May Day

Due to Covid-19 restrictions all commemorative events in Ireland have been either cancelled or postponed. Several summer schools have now also unfortunately announced that they will not be proceeding this summer.
But that hasn’t halted Ireland’s librarians, heritage officers, historians, archivists, museum curators, county councils and teachers from endeavoring to continue sharing their research.
Behind the closed doors of our libraries and museums, from the spare room and the kitchen table, people are working to continue telling the story of Ireland’s history.
In a short space of time everyone involved in heritage has had to adjust how they normally work, some without any physical access to their source material.
The current restrictions have demonstrated how much we rely on access to reliable information – informed medical updates are most crucial at the moment, but Ireland is also turning to its arts, culture and heritage sectors.
We need entertainment, fun and a chance to read and learn parts of our history that many felt they never had the time to do before the lockdown.
The aim of the newsletter again this month is to provide a sample of some of what is available for you to access at home – or books that you can order online.
When Ireland opens its doors again please try to support local booksellers, walking tours, heritage groups – all those who work to bring our history to you through their work.
The May/June History Ireland magazine is available online for subscribers.

In the May/June ’20 issue of History Ireland: Stephen McGarry revisits the Battle of Fontenoy, May 1745; Bruce Kelley reassesses the reputation of Isaac Butt; Martin Greene suggests a Joycean critique of Griffith’s The Resurrection of Hungary; Rory Sweetman on the Kiwis who defended Trinity College in 1916; Fiona Fitzsimons on the Registers of Successful Vaccinations; and Joe Connell on the 1920 Listowel Mutiny.

There is also a single subscription offer at the moment – for €5 you can receive a digital edition of the current issue and access to the archive for two months.
To subscribe to receive a digital edition of the History Ireland magazine every month, click *here* to see the available options.
This also gives access to the archive of articles.
A physical copy will be in the shops this weekend.
As always, if you would like to inform us of any suitable material – anything related to the Decade of Centenaries – please feel free to email

            Soviets, strikes and land seizures—class conflict & the Tan War


New History Ireland PODCAST
This Podcast is part of the History Ireland Hedge School programme supported by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht under the Decade of Centenaries 2012- 2023 initiative.
         Soviets, strikes and land seizures—class conflict & the Tan War
In the midst of the War of Independence a parallel class war raged, with strikes, land-seizures and even the establishment of soviets.
What was its relationship to the national struggle?
And why did it seem to dissipate?
To answer these and related questions, listen to History Ireland editor, Tommy Graham, in discussion with Sarah-Anne Buckley (NUI Galway), John Cunningham (NUI Galway), Brian Hanley (TCD) and Mary Muldowny (Dublin City Council Historian-in-Residence).
This Hedge School, supported by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and in association with Galway Trades Council, was recorded and is available as a podcast *here*:
Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley, Department of History, NUIG, is an internationally recognised scholar in the field of modern Irish social history, particularly in the fields of Irish gender history, History of child welfare in Ireland and Britain, Women’s History, Institutional Histories and Youth Culture.
Dr John Cunningham is the Director of Taught MA, Department of History, NUIG and a former editor of Saothar: journal of Irish Labour History, John Cunningham’s research interests include Irish local history, the moral economy, and global syndicalism with a specialist interest in Labour Biography; Transnational Syndicalism; Social Protest and Moral Economy; Irish Local History; History of Urban Galway; History of Irish Education and Modern Ireland Labour Movements – Irish and Transnational.
Dr Brian Hanley (TCD), specialist interests include Irish republicanism, labour and radicalism, 1918 General Election, the 1916 Easter Rising, the Irish revolution and Civil War, trans-national aspects of the Irish revolution, 1969 and the birth of the ‘Troubles’, class in 20th century Ireland, the Great War and the Irish Revolution, Irish America, race and the Irish in America, the Northern Ireland conflict, the impact of the ‘Troubles’ and the Irish Republic.
Dr Mary Muldowney is the Dublin City Council Historian in Residence for Dublin Central. A graduate of Trinity College Dublin, she is the author of books, journal articles, blogs and broadcasts on labour and public history, frequently using oral history interviews as a primary source in her research and publications. This includes the history of women workers; the pro-choice movement in Ireland; women and war and working-class history. In her role as Historian in Residence, she has been involved in promoting the study of history through engagement with the public in libraries, community centers, schools, and museums.
Tommy Graham (History Ireland magazine) Tommy Graham, a history graduate of Trinity College, is one of the founders of History Ireland magazine and has been its editor since its beginning in 1993. He is an experienced broadcaster and lecturer, currently lecturing in history and politics at Griffith College. He also founded (1986) and continues to run, Historical Walking Tours of Dublin.

About History Ireland Hedge Schools

The History Ireland Hedge Schools, developed by Tommy Graham, are a public history format for making high quality research accessible to a general audience and are lively, unfettered debates on a range of historical topics.
For media interviews on History Ireland Hedge Schools contact Tommy Graham, editor History Ireland magazine and Hedge School ‘Master’.
About the Decade of Centenaries 2012-2023
The objective of the State programme for the period 2020-2023 is to ensure a deeper understanding of a complex period in our history, including the Struggle for Independence, the Civil War, the Foundation of the State and Partition and that these events and others are marked appropriately.

Following on from last month’s publication recommendations here are a few more:

       May 25 Burning of the Custom House 1921

       Liz Gillis and Mícheál Ó Doibhilín

On May 25, 1921 the IRA launched one of its largest and most audacious operations when it attacked Dublin’s Custom House, the heart of the British administration in Ireland.

Many still view this as a military failure that destroyed the IRA’s Second Battalion in Dublin.

But, over the last number of years, historians Liz Gillis and Mícheál Ó Doibhilín have, based on their extensive research, challenged this view, arguing that the operation was, in fact, a success which possibly helped bring about a truce and the subsequent Treaty negotiations.


Available *here*


     The Bloodied Field: Croke Park. Sunday 21 November 1920

        Michael Foley
An account of the dramatic events at Croke Park following the IRA assassination of British military agents in Dublin, resulting in the shooting dead of fourteen people by the Royal Irish Constabulary. Includes the social/political scene and describing events from the perspective of the Irish and British participants.

Available *here*


 Birth of the Border: The Impact of Partition in Ireland

  Cormac Moore

Very little has been written on the actual effects of partition, the-day-to-day implications, and the complex ways that society, north and south, was truly and meaningfully affected. Birth of the Border: The Impact of Partition in Ireland is the most comprehensive account to date on the far-reaching effects of the partitioning of Ireland.

Available *here*

                                      Cork Burning

                        Michael Lenihan

‘A tale of arson, loot and murder’ was how one source described the events that would befall Cork city on the night of 11-12 December 1920.
Using eyewitness accounts and contemporary sources, and illustrated with exceptional images from the period, Cork Burning tells the story of the events before, during and after that infamous night.
Available *here*

            ‘Ireland: a voice among the nations’

  John Gibney, Michael Kennedy, Kate O’Malley
Ireland: a voice among the nations is a richly illustrated history of Irish foreign policy. It explores how a small state
such as Ireland has related to the wider world, by examining how Irish diplomats and politicians responded to the challenges presented by the upheavals of the twentieth
century and how this small European state engaged with the world, from the Versailles peace conference of 1919 to the globalisation of the twenty-first century.
In particular it features many rarely seen photographs and documents.
The authors joined Patrick Geoghegan on Talking History on Sunday 26th April to discuss the book. Listen *here*.
As part of the Royal Irish Academy‘s Meet the Author series John Gibney gives a short insight into the publication in this video, view *here*.

Muriel by Jeanette Collins

A Cork-based contemporary abstract pop artist remembers the women of the Centenary as part of this years’ commemorations

Jeanette Collins received €5,000 from the first tranche of Cork City Council’s 2020 Commemoration Fund, which used to create a piece featuring Muriel MacSwiney – the wife of former Lord Mayor of Cork Terence MacSwiney.

Ms Collins said that her focus for this piece is to draw attention to the women of 1920-1923. She said they remain largely unspoken of and their stories and struggles aren’t always to the forefront of remembrance.

Her collection predominantly involves large statement pieces, and this portrait piece will focus on Muriel MacSwiney but incorporates a unique modern twist.

‘The aim of my piece is to artistically depict the image of Muriel and initiate intrigue among viewers and discussion surrounding the work she did for Cork in the nationalist movement, both in Ireland and abroad. Included in my piece, I want to convey the struggle Muriel endured personally on her return to Ireland following the death of her husband, and the challenge of the civil war she found herself in. Despite the controversy in her later life, her story is still worth telling’

Muriel MacSwiney’s progressive approach to international relations and her fight for justice and rights in Ireland will be honoured by the piece, and is something that would speak to the current generation.

Ms Collins said she also wants to highlight Ms MacSwiney’s trips to the United States, where she was the first woman to receive the ‘Freedom of New York’ and the significance that had.

‘I hope that my modern depiction of Muriel MacSwiney will draw attention from a younger generation many of whom may not have been aware of this woman and may now appreciate the historic importance she any many others like her had, but also how they shaped the Ireland we live in today,’ Ms Collins said.


“I ultimately want people to view my piece with interest and encourage them to research Muriel MacSwiney to understand her importance and impact she had,” she added.

‘This piece is about putting the commemorative year into context, and into the hearts, of the people of Cork. I am doing this in proud partnership with the team from St. Peter’s Cork who have a yearlong Cork 1920 – The Burning of a City exhibition and programme of events. As a subject matter, the women of 1920 are very close to our hearts and on International Women’s Day, we unveiled the painting to shine a light on the women who participated in the foundation of the Irish state; an integral role, often forgotten,’ she concluded.



The release by Documents on Irish Foreign Policy

of Vol III (1945-48) publication online, in open access format, is a significant one for those interested in Irish history, and especially those researching remotely.

The volume was originally published in 2012.

Documents on Irish Foreign Policy is a project of the Royal Irish Academy, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the National Archives of Ireland and was established in 1997.
The project publishes essential source material for
anyone interested in the development of Irish foreign policy since 1919.


                Lord Mayor Tomás Mac Curtáin

St Peter’s Cork have very kindly shared some

images of Tomás Mac Curtáin (above is his Lying in State) and have provided the short summary below of the details leading up to his death in March 1920. 

Cork’s first Republican Lord Mayor, Tomás Mac Curtáin was a member of the Irish Volunteers and Commander

of Cork IRA’s No.1 Brigade. A passionate Irish speaker and teacher, he was also a gifted musician, poetry lover,

and a father and husband.

On 3 January 1920, the Cork No.1 Brigade opened the IRA’s offensive by attacking the RIC barracks at Kilmurray and Carrigtwohill.  The aim was to seize arms, intimidate RIC members, and raise the morale of IRA members.  MacCurtain authorized the attacks but did not directly participate in them.  

Two weeks later, Sinn Féin swept the urban local elections, winning a strong majority on the Cork Corporation.  Elected alderman, MacCurtain was selected by Corporation councillors as the new Lord Mayor. His first official acts were to pledge Cork Corporation’s allegiance to Dáil Éireann and to fly the tricolour over City Hall. He retained his IRA leadership position, thereby becoming a potent symbol of the republican political and military campaign against British rule. By 20 March 1920, he was dead. 

Mac Curtáin received many warnings that his life was in danger. He was assassinated just hours

after IRA Volunteers killed RIC Constable Joseph Murtagh on Pope’s Quay. After midnight, Mac Curtáin’s neighbours heard “a thundering knock at a door followed by shots up and down the street”. Witnessed by his pregnant wife

and young children, disguised RIC constables burst into Mac Curtáin’s home, shooting him dead as he came from his bedroom. Soon after, British soldiers and the RIC searched the house, including around the bed where the Lord Mayor

was now laid out. It was the morning of Mac Curtáin’s 36th birthday.

The murder outraged the public and brought near universal condemnation. The loss of Mac Curtáin was a major blow to the city’s nationalist population. The high esteem in which he was held was evident by the enormous size of his funeral – the largest the city had ever seen. An estimated 10,000 people marched in the funeral cortege, which took 90 minutes to pass.

Up to 100,000 people lined the city streets.

The inquest into the killing stated that the murder was organised and carried out by the RIC. The jury returned

a verdict of ‘wilful murder’ against British Prime Minister David Lloyd George and other high ranking British political and RIC leaders.

A short video commemorating Tomás can be viewed *here*

Newly digitised Dáil Éireann records now publicly available

A new collection of documents from the Irish revolutionary period (1918-1923) is now available online following a collaborative digitisation project between the Houses of the Oireachtas and the National Archives of Ireland.

While the physical documents have been available to scholars for some time in the National Archives, this conservation and digitisation project brings them into the public domain via the Digital Repository of Ireland, where they are fully accessible.



  The First Seanad Éireann, women and the Senate Casket — Irishwomen appeal to a spirit of patriotism.

An interesting blog post from Royal Irish Academy Librarian, Siobhán Fitzpatrick.

‘…in 1924, Senator Stopford Green commissioned Mia Cranwill (1880-1972), an artist specialising in fine metalwork to design and execute a casket intended to hold a vellum roll containing the senators’ signatures. The casket was to be placed on the Chairman’s desk in the chamber for the duration of each session.’

Read the full post *here*


                    Dictionary of Irish Biography

The team in DIB have two new online initiatives which offer the public access to their incredible database of biographies.

The first is a series of biographies chosen by some of the DIB researchers themselves, others by Royal Irish Academy academics and historians. They have chosen favourites, people whose names might not be well known outside their field, but who deserve to be better known.

One example is the choice made by Dr Kate O’Malley, managing editor of the DIB; Róisín Walsh (1889–1949), 

who was Dublin’s first chief librarian, as well as a feminist and republican.

The second initiative is aimed at Leaving Cert History students, but the forty biographies of major Irish figures would be of interest not only to anyone with an interest in Irish history, but by their very nature the biographies are so well researched that they are of huge cultural and social interest.

Available to download *here*

             Irish Medicine in War and Revolution    
The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland have an excellent and extensive Heritage Centre.
Their archive contains material covering many aspects of the history and development of medicine in Ireland.
Some examples include the diary of Dr Kathleen Lynn, the Chief Medical Officer for the Irish Citizen Army in 1916.
They also have a range of exhibitions now available to view online *here*, one of which is ‘Irish Medicine in War and Revolution’, described by RCPI as exploring

‘…the impact of the period from the outbreak of the First World War to the end of the Civil War on the medical profession in Ireland. Examining the experiences of medics on all sides of the conflict, it delves into the tensions between personal views, political opinions and professional obligations. It was originally held in our home at 6 Kildare Street in 2016 as part of the centenary of the 1916 Rising commemorations.’


           RDS Library & Archives Digital Archive

Charting social, cultural and economic change in Dublin and Ireland through the changes in its own organisation, the online archive of the RDS contains material beginning in the 18th century.
The digitised records of the various RDS shows from 1831-1900 are available *here*.
If you need to know who had a Class I bull in 1831, this is the place to go.
Another example available are the digitised catalogues of fine art, manufactures and craft exhibitions organised by the RDS for the years 1843-1900.