O’Connell Street, Ennis
I was recently sent a book called O’Connell Street, Ennis, written by Larry Brennan and published late last year. (Sending me books is always a good way of getting my attention, by the way). It contains some of the usual features you would expect– a chronology of the town, accounts of some of its most famous events, a collection of 19th-century photographs. But by far the biggest section is an extraordinary house-by-house account of the street itself.
The author has painstakingly reconstructed the life story of every single building on O’Connell Street, using a wonderful range of sources. He takes a description of the current physical structure, apparently from the local council planning department, matches the present O’Connell Street address to the pre-1911 Jail Street address, adds any mention of the building from historic local newspapers, lists all the inhabitants, working from the register of electors in the year 2000 back 180 years though census records, commercial directories, and valuation revisions, and then tops the entry for each building with a vintage photograph. It is obviously a labour of true love and stands as a model of genealogical and local history. For anyone who knows the present street, an entire new dimension must be made visible.
The co-publisher, the ever-energetic Clare Roots Society, is also running a conference the week after Easter, nicely titled “Gathering the Scattering”, with a stellar line-up of speakers including Catriona Crowe, Steven Smyrl, Fiona Fitzsimons, Michael Gandy and Peter Higginbotham. Peter is the man who knows more about the history of workhouses than anyone on the planet (see workhouses.org.uk) and his talk on its own would make it worth attending. And if my experience of last year’s conference is anything to go on, the social side of things will be also be a big attraction. The conference brochure is at tinyurl.com/b4r8t6u.
['Irish Roots archive from 2009 at www.irishtimes.com/ancestor/magazine/column]