2016 was a very busy year for Balbriggan & District Historical Society with our usual monthly talks, the 1916 Commemoration and culminating with the launch of their latest publication in November. The series of talks began in March with “A history of the railway halt for the Taylor family of Ardgillan Castle” a talk by David Grundy. The April talk was by Rory McKenna, noted local historian and society member on ‘Nicholas Rath – Albert Medal Recipent 1917’ May was a very busy month commemorating 1916, which in gone into further below. In June Jim Walsh, Chairman of the Society lead a Historical Walk around the town as part of the Summerfest and an enthusiastic group enjoyed the Annual Summer outing which this year was to the GPO 1916 exhibition and a tour of the Fingal Brigade battle sites including Ashbourne. The Society has a role in the restoration of Bremore Castle and was delighted to see the restoration coming near to completion and the Castle open for tours during Heritage Week. They returned in August with a talk from Paddy Boyle -“Irish Volunteers,Balbriggan 1913-1922” about local volunteers among them Jack Gaynor & Mick Rock and also the Sack of Balbriggan by the Black and Tans in 1920. The September presentation was on Michael Collier, alias Collier the Robber, by Community Historian Brendan Matthews . The October talk was special as it featured a very entertaining speech from the Society’s own May McKeon on Old Memories of Balbriggan and also short presentations from Loreto Secondary School Students who were prize winners in a competition judged by the Society.
The Society’s flagship event for 1916 was “Éirí Amach Na Cásca – Is Cuimhin Linn” a full day History Seminar which took place in the Town Hall on the 7th May 2016. The seminar was opened by Mayor of Fingal Cllr David O’Connor and concluded with readings of Proclamation by local Secondary School students. The seminar featured 5 talks: Bairbre Curtis “Fingal in 1916”, Liz Darcy “Conserving an original 1916 Proclamation”, Jimmy Wren “The 1916 GPO Garrison and the connection with the OTooles G.A.A. Club”, Sean Collins “Observing from afar The Easter Rising Louth and Meath” and Micheál MacMathúna “Sinéad Ni Fhlannagáin (Bean De Valera) Daughter of Balbriggan and 1916” The last talk was timely providing context for Commemorative Plaque honouring Sinéad Ní Fhlannagáin De Valera which was about to be unveiled in the town. The enthusiastic audience enjoyed the excellent talks on both the local and national experience in 1916, and left with lots of new information and an appetite to learn more about this facinating period in our history.
The Society was also centrally involved in the Balbriggan 1916 Commemorative Committee which organised, among other activities, the erection of a Commemorative Plaque honouring Sinéad Ní Fhlannagáin De Valera. This Plaque was unveiled as part of a Commemorative day which included a Mass and Parade featuring the Fingal Old IRA, locals scouts and guides and the local community. May McKeon performed the duty of MC on the day, Gráinne Maguire read the Proclamation, and speakers included Mayor of Fingal Cllr David O’Connor, Mícheál MacMahúna, and Éamon Ó Cuív TD, grandson of Sinéad and the Plaque was unveiled by Nora Ní Chuív her granddaughter. It was a memorable and important day for Balbriggan and it was great to see so many of the DeValera and Flanagan family members there who were delighted to share with us their personal memories of Balbriggan. The event was attended by a large enthusiastic crowd and the Plaque will be a lasting physical reminder of the occasion.
A busy year came to a end with the launch by Mayor of Fingal Cllr Darragh Butler of the Society’s latest publication “Balbriggan a History in Maps 1655-1900” by Peter(Frank) Whearity, on the 9th of November in the Town Hall, Balbriggan. The book, which charts the development of Balbriggan from a population of only 30 in 1659 to the beginning of the 20th century, was enthusiastically received by the large crowd in attendance. Peter (Frank) Whearity is a native of Balbriggan and holds a BA (Hons) in Local Studies, and an MA in Local History from Maynooth University. Through a comprehensive study of maps (beautifully reproduced in this publication) and using information from other sources, Frank charts 250 years of the development of Balbriggan. This book will be a great resource for anyone interested in the history of the town as it brings to life the history of Balbriggan and it’s hinterland encapsulating themes such as religion, architecture, education, legal, proprietorial status, and the rich industrial & maritime heritage.