The History Show

The History Show

Sunday, 6pm

The History Show Sunday 1 June 2014

1 June 2014 Programme

Bringing the past to life! this week's offerings were:

 Nelson's Pillar

The Rise and Fall of the Pillar

 70th Anniversary of D-Day

Normandy survivor 92 year old Black Watch Captain Brian Stewart talks about his experience of World War II.

  History Festival 2014 at Huntington Castle

 Festival curator Angus Mitchell on Olivia Robertson and the castle's ghostly associations

  Enemy Alien Oldcastle Camp

Brendan Jenkinson on Oldcastle Camp

 Edward Wellington Boate

Incarceration of Waterford man during American Civil War

 1914: the Road to War

 Conor Mulvagh on this conference which will take place on 14 June at City Hall, Belfast 

Nelson's Pillar

For over 150 years, Nelson's Pillar dominated O'Connell Street in Dublin.  The granite structure was erected in the early 19th century to commemorate the British naval commander Horatio Nelson.  He was killed in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar, Britain's most decisive naval victory of the Napoleonic wars. 

The monument received a mixed reception from the very start, and was a subject of debate from the day it was unveiled in 1809 until its destruction by a bomb on the 8th of March 1966. 

Myles was joined by Donal Fallon, author of the new book "The Pillar: The Life and Afterlife of Nelson's Pillar".  Myles was also joined in the studio by Pol O' Duibhir, whose photographs of the bombing's aftermath appear in the book.

Pol O Duibhir 

  (Pol O Duibhir)


Donal Fallon's book, "The Pillar: The Life and Afterlife of Nelson's Pillar" tells the story of the controversial granite structure. It begins before the monument was even constructed, exploring how Sackville Street developed (Sackville Street was renamed O'Connell Street in 1924). It also takes a look at the history of British Imperial monuments in Dublin that came before Nelson.  

The story of Nelson's Pillar and its location involves many famous Dublin names and characters, from Arthur Guinness to James Joyce, and WB Yeats to The Dubliners. The book examines the life of the Nelson Pillar site, looking at what was there before the monument as well as the afterlife of the Pillar, and brings the story right up to its eventual replacement with the Spire of Light.

Army spectators

Pol O'Duibhir

In March of 1966, Pol O' Duibhir was a student, travelling from his home in Ballybrack every day to UCD, where he was a student of economics and politics. He was also a keen amateur photographer. His photographs of 1960s Dublin are a great window into what life was like in the city.

Following the bombing of Nelson's Pillar, for many days afterwards Pol took photos of the site on O'Connell Street. He also inadvertently snapped the NCAD students who stole Nelson's head on a beach at Killiney.

Pol's photos are a detailed chronicle of the aftermath of the bombing. Now, the pictures have a new life as the illustrations which compliment the story told in Donal Fallon's book. 

(Pol O Duibir)

 (Pol O Duibir)

Cracked window (Pol O Duibir)

Pol O Duibhir

 Pol O Duibhir

The missing head (Pol O Duibir)

The missing head (Pol O Duibir)


70th Anniversary of D-Day

This Friday, 6th June marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

On this day in 1944, the Allies landed at Normandy to liberate mainland Europe from Nazi occupation during World War II.

92 year old Brian Stewart is one of a dwindling band of Normandy survivors who can still describe this complex and bloody campaign.

The Black Watch Captain talked to Liam Geraghty about his experience of World War II.


Captain Brian Stewart of the Black Watch is the author of Smashing Terrorism in the Malayan Emergency: the Vital Contribution of the Police.


Another recently published book which may be of interest is Irish Officers in the British Forces – 1922-45 by Steven O’Connor which is published by Palgrave McMillan.


History Festival 2014 at Huntington Castle

This year’s History Festival of Ireland takes place on 7th and 8th of June in the sumptuous surroundings of Huntington Castle, Co Carlow.

Click here for History Festival 2014 Speakers and Programme

Curated by Angus Mitchell, fifty leading historians and thinkers from Ireland and the UK will contribute to over 40 discussions, readings, debates, interviews and performances.

The festival promises to provide one of this country’s most in-depth explorations of World War I ever to be assembled.  This will take place in a dedicated stage across the whole weekend.

Olivia Robertson

Huntington’s infamous relationship with Gothicism, the occult, its extraordinary Temple of Isis and the late Olivia Robertson will be the subject of much discussion.


Enthusiasts of Historic Gardens will find plenty to listen to.

A  series of talks will take place on Vintage Cars by the leading experts and collectors from this island.

The original tower house at Huntington dates back to the 15th century and the castle was the setting for Stanley Kubrick’s film, Barry Lyndon. The house itself has a fascinating history.

Festival curator, Angus Mitchell and a past inhabitant of Huntington joined Myles to talk about Olivia Robertson and the castle's ghostly associations.

Enemy Alien Oldcastle Camp

The Enemy Alien bBrendan Jenkinson

It is a strange fact that a mere twenty-five miles from where I was born and where I attended school lay the setting of my great-grandfather’s incarceration during World War I, and that until recently I knew very little of it. Furthermore, it is an odd thing that the setting of my great-grandfather’s wartime imprisonment was the Oldcastle Famine Workhouse in Co. Meath which ceased to exist in 1920 and which history had, until very recently, largely forgotten about.

 In 1914, The British War Office acquired the local famine workhouse in Oldcastle, Co. Meath and swiftly began making improvements to the security of the camp. Barbed wire five feet high and fourteen feet wide ran along the camp perimeter, while nine sentry boxes were placed throughout the grounds. The structure of the workhouse made it an ideal holding camp, while a railway line linked the camp directly with the port in Drogheda. In late 1914, in the dead of winter, the first trains carrying prisoners of war rolled into Oldcastle.

Four months earlier, on August 5th 1914, the British Parliament passed legislation permitting police officers to arrest German and Austrian men of military age, since they feared these men might engage in sabotage, spying and generally act as a threat to British war interests. German and Austrian men living in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales were all immediately under suspicion as ‘enemy aliens’. The men were arrested and interned in various camps throughout Ireland and the UK. Among these men was Heinrich Joebges, my great-grandfather. Heinrich and many other civilians were brought to Oldcastle, Co. Meath where the British War Office was preparing themselves for the prisoners’ arrival.

Major Robert Johnson, the camp commandant, was eager to maximise the use of the workhouse as a detention centre and by June 1916 there were 579 internees at Oldcastle. In total, 760 internees would pass through the workhouse between December 1914 and May 1918. These internees came from a wide variety of backgrounds and professions, and many were skilled tradesmen. My great-grandfather was a hotel manager who had emigrated from Germany to Ireland in 1906. He had moved to Ireland to take up a post at the Great Southern Hotel in Killarney where he met Irish girl, Mary Ann O’Brien. Heinrich Joebges married Mary Ann O’Brien in the pro Cathedral in Dublin in 1913. The couple had a daughter and were living in London at the time of Heinrich’s arrest and imprisonment.

One of my great-grandfather’s fellow inmates, Aloys Fleischmann, was a well-known musician and conductor living and working in Cork up until his arrest and incarceration in 1916. In my family’s attempts to uncover some of the facts surrounding the internment camp, the personal letters of Aloys Fleischmann proved to be pertinent. The letters addressed to his wife Tilly, offer a unique view into the austere daily grind the inmates faced during their detention. In one letter he writes, “The days are long; the nights interminable.” He creates a vivid sense of his anguish: “I feel as if I have lead in my bones and poison in my veins. Sleepless nights. A twilight life of torpor. An existence without substance, without aim.” In a letter to his son, Fleischmann reveals he suffered from seven illnesses during his four years of internment and we learn of the strict control enforced by the British military in depriving the detainees of medical aid: “We had 26 doctors in our camp who were strictly forbidden to have any professional dealings with us.”

Adjusting to the monotony of camp life and the restrictions entailed therein was enormously challenging. These men had all been in gainful employment before their imprisonment, and many were married with children. They suddenly found themselves imprisoned without cause, and rendered ineffective and idle. For able-bodied men of working age, the boredom and monotony was the most difficult adjustment. The prisoners strolled around the camp, sat on benches, and leaned out windows watching as boredom grew around them. Four men were sent to a mental asylum in Mullingar over the period 1915-1917. They were also kept under constant surveillance; the sentry boxes surrounding the camp offered the prison guards an elevated view of the camp grounds. Armed soldiers patrolled the grounds day and night.

However, despite the severe boredom, or perhaps because of it, culture slowly began to spring up in the camp. Huts were built to accommodate dramatic performances and two musical ensembles were formed in the camp. Aloys Fleischmann found some personal consolation conducting a choir and an orchestra. In his letters he describes his arrangement of a Christmas Day concert. The performance was Fleischmann’s own setting of Gollar’s Mass in G for male voice choir and string orchestra with solo clarinet. He writes, “In spite of the over-full room, it sounded good. But the rehearsals, in which the sound was beautiful, gave me more pleasure.” Later, a concert was given in dedication to local curate Fr. J.F Tallon by the camp choir in appreciation for his care given to the Oldcastle inmates. Heinrich Joebges is among the names of the singers listed in the programme note for this concert.

In addition to the improvement of culture in the camp, the prisoners began communicating with the local people of Oldcastle. Many of the inmates were highly skilled carpenters and craftsmen and traded their craft with the Oldcastle locals in return for luxury food. The Germans produced toys, jewellery and furniture. Heinrich Joebges was adept at carpentry and produced many fine pieces of furniture which are prized family heirlooms today.

There were of course the inevitable escape attempts. Some had limited momentary success, while other failed attempts resulted in death. On the night of August 14 1915, two prisoners, Carl Morlang and Alphonsus Grein, were discovered missing at roll call. The two men had fled to Ballyjamesduff, Co. Cavan, disguised as clergymen, with Morlang passing himself off as Rev White from Templemore. From there, they headed to Denn where they treated all in the local pub to free drinks. Next they moved on to Cavan town where they stayed in the Farnham Hotel. The following day, en route to the local train station, the two were captured and returned to Oldcastle. In the subsequent investigation, the British military officials discovered that their escape was aided by a local Sinn Fein activist from Oldcastle, Charles Fox.

Others were less fortunate in their escape attempts. August Blockmeyer’s break for freedom proved fatal. Private Robert Tiernan spotted the escaping inmate and called out to him before firing a shot and injuring Blockmeyer. Blockmeyer died later that evening in the infirmary.


As the wartime years progressed, the social and political landscape of Ireland was changing. As the war was drawing to a close, the camp was returned to the Oldcastle Board of Guardians and a Sinn Fein anti-conscription meeting was held in the square of Oldcastle. Thousands attended and the tri-colour was raised. German internees were seen 300 metres away on the roof of the workhouse observing the events.

When the war ended in 1918, my great-grandfather and his fellow internees were released. Heinrich returned to his wife and family and soon thereafter moved to Skerries, Co. Dublin, where they bought the Grand Hotel and where Heinrich lived out the rest of his life.

Although separated from the camp by twenty-five miles of road, rail, river and land, Heinrich remained personally interned. In his new life, both he and Molly had become leading figures in the business and social communities of Skerries, but the scars of Oldcastle haunted Heinrich still. Reassimiliating to civilian life, he faced great personal pressures and social anxieties, and sadly never fully recovered from his status as ‘enemy alien’.

After World War I, the workhouse at Oldcastle lay idle and all but forgotten until 1920 when, fearing its potential use as an enemy base, the IRA burned down the workhouse completely; its memory rising with the embers into obscurity. The workhouse remains an aspect of Irish history which has been largely forgotten about. However, many others like me with German heritage are now uncovering this strange dark corner of the past.

Edward Wellington Boate

Prison Camps are an unavoidable factor in war and that fact was no different during the American Civil War.

The most infamous of them all was Andersonville, a confederate prison that was overcrowded, disease ridden and violent. In fact, it was called the Auschwitz of the American Civil War by some.

This is where a Waterford man found himself towards the end of the war as Orla Rapple told us.

Andersonville Aug 1864

The story of Waterford man Edward Wellington Boate was part of Orla Rapple’s series Irish Fighter’s, American War which was produced with funding from the Broadcast Authority of Ireland with the television license fee. 

1914: the Road to War

World War I has been dubbed “the most significant event in modern Irish history”.  On 14 June, a conference will reflect on a decade of war and revolution here. as well as the road to World War One.  UCD historian, Conor Mulvagh joined Myles to talk about this forthcoming conference.         

Universities Ireland is sponsoring the third in a series of conferences to commemorate the centenary of key events in the history of modern Ireland ranging from the Ulster Covenant, through the First World War and the 1916 Rising, to the foundation of the Irish and Northern Irish States.

This conference will take place in Belfast City Hall on Saturday 14th June under the title Reflecting on a decade of War and Revolution in Ireland 1912-1923: the road to war.

The keynote speakers will include Professor Thomas Otte, Professor of Diplomatic History, University of East Anglia who will deliver an address entitled July 1914: Reflections on an Inadvertent war and Professor Keith Jeffery, Professor of British History, Queen's University Belfast who will deliver an address entitled Reflections on Ireland in 1st World War Business.

 Click here for 1914: the Road to War poster

Click here for Conference Programme

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. 



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Presenter: Myles Dungan

Producer: Lorcan Clancy


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