The History Show

    Sunday, 6pm

    The Irish and World War One

    This August will mark the centenary of the start of World War One. We will be commemorating this anniversary on The History Show with special programmes and short items telling the stories of Irish people who were involved in the war. We will also be examining what was happening here during these turbulent years.

    Do you have relatives who were involved in the First World War? We would like to hear their stories. Email:

    The History Show Sunday 14 December 2014


    The History Show

    Bringing the past to life! Discover how our world was shaped as Myles Dungan and guests explore events ranging from medieval times to the recent past

    Full Programme

    Women of the Irish Revolution

    Historians Sinead McCoole and Liz Gillis on better and lesser known women of the Irish revolutionary period.

    Glen Miller

    Lorcan Clancy on the disappearance of Glen Miller 70 years ago this week.

    Major General Patrick Cleburne

    Historian and author Damien Shiels talks to Orla Rapple about Major General Patrick Cleburne, one out of sixteen Irish-born men who reached the rank of either Colonel or General in the Confederate forces during the American Civil War.   Killed 150 ago.

    Charlie Chaplain

    Steven Benedict on Charlie Chaplain's contrasting on-screen and off-screen personas.

    Christmas at the Movies in 1914

    Ruth Barton, lecturer in film at Trinity College Dublin on what was happening at the movies here over Christmas in 1914.


    Women of the Irish Revolution

    ‘…my dying wishes are that you shall remember your state of health, work only as much as may be necessary and freely accept little attentions which in due time will showered upon you. You will be, you are, the wife of one of the Leaders of the Revolution …’

    The words there of Eamonn Ceannt in his last letter to his wife, Aine before he was executed in May, 1916.  

    Historians Sinead McCoole and Liz Gillis have both brought out books on women of the Irish Revolutionary period. Sinead’s book focuses on the widows of the 1916 leaders while Liz explores the role of women during the struggle for independence.   They joined Myles to talk about a range of better and lesser known women from this period.

    The women they spoke about included:

    Lizzie Fullerton, married to George who was involved in the Rising.

    Eileen Bell. 

    Aine Ceannt.

    Josie Stallard and her husband, Liam Clark.

    Essie Snoddy and May Gibney

    Grace Gifford and Joseph Mary Plunkett

    Joseph Mary Plunkett and Grace Gifford

    Many women became politicised through their families or indeed their husbands.   But we don’t often hear about the behind the scenes romance. Here’s a few lines that would send many a heart a flutter….

    Life wouldn’t be worth living if I had to face the future ‘free and unfettered’ God almighty. How fond I am of that chain that binds us to each other … you are my first thoughts in the morning and the last at night are of you …

    That letter was written by Tom Clarke to his wife, Kathleen.  Sinead McCoole filled us in on the context to this.


    Kathleen Clark

    Liz Gillis and Sinead McCoole talked about the importance of first-hand accounts sourced  through the new material in military archives - pension files - their voices, their own words. One of Sinead's favourites is Aine Ceannt telling Eamon when she finally met him in Kilmainham, the Rising was a fiasco.

    We also heard an extract from a letter written by Iseult Gonne to Maud Gonne MacBride in 1952.....

    John MacBride, I am able to see now as someone rather pathetic because you were so much the wrong person for him and his whole life became cast in the wrong mould for him. He was physically brave but in other ways a very weak character. He wasn’t a good man, but in different circumstances and with different people he might have been ’

    ......and again, Sinead filled us in on the context


     Realising that there was no outlet for women to be politically active, Maud Gonne formed Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland) in 1900.

    Some of the women in Liz and Sinead's books played a direct role in the struggle for independence while others had a more indirect involvement.

    But they were all part of a generation when society had a very narrow view of women’s roles.  These women are pretty much a forgotten generation.

    Easter Widows – Seven Irish Women Who Lived in the Shadow of the 1916 Rising by Sinead McCoole is published by Doubleday Ireland.  


    Women of the Irish Revolution by Liz Gillis is published by Mercier Press. 


    Glen Miller

    During World War Two, big band music played a major role in lifting the morale of American soldiers. Glenn Miller, one of the most famous and popular entertainers of his day, was a commissioned officer in the US Army. His job was to entertain the troops.  Tomorrow, it will be seventy years since Miller was reported missing in action.   Lorcan Clancy found out more.  


    Glen Miller's Disapperance by Lorcan Clancy

    When Glenn Miller enlisted in the US Army in 1942, he was at the height of his career. His orchestra played to huge crowds, and his records were bestsellers.  

    Miller formed the orchestra in 1937, but it didn't take off right away. The big band scene was competitive, and he realised that he needed a unique sound to distinguish himself from his contemporaries.

    Miller reconfigured the orchestra around a new core set of musicians, and developed the recognisable style that set his band apart. A clarinet and a tenor sax would play the main melody, while three other saxophones would accompany them in close harmony.

    His 1939 tune Moonlight Serenade is one of the best examples of the Miller sound, and he adopted it as his signature song.

    From 1939 to 1942, Glenn Miller and his band featured three times a week on national radio, in a series sponsored by Chesterfield cigarettes. Even before the United States entered the war, the patriotic Miller would regularly salute Army servicemen during his live radio broadcasts. 

    When Miller enlisted in the army, it was front page news. At age 38, he was too old to be drafted, and he was walking away from the lucrative big band business at the peak of his popularity. He devoted himself to reorganising and modernising the army band. His music was popular among the troops, although some career officers weren't happy with the modern, jazzy take on military marches.

    With the Army Air Force Band, Miller played at patriotic rallies and broadcast a weekly radio show to shore up support for the war effort.

    In late 1943, the band shipped out to England to perform for the troops. In less than a year, the Glen Miller Army Air Force Band played over 800 shows.  

    On a cold and foggy afternoon in December, 1944, Miller boarded a private aircraft bound for Paris, to help prepare for the army band's first performance there. The plane disappeared into the fog and was never seen again. 

    Because his plane disappeared without a trace, there were many wild theories about what happened to Glenn Miller. Some said that his plane was accidentally shot down by a British bomber. Others spread the rumour that he was killed in a fistfight at a Parisian brothel, which was hushed up by the U.S. Military to preserve morale.

    Recent research has shown that the plane's engine had a type of carburettor known to be defective in cold weather. A likely explanation is that it iced up as temperatures dropped below freezing, causing the plane to crash into the ocean. 

    On the 24th September 1942, two weeks before he joined the army, Glenn Miller and his band played the last show of their national radio series. It was the orchestra's final concert under Miller's direction, and he took the opportunity to bid farewell to the listeners at home.   His words were poignant:

    "Naturally, we're very reluctant to give up our Moonlight Serenades. But, since I got a date with Uncle Sam coming up, it makes me feel a little sad to leave this wonderful gang of boys in the band and all our friends listening. But there's a lot of swell guys in the outfit I'm going in, and maybe all of us can get together again after this thing's over."


    Major General Patrick Cleburne

    Just sixteen Irish-born men reached the rank of either Colonel or General in the Confederate forces during the American Civil War.

    One of these was Cork man Patrick Cleburne who also was one of the few people in the Confederacy that served in the British Army.   A slave proposal that he put through towards the end of his short live seems to have changed the course of his army career. Historian and author Damien Shiels told more to reporter Orla Rapple.


    Patrick Cleburne is still revered in the United States but virtually forgotten in his home country.  His story is included in The Irish in the American Civil War (The History Press).

    Orla Rapple's report is part of her series Irish Fighters, American War which was funded by the Broadcast Authority of Ireland with the Television License Fee.


    Charlie Chaplain

    Charlie Chaplain’s career spanned more than 75 years, from childhood in the Victorian era until a year before his death at age 88.   On the big screen, he came across as both vulnerable and lovable but as we hear now from Steven Benedict, his off screen life was quite the opposite.

    Charlie Chaplain

    by Steven Benedict

    Great things have small beginnings. One hundred years ago, in Venice California a short film lasting just over 10 minutes was made. Called Kid Auto Races in Venice it heralded the arrival of a character played by an actor who went on to become the most famous movie star of them all.

    Forget your George Clooneys and Brad Pitts. For quite some time, this actor was simply the most instantly recognizable person on the planet.

    Kid Auto Races in Venice has a basic plot; a baby-cart race is taking place and a spectator gets in the way. The spectator dressed in baggy pants and bowler hat and carrying a cane, affects all the airs and graces of the City’s Grandee. When he sees the camera, he assumes it is there to film him, so he lingers in view as if to demonstrate his importance.

    Watching today, we immediately identify the character as Charliw Chaplin’s The Tramp. But to audiences back in 1914, he was a completely unknown commodity. And yet such was Chaplin’s charisma, so natural was his performance, so funny were his gags that audiences immediately took to him as they had never taken to a movie star before.


    Within weeks not only was The Tramp appearing in another film, Chaplin was directing it himself and very quickly he refined his screen persona so that he became the reflection of the audience. This was the time of mass migration, with tens of thousands of people flooding into America on a daily basis. Few of them could speak English, but seeing this man up on screen they felt he spoke for them. The Tramp became the champion of the downtrodden, the mistreated worker, and the emblem of nobility for the working classes.

    More than that, Chaplin threw a pie in the face of the law and gave the millionaire a kick up the backside.

    Born in London to an alcoholic father and a mother with severe mental health problems, by the age of seven Chaplin was in the workhouse. A year later he was in a School for Destitute Children. And by the time he was nine he was sleeping rough. If it sounds Dickensian it was, because just as that great London author believed great things could happen anyone of great virtue, by the time Chaplin was 26 he in control of his own destiny; directing his own films and commanding a salary of $670,000 a year.

    The key to Chaplin’s popularity was not just his ability to make people laugh or cock a snoot at authority but also that he made his Tramp a man of near infinite emotional shyness. Look at the finale to City Lights when the girl recognizes him. Chaplin goes limp and doesn’t know what to do. He immediately elicits your sympathy. But in real life however, the opposite was true. He married four times, had an unhealthy interest in girls and three of his wives were teenagers.

    Demanding, egotistical, and insensitive, he filmed that final scene in City Lights 342 times. And whether on set or off, he was demonically self-centered, physically violent, and emotionally tyrannical to those around him.


    Christmas at the Movies in 1914

    Ruth Barton, lecurer in film at Trinity College Dublin trawled through the archives to find out what was happening in Irish cinemas over Christmas 1914.

    Going to the Pictures in 1914

    by Ruth Barton

    Cinema and the War:

    At this early stage of the war, very few propaganda films were being shown in cinemas.

    This was primarily because the British government was unwilling to consider cinema as a propaganda tool. They also didn’t want to replicate the filmmaking technique of the Boer War films, which, for logistical reasons, were staged in fields in England rather than shot in South Africa.

    The propaganda films of the First World War were to be realistic. They were also to be factual, and the notion of the propaganda fiction film – Mrs Miniver for instance only really came into its own in World War Two. The other problem was that shooting on the front line was almost impossible. Thus war films tended to show the aftermath of the action rather than the action itself.

    It was left to Fred Evans to transfer his Music Hall act to screen and to churn out a series of comedies based around the misadventures of Lieutenant Pimple. Audiences in Dublin and across the country were treated to Pimple Enlists, and The Capture of the Kaiser by Lieutenant Pimple.

    Audiences, however, were avidly attempting to follow the action and thus every cinema advertised the latest from The Topical Budget, the Pathe Gazette and Cherry Kearton’s war pictures.


    Cinemas provided a careful balance between escapist entertainment and war pictures.

    Thus, the Cinema House, Town Hall Cavan showed on 19 December the thrilling From the Lion’s Jaws, in which the heroine was attacked, while lying unconscious on the ground, by a huge lion, which, according to reports, was fired on at the crucial moment, much to the relief of the audience.

    At another point the heroine was saved from death by an immense elephant which treaded its way down the side of a ravine and carried her in its trunk from her perilious position. Such was the success of this film that audiences increased night after night as word spread around the Cavan area and the cinema quickly capitalised on its success by offering When Lions Escape the following week.

    Charlie Chaplin:

    The latest adventures of the Keystone Kops delighted audiences across the country, as did Bronco Billy’s Wild Ride, telling of how the outlaw was reformed.

    This was swiftly replaced by the next instalment, Broncho Billy Wins Out.

    Another big seasonal hit was Mabel’s Married Life, with the great (Irish-American) silent star, Mabel Normand, directed by Mack Sennett and co-written by Charles Chaplin and Mabel Normand. In it Chaplin plays Mabel’s husband, a sad wimp who can’t intervene when a big lug with a tennis racket chats her up. Mabel buys a dummy hoping it will inspire her husband but wen he returns home from having a drink he takes it to be her assailant and accosts his wife for having an affair with it. A knockabout ensues until she persuades him that it is just a mannequin.

    [link to the film here:]

    Local propaganda efforts:

    If the value of cinema as propaganda was lost on the British government in the early stages of the war, it was quickly picked up on by more sharp-witted individuals. the Earl of Portarlington toured the country with free screenings of films that showed the aftermath of the German destruction of places such as Louvain.

    Venues included the Gaelic Hall in Stradbally, and the Town Hall in Maryborough The films showed scenes cities of before and after the invasion, and of marching men leaving for the front. The message that accompanied these screenings was unambiguous, if Ireland was to escape the fate of Belgium, more young Irishmen must join up.

    In a rousing speech to the audiences who had piled in to the Town Hall in Maryborough, the Earl’s invited speaker, a Mr Crowe, reminded them that ‘if you happen to lose your life in the defence of your country on foreign soil your memory will be revered, and if you survive, you may be able to march into the capital of Germany to dictate terms of settlement’ (loud cheers). The pictures you are about to see will show you may expect if the Germans succeed in invading us.

    New Local Cinema in Skibbereen:

    In Skibbereen, Gerald Macuara funded the building of a local cinema, the Kinematic, which opened just in time for Christmas. Macuara was a well known face in the Skibbereen area, having recently purchased and renovated Lough Ine House.

    An entrepreneur, in today’s terms, Macaura’s best known invention was the Pulsicon, which was a mechanically-operated vibrating machine and was used to ease pain suffered by those with rheumatism, arthritis and many other ailments. From the proceeds, Macuara built the magnificent Kinematic. The cinema was intended to raise funds to support the West Cork Volunteer Corps.

    He also provided a band for the volunteers and instruments for the band. After the grand opening, the first film shown was a local picture, ‘The Irish National Volunteer (Cork Regiment) Review at the Mardyke Football grounds.’ Huge enthusiasm accompanied the opening, though sadly, Macaura’s plans were not to work out, and the Kinematic, like many of his ventures, lasted only a few years, before being sold off in lots in 1917.

    Popular pictures:

    The big picture was The Sea Wolf, and adaptation of the Jack London story. But one of the most popular was the latest starring vehicle for Irish-American actor, Maurice Costello, The Mysterious Lodger, which opened in the Rotunda on 21 December.

    Musical accompaniment:

    Musical accompaniment was, of course, a big feature of going to the pictures, and many cinemas relied on the reputation of their musicians to gain custom. At the Coliseum in Cork, audiences were entertained by the boys band from the Greenmount Industrial School. However, in the Dublin courts, a case was being heard against the owners of a cinema on Talbot street who had not paid their music licence. The inspector told the court that they were playing music appropriate to the content of the pictures. The defendants said that, on the contrary, they were using music to cover up ‘inappropriate noises’ from the audience, so that the public could focus on the picture. The defendants admitted that in the evenings, when a full orchestra played, they enjoyed greater attendances than in the afternoon, when only a piano played. In the end, the owners were fined a penalty of £1.

    Class-based entertainments:

    The Bohemian Theatre in Phibsborough Road showed Maurice Elvey’s The Loss of the Birkenhead, deemed very attractive to ‘lovers of the higher phase of cinematography’.


    Ticket Prices:

    Dublin seat prices ranged from 3d, 6d to 1/.


    New Cinema:

    The new Pillar Picture House opened next to Nelson’s Pillar (where the McDonalds now is). It was on the smaller scale, with only 400 seats, but panelled in walnut and satinwood with a giant glass dome. 

    The Mount Street Club

    A unique part of Dublin’s social history
    Exhibition on The Mount Street Club
    1st -23rd December 2014
    Pearse St Library, Dublin 2

    An exhibition of photos, facsimiles and historical documents on the fascinating story of The Mount St Club, will run from December 1st to 23rd at Pearse St Library, marking 80 years since the Club was established in 1934 to combat unemployment in inner city Dublin.

    Stories about the Club and its members were collated for the recently published book ‘The Mount Street Club’ (published by Foxrock Media) in a beautifully presented publication with an introduction from the former Lord mayor of Dublin Oisin Quinn.

    In 1934 a group of notable Dublin business men decided to combat the poverty of the city by setting up an unemployed men’s ‘club’, wherein men could earn ‘tallies’ which they could exchange for food, clothing, fuel or furniture. At its peak during the WWII, the club had members working in its workshops in Mount Street, on its farm in Clondalkin and in allotments at Merrion and Sydney Parade.

    The club was revolutionary in proving that men from the deprived tenements of Dublin could learn to work the land, and helped hundreds of unskilled workers gain employment. It was talked about in the Seanad and gained international attention from the likes of Sir William Beveridge (who developed Britain’s welfare system).

    The work of the Mount Street Club evolved over the years, and in the 1970s and 1980s it supported start up businesses and set up training schemes for the unemployed. It was incorporated as a Trust in 2006 and continues to work on projects that give support to those suffering from the effects of unemployment in the Greater Dublin area. With over 100 facsimiles, photographs and documents of interest, this is a beautiful and entertaining insight into social history and the impact of true philanthropy.
    ‘The Mount Street Club’ is published in hardback at €19.99 in bookstores nationwide.

    Further Information available at
    Foxrock Media Limited is an Irish owned company dedicated to the production of high quality Irish books.

    The Mount St Club Exhibition will run from December 1st to 23rd at Pearse St Library
    Address: 144 Pearse Street, Dublin 2
    Phone:(01) 674 4888
    Hours: Mon-Thurs 10:00-8:00 p.m / Fri-Sat 10:00-6:00pm

    About The Show

    Bringing the past to life! Discover how our world was shaped as Myles Dungan and guests explore events ranging from medieval times to the recent past.

    We want to help explain ourselves to ourselves. We will search out fresh angles on familiar topics, seek out the unfamiliar and will not shy away from bizarre or controversial issues. Our ultimate goal is to make The History Show the primary port of call for those with an intense or even a modest interest in the subject. We want to entice the casual and the curious to join us in celebrating the past.

    Our aim is to create informative, reflective, stimulating and above all, entertaining radio.

    So do join us on Sundays from 6.05pm for The History Show with Myles Dungan on RTÉ Radio 1.

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