A tour de force at the Military Archives


The military archives are in alphabetical order, but the guest list for the launch of the online Bureau of Military History 1913-21 Collection on Tuesday evening was not. The soldier on duty at the gate of Cathal Brugha Barracks, in Rathmines, leafed through reams of paper looking for names.

The head of Special Projects at the National Archives of Ireland, Catriona Crowe, was at the front door to greet the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan, with army personnel from the Military Archives.

Crowe first saw the documents in the late 1980s, when she was conducting one of the “endless periodic reviews which have gone on for decades. In their pristine black boxes in immaculate order in their strong room in Merrion Street, they were like a sleeping beauty behind a picket of thorns awaiting a prince’s kiss to awake them.”

According to Crowe, there were many princes, but Sleeping Beauty “is finally very much awake and tonight launches herself on the world stage”.

The Deputy Chief of Staff Maj Gen Ralph James was joined by Brig Gen Michael Finn and the assistant secretary general of the Department of Defence, Ciaran Murphy.

Capt Stephen Mac Eoin has been central to the digitisation of the project and the creation of the website.

He was joined by an old school friend from Maynooth post primary, IT consultant Eamonn Hodge. He arrived with his girlfriend, Michelle Byrne, who is a teacher at Loreto High School Beaufort, in Dublin.

The Rolls-Royce armoured car Sliabh na mBan was parked outside for invited guests to view. The vehicle was part of Michael Collins’s convoy on the day he was killed in 1922.

The car is set to return to west Cork for next Sunday’s annual Béal na mBláth commemoration.

Who we spotted:Professor emeritus of modern history at UCD Ronan Fanning; Comdt Pádraic Kennedy, who has taken over as the director of the Military Archives; the retired keeper of Marsh’s Library, Muriel McCarthy; Dr Mary Condren of the department of gender and women’s studies at Trinity College Dublin; the chairwoman of Dublin City FM Margaret Roche; newly promoted Capt Catherine Lundon, from Mullingar, Co Westmeath; Pte Adrian Short of the Military Archives.

A restored, seaworthy history

Nessa Childers MEP and her brother, Prof Rory Childers were the guests of honour at the opening of a new permanent exhibition Asgard: The 1914 Howth Gun-Running Vessel Conserved at the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks, in Dublin on Wednesday.

The Asgard was built in 1905 by the Norwegian naval architect Colin Archer and was given as a wedding present by the Osgood family to Erskine and Molly Childers. The yacht played a pivotal role in the 1914 Howth gun-running operation when it landed in Howth with German guns for the Irish Volunteers.

Rory, a cardiologist at the University of Chicago Hospital, said his family “refers to Robert Erskine Childers by his full name, to distinguish him from his son, my father, Erskine Hamilton Childers, later úachtarán na hÉireann”.

Rory said his grandfather, who was executed by firing squad at Beggar’s Bush Barracks after being arrested by Free State forces in 1922, wrote to Molly at least once a day. Nessa, the youngest of the family and its third public representative, maintained there is a similarity between then and now, “from the perspective of being a politician in a part of history which is, in its own way, as intense and dangerous as the place in history [our] grandfather lived and died in”.

The restoration was led by John Kearon, a master shipwright and conservator. John’s son, Matthew Kearon, who is an audiologist based in Southport, travelled for the launch with his girlfriend Emily Warrilow, a history student at the University of Liverpool.

Dr Craig Kingston from Rathgar, who is specialising in internal medicine at the Blackrock Clinic, was accompanied by his wife, Sarah, who is studying cultural policy at UCD.

Who we spotted:The Norwegian ambassador, Roald Næss; author Roddy Doyle; Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD; artist Robert Ballagh; Seamus Lynam, the acting director of the National Museum at Collins Barracks; Mary Dowling of the Chester Beatty Library.

More activities for Barretstown kids

It is a busy month for Barretstown, the Kildare-based children’s charity launched in 1994 by the late actor Paul Newman. The chief executive, Dee Ahearn (right), is preparing for the opening, on August 24th, of a new activity centre which has been built at a cost of €1.5 million. It will allow for more camp sessions to serve more children affected by serious illness.

The late Jim McNaughton, who served on the board of Barretstown, provided the first major tranche of funding.

Additional support has come from other benefactors, including New York-based hotelier, John Fitzpatrick, who took part in the RTÉ reality TV programme The Secret Millionaire last year.

Joining the McNaughton family and John Fitzpatrick at the opening will be Derry McKeown and David McKeown of Kilsaran Concrete, Pat McGrath, managing director of Miele Ireland, board members Danuta Gray and Maurice Pratt and Mgr John Wilson from Ballymore Eustace.

Norton to open Bewick show

The comedian and television presenter Graham Norton (below) will open An Exhibition of New Works 2012 by Pauline Bewick at Taylor Galleries on Kildare Street in Dublin 2, on September 4th. “He has my work on his walls,” the artist told me. “He went to Bandon Grammar School and there’s one of my pictures on the wall there, too.” Bewick will celebrate her 77th birthday at the event.

Norton is not the only one expected to make the trip across the water. The Liberal Democrat Emma Nicholson, Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne has also been invited. Not having quite as far to travel is former senator, Dr Mary Henry, who was inaugurated as chancellor of Trinity College Dublin this year, and her neighbour from Burlington Road in Dublin 4, former minister Gemma Hussey.

Byrom brings it home

The singer Paul Byrom has decided on at least one venue for his wedding to Phil Coulter’s daughter Dominique next August, and that’s Booterstown Church. The tenor told me at his concert in the National Concert Hall on Thursday evening that he sang in the church for 16 years. Dominique didn’t travel home from New York with him for Thursday’s concert.

Joining the group Celtic Thunder meant his solo career was put on hold for four and half years. Now as a solo artist he finds his career is growing all the time. His latest album, This is the Moment, reached No 1 on the world billboard charts last November and was followed by his first solo tour of the US and Canada.

His mother, Kathleen Byrom, and his sister, the interior designer Amanda Tuite, are delighted to have him home for a short stay, since attending his concerts in the US can be difficult.

Frank Cunneen and Suzanne Cunneen turned up to lend their support. Frank went to Blackrock College with Paul and shared a house with him for seven years. Suzanne, who works as a fundraiser for Our Lady’s Hospice, Harold’s Cross, praised Paul’s work for the hospice. They were joined by friends Clíona Caslin, from Mount Merrion, who is a primary-school teacher at the Harold School in Glasthule, and by Lisa Mehigan from Rathmines.

What we heard:Galileo; All By Myself; Bring Him Home

Silence of the lads

Leinster play Gloucester this afternoon at Tallaght Stadium, but Leinster rugby players Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Isaac Boss and Kevin McLaughlin are looking forward to going to hospital next week.

The Mansion House will be transformed into the Baltimore State Forensic Hospital for the Jameson Cult Film Club screenings, on Tuesday and Wednesday, of The Silence of the Lambs. Characters from the movie will perform live theatre with special effects timed to coincide with on-screen action. The event is free but ticketed: see JamesonCultFilmClub.ie.

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