This year’s IPMAG annual conference was held in Acton’s Hotel, Kinsale, County Cork on a frosty but beautiful week at the beginning of February. It was an ideal setting for the conference which embraced multiple themes, many of which had a maritime or nautical focus and which fitted in well with the coastal setting provided by the lovely town of Kinsale and its environs.
The conference theme this year – ‘Bridging the Gap’: considering the post-medieval archaeology of transport, travel and war – sought to tie in with the era of commemorations that is upon us, while bridging the divide between the study of post-medieval archaeology of coastal and underwater sites and those terrestrially located. Kinsale was thus the perfect location to highlight this, with its rich terrestrial, coastal and underwater cultural heritage. As the conference theme stated, the events of World War I, the ill-fated 1916 Rising, the entry into the war of the United States in 1917 and many more key actions have left lasting changes in how Ireland developed since. Previous events have similarly left lasting legacies – the Battle of Kinsale in 1601 and the fall of the Gaelic Order; the Irish Rebellion and Confederate Wars of 1641-1653; the Battle of the Boyne of 1690 and the Williamite Ascendancy thereafter; the 1798 Rebellion and associated earlier actions or the impact of the Famine in the 19th century have all left lasting impression on our historical and cultural minds. During all these events, and indeed as part of lesser known actions, our waterways and territorial seas have played an integral part. The enormous loss of life during WWI at sea far out-numbered those lost on land and the shipwreck losses from that time from around the coast of Ireland are staggering. The use of our territorial waters has ensured that Ireland was not isolated in the past but rather served as a communications network central to key developments both nationally and internationally.
The conference theme looked to consider post-medieval archaeology through ‘Bridging the Gap’ between the historical archaeology of events on land and those at sea. The conference combined a broad spectrum of speakers with tours of historic Kinsale on the Friday and then the majestic star shaped fortifications of Charles Fort and James Fort on the Sunday – a fitting start and finish to a great weekend. The Friday tour, led by local guide Barry Moloney was proceeded by a reception, sponsored by Cork County Council in the Municipal town hall, with the conference being officially launched by Cllr. Kevin Murphy. Music on the night was provided by local band Torcán, who were excellent and who were kindly sponsored by Blue Brick Heritage. Refreshments were also supplied and sponsored by Aegis Archaeology Ltd. The Sunday tour was provided by on-site OPW tour guides at Charles Fort and local maritime historical John Thuiller at James’ Fort.
The diversity of speakers, numbering 14 over the course of the weekend, presented papers on local, regional and international topics that represented well the theme of the conference. Various session topics provided structure to papers, with the Saturday morning papers presented under the session ‘Military Links in a Coastal Landscape’ and where speakers Dr Jim O’Neill presented on the Nine Years War 1593-1603; Paul O’Keeffe discussed the Siege of Kinsale of 1601; Brian Scott’s paper on the use of ordnance in the Siege of Derry of 1689 broadened the geographic perspective; Dr Colin Rynne of UCC gave an enlightening paper on Richard Lovell Edgeworth and his Tellograph and the defence of Ireland in the late-18th century; David McIlreavy’s paper on the Pigeon House fort in Dublin discussed the development of defence on that part of the coast and the session finished with local maritime historian John Thuiller giving a broad overview of the maritime history of Kinsale.
The afternoon session ‘Links in Trade and Transport’ again sought to bridge the gap in the economic and industrial element of our post-medieval heritage. Underwater archaeologist Julianna O’Donoghue’s paper helped to visualise a sunken shipwreck that may have piratical links to the early-17th century while Dr Elena Turk spoke on transport within a controlled landscape. Barra O’Donnabhain detailed his most interesting work on Spike Island and the Victorian prison there, while Ian Kujit gave a socio-cultural overview of the impact of national policy on a local level on the islands off northern Connemara, in Co, Galway and off the Mayo coast. The session was brought to a close by Senior Archaeologist for the State Underwater Unit, Fionnbarr Moore on what is a very topical site at the moment – the 1915 wreck of the ocean liner RMS Lusitania.
The Sunday session, ‘Post-1700s Links: Warfare, Commemoration and Protection’were equally as informative, with Dr Gavin Hughes internationalising the overall theme to discuss the Irish connection with the 29th/10th Irish divisions in the Dardanelles campaign in 1915, and how this links back to the commemorations regarding Gallipoli in Ireland. Karl Brady of the Underwater Archaeology Unit gave a very informative overview of the war at sea in WWI and detailed the wreck records and loss of life for this period around the coast of Ireland. Damien Shiels finished the session with his paper on opportunities for the Decade of Centenaries, including lesser known sites with direct coastal and maritime links for the period, and concluded with a discussion on preservation issues and the importance of assessing, quantifying and valuing this part of our modern historical and cultural landscape before it disappears or is landscaped away.
IPMAG, in past conferences and publications, has strived to highlight and promote the connections, complexities and continuity between land and sea and the significance of post-medieval archaeology within such cultural environments – both at home and abroad. The conference this year achieved this well, and a thank you is due to all the speakers, who gave of their time and energies to ensure that this message was delivered and emphasised. What again was highlighted was the need to continue this work to convince a broader national audience of the importance of our historical archaeology in Ireland and the place its preservation should take within the wider cultural landscape.
The individual conference abstracts from each speaker are available to read in our Newsletter. and the Conference programme is given below. Thank you is extended from the Chair and Committee of IPMAG to all the speakers who contributed, to the Sponsors who helped support the Conference, to Acton’s Hotel for the lovely venue and service, to the tour guides who enlightened on the local history and archaeology and to Cllr. Murphy for officially opening the Conference. Finally, but by no means least, a thank you to all who made the trip and attended, both members and visitors alike.
IPMAG XIII was held in the Verbal Arts Centre, Derry, 22-25 February in partnership with the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology. The theme: ‘Living legacy: archaeology and the early modern town'. Coinciding with the city's year as UK City of Culture, papers dealt with a wide range of Irish, British and further afield experiences of proto-urban or urban life. In addition delegates enjoyed workshops and tours.
IPMAG XII was held in Wexford, 3-5 February on the theme of ‘Between land and sea: Maritime communities in the post-medieval era' Papers dealing with maritime sites, economies, lifeways and material culture were presented.
The theme of IPMAG XI was held in Clare Museum, Ennis, Co. Clare, 4-6 February. The theme was ‘Hearth, Home and Household from the 16th-20th century - 400 years of material culture’. Papers dealing with vernacular architecture, furniture and material goods as well as urban structures and cottage industries were presented.
In 2001, the first IPMAG conference was held in Belfast to encourage and formalise interest in the archaeology of the last 500 years. Ten years on, we returned to our roots to assess our achievements and to consider present challenges and future directions. The Irish Post-Medieval Archaeology Group held it’s 10th conference (‘Ten Years On’), in the Group Space, Ulster Hall, Belfast 5-7th February.
The Irish Post- Medieval Archaeology Group (IPMAG) held their 9th annual conference in the Factory Performance Space, Sligo from 20th-22nd February 2009. The conference theme was Early Modern Irish Archaeologies...The familiar past?’. Fifteen papers were delivered dealing with the historic landscape, architecture and infrastructure.
The Irish Post- Medieval Archaeology Group (IPMAG) held their 8th annual conference in the Carnegie Arts Centre, Kenmare, Co. Kerry from Friday 22nd-24th February 2008. The conference theme was 'Toil and Trouble: Archaeological Perspectives on Economy'. Thirteen papers were delivered dealing with the post-medieval economy in urban, rural, maritime, and other settings.
IPMAG held its 7th annual conference from 27-29th April 2007. The Co. Donegal town of Rathmullan was the venue, marking the 400th anniversary of the Flight of the Earls from the town. Thirteen papers were presented on the conference theme, 'Ireland in transition: An archaeology of Ireland in the era of the Flight of the Earls'. The papers were reflective of both the structure of the Gaelic order and the nature of the early years of the Plantation precipitated by the departure of the Gaelic leadership.
IPMAG held its 6th annual conference in conjunction with the Group for the Study of Irish Historic Settlement. The joint conference took place from 24-26th February in University College Cork. Fifteen papers tackled the theme of 'Plantation Ireland: settlement and material culture 1550-1700'. The papers covered the architectural, material and ideological impact of the Plantation, with the focus predominantly on Munster.
The Irish Post- Medieval Archaeology Group (IPMAG) held its 5th Annual Conference from 4-6th March, 2005, at The Pery Hotel, Glentworth Street,Limerick. Sixteen papers were presented dealing with a range of post-medieval research currently underway in Ireland and particularly Munster. These included urban excavations in Galway, Baltimore and Limerick. Also studies on castles, gardens, vernacular dwellings, kilns and pottery. Delegates enjoyed a reception hosted by Aegis Archaeology, at the Georgian House on Pery Square and celebrated another successful conference.
The Irish Post- Medieval Archaeology Group (IPMAG) held its 4th Annual Conference on 5th- 8th February, 2004, in the Tower Hotel, Derry. The conference was held in conjunction with the Society of Post-Medieval Archaeology (UK) and with the support of the University of Ulster.
The conference theme was Ireland and Britain in the Atlantic World. A range of papers covered the historic linkages between Ireland and Britain, and the place of both islands in the wider Atlantic world of the colonial and post-colonial periods. The conference celebrated the growing awareness of Ireland's Post- Medieval archaeological heritage and attracted international participation.
The third annual IPMAG conference was held in the Ulster Museum, Belfast, January 31st-February 1st.
Nine papers were presented spanning a range of topics including industrial archaeology in Northern Ireland, late medieval tower houses, urban archaeology in Dublin, rural settlement in County Donegal, twentieth-century defence heritage, the importance of theory in contemporary historical archaeology, and ongoing field projects on Achill Island and on the Isle of Man. Delegates enjoyed a reception hosted by the Ulster Museum, and celebrated IPMAG’s third successful conference.