Annual Outing to Birr 26th – 29th April 2024

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The outing cost may be paid via this link

The annual outing for 2024 will be will be based in Birr from Friday 26th April to Monday 29th inclusive, Accommodation has been reserved in The County Arms Hotel but all of these rooms are now booked following the announcement of the outing details at recent meetings of the society.

It may be worthwhile to contact the hotel to see if rooms become free — our contact is Michelle Digan 057 912 0791

Here are other accommodation options:

  • Dooleys Hotel 057 912 0032
  • The Stables 057 912 0263
  • Emmet House 057 916 9885
  • Spinners 057 912 3779
  • Townsend Guest House 057 912 1276
  • Minnocks B&B 087 970 8312

Please let us know (at outings@rathichaelhistoricalsociety.ie ) if you plan to stay elsewhere.

We have arranged dinner in the hotel for Sat. evening 27th April (3 courses + tea / coffee for €38 / person)

Please ensure that you have reserved with the hotel for dinner (if you will be joining us). Cost of dinner and drinks is not included in the outing cost and must be dealt with individually.

The plans for the weekend are now finalised and are very exciting. They include a guided visit to the Monastic site of Sier Kieran for those who arrive in Birr in the early afternoon on Fri.

An introductory talk on The Monastic Midlands in the hotel on the Fri. evening – with tea / coffee.

A guided visit to Birr Castle, Museum and Gardens and a guided walking tour of Birr, after lunch in the castle café.

Guided visits to Clonmacnoise and Clonfert, with lunch and a guided visit to the Napoleonic fort in Shannonbridge.

Guided visits to the Monastic site of Lemanaghan, with lunch locally, and to visit Boher Church to see the famous shrine and Harry Clarke windows there, and a visit to a private metal working workshop.

Cost for the trip is €110. This includes all visits, appreciation for our guides, 3 lunches + tea / coffee on the Fri. evening.

The outing cost may be paid via this link

Full itinerary will be provided when you book and the outing fee is paid.

We look forward to spending a most enjoyable weekend with you in Birr.

Early Norman Ireland – Summer Series 2023

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recordings available via this link

(Daniel Maclise: The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife picture in the National Gallery of Ireland)

The 2023 Summer Series of lectures had the theme Early Norman Ireland. We explored various consequences of the invasion of 1169, particularly in the century that followed. The five lectures covered the introduction of new legal and administrative frameworks, the new institutions and architecture and women’s roles and status.

The lectures took place at 8pm on the five evenings Mon 21st – Fri 25th August in Rathmichael National School on Stonebridge Road (map).

The recordings of the five lectures in the August Summer Series are now available to members only via this link

Date
Aug
SpeakerSubject
21John MarshallThe Division of Anglo-Norman Leinster, 1247
22Adrian EmpeyThe Anglo-Norman Legacy
23Michael PottertonCastles in the Air: The Leo Swan Memorial Lecture 2023
Anglo-Norman castles in Ireland, c.1170 – c.1320
24Rachel MossChurch building in Early Norman Ireland
25Sparky BookerThe Status and Rôles of Women in Late Medieval Ireland

Castles in the Air: The Leo Swan Memorial Lecture 2023
Anglo-Norman castles in Ireland, c.1170–c.1320

Dr Michael Potterton (Maynooth University)

This paper will look at the role played by the Anglo-Normans in the development of castle-building in Ireland in the 150-year period from c.1170 to c.1320. Were there castles in Ireland before this time? What were the major types of castle built after 1170? Where were they? What were their roles? Who built them? Why? These are some of the questions that will be addressed in this virtual tour of Ireland’s major fortifications of the ‘long’ thirteenth century. We will also look at castles in their wider landscape, how they evolved over time, what overseas influences were at play, and what precipitated a major fall-off in castle-building in Ireland in the early fourteenth century. The talk will be illustrated with photographs – some taken by Leo Swan – of surviving castles as well as reconstruction drawings and the results of archaeological and historical investigation. 

The Division of Anglo-Norman Leinster, 1247
John Marshall, TCD

This lecture explores the partition of the lordship of Leinster in 1247, after the five sons of William Marshal the elder (d.1219) died without producing an heir. The talk will discuss the ramifications of this pivotal moment for English Ireland, in addition to providing an insight into the rich primary source documentation of the partition itself.

The Anglo-Norman Legacy
Adrian Empey

The popular image of the Normans generally features earnest-looking gentlemen in chain-mail suits, castle-builders and and introducers of Gothic architecture, all of which is true enough. Less acknowledged is their institutional legacy in law and governance. We still use common law and the county system that they created. They decisively changed the demographic shape of Ireland. They left a profound impact on the institutions of the church all the way down to the parochial system. They founded most of the towns and villages of eastern, southern and western Ireland. They left a profound influence on the English language. All these consequences flowed from small, isolated bands of Norman adventurers who had no plan whatsoever to conquer Ireland.

Guided Walk in Dublin’s Liberties – 27th May 2023

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Arran Henderson of Dublin Decoded will lead a walk around parts of the Dublin Liberties.

The starting time is 11.00 am,  SATURDAY 27 MAY at the fountain in the centre of the park
beside Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.  The walk will last approximately 2 hours.

Remember to dress appropriately for the weather!

Walk Details
Visit  Blackpitts, Newmarket, Mill Street, the former St Luke’s Church and its old Almshouse,
Cork Street and the Coombe,  we will discuss industry from the medieval period though
the 1600s and beyond, underground rivers, neglect and regeneration, including the
history of weavers, tanning, brewing and distilling in this area; trade, fire, poverty and rebellion.
Later on our walk we will visit philanthropic housing from the late 1800s, the site of an historic
hospital, and much more, in this extraordinary quarter of Dublin’s Liberties.  

Audio kits will be provided and are included in the cost.

The cost is 20 euros per person. Booking can be made here.

If you arrive for the walk without a booking, you MUST have the fee in CASH with you and you
will not have an audio kit provided as these must be booked in advance.

Programme Change 1st Mar 2023

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Please note that the talk scheduled for Wed 1st March by Finola Finlay on Stained Glass has been swapped with the talk by Thérèse Hicks on the Kennedys of Newtown Mount Kennedy.

The revised programme:

Wed 1st March 2023 8pm    Thérèse Hicks    “No Mere Irish – The Kennedys of Mount Kennedy”

Wed 5th  April  2023  8pm    Finola Finlay      “The Story of Stained Glass in Ireland: Beyond Harry Clarke”

Fifty years of the Rathmichael Historical Society

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Written by Rob Goodbody

This year the Rathmichael Historical Society celebrates its first half century and during the summer members repeated the outings of that first season of 1972, to the ancient church of Rathmichael, the Rathmichael Hill Fort and the Ballycorus lead mines and chimney.

The main focus of the celebrations took place in Rathmichael School on Wednesday 5th October when a large number of past and present members gathered, along with representatives of families of early committee members. The focus of the evening was a talk by Rob Goodbody on the history of the historical society, reflecting on how wonderful it is when a historical society becomes historical itself.

Rob Goodbody

The Rathmichael Historical Society was founded at a meeting of like-minded people in the conservatory of Llanmawr, Corbawn Lane, the home of Mrs Kathleen Turner, in April 1972. Besides Mrs Turner the group included Joan Delany, Joanna Bonar Law, Ian Booth and Rev Ernan Perdue. The name Rathmichael was chosen as it is the site of one of the most important ancient churches in the area and also the name of the medieval parish in which Shankill is located. The name is also distinctive.

The society quickly attracted members from around the Shankill area and began running outings during the summer and evening lectures in the winter.

In 1975 the society added a new attraction to its activities, when it began the Rathmichael Summer School, organised by Joan Delany and designed to teach archaeology to anyone interested in the topic, including surveying archaeological monuments. Joan managed to attract enthusiastic support from many of the brightest stars in professional archaeology to teach on the courses and to deliver lectures.

The Rathmichael Summer School became all the more involved with archaeology from 1979, when the society began an archaeological excavation at Ballyman on the Dublin-Wicklow border. The excavation was fully licensed and one of the society’s members, Betty O’Brien, was the archaeologist. This site was near the ancient church of Ballyman, and the dig uncovered evidence for metal working as well as a corn-drying kiln dating from the fifth century.

After eight summers excavating at Ballyman the society’s excavation moved to Dundrum Castle, again with Betty O’Brien as the licensed archaeologist. This excavation at a fifteenth-century castle quickly discovered that there were extensive remains of a thirteenth-century castle below ground. This included a deep moat that had been backfilled with medieval rubbish. The moat had been spanned by a drawbridge and the excavation also discovered the very first drawbridge structure ever identified at an Irish castle.

In the mid-1990s, after the excavation at Dundrum was complete, the society moved its excavation to Drimnagh Castle, where the licensed archaeologist was Clare Mullins. This excavation kept going through two seasons within the area surrounded by the castle’s moat.

Alongside these archaeological excavations the Rathmichael Summer School continued to run courses in archaeology, with two courses a year run and about thirty participants on each course. In addition, the society began another course, entitled Art and Archaeology, again organised by Joan Delany. After the Drimnagh Castle excavation was completed, the society decided that the complexities of running archaeological excavations by a local historical society became too much and the courses ran for a while without the excavation. Two new courses were added to the Rathmichael Summer School in the late 1990s, run by Rob Goodbody and Seamas Ó Maitiu, one entitled How and Where to Source your Local History, and the other called Visual Courses for Local History. Both courses were located in Dublin city centre and brought the participants to local libraries and other sources of information.

Throughout almost a quarter century of the daytime courses run as the Rathmichael Summer School there was also a week-long series of evening lectures in archaeology and this part of the Summer School is still running, after forty-eight years. Over that time the lectures have been delivered by a veritable who’s who of Irish professional archaeologists and historians.

While participants on the Rathmichael Summer School courses paid a fee for attendance, this was not sufficient to cover the significant costs of archaeological excavations. From the mid-1980s into the 1990s the Rathmichael Historical Society ran a number of fund-raising events of high calibre. Aravon School relocated from Novara Road in Bray to a Victorian mansion at Old Conna Hill at that time and offered the historical society the use of its fine hall as the venue for social evenings that were held on five occasions between 1985 and 1990. These included performances by choirs and chamber ensembles, recitals, exhibitions, displays of finds from the archaeological excavations and various other attractions.

Researching history is an important activity, but its results are lost if they are not passed on. Some of the work carried out by members of the society formed the subject matter for lectures delivered, while other members published their work in books or magazines. The Rathmichael Historical Society itself published a journal between 1973 and 2003 but is probably better known for the small volume called If You Seek Monuments, that was written by founder-member Kathleen Turner and published by the Society in 1983. This is a guide to the historic monuments in the area and still very useful after all these years.

In that same year the society was responsible for rescuing the twelfth-century Kiltuck Cross and having it erected in the grounds of St Anne’s Church, Shankill.

50th Anniversary Cake

That the Rathmichael Historical Society is still lively and active after all these years was evident at the event on 5th October. The highlight of the evening, after the lecture, was the cutting of the birthday cake. This cake was specially made for the occasion by Bakelicious in Shankill and featured the society’s logo. In a wonderful climax to the evening the cake was cut by Ian Booth who, fifty years before, had been one of the first committee members of the society.

The ‘Rath’ in Rathmichael

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On Saturday, 23rd April 2022, Rob Goodbody was leading a walk for members of Rathmichael Historical Society to the ‘Rath’ in Rathmichael and even though our membership had lapsed, we were tempted back by this intriguing prospect.

We had only ever gone to talks at the school house, just a turn off the long and syncopatedly red-lighted N11 so that the hidden countryside beyond was a new and total wonder to us.

Here we were, in glorious blue-sky sunshine, on a shady little boreen full of flowers and birdsong which, Rob told us, was a still-surviving part of an ancient roadway – now truncated by Rathmichael Road – that used to link the Rathmichael Monastic Site with the other early Christian-era monasteries of the area. 

Rathmichael Monastic Site, with its remains of a round tower and beautifully decorated grave slabs had evidently been a very important monastery. It was founded by St Comgall of Bangor in the 6th century but its later history and even its name has been obscured under layers of Viking and Anglo-Norman occupation. Part of the old cashel wall still survives.

Our boreen stopped at the locked gate of a farm and, despite the ‘beware of the bull’ sign, we followed Rob and climbed over. Luckily we were wearing hiking boots as it was about to get even more adventurous when we had to go through a short but very wet and swampy area. However, nobody got stuck in the mud and needed a piggy-back and we continued onward and upward to the Rath itself.

This is a really big Rath with a marvellous panoramic view over a vast area – out to sea over Dalkey Island and Killiney Hill to the north and Bray Head and the Little Sugar Loaf and sweeping around to the Dublin Mountains to the south and west. To our surprise, Tony and I found ourselves just below the Ballycorus Lead Mines with which we are very familiar, but we get to it from the other side.

We came down by a different pathway and came to the 12th century granite cross which has a crucified Christ figure on both sides. This is the Fassore Cross which used to be the Tarmon Cross at the entrance to the Rathmichael Monastic Site.

From start to finish, this was a delightful and very pleasurably sociable tour – so very welcome as we emerge from Covid isolation. Rob, as ever, enriched us all by generously sharing his extensive knowledge and lore. And, we discovered (shhh, don’t tell) that we can get home to Rathgar by a shorter and much more pleasant route via Kilternan.

Written by Mary McCarrick       

Rathmichael Outing 14th May 2022

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On Sat. 14th May, our outdoor programme of events planned for this Summer continued, in glorious sunshine, and once again in the company of a really lovely group of approx. 20 members. Another wonderful day for Rathmichael, this time in the hands of the fascinating Anthony Murphy – spinner of myth and recounter of ancient lore, with his retelling of ancient tales related to the world famous Neolithic sites of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.

We had the most magical day with Anthony. Our members were spellbound by the extent of his knowledge, and by the manner in which he could seamlessly interweave his solid archaeological knowledge with the ancient stories related to the sites.

Members also enjoyed a lovely picnic beneath the towering mound of Dowth – sustenance for both body and soul, and time to digest the many fascinating insights shared with us by Anthony concerning the connections between the known history and the mythology.

Having said goodbye to Anthony, and purchased many of his books; it was hard to leave this landscape, so members spent time visiting the peaceful adjacent ruined Dowth Abbey and burial ground containing the impressive memorial to John Boyle O’Reilly.

Check out Anthony’s very popular blog Megalithic Ireland, and see the additional photographs of our lovely visit, on his Facebook page. Thank you Anthony for such a wonderful day hugely enjoyed by all.

Written by Adrienne Hume

Photographer: Robert Nicholson


One of the highlights of the visit to Newgrange and Dowth, described above, was the reading of the following very appropriate poem by poet, Moya Cannon, as we stood on top of the tumulus at Dowth:

Flowers at Loughcrew

We have no key with which to enter
this chamber of the dead
so must peer through an iron gate
along the stone passage
to where a rising sun at equinox
will flash its torch
on flowers and suns –
a seeding and reaping calendar –
like suns and flowers
in a child’s copybook.

A friend tells me
that fossil pollen is found
in the earliest burials.
He says this is what makes us humans as much as stone tools –
our ceremony of grief,
attended by what is most beautiful,
most fragrant on this earth.

Today is the last day of our winter.
Ice lingers under the stone lintel
but a brilliant sun reaches far
into the passage,
lights a corner of the backstone faintly,
gives us one carved flower,
picked out in white.

A family plays among the ruined cairns.
The father photographs them,
then gathers them to go
calling on the youngest,
to come along –
“Bríd, Bríd.”

Tomorrow is St. Bridget’s Day.
We drive home through soft pastureland.
In a low corner of a field
grow patches of greening rushes
and, near an old farmhouse,
on a slope,
strong clumps of snowdrops.

Moya Cannon

The Rathmichael Historical Society is 50 Years Old

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This year marks 50 years since the foundation of the Society in 1972. To celebrate this significant year we have organized a number of special events.

The first of these was a walk on Saturday, April 23rd, led by Rob Goodbody to visit the old Rathmicheal Church and Graveyard and the nearby Fort (Rathmichael itself!). Rob has been a member of the Society since the beginning and has served it in so many ways, including as President.

Two lectures in the Autumn will commemorate the founding; one, also by Rob Goodbody, will tell the history of the Society while the second is a repeat of an early lecture by Pól Ó Duibhir with the title “The French are on the Sea”. These talks will take place in the Rathmichael Parish Hall on Oct 5th and Nov 2nd.

Summer Lecture Series 2022

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Rathmichael Historical Society is delighted to announce that this year’s Summer Lecture Series will take place between 15th -19th August 2022.

The theme this year will be: The Monasteries of St. Colmcille.

Guest speakers will include Dr. Cormac Bourke, Dr. Brian Lacey, Dr. Dan McCarthy, Dr. Elizabeth O’Brien and Dr. Dagmar Ó Riain-Raedel.

All lectures will take place at 8pm in Rathmichael School Hall, Stonebridge Road, Shankill, Co. Dublin. Doors open at 7pm. Lectures will also be available online via Zoom.

Admission fee:

RHS Members – free.
Non-members – €5 per lecture.

Tea, coffee and biscuits after each lecture.

Rathmichael Outing 23rd April 2022

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On Sat. 23rd April 2022, Rathmichael Historical Society celebrated not only its 50th Anniversary, but also its return to ‘in person’ outings, with a truly significant walk to its spiritual home in the (as always) expert hands of the legend that is Rob Goodbody.

Rob is a longstanding stalwart of our society, an ex-President and a regular contributor to both our lecture programme and our outings, and we are very lucky that he is always willing to share with us his vast knowledge of all things local.

The Society felt that it was appropriate in the circumstances, to re-visit what the historian Ball considered “the most attractive site of a Celtic religious foundation in the Southern portion of Co – Dublin” (Kathleen Turner – If you Seek Monuments) – the evocative ruins of Rathmichael church situated “on a height in the middle of the graveyard, the whole enclosed by a rath of earth and stone”, the existing ruins dating to between the 9th and 12th Centuries.

Our group, of approx. 20  most interested and interesting individuals, who happily traipsed through mud and over stiles and gates in the wake of Rob, stood transfixed as he elucidated for us, what is known of the mysterious Rathdown Slabs, attached to the walls of the church for security.

In a tiny laneway close to the church, we marvelled at the survival into present times, of a “crude little cross of granite with a solid circular head… the Crucifixion carved on both faces – on one side in high relief, on the other in low relief”. The recent addition of small ‘covid stones’ a poignant reminder of the trials of the last 2 years.

We also visited what remains of the once monumental Rathmichael hill-fort “with two or perhaps three rings, on the hill behind the old Rathmichael graveyard”. In the past, students of the Rathmichael Historical Society’s Field Archaeology Course had made a survey of this fort.

Time passed surprisingly quickly for our little group of pilgrims, beguiled by this ancient landscape through which we traipsed, and the hints of life in the Iron age and early Christian period which Rob brought so vividly to life for us all.

Our group comprised both new and established members, and it was wonderful to be amongst such like-minded individuals for our first of many returns to face-to-face explorations. We returned to ‘the present’, our spirits raised, our imaginations stirred and our hearts filled with wonder, though our feet were a little muddied, looking forward to our next adventures into the past.

As always, huge thanks to Rob for his ongoing kindness in sharing his vast knowledge with all of us.

Written by Adrienne Hume 

1st May 2022   

Photographers: Robert Nicholson and Tony Fitzmaurice.

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