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FLHS 2017 Annual General Meeting,
Galway 26 to 28 May 2017

A Northern Perspective

Report by Doreen McBride

The AGM of the Federation of Local History Societies was held in the Ardilaun Hotel in Salthill, Galway, where we lived in the style to which we'd like to become accustomed. We loved the long tree-lined driveway, the beautiful gardens, the leisure suite, the spacious bedrooms, friendly staff, the good food and the 'Prosecco Reception' in the Garden Lounge. That, followed by a delicious evening meal in the restaurant, helped to set the proceedings off to a flying start.

Some of the delegates at dinner
Some of the delegates at dinner
Some of the delegates at dinner

Eugene Jordan, from Galway Archeological and Historical Society, welcomed us and introduced the two after dinner speakers. Jackie Ui Chionna described one of Galway's greatest entrepreneurs, Martin Mór McDonogh, while Eugene himself talked about Fr. Peter Daly, who started a home for unmarried mothers.

Saturday 27th May

Chairman of FLHS, Michael Gaynor, welcomed the delegates and guests. He said it was the largest gathering at an FLHS AGM in history, with representatives from 32 societies, including 16 people from FULS, representing four counties, and four societies, (Tyrone, Antrim, Armagh and Down), and one individual member.

Michael introduced Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, who officially opened the AGM.

Dáibhí Ó Cróinin is Professor of History at the National University of Ireland, Galway and a Member of the Royal Irish Academy. He specialises in Medieval Irish and European history, Early Irish Script and Early Irish Law and has written a list of books as long as your arm. He's also the grand-son of Elizabeth Cronin, a famous Irish traditional singer. I felt really privileged to have a chat with him and a nicer man you couldn't meet. He's very down to earth and gave everyone a warm welcome to Galway. He congratulated the Federation of Local History Societies on the huge contribution they make to local history, heritage, cultural, folklore and archaeology, and the connections forged with other institutions. Without the Federations, a lot of the history that helps make us what we are would be lost.

The Chairman, Michael Gaynor, Secretary, Betty Quinn and Treasurer, Mairead Byrne read their reports showing that the Federation had a very successful year.

The Officers and Committee were re-elected, and four new members were welcomed (Clare Walsh from Waterford who replaces Ann Cusack, Michael Mullaly from Newbridge, Mary Kenehan from Thomond and Marie McCarthy from Inniscarra).

Societies then reported on their work. Each Society had been asked to produce a limited amount of text highlighting their main activities over the year. This was consolidated in a 32-minute PowerPoint presentation, with each society having three minutes to present them. This strategy focused attention so that speakers were not tempted to overrun their time allocation.

I found the work done by all the local societies mind blowing and as I haven't got unlimited time or space I'm going to choose a few examples. This is a personal choice based on my interests. It is not meant to underestimate the work of other societies.

  • County Roscommon Historical and Archaeological Society, as well as having the usual number of meetings and outings, had published Vol 13 of their Journal. Vols 1-12 had been digitised to DVD and, if that wasn't enough, it is involved in recording oral history and runs its county museum on a voluntary basis.
  • Knocklyon History Society had a talk on 'Kinder Buch' given by Tony Herlihy. It told the story of a little book that had belonged to his late wife and contains 'thank-you' letters written by German schoolchildren in Saarbrucken. They had been saved from starvation by food donations from Ireland after the war.
  • Youghal Celebrates History's main aim is to organise conferences and field trips. In addition, they have set up an online bookshop to sell its own publications and it runs a second hand local history bookshop.
  • Kiltartan Gregory Cultural Society, with only twelve members, restored and runs the old school house built by Lady Gregory at Kiltartan Cross as a Museum to W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory. They provide a centre for research, local history and genealogy. This year they celebrate 21 years welcoming thousands of visitors in a volunteer capacity.

FULS members were also given a chance to contribute, which was nice. We hadn't expected to do that and hadn't been advised to prepare slides, nevertheless, we all got up on our hind legs and spouted about the activities of our societies.

  • West Belfast Historical Society is lobbying to prevent listed buildings in Belfast being de-listed and destroyed, and to preserve other old buildings;
  • Banbridge Historical Society is working with Edenderry Primary School, Banbridge collecting, and recording, folklore;
  • Carrickfergus Historical Society has republished a book describing life around 1900.


From left: Eugene Jordan, Galway Archaeological and Historical Society; Professor D&aacuteibhi &OacuteCr&oacutein&iacuten; Doreen McBride, Vice-Chair of FULS and Michael Gaynor, Chair of FLHS
Group in William Street. The sculpture 'Oscar Wilder and Eduare Vilde' was presented to the City of Galway by Estonia on its accession to the EU in 2004. It shows the Irish writer Oscar Wilde and the Estonian writer Eduard Vilde apparently conversing although they were not related, and did not know each other
From left: Eugene Jordan, Galway Archaeological and Historical Society; Professor Dáibhi ÓCróinín; Doreen McBride, Vice-Chair of FULS and Michael Gaynor, Chair of FLHS
Group in William Street. The sculpture, 'Oscar Wilde and Eduard Vilde' was presented to the City of Galway by Estonia on its accession to the EU in 2004. It shows the Irish writer Oscar Wilde and the Estonian writer Eduard Vilde apparently conversing although they were not related, and did not know each other.

After lunch, and with a great deal of laughter, we set off on two buses through South Galway to Cromore Abbey, where Patrick Larkin told us about life in the monastery. I particularly liked the carvings round the wall. It's a fascinating place, as was our next stop, Kilmacduagh. It has the tallest round tower we have ever seen. Apparently, it's the tallest in Ireland and it sure was impressive.

After that we were taken to the Kiltartan Gregory Museum, which is in an old national school-house near Gort. It's devoted to the life of Lady Gregory. Rena McAllen and Mary de Lourdes Fahy welcomed us and told us about the museum. The old schoolroom has been recreated with antique desks, a blackboard and maps. It has photographs, first editions, information about local genealogy, memorabilia and paintings. They have so much information I personally will just have to go back. I could have spent at least half a day there.

After dinner Bernard O'Hara told us about James Joyce's wife, Nora Barnacle. He was followed by Patrick Larkin's beautifully illustrated talk about castles around Galway Bay.

Sunday 28th May

Unfortunately, I had to catch a train from Dublin so missed Sunday's events. I have been told they were great. They consisted of two guided walking tours around Galway City with a final visit to The King's Head and two more talks, one by Joe Manning on the Clans of Ireland, the other by Hubert Jennings on the History of Traditional Irish Dance. Then Prof Wilkins, on behalf of Galway Archeological Society, wished everyone a safe journey home and gave everybody present a copy of his book, 'The Odd Shelf of the Common Reader'.

Group at Corcomroe Abbey, an early 13th-century Cistercian monastery in the Burren, Co Clare
Group in the King's Head pub, High Street, Galway. The Kings Head dates back over 800 years with research showing the building in existence since the 13th century
Group at Corcomroe Abbey, an early 13th-century Cistercian monastery in the Burren, Co Clare
Group in the King's Head pub, High Street, Galway. The Kings Head dates back over 800 years with research showing the building in existence since the 13th century

The number of people from The Federation of Ulster Local Studies coming to the Federation of Local History Societies' AGM emphasises the success of the north/south connection. As far as I'm concerned, I enjoyed it so much I hope to attend again next year and I know I'm not alone. Next time I intend to do what some of my colleagues did, clear all engagements and stay an extra night so I don't miss anything.

In conclusion, I'd like to say a big Thank you to Larry Breen for providing me with group photo-graphs and photographs of the proceedings on Sunday Morning, and to the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, Federation of Local History Societies for providing such a marvellous weekend, and for making us feel so welcome.