The History Show

The History Show

Sunday, 6pm

The History Show Sunday 10 November 2013

The History Show

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

All Quiet on the Western Front

 "He fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front. He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come."

An extract there from this month’s Book Club choice, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque who was a German veteran of World War One.

First published in 1929, this novel tells the story of 19 year old Paul Baumer who enlists in the German Army along with his school friends after being urged on by stirring patriotic speeches by their teacher.

But they discover that the brutal reality of life and death on the French Front during World War One is neither honourable nor patriotic.   Instead, their days and nights are filled by constant terror.   

At the opening of All Quiet on the Western Front, Remarque is keen to point out that:

 This book is intended neither as an accusation or confession, but simply as an attempt to give an account of a generation that was destroyed by the war – even those of us who survived the shelling”.

Our guests discussing this book were Carol Hunt, journalist; Denis Staunton, deputy editor of The Irish Times and Declan Power, security analyst and former Irish soldier. 

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque is published by Vintage.     Next month, in our book club slot, we’ll be doing a round-up of history books that would make good Christmas presents.  That’s on 8 December. 

Remembrance Sunday Poppy

While we haven’t universally embraced wearing the poppy in this country, we generally respect people’s right to observe Remembrance Sunday.   However, in the 1920s and 1930s here, it was a very different story.  

HIstorian, Donal Fallon, wrote a piece for our programme detailing how Remembrance Sunday events in the early years of the Irish Free State were a frequent source of ideological conflict and political violence.

Remembrance Sunday in the 1920s and 1930s

by Donal Fallon

Ten years after rebellion on the streets of the capital, 40,000 Dubliners crowded into the area around the Wellington memorial at the Phoenix Park in 1926. They were marking Armistice Day. Some were members of the British Legion, others were the widows and orphans of men who hadn't returned from the Great War, and there were others still in the crowd.

The Irish Times wrote of this gathering of the park that:

It would be hard, indeed, to estimate the size of the gathering. It did not, however, number less than forty thousand. From an early hour people began to arrive by every kind of vehicle and on foot, and an hour before the ceremony began the wide open space in the Phoenix Park surrounding the Wellington Monument was densely crowded.

Newspaper reports at the time noted that a perfect silence followed the Last Post, and “so deeply impressive it was that when one closed one’s eyes to pray one felt alone in the vast acres’ of the park.” Yet Remembrance Day was not perfectly observed in the city, as some republican elements organised protests around the events, something which had been occurring in the years before 1926, and would escalate in the 1930s, with the IRA organising protests under the auspices of the Anti-Imperialist League. Frank Ryan, an active left-wing republican, believed that the British Legion marchers of the day were drawn mainly from “bank clerks and students of Trinity College”, but it was clear on the streets they came from all classes and districts.

The popularity of Armistice Day, or ‘Poppy Day’, is evident from sales of the remembrance poppy in Dublin in the 1920s. It was claimed by the British Legion that tens of thousands of poppies were sold in the Dublin area in 1924. This was at a time before the British Legion had even opened an office in Dublin, which they did in 1925. It was late October of 1925 when the poppy was formally launched in Ireland, something which led republican women to the creation of the Easter lily in 1926, as an ‘alternative’ symbol, though the popularity of the Easter Lily never even approached that of the Poppy. In the inaugural year of the symbol, we know from Cumann na mBan’s own Annual Reports that only £34 was raised from sales of the lily, pittance when contrasted with the £7,430 evident from the “Annual Report of the Southern Ireland Area of the British Legion”, documenting poppy sales.

In the 1930s Republicans organised 'alternative' Remembrance Sunday parades, with the left-wing republican congress calling on maimed, injured and poverty-stricken veterans of the British Army to parade through the city in anti-war defiance. Yet many more Dubliners continued to attend 'official' commemorations of the conflict. Remembrance Sunday remained a battlefield right throughout that decade. 

Come Here to Me! Dublin's Other History is a blog run by Donal Fallon together with fellow historians, Sam McGrath and Ciaran Murray.

Danny Boy Centenary

It's been 100 years since the lyrics of "Danny Boy" were first heard calling from glen to glen.  Today, the song can be heard wherever those calling themselves Irish gather in joy or mourning.  But is the song actually Irish? 

Lorcan Clancy tells the story - with research by Damien Corless.


Oldest Living Native of Great Blasket Island

17 November, 2013 marks sixty years since the evacuation of the Great Blasket Island.  

Its oldest living native, Mike Carney who now lives in Springfield, Massachussetts was interviewed by Colette Kinsella for The History Show.

Born on The Great Blasket Island in 1920, Mike was raised under challenging circumstances in that unique Irish-speaking community. He left the island – and its isolation – in 1937 to seek a better future in Dublin and eventually in America. The death on the island of his younger brother without a priest or doctor in 1947 set off a chain of events that led to its evacuation. Mike played a pivotal role in the evacuation, personally lobbying Éamon de Valera to relocate the remaining Islanders living in increasingly desperate conditions.

He then joined the millions who emigrated from Ireland to the United States, settling in Springfield, Massachusetts, with other former islanders. While taking advantage of opportunities offered by his adopted country, he never lost his love for the nation of his birth, saying ‘it’s like loving both parents’.

Mike Carney's recently published book tells the story of his life and his efforts to promote Irish culture in America, to preserve the memory of The Great Blasket, to respect roots left behind and to set down roots in a new land. Written as Mike approached the age of ninety-two, this memoir is probably the last of a long line of books written by Blasket Islanders, including Tomás O’Crohan, Micheál O’Sulleabháin and Peig Sayers, and is the first to follow a Blasket Islander all the way to America. A first-person saga, recounting one man’s life but relating the experience of many, it chronicles a lifetime devoted to family, community and legacy. All the while, he seems haunted by the immortal words of O’Crohan: ‘The likes of us will not be again.’

From the Great Blasket to America – the Last Memoir by an Islander by Micheal Carney with Gerald Hayes (The Collins Press). 

60th Anniversary of Evacuation of the Great Blasket

Sixty years ago, the Great Blasket Island was evacuated. Twenty years ago, the Blasket Island Centre was established and its director, Micheal de Mordha joined Myles to talk about the evacuation of the island 60 years ago this month.

Among the items he discussed was a letter sent to Eamonn de Valera in 1947 signed by "The Islanders".  The letter appears below.

 Source: Director, National Archives

Transcript of above letter:

``We are sending you these few lines because we want you to let us know what you are going to do for us. Please let us know immediately, for winter is coming and if you are not to do something on our behalf we will have to get some place on the mainland. You know well, leader, that there is great privation here that no one could stand with 20 years, only the islanders.'' 

Michael and his son, Daithi de Mordha have recently published a photographic portrait of the Great Blasket. 

This collection of photographs, with bilingual captions, catches the spirit of the island community, from the excitement of discovery in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, through the heyday of the 1930s, the decline of the 1940s and the legacy since 1953. These photographs portray the islanders and the people who witnessed their lives, up close and in person.    The result is a chronicle of a way of life and kinship, of the life and death of the Great Blasket, evacuated in 1953 but never abandoned.


The Great Blasket – A Photographic Portrait /An Blascaod Mór – Portráid Pictiúr by Dáithí de Mórdha and Micheál de Mórdha is published by The Collins Press.

Blasket Island Information Guide and Tour app:

Blasket Island Facebook page:

More information on Blasket Visitor Centre: 

Event to Commemorate Great Blasket Evacuation

Suantraí na hInise/The Island Lullaby:

To commemorate the Blasket Evacuation 17th November 1953

Premiere: Ionad an Bhlascaoid, Dún Chaoin

                   17 Samhain 2013 ag 7.30 i.n.

Suantraí na hInise/The Island Lullaby is a unique and innovative music/theatre event to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Blasket Evacuation and to celebrate its rich cultural legacy.  Comprising of newly composed music, for internationally renowned concertina player Niamh Ní Charra, harpist Noreen O’Donoghue & The Dublin String Ensemble, Suantraí na hInise/The Island Lullaby features archive footage and is directed by the acclaimed composer Colm Ó Foghlú.

Conference on Civil War in the Midlands

Custume Barracks, Athlone

Saturday 23 November  9.30am-7pm

For more information:

Police Memorabilia Event

Saturday 16 November at the Bedford Tower, Dublin Castle sees the Garda Historical Society hosting a unique event.  

We want you to bring along your old Police photos and artefacts of your DMP, RIC and early Garda relatives. We can photograph them, you can tell us a little about your Police relative and you then bring all your stuff home.

There will be the following lectures:

12 noon:  Padraig Yeates on 'The Lock Out';

2pm: Dr. Myles Dungan; 'The Theft of the Irish Crown Jewels'

4pm: Prof. Eunan O'Halpin; 'Spying on Ireland - The Intelligence War during WWII. 

 This is a free event and runs from 10am until 6pm!

 Please see or email

 Look for 'garda historical society' on Facebook.

Coming Up on Next Week's Programme

Next week’s line up includes an insight into what Dev wrote to Jackie on the assassination of JFK – and how she responded.  

Also, on the anniversary of the Irish Citizens Army and the Irish Volunteers, what questions need to be asked about the place of the gun in Irish politics?


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. 

Music Played on the Show

Danny Boy

Danny Boy

Johnnt Cash


Danny Boy

Danny Boy

Glenn Miller


Danny Boy

Danny Boy

Elvis Presley


You Raise Me Up

You Raise Me Up





Contact the Show

Presenter: Myles Dungan

Producer: Lorcan Clancy


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