Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ballymote Heritage Weekend

When you are retire and at leisure to wander the countryside in the summer (Who? Me?) you soon come to learn that every decent self-respecting town and village has its own festival, summer school or such like celebration. Last week I spent a few hours at the Coolaney Summer Festival and the Yeats Summer School.

Last Sunday I paid a flying visit to the Ballymote Heritage Week-end in Co Sligo for the Sunday evening lecture. This event has been organised by Ballymote Heritage Group since 1990 and attracts a large number from Sligo and indeed some neighbouring counties. I met a number of familiar faces and names there and mentioned the new undertaking in the hope that I might find someone who knows someone who has some useful information or photographs.

The lecture was entitled Selling Ballymote: Manuscripts and Society in Northwest Ireland 1500-1550 by Professor Raymond Gillespie, History Department, NUI Maynooth. This was a model lecture for such and occasion - a local topic The Book of Ballymote, great details, a lively lecturer with enthusiasm and sense of humour but without definitive answers. We felt he was letting us into a mystery but certainly not teaching us anything. I learned a lot thought.

In 1522 Aodh O'Donnell of Donegal bought The Book of Ballymote from MacDonagh of Ballymote, whose family had commissioned the manuscript, for 140 milch cows. Why did he want the book and why did he pay so much for it? The discussion and possible answers to these questions throw some light on the situation in the country at the time and on how people thought at the time.

O'Donnell and his family were on the rise with pretensions to be the new Brian Boru and being seen as learned with a large library was part of this. MacDonagh was on the way down and had little respect for the manuscript mentioning its reputation for silliness in a marginal line on the manuscript itself.

That brief note does little justice to a fine lecture. The manuscript is in the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin and can be seen online here. Follow links to Royal Irish Academy. Picture above from the site of apart of a page from the manuscript.

Afterwards tea, coffee, scones and jam, cake, sandwiches all included in the 10 euro entrance charge. I must remember to spend longer here next year.

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