original pieces of music and word.

In the creation and performance of this musical piece we will explore themes such as hope, perseverance, bravery, love, isolation, support, community, and reflect their relevance in these challenging times. Even in the darkest of situations, we look at how life, love and friendship – not just death and loss- was celebrated through music, loyalty and friendship. We look at the enduring love of Jane Franklin and her perseverance in searching for her husband after his disappearance. The title “Hope On, Hope Ever” is taken from the flag hand-sewn by Jane Franklin for her husband on the expedition. It will be performed live and streamed by Jessie with The Vespertine Quintet, who augment a traditional string quartet with piano, vocals, electronics and sound textures.

Jessie Kennedy 

Jessie is an Irish vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and composer from West Cork. She has released four studio albums to date, including the acclaimed “The Carbery Songs”. Jessie has performed and collaborated with many artists including sixties legend Donovan, Sacha Puttnam, Jeremy Irons, Interference, James McVinnie, Nigel Kennedy, John Spillane and Patsy Puttnam. She has headlined venues such as The National Concert Hall, Dublin, Cork Opera House, St. Andrews in London and St. Barrahanes Classical Music Festival. Jessie is currently working on her fifth studio album.

Tess Leak 

Tess is a visual artist and musician who often collaborates with composers, dancers, poets and puppeteers. She is a graduate of both the BA in Visual Art on Sherkin Island and the ‘Curious School of Puppetry’ in London.

Tess has worked as part of the Arts for Health Partnership Programme in West Cork since 2010, developing cross-artform projects in collaboration with participants in healthcare settings.  Tess performs as a cellist with groups such as The Vespertine Quintet and Barefoot Baroque.

The Vespertine Quintet

The Vespertine Quintet is a collection of musicians from West Cork, comprising the traditional string quartet and piano with added electronic sounds.

The quintet was born during a long West Cork winter as an idea by violinist Justin Grounds to gather some friends and play some sparse and wintery minimalist music by Icelandic composer Olafur Arnalds and Estonian Arvo Pärt. They put on a series of house concerts, gathering friends in houses in West Cork, sharing warm food and wine and playing their program. Word soon got out and the quintet were invited to play to a sold out audiences at venues like Glebe Gardens, Lissard House for the Skibbereen Arts Festival, a winter series of collaborations with well-known solo artists at DeBarras Clodagh Simonds of Fovea Hex, Poet and Peacemaker Padraig O Tuama, Farewell J.R., Liam O Maonlaoi (the Hothouse Flowers), composer Tom Adams, Choice Music Award winner Adrian Crowley and many others.

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Partition, Helen Hooker O’Malley & Edith Somerville

This week we have the centenary of Partition along with the photographs of Helen Hooker O’Malley, a medieval manuscript associated with St Colum Cille and Edith Somerville’s birthday.

On Partition there was a lot to read and hear, including the Irish History show podcast with Cathal Brennan and John Dorney interviewing Cormac Moore; the Creative Centenaries website, based in Northern Ireland has lots of good content on this and many other subjects; the Irish Times interviewed a woman born in the year of partition while this was a good summary on the BBC website.

The National Library of Ireland has a wonderful online exhibition looking at the work of photographer Helen Hooker O’Malley. Born in the USA, she met Irish revolutionary and author Ernie O’Malley and they married in 1935 and moved to Ireland. Although they were divorced in 1952, she continued to love Ireland and photographed both urban and rural lives and landscapes.

Another online exhibition, this one from the Royal Irish Academy and telling the story of the manuscript known as the Cathach of Colum Cille, Dating from the 6th century, it contains a copy of the psalms written in Latin and is closely associated with Saint Colum Cille (c. 521-597), in this year which marks 1500 years since his birth. A Cathach was an object believed to have protective power in battle. One page, taken from the RIA website, is shown below.


And finally yesterday, 2 May, was the birthday of one of West Cork’s most famous writers, Edith Somerville (1858-1949). She was born in Corfu, but spent most of her life at Drishane House in Castletownshend – the house is still lived in by the Somerville family and you can find out more about it on their website.  Read more about Edith herself on the Dictionary of Irish Biography website. The image below was drawn by Edith herself and is on the cover of her book Maria and Some Other Dogs. She wrote this book, as so many others, with her cousin Violet Martin.