Cumann Seandalaiochta agus Staire Phort Lairge

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

A Young Historian's Notebook : 3. Mentors


      In all walks of life be it music or sport, the musician or athlete can usually recount the support and guidance of a mentor. We can trace the word ‘mentor’ as we know it today to the mid-18th century, via French and Latin from the Greek Mentór, the name of the adviser to the young Telemachus in Homer’s Odyssey. If you’re stuck for reading over the summer Homer’s story should do the trick, it’s divided up into 24 books. Even if you prefer to stick with the Matt Groening Homer Simpson, the Odyssey has inspired countless books and films such as the Coen Brothers O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which has something for everyone, country music, prison breaks and George Clooney. 

     A mentor is a trusted advisor, someone you feel you can learn from and who will impart some of their wisdom and knowledge to you. In your lifetime you will have many people you will seek guidance from be it teachers in school, coaches with teams you’re involved with to college lecturers and supervisors. One of the best pieces of advice I was given was by my MA supervisor Dr. Gabriel Doherty of University College Cork whose mantra was “a little bit of good will goes a long way”. Always try to be kind and patient whether you’re looking for or giving help as it will stand you in good stead down the line. 

     We can’t all be ruthless and (sometimes) mean like Michael Jordan who had the mentality and ability to back it up. We should never set a standard for others which we wouldn’t follow for ourselves. This is very applicable to History where you come into contract with various librarians, archivists, historians, etc who have different personalities and ways of working. The vast majority will always help when asked. 

     The mentor (aside from my parents) that I have known the longest is a man named Donnchadh Ó Ceallachain. Most people with an interest in Waterford History will know Donnchadh really well. He describes himself as a ‘blow-in’ hailing from Cork but we in Waterford can count ourselves very fortunate to have someone like Donnchadh to research and promote the history of our city. I know him since I was a teenager attending lectures held by the Waterford Archaeological & Historical Society. He showed confidence in me to become the editor of the group’s journal Decies in 2016 when I was 22-years old (granted he had been editor for 12-years) and was always available for my numerous questions and rather naïve ideas. If I asked his advice on something mad I had planned and he responded with a quick laugh and “Jeesus…” I knew t’was best to pack it away for another time. 

     The greatest things I’ve learned from Donnchadh is patience, kindness and to be generous with one’s time to others. I would say easily that he is one of the most put upon people I know but always is there to help. If I could ever achieve half the things Donnchadh has I would be delighted with my lot. The best way to sum up how important Donnchadh is, it’s probably best to dip into the world of modern celebrity. When someone is at the height of their powers or reached a level of fame we often refer to them only by their first name like Elvis, Meryl or Adele. In Waterford History we have Donnchadh! 

To be continued

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

A Young Historian's Notebook : 2. 'It's the Way I Tell 'em...'

2. It’s the way I tell em

     A lot of what makes History come to life is the way the story is told. Like anything in life if you can see someone put across their words with enthusiasm and pure passion it sucks you in. The Belfast-born comedian Frank Carson use to say “it’s the way I tell em” which I often think is an idea that is misinterpreted as having to be incredibly polished with a cigar smokers voice (don’t smoke, kids!). 

     I can remember giving a talk to the Waterford Archaeological & Historical Society on the MPs of Waterford city, tracing over a century of history, which to say the least didn’t go well. I was wracked with nerves and couldn’t even eat before the lecture. At this stage I was 21 years of age and had given numerous presentations in college but this was like playing on your own turf, your home crowd, this meant more. Unfortunately even after all the preparation I had made (80 pages of notes no less) the anxiousness got the better of me and I spoke like Roadrunner on Red Bull (now there’s an interesting children’s cartoon). This wasn’t helped when a noted history buff proceeded to talk during my lecture by criticising my delivery. The criticism was valid, however I think a little bit of encouragement never goes astray. Practice makes perfect, and in the subsequent years I’ve improved. Speaking in public is an on-going thing and it's superb to see Primary School kids given a platform to practice. Future 21-year-olds will be far more adept at giving a talk than I was which is a really positive move. 

First lecture 'on home turf', 2015

     One of the great speeches I’ve seen in recent times was at the grounds of Abbeyside at the under-13s Gaelic Football final. Gaultier entered the game as underdogs with my buddy Grace Cunningham lining out in the backs. It was a mighty comeback by the girls of Gaultier to win the cup in an impressive display of determination to never give up. This was exemplified by their captain, Ali Ferguson, who gave one of the most gracious, thankful and positive speeches upon winning the match. She was genuine in the words she spoke; she was being herself. The reason why I failed in my first talk in Waterford was because I was being my unconfident, 21-year old self, but the key is to learn and try to improve the best you can. 

NUI Galway

     My next presentation was a month later at the NUIG staged conference titled A Peculiar Society where I was reading my paper on the environmental movement in the 1970s and protest concerts at Carnsore Point. Needless to say the experience in St. Patrick’s Gateway hadn’t left the confidence in good stead but it was 15 minutes which went by in a flash. A week later I was in touch with Kevin Ryan of the School of Political Science & Sociology at NUI Galway who e-mailed about my paper, ‘As an aside, I also enjoyed your speaking voice – I grew up in Waterford, and my memories of the Carnsore festivals are very much bound up with the cultural “peculiarities” of the city.’ 

       T’was a great boost to my confidence and has always stayed with me. Like anything in life you won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but always remember what blend of leaves you are, it’s more important in the long run. 

To be continued

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

A Young Historian's Notebook : 1. Why Do You Like History?

Over a few articles, Cian Manning shares with us his thoughts on his love of History,  
and gives some advice to budding historians. 

1. Why Do You Like History?

     Over the course of several years from volunteering with the Deerpark CBS Homework Club in Cork to working on a local history program with Ms. Laura O’Brien in Mount Sion Primary School, the most common question I’m asked is why do you like History? The first time I was asked this was also the first time that I had to give thought to why I loved a subject that a lot of people find dusty, stuffy and boring (and not necessarily in that order). If anything it could say a lot about my personality! 

The Bull Post on the Hill of Ballybricken, Waterford City

     Firstly, I was always encouraged by my parents to learn about the history of Waterford and Ireland. My dad Ollie is the proudest Waterfordian I know and whenever we went away on holidays to sunnier climes he promoted Ireland’s oldest city. If anything the Tourist Board owe my father a fortune in his public relations endeavours. Once in Lisbon we met a Canadian businessman who appeared to be a real highflyer, who travelled to London and Tokyo, but my father simply put it that this man hadn’t experienced anything till he visited Ballybricken. Tis a state of mind you know. My brother Olin and I would joke about it but since we were in college in Cork we’ve morphed into mini versions of our dad. Tipperary and Kerry students had Lar Corbett and Gooch Cooper with oodles of All-Irelands, we had Mount Sion, Edmund Rice’s first school and Paddy Coad, the greatest Irish soccer player to never play for an English team. Ye can keep yer Celtic crosses lads! 

Blue Plaque to Paddy Coad,
Doyle Street, Waterford City

     These interests were nurtured by trips to Wexford to learn about 1798 which led me to telling my senior infant class teacher Sharon O’Connor that I dreamed of becoming a ‘Pikeman’ (everyone else said a footballer or millionaire). She was the first teacher to encourage my interest in history at such a young age printing off reams of papers of Egyptian hieroglyphs and statutes to colour in. There were great visits to the Dunbrody where a re-enactor/guide set us the challenge of each question we asked would get her an item of food to feed her starving family. Safe to say I asked enough questions that it would have fed the whole of the ship for months. But it was the encouragement and cultivating the interest that has always stayed with me.

Statue of a Pikeman, Wexford

     Whenever I’m asked the question now of why do I like History? I simply quote one of my mam Miriam’s favourite wordsmiths, Marti Pellow of Wet, Wet, Wet, “it’s all around me” (okay maybe a slight paraphrasing there). History is there in the stories of our parents; it’s in the names of our streets, our schools and sports clubs. Since the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising there’s an insatiable appetite in young students to learn more and more about the past.

A few years later now I’m  asked how do I learn more? To quote another poet, W.B. Yeats, ‘Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire’, may students be encouraged to learn more about their history for years to come. 

To be continued

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Life In WW2 by Eve Penkert

We are delighted to share with you this history project written by Eve Penkert, a student of the Presentation Primary School.

Life in WW2

Life for Jews and others in Germany
During the Second World War, a lot of Germans suffered under Hitler's rule. Adolf believed that Germans were the superior race, also known as the Master race, but only pale-skinned and blue-eyed Germans would count.  Adolf considered Jews to be below him. During the years before WW2, many Jews would be doctors or another successful job. For that reason, Adolf wanted anyone who had power in Germany to go. That would include Jews, Romas (gypsies), teachers, politicians, and the list goes on.
Jews had to wear the Star of David and were forced to live in certain areas. A lot of Jews would be beaten in the streets or made to do ridiculous tasks as onlookers harassed them. These acts were known as pogroms. The other people I mentioned would suffer the same. One man Jumped from a burning building shouting he would rather die than be taken by German soldiers. 
Jews had been hated for quite a long time. In the 14th century, a large group of Jews was forced into a wood filled pit and burned alive.
Soon enough concentration camps were introduced; Jews were kicked from the homes and moved to the camps.

The German people who suffered

The regular Germans also suffered in many ways (Apart from rations and attacks). The SA would stand outside Jewish businesses, shops, and cafes. Anyone who tried to enter was stopped. Those who refused were marked with a stamp on their faces that read: We traitors bought at Jewish shops. 
People formed groups to help the Jews but were always outnumbered.
Germans with any of power suffered as much as Jews did, which was covered in the first paragraph.

The people in Ireland and England

Like most of the world, Ireland and England were also on Rations.
England was involved in the war on the Allies side. Ireland was neutral but still suffered, from a few bombings to prisoners of war camps and English children sent over for safety. During the Emergency, Belfast was bombed. 
With the rationing in Ireland, people were encouraged to grow their vegetables. 
In England, the main things rationed were bacon, sugar, tea, butter, and meat. When the men left for war, the women would work their jobs instead. Children would be evacuated to the countryside.
England did try to persuade Ireland to join them but failed. Almost every morning, the streets would be littered with bombshells and rubble.

The rest of the world would've been in the same boat.

Life after the war

After the war, the world didn't go back to normal. It took years to recoup all that was lost, from the people to the cities. Over five million lives were lost to the war. In Germany, a mass funeral was held for all the bodies found at Auschwitz. WW2, The Holocaust, and D-Day are major events held in History. 

 Thanks for Reading

by Eve Penkert

The Waterford Archaeological and Historical Society, Ireland.
Website By: Deise Design