Category Archives: Events

What’s happening

November Meeting

Our next monthly meeting will take place on Wednesday, 9th November at 7:00 pm in the Observatory Library.

Our speaker this month is Dr Andrew Newby, who has already delivered two talks for us over Zoom on topics related to Irish / Finnish history. This time, he will be giving a talk in person on:

“The Evils Which Have Arisen In My Country”: Mary Power Lalor – A Female Landowner in Victorian Ireland.

Mary Power Lalor (née Ryan) was born in 1840 at Inch, Co. Tipperary, into a landowning family described as “one of the few Milesian Roman Catholic families to have retained their property.” Her mother, Catherine Whyte, came originally from Loughbrickland in County Down, and seems to have had a considerable influence on Mary’s later perspectives on self-help, education and philanthropy. After taking her husband’s estate upon his death in 1873, Mary Power Lalor became a significant figure in Irish life, involved in the New York Herald Relief Fund (1880), the relief of distress in Donegal (1883), and leading the Irish Distress Ladies Fund (from 1886), as well as being appointed Government Inspector of Lacemaking in Ireland (1887). 

This overview of Power Lalor’s life, highlights various interlinked themes in the economic, social and political life of late Victorian Ireland. Firstly, it demonstrates that philanthropy served a social function beyond altruistic engagement by the wealthier members of society: it contributed to the maintenance of the established social order. Secondly, the development of female participation in civic society, as well as the contemporary “self-help” ethos can be examined from her long involvement in philanthropic work. Thirdly, despite the “esteem and admiration” which Power Lalor may have received from some Nationalists, there were various points of turmoil during her life, especially during the Land War and the Pland of Campaign, underlining the impact of national politics on local landlord-tenant relations.

As a proud Irishwoman whose life was nevertheless securely anchored within the British imperial system, Power Lalor demonstrates that national identity in nineteenth century Ireland was not always polarised between “unionist” and “nationalist” as might be assumed.

October Meeting

This month’s talk will take place this Wednesday 12th October at 7:00 pm at Armagh Observatory in the library.

Our speaker this month is Brian McDonald, who will speak about The letters of Michael Haughey.

Michael was born in Armaghbreague, South Armagh in 1820 and the letters were written to his daughter, Allice, who emigrated to America.

The letters begin in 1888 and end in 1905; they are formally addressed and dated, beginning with “My Dear Allice” and end with “Your Affectionate Father – Michael Haughey”. In practically every letter he pleads with Allice to come home on a visit, but she endured hard times in America (5 of her 10 children died in infancy) and she didn’t make it home until1904, 24 years after she had left.

The letters contain details of family information, births, deaths and marriages and give us an insight into the customs at the time. Arranged marriages were very much the order of the day and a ‘fortune’ was paid to the groom by the family of the bride. There are a number of references to marriages, the negotiations and the amounts paid. 

Michael was first and foremost a farmer and he gives seasonal accounts of the farming year, from ploughing in January and February right through to the potato harvest and threshing the following winter. He reports on the crops he grows, years of good and poor harvest and prices gained for farm produce, such as potatoes, flax, butter and eggs, which he sold in the local markets.  We also get an indication of wages, the price of cattle, the price of land and rents paid to landlords.

The period of Michael’s life was a very interesting time in Irish history and he was active in politics throughout his life; he collected O’Connell’s ‘Catholic Rent’, was a Repeal Warden during the Land Wars and  acted as personating agent for Edward McHugh – MP for South Armagh (1892 – 1900)

When he was born the Penal Laws were still in force, he lived through the famine but by the end of his life Catholics could vote, sit in parliament and own land. He heard Daniel O’Connell speaking in Dundalk in 1843 and attended O’Connell’s funeral in 1847. He refers several times to Home Rule, which was the big political issue in the 1890s and was optimistic it would become a reality.

One of the most interesting aspects of the letters is his style of writing and the, almost, poetic phrases he uses in practically every paragraph. Michael well read as the letters are full of quotes from people like Thomas Moore, Goldsmith, Dickens, Thomas Gray and other lesser known authors.

The last letter is from John, informing Allice of the passing of their father in 1905.

September Meeting

Our meetings resume again after our summer break and our next meeting will take place on Wednesday 14th September at 7:00 pm.

The venue will be the library at Armagh Observatory and our speaker this month will be historian and former director of the Centre for Women’s Studies at Queen’s University Dr Myrtle Hill, who has already spoken to the group on a number of occasions.

This time she will be discussing Finding women in Irish history: some examples of research and realities.

June Meeting

Our June meeting will be taking place on Wednesday, 8th June at 7:00pm in the library at Armagh Observatory.

Our speaker this month is author and historian Dr Liam Campbell, who is the current director of the Centre for Migration Studies in Omagh.

Dr Liam Campbell

His topic will be: Nature, landscape and culture in Ireland: “The last wolf to the first eagle in100 years”.

Dr Campbell is the author of Room for the River: The Foyle River Catchment Landscape: Connecting People, Place and Nature (2021), a historical record of how the Foyle catchment has shaped the culture and heritage of the north west region of Ireland and co-authored the forthcoming Lough Neagh: An Atlas of the Natural, Built and Cultural Heritage (Ulster Historical Foundation, July 2022).

You can find out more about him at

May Meeting

Our May meeting will take place next week on Wednesday, 11 th May at 7:00 pm.

The venue will be the library at Armagh Observatory and our speaker this month will be historian and former director of the Centre for Women’s Studies at Queen’s University Dr Myrtle Hill.

Myrtle has already spoken to the group on a number of occasions. The title of her current talk is ” Finding women in Irish history: some examples of research and realities.”

March Meeting

This month’s meeting will take place in Armagh County Museum at 7pm. It will start with our Annual General Meeting.

The AGM will be followed by a talk at 7:30pm. Our speaker this month is Fiona Byrne, Curator of History at the Ulster Folk Museum (National Museums NI). Fiona has been working in museums for over 15 years, focusing mainly on the Decade of Centenaries collections, especially World War One and 1916 material. More recently, she has been working on the Irish Folk Life collections and this continues to be her main focus and area of research. She has taken a particular interest in straw work collections, such as St. Brigid’s crosses. She will be discussing St. Brigid, objects and customs associated with her and why she still has such a strong following today.

February Meeting

Our next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 9th February at 7:00 p.m.

It will be online via Zoom as our speaker this month is Dr Andrew Newby, who will be delivering his talk from Finland. 

Dr Newby is Senior Lecturer in Transnational and Comparative History at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. His research covers a wide range of topics relating to Europe in the “Long Nineteenth Century”, particularly in relation to land reform, famine and aspects of nationalism and national / regional identity. 

You will remember Andrew from last April, when he delivered a talk on Joseph Fisher, Finland and the Ulster question. This time, he will be discussing the Irish and Finnish famines:

“This Terrible Visitation”: Contrasting the Great Hunger Years of Ireland and Finland.

January Meeting

For this month ‘s meeting we are returning to Zoom because of the current Covid situation. Our speaker this month will be one of our own members, Sean Barden will be talking about some of the street names that have disappeared over the years. The talk is entitled “The Search for Saltbox Court, Armagh’s small streets.”

The talk will be a week later than normal and will be held on Wednesday. 19th January at 7:00 p.m.

If you wish to take part in the meeting on Zoom please contact Catherine Gartland: e-mail

September Meeting

Next week, we will be resuming our monthly activities with a talk in our new venue: Armagh Observatory.

It will take place on Wednesday 8 September in the Observatory library at 7:30pm.

Our speaker this month will be member Gerry Oates, who will be discussing ‘Celibacy in the Church in the late Middle Ages’.

Because Covid restrictions still apply and to ensure the safety and peace of mind of all, we will be taking appropriate measures, as follows:

Names and contact numbers will be recorded for all attendees.

Once inside the building, all attendees must wear masks (unless exempt).

Chairs will be laid out one metre apart. Members of the same household may sit closer together, but must be one metre away from other attendees. This means that we will have limited capacity and once the room is filled, then no further admission. For this reason and until further notice, the meeting will be for members only.

Attendees to remain seated.

To maintain fresh airflow, doors will be kept open, so dress up warmly.

Unfortunately there can be no tea/coffee.

At the end of the talk, our Chairperson will direct an orderly exit (row by row).

Finally, we would prefer that only those who are double-vaccinated attend.

I hope that you will understand the reasons behind these precautions and that everyone will feel comfortable on the night.

If you are unfamiliar with access to the Observatory, please note that there are two carparks. Less able visitors can park at the top of the hill next to the main building. The other carpark is signposted as you make your way from the Mall entrance.

June Meeting

For our last meeting of the year, we have arranged an outdoor event, a walking tour, which will allow us to meet in person at long last. It will take place on Wednesday 16 June at 7pm, starting from the Church of Ireland Cathedral.

The tour is in two parts, each 45 minutes long, and will be guided by members Stephen Day and Mary McVeigh. It is open to History Group members only. Members can choose to take part in one walk or both. The second part will involve more walking.  The arrangements are as follows:

First Part of Tour: 45 minutes

Many thanks toCarol Conlin and Dean Shane Forster, who kindly arranged access for the group for this part of the tour.

1. Stephen Day will host the event and guide the group during their time on ‘the Hill’.

2. Participants should arrive in the grounds of the Church of Ireland Cathedral and gather outside the West door (opposite No5 Vicars’ Hill) at 7pm. The gates to the Cathedral will be open and participants can park in the grounds. The grounds will remain open until 9pm. Participants can leave their vehicles there so long as they are finished and away by 9pm when the gates are locked.

3. The small gate to the beautiful walled gardens will also be open to our group during this time.

4. The tour will take in the grounds of the Cathedral and provide a brief history of events on the Hill and the surrounding countryside over the centuries. The 360 degree views provide an ideal background and a brief history of the building itself will be included, although we will not be going into the Cathedral on this occasion. Having completed a circuit of the Cathedral grounds, we will have a walk through the four small walled gardens which are arguably at their best at this time of year.

5. The tour of the ancient Hill will take about 45 minutes.

6. If the weather is very bad we have permission to have a tour of the old Registry/Museum at No5 Vicars’ Hill subject to Covid Regulations which apply on that day. The Museum is currently compliant with existing Regulations and has been re-opened to the public since 25th May.

Second Part of Tour: 45 minutes

1. Mary McVeigh will guide the group along a short route on the west side of Armagh city – basically the western approaches to the two Cathedrals, including Callan Street and Cathedral Road via the site of the old Convent. Participants will be able to view a beautiful cross-community mural en route, as well as the site of the old gasworks, the old windmill and the line (now a road) which the old railway from Armagh to Castleblayney took along the valley.

2. Good walking footwear is recommended, especially for Mary’s tour as we will be returning to vehicles at the Cathedral via a steep hill.

3. Wet weather gear is recommended, even if it is only umbrellas and that they are kept in reserve in vehicles.

It would be much appreciated if members could confirm their attendance so that we can estimate the size of the group. Please contact Catherine Gartland: e-mail

I hope you will be able to make it.