A Student of History

May 29, 2007

The Wind that Shakes the Barley-Now in US

Filed under: Ireland,The past that is still with us — John Maass @ 11:39 am

I saw The Wind that Shakes the Barley on Sunday, what a tough film to watch.  It is excellent though, a very realisitic depiction not only on English bigotry and barbarities (for which they are sadly famous, though not the sole practicioners of it) but also the internal turmoil within Ireland over the Treaty.  None of the violence is overdone or gratuitous, so it does not come off like a slasher film.  Nevertheless, it is a powerful film and one not to be missed.

Cillian Murphy, Liam Cunningham, William Ruane, Ken Loach

On a related note, General Sir Mike Jackson in an interview with BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight program stated that innocent people were shot on Bloody Sunday, the 1972 British Army atrocity in Londonderry.

He is among former soldiers who gave their views to mark the end of the Army’s role in supporting the police in Northern Ireland.  “I have no doubt that innocent people were shot,” Sir Mike said.


Filed under: Historic Places,Ireland — John Maass @ 7:26 am

After seeing Boyle Abbey, in the rain sad to say, I next went North and arrived at Enniskillen, a large town by Irish standards, in County Fermanagh.  This was the site of a 1987 bombing that killed 11 people, and injured 63 people.  The IRA planted the bomb.  According to one news report I found on line, “The device went off without warning at 1045 GMT at the town’s cenotaph where people had gathered to pay their respects to the war dead.”  The dead included three married couples, a retired policeman and a nurse.

There’s little to remind one of the violence of those days now in this town, which is dominated by its skyline to include the Enniskillen Castle, situated beside the River Erne in County Fermanagh.  It was built almost 600 years ago by Gaelic Maguires.  Guarding one of the few passes into Ulster, it was strategically important throughout its history.  In the 17th century it became an English garrison fort and later served as part of a military barracks.

The castle is also the home of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Museum, which I toured.   

May 26, 2007

Making Progress….

Filed under: The Academy — John Maass @ 5:00 pm

Looks like I will be able to get my first full dissertation draft to my advisor by June 1st.

I have a July 16th defense date now scheduled as well.

Rich Lowery on Military History

Filed under: The Academy — John Maass @ 2:57 pm

At the National Review on-line, Rich Lowery has an article on military history and its importance today.  It is basically a short rehash of John Miller’s previous column.

Click here for the text.

Lots of War Records now On-Line

Filed under: Wars — John Maass @ 6:24 am

On Thursday, Ancestry.com unveils more than 90 million U.S. war records from the first English settlement at Jamestown in 1607 through the Vietnam War’s end in 1975. The site also has the names of 3.5 million U.S. soldiers killed in action.

“The history of our families is intertwined with the history of our country,” Tim Sullivan, chief executive of Ancestry.com, said in a telephone interview. “Almost every family has a family member or a loved one that has served their country in the military.”

The records, which can be accessed free until the anniversary of D-Day on June 6, came from the National Archives and Records Administration and include 37 million images, draft registration cards from both world wars, military yearbooks, prisoner-of-war records from four wars, unit rosters from the Marine Corps from 1893 through 1958, and Civil War pension records, among others.

Click here for more…

Boyle Abbey is Great

Filed under: Historic Places,Ireland — John Maass @ 6:24 am


The next stop I made driving north from Roscommon, not very good roads at all and by this time I was getting quite weary, was at Boyle.  Here there is a great abbey, undergoing extensive renovations.  Nevertheless, it is very accessible and is an OPW site.  It is also very similar in plan to Jerpoint Abbey in Kilkenny, as both were Cistercian abbeys.

Here are some details from a website:

One of the best preserved in Ireland, this Cistercian Abbey was colonised from Mellifont in 1161. The building of the chancel, and the transepts with their side-chapels, must have begun shortly after this date, though the lancet windows in the east gable were inserted in the 13th century. There is an interesting combination of rounded and pointed arches in the transepts and crossing. The large square tower formed part of the church from the beginning, though it was raised in height at a later stage. The five eastern arches of the nave and their supporting pillars were built at the end of the 12th century, and have well-preserved capitals typical of the period. Although built at the same time, the arches of the northern side of the nave are different in type, and have differently shaped columns and capitals. The three westernmost arches in the south arcade, with their attractive leafed and figured capitals, and the west wall were built after 1205 but before the church was finally consecrated in 1218. Nothing remains of the cloister, but on the eastern side there are two doorways of c.1200, now blocked up, while on the west side there is a two-storey gatehouse, which acts as an interpretative centre. The rest of the buildings surrounding the cloister are largely 16th or 17th century in date. The Abbey was one of the most important in Connacht, and was invaded by Richard de Burgo and Maurice Fitzgerald, and Justiciar, in 1235. In 1659, the Cromwellians occupied the monastery and did a great deal of destruction.

May 25, 2007

Roscommon Castle

Filed under: Historic Places,Ireland — John Maass @ 7:44 am

The second stop on my way to the North from Shannon Airport, to stay with my wife’s relations in Derry, was to see Roscommon Castle, in the county & town of the same name.  As is the case with just about everything else one wants to see in Ireland, it is not clearly marked by signs!  Anyway, I located it and crawled around it for a short time.  Nice ruins (if ruins can be nice) and access to its walls and nooks is pretty good.  They also have a good interpretive sign right outside the main door, which helps to understand the castle’s significance.  The town of Roscommon is pretty as well, and is a good place to get something to eat, etc. 


Roscommon Castle is located just outside Roscommon town. It was built in 1269 by Robert de Ufford, Justiciciar of Ireland, on lands he had seized from the Augustinian Priory. The castle was besieged by the Connacht King Aodh O’Connor in 1272, Eight years later it was again in the hands of the English garrison, and fully restored. By 1340 the O’Connors regained possession of it, and held it for two centuries until 1569, when it fell into the hands of Sir Henry Sidney, Lord Deputy. In 1641 the Parliamentarian faction gained it until Confederate Catholics under Preston captured it in 1645. It remained in Irish hands until 1652 when it was partially blown up by Cromwellian “Ironsides” who had all the fortifications dismantled. It was finally burned down in 1690 and thus it gradually fell into decay.

May 24, 2007

Kilmacduagh is well worth the trip

Filed under: Historic Places,Ireland — John Maass @ 9:03 pm

In order to help me make some sense of my recent trip to Erin, I am going to detail the route I took and what I saw, since much is historical in nature.  I will do it in order, starting on my first day there.  If you are not into my own travels or Irish history, feel free to skip these posts….

The first thing I did once I left Shannon in my red, high powered Opel Corsa is to head North into Galway, and see Kilmacduagh.  This is pronounced “kill-mack-doo-ah.”  Now, having seen most of the important Irish monastic/church sites and ruins in my 3 previous trips there, I was NICELY surprised to find this unheralded gem.  To be so close to Galway and Shannon airport, and to have several ruined structures as well as an INTACT round tower, this place is waaaaay under visited.  I was alone for the 45 minutes to an hour I was there.  Some pictures are below, and a little history.  The site is near Gort, although somewhat challenging to find (Ireland needs some helpwith its signage).

Close to and easily accessible from Gort, this interesting early Christian site is well worth a visit for its ruined churches and well preserved round tower. The monastery was founded in the 7th Century by St. Colman MacDuagh under the patronage of Guaire, King of Connacht, although, except for the tower, most of the present buildings date from the 13th – 14th centuries. The name Kilmacduagh roughly translates as “church of Duagh’s son”.This site was of such importance that it became the centre of a new diocese, the Diocese of Kilmacduagh, in the 12th century; it is now incorporated into the Diocese of Galway. The monastery, because of its wealth and importance, was plundered several times in the lawless years of the 13th century. The interesting stonework features scattered throughout the small churches are worth searching for; these are mostly inserts from the late 11th to the 15th centuries. The Reformation effectively brought the religious life of Kilmacduagh to a close.For a detailed history of this site, click here.

Know Church, Know Western Civ.

Filed under: The world today — John Maass @ 7:54 pm

Philanthropist and retired hedge-fund manager Robert W. Wilson said he is giving $22.5 million to the Archdiocese of New York to fund a scholarship program for needy inner-city students attending Roman Catholic schools.Wilson, 80, said in a phone interview today that although he is an atheist, he has no problem donating money to a fund linked to Catholic schools.

“Let’s face it, without the Roman Catholic Church, there would be no Western civilization,” Wilson said.

The rest of this article is here.

Historic fort celebrates 250 years

Filed under: Historic Places — John Maass @ 5:53 pm

News item:  Fort Massac, built in 1757, is now 250 years old.

Bronze Age Urn Discovered in IRL

Filed under: Ireland — John Maass @ 6:42 am
From Waterford:

An exciting archaeological find dating to c.1700 B.C. was unearthed by licensed archaeologist, Orla Scully during test excavations on the Airport Road Realignment (R708) at Monamintra crossroads on Tuesday the 15th of May. The find comprises of an early Bronze Age collared urn burial, which contains the cremated remains of at least two individuals, a child and an adult.
According to Freya Smith, Assistant Archaeologist of the Tramore House Regional Design Office, “Originally the urn would have been slightly taller but the base has been damaged. The collar of the urn is decorated by two bands of criss-cross motifs separated by a series of lines encircling the entire circumference of the urn”.
Freya explained that, “Orla was carrying out archaeological test excavations on behalf of Waterford County Council in an area that had been highlighted by previous non-intrusive archaeological investigations as an area of archaeological potential”. Adding that, “As a result of the find, additional test trenches will be dug by Orla Scully to establish the extent of the site”.
It is understood that a geophysical survey was carried out at this location earlier in the year which identified the area as containing potential archaeological remains.
The collared urn is now in the possession of an archaeological conservator.
A large portion of Early Bronze Age archaeological evidence is derived from burial sites. Bronze-Age burials are generally not monumental in character. A common trait and underlying motif of this phase of burial custom was the inclusion of pottery vessels.


Ballintubber Abbey

Filed under: Historic Places,Ireland — John Maass @ 6:41 am

I’ve just returned from Ireland, and one of the sites I visited was this one, Ballintuber Abbey founded in 1216 by King Cathal O’Conor, in Co. Mayo.  It is the only church in Ireland still in daily use that was founded by an Irish king.  It was awesome, especially to pray at a spot where so many had before me for so long in the face of so much persecution and attacks.

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