Remembering the United Irishmen and the 1798 Rebellion
A conference to look at the impact of the 1798 Rebellion and those who were involved took place at the Down County Museum on 21 September. The conference, entitled ‘Remembering the United Irishmen and the 1798 Rebellion’, was the culmination of a course carried out as part of a cross community project supported by the EU’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).
The project aimed to increase awareness of the roots, course and impact of the 1798 rebellion and the impact of the Society of United Irishmen in County Down and was part of the Shared History and Cultural Programme under the PEACE IV Building Positive Relations theme for Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
Opening the conference, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Charlie Casey joined PEACE IV staff, course participants and members of the public. He said, “This PEACE IV project has made a real impact on our community. Exploring the legacy of the 1798 Rebellion and the development of the Society of United Irishmen in County Down, has provided participants in this project with an insight into the heritage of their areas. It has allowed us to challenge preconceptions about history, the areas of shared and contested history. This has also given people the chance to work together, across the community, to discover their own stories and the stories of neighbouring and different communities.”
Keynote speaker, Dr Peter Collins, Senior Lecturer in History at St Mary’s College and a leading expert in the field, spoke about The Contest of Memory: ‘The Continuing Impact of 1798 Commemoration’.
A key part of the conference was the official launch of a booklet ‘1798: Our Shared History’. Course participants researched and created the content for the booklet so that their learning could be shared more widely in the local community. This colourful and detailed booklet contains a summary of the course, provides interesting links between participants and the 1798 Rebellion and includes archive material and an imaginative series of poems written by participants. Free copies are available from Down County Museum and Council venues throughout the district.
One of the highlights of the day was Greer Lowe’s discovery of a musket from the late 1790s which he brought to show all those attending the event. He found it while renovating Slievemoyle Cottages near Strangford. The musket and a creative writing workshop which was part of the course inspired Greer to write a poem that has been included in the booklet.
Other activities of the day conference included a talk by Dr Trevor McCavery, retired headmaster, historian and author on 1798 in North Down focusing on motivation and legacy while Linda McKenna gave an insight into court martial records, using archive material. Poet Ruth Carr also read from her recent collection of poems: ‘Feather and Bone’, which focused on Mary Ann McCracken, who had been the inspiration for part of the collection.
Further projects on Crime and Punishment in County Down and ‘Preserving or Plundering?’: Museum Collecting from Hans Sloane to Modern Museums’ will take place over the next year. Contact Down County Museum for further information.Back