The recording and publishing of previously unheard and unwritten stories of Galway’s central role in the voluntary period from 1913 to 1923 is being described as a legacy project of the County’s Decade of Commemoration programme, which draws to a close this week.
The award-winning website at www.galwaydecadeofcommemoration.org, which has become an important repository of County Galway’s role in achieving Irish independence and the foundation of the Irish State, is among the projects that will be celebrated during “Embracing the Past” at Claregalway Castle this Thursday 14th December from midday to 5.00pm .
The event will see members of the public join with community organisations, historians, heritage experts and local authority officials to acknowledge the past ten years of remembering the momentous and defining period in Ireland’s and the county of Galway’s history.
The event will be launched by Councillor Dr. Evelyn Parsons, Leas Chathaoirleach of Galway County Council, and will feature a keynote address by Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, Professor Emeritus in History and former Dean of Arts and Vice-President of NUI Galway. Throughout the day reminders of various exhibitions researched and held during the decade will be on view, together with a craft display, various publications, and a showcase of videos and films. Tomás Mannion will also present an Aeraíocht of music and dance from 4.00 pm to 5.00 pm.
“This closing event gives us an opportunity to once again remember and reflect on the many historic events which took place throughout the country between 1913 and 1923,” stated the Leas Chathaoirleach. “It also allows us to recognise and pay tribute to all the people, young and old, who contributed in so many ways, often on a voluntary basis, to ensuring the aspirations of the Commemorative Strategy for the County of Galway, issued in October 2013, were fulfilled.”
According to Liam Conneally, Chief Executive of Galway County Council, “The ambitions of the Commemorative Strategy were to build on and complement the national commemorative programme, focusing on the role of our county and its people. It aimed to deliver a comprehensive and balanced programme of commemorations, recognise the totality of the historical period, ensuring mutual respect was central to all commemorative events and to ensure active engagement of all those interested in commemorating our history, in all its dimensions, with pride and respect.”
Mr. Conneally added, “During the past decade, including through the pandemic, Galway County Council hosted and facilitated numerous events in every corner of the county, including on the islands, focusing on remembering and honouring significant moments and people, as well as honouring the ordinary citizen, who continued to work, learn, live and love during this extraordinary period in Irish life.”
Acting County Librarian, Josephine Vahey, recalls the memorable wreath laying event in Athenry in March 2016, which formed part of the national commemorative events.
“It was the largest and the most significate commemorative event held in the county during the past ten years. It was both a solemn and joyous occasion,” Ms. Vahey said.
According to Marie Mannion, Galway County Heritage Officer and Galway County Decade of Centenaries Co-ordinator, “Galway County Decade of Commemorations programme brought the community together to reflect on its past, learn from it, and appreciate the sacrifices made during a crucial period in Irish history”.
“Our community of wonderful artists, musicians, poets and creatives contributed with huge enthusiasm and originality throughout the decade,” added Ms. Mannion. “With great imagination, grace and wisdom they captured the spirit of our emerging nation of 100 years ago. With great insight, reverence and accuracy they reflected the cultural consciousness, mood and tone of our contemporary reflections on the decade and truly helped us re-imagine a fairer more equitable and balanced reading of our history.”
Throughout the decade there were many history-based talks and activities, such as the in-person conference ‘Social and Political Change’, held in Loughrea in 2017, and the online seminar in 2021, titled ‘The War of Independence comes to North Connemara’. There have been exhibitions, such as those marking 100 years of the Dáil in 2019 and of An Garda Síochána in 2023. There was also the hugely successful two-day Farming and County Life event held in Teagasc in June 2016.
Many publications were researched and launched, such as Cumann na mBan: County Galway Dimensions (2015), Women of the West, Art Citizenship & Literature, published by Galway Public Libraries in 2018, The Independence Struggle in County Galway 1916-1923: A Research Guide by Galway County Historian in Residence, Dr. Conor McNamara.
Important anniversaries were marked, such as with the Pumps, Piers and Potholes, 120 Years of Local Government programme, with talks, exhibitions and bespoke national school workshops. Its strong educational strand involved art educators working with 4th and 5th class school children, introducing them to the concept and history of democratic local government, and facilitating the creation of contemporary visual interpretations of various resolutions passed by Galway County Council at its inaugural meeting held on 22 April 1899.
Monuments were unveiled, gardens and trees were sown, and wreaths laid, while communities around the county embraced the commemorations and held their own events and projects such as the Athenry 1916 Commemorative Garden, Aleen Cust Conference in Mountbellew, Jeremiah Mee book launch in Glenamaddy, Loughnane Brothers events in Beagh, Scoil Mhuire, Maigh Cuillin who had an award winning project on John Geoghegan, The War of Independence comes to North Connemara, hosted by Clifden and Connemara Heritage with Galway County Council.
Patria McWalter, Galway County Council Archivist stated, “Many of the wonderful and important archive collections held in Galway County Council Archives were digitized, thus ensuring global access to a treasure trove of historical records”.
Liam Hanrahan, Director of Services, Economic Development & Planning, Galway County Council, said, “The widespread engagement from the citizens of the county of Galway and the whole country, together with the diaspora, helped to ensure that the events of a hundred years ago were well remembered. The Decade of Commemorations brought a wider and deeper understanding of the lives of the people of that time, and the impact of the events of 1913 to 1923 had on them, and indeed the legacy of those events on our own lives today.”
“Embracing the Past”, the finale of the County of Galway’s Decade of Commemorations programme, funded by, Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and Galway County Council is a wonderful opportunity to gather, to remember, and learn from the past. The event is free of charge for all to attend.
Visit the award-winning Decade of Commemorations website at www.galwaydecadeofcommemoration.org for more.