November 2014

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Captain George O’Malley 1786-1860:
his manuscript narrative and Smuggling career analysed.

This lecture was delivered on Monday, 10 November 2011 by Prof. Louis Cullen gave a talk on

Captain George O’Malley- is known in folklore for several poems attributed to him. He grew up in Ballinakill, co. Galway, where his father Patt was a small smuggling master in the 1790s and early years of the nineteenth century. As was the case for many other smugglers the island of Guernsey was his source of supply. It was finally closed to smugglers in 1805 and 1807 by British legislation. That explains why he exited the trade and moved to Clare Island. It also explains why his son inherited no business and from 1808 to 1818 his career was abroad as mariner and adventurer. He returned to Mayo in 1818. Apart from growing up in a smuggling milieu he had had no direct involvement in smuggling. In a boom in tobacco smuggling post 1815 he became involved as a master of large craft maintained by smuggling houses in Flushing in the Low Countries. The businessmen were English, the crews also but, because of the need of local knowledge, the captains were Irish. This boom was halted by the advent of the Coast Guard a paramilitary force which made its appearance in the west in 1821; He made his peace with the authorities in 1828. (more…)

October 2014

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A Lost Hanoverian Fort on the Gaelic Frontier
– Oughterard Barracks in context
by Mr. Michael Gibbons

“The whole tract of land is inhabited by the antient Irish, and has never yet been made amenable to the laws. No sheriff dares go thither to execute any process, but I believe they now soon will be reduced.” – Lord Chief Baron Edward Willes on Eyre Connaught  – 1761.

Research into the survival of Gaelic elite culture in Connemara following the supposed downfall of Gaelic Ireland in the 17th century has revealed that the old Gaelic aristocracy retained much of their previous authority and even some of their military strength into the 1750s.

During this period Gaelic rulers continued to control many of the areas from which they had supposedly been displaced, the Royal Navy proved largely powerless to prevent smuggling and the O’Flaherties were strong enough to defy the law and drive out the latest wave of imported tenants. The supposedly 19th century barracks at Oughterard was in fact an 18th century Hanoverian Barracks, built in the aftermath of the Jacobite rebellions in Scotland. In combination with the newly constructed military road from Galway the fort/barracks played a major role in what could be described as the last military campaign against the old Gaelic order.

Michael Gibbons is a member of the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland and is one of Ireland’s leading field archaeologists. He has a broad range of managerial, field and publishing experience. He has lectured extensively at home and abroad.
A former co-director of the Sites and Monuments Record of the office of Public Works, he has recently completed a preliminary survey of the intertidal zone archaeology of the Galway and south Mayo coastline which has identified hundreds of new sites ranging in date from the Mesolithic to the nineteenth century.


Harbour Hotel, Dock Road, Galway
Monday, 13 October 2014 @ 8pm.

September 2014

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Some early 19th century cross carvings in Galway
Peadar O’Dowd

The illustrated lecture will study these enigmatic carvings centered mainly on the date 1816, in the context of the times when Catholic Emancipation was very much to the fore in the minds of Galway City dwellers.  Variations, dates, present-day locations and purpose of these early 19th century public manifestations of a religious context will be discussed.

O’Dowd, a former President and now a Patron of the society, has lectured widely at home and abroad on heritage matters pertaining to the West of Ireland.  He has also written many volumes on his favourite place, including “Tracing Your Galway Ancestors”, which was published in 2010.

April 2014

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Mapping the West of Ireland. –
Perspectives from Regional and European Cartographic History.
By Dr. Nessa ni Chroinín

This lecture explored the cartographic history of different mapping endeavours associated with the West of Ireland. It traced a cartographic timeline of how the face of the Irish map changed with developments in Irish, British and European cartographic techniques and technologies over the course of four centuries. This is particularly exemplified through the visual rendition of the west and north-west of Ireland, from the renaissance maps of Mercator to the present-day Ordnance Survey. The final section of the lecture focused on local and regional community mapping projects that are changing the way we perceive and think of maps and imagined geographies in the 21st century, and considered the implications such mapping projects have for community groups, heritage projects and placename surveys across Ireland today.

Dr Nessa Cronin is Lecturer in Irish Studies and Director of the MA in Irish Studies, Centre for Irish Studies, NUI Galway. She read English and Philosophy at Trinity College, Dublin (1998) and received an MA in Continental Philosophy and Literature from Warwick University (2000). She was the recipient of an IRCHSS Postgraduate Scholarship, an Arts Faculty Fellowship, and a Notre-Dame Summer School Fellowship for her doctoral research on Irish cartographic history at NUI Galway. She has subsequently been awarded fellowships and two research awards by the IRCHSS (2007, 2011), European Science Foundation (2008) and Culture Ireland (2008) for her work in Irish Place Studies. She is the author of several articles on various aspects of Irish historical geography and literary geographies. She is also co-editor with Seán Crosson and John Eastlake of Anáil an Bhéil Bheo: Orality and Modern Irish Culture (2009)

Her current work on Irish Literary Geographies and community mapping practices has involved the development of the interdisciplinary Irish Place Studies network, Ómós Áite at NUI Galway with Dr Tim Collins. She is also the Irish co-convenor of the Mapping Spectral Traces international network, working in association with Dr Karen E. Till (Geography, NUI Maynooth). She will be a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University and the Université de Nantes in 2015.

March 2014

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Roger Casement & the Irish Language
Prof. Nollaig MacCongáil

Roger CasementSir Roger Casement presents us with one of the most interesting case-studies of the whole range of Irish history at the beginning of the last century. This lecture explored Casement’s introduction to, preoccupation and affinity with, and support for the Irish language and its speakers and promoters from the beginning of the last century until his death.

A native of Derry City, Prof. Mac Congáil received his Ph.D. at Queens University, Belfast in 1974. Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the National University of Ireland in Galway from 1994 to 2000, he has been Registrar and Deputy President since than. He has been author/editor of 23 publications, specializing in the areas of regional literature (especially Donegal), dialectology, modern Irish grammar, translation studies, bibliographical studies, history of Irish newspapers, history of Gaelic Colleges.

February 2014

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William Bald in Connacht
by Paul Duffy

William Bald (1789 – 1857), Surveyor, Cartographer, and Civil Engineer par excellence was appointed at twenty years of age as Director of the Trigonometric Survey of County Mayo. His finished map, in twenty five sheets, is considered to be the finest county map ever produced. Bald also undertook work for the Bogs Commissioners in South Mayo and County Roscommon as well as estate surveys for private clients. (more…)

January 2014

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Round Tower at Annaghdown
by Jessica Cooke

The Irish Annals say that in 1238 a round tower was built at the monastery of Annaghdown – the last recorded construction of such a building.

However when Oscar Wilde’s father, the surgeon, antiquarian, and writer Sir William Wilde went looking for it in the 1800s, the tower, or any remains of it, had vanished.

The lost’ round tower of Annaghdown will be the subject of the first Galway Archaeological and Historical Society talk of 2014, which takes place this Monday at 8pm in the Harbour Hotel, Dock Road. (more…)

December 2013

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Connacht incastellated:
pre-Norman and Anglo-Norman
castles west of the Shannon
By Professor Tadhg O’Keeffe

Native pre-Norman kings of Connacht are known to have incastellated their lands from at least the 1120s. A more sustained period of castle-building followed the Anglo-Norman conquest of Connacht in 1235, most of it driven by Anglo-Norman lords from other parts of the Irish colony.  This lecture reviewed the linguistic, historical and archaeological evidence for these processes. (more…)

September 2013

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Judging Irish neutrality during the Second World War in an international context: a comparison with Franco’s Spain by Dr. Barry Whelan

Even before the Flight of the Earls in 1607, Ireland and Spain had been linked by historical events and common associations. The sailors of King Philip II’s Armada Invencible had sought refuge off the west coast in 1588 hopeful that the native Irish antipathy towards Britain and the shared religious faith of Catholicism would establish a lasting friendship between Ireland and Spain. Fast forward to the twentieth century and little had changed. Both nations still shared territorial grievances with Britain – the Six Counties in an Irish context, Gibraltar in a Spanish. Both societies were fervently Catholic and rooted in traditional conservative values. Equally striking was the similarity between the two leaders of both nations. Eamon de Valera and Francisco Franco were two towering political figures in their time who strove to apply an antediluvian vision for their respective countries. It is the aim of this paper to investigate and contrast another similarity between Ireland and Spain and one that had a profound effect on the society and international standing of both nations for years to come – the shared experience of neutrality. Using archival research undertaken in Dublin and Madrid this paper focused on the common reasons why both chose neutrality over belligerency, whether the Hague Convention that defined the responsibilities of a neutral power were properly implemented and whether neutrality oscillated in both nations as the war ebbed and flowed. In concluding this paper an assessment of the role both leaders played in the formulation and application of their respective neutral policies will be compared that will add to the historical debate on neutrality during the Second World War. (more…)

April 2013

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Some Bridges of County Galway by Mr. Paul Duffy

The lecture provided some historical and archaeological data on bridge building (and demolition) in Galway from the sixteenth century onwards.  The lecturer is a Chartered Fellow of Engineers Ireland and has lectured, published and broadcast extensively on Ireland’s engineering heritage.