There was plenty of activity at Scoil Naomh Iósaf, Baltinglass on Saturday 22 April 2023 as over 70 people from near and far arrived for our conference in honour of the late Donal McDonnell (1945-2022). The event proved to be a very fitting tribute to our friend and former colleague, whose sister and other family members were in attendance. WWHS Chairman Paul Gorry acted as MC and paced the content-rich event with unerring skill, while Monsignor John McEvoy delivered the opening address. The main focal point of the day was of course the outstanding line-up of speakers who shared their expertise with a very engaged audience.
Archaeologist Alan Hawkes spoke about recent excavations at Rathcoran Hillfort on Baltinglass Hill. Objects discovered on what has now been identified as this early Neolithic site indicate that Rathcoran was used for ceremonial gatherings. Local man Richard B. Lennon (Bosco) gave a very interesting lecture on two twentieth century poets, Diarmuid Ó Muimhneacháin (1866-1934) and Michael Hargadon (1880-1968), both journalists with a connection to Baltinglass. Emma Lyons presented a fascinating talk on the history of horse racing in Ireland during the eighteenth century including an account of race meetings in Baltinglass from 1755. Margaret Murphy from Carlow College provided an original and very interesting historical over-view of the West Wicklow area between 400AD to 1580. Finally Liam Kenny, assisted by Eamon Sinnott, delivered an entertaining presentation on the railway history of West Wicklow. The day was punctuated by two lively Q&A sessions during which speakers provided supplementary information, while members of the audience shared their own interesting insights.
An Exhibition of WWHS’s collection of photos and a display of 18th century maps of Baltinglass added to what was a very successful day.
Our thanks to all who helped with preparations and in ensuring that the event ran smoothly on the day. We are indebted in particular to Scoil Naomh Iósaf for their generosity in facilitating the event in their impressive hall.