Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Victory or Glorious Defeat: a book launch in Castlebar

Patrick Comerford

I am in Castlebar, Co Mayo, this evening, for the launch of a new book that looks at the 1798 Rising in Co Mayo. The book, Victory or Glorious Defeat: Biographies of Participants in the Mayo Rebellion of 1798, is edited by the Westport historian, Dr Sheila Mulloy, and is the culmination of many years of work on her part.

The book is being launched in Mayo County Library by Dr Harman Murtagh, President of the Military History Society of Ireland.

At 2 p.m. on Wednesday, 22 August 1798, just over 1,000 French troops landed at Kilcummin Strand in Co Mayo to launch a rebellion in the name of liberty in the west of Ireland. Reinforced by several thousand raw recruits, this small army made sensational progress initially, capturing Killala and Ballina and defeating a government force nearly twice its strength in a spectacular victory at Castlebar.

However, it all ended in tragedy, at Ballinamuck, Co Longford, on 8 September, where, after a token fight, the French were made prisoners of war. The Irish who had accompanied them were slaughtered mercilessly, and a wave of ruthless repression in Mayo ensued.

This long-awaited book is a collection of 11 essays by leading scholars and is edited by the Westport historian, Dr Sheila Mulloy, who also edited the three-volume Franco-Irish Correspondence, December 1688 - February 1692 (1984). For over 20 years. Sheila was the editor of Cathair na Mart, the journal of the Westport Historical Society, to which I contributed papers in 1998 and 1999. She is a recipient of the Humbert School’s ‘Champion of the West’ award.

This book is concerned with the personalities who became involved in these events, ranging from General Humbert himself to more colourful figures such as ‘Citizen’ John Moore and Baron Vippler O’Dowda on the rebel side, and General Lake, and Denis ‘The Rope’ Browne on the government side. The eleven essays, written by leading scholars, include accounts of significant figures such as Bartholomew Teeling, James Joseph MacDonnell and Father Manus Sweeney, as well as examining the folk memory of the events and the experiences of the United Irishmen transported to Australia.

The book is introduced by Harman Murtagh and the contributors are Guy Beiner, Patrick Comerford, John Cooney, Desmond McCabe, Conor MacHale, Sheila Mulloy, Harman Murthagh, Ruán O’Donnell, James Quinn and Christopher J. Woods.

Bishop Joseph Stock ... a biographical study and an analysis of his role and the role of his diocesan clergy in 1798

My essay is a biographical study of Bishop Joseph Stock, with an analysis of his role and the role of the Church of Ireland clergy in his diocese during those events in August and September 1798. My former colleague in The Irish Times, John Cooney, has written a study of General Humbert.

The contributors are described in the book as follows:

Dr Sheila Mulloy edited the three-volume Franco-Irish Correspondence, December 1688 – February 1692 (1984) and was the editor of Cathair na Mart, the journal of the Westport Historical Society, for over twenty years.

Guy Beiner is a senior lecturer of history at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. He was a Government of Ireland scholar at University College Dublin, a Government of Ireland research fellow at Trinity College Dublin and a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow in Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame. His book Remembering the Year of the French: Irish Folk History and Social Memory (University of Wisconsin Press, 2007) won several international awards.

John Cooney, the Founder-Director of the Humbert Summer School in Co Mayo, is a history MA honours graduate of the University of Glasgow and a former Honorary Fellow at the University of Aberdeen. He is preparing a major biography of General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert. A journalist with the Irish Independent, broadcaster and author, he is the biographer of John Charles McQuaid, Ruler of Catholic Ireland (O’Brien Press, Dublin, 1999). He also writes the weekly ‘Beyond the Pale’ column for the Western People.

Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Dublin, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. A former Foreign Desk Editor of The Irish Times, he studied theology at the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin, the Kimmage Mission Institute, Maynooth, and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. He has published studies of Church of Ireland clergy in 1798 in the dioceses of Ferns and Ossory. He is a contributor to numerous books, journals and other publications.

Conor Mac Hale is a former secondary teacher and part-time university lecturer, specialising in computer-related topics. His interest in the O’Dubhdas and local history was awakened in 1971 by the publication of his mother’s book Stories from O’Dowda’s Country. He has since published several items, as well as lecturing on historical and genealogical research at local, national and international events, and acting as a research assistant at the Irish National Folklore Collection. His published historical works include The O’Dubhda Family History (C. Mac Hale, Inniscrone, 1990), Annals of the Clan Egan (C. Mac Hale, Inniscrone, 1990), The French Invasion of Ireland in 1798 (with Thomas Dowds) (IHR, Dublin, 2000) and Inishcrone & O’Dubhda Country (IHR, Dublin, 2003).

Desmond McCabe is currently working on the official history of the Office of Public Works (Ireland). He has worked on aspects of Irish urban history in the Centre for Urban History, University of Leicester; in the Irish Famine Project (based in Trinity College, Dublin) and on the Dictionary of Irish Biography (RIA). Most of his published work has been on the social history of 19th century Ireland. Born in Dublin, his mother was from Corraun, in the parish of Achill, Co Mayo.

Harman Murtagh was senior lecturer in law and Irish studies at the Athlone Institute of Technology, where he is a visiting fellow. His publications include the ‘Athlone’ fascicle of the Royal Irish Academy’s Irish Historic Towns Atlas, Athlone: history and settlement to 1800, The battle of the Boyne 1690 and contributions to many scholarly books and journals, especially on military history, biography and settlement studies, with a focus on the Jacobite wars. His essay ‘General Humbert’s futile campaign’ was published in 1798: a bicentenary perspective (Four Courts Press 2003). He is President of the Military History Society of Ireland, was editor of The Irish Sword for 25 years, and is Vice-president of the Group for the Study of Irish Historic Settlement.

Ruán O’Donnell is the Head of the History Department at the University of Limerick. He has written extensively on the history of the United Irishmen and Irish republicanism worldwide. O’Donnell is a graduate of University College Dublin and the Australian National University. Originally from Dublin, he lives in Limerick with his wife Maeve and children Ruairi, Fiachra, Cormac and Saoirse.

James Quinn is a graduate of University College Dublin and the Executive Editor of the Royal Irish Academy’s Dictionary of Irish Biography, published in nine volumes by Cambridge University Press in November 2009. His many publications on eighteenth and nineteenth-century Irish history include the biographies Soul on Fire: a Life of Thomas Russell (Irish Academic Press, Dublin, 2002) and John Mitchel (University College Dublin Press, Dublin, 2008).

C.J. Woods retired in 2006 from the staff of the Royal Irish Academy, where from 1969 he was employed at different times as a research assistant on A New History of Ireland and as a contributor to the Dictionary of Irish Biography. He is the editor of Journals and Memoirs of Thomas Russell, 1791-5 (Irish Academic Press, Dublin, 1991) and a co-editor of The Writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763-98 (3 vols, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998-2007) as well as author of articles on O’Connell and Parnell and Travellers’ accounts as source-material for Irish historians (Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2009).

Victory or Glorious Defeat: Biographies of participants in the Mayo Rebellion of 1798, edited by Dr Sheila Mulloy (Dublin: Original Writing, 2010), Paperback, ISBN: 978-1-907179-75-4 (€17).