Fer­moy sym­po­sium to hon­our Thomas Kent



IT was fit­ting that the launch of the Thomas Kent In­au­gu­ral His­tory Sym­po­sium should have taken place last week in the shadow of the of the Fer­moy bridge that proudly bears his name.

The sym­po­sium, which will take place in Fer­moy at the end of Septem­ber, is the brain­child Mary Col­lette Shee­han a PhD at UCC where she is study­ing memory – how we re­mem­ber and what we for­get.

It is apt that she should have cho­sen the name of Thomas Kent, the Castle­lyons na­tive dubbed ‘ the for­got­ten pa­triot of 1916’, to be the stan­dard bearer for the three-day event that will fea­ture pre­sen­ta­tions by a num­ber of high pro­file guest speak­ers.

“Es­tab­lish­ing a His­tory School in the name of one of the for­got­ten pa­tri­ots is a way of en­sur­ing that the name of Thomas Kent can­not be over­looked in the fu­ture,” said Mary Col­lette.

She said the core of the sym­po­sium, which she said would be a “con­vivial gath­er­ing to dis­cuss a sub­ject”, would be to give voice to as­pects of our his­tory that have “been ne­glected or have been too dif­fi­cult to speak of.”

The fo­cus of the in­au­gu­ral sym­po­sium, which will take place from Septem­ber 28 -30, will be on Ire­land at the end of The Great War in 1918.

“His­to­ri­ans and so­cial com­men­ta­tors will paint a vivid pic­ture of what life was like in Ire­land as the First World War drew to its shud­der­ing con­clu­sion,” said Mary Col­lette.

For ex­am­ple, the highly re­spected his­to­rian Dr Aoife Bhreat­nach will, through the eyes of a Fer­moy res­i­dent of the time, ex­plore what it was like to live in a gar­ri­son town in 1918.

“While the gar­ri­son in Fer­moy was the largest in Mun­ster, it was far from be­ing the only one. In 1888, for ex­am­ple, of the 51 towns iden­ti­fied in the prov­ince al­most half con­tained a bar­rack,” said Mary Col­lette.

She pointed out that many mil­i­tary build­ings of that time have dis­ap­peared or are now un­recog­nis­able.

“With this in mind, ar­chae­ol­o­gist Damien Sheils will ex­am­ine the his­tory we’re lit­er­ally stand­ing on top of. We know too well now in Ire­land, the cost of bury­ing his­tory when the story has not been told or when all of the voices have not been heard,” said Mary Colette.

“Fer­moy is one of the most in­ter­est­ing towns in Ire­land in terms of its mil­i­tary his­tory. It is what formed the at­ti­tudes of so many peo­ple who played an ac­tive role in their ex­tra­or­di­nary ef­forts to create an in­de­pen­dent Ire­land. To study re­mem­ber­ing and for­get­ting in such a set­ting is fas­ci­nat­ing. The chance to talk about it, to open the con­ver­sa­tion to every­one who comes to the sym­po­sium is re­ally ex­cit­ing,” she added.

Other speak­ers will in­clude his­to­rian and for­mer sen­a­tor Pro­fes­sor Joe Lee, Pro­fes­sor Terence Doo­ley from Maynooth who will set the con­text of the land ques­tion at the time, UCC’s Gabriel Do­herty who will talk about the political cli­mate of the era and mil­i­tary his­to­rian Gerry while, who will ex­am­ine how and why his­tory for­got Thomas Kent.

Mary Colette said the sym­po­sium would give voice to the de­bate about why we teach his­tory at all and what it means for the Ir­ish na­tion when we de­cide not to. “This a topic that is ex­er­cis­ing peo­ple right now and I know it will gen­er­ate a vig­or­ous de­bate. I’m look­ing for­ward to know­ing what’s go­ing to come out of it. In ad­di­tion to talk­ing about his­tory, per­haps we’ll ac­tu­ally make some in Fer­moy in Septem­ber,” she grinned.

Even be­fore this years event takes place, Mary Col­lette is al­ready plan­ning next year’s sym­po­sium.

“Dif­fi­cult though they still are for some to talk about, the sym­posia in 2019 and the years to fol­low will open a na­tional con­ver­sa­tion about the War of In­de­pen­dence and the Civil War,” she said.

More in­for­ma­tion about the event, which has the bless­ing of the Kent fam­ily and is grant aided by The Her­itage Coun­cil of Ire­land and Cork County Coun­cil and sup­ported by the UCC School of His­tory and Fer­moy Fo­rum, can be found at www.fer­moys­mem­o­ry­bank.com.

Mary Colette Shee­han, direc­tor Thomas Kent His­tory Sym­po­sium; Cllr Frank O’Flynn; Gerry White, mil­i­tary his­to­rian; Ian Flem­ing, Thomas Kent His­tory Sym­po­sium;Marie Barry, AIB Fer­moy; Cllr Noel McCarthy; Dee McCarthy, Fer­moy Fo­rum; Kieran Barry, Fer­moy Com­mu­nity Youth Cen­tre and Cllr Deirdre O’Brien at the launch of the 2018 sym­po­sium in Fer­moy.

Thomas Kent and his brother, Wil­liam, be­ing marched over Fer­moy Bridge fol­low­ing their ar­rest by Crown forces in 1916.

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