Early starts and late launches, lectures, laughs
Serious concerns: Diarmaid Ferriter in his office at UCD. photograph: dave meehan
My Education Week: Diarmaid Ferriter,Professor of modern Irish history at University College Dublin
I spend Saturdays in UCD, moving between the office and the library, as it’s quiet and you can get a clear run at things. Today, I’m ploughing through the McAleese report on the Magdalene laundries, to prepare a newspaper opinion piece and for an RTÉ radio interview. I also have to write an evaluation as external assessor for an academic seeking promotion in another university; it is important to give these things time and do them thoroughly.
I’m updating a lecture on the War of Independence and reading a chapter of a book I’m reviewing, as well as chasing footnotes for an essay on John McGahern, based on a lecture I gave on him last year.
I also read a postgraduate application for an Irish Research Council grant; the applicant needs a reference and is looking for comments on the proposal. This is generally the way I approach work: I write a list the night before of all that has to be done the following day and give a little bit to all items and continue to do that until I get to the end of them. I’m good at compartmentalising and have learned effective time management from experience; I’ve been a full-time historian for just over 20 years.
Up early to read more of the Magdalene report, and then I take the kids swimming. I have three daughters, aged eight, six and three, and they’ve a lot of energy to burn. After that it’s down to RTÉ for the second half of Marian Finucane’s show to analyse the Magdalene report.
I manage to finish a book review after lunch and then climb Killiney Hill with my wife, Sheila (who teaches in Senior College Dún Laoghaire), and the kids. This is followed by one of my favourite times of the week: two hours on my own in my local with a pint and the newspapers.
Weekdays start about 6am. I run three or four miles early every weekday and do a longer one at weekends. I’m obsessive about this; it clears the head, allows time to plan and think and helps me structure the day.
Into UCD for 8am to prepare a two-hour MA seminar class on historiography from 10am to noon; afterwards I have consultations with students about their thesis topics. I then reply to student emails about essays, grades and courses. Then it’s on to a meeting in the afternoon in the National Library about a planned exhibition on the 50th anniversary of JFK’s visit, in 1963.