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 Leinster Leader 4th March 2010

Local history groups explore Kildare’s diverse heritage
The very mention of the word ‘history’ is enough to turn many people off. Many associate it with terrifying ‘learning by heart’ exercises in classrooms of their school days when the recitation of the pedigree of the emperors of France, or the succession of British prime ministers, seemed to become an end in itself. History seemed to be  remote and academic and, in the Irish context, stopped at 1916. In more recent times some of the mystique has been removed and history is now the subject of television programmes and newspaper articles and has found a place for itself in everyday discussion.  At a local level this process has been given momentum by the flowering of local groups devoted to researching and sharing the history of their localities. History has been removed from its rarefied pedestal and has been brought into the community and viewed for what is its central meaning – the story of our lives and the influences that have shaped them. Kildare is fortunate in having a number of local history groups active in bringing this community dimension to local history studies.. Some have strong annual programmes of walks and outings; others devote their energies to running a museum and heritage centre; while others again operate on a low key basis and meet occasionally as their resources permit. Taking a look at some of the programmes announced for the year ahead gives a picture of the diversity of local history activity in the county. The Cill Dara Historical Society (Kildare town) plans well ahead and has published a programme for the full year. For instance, on Wednesday, 3rd March, its topic will be ‘Lord Edward’s Own’ presented by Barry Walsh who is supremely well qualified being a core member of the Monasterevin military re-enactment group which can turn its hand to accurate reproductions of almost any military engagement.  The venue is the Kildare Education Centre. The following month, 7th April,  the  Cill Dara society takes on a participative theme with a night on ‘Movies/Memories/Memorabilia’ at which members are invited to share their own memories and mementoes of times past and, in the process, make a vital personal contribution the record . The subject matter for the May talk may seem unusual given that Kildare is an inland county. Rory McKenna will present an illustrated lecture on ‘Martello towers’, those sturdy fortifications built by the British in the early 1800s when fears of a sea-borne invasion by Napoleon exercised minds in Dublin castle. Rory’s talk will be a reminder that the history of the coastal environment is relevant to midlanders – the livestock and product exported from the farms of Kildare travelled by sea, as did many of the imports needed to sustain the county’s homes and farms.
Farther north in the county the vibrant Celbridge Historical Society presents an equally varied programme.  The society will mark St. Patrick’s Day with a visit at 10.30am to the church, hill and well at Ardrass (Straffan – Barberstown road) named after the national patron. The following month the society will return indoors to its regular venue of Celbridge library with, on Monday, 12th April, an illustrated talk on early Irish cinema with the literary title of ‘The early cinema: Yeats, Joyce and O’Casey – what the writers saw’.
The Kill History Group will devote a night in March to motoring history. Kildare vintage expert Bob Webster will present a talk on the theme in the Parish meeting room at 8.30pm on 22 March. The same time and venue will also hold for a night on 26 April when Hugh Crawford will talk on the (literally) big subject of ‘The Curragh plain.’   Looking ahead to May 24th the Kill group will host Adrian Mullowney who will project a collection of old newsreels showing glimpses of Kildare life in the period from ‘The Civil War to the Emergency’.  A broadly similar period will be covered by one of Kildare’s most industrious historians, Seamus Cullen, in a lecture to the Naas Local History Group on 6th April on the subject of ‘Sinead de Valera and W.T.Cosgrave and their Kildare connections.’  The venue is Naas library at 7.45pm.  Later in April the Naas group will celebrate that most typical of Kildare excursions, the Walking Sunday promenade about Punchestown, meeting at the main stand at 3pm.
So whether indoors or on the open plains, Kildare’s local history groups are delivering a programme of talks and outings which help to share and illuminate the history and heritage of the short grass county. Series No: 167.

In his regular Leinster Leader feature 'Nothing New Under the Sun' Liam Kenny looks at how local history groups through a programme of talks and outings help to share and illuminate the history and heritage of Kildare.  Our thanks to Liam.

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