48th Roscrea Conference Unveils Hidden History

A NEW dimension on the Cork versus Tipperary rivalry was explored in Roscrea during the very successful Spring Conference, held recently in Mt St Joseph Abbey.

A NEW dimension on the Cork versus Tipperary rivalry was explored in Roscrea during the very successful Spring Conference, held recently in Mt St Joseph Abbey.

This year marks the 48th year of the Spring Conference, and was hosted courtesy of local Historian George Cunningham.

Where the Synod of Rathbreasail in 1111 was held has always been controversial with one site in North Cork proposed while another site at Drom and Inch between Templemore and Thurles is also emerging as a strong contender, indeed probably the strongest contender for a variety of reasons.

The conference was attended by up to 80 participants from all over Ireland and with the leading scholars – Professors Daibhi O Croinin and Peter Harbison among them – lecturing was an outstanding success on all fronts.

A huge diversity of events during the weekend was helped by the glorious weather. One highlight was the performance of Seamus Doran’s Lead Me Home liturgical music by Roscrea Folk Group at the Community Mass on Sunday. Of great interest too was the display and sale of both local and national new books.

Two major publications had their Irish midlands launch on the Saturday evening:

One of the finest publications to emerge in recent years The Treasures of the Cardinal O Fiaich Library in Armagh was launched by Monsignor Reamonn O Muiri, editor of Seanchas Ard Mhacha and Roddy Hegarty the Director of the Library. George Cunningham presented a collection of local publications and copies of relevant letters (including one of 1669) to them for the Library.

Dr Edel Bhreatnach of the Micheal O Cleirigh institute in UCD launched Daibhi O Croinin’s new work: The lost notebooks of Whitley Stokes – notebooks discovered in Leipsic Germany recently by Prof O Croinín ( whose mother incidentally hails from Cloughjordon).

An illustrated tribute was paid to the late Fr Nivard at the Saturday night session.

His brother-in-law, former Governor of the Central Bank, Tomás Ó Cofaigh gave a personal reflection and George Cunningham explore Fr Nivard life and work.

The Conference field trip on Saturday afternoon was to St Cronan’s monastic site and the Black Mills in Church Street, Roscrea where they were welcomed by the OPW head guide Daphne Hastings. An on site discussion took place on the new Tesco Shopping centre which has caused much discussion.

Mr Cunningham explained all the background to the development and the dilemma Roscrea Heritage found itself in: object to the development and Tesco would move to a green field site outside the town and destroy the heart of the town as a market and trading centre – the doughnut effect as it is internationally known with examples of dying Irish towns all around Ireland. A dead heritage town would be in nobody’s best interest. The challenge facing everyone now is to ensure that the new centre is married to the monastic site in the best possible way.

So from the welcome to the Cistercian Abbey by Dom Richard Purcell ocso on the early Friday evening to the afternoon prayers at the end of Cronan’s pilgrims’ walk at the monastic waterfall on the Sunday afternoon Roscrea presented its heritage face to an international audience.

The conference is run by Roscrea People in association with Roscrea Heritage and the OPW and with support from Roscrea Credit Union.

The 49th conference in the Autumn concentrates on Art and Devotion in Medieval Ireland and remote preparations are being made for the 50th in the Spring of 2012.