December 2017 - Chairman's Christmas message

A Cháirde,

Christmas is here and I sincerely hope that it will be, above all else, peaceful for you. It is a time when families and friends come together. It is, of course, a Christian festival, celebrating a family’s togetherness and the birth of their baby.

Early Christians ingeniously used the very ancient and globally widespread celebration of renewal and rebirth, the Winter Solstice as a basis for Christmas. The Christian church aligned the ancient pre-Christian notions of hope for more light and renewal of plant growth with its own preaching of joy and hope as a result of the Saviour’s birth.

The Celts and ancient Irish peoples celebrated the Solstice with feasting and large bonfires. Cattle were slaughtered at this time of the year to conserve food during the harsh months of January and February, for those animals that were to remain alive.

There are myths relating to confrontation between the Holly and Oak trees that are ascribed to the Winter Solstice. These two trees continue to be associated with the Christian Christmas festival with holly and mistletoe used as decoration.

Newgrange in County Meath is the most notable monument associated with the Winter Solstice. The sunrise at 8.58 a.m. on December 21st has been illuminating the passage of the tomb at this site, at the same time, for approximately five thousand years and therefore, predates not only Christianity but also the arrival of the Celts to Ireland. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are many who wish to gain access for the solstice, but due to its popularity those chosen succeed by lottery (approximately 32,000 people apply for 60 places).

Newgrange is arguably the most famous Winter Solstice site in Ireland, but there are many others where one can gain entry without a lottery procedure. Some of these sites are open to the public and some are on private property and access may only be by the kind permission of the landowner.

Clans of Ireland embodies the unifying movement of families and clans, the gathering together of relatives, near and distant, the celebration of shared past, understanding of historical experience and a recognition that the contemporary common good is best served through unity of purpose.

The past year has been busy for Clans of Ireland with, in addition to our own events including the Annual Conference, a number of external events that Members of Clans of Ireland were involved in.

In March, Members of clans linked to the Uí Mhaine tribe attended a conference hosted by the Royal Irish Academy on the Book of Uí Mhaine.

March also saw the appointment of two most deserving people as Companions of the Clans of Ireland Order of Merit; Bernard Joseph McKenna CIOM and Pádraig Nolan CIOM 

The Annual Conference was held at the Saint Stephen’s Green Hibernian Club in Dublin in April. On the Friday afternoon, we had again been invited to visit the Royal Irish Academy and the Office of the Chief Herald, where we viewed manuscript material associated with the attendees. On Saturday, following the Annual General Meeting, Dr. Brian McCabe provided the attendees with a most

entertaining lecture into his own McCabe Clan; ‘A Gallowglass Clan’, while in the afternoon, Dr John Cunningham lectured most insightfully on ‘The Clans of Ireland in 1641 and After’. Professor Tadhg O’Keeffe of University College Dublin introduced attendees to the Global Irish Diaspora Congress that was scheduled to take place in August.

Maura O'Gara O'Riordan with Máire Ní Chearbhaill, Michael Egan  and Joe Mannion presented insights into the experience of their own clans’ diaspora at this first international Global Irish Diaspora Congress, which took place in August at University College Dublin.

The Saint Stephen’s Green venue has become so popular that the 2018 Conference is again scheduled to be held there on the weekend of the 14th of April, with a similar Friday afternoon and all-day on Saturday format.

The winner of the 2017 Chiefs and Clans Essay Prize on Gaelic Ireland was Tuam librarian, Ruairí Ó hAodha. He will receive his prize early in the New Year for his essay entitled ‘“A very sufficient scholar”: Isaac Lally – Ireland’s Stuart schoolmaster’. His essay has been published in the most recent edition of ‘History Ireland’. The annual prize is jointly sponsored by The Standing Council of Irish Chiefs and Chieftains and Clans of Ireland in association with the History Department, Trinity College Dublin, represented by Dr. Katharine Simms.

Our thoughts at Christmas turn to those who we have lost from our community during the past year. There were a number of high profile clan members such as Walter The O Kelly de Gallagh et Tycooly, Chief of the Name, Brian Ó Ceallaigh CIOM and Peggy Carty O’Brien, but there were also many others, whose passing we mourn. Our sympathy goes out to their families and friends.

With Best Wishes for Christmas & the New Year

Le gach dea-ghui i gcomhair na Nollag agus na h-Athbhliana

Gearóid Ó Ceallaigh