By Rose Barrett
Balbriggan & District Historical Society celebrated its fortieth anniversary in July this year.
Chairperson Brian Howley recently sat down to reminisce with some of the founder members and engaged with former librarian, Jim Walsh.
Jim fondly recalled his thesis in 1971 entitled ‘Contributions towards a Bibliography of North County Dublin’ a work, he finally finished in 1978!
Along the way, Jim realised the vast resources available through the National Library of Ireland, and other Dublin resources. Along with colleague Don Griffin, the pair were joined on the first committee by Michael Banim, Antonia Cassin, Pauline Corcoran, Marion Crane, Bernie Healy, Eileen McKenna and last but not least, May and Pat McKeon.
“Our society was inaugurated on Thursday, 16 July 1981 entitled Balbriggan Historical and Cultural Society – Cumann Stair agus Cultúir Bhaile Brigin,” said Bernie Kelly, PRO. “The main aims were to promote an interest in local history through lectures, publications and exhibitions and also to establish a museum in the Balbriggan District.”
Their first presentation was ‘The Gaelic Placenames of Fingal’ by Brendan Scally, followed by Bob Browne’s ‘The building of the Dublin-Drogheda Railway –1838-1844’ and Christy Geraghty gave an illustrated lecture of local shipwrecks with particular reference to Sarah of Runcorn (1873) and Bell Hill (1875).
In 1982, the committee held an exhibition in the Grand Hotel which exceeded all expectations in terms of participation and attendance, along with donated items of historical interest.
Among the donations were items from Morgan’s Forge, ancestors of Jim Walsh. Further exhibitions were held in 1983 and 1984, and locals produced several items of significant interest. Among these were a signed photograph of Queen Victoria presented to Thomas Mangan in 1898 for his long service to Smyth & Co, and a small glass featuring the brand of the Gladstone Inn which was taken from the rubble after the Sack of Balbriggan in 1920.
Among the successful events recalled were the talks on the ‘Balbriggan Flyer’ Harry Reynolds, Balbriggan’s daughter Sinead Bean De Valera (nee Flanagan) and several talks covering the 1916 events in Fingal.
More recent events included the commemoration of the Siege of Jadotville in the Congo hosted in 2017, and the heroic efforts of Balbriggan native Private Terence Joseph McMahon.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic last year, the committee undertook to ensure the Centenary of the Sack of Balbriggan was fittingly remembered and hence, presented a seminar online, via YouTube.
Chairman Brian is very aware that the committee are guardians of the history for the future generations; he paid homage to the founder members and all members down through the years who’ve worked tirelessly to retain the history for the people of Balbriggan, and to all who’ve supported and attended the society’s exhibitions and events over the past 40 years.
Establishing a museum is still a committee priority – ideally somewhere on the site of Bremore Castle. Jim looks forward to the day when the castle is completed and open, and notes, the society has been co-sponsor with Fingal County Council since 1993, and was delighted to have provided youth employment through various schemes.
Balbriggan Historical Society can be contacted at [email protected]