Up to 2,000 expected at first Michael Collins Autumn School

A Michael Collins Autumn School — along the lines of the internationally renowned Yeats Summer School — will be held for the first time this year.

Up to 2,000 people are expected to attend the inaugural school which will take place in and around the West Cork town of Clonakilty in the autumn.

The life and times of the iconic freedom fighter-turned-minster for finance, who died in a hail of bullets in Aug 1922 at the Béal na mBláth ambush, is to be the focus of a packed four-day programme which begins on Collins’s birthday on Oct 16.

Academics, local historians and members of the public, both from Ireland and abroad, are expected to attend the school, which forms part of the national programme for The Gathering and follows a pilot Michael Collins Birthday Weekend last October.

Events will take place in a variety of venues, including his birthplace at Woodfield, Lisavaird, and the house where he lived with his aunt in Clonakilty’s Emmet Square.

“This programme is not just aimed at historians and academics who have studied the era — it’s also very much geared at the ordinary man or woman who is interested in that period,” says Maura McCabe, of the organising committee.

“People are becoming more interested in their roots. Michael Collins played a major part in the formation of the Republic and he is a native of this area — and should be celebrated by the area,” she said.

Events are expected to include historical walks around Collins’s birthplace and tours of No 7 Emmet Square, Clonakilty, where Collins stayed with his aunt while attending school. Plans are in place to renovate the house and turn it into a museum focused on his life.

Historical movies and documentaries will be screened at the town’s O’Donovan’s Hotel, talks will be given on the period, and it’s hoped a play relevant to the Collins era will be performed in nearby Rossmore. “We hope to have a play centred on the era in which Collins lived. It would be presented in Rossmore, a village he would have known very well,” says Ms McCabe.

The Michael Collins Centre a few miles outside Clonakilty will be at the centre of the school, she said, adding that the owner of the centre, Tim Crowley is a local expert on Collins who has been researching his life for nearly 20 years.

“The school is being organised as part of The Gathering programme and it is being included as one of events nationally.

“It is likely to attract people from abroad — there’s huge interest in Michael Collins,” says Ms McCabe.

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