COLM O'REGAN: 2014: A year of historical anniversaries

THE New Year: when a local authority’s thoughts turn to ... “I wonder how old this area is anyway. Maybe there’s an anniversary coming up”.

This year it’s Waterford 1100. Of course they didn’t just decide it last Wednesday. The granting of its charter in 914 has been known about for years. It follows in a long line of Irish festival anniversaries. There was Galway 500 in 1984 which celebrated the city’s first busker. Cork 800 took place in the following year. The joie de vivre of that year inspired the people of the city to elect Bernie Murphy as an independent councillor. He subsequently went to San Francisco to get his teeth done and tried to get elected to the Dáil in 1987 with a manifesto that promised to abolish the Seanad, state cars and pensions for sitting TDs. What a character!

Dublin had a millennium in 1988 which commemorated the 1,000th anniversary of 988, the year the city was probably sort-of temporarily retaken from the Vikings.

Although these anniversaries lead to increased chip vans, plastic glasses for pints and [insert your town name]-[followed by its age] to be printed on a variety of plastic objects imported from China’s Guangdong province, there are also benefits.

Apart from getting people out and about to take part in events, there is an opportunity to look again at history we took for granted. Many of us may not have given these events much thought since Junior Cert.

2014 marks the end of the beginning of a decade of anniversaries for Ireland as a whole. 2013 was the centenary of Strumpet City. This year is the 1,000th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf.

If you remember your school history, you’ll know that the Battle of Clontarf was one of the few moments in our past when we really stuck it to those perfidious invading foreigners and their rapacious ways. It shone out in the muddy litany of defeat, a bit like Ronnie Delaney’s gold medal, a triple crown or the time Don Givens got a hat-trick against the Soviet Union.

We drove the Vikings out.

Of course the reality is far grubbier. The battle of Clontarf was actually the culmination of internal struggles for supremacy as armies from Munster and Connacht fought against Leinster and Ulster. There were Vikings fighting on both sides and Brian Boru’s wife was the ex-wife of one of his enemies and also the mother of another. It made the whole thing seem less a glorious national moment and more a strange mix of a particularly rumbustious Railway Cup and a Scandanavian Jeremy Kyle show.

Reopening the old stories may lead to another by-product of Waterford 1100 and Clontarf commemoration: a treasure trove of children’s names for the discerning parent. Expect to see plenty of Gormfhlaiths, Mongfinds, Crimthanns, Sitrics, Tordelbhachs, Ivars, Ragnalls — and obviously Brians — by this time in 2015.

2015: that reminds me. Isn’t that the 10th anniversary for my home village Dripsey’s GAA club? Time to start planning lads.


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