Exciting year ahead for Kilkenny Archaeological Society

The full and very varied programme of activities of Kilkenny Archaeological Society (KAS) for 2014 has recently been unveiled. A colourful, free brochure is available from Rothe House, also from libraries, some bookshops and a number of other outlets which give additional details of the various lectures, outings and other events planned for 2014.

The full and very varied programme of activities of Kilkenny Archaeological Society (KAS) for 2014 has recently been unveiled. A colourful, free brochure is available from Rothe House, also from libraries, some bookshops and a number of other outlets which give additional details of the various lectures, outings and other events planned for 2014.

The range of topics vary from the surprising extent of Roman activities, sites and remains in county Kilkenny until recently little known or at least acknowledged through to the 20th century activities of the Irish Fascist Movement.

The years events commence on Wednesday January 22nd when locally based, noted archaeologist, Mr. Cóilín O Drisceoil will provide details of the surprising extent of Roman linked sites within the County, including Freestone Hill near Clara, also Stonyford and other lesser known locations which have also come under his microscope.

The affairs of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society are arranged and organised by the officers and a Council who’s members are elected by the general membership annually. In practice the officers remain in office for three years. The current three year term concludes in 2014 and so this year marks a significant ‘changing of the guard.’ In consequence the AGM of the society on Wednesday February 26th in awaited with more than usual interest and a large turnout of the members of KAS is expected to participate in the elections for the various positions which include president, chairman, treasurer and secretary, editor, librarian and curator in addition to the various sub-committee chairpersons who play a vital role in the many activities of the society.

As the longest established and some might argue the premier historic society in the county – although far from the only such body – those vying for the various positions will be watched with interest this year as a pointer to the probable direction the society will move in during the next term of three years.

With the new officers and council in position the programme of spring lectures and events continues with an intriguing illustrated talk on the poetry of the First World War. This theme is chosen by Mr Mark Roper, who’s many Kilkenny fans will be eager to hear his selection of readings and poetry on Wednesday March 19th.

A very different subject matter – Eoin O Duffy and the Fascist Movement in Ireland - is the topic of Dr Maurice Manning’s lecture on April 9th. He has studied the complex personality of O’Duffy and this turbulent period to good effect and his insights are certainly well worth hearing.

Dr Manning, the current Chancellor of the National University of Ireland spent much of his academic career in the Department of Politics at UCD and is currently Adjunct Professor in the School of Politics and International Relations at UCD. Dr Manning was a member of the New Ireland Forum and the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body. He was both leader of Seanad Éireann and Leader of the Opposition in that House. He is Chair of the European Group of National Human Rights Institution and has also been President of the Irish Human Rights Commission.

Controversy is at the core of the annual inter-university debate organised by KAS on Wednesday 23rd April. Now established as a favourite in the annual calendar, the debate pitches leading authorities from Irish Universities to argue the merits –and demerits - of a historic event and its wider impact on the Irish nation. This year the motion is The arrival of the Normans was no bad thing. The two teams are selected as much for their forensic capacity to demolish the arguments of their opponents as for their deep knowledge of the topic. Last year the debate chaired by Olivia O’Leary was a wonderful manifestation of verbal jousting and featured cut and thrust of a high order. The two competing teams and chairperson will be announced during March. The debate in Kilkenny Castle (by kind invitation of the OPW) is again likely to prove engaging and entertaining.

With the spring series of lectures over, the society turns its attention to summer events and outings to locations and places of interest in Kilkenny and surrounding counties. The May picnic outing this year is to nearby Freestone Hill, led by Mr. Cóilín O’Drisceoil. Freestone Hill off the “old” Dublin Road displays evidence of multi- period habitation dating back to the Normans, and, by many account, predates the Roman’s arrival in Kilkenny. ‘Walking the ground’ and hearing his explanation ‘in situ’ is sure to make for an enjoyable and interesting Sunday afternoon’s outing.

The Knights Templars have a chequered reputation and history has not always been kind to their memory. While they continue to exist in today’s very changed world undoubtedly their glory days are some centuries in the past. In an attempt to unravel fact from fanciful fiction owing more to romantic legend, KAS is visiting many of the locations associated with their activities and story, including Old Ross, Ballyhack and the well named Templestown area in Wexford. This outing, on Sunday June 15th will benefit from the explanations provided by skilled guides who will provide the distilled wisdom of their deep research and long time interest in this most absorbing and often misunderstood Order of Mediaeval Knights.

In recent years the well supported society outing to locations in Dublin has encouraged KAS to again arrange a coach outing on July 19th to explore the Phoenix Park’s many buildings of note and history. Should time allow, a visit to Island Bridge War Memorial Garden is also under consideration. This historic location now fully and appropriately presented lay for many years abandoned and ignored, very much in keeping with the then national ambivalence to the many Irish men who fought in the First World War in the ranks of the British Army, navy and air force.

Heritage Week in August is now a firm favourite with an ever widening number of the public. Growing also are the annual range of activities, each designed to emphases the range, diversity and extent of built and natural heritage which surrounds us on a daily basis. KAS continues to be a firm supporter of this national movement.

This year the focus of our activities is the traditional lime kiln, once numerous and regarded as part of the rural landscape. But very few of us have ever seen one in action. This year it is planned to refurbish and rekindle the tradition lime kiln on their extensive vegetable farm near Swiftsheath, thanks to the kind co-operation of Mr Michael Bergin (senior and junior) in association with the most energetic Conahy Heritage Society with the additional involvement of Professor Muiris O’Sullivan, Associate Professor of Archaeology and former Head of the UCD School of Archaeology  This is a major undertaking with many aspects to be considered and different authorities to be consulted and placated not to mention the great deal of hard work to be completed.

What is surely one of the most ambitious undertakings by the society to date is the visit to Bavaria next September from Monday 1st to Sunday 7th . Thankfully, the eight day fully guided visit to a carefully selected cross section of that countries many items of interest has proved an instant success being popular with the members and friends. With some nine months to go already the limited number of seats on offer are being ‘snapped up’ with just a limited few remaining as we go to press.

Bavaria has a long, full and eventful history which has left the country with a deep seated heritage of cultural monuments. Out tour will take in some examples, from early Celtic Settlements, Roman town-ships to ancient and medieval monasteries. Regensburg on the wonderful River Danube is a UNESCO world Heritage Town founded by the Romans some two thousand years ago and is the focus of our attention during the latter part of our visit.

Our hotel is in the centre of the old town within easy walking distance of all its major sights. Our tour is fully guided by an English speaking, knowledgeable historian and archaeologist. A detailed brochure and further details on the outing, travelling by day time Aer Lingus flights, is available from Rothe House where bookings are currently being taken.

With the autumn the societies activities again move indoors. In September the well regarded Sister Dr Jacinta Prunty will address the question of maps and map making as an aid to local research. Her talk on Wednesday September 24th is sure to contain much information and helpful advice useful to all interested in local history issues and research.

The October seminar, staged in aid of the ongoing restoration of Rothe House, headquarters of Kilkenny Archaeological Society is scheduled for Saturday October 18th in the splendidly restored Chapter House of Saint Mary’s Cathedral. Each year the all day event focuses on some aspect of Kilkenny‘s story and this year the theme is Sport in Kilkenny. As you can imagine this topic is already presenting somewhat of a challenge to the organisers - not as to what to include but rather what to leave out - so many and varied are the possible options competing for attention.

In the last lecture of the year on Wednesday 19th November Very Rev Tom Coyle returns to his roots in Friary Street for his illustrated talk entitled The Friars, the Friary and area. Fr Tom in addition to what might be described as ‘ordinary’ research brings a life time of analytical insights and anecdotal observations to this task. The area has a surprising range of stories and events and those who recall Fr Toms discourse some years ago on the ill fated Kilkenny Canal are already eagerly anticipating this return visit down his native ‘memory lane.’

KAS was re-established in Kilkenny in 1945. Its aim then as now is to promote an interest in the history and antiquities of Kilkenny city and county. A warm invitation is extended to all who share these interests to join and participate fully in the societies many activities: members enjoy free access to the extensive library and to Rothe House and Gardens itself, they receive a copy of the Old Kilkenny Review as part of their annual subscription and preferential admission charges to many of the various events during the year. They also receive ten percent discount on purchases in the well stocked Rothe house shop.

Book Binding

One such additional activity which proves very popular is the annual book-binding course. Most of us have a treasured volume which due to the passage of time or much use during its long life is damaged and may well be the worst for wear and would benefit from a new binding. The Skills and Techniques of Book Binding course is led by Michael Power, himself formally a professional book-binder. This pleasant and social course commences on Tuesday the 21st of January. Because of the structure of the course only a limited number can be accommodated. Early booking is recommended and details are available from from Rothe House. 77 22 893

Kilkenny Archaeological Society has also got an active and energetic Youth Society. The youth society is open to those between the ages of 16 and 21. Weekly meetings are organised by themselves with a varied programme of debates, talks, quizzes and discussions of a historical nature. Their annual subscription is a very manageable ten euro.

Research advice clinics

Research advice clinics to aid those proposing or engaged on personal research projects are provided on the last Saturday of each month in the library in Rothe House and Gardens from 2.30 to 4.30 Prior booking is required in every ones interest and again the service is free to members.

A visit to Rothe House and Gardens is richly rewarding. This historic building contains the society’s archive library, significant museum items, a number of exhibitions- both permanent and temporary - and also a thriving genealogical research service.

The annual programme for 2014 concludes as always with the Christmas Festive Luncheon party bringing to a close the 165th year of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society.