Sunday, November 25, 2012

John Hamrock and Aiden Feerick's description of the NUI Maynooth & The Gathering Conference held at NUI Maynooth on Saturday, 24 November 2012

Study Day at Maynooth

Organised by the Department of History, the National University of Ireland Maynooth (NUIM), the study day was called The Gathering: Local History, Heritage and Diaspora

The Gathering: Local History, Heritage & Diaspora

Saturday 24 November 2012 (9:30am – 4:00pm)

Renehan Hall, Maynooth University (south campus)

Organised by the Department of History, National University of Ireland Maynooth

The conference was of interest to local historians, librarians, heritage officers, genealogists, and all with an interest in studying and or researching Irish emigration.  It was a cold day.  I would say there were about a hundred people who attended the event.  Aiden Feerick and I represented Ancestor Network Limited and the Genealogical Society of Ireland.  I recognised a number of faces from Dublin - many genealogists.  I also recognised a collection of people from Roscommon and East Galway.     

9:15am                                    Registration

9:30am                                    Welcome & Introduction
                                    Professor Marian Lyons (Department of History, NUI Maynooth)

9:35am                                   Opening address: The Gathering 2013
                                    Tim O’Connor (Chairman, Board of the Gathering)

Tim O’Connor, the Chair of the Board of the Gathering and former diplomat, spoke of the event as a kind of open house for the next year where the people of Ireland have issued an invitation to the whole world to come and experience the national and local events which are all being expanded next year to welcome our visitors.

Key points: Culture is the link between Irish America and Diaspora and the Irish.  Culture is what maintains the bonds between the irish Americans and Ireland even if it is several generations apart.  Stubborness in holding onto culture is a key Irish trait. The cultural heart of New York is Broadway where the Irish have always punched above their weight.  The key is to bridge the gap between Broadway and Wall Street, the financial capital of the world where many Irish Americans hold power and influence.        

Ulster Scots tradition should not be overlooked as that is largest segment of Irish America.  They migrated earlier so have been forgotten for the most part by Ireland.  They have produced 17 US presidents. 

What is The Gathering?  It is an Open House of Ireland in 2013.  It will take peoples’ efforts to make it successful.  County Steering Groups are being established. 

The recent Notre Dame Navy football game was the real kick off of The Gathering where 35,000 Americans came over.  4 out of 5 of these 35,000 American visitors had never been to Ireland before.  It was a great opportunity to showcase Ireland on American television.

The Gathering in 2013 will officially start on New Year’s Eve in Dublin.  St. Patrick’s Day will have major celebrations and events, followed by the Galway Arts festival, the GAA World Championships, the Irish Jewish Community reunion, then the global reading of Ulysses with relatives and descendents of James Joyce, the Kennedy family gathering in New Ross, etc.

What is The Gathering?  It is an open source national platform to build and deepen the relationship between Ireland and the Diapora.

Gabriel Byrne has thrown enormous energy into his role as Cultural Ambassador to the USA.  He said what he said about The Gathering.  Tim O’Connor disagreed with Gabriel Byrne’s statements, but respected his views.  The good thing which have come from Gabriel Byrne’s statements is that is has launched the debate about The Gathering.

It all still comes down to Roots, Culture, Past, ands History. 

In less than 10 years, Ireland will be commemorating its centenary from 1916 to 2016 and enter into its second century of statehood.

The Gathering is about healing the breaches, particularly the breaches of emigration. 

Be part of it!

10:00-10:20am            ‘The global Irish family and its history’
                                    Patrick Fitzgerald (Mellon Centre for Migration Studies, Omagh)

                               Dr Paddy Fitzgerald from the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies, Omagh, Co Tyrone,      spoke about the global Irish family and how up to 80 million people worldwide claim Irish descent. He went on to contextualise the Irish Diaspora as part of the European Diaspora but with several characteristics which mark it apart. The Irish Diaspora has been persistent in that, from at least The Flight of the Earls in 1603 until today, the outward movement has been constant. Even the Irish local accent is persistent, from the Munster inflections of the people of Montserrat to the Westmeath lilt of the descendants of the Irish who migrated to Argentina. Unlike other countries, Ireland has had an even gender balance among its emigrants with the emigrating women going into domestic service. Again, unlike other countries there are low return rates; the Irish seem to have returned less frequently than other European populations; the tradition of the American Wake in some parts of the country meant that it was a journey of no return. And chain migration has also been a characteristic of our immigration with, for example, the people from Aran More, Co Donegal predominantly going to Beaver Island, Michigan.  But the greatest impact of emigration has been at home here in Ireland with the Great Famine being remembered as a defining moment in our nation’s life.

10:20-10:40am            ‘Working with the Irish abroad – a perspective from the Department of Foreign Affairs and trade’
                                    Niall Burgess (Department of Foreign Affairs)

                                  A serving diplomat, Niall Burgess, spoke about how we as a country see ourselves as a Diaspora. Even though the numbers emigrating to the US today are relatively small, our citizenship laws, whereby a person with an Irish-born grandparent can become an Irish citizen, explicitly acknowledge our links with our recent past. He went on to speak about the Famine as the foundation myth for Irish immigration into the US and how there is an official Famine Commemoration every year. He also stressed the importance of the availability of online genealogical resources as well as those about to go online and how these resources are under-utilised in America

10:40-11:00AM          ‘The Ireland Reaching Out Programme’
                                    John Joe Conwell (Community Liaison Officer for the Ireland Reaching Out Programme)

The Ireland Reaching Out Programme, brainchild of Galway entrepreneur Mike Feerick, has been successful since its beginning in attracting emigrants from East Galway to return and experience Ireland of the Welcomes. Local people meet and greet the returnees, take them around their parishes and show them where their folks lived and farmed and where they have been buried and help them answer any question they may have. The key to the success of the programme, according to its Community Liaison Officer, John Joe Conwell, has been the involvement of local people at every stage.

Q & A

There were none.  People needed their coffee.

This panel distributed an excellent bibliography called ‘Suggested readings on Irish transmigration studies’.

11:40-12:00pm            Searching for your lost ancestors: using transmigration studies
                                    Dr. Gerard Moran (Department of History, NUI Maynooth)

Using transmigration studies as a tool in the search for our ancestors was the topic of Dr Gerry Moran’s presentation. He listed the number of sources that are available both in Ireland and in the US. He examined in detail the various assisted emigration schemes in the Famine and immediate post-Famine period and alerted researchers of passenger lists to the fact that over 90% of emigrants who left from Liverpool after 1851 were classed as English. More people, he said, left between 1845 and 1855 than in the previous 200 years. With regard to the immigration records of Irish Americans, he stressed the importance of Church records in the US like, for example The Church of the Transfiguration in New York or secular records like the Search for Missing Friends which appeared in the Boston Globe. 

A suggested reading list was supplied by NUIM’s History Department to enable the participants to become more au fait with recent and current research trends.

12:00-12:20pm            Entrepreneurs, innovators and philanthropists: the Irish imprint on the American Midwest, 1850-1900
                                    Ms Regina Donlon (Department of History, NUI Maynooth)

Following on from this presentation, Regina Donlon, a doctoral student in the NUIM’s History Department, explored Irish immigration to the American Midwest with particular emphasis on Fort Wayne, Illinois and St Louis, Missouri. She focussed on the Irish-born entrepreneurs, like Edward Fogerty who set up a blacksmithing business in Fort Wayne, and on Joseph Murphy, the maker of the famous Murphy Wagon of the American frontier, who operated out of St Louis. She also mentioned the social visionaries of the time, the Irish Sisters of Charity, and their work is setting up and managing hospitals and homes. The Irish philanthropist, John Mullanphy, was also mentioned in this context. After accumulating a fortune, Mullanphy, displayed both remarkable generosity and ethnic loyalty by founding homes in St Louis for fellow Irishmen who were down in their luck or were simply too old or ill to work. 

12:20-12:40pm            ‘In search of the Strokestown Famine emigrants’
                                    Dr CiarĂ¡n Reilly (Department of History, NUI Maynooth)

The Famine Emigrants from the Strokestown Estate were the subject of Dr Ciaran O’Reilly’s presentation. He discussed emigration from the Mahon estate and stated that up to 60% of the tenants on the Strokestown estate disappeared during the Famine, many of them assisted to emigrate by the Mahon family. 50,000 documents relevant to the Mahon estate have been stored in Castletown by the Office of Public Work (OPW) and the History Department of NUIM is actively studying them. According to the speaker, these documents contain information on at least 10,000 people. And last year there was a weeklong gathering of the descendants of those who left Strokestown during the Famine more than a century and a half ago. Dr O’Reilly also drew attention to the amount of Irish related material that exists and is relatively unused in the US from Passport Applications to Census data to the New York Census of Inmates in Almshouses and Poorhouses 1830-1860. This, of course, is in addition to the wealth of material on the Irish who immigrated to Britain during and especially after the Famine and can be garnered from the UK Censuses. 

1:00pm                        Lunch & viewing of the Morpeth Roll

2:00-2:20pm                The Morpeth Roll: An Introduction
                                    Christopher Ridgway (Curator, Castle Howard, York & Adjunct Professor, Department of History, Maynooth)

2:20-3:00pm      ’s involvement in digitising and indexing the Morpeth Roll

3:00-3:40pm                Bringing the Morpeth Roll to life: a challenge for local historians
                                    Mario Corrigan (Executive Librarian, Kildare Library & Arts Services)

                                    Chairperson: Professor Raymond Gillespie (Department of History, NUI Maynooth)

3:40pm                        Plenary discussion led by Dr Patrick Fitzgerald

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