Friday, April 25, 2014

O'Connell's Teapot

This was Daniel O'Connell's house in Merrion Square. I have two connections with this house.

The first is very tenuous and may not be a connection at all. When my uncle Pat broke my granny's teapot she made little of it, saying "never mind, sure it's only Daniel O'Connell's teapot". Now, that claim could have been taken with a grain of salt except that granny's brother in law had been a pawnbroker and she did have some quality stuff in the house.

The second connection is more immediate and real. I had been sent an invitation to a book launch by someone who couldn't attend, so I went along on Wednesday evening. I had never been in the house before and it looks like a very nice restoration job. It is billed as the Keough Naughton Notre Dame Centre. Students from Notre Dame university come over here to study in UCD and at the Centre

The book was "Colonial Duchesses" and dealt with the migration of Irish women to New South Wales before the Great Famine.

The formalities kicked off with a warm welcome to the house from Louise Marren, from Tubbercurry, who joined the centre in June 2011. Louise is facilities manager and her role includes "establishing a hospitable atmosphere in the House". And that she certainly did.

Perry McIntyre then gave us an account of how and why she set up Anchor Books in Australia. Apparently, if you were not already an authoritative and well known historian author the major publishers wouldn't touch you. So Anchor Books was set up to publish quality history books which would otherwise never see the light of day.

As it happened, we found a common interest as an ancestor of hers was a judge who lived in Killiney. Small world.

The launch was done by Ruth Adler, the Australian ambassador, who not only emphasised the longstanding links between Australia and Ireland, but was full of praise for Perry's publishing work and author Liz Rushen's book which she had been reading over the weekend.

The ambassador lives in Abbeylea on the Killiney Hill Road and I had been deputed to invite her to a Bloomsday "readings and recollections of James Joyce's Ulysses" in the Martello Tower just up the road from her. Job was oxo.

Liz Rushen told how she had been ten years piecing this book together from a wide array of sources. The story she told was fascinating. By the 1830s, when the British decided that their Australian possession was to develop from a penal colony to a settlement, they realised they faced a severe shortage of women, and in the period 1833-36 some 16 ships were chartered to bring women from Britain and Ireland to Australia. The book looks at three voyages which between them brought 750 Irish women to Australia, and follows up on how the women got on after they arrived. So many women arriving at the same time and the lack of any governmental support caused a raft of problems which are examined in the book.

At the launch I met Jeff Kildea, Keith Cameron Professor of Australian History at UCD. This chair was originally endowed by Tony O'Reilly's first father in law and has since become primarily the responsibility of the Australian Government. Jeff's particular interest has been the Anzacs, on which he has published a book. His people were from Donegal and his book looks at the Irish connections with the Anzacs. He gave the oration at the Anzac dawn commemoration at Grangegorman Military Cemetery at the weekend.

I am looking forward to reading Colonial Duchesses and am grateful to mixed messages for passing me the invite.

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