Historian in Residence: 2020 and 2021 - Westmeath County Council
As part of the Westmeath County Council Decade of Centenaries programme, I was appointed Historian in Residence during 2020 and again during the second half of 2021. The residency was supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sports and Media in partnership with Westmeath County Council.
The Historian in Residence programme aims to mark the centenaries within the county in the most appropriate fashion, given the restrictions that are in place due to Covid-19. I worked with the county’s heritage officer, Melanie McQuade, to ensure that the commemorative programme focused on County Westmeath and its environs. Ultimately, the goal of the residency was to provide the public with a trustworthy and enlightening source of information on Westmeath during 1920.
As part of the programme, I created a blog series that initially ran to almost 35,000 words and which included contributions from a range of historians. This is the first time that such detailed content on the history of Westmeath during the War of Independence, especially with regard to 1920, has been made easily accessible to the public. These blogs will serve as a permanent archive for the work undertaken by the Historian in Residence and guest authors.
Special commemorative supplement - Westmeath Independent
A special 16-page illustrated supplement of the Westmeath Independent was published in November 1920 to mark the 100th anniversary of the burning of the paper's offices by the Crown forces during the War of Independence. The supplement was a partnership between the Westmeath Independent, edited by Tadhg Carey, and the Historian in Residence. Copies of the supplement were distributed to local secondary schools in the wider Athlone area, spanning Westmeath and Roscommon and into Longford and Offaly. The supplement was also digitised and is freely available on the Westmeath Independent’s website.
Video and Radio Features
A series of Radio features (ranging from 90-seconds long to five minutes) were scripted and recorded in the studios of Midlands 103 by the Historian in Residence. Topics included: Cumann na mBan in Westmeath, reprisals in Athlone, the destruction of Westmeath Independent, Custume Barracks before the War of Independence, Alice Ginnell, James Daly and the Connaught Rangers, Ellen Chapman and the Westmeath Independent , and the shooting of Michael Burke. I also scripted and produced four short videos, covering different aspects of the period.
A podcast series with episodes created by Dr Paul Hughes, Historian in Residence between March and July 1921, and Ian Kenneally can be found at anchor.fm/wcchistorian.
The image shows British Crown forces on the bridge of Athlone in 1920 or 1921 (Athlone Public Library)
The Chapman family, owners of the Athlone Print Works and the Westmeath Independent. The Print Works was destroyed by the Crown forces in November 1920. In 2021, a series of contemporary documents related to those events were provided to Historian in Residence Ian Kenneally by Luke Baxter. These documents were subsequently housed in Mullingar Public Library as part of the Chapman Family Collection
(Image provided by Athlone Public Library)