While wandering Titanic Belfast (which I cannot stress enough is fantastic), I happened upon a resource pack of sources. What an excellent idea for a museum to offer- teachers can always use something like this. A breakdown of what was within the pack can be found here and may be of interest to some. Feel free to get in contact with questions!
Silence for a few days- I know! I do promise there is a purpose though.
-Writing my final report
-Starting to write and edit the resource pages
-Typing up the interviews
-Replying to the amazing interviews this experience has generated
-Working on various articles relating to the trip
What I will say is this. My conclusion has been, without question, that Irish history has much to offer students- Not just of history, but students of the wider community. it has so much woven into its past, so much that has filtered and changed the path of the world, in ways that most people don't even see, right at the time it sits in front of them.
My incredible, heartfelt thanks to everyone who met with me and gave their time to this experience. The historians, guides, politicians and artists.
My thanks to the Irish people, who love discussing their history and are always willing to welcome a curious Australian with open arms.
To the History Teachers Association of NSW and the Premier's Scholarship Office- What you've given me is much more than a scholarship grant- You've given me the chance to show why this subject fascinates me- the chance to show others why every student I've taught Irish history too remembers it. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
To everyone who has shown an interest. I appreciate it!
A big thanks to the colleagues and family who supported me.
But mostly, a thank you to those who made the history that I have the chance to record. Ordinary and extraordinary people who have woven a narrative that has infiltrated every corner of the globe.
Or so I was once told.
Today was cold in Dublin, but the trip to Glasnevin was still amazing. I know when I spoke about the grave of Yeat's that I promised I was not someone who ran around visiting the graves of the famous dead, so this post will make me look like a liar, but Glasnevin was an experience I recommend.
Before we all think I wandered to some little graveyard in Dublin, let me put it in perspective. There are 1.5 million people buried in Glasvnevin- That is more than people living and breathing in Dublin today (around 1.2).
Glasnevin is credited to the great emancipator, Daniel O'Connell. For those thinking Irish history is still irrelevant (and if you do, why are you reading this? Go outside!), O'Connell's ideas on non-violent protest to achieve change inspired people like Ghandi, his campaigning on the behalf of Catholics allowed them to sit in Westminster and saw a large contribution to the end to the Act of Union in Ireland. O'Connell's ideas were formulated in France, where he attended school under the patronage of a wealthy uncle. To attend in Ireland at the time wouldn't have been allowed, as Catholics were unable to do so until 1782. While there, he witnessed the French Revolution and became passionate about freedom for Ireland. O'Connell's tomb is stunning- if you don't mind the coffins of his family piled in a corner. As you wander through it (and it is worth noting the tomb is reached by descending a staircase- the structure is built to mirror the style of tomb mound structure like Newgrange- O'Connell being passionate about Celtic culture and history), you note the darkness of the 'round tower' that stands guard over Glasnevin- You can wander into the base of this, but not up the once-spiral staircase that stood there. This was blown up by loyalists in 1971- They aimed for O'Connell's tomb, but the round tower operated in the fashion of a gun barrel. It blew up the staircase and straight out of the roof.
So admired is O'Connell that most major cities in the western world have a street named after him. Sydney- I'm looking in your direction!
A mention should be made of a massive boulder in the centre of a fenced off area within Glasnevin. This is the eternal resting place of the no-doubt restless Charles Stewart Parnell, the man who was once considered the 'uncrowned King of Ireland'- the Protestant who we thank for the modern 'whip' system in parliaments around the world, the hero who pushed for a more just system in regard to land laws in Ireland, and the man central to the Home Rule campaign. Parnell's brilliant political career would eventually end in scandal- he was living with a married woman- and he died not long after. Perhaps the high of his heady climb in politics being snatched away had simply been too much.
Glasnevin has several other important graves- But the Fenian section is remarkable. To stand by the grave of the feminist and nationalist Constance Markievicz, who when on trial for her role in Easter 1916, demanded to be executed, the same as the men she was equal to- was somewhat inspiring. I wish I had more time- I would have done some hunting for Joseph, Patrick and Christopher Poole- one of them is sure to be there. A celtic cross also marks the resting place of John O'Leary- famed as a Fenian and immortalised in Yeats' poem:
"Romantic Ireland's dead and gone,
It's with O'Leary in the grave."
Not far away one finds the grave of Eamon de Valera (Dev, as they say with affection or amusement), a small grave when compared to the large role the man had in Irish History. It is perhaps a fortunate thing that he is not that close to Glasnevin's most adored resident- the Big Fellow himself, buried not far from Kitty and her husband Felix. Glasnevin doesn't place flowers on people's graves of their own initiative, as to not appear politically inclined, but Collins' grave was overflowing with coloured blooms- including from a French woman who apparently visits several times a year for that very purpose and sends bouquets often.
I now realise this tour has become a bit of a timeline for Collins- Birthplace, life, death, resting place. Been to them all.
It is worth noting that the grave of Collins stands apart from most. It is impressive and covered in tributes.
But it does stand alone.
Upon driving from West Cork to Dublin, with a fantastic Easter Rising research tour tomorrow and suitcases full of books that would have never been found in Australia, I find myself reflection on some of the highlights of this tour. In my mind, these include:
If anyone is considering applying for one of these scholarships... I urge you not to hesitate. The value of the resources I have collected, the experiences I had had... this cannot be measured. It has been, without question, utterly amazing, every step of the way.
Now to start getting the resources onto the website and in order!
Have started work on my Michael Collins section- You can see the work in progress here!
The past few days have found me in the wild beauty of West Cork- this is, as they say, 'rebel country', laced with a long history of nationalistic sentiment, violent history, Irish folk heroes and those who have become folk heroes. The low, rolling hills and icy breeze, the tiny streams and winding roads all play with the imagination. On a cold, ice-glazed road in Béal na Bláth, Michael Collins, leader of the Irish Free State Army, former colleague of Eamon de Valera and near-mythical 'big fellow' of Irish History met his end with an Anti-Treaty IRA bullet to the head.
I had the fortune of excellent guides in this area. Retired Captain Donal Buckley (of the Irish Army) has written extensivley on Freemasonry in Ireland and runs http://www.militaryheritagetours.com/, undertaking tours of Ireland, Israel and the Western Front. With him was Tim Crowley. Tim grew up in the heartland of 'Collins Country' and lectures on Collins' life and contribution to Irish history, including at University College, Cork and the National Museum in Dublin. He has recently released the book 'In Search of Michael Collins'- an illustrated history and guide to places in County Cork associated with Michael Collins. I simply couldn't have had a better team to wander around with here!
We started in Cork, visiting the Collins Barracks and its excellent displays of Collins history. To see his field journal, gun and personal letters was amazing. This followed a trip to the excellent Cork Public Museum, a free museum that holds historical treasures galore, from neolithic times to the modern. You could spend hours, but I focused mainly on the sections relating to the United Irishmen, the War of Independence and of course, Collins himself. Donal was the perfect guide his- his knowledge is unsurpassed- and he was able to give me excellent information as a Cork-man himself. Without him, I wouldn't have been able to understand any of the Gaelic, and his insight was an incredible gift to my research.
We spent the next day touring West Cork sites- this is where having a historian like Tim on hand is perfect. As the founder of the Michael Collins Centre, his understanding of Collins' life was amazing. He's recently been working to produce a memorial to groups from the 1916 Rising that were local to Cork and I'm sure he'll get his way- He has a flawless knowledge of history- who could argue? We started at the statue of Collins in Clonakilty- the only full-standing one in Ireland, I might add. Imagine my surprise when Tim, who had been part of the group that organised this statue, explained there hadn't been one until 2002! We wandered the village, Tim pointing out various important sites, the school Collins attended, bullet holes in the railings of the church... each location peppered with stories and insight that you only get from a local historian with a depth of genuine knowledge and research. We then headed to Collins' childhood home in Woodside. What an amazing place. "This is sacred ground", Tim stated, and how correct he was. It's free- thanks to Liam Collins, nephew to the man himself. Liam himself was a fascinating story- he had been hidden in a family member's cold roof when the Collins home was burnt during the War of Independence- as a result, having been a baby at the time, he suffered ill health. Despite this, he was a lawyer and it is thanks to him that the house and land were purchased and are free and not littered with commercial rubbish. The place was deserted and Tim was able to go through every section of the property with me. This will be broken down in the Michael Collins resources page of this website soon. We ventured from here to the local cemetery- as Tim said "This is where all history is... in the graveyards."- And here we found the grave of Michael's brother Johnny (Sean) as well as his sister in law, who had been a double agent for Michael through her job at the GPO in Dublin. What an amazing woman she was.
We also saw Liam's grave nearby. The place was cold, but beautiful. It clear this was the final resting place for the Catholics of the village for decades upon decades, and very serene.
Then along the winding road through the back of West Cork- the pub where Collins stopped prior to his death, the family homes, the locations along the road and finally the site of the murder itself. The most revealing part was to stand where Tim believes the final shot (that hit Collins in the head, behind the ear) was fired and consider whether a marksman, under fire from a recently jammed machine gun and running from Collins' men, could have seen who it was he was shooting. I doubt it.
The weather was icy- a stream trickled nearby and it became dark and grey overhead. We gazed down the hill at the memorial location and mused what may have been, had the fatal shot not found its mark.
You know you're nearing the Rock of Cashel, a medieval monastery, long before you reach it. Like a sentinel it guards the surrounding green fields and windswept hills, casting its imposing shadow down upon the village that shares its name. The Rock was under some pretty heavy restoration when I visited- not a surprise, it does require a lot of upkeep and protecting from the furious elemental forces of the Irish wind, but I was still free to wander King Cormac's Chapel and the sprawling grounds and graves.
The site itself is, according to local legend, the result of the devil being cast from a nearby cave and the sacred location where Saint Patrick (he of 'banishing the snakes' fame) converted the King of Munster around the 5th Century. Certainly was you wander through the echoing halls, the wind shrieking outside and the crows gliding upon its current, you can believe almost anything about the place.
I was fortunate that it was mid-week and mid-winter, for the place was mine to explore. It's undergoing some amazing restoration, I'll be back to see it when this is done, but there was plenty to illustrate what was being done to preserve the site, especially the amazing decorating and painting that had once existed within and now remains as mere etchings of colour on stone walls and ceilings.
There is a beautiful little one room museum attached to the site (which includes some detail about when the Queen visited. As an Australian republican I admit that I hoped she was uncomfortable walking up the steep hill, however there were also amazing artefacts of benefit to the study of medieval history. Many NSW history teachers will bemoan the fact that there is little to no scope for the middle ages in the senior curriculum and I am forced to admit I agree. With an amazing site like this, one of so many, why is it not an area of focus or an option for study?
As a location there was potential for the study of restoration, historical preservation and the middle ages for grades 7-8, however before I ramble too much- I'll direct you to the resources tab here, where you can find my musings and report on the Rock.
I wish I had a good reason not to update tonight- however it is simply that I left my laptop charger in the car and I'm staying at the beautiful Inchydoney Lodge, which is amazing. As I sit here with a delicious coffee (thank YOU, Nespresso machine in room- Coffee I like at last!), my feet up after a long day in chilly Cork city, I know there that I'm not going out to feel the ocean breeze in the evening when I'm warm and comfortable. So it has to wait, alas!
1. Rock of Cashel (amazing, amazing, amazing- cold!)
2. Accomodation reviews: Horse and Jockey (Thurles), Inchydoney Lodge (Co. Cork)
3. Michael Collins Barracks tour with author Donal Buckley (Amazing- highlight was seeing letters and a field journal by the man himself!)
4. Visit to Cork public museum (amazing selection of things- and a free public museum)
5.Visit to locations relating to Collins with Donal Buckley and a local historian in Cork.
So as you can see, I have a bit of writing to catch up on. I also need to type up my meetings throughout the tour and upload some more amazing photos- To see the Rock of Cashel is something that everyone should do.
So please enjoy a couple of 'taster' photos until tomorrow, taken with my phone.
(To sit in a beautiful, warm hotel room over the Atlantic Ocean, a great coffee in hand, listening to the sea while you write your blog on the Irish Coast is also something everyone should do!)
I wanted to give a quick mention to Ulster University and CAIN (conflict archive on the internet) and their Memorials App. If you're teaching, or studying the conflict in Northern Ireland, this is a fantastic way to locate and learn about some of the amazing memorials and murals that are located around the place- it also works in the Republic!
The app is free- I downloaded it prior to departing Australia, and gives you several options. You can search for memorials nearby (the phone will use your location for this- and it even gives you the distance to the memorials found), or you can search by area (for example 'West Belfast')- Each memorial even has a link where you can email the administrator, should you visit the memorial and feel the information isn't up to date.
For anyone studying the Troubles or Modern Irish History- CAIN is already a source of incredible information (I suggest having a look at their amazing website. The app is just another fantastic addition to academic research and the documentation of evidence and memory.
Passionate about teaching Irish History, Rebekah Poole has published multiple articles on the subject. As a winner of the 2015 NSW Premier's Teacher Scholarships (History), this blog was formed to create a wider resource for schools in NSW. This blog and site aims to share these resources with other teachers and students!