“HISTORY is complicated and challenging, but it would be wrong not to confront the challenges it throws up,” Professor Tom Collins told a packed house at the launch of ‘Mining the Past 2013’, the second annual journal of the Silvermines Historical Society, at the Eagle’s Nest in Dolla, on Friday night
In a witty and inspirational address to a very large audience from far and near, the eminent educationalist, quoting an academic colleague, referred to local history as “the scar tissue of earlier generations” and pointed out that the book had also revealed the part that the local past had played on the world stage.
The attendance which included the Mayor of North Tipperary, Cllr Ger Darcy, was welcomed by the chairman of the Silvermines Historical Society, John Kennedy. Mr Kennedy introduced Professor Collins, a native of the parish, who once sat with him in the same classroom at Silvermines School.
Delving into the past, Professor Collins said, was at times like encountering a live grenade. But it was a grenade that could not be ignored. “History has a tendency to trespass on the present,” he said, as he praised the bravery of the book’s contributors who had taken on the challenge. He referred in particular to Eamon de Stafort’s “livid and lurid” account of the 1642 massacre at the mines, reportedly perpetrated by Hugh O’Kennedy. “There is no race that hasn’t got a history,” he said. Referring to Remembrance Day in England he pointed out that among those honoured were forces like the Black and Tans, and he asked if any nation ought to be allowed to celebrate its past without questioning it.
The book “Mining the Past”, he went on, was laced with themes of loss and displacement – “something of a microcosm of the whole history of Ireland”. The cross of Dolla where the highland and the lowland met was a significant landmark in local folk memory. The hills, he went on, had been depleted by various bodies over the years, including the Congested Districts Board and the Land Commission, and once thriving communities like Curryquin and Mucklin had been long abandoned.
“When the people of Curryquin were first allotted new farms, people wondered why they would leave Curryquin for a green field in Cooleen. They were quite displaced,” he said. “But the first thing they did was to plant hedgerows. They left their mark on the landscape.” But the displacement was permanent. Their burial ground from then on was Kilmore and no longer the ancient graveyard in Dolla.
Professor Collins said that despite all the changes the parish had seen, most of the family names had survived, particularly the Kennedys whose DNA had been long established in North Tipperary. As he spoke, the 50th anniversary of the shooting of John F Kennedy was being commemorated around the world and he wondered if some of the assassinated President’s DNA was not also to be found still in the graveyards of Kilmore and Ballinaclough.
Launching the book, he said he was amazed at the quality of the publication, particularly the cover picture of Kilmore graveyard by Michael Hynes. He described it as “full of poignancy”, with the power to draw you back in.
It was a very enjoyable social occasion, with refreshments served by the Ryan (Lacken) family.
“Mining the Past 2013” is now available in all local shops and costs €10.