The Story of the Irish Country House in Revolution 1920-1923
The Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD, launched ‘Burning the Big House: The Story of the Irish Country House in Revolution, 1920-1923’, a new exhibition curated by Professor Terence Dooley, Director of the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates (CSHIHE), History Department, at Maynooth University, with support from the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.
This engaging exhibition is the culmination of years of research work by Professor Dooley. It introduces a new perspective to the Decade of Centenaries Programme – the experiences of the Irish aristocracy or former landed elite who found themselves caught up in the War of Independence and the Civil War.
Seen through the prism of the burning of country houses, more generally referred to in Ireland as the Big Houses, the exhibition will present the stories of a broad sample of these Big Houses from across the country. It is the product of original research based on a wide variety of primary sources, challenging many commonly held misconceptions about this period in history. The exhibition will explore the extent and geographical location of Big Houses burned, examining the political and social motivations for destruction. It will also address why many houses were not destroyed. The exhibition will explore the national context for these events and the impact of the Land Acts on the country houses.
The exhibition will be showcased in the Irish Architectural Archive in Dublin until 27 April, when it will relocate to Maynooth University in time for the 20th Annual Historic Irish Houses Conference (10-11 May). It will then tour various locations around the country. When the exhibition run concludes, it will be digitised and made freely available online for everyone, on the CSHIHE, Maynooth University website.
A free, weekly lecture series will be held online from 24 March to 19 May, in conjunction with the exhibition. Speakers will include Gemma Clark, Terence Dooley, Robert O’Byrne, Ann O’Riordan, Olwen Purdue, Christopher Ridgway, Glascott Symes and Jean Young, all of whom will address various themes relating to Big Houses during the revolutionary period.
This also marks the launch of Professor Terence Dooley’s new publication ‘Burning the Big House: The Story of the Irish Country House in a Time of War and Revolution’ by Yale University Press.
Minister Martin said, “the burning of the Big Houses is one of the rarely discussed aspects of the Irish revolutionary period. As Minister with responsibility for leading the Decade of Centenaries Programme, my aim has been to support interesting and imaginative opportunities to encourage all of us to explore our shared history, in all of its complexity, in a respectful and supportive environment.”
“This exhibition by Professor Dooley is the culmination of years of research into the destruction of our Big Houses. The exhibition, the accompanying lecture series, and Professor Dooley’s new publication will provide invaluable supports to everyone interested in gaining a greater understanding and new insights into this period in our history, grounded in the factual evidence and primary sources. I commend Professor Dooley and all involved in bringing this work to fruition.”
Professor Terence Dooley, Director of the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates added, “I am deeply appreciative of the funding provided by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media which has enabled the design and presentation of this exhibition in the Irish Architectural Archive, which I hope will provide a new dimension to our understanding of the Irish revolutionary period in all its complexity.”