The work of five local historians have contributed enormously to the ‘cultural capital’ on which Galway’s vitality and identity continues to thrive, according to Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, Professor of History at the National University of Ireland, Galway.
Speaking at the civic reception hosted by Mayor Terry O’Flaherty to honour the work of James Casserly, William Henry, Tom Kenny, Peadar O’Dowd and Galway Advertiser chairman Ronnie O’Gorman, Professor Ó Tuathaigh said the work of the five people over many decades had provided a rich narrative of all aspects of the history of Galway and its environs.
“They have researched assiduously and produced an impressive corpus of written work – books, articles, collections of photos, notes on artifacts and archaeological findings. They have been in the forefront of projects of civic culture - relating principally, but not exclusively, to the proper care of all aspects of Galway’s past.”
Most importantly, he said, they had all shared their knowledge, expertise and understanding of Galway’s past with the citizens at large.
“ They have, in the best sense, been ‘popular’ historians of their community. This is not only attested by their popular newspaper columns, though these serve a vital civic function, but in the ongoing ‘dialogue’ that they conduct with the general public. In a French sense, they may be described as ‘citizen historians’.”
Professor Ó Tuathaigh said the contributions of the five historians enable everyone to become more fully alive in Galway.
“It is a natural assumption that their writings and talks will be especially interesting and rewarding to native Galwegians (in, for example, the Old Galway Society, Galway Archaeological and Historical Society and other bodies ). But Galway is - and has been for most of its recorded history – a hospitable ‘ceann scríbe’ for newcomers from other parts of Ireland and from many other lands. It may be that these new settlers stand even more in need than the natives of the induction into the local history, heritage and folklore of Galway, provided in such an accessible way by the authors being honoured here this evening.”
It was also to the city council’s credit that such outstanding service was recognised, he said.
“I salute Galway City Council for this act, and, on behalf of all the citizens, natives and newcomers alike, I express our gratitude to the five distinguished people being honoured here.”