The Cumann Merriman Summer School 2008

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From Brian Ború to Patrick Hillery: Continuity and Change in Irish Society

17th – 23rd August 2008.
Glór Theatre in Ennis, Co. Clare.
The Old Ground Hotel in Ennis, Co. Clare.

Welcome to the School

The opening lecture of this year’s School is Politics and Irish Life Revisited, by David Fitzpatrick, setting the tone for a week of debate, discussion, music, poetry, set dancing and general good fun!

What to Expect

The 2008 Merriman Summer School takes place in Ennis, County Clare and promises an exciting six days of stimulating discussions and conviviality. In returning to Ennis, where the first Summer School took place, this year’s gathering takes the opportunity to reassess our cultural heritage and societal mores at a time of rapid change in Ireland. There will also be a special focus on history and society in County Clare and Thomond. The Summer School is bilingual: most of the lectures are in English.

Ennis, with its restaurants, museums, libraries and lively pub scene is an ideal location for the Summer Schoool. The state of the art Glór Theatre will be the principal venue, and Club Merriman will be held each evening in the graceful Old Ground Hotel. Ennis is easily accessed by rail and road and offers a wide range of accommodation; beaches, the Burren, and the majestic river Shannon are accessible within a short distance.


Highlights of this year’s programme will include a discussion by Carmel Wynne of The Irish Times on sexuality in modern society. Economist and media commentator Marc Coleman will address Ireland’s predicted recovery of population to 8 million people in this century and its regional implications. In a lecture illustrated by musical excerpts Fintan Vallely will discuss past and current trends in traditional music with a particular emphasis on the traditional music of County Clare.

Colmán Ó Clabaigh OSB will speak on the Ennis and Quin Franciscan friaries. The opening lecture will be given by Professor David Fitzpatrick of Trinity College Dublin. David is the author of Politics and Irish Life 1913 – 21, the definitive work on the War of Independence in County Clare.

The Wednesday afternoon tour, with guides and guest speakers, will give attendees the chance to take in some of the cultural and historical highlights of the surrounding hinterland. The trip will include a visit to the evocative Quin Abbey and to Magh Adhair, the inauguration mound of the O’Briens.

This year, four hundred years after the Earls reached Rome, visitors to the Merriman Summer School will have the opportunity to view a powerful theatrical portrayal of Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone (1550 – 1616), as they have never imagined him before!

The Wednesday evening show, Running Beast will be performed by award-winning actor/writer Donal O’Kelly to music by Celtic Music Prize-winning composer Michael Holohan for uilleann pipes (Mick O’Brien), string quartet (Máire Bhreathnach, Steve Larkin, Simone Mendonca and Diane O’Keeffe), double bass (Dan Bodwell), harpsichord (composer Michael Holohan) and percussion (Robbie Harris). Donal O’Kelly’s stunning one man shows (including the acclaimed Catalpa) have played to capacity audiences internationally. Running Beast is described as a chamber-orchestra historical trad-rap and is much anticipated.

Poetry & History

Cúirt an Mheán Oíche, the daily poetry readings have become a cherished part of the Summer School line up in recent years. This year’s featured poets are Medhb Mc Guckian, Micheal O’Siadhail, Colm Breathnach and Bríd Ní Mhóráin. A local history strand of talks during the week will feature David Butler on the Protestant tradition in county Clare; Raymond Gillespie on history, local and global; Michael Griffin on the Ennis poet Thomas Dermody; and Mathew Lynch on landed estates in 19th century Clare.

The Irish language heritage of County Clare is an important strand in our national heritage. Speakers confirmed for the popular strand of Irish language lectures include Meidhbhín Ní Úrdail of UCD, on the O’Briens of Thomond and the Battle of Clontarf; Stiofán Newman (MIC Limerick) on Micheál Cuimín; scholar Vincent Morley on the poetry of Aodh Buí Mac Cruitín; and Eilís Ní Dheá with expert analysis of the Gaelic manuscript tradition of County Clare.

There is also the option of the ‘Renew your Irish’ workshops for those seeking to practise their Irish in an informal setting.

Patrick Hillery Tribute

On Saturday a special commemorative event will take place in honour of a great Clareman and our Patron of Cumann Merriman for 30 years. President Hillery’s Ireland will review the achievements and legacy of President Patrick J. Hillery and his era.

Beidh fáilte romhat!


Cumann Merriman wishes to thank all those who are assisting in the organisation and funding of the 2008 Summer School:


Sunday 17th

Registration at Glór Theatre.
Opening of the 2008 Summer School by Dr. Brian Maurer, Medical Director of the Irish Heart Foundation.
Politics and Irish Life Revisited, a lecture by David Fitzpatrick.
Club Merriman.

Monday 18th

Seimineár Gaeilge 1: Stair & Saíocht na Gaeilge i gContae an Chláir Seimineár 1 Brainse Bagarthach Barramhail Béasach, with Meidhbhín Ní Úrdail*.
Renew your Irish 1, with Eoghan Ó hAnluain.
Seminar in English 1: Reaching the ‘Unawakened Multitude’: Christian Evangelicals in County Clare, with David Butler.
Cúirt an Mheán-Lae, with Colm Breathnach*.
Clare and Polka Sets 1 with Johnny Morrissey and Betty McCoy.
The Local and the Global: The Practice of Local History in Ireland, a lecture by Raymond Gillespie.
Back to the Future 2041, a lecture by Marc Coleman.
Club Merriman.

Tuesday 19th

Seimineár Gaeilge 2: Lucht Scríofa Lámhscríbhinní i gContae an Chláir, with Eilís Ní Dheá*.
Renew your Irish 2, with Eoghan Ó hAnluain.
Seminar in English 2: Political and Cultural Change in the Thomond Lordship, c.1550–1650, with Bernadette Cunningham.
Cúirt an Mheán-Lae, “Fé Bhrat Bhríde” with Bríd Ní Mhoráin.
Clare and Polka Sets 2.
Mendicant Friars of Medieval Munster, a lecture by Colmán Ó Clabaigh.
17:00 Book Launch
Clare History and Society, by Willie Nolan, available from Geography Publications.
Using Neuro Linguistic Programming to Re-story Merriman’s Sexual Dream, a lecture by Carmel Wynne.
Club Merriman.

Wednesday 20th

A tour of Mooghaun, Bronze Age Hill Fort, Quin Friary, Magh Adhair and the inauguration mound of the Kings of Thomond.
The Late Bronze Age Chiefdom of Mooghaun, Co. Clare, a talk by Eoin Grogan.
Quin Friary, a talk by Colmán Ó Clabaigh.
Running Beast, a drama by Donal O’Kelly with Musicians.
Club Merriman.

Thursday 21st

Seimineár Gaeilge 3: Aodh Buí Mac Cruitín – File agus Staraí, with Vincent Morley*.
Renew your Irish 3, with Eoghan Ó hAnluain.
Seminar in English 3: Ribaldry and Romanticism: Poetry in English in Eighteenth Century Clare, with Michael Griffin.
Cúirt an Mheán-Lae, with Medbh Mc Guckian.
Clare and Polka Sets 3.
The Enduring Legacy of the Parish in Contemporary Co. Clare: A Cultural Geographical Perspective, a lecture by Pat Nugent.
Immigration and Diversity: Three Lessons from Clare, a lecture by Bryan Fanning.
Club Merriman.

Friday 22nd

Seimineár Gaeilge 4: Micheál Coimín: Seachadadh a Shaothar Liteartha sna Lámhscríbhinn, with Stiofán Newman*.
Renew your Irish 4, with Eoghan Ó hAnluain.
Seminar in English 4: The Exterminator General of Clare: Marcus Keane of Beech Park 1815–1883, a seminar with Ciarán Ó Murchadha.
Cúirt an Mheán-Lae, “In Madam’s Embrace” with Micheal O’Siadhail.
Clare and Polka Sets 4
Colonel George Wyndham, 1st Baron Leconfield, and his Estate in Clare, a lecture by Matthew Lynch.
Taste, Tourism and Tyranny – Is Clare the ‘Special’ Place for Traditional Music at all?, a lecture by Fintan Vallely.
Club Merriman.

Saturday 23rd

A memorial session in honour of the late President Patrick Hillery, presented by Dr. John Walsh, Peter Feeney and An t-easpag Fiachra Ó Ceallaigh.


Art Exhibition
Pauline Bewick will be exhibiting A Visual Translation of the Midnight Court at Clare County Council Offices, Ennis.
Photographic Exhibition
Clare Museum is host to Merriman Summer School 1968, forty images of the first Summer School held in Ennis, taken from the Horgan Merriman collection.

Note* These sessions will be in Irish only.


Colm Breathnach
Tá sé chnuasach filíochta foilsithe ag Colm. Ina measc sin tá Scáthach, An Fear Marbh agus Chiaroscuro. Tá rogha dánta le foilsiú go luath. Tá duaiseanna Oireachtais agus Duais an Bhuitléirigh gnóthaithe aige.
David Butler
David teaches at the University of Limerick and University College Cork. Author of South Tipperary 1570–1841: Religion Land and Rivalry, and numerous articles on Irish interchurch relations.
Marc Coleman
Marc worked as an economist with the Department of Finance and the European Central Bank before becoming economics editor with the Irish Times. Joined Newstalk FM as its Economics Editor in 2007. Author of the bestselling book, The Best is Yet to Come.
Bernadette Cunningham
Bernadette is the author of The World of Geoffrey Keating (2000), and co-author of Stories from Gaelic Ireland (2003). Deputy librarian at the Royal Irish Academy.
Bryan Fanning
Bryan is a lecturer in School of Applied Social Science UCD. Recent books include Immigration and Social Change in the Republic of Ireland (editor) and The Quest for Modern Ireland: the Battle of Ideas 1912–1986.
Peter Feeney
Peter is Head of Public Affairs Policy, RTÉ and was previously Head of Current Affairs. He founded Prime Time and Questions and Answers and made the documentary Dr. Patrick Hillery, President, 1976–1990 with Siobhán Cleary.
David FitzPatrick
David is Professor of Modern History at Trinity College, Dublin. He began work on revolutionary Clare in 1971. He is currently writing a biography of Louis Mac Neice’s father and a history of Orangeism.
Raymond Gillespie
Raymond is Professor of History at NUI Maynooth. He has run the MA in local history there for a number of years and is general editor of Maynooth Studies in Local History.
Michael Griffin
Michael is from Shannon. He worked at Southern Illinois and Notre Dame Universities before returning to teach English at the University of Limerick. He has published widely on Irish and Eighteenth Century studies. Directed the Merriman Summer School in 2006.
Eoin Grogan
Eoin is a consultant archaeologist specialising in social and settlement systems. Recent publications include The Bronze Age landscapes of the Pipeline to the West (with Lorna O’Donnell and Penny Johnson), The Later Prehistory of South-east Clare and The Later Prehistory of North Munster.
Matthew Lynch
Matthew is a Tipperary-based historian. A native of Knockanalban in Kilmurry Ibrickane, he has written extensively on local histories in Clare and Tipperary and is co-editor of Clare: History and Society.
Brian Maurer
Brian is Medical Director of the Irish Heart Foundation and Director of Cardiology at St. Vincent’s University Hospital and Blackrock Clinic. He is the author of numerous papers on cardiovascular disease. Interests include history and archaeology (especially County Clare), golf, sailing, good company and medicine.
Vincent Morley
Tá trí leabhar scríofa ag Vincent: An Crann os Coill (1995), Irish Opinion and the American Revolution (2002) agus Washington i gCeannas a Ríochta (2005).
Johnny Morrisey
Johnny is a well-known dance master, set dancing teacher and Summer School participant. He is also a concertina player.
Betty Mc Coy
Betty is a long-established dance teacher who has played a central role in the revival and popularity of set dancing.
Medbh Mc Guckian
Medbh was born, and lives, in Belfast where she currently is employed as Creative Writing Fellow. She publishes with Gallery Press and her last collection was The Curragh Requires no Harbours. Another publication, My Love Has Fared Inland is expected this autumn.
Stiofán Newman
Is as Áth an Mhuilinn, Contae Chorcaí do Stiofán. Léachtóir le Gaeilge is ea é, i gColáiste Mhuire Gan Smál, Luimneach. Tá tráchtas dochtúireachta, ar Mhicheál Coimín, á scríobh aige fé stiúir Liam P. Uí Mhurchú i gColáiste na hOllscoile, Corcaigh.
Pat Nugent
Pat lectures in Geography and the Irish Language at the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool. He is the author of The Gaelic Clans of County Clare and their Territories 1100–1700 A.D. (2007).
Eilis Ní Dheá
Léachtóir le Gaeilge i gColáiste Mhuire gan Smál, Luimneach is ea Eilís. Bhain sí céim PhD amach i gColáiste na hOllscoile, Corcaigh, ar an ábhar ‘Saothrú an Léinn Ghaelaigh i gCo. an Chláir 1700–1900’. Tá mórán aistí agus alt foilsithe aici.
Bríd Ní Mhóráin
Aon tsaothar próis amháin agus trí chnuasach filíochta atá foilsithe ag Bríd, agus í ag obair ar an gceathrú ceann agus ar aistriúcháin go Béarla. Tá go leor duaiseanna agus sparánachtaí buaite aici. Oibríonn sí le hOidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne mar scríbhneoir.
Meidhbhín Ní Úrdail
Corcaíoch ó dhúchas is ea Meidhbhín. Bhain sí a cáilíochtaí tríú leibhéil amach i gColáiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh agus in Ollscoil Albert Ludwig i Freiburg na Gearmáine. Léachtóir le Nua-Ghaeilge is ea í, sa Choláiste Ollscoile, Baile Átha Cliath.
Fiachra Ó Ceallaigh OFM
Cláiríneach is ea Fiachra, a tógadh le Gaeilge. Bhí a athair ina phríomhoide ar Choláiste Eoghan Uí Chomhraí agus ina Theachta Dála do Chontae an Chláir. Chuaigh Fiachra isteach sna Bráithre Mionúra. Tá cáilíochtaí sa diagacht bainte amach aige i Lobháin agus sa Róimh. Tá sé ina phroibhinseal ar Phroinsiasaigh Éireann ó 1987 i leith agus ina easpag cúnta ar Dheoise Bhaile Átha Cliath ó 1994 i leith.
Colmán Ó Clabaigh OSB
Colmán is a monk of Glenstal Abbey, Co Limerick. Medieval historian, author of The Franciscans in Ireland 1400–1534 (Dublin, 2002) and co-editor of The Irish Benedictines: a History (Dublin, 2005) and Art and Devotion in Late Medieval Ireland (Dublin, 2005).
Brian Ó Dálaigh
Cláiríneach ó dhúchas is ea Brian. Tá cáilíochtaí bainte amach aige sa stair i gColáiste Ollscoile, Baile Átha Cliath agus in Ollscoil na hÉireann, Má Nuad. Tá sé ina phríomhoide scoile ar feadh a shaoil oibre. Tá cuid mhaith foilsithe aige ar stair agus saíocht Thuamhumhan. Tá sé ag obair faoi láthair ar Ennis: Irish Historic Towns Atlas d’Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann.
Liam Ó Dochartaigh
Cathaoirleach reatha Chumann Merriman is ea Liam, agus Stiúrthóir ar Scoileanna Geimhridh an Chumainn ó 1998 go 2008. He is Director International Education at University of Limerick.
Eoghan Ó hAnluain
Eoghan was a senior Lecturer in Irish in University College Dublin up to retirement. He directed 24 Winter Schools, was secretary of Cumann Merriman in its early years and its Cathaoirleach from 1992 to 1997.
Ciarán Ó Murchadha
Ciarán lectures in history at NUI Galway. He has written widely on Famine Ireland, particularly as it affects County Clare. He is the author of Sable Wings Over the Land.
Micheal O’Siadhail
Micheal is a poet with twelve collections. His latest include Poems — 1975–1995 (1995) Our Double Time (1998), The Gossamer Wall (2002), Love Life (2005) and Globe (2007). He was awarded the Toonder Prize for literature in 1998.
Fintan Valley
Fintan is a musician, lecturer and writer on traditional music. He has edited several books on Irish music, most notably The Companion to Irish Traditional Music (1999). Forthcoming publications include Sing Up! Irish Comic Songs and Satires for Every Occasion and Tuned Out — Protestant Perceptions of Traditional Music in Northern Ireland.
John Walsh
John is a contract researcher with the Centre of Contemporary Irish History, Trinity College Dublin. He is the author of the forthcoming official biography of Dr. Patrick Hillery.
Carmel Wynne
Carmel is an Executive Coach and Master Practitioner in Neuro Linguistic Programming. A past president of the Professional Speakers Association, she is frequently interviewed on radio and television. She is the author of two books on relationships and sexuality.

Press release

Date of issue: Tuesday, 1st July 2008 (12:30pm)

School Summary

Sunday 17th to Saturday 23rd of August 2008.
Ennis, County Clare.
Glór Theatre.
Clare Museum.
From Brian Ború to Patrick Hillery: Continuity and change in Irish history and society.
Ar Fheabhas Tuamhan: Ó Bhrian Bóramha go Pádraig Ó hIrighile.


The 2008 Merriman Summer School will take place in Ennis, Co. Clare and the School Director is Brian Ó Dálaigh, a native of the town.

At a time of reflection and readjustment in Irish society, the School’s twin themes of continuity and change should prove both timely and topical. It is entirely appropriate that Cumann Merriman, after many years’ absence, should return to the county town of Clare, where the Merriman School first began over forty years ago. The main proceedings will take place in the Glór Theatre, the town’s premier entertainment venue, with ancillary activities being held in the Clare Museum building.

A stellar list of speakers will provide a stimulating focus for discussion. Topics to be explored include immigration and diversity, the future of the regional economy, the role of traditional music in an increasingly commodified society and modern sexuality. The main focus of the daytime lectures will be on the history of the Thomond region and on County Clare’s various contributions to Irish society. As always, the Merriman Summer School is bilingual, with most of the proceedings in English.

Doctor Brian Maurer, medical director of the Irish Heart, Ireland’s foremost heart surgeon and another native of Ennis, will officially open the School ón the evening of Sunday the 17th. Professor David Fitzpatrick of the School of Histories and Humanities, Trinity College Dublin will give the opening lecture, Politics and Irish Life Revisited at 8.30.

Other highlights of the programme include:

  • Marc Coleman, economist and media commentator, who will address the predicted recovery of Ireland’s population to 8 million during this century and its regional implications in a lecture entitled Back to the Future 2041.
  • Carmel Wynne on Using Neurolinguistic Programming to Re-story Merriman’s Sexual Dream
  • Fintan Vallely on the challenges facing traditional music with a lecture entitled Taste Tourism and Tyranny: Is Clare the “special” place for traditional music at all?.
  • Running Beast, the Wednesday evening show, which explores the experiences of the Hugh O’Neill in Rome.
    • This will be performed by award-winning actor/writer Donal O’Kelly to music by Celtic Music Prize winning composer Michael Holohan for uilleann pipes (Mick O’Brien), string quartet (Máire Bhreathnach, Steve Larkin, Simone Mendonca and Diane O’Keeffe), double bass (Dan Bodwell), harpsichord (composer Michael Holohan) and percussion (Robbie Harris).
    • Donal O’Kelly’s stunning one man shows (including the acclaimed Catalpa) have played to capacity audiences internationally. Running Beast is described as a chamber-orchestra historical trad rap and is múch anticipated.
  • A special commemorative session on Dr. Patrick Hillery and his era. Dr. Hillery was patron of Cumann Merriman for many years.
    1. Dr. John Walsh of TCD, his official biographer, will outline the main contours of the former President’s life.
    2. John Feeney of RTE will present and comment on his television programme Dr. Patrick Hillery, President, 1976–1990.
    3. Fiachra Ó Ceallaigh, Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin, will share his personal recollections of Dr. Hillery.

The Irish language strand of morning lectures will feature:

  • Méidhbhín Ní Úrdail, Vincent Morley, Stiofán Newman and Eilís Ní Dheá, who will give lectures on Thomond literature.
  • The “Cúirt an Mheán Lae” poetry readings, which have become a cherished part of the School. This year’s readers are Colm Breathnach, Bríd Ní Mhóráin, Medhb McGuckian and Micheal O’Siadhail.
  • The regular “Renew Your Irish” language classes.

As usual, dancing will feature prominantly at the School, with set dancing classes every day and Club Merriman every night.

The School will visit the recently excavated Bronze Age hill fort of Mooghaun, Quin Friary and the ancient inauguration site of the King of Thomond at Magh Adhair. The archaeologist Eoin Grogan will lead the tour and Colmán Ó Clabaigh, author of Franciscans in Ireland 1400–1534, will outline the history of Quin Friary.

Pauline Bewick’s acclaimed exhibition A Visual Translation of the Midnight Court will be on display in the new Clare County Council Offices during the School.

Clare History and Society, by Geography Publications will be launched during the School. This long awaited book is perhaps the most important history of the county to be published since James Frost’s History of Clare in 1893.