From Wild Child Day to water fun, Heritage Week is a family event

Jewish history is one of many themes to be explored at events throughout the country

More than 450,000 people will participate in nearly 2,000 events over the next nine days as part of Heritage Week, the largest cultural event of the year, which starts on Saturday, August 19th.

This year, the focus of the annual celebration will be on Ireland’s natural heritage. Next Wednesday is officially Wild Child Day, arising from widespread concern that, due to the changing nature of children’s lives, their connection with nature is under serious threat. The day’s events will include nature hunts, trails and picnics in the woods. Our water resources will be celebrated on Sunday, August 27th, with events based around – and on – rivers, lakes and seas.

Heritage Week is part of European Heritage Days, when millions of Europeans visit historical monuments and sites to learn more about Europe’s common cultural heritage. The range of events is as eclectic and wide-ranging as ever, with many of the most intriguing experiences to be found through the 75 per cent of events which are hosted by volunteers or individuals in small communities who champion Ireland’s heritage in its many diverse forms.

On Sunday, for example, a group of writers and musicians will come together in the Irish Jewish Museum to celebrate and explore Jewish heritage. The museum stands on the site of the former synagogue in the heart of what was Dublin's "Little Jerusalem", the once-densely populated Jewish neighbourhood off the South Circular Road.


Jewish heritage

Margarita Meklina, a Russian-born writer with part-Jewish heritage, will be reading from her first English-language book, The Little Gaucho Who Loved Don Quixote, about a boy who escapes with his family from 19th-century Russia to a Jewish colony in Argentina. Meklina came to Dublin two years ago, having lived in the US since the early 1990s.

“When I arrived in Dublin, I had nothing to relate to. I had no idea where I’d ended up,” she says. Although not religious, she has been interested in exploring her Jewish identity since she was young, when she thought of it as a way of expressing opposition to the old Soviet regime. And because her father was Jewish, she was able to emigrate as a refugee to the US.

"I had never heard about Jews in Ireland, " says Meklina. "But when I moved to Rathfarnham [in Dublin], I ended up living beside the synagogue and thought, this is something I can relate to."

Also reading will be poet Gerry McDonnell, whose collection Mud Island Elegy is partly inspired by his own memories of growing up near the long-closed Jewish cemetery on Fairview Strand. The cemetery, the oldest one in Ireland, was established in 1718, closed in 1900, and was recently handed over to Dublin City Council by the Dublin Jewish board of guardians. McDonnell's poetry seeks to give voice to the 19th-century Dublin Jews who are buried there. Meklina and McDonnell will join with pianist and violinist Maja Elliott, klezmer clarinettist Alain Halimi and Yiddish singer Carl Nelkin for an afternoon of literature and music.

Pulse of the Past: Reviving Memories of the Jewish Diaspora takes place at 3.30pm on Sunday, August 20th,

Full listings of all National Heritage Week events are at

Free brochures are available at local libraries or tourist offices.

A taste of Heritage Week

Take a guided tour of the impressive Victorian buildings of the Old Cork Waterworks on the Lee Road, including the steam engine and boiler rooms.

Saturday August 19th, 11am-4pm

Discover your inner serf at the Youghal Medieval Festival, which includes battle re-enactments, wool spinning, coin-striking, medieval foods, and even a hairdresser to give you a medieval hairdo.

Sunday August 20th, noon-6pm

Build your own mini bug hotel at the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin. This children’s drop-by workshop makes use of natural materials to create homes for creepy crawling guests.

Monday August 21st, 2.30-3.30pm

Bring along your wellies and a picnic to explore the rock pools of the Burren coastline at Flaggy Shore near Newquay.

Wednesday August 23rd, noon-2pm

Join the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group at Hook Lighthouse, Co Wexford, where you can learn how best to spot Minke and Humpback whales, which are frequently seen off the peninsula, along with other sea life.

Saturday, August 26th, 11am-5.30pm

Hugh Linehan

Hugh Linehan

Hugh Linehan is an Irish Times writer and Duty Editor. He also presents the weekly Inside Politics podcast