WW 1 Seminar 8th March 2014


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“They called it the Great War”
Seminar, 8th March 2014

Occasionally, the County Kildare Archaeological Society holds a seminar to mark a particular event, topic or anniversary. Previous ones in recent times were held at NUI Maynooth in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Great Famine in County Kildare; at Clongowes College to mark the anniversary of the 1798 Rebellion; at NUI Maynooth on the subject of St Brigid and Kildare Cathedral, and at the Hotel Keadeen, Newbridge, on “The Curragh of Kildare”. We were pleased on each of these occasions to acknowledge the financial assistance of Kildare County Council.

The Society’s latest seminar entitled “They called it the Great War” was held on Saturday 8th March 2014 to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, and was held at the Hotel Keadeen, Newbridge. Registration took place in the Terrace Room from 9.45am, and participants moved into the Maple Room at 10.15am for the start of the proceedings.

Speakers were CKAS Council Members Frank Taaffe and James Durney, Fionnuala Walsh – Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholar at Trinity College Dublin, Tom Burke MBE – President of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association and Professor John Horne – Professor of Modern European History at Trinity College Dublin. The seminar was chaired by Professor Raymond Gillespie – Professor of History at NUI Maynooth and CKAS Honorary Editor.

The rationale of the seminar was to position the role of County Kildare and its population during the First World War in an Irish context, and also to examine it from a wider, European perspective.

CKAS President, Conleth Manning, opened the proceedings by welcoming the speakers, guests and audience, and introduced the seminar chairman, Professor Raymond Gillespie.
Tom Burke, who spoke first, presented a profile of some of the men who made up the two Regular and five Service Battalions of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in terms of who they were, where they came from and possible motivations for enlistment, and set this against a background of major battles of the War on the Western Front in Gallipoli and Salonica.

The second speaker, Frank Taaffe, focused on how the people of Athy and its hinterland responded to the call to arms and how the social, political and economic life of the area was affected by the carnage in battlefields as far apart as Flanders and Gallipoli.

Fionnuala Walsh was the final speaker prior to lunch, and focussed on the impact of the War on women in Ireland and their role in the war effort, their wartime employment and the impact of the war on soldiers’ wives. Fionnuala initially spoke on these aspects from a national perspective and concluded her talk by looking at the wartime experiences of women in County Kildare.

Following a light lunch of vegetable soup, sandwiches, wraps, tea and coffee which was served in the adjoining room, the opening speaker in the afternoon was James Durney. His subject was the “Kaiser’s Battle” of 21st March 1918, when the German divisions launched an offensive on the Western Front which they hoped would end the war. On that day, twenty-four Kildare men lost their lives.

The final speaker was Professor John Horne, who reflected on the place of the Irish experiences of the Great War, and the revolutionary decade that led to independence and partition, in the context of a Greater War that spanned 1912 – 1923 in Europe and the wider world.

The seminar was brought to a conclusion by Professor Gillespie and Conleth Manning. Mr Manning expressed his thanks to the speakers, chairman, seminar organiser Elizabeth Connelly, and Mrs Rose O’Loughlin and her staff at the Hotel Keadeen. He also thanked Kildare County Council’s Heritage Officer, Ms Bridget Loughlin, for the grant received from Kildare County Council to assist with the seminar costs.

Text:          Elizabeth Connelly

Photos:     Déaglán de Paor