Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Blackstairs Mountains

THE vibrant history of the Blackstairs Mountain range is the subject of what promises to be a lively talk hosted by the Carlow Historical and Archaeological Society.

This illustrated lecture will be given by Clonegal man Kevin Whelan, who works for the University of Notre Dame and it will cover prehistoric times to the present day.

Taking place online at 8pm on Wednesday 24 March, it will focus on this lovely stretch of country running from Kildavin to Clonmullen to Kilbranish to Myshall, Ballymurphy and all the way down to St Mullins, while occasionally glancing across to the Wexford side from Bunclody to Rathnure.

Kevin will explain what was distinctive about the Backstairs region and the ‘mountainy men’ and hardy women who lived there. He will discuss the distinctive settlement pattern formed by the hill farms and the crucial importance of commonage rights along the mountain slopes. The lecture will also explore the role of the Backstairs as a ‘refuge’ area, a bastion of traditional communal values rooted in the Gaelic system.

Among the topics covered will be geology, natural history, including wolves and starlings, the Kavanaghs, the 1798 rebellion, the impact of the Famine, and why wind farms shouldn’t be allowed on the mountain.

The lecture will use many historic maps and documents, including ones not normally referenced, to bring the history to life. It will be aimed at a broad, general audience and not at an academic one, so there might be a few jokes and some slagging thrown in.

The lecture will also propose a new answer to the unresolved mystery of where exactly did Richard II of England almost corner Art MacMurrogh Kavanagh after he fled Garryhill in 1394.

Kevin Whelan is a native of Johnstown, Clonegal, who grew up in the shadow of the Backstairs in a family of 12 children. He attended Clonegal NS and FCJ Bunclody and played with Kildavin in his footballing days. He now works with the University of Notre Dame and is based at Merrion Square, Dublin. He has lectured in almost 20 countries and at the Sorbonne, Cambridge, Oxford, Torino, Berkeley, Yale and Louvain. His passions include hurling, poetry, book-collecting and, rather appropriately, talking!

All are welcome to join this lecture by logging on to www.carlowhistorical.com. Just click on the link for the lecture.




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