By Lynsey Dreaper
The first in the series of Ashbourne Historical Society 'Decade of Centenaries' lectures took place on Tuesday, 15th January, and set the bar for the rest of the series over the coming decade.
A lecture on John Redmond and the Home Rule Bill was given by Dermot Meleady, historian and author of The Parnellite, a biography of John Redmond. As the first of the centenary talks, the lecture centred on the Home Rule Bill of 1912 and how it contributed to shaping our history.
Dermot was introduced by his childhood friend and Ashbourne Historical Society member, John Holmes, who recalled walking home from school with Dermot when they were just in their teens when their conversation revolved around history. John joked that the finer points of political happenings and influence were not discussed so much as the bloody and gruesome carry on of the Vikings.
While the exploits of the Vikings no doubt still hold a certain fascination, Dermot's impressive knowledge and understanding of the events surrounding the 1912 Home Rule Bill and almost personal acquaintance with John Redmond was lost on none of his audience at the lecture.
The impressive turnout was not only credit to Ashbourne Historical Society, it was also a demonstration of the interest and fascination that history has for this area.
The lecture took place in the conference room in Ashbourne Library, a well-known popular venue and local resource, and after being granted an extension beyond the agreed time, questions from the audience had to be cut short solely due to time restrictions. Dermot certainly ignited the interest of the audience who were only too pleased to be able to direct their questions, queries, curiosities and observations to a true expert on the subject.
Former Taoiseach and history enthusiast John Bruton was also a member of the audience, having reviewed Dermot's biography of John Redmond in the Irish Independent when it was published in 2008.
This lecture could have continued for another session again and in response to this seemingly endless quest for information and interaction, the Ashbourne Historical Society plan on creating a forum of sorts, so that questions can be raised and opinions exchanged long after the lectures have taken place. A blog will be set up to continue the discussion, a video of the lectures will be made available on the group's Facebook page and website, a timeline will be developed to illustrate the temporal relationship of the main events, and a news feed will be set up relevant to these events.
These are big plans that will take commitment and dedication, which is exactly what the historical society has in abundance. Any suggestions are warmly welcomed and more information can be found on www.ashbournehistoricalsociety.com or by contacting the society secretary Ann Kavanagh at firstname.lastname@example.org