Previous Lectures

Lecture 9th December 2019

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‘Wilful and wholesale murder’ — war at sea around Ireland, 1914-1918
Dr Mark Phelan

The British Navy Grand Fleet - The war at sea in Ireland WWIThe story of the British Army’s ‘Irish’ divisions during the First World War is nowadays well known, with sites such as the Somme, Messines, and Gallipoli all featuring heavily in the recent centenary commemorations. Yet knowledge of Ireland’s prominent role in the war at sea is limited in comparison, even though the coastal waters of this island were the focal point for Germany’s contentious policy of ‘unrestricted’ submarine warfare. Equally, Ireland provided refuge to the Grand Fleet of the Royal Navy – then the largest and most expensive collection of warships ever assembled – while it also became an important base of operations for the U.S. Navy from 1917. This lecture looks at these events in detail, while also recounting the Irish experience of maritime disasters that shocked contemporary opinion, and which played a crucial part in determining the outcome of the First World War.

The lecture will take place at the Harbour Hotel, Dock Road, Galway at 8pm
on Monday 9th December.
Admission is free and All are Welcome to attendRead the rest

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Lecture 11th November 2019

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The Dr. Noel Browne Story in a New Light

Dr Noel Browne attack dogThere is no doubt that Dr. Noel Browne is one of Ireland’s most controversial historical political figures and his legacy lingers to this day. He is also one of the country’s most revered politicians enjoying a reputation which he created through lionising himself. However, all that glitters is not gold and even a cursory glance at the evidence reveals that Dr. Browne has taken or was given credit for achievements which were not his to claim. Moreover, he has the fairly unique distinction of having to resign from three political parties, Fianna Fáil, Labour and Clan na Phoblachta. It hints that while he could be charming and charismatic, there was also a cantankerous side, which rubbed many people up the wrong way. Such was his talent for creating enemies that he was once labelled “the master of the art of revenge”. Dr. James Deeny, Chief Medical Advisor to the government wrote “Browne was ruthless and much more calculating that people had thought and indeed possibly vindictive.” As a consequence of Brown’s behaviour, senior officials at the Department of Health drew up procedures intended to protect the staff from Browne.

The historical evidence is at variance with the popular image most of us have of Noel Browne but the time has now come to ask, was Noel Browne the best minister for health or the worst minister for health in the history of the state?

The talk will be given by Eugene Jordan, the President of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society. Monday 11th November, 8pm at the Harbour Hotel, New Docks, Galway. All are welcome to attend and admission is free of charge.… Read the rest

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Lecture 14th October 2019

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The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Campaign: a search for a new strategy

One man one vote Northern Ireland 1960s2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the official start of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The first casualty of war is the truth and over the decades, the story of what caused the Troubles has been lost to the quagmire of Northern Irish politics. Dr. Mary Harris from the Department of History at NUI, Galway will examine the ways in which groups with different agendas in Northern Ireland took inspiration from international protests in the 1960s and embarked on courses of action with outcomes some had not envisaged. The rapidly changing dynamics of the conflict left leading figures in the movement marginalised despite their considerable idealism, charisma and talents.

Harbour Hotel, Galway 8pm Monday 14th of October 2019
Admission is free and all are welcome to attend.… Read the rest

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Lecture 9th September 2019

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Some Town Castles of Galway
by Patrick Larkin

Castles of Galway - Willilam StThe first GAHS lecture of the new 2019/20 season will take place on Monday 9th September at the Harbour Hotel.

In medieval times, the saying that ‘a man’s home is his castle’ was a reasonable reflection of reality. This was entirely apposite in the case of the aristocracy and merchant classes whose warrior culture would identify with the defence possibilities offered by castles as residences. Over time, such castles evolved with changes in culture, and the way they were used changed too. Galway’s town castles were no different, and this illustrated talk will explore the evolution of the town castle as demonstrated in the city of the tribes.


Harbour Hotel, Galway, Monday, September 9th at 8pm.Read the rest

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Lecture April 8th 2019

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A History of Irish Dance
by Hubert Jennings

Irish Jig outside cottagesA first for GAHS! Despite it being one of the most popular forms of entertainment for many centuries, in our 119 year existence it looks like we have never looked at the history of dancing. Hubert Jennings will guide us on a whistle-stop tour through the ages on the subject of Irish Dance – its changes and development. It will cover the dance masters of the 19th century, their flamboyant demeanour  and modus operandi.

The talk will sketch the main social, cultural, economic, religious, political, legal and technological influences brought to bear on the development of our traditional dance and the reciprocal impact on those characteristics of society from the first ceilí in London in 1898 to Riverdance 1994.

There will be an outline on traditional dance development in Galway City from the 1930s and some of the main players who promoted this part of our cultural heritage for recreation and competition.

The lecture will take place at the Harbour Hotel, New Docks, Galway on Monday 8th of April at 8pm.

Admission is free of charge and all are welcome to attend.

 … Read the rest

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Lecture 11th March 2019

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The First Dáil
by Dr. Séan O Duibhir

January 2019 marked the centenary of the inaugural meeting of the first Dáil Éireann. Dr. Séan Ó Duibhir, will discuss the practical, and symbolic, features of the Irish State’s ‘foundation moment’. This lecture will also consider aspects often overlooked within popular history: such as the preparations for the Dáil’s first meeting in the Mansion House on 21 January 1919; the nature and importance of the four documents adopted by the (limited number of) delegates present; and the rationale behind the decision to largely model Ireland’s ‘revolutionary’ parliament on that of the ‘old enemy’ at Westminster.

The lecture will take place at the Harbour Hotel, New Docks, Galway on Monday 11th of March at 8pm.Read the rest

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Lecture 11th February 2019

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Roscommon Castle, the Otherworld
and the True Cross
Prof. Tadgh O’Keeffe

Roscommon Castle aerial viewRoscommon Castle’s site and situation have long been a puzzle, as they seem somewhat inconsistent with the evidence that the castle was a fortress intended to keep the native Irish at bay. This lecture offers a new perspective on the context of the castle’s construction and suggests that the explanation for its location involves both the Táin Bó Cúailnge and the relic of the True Cross.

Prof. Tadhg O’Keeffe is Head of UCD School of Archaeology. One of Ireland’s best-known medievalists, he has published five books and over 150 papers on aspects of medieval archaeology and history.

Monday 11th February 2019 at 8 pm
Harbour Hotel, New Docks, Galway

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Lecture 14 January 2019

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Galway and the Spanish Armada

The first GAHS lecture of 2019 will be given by Peadar O’Dowd who takes a look at the sorry events surrounding the fate of the men and boys of the Spanish Armada in Galway. Around 300 Spanish sailors were murdered by the English authorities and buried in a mass grave at Forthill Cemetery. It is now marked by a plaque unveiled by the Spanish Ambassador to Ireland in 1988 on the 400th anniversary of the atrocity. The lecture will be followed by the society’s Annual General Meeting. The event is free of charge and all are welcome. We hope to see you there.

Extract from Hardiman’s History of Galway.

Memmorial plaque to the murdered Spanish Sailors of the Armada in Forthll Cemetary GAlwayIn order the more effectually to satiate his thirst for their blood, and to seize their rumoured treasures, the lord deputy himself [Sir William Fitz-Williams] made a journey into Connaught, where this sanguinary man arrived in June, 1589, and on the 20th of that month he came to Galway. Sir Murrough O’Flaherty, William Burke, the blind Abbot, and several others of the principal inhabitants of Mayo and Iar Connaught, came in and submitted; but were put under conditions to give hostages, disperse their forces, deliver up all the Spaniards and Portuguese to whom they had given refuge, pay fines, and make amends for all spoils which they had taken. Fitz-Williams, while he remained in town, caused several of the Spaniards, delivered up on this occasion, to be beheaded near St. Augustin’s monastery on the hill, amidst the murmurs and lamentations of the people and, having thus wreaked his vengeance on these unfortunate men, he departed for Dublin.

In all, 12 ships were wrecked on the coast of Connacht and c. 1,100 survivors were put to death.

Monday 14th January 2019 at 8pm
Harbour Hotel, New Docks, Galway

GAHS Annual General Meeting

A number of vacancies have arisen on the committee if you would like to serve on the GAHS committee please send a short email saying that you’d like to put your name forward to We will get back to you with more information.

The AGM will be held directly after the lecture on Monday 14th. All are welcome to attend.… Read the rest

Book Shop

The World of Constable John Hennigan, Royal Irish Constabulary 1912 – 1922

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GAHS member, Hal Hennigan examines the historical role of the Irish police force through the life of one police constable.

In 1912 the average Irish Constable was a generally useful member of society, filling in numerous forms in his role of minor bureaucrat, and pursuing petty criminals. He had little to do with firearms. By 1922 he had become an outcast to many and a friend to few. Those who thought his treatment unjust were generally unwilling to take the risk of saying so. This is the story of how an average country policeman was caught up in the swirl of political movements which led to murderous violence. It looks at the social and political contexts of historical events. Caught between the hammer of IRA violence and the anvil of government obduracy, the regular constables became sacrifices to political expediency. Using the police career of John Hennigan as a framework, this book follows public events in chronological order, against a background of the details of everyday life in the last decade under the Crown. “There were well over 500 police deaths attributable to political violence. For too long the received narrative concerning the Irish police was a one-dimensional caricature. Things were much more complex than that. Hundreds of thousands of people today have connections with the Royal Irish Constabulary. For them, I hope to broaden their understanding of the police force in which their relatives served with pride.” Hal Hennigan is a former history teacher in Dublin, and publican in Sligo. He spent many years in Abu Dhabi as a English teacher, and then as teacher trainer over several continents. Hal now lives as a writer in Galway, Ireland.

Available from Charlie Byrnes Bookshop at the Corn Store, Galway

ISBN: 9781789015256 Price: £15.00… Read the rest

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Lecture 10th December 2018

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World War I, its causes re-evaluated
“The Great War was entirely England’s fault”?

Doves and Hawks - WWI Rouges Gallery
Doves and Hawks – WWI Rouges Gallery

The next GAHS talk commemorates the centenary of the end of World War I and will look at the series of events which led to its outbreak. The origins of the war lie far previous to the now traditional explanations which are mainly confined to the 37 days of the July Crisis in 1914. The centenary of the war and related events has attracted much scholarly attention of late which has brought to the public attention that the “official” explanations of the causes of the war bear little resemblance to what actually happened. Some scholars have been particularly brave in challenging the conventional view like British historian Prof Niall Ferguson. The publisher’s summary of his book states, “The Pity of War makes a simple and provocative argument: the human atrocity known as the Great War was entirely England’s fault.” Challenging convention is an endeavour fraught with danger as English historian Dan Snow can attest due to receiving hate mail after arguing that glorifying the “awfulness and tragedy” of WWI belittles the service of every British soldier. There are also serious gaps in the popular literature as the authors of most books on the subject of the World War I, pay little heed to the actual causes of the war beyond the July Crisis and are in a great hurry to jump into a trench and get stuck into battles, tactics and gore. (more…)

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