SIR – Thank you for your coverage of the West Cork History Festival in last week’s Southern Star. The talks and discussions remain free to view on our website at westcorkhistoryfestival.org
The spirit of the West Cork History Festival has always been, in the words of the Government’s Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations, ‘to broaden sympathies, without abandoning loyalties.’ Tom Cooper, who wrote in your letters page last week, clearly disapproves.
In the past, Mr Cooper has attacked the festival, which he has never attended, but usually after the event. This year he has excelled himself, condemning one of the online talks by Dr Eve Morrison, before it had even been posted. This does not inspire much confidence in his approach to evidence.
It is in contrast to the careful focus on the facts demonstrated by Dr Morrison. Mr Cooper would have been better advised to listen to her talk before commenting on it. He might then not have misunderstood what it was about.
You do not have to agree with a particular interpretation of the evidence on the Kilmichael Ambush to admire the care with which Dr Morrison sifts the facts about the debate. We recommend it to anyone interested in the subject.
Some may feel their inherited certainties alone are sufficient to understand our history, but we respectfully disagree. There have been lively debates at all of our festivals, with people taking varying views on the topics we have discussed. That’s the point really.
We believe learning about new, and sometimes contentious, work is healthy. It gets us closer to understanding our pasts and can be done in a generous and inclusive way. That is the spirit in which local historians have contributed to the Festival each year, alongside colleagues from all over the world.
This year, for example, Kieran Doyle describes the incredible work he and Alan O’Rourke are doing to map all the memorials of the revolutionary period in Cork. More local work in the same inclusive spirit can be seen in the latest, and characteristically excellent, ‘Skibbereen Historical Journal,’ several of whose contributors have spoken at past festivals.
We are grateful to Mr Cooper for drawing your readers’ attention to the West Cork History Festival, also covered superbly by The Southern Star since it began.
Like everyone else running events in West Cork, we very much hope to be back in physical form next year. In the meantime, we hope you will enjoy the material on the website.
Simon Kingston, Chair,
West Cork History Festival Committee,