The History Show

The History Show

Sunday, 6pm

The History Show Sunday 28 April 2013

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.

On this week's show, Early Irish Emigrants to Australia, Love and Marriage in Medieval Ireland, Listowel Military Weekend and 1641 Depositions.

Early Irish Emigrants to Australia

Early Irish Emigrants to Australia

Our long history of migration to Australia began in 1788 when the first convict ships landed in Botany Bay. 25,000 Irish men and women arrived as convicts but others went voluntarily, like the 4,000 workhouse girls who left between 1848 and 1850 under the Earl Grey Scheme.

Men out numbered women by 8 to one in Australia at that time – so many of these girls were basically a 19th century version of mail order brides.

Historian, Dr. Gerard Moran, of NUI Maynooth spoke to Susan Dennehy about the Orphan Emigrant Scheme.

In the bleakest of settings, they joined the uneasy mix of settlers and convicts who built this new nation from scratch.

John Wright has unearthed the stories of some of these early settlers for his new book, Undaunted: The Irish in Australia. John Wright and Limerick historian, Dr. Ruan O’Donnell joined Myles on the programme.

Love and Marriage in Medieval Ireland

Love and Marriage in Medieval Ireland

This week, France became the 14th country to approve a law allowing for same sex marriage and adoption rights. Our own recent constitutional convention voted in favour of holding a referendum on this issue.

These marriages will be purely civil in nature as same sex unions are against the teachings of Christian churches.

So, how long ago did marriage became a sacred act and how have our attitudes to formal unions changed and progressed down through the centuries? Medieval historian Gillian Kenny came in to talk about laws and practices surrounding marriage in medieval Ireland.

Marriage in Medieval Ireland by Gillian Kenny

Marriage in Medieval Ireland by Gillian Kenny

In Gaelic Ireland during the medieval period the laws and practices surrounding marriage were secular in nature. People didn't get married in Church, marriage was a civil contract between two individuals (representing their family interests) and it was celebrated with a feast and then that was that.

Divorce was common, illegitimacy was an unknown concept (no idea of bastardy as it would have been understood elsewhere) and the lawyers tried to make allowances for all types of unions so they listed 9 different types of legal union which people could engage in. These lawyers formulated the legal code known as the Brehon Laws and the laws were first committed to paper in about the 8th century and were adhered to for the rest of the middle ages.

Women could control the wealth they brought with them to their marital contract and this enabled married women to have a real say in how family life and finances were managed. Some women's wealth consisted of soldiers and there are accounts of women leading those soldiers into battle. Other women patronised cultural pursuits such as poetry and also became noted builders of churches. Women could act quite independently as wives which is remarkable considering the times.

Women were also crucial in building up alliances with other families by becoming loving foster mothers to children who they took into their households. Fosterage was very common in medieval Ireland and the word 'Mammy' originally referred not to the birth mother (known as the Mathair) but to one's foster mother (the Muimmne - modern Mammy) with whom many children had extremely close relationships.

Of course later medieval Ireland was split between two cultures - the 'English' of Ireland and the Gaelic Irish. It is also worth maybe pointing out that, as far as I can tell, many people in 'English' Ireland also got married outside church. These were called 'clandestine' marriages and were, in fact, backed by the Catholic Church. You could marry in front of witnesses but they weren't entirely necessary and no ceremony in church was needed. This appears to have been also extremely common according to my research until the later sixteenth century.

The sacramentalisation of marriage in Ireland on a popular scale is a relatively new phenomenon and that for century after century people engaged in marriage with no reference at all to the Church. Of course all this complexity began to come to an end during the 17th century as Gaelic Ireland was wiped out as a viable and strong culture within Ireland.

Listowel Military Weekend

Listowel Military Weekend

From 3-6 May, Listowel Military Weekend aims to commemorate Irish people who served in wars throughout history. The main event on Saturday is the German ‘invasion’ of the town. Rhona Tarrant travelled south to the site of four plane crashes during the second World War. And there she found that the plane parts that still remain are not the only mark German pilots left on the area.

For more information on the Listowel Military weekend, log onto


Listowel Military Weekend Events

Listowel Military Weekend aims to commemorate Irish people who served in wars throughout history, most notably the American Civil War, both World Wars, and UN Peacekeeping missions. The main event of the weekend is the German ‘invasion’ of the town on the Saturday, followed by Listowel’s ‘liberation’ on the Sunday by American troops.

Programme of Events

Listowel Military, Agricultural & Vintage Weekend.

May Bank Holiday 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th.

Friday May 3rd

Meet and greet for participants at The Listowel Arms Hotel 7pm.

Followed by a lecture at 8pm by Mark McShane author of “Neutral Shores” Ireland and the battle of the Atlantic.

Venue The Seanchai Centre.

Saturday May 4th

Military exhibits and stalls in the Square from 12pm.

3pm Invasion and occupation by German forces in The Square.

4pm parade from Market Street to St John’s Arts Centre, The Square by members of The Irish Army and various Veteran Associations where a memorial plaque will be unveiled honouring Irish men & women who gave their lives in the line of duty.

Wreath laying ceremony by Ambassadors from France and Belgium & Veteran Associations.

Brief prayer service and Coast Guard helicopter flyover.

Reception after in Listowel Arms Hotel.

Irish Military Vehicle Group will have a display of vehicles in The Square.

Living History display by

American Civil War Re-enactors and also

Roman Legionaires.

Great photo opportunity for all the family,

Sunday May 5th

12pm to 5pm Farmers Market and Stalls,

Living History display in The Square.

Scale Model & Diorama Display in

The Listowel Arms Hotel 12pm - 5pm.

3pm Liberation battle to free Listowel with over 50 re – enactors using blank rounds, smoke bombs and flash bombs.

A loud afternoon in Listowel. .

4pm Live music and Pig on The Spit in The Square.

9pm – 1am Hangar Dance in The Listowel Arms Hotel Music by The Bombshell Belles from the UK.

This is a 1940’s themed dance with prizes for the best dressed lady, best dressed man, and couple.

Vintage and Military clothing optional.

Monday May 6th.

From 11am. Military Living History Display in The Square.

Agricultural Machinery (New and Vintage) display will take place in Market St. from 11am to 6pm.

Vintage Car Rally, gathering in The Square at 11am and leave to tour the villages of North Kerry returning to the Square at 1pm approx. Cars will be on display till 6pm.

Children’s attractions will include Bouncing Castle, Slide, Zorb Ball in a pool. Pet Farm display, Face painting, and various stalls.

BBQ and Music in the Square to finish off what we hope will be a great weekend of fun for all the family.


1641 Depositions

1641 Depositions

About Candlemas 1641 a great number of Protestants were, by the means of & instigation of one Jane Hampskin, formerly a protestant, but a mere Irish woman & lately turned to Mass … forced and thrust into a thatched house within the Parish of Kilmore. Then and there (the protestants being almost naked, only covered in part with rags …) the same house was by that bloody virago Jane Hampskin and her barbarous assistants: set on fire in several parts thereof: and the poor imprisoned parties being by armed parties kept there locked in, then and there miserably & barbarously burned to death & and at length the house fell upon them.’

It was evidence like that, one of many atrocity reports from the 1641 rebellion, that allegedly drove Oliver Cromwell to similar acts of barbarity in Ireland less than a decade later. The rising in Ulster of Sir Phelim O’Neill came barely a generation after the massive dispossessions of Catholic landowners during the infamous Ulster plantation of the early 1600’s. Depositions taken from Protestant victims of the rebellion – now housed in Trinity College - tell of how Catholic forces took revenge for previous humiliations on many of the Protestant landowners who had supplanted them. But did a widespread, premeditated massacre of Protestants in Ireland actually take place?

Eamon Darcy's book, The Irish Rebellion of 1641 and the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, addresses how the mythology of massacre circulated in Ireland during the 1640s and gained currency in the decades that followed and he joined Myles to talk about it.


Coming up next week…..

A history of the Cannes Film Festival.

The life and death of Lucy Slye, the last woman hanged in Carlow in 1835.

National Famine Commemoration Kilrush 2013

Tommy Graham on 20 years of History Ireland.

May Book Club

May Book Club

The Outer Edge of Ulster by Hugh Dorian (Lilliput Press).

Hugh Dorian’s recollections of life and death in mid-nineteenth-century north Donegal published by Lilliput Press.

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.

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

A Pegasus production for RTÉ. 



Contact the Show

Presenter: Myles Dungan

Producer: Lorcan Clancy


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