The inaugural West Cork History Festival, the brainchild of Dr Simon Kingston, was held at his home outside Skibbereen, County Cork on Friday 28th, Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th July. With the support of the Diocesan Board of Education in Cork, Cloyne and Ross, the Bishop of Cork, the Right Reverend Dr Paul Colton, is one of the patrons of the Festival.
Bishop Colton said:
We are in the midst of a period of centenaries in Ireland, and the commemorations which lie ahead in coming years impacted distinctively and, indeed, in some ways, disproportionately in County Cork. It is important that, as in the 1916 commemorations, members of the Church of Ireland engage with these commemorations to listen to the many strands of remembrance and interpretation, to hear other people’s stories as well as to tell their own story. For these reasons, in the main, I was keen to support Dr Simon Kingston by accepting his invitation to be one of the Patrons of the Festival.
The Festival attracted many crowds from diverse backgrounds, as well as significant media interest, an indication of the importance of the subjects being raised as well as interest in history generally. The inaugural lecture was given in a packed arena by Professor Roy Foster: “A Fair People”: antagonism and conflict in Irish history. While much of the programme that attracted media interest related to the period 1916 to 1923 (including the lecture of Dr Andy Bielenberg and the showing of the RTE programme An Tost Fada about Canon George Salter and his family from this Diocese), there were also other dimensions to the Festival such as Protestant depopulation and upheaval in Southern Ireland from 1845 to 1950 (Professor David Fitzpatrick), The Great Earl of Cork (Dr David Edwards), The second Earl of Cork and his children (Dr Patrick Little), Tower Houses in Ireland (Dr Terry Barry), Tower Houses in West Cork (Finola Finlay), The Architecture of Bishop Lucey’s Churches in Cork (Richard Butler), The Knights Templar and Ireland (Dr Dominic Selwood), Piracy off the West Cork Coast (Connie Kelleher), The O’Donovan Family of Muintervara, Durrus (Pat Crowley), Fenianism in Skibbereen (William Casey), Sectarianism in Ireland: its History and Impact on the Northern Ireland Peace Process (Professor Marianne Elliott), and Duelling in Ireland (Lar Joye). Two ambassadors gave papers: HE Ambassador Dan Mulhall (on two writers – Francis Ledwidge and AE), and HE Ambassador Kevin Vickers (on Irish-born Canadian soldiers in the First World War). The Festival concluded with a lecture by ‘House of Cards’ author, Michael Dobbs on Life, Lust and Liquor: how House of Cards wrote itself.
Full details of this year’s Festival are to be found on the website of the West Cork History Festival.