Conference Abstracts

Speakers at the History of Irish Childhood Conference

St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, 9-10 June 2014

Alphabetical list

Gaye Ashford, ‘‘Women who read are dangerous’ – female education in eighteenth-century Ireland.’


Apart from educational reform which focused largely on structural issues, the most significant educational debate in eighteenth-century Ireland centred on the benefits of female education.  Samuel Johnson’s observation that ‘a man is in general better pleased when he has a good dinner upon his table, than when his wife talks Greek’[1] reflects the prevailing male attitude towards female education in the early eighteenth-century.  By the last quarter of the century however, there were significant demands for educational reforms and heightened debates concerning female education in Ireland amongst elite and middling families.

       But what were these educational reforms and debates predicated upon?  What goals did eighteenth-century parents and children strive towards?  What educational facilities were available in eighteenth-century Ireland and more importantly, in relation to female education, what were they attempting to do?  These are some of the questions this paper will address and in doing so provide participants with a deeper understanding of female lives in eighteenth-century Ireland and the important role female education assumed by mid-century.


Gaye Ashford graduated from St Patrick’s College, Dublin City University in 2012.  Her PhD, Childhood: studies in the history of children in eighteenth-century Ireland incorporating the digital humanities project ‘Irish children in eighteenth-century schools and institutions’ was funded by An Foras Feasa.  Gaye tutors in St Patrick’s College and is a part-time lecturer in digital humanities on the history Masters programme.  Her research interests embrace eighteenth-century childhood, Irish emigration, and local and family research.

Anna Bale, ‘Briseann an Dúchas…: an exploration of the Dúchas Project ( which gives us a window into the daily lives of children in Ireland in the 1930s.[2]


The objective of the Dúchas Project is the digitisation of the National Folklore Collection UCD. The first phase, launched in December 2013, gives us online access to part of the Schools Collection which was a major folklore-collecting scheme undertaken by schoolchildren as part of their weekly schoolwork.

Upward of 5,000 primary schools took part in the Schools’ Collection which began in July 1937 and continued until the end of 1938.  Three separate organisations were involved in the operation of the scheme, i.e. the Irish Folklore Commission, the Department of Education and the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation.

Guidelines were laid down by the Commission as to the type of material to be gathered and fifty-five separate ‘Subjects for Compositions’ were suggested.

The first of these topics, and a very popular one, was ‘Hidden Treasures’. The manuscripts abound with tales of real or supernatural hoards of gold or silver buried under trees and in fields all over the country. Other suggested topics can roughly divided into five main categories i.e.

  • local historical tradition – heroes, happenings,  description of the district;
  • oral literature – stories, riddles,  proverbs, place-names, prayers, songs and poems;
  • practice and belief systems – superstitions, weather lore, cures, marriage customs, holy wells, religious tales etc;
  • nature – severe weather, bird lore, crops, farm animals etc.;
  • crafts & pastimes – local forge, churning, making clothes, children’s games,  home-made toys, sports etc;

The children collected the information from their parents, grandparents, other relatives and neighbours – an exercise which served to create a link between generations and connect youngsters to the traditions of their forebears.

This talk will demonstrate how the material can now be accessed online and will also describe other sources of children’s lore and history to be found in the National Folklore Collection.


Anna Bale (BA, HDipIrFolk, MA) is the senior technician in the Sound and Video Archive of the National Folklore Collection in UCD where she has worked since 1989.  She is experienced in dealing with a wide range of audio formats from wax cylinders to analogue tape and the digitization of archival material. She is currently working part-time on the Dúchas project as a Research Editor.

Leah Benson, ‘Visual sources for the history of Irish childhood: The National Gallery of Ireland, Yeats Archive collections’


To be confirmed.


Leah Benson is archivist at the National Gallery of Ireland.

Jackie Bourke, ‘Street play and sweet shops – images of a bygone era? The representation of children’s lives in an urban context from the perspective of the child’


The visual representation of urban childhood in historical imagery as a time of outdoor freedom contrasts sharply with contemporary representations of those same urban spaces. Today neighbourhood streets are portrayed as heavily trafficked and empty of children.  This is reflected in an academic concern that they are disappearing from the public realm.

But an examination of the presence of children on those same streets from the perspective of the child suggests otherwise.  This paper draws on doctoral research which examined contemporary urban childhood from the perspective of the child. Children living in Dublin City who walk through public space on a daily basis developed visual narratives of their experience using photography.

 How they image their lives challenges the social construction of contemporary urban childhood. Through their images they indicate that some things have changed, such as an increase in traffic and a worry around stranger danger, but that the importance of the local sweet shop or chats with friends on the walk to school and a sense of belonging and community remain as strong as ever.

The relationship between play and the urban public domain is more complex. Despite a tendency towards indoor activities, the children do still play outdoors with their friends. But they are less free to play on the path outside the door and corralled into what are considered play appropriate spaces, such as the playground. The children recognise the adult oriented nature of public space and their playfulness is inhibited by how their neighbourhood streets are regulated.

Using images developed by the children who participated in the study this paper will explore the relationship between the portrayal of children’s lives in the past, and how children portray their lives today.


Dr Jackie Bourke’s doctoral thesis explored the experience of urban public space from the perspective of the child. She has been an advocate of the rights of the child for over 20 years. She is the founder of, which specialises in children’s outdoor needs in an urban context.

Sarah-Anne Buckley, ‘Boarding-out in Galway, 1862-1920’


This paper will look at the experience of boarding out in Galway from its introduction in 1862, to 1921. It will focus on two unions in particular – the Clifden Union and the Galway City Union to provide an account of a rural and more urbanised setting. The following questions will be addressed: how were foster parents sought out? What criterion was necessary for individuals to act as foster parents? What was the attitude of poor law guardians to boarding out? Did this differ from union to union?  To what extent was neglect a feature of the experience of children, and did changes to legislation have a positive/negative effect on this experience. Integral to this discussion is the preference of boards of guardians for outdoor/indoor relief.

As research on this topic is ongoing, the paper will represent an exploratory study. It will utilise the records of the Clifden and Galway City poor law unions, supplementing this material with local newspaper reports and a number of critical reports addressing boarding out and outdoor relief for destitute and orphaned children. It will place the topic in the wider context of debates on institutional children, and compare it with existing accounts of the experience of children under the Irish poor law.


Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley lectures in the Department of History, NUI Galway. Her research interests include the history of childhood and child welfare, nineteenth and twentieth-century Irish and British social history, gender history and welfare history. Her recent monograph, The Cruelty Man: Child Welfare, the NSPCC and the State in Ireland, 1889-1956 was published by MUP in November 2013. She has published chapters and articles on child neglect, incest, nurse children and children in care. She is co-founder of the ‘Irish Centre for the Histories of Labour and Class’ and her current research is focused on youth and youth culture in twentieth-century Ireland.

Angela Byrne, ‘Irish and Anglo-Irish Children’s Travel Diaries, c. 1815–60’


This paper considers European travels and travel diaries by Anglo-Irish children, c.1815–60, in terms of education, biography, and identity. After 1815 and the establishment of peace at Vienna, Anglo-Irish families of means toured the Continent in increasing numbers, in continuing homage to the eighteenth-century ‘grand tour’ tradition. Children were brought to museums, palaces, churches and other sites of note in the cities of France, Switzerland and Italy. Parents invested in reading room subscriptions, language tutors, and learning materials such as books and stationery. The educational benefits of a European tour are itemised in the children’s diaries, some on a day-to-day basis, offering unparalleled insight into an important aspect of Anglo-Irish children’s education in the nineteenth century.

These children’s diaries also form an important source for the study of autobiography. Some children kept diaries at the behest of a tutor or parent; for example, thirteen-year-old Caroline Clements’s Paris diary (1815–16) bears an adult’s correction marks. Others wrote in emulation of a parent, like fifteen-year-old Catherine Bradford (1829), whose mother, Martha Wilmot, was an assiduous travel diarist. Journalising and biographical writing have been considered important aspects of introspection and reflectiveness, and key in self-fashioning. These children’s diaries portray privileged young people anxious to prove their readiness for adulthood and their ability to function in genteel adult society. George Ladeveze Adlercron, for example, aged thirteen to fourteen, asserted his independence by hiring his own valet de place in Cologne and refusing to attend church with his father (1846–7). Overseas travel offered possibilities for new experiences and extended freedoms not available to children raised in Irish country homes, and the journalising encouraged during those travels fostered within them a new self-awareness.


Dr Angela Byrne is Lecturer in History at the University of Greenwich, UK. In 2010–13, she was Marie Curie COFUND/Irish Research Council postdoctoral mobility fellow at University of Toronto and National University of Ireland Maynooth, and Overseas Visiting Scholar at St John’s College, University of Cambridge. Her first monograph, Geographies of the Romantic North: Science, Antiquarianism, and Travel, 1790–1830, was published in 2013 by Palgrave Macmillan.

Leanne Calvert, ‘a more tender nurse cannot be than my dear husband’: Reassessing the role of men in early modern pregnancy and childbirth.’


As recently as 2012 it has been acknowledged that we know little of pregnancy, childbirth and infant care in the Irish past. Moreover, our knowledge of Irish fatherhood, and the ways in which men reacted to their partners’ pregnancies and labours is also lacking in depth and detail.[3] In comparison with its European and North American counterparts, research on pregnancy and childbirth in an Irish context is in its infancy. This paper aims to build upon our general knowledge of pregnancy and childbirth, as well as redress the imbalance in an Irish context in particular, by reassessing the role played by men in early modern pregnancy and childbirth. It covers two main themes.

Firstly, this paper considers how men understood and reacted to the news of fatherhood, and argues that men in general were aware of the changes pregnancy brought to their wives’ health and needs. It reveals how men showed a lively interest in the events of pregnancy and childbirth, exchanging correspondence among themselves on the progression of pregnancies, confinements, and even breast-feeding habits of female members of their family circles.

Secondly, this paper reassesses the role played by men during labour itself, and challenges the ‘female culture’ which surrounded childbirth. Rather than acting as passive onlookers standing on the periphery of the birthing chamber, fathers actively assisted their wives in times of need and in the days following delivery, suggesting that the gendered boundaries of female and male space were not as fixed as has been imagined.

This paper is largely based on the personal correspondence of the Reverend Alexander Crawford, a Presbyterian minister and missionary in India, England and Ulster, and his wife Anna Gardner for the period 1824-35. Further material is also drawn from the papers of other families who had ties to the Presbyterian community in Ulster.


I am currently in the final year of my PhD at Queen’s University, Belfast. My thesis, which is entitled, ‘Life, love and the family in the Ulster Presbyterian community, 1780-1844’ explores how members of the Presbyterian community in Ulster experienced family life as members of a distinctive religious community. It examines areas such as courtship, marriage, parenthood and widowhood.

Caitríona Crowe, ‘Sources for the history of childhood in the Archives’


To be confirmed.


Caitríona Crowe is Head of Special Projects at the National Archives of Ireland. She is manager of the Irish Census Online Project, which has placed the 1901 and 1911 censuses online free of charge over the last five years. She is an editor of Documents on Irish Foreign Policy, which published its seventh volume, covering the period 1941-45, in November 2010. Caitríona is editor of Dublin 1911, published by the Royal Irish Academy in late 2011. She is vice-president of the Irish Labour History Society, a former president of the Women’s History Association and she contributes regularly to the broadcast and print media on cultural and historical matters.

Hugh Cunningham, ‘What’s happened to childhood?’


The understanding of childhood in England has been shaped by two narratives. The first describes how children underwent horrific experiences in the factories and mines of the Industrial Revolution, but were then rescued for an increasingly ‘healthy and happy’ childhood. The second, dominant since the 1970s, tells how childhood is getting worse, becoming ‘toxic’, the deaths of James Bulger, Victoria Climbié and Baby P evidence for it. How far do these narratives about childhood reflect the reality of the lives of children past and present? And do these English narratives have any resonance in Ireland?


Hugh Cunningham is Emeritus Professor of Social History at the University of Kent. He has written three books on childhood: The Children of the Poor: Representations of Childhood since the Seventeenth Century (1991), Children and Childhood in Western Society since 1500 (2nd ed. 2005) and The Invention of Childhood (2006), the latter accompanying a BBC Radio 4 series presented by Michael Morpurgo. He was a member of the DCSF Assessment Panel on the Impact of the Commercial World on Children’s Wellbeing chaired by David Buckingham. Other books include Grace Darling, Victorian Heroine (2007) and Time, Work and Leisure: Changing Lives in England since 1700 (2014). He is currently working on a history of philanthropy.

Conor Curran, ‘Irish born football migrants, 1945-2010: Childhood and Memory’


The academic historiography of Irish sport and writing on Irish emigration in general has given scant attention to the childhood development of Irish professional footballers. During the period from 1945 until 2010 a total of 917 Irish born footballers played in the English Premier and football leagues on a variety of levels. This paper will examine the childhoods of a number of these footballing migrants, many of whom left home in their early teenage years in the hope of making a career across the water. Using player interviews and biographical information, it will examine their early development and assess the impact of powerful childhood memories in inspiring them to become professional footballers. The role of heroes will also be addressed along with the effects of parents and teachers in moulding their characters. The place of schools in their development will be assessed as well as involvement in ‘street football.’

While the problem of the transfer of African minors to Europe was acknowledged in FIFA’s centenary history of football publication (2004), the 2012 case exposed by Sky Sports News of a FIFA-licensed agent in Cameroon offering to sell teenagers for £25,000 each has highlighted the problems facing naïve young players and their families. The experiences of Irish born players who joined clubs on associate schoolboy terms will also be addressed as although aspiring players may now not sign professional contracts with English clubs until the age of 16, homesickness, bullying and anti-Irish abuse have been commonplace within the culture of professional football clubs, and how they dealt with these problems will be assessed.


Dr Conor Curran (St Patrick’s College, Dublin) has recently completed a FIFA Havelange Research Scholarship which was awarded last year. This research examined the migration of Irish footballers to Britain from 1945 to 2010. He completed his Ph.D., entitled ‘Why Donegal Slept: The Development of Gaelic games in Donegal, 1884-1934’ through De Montfort University in 2012. His previous work has examined the early development of Gaelic games, association football and cricket in Ireland and his first book, Sport in Donegal-A History, was published by the History Press Ireland in 2010.

Daragh Curran, ‘Keeping the flag flying – the involvement of children in the Orange Order during its years of dissolution 1836-45’


In 1836 the Orange Order took the seismic step of disbanding itself following a thorough and damning government investigation. The Order had, since its formation some forty years earlier, become an integral part of Protestant society especially amongst the lower classes and could boast membership of 100,000. Now however, abandoned by the upper classes and supressed by the government through its Party Processions Act, rank and file membership was denied among other things, one of the most central acts that Orangeism provided, that being the right to parade.

It could be argued that one of the many functions of the Orange procession was to demonstrate Protestant superiority over Catholics and this was an avenue that some Orangemen were not prepared to give up. Processions on a smaller scale than before did continue but by and large by 1840 the Orange parade had almost died out certainly at an organised level. Gentry disapproval and the threat of prosecution combined to ensure that the vast majority of Orangemen obeyed their social betters and the law of the land.

However, the act of parading did continue through the adult encouragement and manipulation of children. Throughout the years between 1836 and 1845, children carried on the past activities of their elders by regularly parading, playing party tunes and displaying colour on days of Protestant celebration. This paper will examine these child processions and the level of adult involvement in them as those Orangemen that refused to disband kept the Orange flame alive during its time of crisis by using their sons and daughters to keep past victories very much in the minds of all sections of the community.


I completed my PhD thesis in 2010 in NUIM on the subject of the Protestant community in County Tyrone from 1836-42. Since then I have been employed as a part time lecturer in the college lecturing on the history of the Orange Order and on the state of Northern Ireland. I have submitted my thesis for publication with Four Courts Press. My future research plans include producing work on the Orange Order during the Famine.

Emer Dennehy, ‘Placeless Dead? Finding evidence for children in the Irish landscape’


Children in medieval and early modern Europe were a high risk demographic. From complications associated with birth, through to disease and malnutrition, child mortality in the first year could be anywhere between 25-90%. The status of children during this time period was not that of a precious loved individual, but rather that of a ‘being’ not to be accepted into family or community life until it had exited the age of danger. In Christian society the age of danger was often viewed as the first weeks after birth for, should the child die before baptism, its soul, the very thing that made it human, would be lost and with it all hope of salvation and eternal rest.

The social and religious status of an unbaptised child, was compounded by fear, superstition and folklore, which was directly reflected through the treatment and disposal of the deceased body. The latter was to be secreted away for burial in unconsecrated land. A liminal location in the landscape would be sought for burial reflecting the lost, placeless nature of the child’s soul. The landscape chosen for burial would often incorporate a boundary feature, which in accordance with folklore, would contain the spirits of those interred, preventing them from returning to seek vengeance on those who had failed to ensure their safe passage to the afterlife.

This paper will examine the origins of infant baptism, the arising development of separate burial grounds for children, and the superstitions and folklore which surrounded their use. As the burial ground is a physical expression of the state of the soul, it is argued that these dead are not in fact placeless but contained and held in perpetuity by the character of the landscape, lying in restless wait to be absolved, to be named, to be freed.


Emer Dennehy (MA, Dip. Env. Eng.) is a licenced archaeologist with the Railway Procurement Agency. She has 16 years field experience, directing over 180 archaeological investigations for both private consultants and semi-state agencies. Her work has included the assessment of a number of cilini and workhouses. Emer has particular interest in folklore and how this is reflected in child burial practices.

Pat Dolan, ‘From the Children’s Patriot Treat to treating children as Active Patriots’


To be confirmed.


Professor Pat Dolan is joint founder and director of the Child and Family Research Centre (CFRC) which is based at the School of Political Science and Sociology at NUI Galway and operates in partnership with the Health Services Executive. Professor Dolan is the distinguished chairholder of the Republic of Ireland’s first UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement.

Lindsey Earner-Byrne, ‘Finding the Child in Twentieth-Century Ireland’


The difficulty in looking for the child in twentieth-century Irish history is defining what/who you are looking for. Maria Luddy and James Smith have argued that the ‘trope of the child’ has been central to the national narrative of Irish history, made of course famous and controversial by Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and his declaration that: ‘When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood’. However, there is no one child we can evacuate from the past and no one reality of childhood either, even the poor miserable Catholic Irish childhood had many variations, at least some including love, light and laughter. This paper will reflect on the historiography of Irish childhood to-date, the sources available for future research and consider the many prisms we need to consider when defining children, childhood and the construction/reconstruction of both. Finally, it will consider the emergence of one particular type of child in Irish history and public discourse: the ‘public child’ offering some thoughts on why this version of the child has dominated the narrative thus far and, ironically, served to distort both the experiences of such children and the many other obscured children.


Lindsey Earner-Byrneis a lecturer in the School of History and Archives, UCD. Her publications include Mother and Child: Maternity and Child Welfare in Dublin, 1930s-1960s (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007, 2013) and several essay and articles, most recently: ‘Twixt God and geography the development of maternity services in twentieth-century Ireland’, in J. Greenless and L. Bryder (eds), Western Maternity and Medicine, 1880-1990 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2013); ‘Child sexual abuse, history and the pursuit of blame in modern Ireland’, in K. Holmes and S. Ward (eds), Exhuming Passions: The Pressure of the Past in Australia and Ireland (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2011).

Louise Gallagher, ‘Children’s Literature and Irish National Identity: Constructing Ireland from the Child Up’


Irish children’s literature, somewhat marginalised in discussions of the literary constructions of national identity, politics and history, can offer intriguing insights into the birth and re-birth of our nation. In times of social and political upheaval, revolution and the formation of new nation states, stories for children can often become battlegrounds for the national consciousness of future citizens – folktales, myths and legends promoting a strong sense of connectedness with a distant past and the landscape quickly transfer from political and nationalist narratives for adults, to essential reading for the nation’s children, and a fictional rural idyll is promoted as a source of national pride. Irish authors writing for children since the early 20th century have often delved into this rich heritage of folklore to construct narratives that tie contemporary lives to a mythical past, or have sited their narratives in a recent, sometimes romanticised, rural past thus idealising a regressive pastoral lifestyle as quintessentially authentic, in an attempt to promote a sense of essentialist Irish identity.

This paper will examine the construction of Irish national identity that can be found in the work of a number of well-known authors writing realist, fantasy and historical children’s literature since the founding of the Irish state. By analysing a sample of work by authors from the early or middle part of the 20th century, such as Patricia Lynch and Eilis Dillon, and more contemporary authors such as Siobhan Parkinson, Kate Thompson and Siobhan Dowd, a sense of the strategies used by children’s authors to present narratives of Irish national identity to children in the 20th and 21st century can be revealed, and the changing nature of representations of Ireland as a nation, and the Irish as a people, can be interrogated.


Louise Gallagher is a PhD student at the School of English Trinity College Dublin. She graduated with distinction from the MPhil in Children’s Literature, TCD in 2013. She is a committee member of the International Board on Books for Young People and a regular contributor of reviews and articles to Inis magazine, Children’s Books Ireland’s flagship publication.

Phil Gorey, ‘Childhood Ophthalmia in Irish Workhouses 1849 – 1861’


Before 1849 ophthalmia in Irish workhouses was not sufficiently widespread or frequent to warrant official attention. Following the distress of the famine years, the incidence and prevalence of the disease, particularly among children, reached epidemic proportions due to overcrowding in workhouses. The Poor Law Commissioners were compelled to seek the assistance of Arthur Jacob, Professor of Anatomy at the Royal College of Surgeons and surgeon to the city of Dublin Hospital and William Wilde, surgeon at St Marks Ophthalmic Hospital in Dublin, who examined the causes of the epidemic in the workhouses and schools in Athlone and Tipperary. Their task was threefold. They were asked to examine the children with ophthalmia, to inspect the accommodation provided for them and to advise Medical Officers who had charge of treatment and management of the epidemic.

The subject was of great importance to the Poor Law Commissioners and of interest to the public at large, who would ultimately support those who, through loss of sight would be unable to obtain education or acquire the knowledge to pursue a trade by which they could support themselves.

My paper will trace the progress of the epidemic, consider the findings of the medical experts and examine the response of all the agents involved in extirpating the disease – Medical Officers, Poor Law Commissioners and the Guardians of workhouses.


Phil Gorey is in the final year of her PhD entitled ‘From Ecclesiastical Regulation to State Registration: The Regulation of Irish Midwives c. 1650-1918’ at University College Dublin. Her research interests include the development of man-midwifery in Dublin in the eighteenth century and the welfare of children in workhouses in the nineteenth century.

Mary Hatfield, ‘Fashioning childhood: gender, dress and childhood in nineteenth-century Ireland’


Within the deeply hierarchical social world of nineteenth-century Ireland, personal image was consistently conflated with public position. For Irish parents, the public appearance of their children was a continual source of distinction, pride, and anxiety. This paper examines middle and upper-class children’s clothing to consider how cultural ideals of childhood and gender were reflected in material culture. From ornate carrying cloaks and infant bonnets to simple petticoats, these items show how families dressed their children. Using children’s clothing collections from the National Museum of Ireland in conjunction with parenting manuals and personal diaries, this paper will examine how children’s clothing functioned as a public symbol of social status while simultaneously encouraging the child to behave in a socially appropriate way.

Children’s clothing and toys reflect emerging middle-class notions of childhood innocence and gender appropriate behaviour. The importance of ‘breeching’ for young boys signalled their move from the infantilized petticoat to the masculine trousers of boyhood. Details such as the use and placement of buttons indicate when servants or mothers were needed for dressing or when children were allowed to dress themselves. Although children’s clothing primarily indicates adult assumptions about children’s needs, an analysis of children’s diaries suggests that children played an active role in shaping their own appearances and behaviours. The central argument suggests that the ideological motivations guiding the construction of children’s fashions affected children’s gendered experiences in the early nineteenth-century.


Mary Hatfield is a PhD student at Trinity College Dublin. Her research focuses on the cultural construction of childhood and gender in Ireland during the nineteenth and twentieth-centuries. She is supported by a Trinity College Dublin School of History studentship, and was a recipient of the James E Todd prize from Queen’s University Belfast in 2011.

Marnie Hay, ‘Active supporters or collateral damage?: the role of children and youth in the Irish Revolution’


In 1914 Countess Markievicz informed the young readers of the Fianna Handbook that ‘The spirit of Ireland is free because Ireland’s children have never shirked to pay the price. The path of freedom may lead us the same road that Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone trod. Treading in their footsteps, we will not fear … and if we must die as they died we will not flinch.’ Two years later twenty-eight children between the ages of two and sixteen years died during the Easter Rising; most were innocent bystanders, children in the wrong place at the wrong time, but one, 14-year-old John (or Seán) Healy from Phibsborough, was a dispatch carrier for the rebels. Healy may have chosen to risk his life in the pursuit of Irish freedom, but the twenty-seven other children who died during the 1916 rising did not.In the early twentieth century certain schools and organisations provided children and adolescents like Healy with an overtly Irish nationalist education in order to prepare them for their present and future roles within the Irish struggle for independence.

Examples include the Christian Brothers schools, Patrick Pearse’s schools St Enda’s and St Ita’s, the children’s classes organised by Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Erin), and nationalist youth groups such as Na Fianna Éireann (Irish National Boy Scouts). But what were these present and future roles that Irish nationalists envisaged for children and youth? Was there any agreement on what constituted suitable roles for them? How did factors of age and gender impact on the envisaged roles? And what roles did children and adolescents actually play during the years of the Irish Revolution? This paper will examine these questions, drawing on evidence found in such primary sources as contemporary newspapers and publications, memoirs and diary entries.


Dr Marnie Hay lectures in the Department of History at St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra. She is currently writing a monograph on the nationalist youth group Na Fianna Éireann during the Irish Revolution. Her previous publications include Bulmer Hobson and the nationalist movement in twentieth-century Ireland (Manchester UP, 2009).

Susan Hood, ‘Children and Childhood: An Archivist’s Overview’


In 2013, the Irish Society for Archives in Ireland devoted its annual journal for that year (Irish Archives volume 20) to the topic of children and childhood in Ireland. This drew together nine scholarly essays by archivists and academics in the field illustrated by a variety of materials, documenting many stories of children and childhood in Ireland. It also raised some important issues about responsible record-keeping and managing appropriate access to information. Irish Archives was launched by Frances Fitzgerald T.D. Minister for Children and Youth Affairs at The Ark, A Cultural Centre for Children, in October and has been on sale through the Society and at branches of Eason’s nationwide to wide acclaim.

This paper will focus specifically on one of the journal’s recurrent themes relevant to archivists and researchers alike – the elusive nature of sources relating to children, by examining why children’s voices often remain hidden or silent in documentary evidence, and furthermore highlight the responsibility of the record-keepers to keep information safe whilst endeavouring to facilitating research for a more accurate understanding of the experiences of the youngest and often most vulnerable members of Irish society.  Drawing on specific examples from the Representative Church Body Library’s collections relating to the Church of Ireland community, it will present various sources that are available and open to public inspection, whilst also explaining why others remain closed or restricted in access.


Dr Susan Hood is the Assistant Archivist and Publications Officer for the Church of Ireland, based at the Representative Church Body Library in Dublin – the Church’s principal repository. She co-edits Irish Archives, the only Irish journal dedicated to archives and archives-related issues.

Noa Kaufman, ‘‘Troubled Youth’: Representations of the Northern Ireland Conflict and their impact on youth in Joan Lingard’s Novels’


For over three decades children and youth in Northern Ireland grew up in the shade of a violent conflict. The sectarian divide was reinforced and brought home to children through cultural representations. This paper aims to examine the cultural impact of the Troubles on Northern Ireland’s youth, as depicted in Joan Lingard’s novels.

In a five-book series, Joan Lingard explored a love story between Catholic Kevin and Protestant Sadie set in 1970s Belfast. The tangled romantic affair presented in the books serves as an allegory of possible ties between the two antagonist communities in Northern Ireland. Published between 1970 and 1976, Lingard’s novels were the first to address the Troubles within the genre of children and youth literature. The books invite young readers to cross the cultural barricades and prejudice upheld by their parents and their wider communities.

Throughout her books, Lingard exhibited a variety of cultural representations of the conflict, which clearly illustrate the ways in which each community used cultural images to educate its youth. Lingard described the destructive influence of growing up in a community divided by sectarian violence and harshly criticised the social processes by which prejudice was transmitted to children. The outcome of this socialization is that young adults were ensnared by these seductive, yet ultimately malign, images, which affect every aspect of their daily lives.

This paper will examine representations of the impact of the Northern Ireland conflict on youth in Joan Lingard’s novels by combining historical research and detailed textual analysis. Additionally, I argue that Lingard’s perspective is unbalanced: whereas she mainly focused her criticism on the Protestant community and its culture, her Catholic characters lack historical and cultural heritage, so that their contextual reference to the contemporary conflict is deficient. By reviewing Lingard’s books I wish to shed more light on the ways in which Trouble’s culture has influenced childhood and adolescences experiences in Northern Ireland.


I am a doctoral candidate at Tel-Aviv University. My PhD research, co-supervised by Prof Billie Melman and Dr Guy Beiner, examines the cultural history of Irish migrants in Late-Victorian London. My MA thesis, at Ben-Gurion University, explored the cultural impact of the Troubles on Northern Ireland’s youth as depicted in children’s literature, in particular the writings of Joan Lingard.

Denise Keating, ‘Short Lives in Challenging Times: The Evidence for Early Medieval Irish Child Health from Skeletal Remains’


This paper will examine the evidence that bioarchaeology presents for understanding the nature of the lives of children in early medieval Irish society AD400 – 1100. It will present the evidence gleaned from the analysis of c.500 child skeletons from archaeological excavations within the present-day Leinster region.

The analysis of children’s skeletal remains generates important and valuable data such as the approximate number of children that died, their age and, in certain cases, their cause of death. But the examination of the data from these non-survivors can also be used, perhaps more fruitfully, to reflect the experiences of health and ill-health of children on a wider community basis. By taking an interdisciplinary approach and drawing on historical and archaeological resources, this paper will examine why these children came to develop the diseases and deficiencies that they display in their skeletons and why, for some children, this resulted in an early death.  A social interpretation of this data will also be presented in this paper uncovering the cultural impact that the ill-health and death of children had both within and between kin groups.


Denise B. Keating (BA, MSc, MIAI) is a bioarchaeologist, with 12 years experience in the specialist analysis and interpretation of ancient cemetery and burial populations from archaeological excavations. Before commencing her PhD (IRCHSS Postgraduate Scholar) at UCD, Denise worked as a freelance consultant analysing and reporting on a wide range of burial deposits from around Ireland.

James Kelly, ‘‘An infamous trade’: the kidnapping of children, c.1730-c.1840’


In the late 1740s, political opinion in Ireland was so animated by a spate of child kidnappings that an attempt was made legislatively to interdict the practice. This initiative, and another in the late 1760s failed, but the fact that they were attempted attests to the fact that the phenomenon of child kidnapping was both sufficiently prevalent, and regarded with sufficient disquiet, to merit the effort. This may hardly come as a surprise. The publication in London in 2007 and in New York in 2008 of White cargo: the forgotten history of Britain’s White Slaves in America, by Don Jordan and Michael Walsh, drew attention to the existence of a trade in children from Britain to the American colonies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Some reference was made to Ireland in the publicity generated by that work, but the practice of kidnapping children and shipping them to Britain’s American Colonies from Ireland has never been explored. It is a difficult trade to locate, and impossible to quantify, but the surviving snippets of evidence suggest that there was an intermittent trade in kidnapping and exporting children to the American colonies in the half century prior to the outbreak of the American War of Independence.

The diminished reliance on indentured servitude, which provided a convenient shelter behind which child kidnapping could hide, diminished, if it did not entirely interrupt, the trans-Atlantic trade in children. Yet children continued to be kidnapped in Ireland; the late 1780s witnessed the intensification of the phenomenon of abducting children to strip them of their clothes. It was not the only reason for which children were seized, but its prominence in the newspapers reports of children been kidnapped suggests it was the main incentive. This practice is also difficult to penetrate, but its main features can also be described.

More broadly, the various manifestations that the kidnapping of children assumed provide an opportunity to offer some suggestions as to its main phases over a period of a century, and some contextual reflections on the treatment of children in an era when, it is commonly (and properly) believed, the concept of childhood was assuming its modern form.


James Kelly, MRIA, is Cregan Professor of History, and Head of the History Department at St Patrick’s College. His most recent publications are Sport in Ireland 1600-1840 (Four Courts Press, 2014); and The Proclamations of Ireland, 1660-1820 (prepared and edited with Marian Lyons), (5 vols, Irish Manuscripts Commission, Dublin, 2014).

Declan Kiberd, ‘Invisible Republics: Childhood and Modernism’


The lecture will argue that there is a strange, uneasy relationship between childhood and the modern. On the one hand, childhood is often invoked as an instance of the pre-modern and used in this way to uphold jeopardised traditions in a mode of nostalgia. On the other hand, many features of modernist literature—from surrealism in Europe to magic realism in India—seem to have been rehearsed in writings for children. In its ability to conjure spirits from both past and futurity, childhood seems to be both archaic and avant-garde at one and the same time. It gives voice to constituencies which have either been suppressed or have not yet come into existence in “adult” culture. Kiberd will explore this paradox in close readings of some major Irish authors from Swift and Wilde to Yeats and Joyce.


Declan Kiberd is professor of Irish studies at University of Notre Dame. He was for many years chair of Anglo-Irish Literature at UCD. Among his books are Inventing Ireland, Irish Classics and Ulysses and Us. He has been a director of the Abbey theatre and a visiting professor at Cambridge University, the Sorbonne and Yale.

Sylvie Kleinman, ‘‘Matty and the Daffs’: the children and family life of Theobald Wolfe Tone, revolutionary and Enlightenment father (ca. 1786-1826)’


1. ‘Daffy Bab! Daffy Bab! I suppose all your words are out of date and that you have got new ones — but no matter! I will soon learn them.’ Theobald Wolfe Tone to Maria Tone (age 11), Cologne, 18 April 1797.

2. ‘My Dear Fadoff I wish it was possible for you to know how much I love you, or how much I regret your absence. The next time you write to Mama write me a long letter.’

Maria Tone to Theobald Wolfe Tone, Nanterre, 14 June 1797.

While the history of Irish rebels has been extensively documented and arguably overwritten, very little attention has been given to the disruption and chaos their seditious activities brought upon their families, namely the children of perpetually banished United Irishmen. While the evidence is somewhat limited, it is however possible to partially reconstruct the family life of the Irish nationalist and revolutionary Theobald Wolfe Tone from his diary, and especially the correspondence he kept during his repeated separations from his family, 1796-1798. Most compelling are his brief notes to his eldest daughter Maria, who had to take on a role as support and helper to her mother during her father’s military adventures. Like most 18th century private correspondence, these exchanges reveal compelling expressions of sentimentality and tenderness, but in the case of the Tone family are augmented by the turmoil of prolonged separation, exile and the exigencies of assimilating in the host country, France. They also reveal evidence that the family dynamic was reconfigured within a private domestic sphere of playfulness, coded ‘in jokes’ and knick names. Given the nature of the topic, the paper will rely mostly on insights from the adult side of the equation, but can complete the investigation by presenting a few insightful documents produced by the children, aka ‘the Daffs’.


Sylvie Kleinmanteaches history at Trinity College Dublin, was editorial assistant to the editors of Tone’s Writings (Oxford University Press) and held an IRCHSS Postdoctoral fellowship on Tone’s military career and travels (2007-09). She has published widely on Tone but has also researched his family life in cooperation with descendants who retain his private papers.

Jutta Kruse, ‘Medicalisation of infant feeding in Ireland in the early 20th century: public health versus dairy industry’


This paper aims to highlight the medical role in the popularisation of cow’s milk for infant feeding. Although medical knowledge entirely supported the preference for breastfeeding, the profession became increasingly involved with the state and industry as researchers, advisors and enforcers in relation to the legislative regulation of the cows’ milk supply.

This paper examines the positions of the biomedical sciences and the dairy industry in relation to cows’ milk as an infant food. The strengthening roles of medicine and science in commercial production and processing of infant foods facilitated the power shift from mothers to medicine and industry with respect to infant feeding. Scientific developments regarding the physiology of human and animal milk supported this process.

I explore the nutritional importance accorded to cows’ milk for infant feeding during the early 20th century, subject to processing in various ways. An examination of the introduction of regulatory milk standards in Ireland revealed power struggles between different associations of chemical analysts. The role of the creamery system for the deterioration of certain infants’ diets and that of the condensed milk manufacturers in the improvement of infant nutrition were unexpected findings.


Jutta completed her PhD thesis entitled ‘Social construction of infancy in Ireland, 1900-1930 – the role of medicine’ in December 2013. She has an interest in the digitisation of primary sources and has been involved in diverse such projects at the University of Limerick since 2007. Jutta was joint editor of volume 13 of Historical Studies during which time she directed the digitisation of past volumes and set up a website on which these digital editions are now made available:

Leeann Lane, ‘Constructing National Identity: Sport and Irish children’s fiction in the Free State’


To be confirmed.


Dr Leeann Lane is Head of Irish Studies in the Mater Dei Institute (a College of DCU). She is also the course writer and tutor of the History 5 module: Women in Irish and European Society: 1780-1915 on Oscail’s Bachelor of Arts programmes. Her book Rosamond Jacob: Third Person Singular was published by UCD Press in 2010. Dr Leeann Lane was nominated by An Taoiseach, Mr Enda Kenny TD, to the Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations in 2013. The principal role of the Advisory Group will be to advise the Government on the overall commemorative programme during the Decade of Centenaries 2012 to 2022.

Georgina Laragy, ‘‘Empire-builders instead of Empire-wreckers’: Belfast’s poor children in the early twentieth century’


The Ulster Children’s Aid Society emerged from an international organisation that had been set up in 1853 in New York (and London in 1856). The Belfast Branch was set up in 1910 in response to the perceived failure of the British state to deal with the children of the poor despite the passage of the recent Children Act in 1908.The original impetus for the organisation came from comments made by the Lord Justice at the Belfast Assizes in March 1910. Commenting on the ‘swarms of neglected children’ Justice Cherry referred to the ‘noxious influences to which child life in a great city is subjected’ and the prevalence of child crime throughout the city. This was contrasted with the wealth of the city, and the ‘swarm’ of juvenile criminals was viewed as an indictment of the wealthy and educated citizens of the city. While individual case studies were used to elicit sympathy and subscriptions, concern for these children was more often understood in a broader social and political perspective; as productive and law-abiding citizens they could contribute fully to ‘the life of the city … the nation and … the empire’.

This paper will examine the relationship between the U.C.A.S. and wider welfare systems in place in pre-war Belfast including the Poor Law and the Belfast Corporation. Set up by a former Barnardo’s employee, Rev. W.H. Anderson, demonstrates a number of features of charitable work in early twentieth century Britain and Ireland; the overlap between different charities and their subscribers, the relationship between religion and philanthropy, and the often uneasy alliance between the state and voluntary organisations in dealing with the problems of poor children.


Dr Laragy is a Research Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast on a project entitled ‘Welfare and public health in Belfast and its region, c.1800-1973’. She has previously worked at Oxford Brookes, University of Limerick and NUI Maynooth. She has published on crime, suicide and poverty in 19th Century Ireland.

Rebecca Ann Long, ‘Coming of Age in History: The Historical Experience of Childhood in Ireland’


Fiction for children in Ireland has often been concerned with historical representations of childhood. By examining the canon of Irish historical children’s literature we can chart the historical development of childhood in Irish society and the role the child figure played in that society as it evolved. Irish authors create specific and localized representations of childhoods – of Irish childhoods – and use the Irish landscape, geographical, cultural and historical to embed those experiences of childhood into a national context. Fictional accounts of the historical experience of childhood become ideological meditations on the periods and societies in which they are set.

This paper will examine three texts in the Irish children’s literature canon which place child protagonists at the centre of key historical events even as they themselves are entering the liminal, transitory space between childhood and adulthood. In moments of national crisis, what does it mean to be a child? What meaning does childhood itself have or hold in such moments? In Under the Hawthorn Tree, three children must survive in a country ravaged by famine; The Hiring Fair narrates a young girl’s painful coming of age against the backdrop of the struggle for Home Rule in the 1890s and in The Guns of Easter, a young boy’s movement into adulthood becomes a symbol of a nation’s struggle for independence.

Historical fiction provides a space within which authors can explore contemporary issues such as child poverty, exploitation and emigration, drawing parallels between representations of modern-day childhood and the experiences of historical child figures. By examining the representations of Irish childhood in these three texts and in these three key historical periods, this paper will explore the degree to which childhood itself and the coming of age process can be used as mediums through which to engage with the transitory and revolutionary nature of Irish history.


Rebecca Long is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin where she read English as an undergraduate. She graduated with a First Class Honours Degree in 2010. In April of 2013 she graduated from the university’s inaugural M.Phil in Children’s Literature with a Distinction. She is hoping to begin a PhD in Irish Children’s Literature in September of 2014.

Linda G. Lynch, ‘‘Come Away, O Human Child…’, The Osteoarchaeology of Segregated Child Burial in Historic Ireland’


As the post-medieval period progressed, certain sections of society were increasingly singled out for burial in separate designated burial grounds. The most prominent of these, and the sites most readily identifiable today, are the pauper burial grounds associated with the nineteenth century Poor Law Union workhouses, and cillíní, unconsecrated burial grounds for those considered morally and spiritually wanting. Through naturally high mortality rates in infants and juveniles, children form a very significant cohort of those cemeteries. The reasons behind these designated burying grounds for the poorest in society and for those of dubious spiritual standing will be briefly outlined. Both find origins in the ‘social persona’ of the dead, as constructed by the living community.

This paper will primarily examine the osteoarchaeological evidence of children buried in those sites, children who were effectively rejected by society through their perceived social or moral or actual economic status. Osteoarchaeology refers particularly to the study of bones within the context of the site, with interpretations of skeletal lesions intimately linked with the history of the site and the broader social stage of the period. In reality, and perhaps not surprisingly, it appears that, physically, these individuals were often not readily distinguishable from the ‘normal’ population. Their separateness is instead conferred in the actual place of burial, and other aspects associated with the act of inhumation. The ‘social persona’ of these individuals, as intimately constructed by society is forever preserved in their burial locations. The analysis of the bones of these deceased children provide vital information, on the compromised lives lived by these children who, as they may have been rejected and set aside in life, so too they were in death. Ironically, today this makes the recognition of these children more tangible than the children who died within the confines of societal norms.


Linda G. Lynch (PhD, MIAI) is a human osteoarchaeologist and a licensed archaeological director, with almost 20 years’ experience in Irish archaeology. Her osteoarchaeological research experience spans from the early Mesolithic to the late nineteenth century, including a number of high-profile sites. She recently completed a PhD in UCC on the osteoarchaeological evidence of health in post-medieval Ireland.

Anne Mac Lellan, ‘The Penny Test: Tuberculin Testing and Paediatric Practice in Ireland, 1900-1960’


The historiography of tuberculosis in Ireland has paid considerably more attention to the adult form of the disease than to childhood forms of tuberculosis. In adults the disease primarily affected the lungs; in children, tuberculosis commonly infected other parts of the body including bones and joints, the abdomen and the membranes surrounding the brain as well as being disseminated throughout the body in millet-seed-sized nodules in a form of the disease known as ‘miliary’ tuberculosis. In 1922, the year the independent Irish state was founded, the deaths of 611 children under the age of 15 years were attributed to tuberculosis.

Diagnosis was not always straightforward: this paper will discuss the use and neglect of tuberculin testing for the diagnosis of tuberculosis in Irish children. It will address the consequences of the relative neglect of this test by the Irish medical profession in the first half of the twentieth century. Children who were wrongly diagnosed as tubercular had to endure prolonged periods of bedrest, often in institutional settings, while children whose tuberculosis went undiagnosed were denied rest and treatment.

The increased focus on tuberculosis in children rendered paediatricians and their work visible. This paper will argue that the validity provided by addressing the needs of tubercular children contributed significantly to the development of paediatrics as a separate clinical specialism in Ireland. In particular, the paediatricians Robert Collis and Dorothy Price were active in highlighting the problem of childhood tuberculosis and in promoting the use of the tuberculin test. They were also founding members of the Irish Paediatric Club, the forerunner of the Irish Paediatric Association. Price’s chairmanship of the Consultative Council on Tuberculosis and the National BCG Committee ensured paediatrics and childhood tuberculosis were visible in Ireland at national level.


Dr Mac Lellan is a historian and medical scientist. In 2011, she completed a Wellcome Trust funded PhD in the Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland in University College Dublin’s School of History and Archives. She is the winner of the 2012 Royal College of Physicians in Ireland History of Medicine Research award. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Laboratory Sciences and works as a senior medical scientist in Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown (half-time). She also lectures on the history of medicine and medical devices on a part-time basis in the National College of Art and Design. Together with Alice Mauger, Anne edited Growing Pains: Childhood Illness in Ireland 1750-1950 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2013). Her biography of Dorothy Stopford Price (1890-1954) is forthcoming (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2014).

Benjamin Mallon, ‘Conceptualisations of childhood in conflict and in peace’


Whilst initial investigation into the relationship between children and violent conflict revealed the damage done to the health and psychological well-being of young people (Machel, 1996), more recent research has revealed the complexity of young people’s roles within conflicts. On a similar trajectory, critical examination of the relationship between education and conflict has highlighted that education can serve to support peace, but may contribute towards violent conflict (Bush and Saltarelli, 2000; Davies, 2004). There is evidence of educational practice designed to support peace occurring in regions of the world each with varying degrees of connection to conflict, however there has been little empirical investigation of such peace-building educational interventions and even less examination of the position of young people within such programmes (Davies, 2005, 2010; Salamon, 2004).

As such, this paper seeks to contribute to research which explores the relationship between education, young people and conflict, through a consideration of the various conceptualisations of childhood that have influenced how young people’s relationships with conflict and peace are understood. This paper considers a number of historical conceptualisations of childhood, in Ireland and more globally, in relation to their involvement in issues of conflict and peace: as victims; as perpetrators; as active participants that shape and are shaped by the structures that surround them; as members of an increasingly globalised world, where their interconnectedness to issues of conflict and peace are given increasing clarity. The paper suggests how such critical considerations may be utilised to support research which examines the perceptions and experiences of young people within peace-building education programmes, and in particular cross-border educational programmes on the island of Ireland.


Benjamin Mallon is a PhD Researcher and Irish Research Council Scholar in St Patrick’s College. His research focuses on education and conflict, in particular educational projects endeavouring to build peace. Ben’s research examines young people’s experiences and perceptions of responsibility and reconciliation within peace-building education programmes on the island of Ireland.

Anne Markey, ‘Childhood, improvement and the early Irish novel’


The historian, Thomas Bartlett, has argued that the profoundly unequal parent-child paradigm is a useful approach to understanding eighteenth-century Anglo-Irish relations.That argument is supported by varying recourse to the parent-child analogy within the political discourse of the period, in which members of the ascendancy caste in Ireland sometimes portray themselves as the offspring of their metropolitan neighbours while on other occasions draw on the imperial strategy of infantilizing the native culture. Perhaps for that reason, early Irish novelists were among the first to focus attention on childhood. This focus reflects the degree to which national concerns inflect the early Irish novel, and set it apart from European, particularly English, examples of the genre.

The varying constructions of childhood in the early Irish novel reveal its primary concern to have been the investigation of power, legitimacy, and agency, rather than the celebration of bourgeois individualism or the ideological promulgation of capitalism associated with its English counterpart. At the same time, the focus on childhood demonstrates how early Irish fiction engages with elements of Enlightenment thought, including debates on the nature of childhood itself and the dominant discourse of improvement. Referring to a range of early Irish novels, including William Chaigneau’s The History of Jack Connor (1752), Henry Brooke’s The History of Henry, Earl of Moreland (1765) and James Delap’s The History of Harry Spencer (1794) -the earliest known novel for children written by an Irish writer, I will show in this paper that the literary representation of childhood is not only a crucial element of the construction of national identity in the early Irish novel but is also a significant index of how Irish writers placed themselves and their work in relation to Enlightenment debates on the nature of man and the characteristics of civil society.


President of the Irish Association for the Study of Children’s Literature, Anne Markey is Teaching Fellow at An Foras Feasa, NUI Maynooth and also teaches in the School of English in TCD. Her research focuses on literary representations of childhood from the seventeenth century to the present day and on intersections between Gaelic traditions and Irish writing in English. She is author of Oscar Wilde’s Fairy Tales: Origins and Contexts (2011); editor of Children’s Fiction 1765-1808 (2011) and Patrick Pearse: Short Stories (2009); and co-editor of Vertue Rewarded; or, The Irish Princess (2010) and Irish Tales (2010).

Jane Maxwell, ‘Women’s letters as a source for the history of childhood in late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century Ireland’


Much early social and family history of Ireland begins with a caveat alerting the reader to the many areas of interest which must go unrepresented either because of the failure of records to survive or due to the unrepresentative nature of those records that are still extant. This is the case for the early history of childhood; there are one or two obvious archival jewels such as the Leadbeater diaries but much of what is known on the subject is drawn from official or published sources. Therefore anything which originates close to, or which reflects, the normal lives of historical children, is critical to a reimagining of their existential experience.

The female familiar letter has a number of distinct advantages in this regard. It is from the second half of the eighteenth century that they begin to survive in greater quantity; most of those which do survive are those of married women and concerns about their children rank high in the list of subjects which they write about. Letter-writing itself was part of the education and socialisation of children and those children’s letters which survive are not alone revelatory of the epistolary training the young authors were receiving but of other elements of parenting practice.

There is a step-change to be observed in the evidence of childhood contained in letters as the eighteenth century gives way to the nineteenth; it is clear that parents who have young families in the early nineteenth century have become more receptive to the idea of childhood being a distinct period of time, with its own particular imperatives, rather than simply being an ‘antechamber’ to the real business of adult life.

There are a number of archival collections which are invaluable to the study of childhood generally – the letters of Edward Synge to his daughter Alicia for example, or the correspondence of Daniel O’Connell and his wife Mary. I propose to use a number of these collections to illustrate the particular value the familiar letter brings to the study of the history of childhood.


I am by profession an archivist and have worked for many years in the Library in Trinity College Dublin where I am Principal Curator of the Manuscripts & Archives Research Library. I have published a number of articles relating to the collections in the Library and I deliver research-methods teaching to undergraduates. I am currently doing a PhD on the subject of the letter as a source for the history of women in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century.

Susan McDonnell, ‘‘Home and Away’: Narratives of Contemporary Irish Childhoods’


Based on recent research with children from migrant and non-migrant backgrounds, this paper brings focus to younger children’s intersubjective identity processes in contemporary Ireland, as situated in domestic and educational settings but also overlapped by broader texts of global media and consumption, spatial regulation, cultural and religious symbolism and constructions, mobilities, and normative whiteness. Unsettling assumptions of homogeneous Irish childhoods and of children’s passivity in relation to their social worlds, this work explores children’s negotiations of belonging to national communities.

This work illuminates processes of production and contestation of normative and raced Irish childhoods through texts and practices that were spatial, institutional and mediatised but were also reproduced by children themselves. These exclusionary currents were corroborated by legal and structural frameworks which were integral to some children’s lives, most notably the asylum system which is itself embedded in narratives of nation that categorise some children as ‘out of place’.

Beginning by considering children’s understanding of Ireland and Irishness, this paper tracks the construction of belonging through narrative devices which underlined the commonalities of childhood worlds, or which drew on broader discourses of national belonging current in adults’ and in children’s social worlds. Children used a number of strategies to manage binary discourses that suggested impossibilities of belonging simultaneously in different contexts. While some children used particular resources (notably class) to manage hybrid and transnational belongings, others actively constructed identity narratives that minimized complexity, resisting attention to borders and difference, particularly in terms of family country of origin, in an effort to comply with the normative. This was often accomplished through silences and omissions.

Finally, this paper presents findings from the research which explore children’s ‘imaginative geographies’ and consumption of place, suggesting that media representation of the ‘other’ was a significant resource for children’s constructions of ‘self’ and ‘other’, ‘here’ and ‘there’, and their orientation to global places as valued or devalued.


I am currently a PhD candidate at UCC. My research engages with the narratives and embodied peer interactions of younger children from both migrant and non-migrant backgrounds; utilising art-based methods. It focuses on children’s negotiations of identities- particularly those of race and childhood- as they interact with discourses of childhood innocence, the raced and adult-centric places of their everyday lives and with global landscapes of media and consumption. It emphasizes accounts of children’s resilience and creativity, especially in their constructions of friendship, family and home. I also work as a lecturer at IT Sligo, (Early Childhood Care & Education and Social Care Practice programmes), teaching modules including Creative Practice, Children’s Cultural Worlds and Working with Young People.

Ian Miller, ‘Nutritional Decline, Childhood Health and Domestic Education in Post-Famine Ireland, c.1851-1914’


The nutritional well-being of Irish children evolved into a heavily discussed and debated topic in the post-Famine period. This paper maps the post-Famine development of public concern about the nutritional health of the Irish young and argues that fears of nutritional decline (seen as having resulted from the declining popularity of the potato) deeply informed turn-of-the-century debates on educational reform. It asserts that this discussion was pivotal to the implementation of a nationwide compulsory domestic education for school-girls through the National School system.

The idea that the physical and mental health of Irish children needed to be preserved to ensure the vitality of the future nation acquired prominence following the Famine. In the 1850s, critics of institutional management publicly castigated workhouses for failing to provide the young with an adequate diet. Irish reformatories and industrial schools tended to provide a fuller diet, catering for groups such as Famine orphans. Nonetheless, the gradual replacement of the potato with sparse diets of tea and white bread among the poor sparked concern that the health of the young was being severely compromised by mothers who were ignorant of the need to adequately feed their offspring. This gloomy narrative formed an important component of Irish discussion of national degeneration and physical decline.

Ultimately, apprehension about the physical weakening of the Irish young permeated turn-of-the-century debates on the need for educational reform. In 1900, domestic education was introduced in National Schools with the intention of training young girls as efficient housewives equipped with a practical and scientifically-underpinned understanding of cooking and the need to feed their families with a balanced, nutritionally adequate diet. Nonetheless, the financial and material resources required to successfully implement such a scheme remained severely lacking. Overall, this paper explores the complex relationship between childhood, nationhood and educational reform in the post-Famine period.


Ian Miller is a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in Medical History and Humanities at the Centre for the History of Medicine, University of Ulster. His current research focuses on the medical ethical issues that surrounded the twentieth-century management of prison hunger strikes in Britain, Ireland and Northern Ireland. His first monograph, A Modern History of the Stomach: Gastric Illness, Medicine and British Society, c.1800-1950 was published by Pickering and Chatto in 2011. A second monograph, Reforming Food in Post-Famine Ireland: Medicine, Science and Improvement, 1845-1922 is scheduled for publication by Manchester University Press in Summer 2014.

Ida Milne, ‘Childhood diseases: the changing 20th century landscape.’


Antibiotics and vaccination have almost nullified the once enormous impact of childhood illnesses such as diphtheria, measles and mumps.  This paper will use statistics and oral history to explore the changing landscape of childhood illness in Ireland in the 20th century.


Ida Milne was awarded a PhD in 2011 for her work on the Spanish influenza pandemic in Ireland.  She has used oral history to capture witness material on the 1918-19 pandemic, and on other outbreaks of epidemic disease, and has recently been working with the Royal Academy of Medicine on a project to collect interviews with retired medical doctors about their working lives. Her other research interests, apart from the history of disease, include newspaper industry and Irish Protestant identity.

Máire Nic an Bhaird, ‘Cinsireacht agus Litríocht na nÓg / Censorship and Children’s Literature’[4]


Díreofar sa pháipéar seo ar an gcinsireacht a cuireadh i bhfeidhm ar an leabhar Cumhacht na Cinneamhna leTomás Bairéad a d’fhoilsigh an Gúmsa bhliain 1936. B’fhéinchinsireacht í an chinsireacht seo, rud atá eisceachtúil i gcomhthéacs ginearálta chinsireacht an Stáit ar litríocht an Bhéarla, agus a dhéanann idirdhealú suntasach idir an cás sa dá theanga. Cíoradh atá sa pháipéar seo ar thionchar na Roinne Oideachais ar litríocht na Gaeilge agus déanfar scagadh ar na laincisí a bhain le litríocht an tseomra ranga. Déanfar anailís ar an leabhar Cumhacht na Cinneamhna mar chás-staidéar a léiríonn an éifeacht a bhí ag faomhadh na Roinne Oideachais ar litríocht na Gaeilge.

Díreofar ar na hathruithe a rinne an Gúm ar eagráin 1950, 1951 agus 1953 den leabhar Cumhacht na Cinneamhna agus breathnófar ar an gcomhfhreagras a bhain leis an leabhar. Pléifidh an anailís litreacha an Bhairéadaigh, litreacha na Roinne agus litreacha an Ghúim faoin leabhar, rud a thabharfaidh léargas dúinn ar an gcinsireacht a cuireadh i bhfeidhm ar an saothar seo, chun na daltaí scoile a chosaint ar dhorchadas an tsaoil. Déanfar scagadh ar an saghas cinsireachta a cuireadh i bhfeidhm ar litríocht na Gaeilge agus ar thorthaí na cinsireachta sin.Feictear feiniméan na féinchinsireachta go soiléir nuair a d’iarr an t-údar féin ar an nGúm scéal a bhaint amach as an leabhar toisc gur mheas sé nach raibh sé oiriúnach do dhaltaí scoile.

Ba scríbhneoir fiontraíoch, nuálaíoch é Tomás Bairéad nuair a chuirtear é i gcomparáid le scríbhneoirí eile a linne. Déanann an Bairéadach iarracht an fhírinne a insint, ach an freagra atá ar an scéal sin ná go gclúdaítear an fhírinne tríd an gcinsireacht. Díreofar sa pháipéar seo ar an iarracht leanúnach a rinne an Gúm chun na daltaí meánscoile agus an pobal léitheoireachta i gcoitinne a chosaint ar ghruamacht an tsaoil.

Beathaisnéis / Biography

Máire Nic an Bhaird’s research topic for her PhD was ‘Cleachtadh na cinsireachta, próiseas na heagarthóireachta agus lucht léitheoireachta na Gaeilge ó 1922 go 1972.’ She was a Fellow in Irish at UCD from 2004 to 2006, until she took up her current position as Lecturer in Irish at the Froebel Department in NUIM.

Ríona Nic Congáil, ‘An Cultúr Gaelach ó Pheirspictíocht an Linbh: Dialanna Chailíní Scoile Chiarraí (1916-1918) / Gaelic Culture from the Child’s Perspective: The Diaries of Three Kerry Schoolgirls (1916-1918)’[5]


Pádraig Ó Siochfhradha (1883-1964) nó ‘An Seabhac’ mar is fearr aithne air, a chum Jimín Mháire Thaidhg, fear a raibh suim aige taifead a dhéanamh ar an mbéaloideas agus ar shaol laethúil mhuintir na Gaeltachta i bhfad sular cuireadh Coimisiún Béaloideasa Éireann ar bun. Agus é ina eagarthóir ar An Lóchrann, nuachtán míosúil Gaeilge lonnaithe i gCo. Chiarraí, ghríosaigh sé cainteoirí dúchais chun dul i mbun pinn. Tá an-chuid scríofa ag scoláirí éagsúla faoin gcaidreamh a chothaigh sé le Tomás Ó Criomhthain, údar aitheanta An tOileánach (1929). Ach sa tréimhse chéanna, idir 1916 agus 1918, ghríosaigh sé triúr cailíní scoile as Co. Chiarraí chun a ndialanna laethúla a fhoilsiú in An Lóchrann. Go dtí seo, níl aon scagadh acadúil déanta ar dhialanna na gcailíní scoile, a thugann léargas luachmhar dúinn ar eispéireas na hóige sa chultúr Gaelach, agus ar thionchar an Chogaidh Mhóir ar aos óg Chiarraí.

Sa chaint seo, déanfaidh mé mionanailís ar dhialanna na gcailíní scoile mar cháipéisí suntasacha sóisialta a thugann léiriú cuimsitheach ar an óige Ghaelach sa tréimhse stát-tógála. Taispeánfaidh mé go ndearna Pádraig Ó Siochfhradha aithris ar stíl agus ar chuntais na gcailíní scoile ina mhórshaothar don óige, Jimín Mháire Thaidhg

Beathaisnéis / Biography

Is léachtóir le Gaeilge í Ríona Nic Congáil i gColáiste Phádraig, Droim Conrach. Tá trí leabhar do dhaoine óga scríofa aici agus ba é Úna Ní Fhaircheallaigh agus an Fhís Útóipeach Ghaelach (2010) an chéad leabhar acadúil óna peann. Bhí sí ina heagarthóir ar Codladh Céad Bliain: Cnuasach Aistí ar Litríocht na nÓg (2012) agus ina comheagarthóir ar Laethanta Gréine & Oícheanta Sí: Aistí ar Litríocht agus ar Chultúr na nÓg (2013).

Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid, ‘‘Schooling the National Orphans’: the Education of the Children of the Easter Rising Leaders’


In his last letter before his execution on 2 May 1916, Thomas MacDonagh expressed his fears for his children, three year old Donagh and one year old Bairbre, and hoped that ‘my country will treat them as wards’. The country did: making financial provision for the children of the executed rebels was an important rationale behind the fund-raising of the Irish National Aid Association and Volunteer Dependents Fund, as well as constituting a significant contributory factor to the radicalisation of public opinion in the months following the Rising. The sixteen dead men of Easter week left eighteen children behind them, of varying ages and with varying needs; from the outset, funding the education of these children was a primary concern of the INAAVDF. The schools chosen for these children, as well as the somewhat proprietorial interest taken in their welfare by the INAAVDF and successor bodies, reveals much about the way in which republican Ireland attempted to take ownership of the futures of these children. Conversely, allegations of favouritism and a hierarchical approach to the 1916 families blighted some of the official activities, and exposes the frayed tempers behind the smooth national state-building narrative. This paper shall explore these issues, as well as the broader question of how these children navigated a personal identity in the shadow of a national foundation myth in the early years of Irish independence. A common educational inheritance was a key part of the process of identity-formation for many, although not all, of the children, and the opportunities opened through (free) education offered an alternative route to achievement than merely the honoured names they bore.


Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid is Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Sheffield. Following her PhD at Queen’s University Belfast, she held research fellowships at the University of Cambridge and the University of St Andrews. Her first book, Seán MacBride: A Republican Life, is being reissued in paperback by Liverpool University Press in March 2014.

Aoife O Connor, ‘Framing the Child – Irish children in photographs 1860-1970’


Visual representations of childhood simultaneously illuminate and obscure the experience of childhood in Ireland in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Through photographs we can enter the world of children.  We see them at school and at work; witness them in their private worlds of play and watch them participating in the events of history.  Representations of childhood in photographs are also dictated by the deliberate framing of the subject by the (adult) photographer and the mechanics of the medium.  The constraints of the photographic process can create an image of childhood that is static, idealised and sanitised. The images also show children challenging their would-be documentarians, through playfulness and defiance.

The photographs range from formal studio portraits to opportunistic ‘action shots’.  The motivations behind their creation range from family mementos to tourism clichés and philanthropic exposés.  Many of the children in the images presented are anonymous, their names and lives outside of the boundaries of the photograph are unknown.  This anonymity allows them to represent the experience of childhood in the social class, geographic location and time they inhabited.  The images also tell unique, individual stories – a prized son, a lost father and a burdened older sister.

The changing experience and representations of childhood in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Ireland are presented here through a selection of photographs drawn from Small Lives: Photographs of Irish Childhood 1860-1970, an exhibition and book created utilising photographs from the collections of the National Library of Ireland.


Aoife O Connor is the curator and author of Small Lives: Photographs of Irish Childhood 1860-1970.  Her research interests are in the minutiae of every-day life, and the broadening of access to historical material through digitisation.  She is currently studying for her MA in history with the Open University.

Maura O’Connor, ‘Infant classes: leaders of change in the education system in Ireland 1831-1948’


Historical study presents different and varied concepts of the child, childhood and child-centred education during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This paper traces the evolution of the concept of child-centred education in Ireland, focusing in particular on children from aged three to six years of age. It begins with the introduction of infant education into the national system of education in 1838 and ends with the introduction of the Revised Programme for Infants (1948) and An Naí-Scoil: The Infant School, Notes for Teachers (1951). The paper examines child-centred ideology as expressed through policy documents, and considers the intentions, actions and contexts of policy-makers, educationalists and practitioners as they practised the art of curriculum design, curriculum implementation and curriculum evaluation. It considers how shifting agendas resulted in different educational perspectives being endorsed, abandoned, and revitalised, with varying consequences for what young children should learn, how they should learn, and how teachers should teach.

The paper is presented in four distinct phases each representing a different historical epoch in the development of infant education policy and practice in Ireland, and is organised in chronological order.The first begins with the introduction of infant education into Ireland by the National Board of Education in 1838 and ends in 1880. The second epoch heralds the broadening of the infant curriculum in the Model Infant School, Dublin, in 1881, with the introduction of Kindergarten activities. The third epoch commences with the re-orientation of primary education towards a child-centred approach with the publication of the Revised Programme in 1900. The fourth epoch denotes the advent of political independence and the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922.


Dr Maura O’Connor is a lecturer in Education in St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, Dublin, where she specialised in Early Childhood Education. She has worked as a primary school teacher and school principal. She has written numerous articles on early childhood education and care in Ireland and has presented at several national and international conferences.

Maeve O’Riordan, ‘‘Horrid little beasts!’ or beloved ‘little Sonniekins’? Childhood in the Big House 1860-1914.’


‘[In my] own generation or the one preceding it “Mama” was a distant divinity who spent her time on a sofa or seeking health in some foreign watering-place while her votaries carried on wars or orgies under the supervision of a harassed elder sister or an anxious governess.’

So wrote Mabel O’Brien, the wife of a Munster landlord and artist, in an undated speech to the Parents National Education Union, probably given during the 1930s. Mabel was impressed with twentieth-century parents who washed their own children, without relying on servants. Yet she herself was not averse to utilising servants in the care of her children, and likened her experience to controlling ‘a tribal household…with an inadequate staff and an overflowing nursery.’ Anita Leslie argued, in her 1931 biography, that in her parents’ view ‘schools performed the same function [for children] that kennels did for dogs.’ Historians Jessica Gerard and M. Jeanne Peterson have both noted the ‘bad press’ that has given to the wealthy Victorian mother as cold and distant.

This paper will explore the experience of male and female children of the landed class during the period 1860-1914. During this time family sizes decreased among wealthy landed families in Ireland, in line with the European trend. Families placed emphasis on the individuality of the child, but still the production of a male heir was deemed essential. Using a case study of families, and analysing surviving letters, diaries, children’s books, exercise books and drawings, this paper will look beyond the ‘bad press’ to determine the experience of children in the Big House. Were they isolated and unloved by parents who described children under three as ‘Horrid’, or did they feel nurtured and valued?


Maeve O’Riordan recently completed her IRC funded PhD thesis; ‘Home, family and society: women of the Irish landed class, c.1860-1914.’ She has published book chapters on the subjects of the management of servants and on leisure in the Big House. Maeve currently lectures in the School of History, University College Cork.

Emma O’Toole, ‘A cradle lined with bleu damask’[6]:  The Irish Nursery Room & Preventing Infantile Illness c. 1680-c. 1830’


The concept of childhood is often considered to be a relatively recent invention. However, from the early eighteenth century onwards, specific ideas surrounding raising, educating, feeding, clothing and entertaining children reveal changing perceptions regarding the early years of life. It was during this period that new ideas and advice surrounding the creation of an ideal domestic environment that was to foster and promote the development of the infant were highlighted to parents in advice manuals and treatises. These treatises, mainly written by medical practitioners, advised potential or actual parents against the use of cradles and placing their infants in small confined spaces to sleep. Instead it was argued that domestic infantile rooms should be the ‘largest and best aired’ spaces in the house.[7]

Using inventories and architectural drawings as sources this paper will provide an investigation into the different types of infantile spaces found in Irish elite homes during the long eighteenth century. In particular, this paper will focus on the nursery room and consider its architectural layout, how it was decorated and furnished. In doing so, this research will consider to what extent the Irish gentility appropriated the advice and recommended measures promoted by medical authors.

By using these documentary sources, alongside material evidence, this paper will shed new light on not only the significance of dedicated infantile spaces in Irish genteel homes, but it will also contribute to wider debates surrounding domestic medicinal care and changes in childrearing practices.


Emma O’Toole is an Irish Research Council Government of Ireland doctoral scholar at the Faculty of Visual Culture, National College of Art & Design, Dublin. She is in the final year of her research on ‘The Material Culture of Pregnancy & Early Infancy c.1680-c.1830’.

Brendan Power, ‘Religion and the Boys’ Brigade in Ireland, 1888-1914.’


This paper will examine the efforts of a Protestant youth organisation to impart religious sensibility to adolescent males in the period 1888-1914. In this period religious organisations such as the Boys’ Brigade attempted to harness what they believed was the latent potential for religiosity within adolescent males and in doing so appreciated the different approaches that were necessary to attract children rather than adults. There focus was centred on making religion a lived experience in their lives rather than a passive activity and to engage children through a range of outlets. This paper will highlight the ways in which developments in how childhood was conceptualised found an outlet in Ireland and that they were more than academic and intellectual developments and found a practical outlet through the Boys’ Brigade whose membership in Ireland was largely working-class. This paper will also highlight how historical research into childhood in Ireland can provide insights into Irish society and can be successfully utilised as an exploratory mechanism for wider social issues such as how religious practice can be gauged by examining its role outside the confines of formal worship.


I recently graduated with a PhD in History from Trinity College, Dublin. I also hold an M.Phil. from Trinity and a BA from Mater Dei Institute of Education. My research centers on youth movements catering for adolescents in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Ireland. I can be contacted at

Olwen Purdue, ‘‘Belfast Child’: poverty, politics and child welfare in early C20 Belfast.’


The opening decade of the twentieth century saw the intensifying of debates surrounding the place of children in Irish society and the responsibility that state, local authorities and institutions had for ensuring their welfare. As awareness grew that the large and forbidding institutions that often housed the children of the poor did not provide the healthy or wholesome environment that they needed, poor law authorities came under increasing pressure to board children out with suitable families and to ensure that their welfare was carefully monitored.

In early C20 Belfast, a city characterised by rapid growth and deep sectarian divisions, child poverty was a major problem and the successful boarding out of children under the care of the poor law a logistically challenging and politically-charged affair.  Drawing on the papers of welfare authorities, municipal government and charitable organisations as well as an extensive collection of very early photographs, this paper will explore the problems of child poverty in this divided city. It will also seek to evaluate the effectiveness of Belfast’s welfare authorities, in particular the Boarding Out committee of its Board of Guardians, in promoting the welfare of those children for which they were responsible.


Olwen Purdue is a Lecturer in Irish Social and Economic History at Queen’s University Belfast. She is co-investigator of a major AHRC-funded project, ‘Poverty, welfare and public health in Belfast 1800-1972’ and has published a number of chapters and articles on the poor law in C19 Ulster.

Síne Quinn , ‘The Fictionalised Child: Irish Childhood during the Emergency’


This paper will call attention to the issue of the child protagonists’ social and personal growth through the genre of historical fiction in the Irish narratives discussed, focusing on how these novels appropriate and transmute the conventions of the genre to convey the representation of Irish childhood throughout the historical period discussed. The overarching themes of these narratives are focused on creating a social space in which the protagonist can evaluate, and deliberate his/her own position within his/her social and historical context, in particular during the turbulent era described in the narratives.

This paper will ask how each novel’s construction and adaptation of historical fiction is mediated by the representation of childhood, adolescence and the construction of family in the texts. Different representations of childhood and the diversity of childhood structures in Irish literature with a focus on historical fiction will also be highlighted. The authors discussed (Brian Gallagher, Marita Conlon-McKenna and Marilyn Taylor) are renowned for creating children’s and young adult books that portray complex and turbulent historical Irish life through the focus of children and adolescent protagonists. The novels discussed are set during the Second World War and address the representation of Irish children, while examining issues of alterity during war-time crisis for the protagonists. This paper will be informed by different Irish narratives: Secrets and Shadows, Safe Harbour and 19 Martin Street. By examining different methods of storytelling this paper will identify common narrative patterns in Irish historical fiction by examining such themes as coming of age and national crisis, the Second World War and the Emergency in Irish children’s literature.


Síne Quinnis an editor and literary project manager. A graduate of the inaugural M.Phil, she is now a PhD candidate specialising in Children’s Literature in the School of English at Trinity College Dublin. She was a member of the judging panel for the Children’s Book Ireland Book of the Year Awards 2013. She is a former board member of Children’s Books Ireland. She is a section editor for Recommended Reads magazine and a regular reviewer for Inis Magazine, and has interviewed a range of children’s authors for Verbal Magazine and Inis. She has recently completed the chapter ‘Young adult literature and the journey story’ in the book on Jacqueline Wilson’s works for Palgrave Macmillan, edited by Dr Lucy Pearson, which is due out in 2014.

Kevin Rafter, ‘‘Think of your holy vocation’ – childhood in mid-nineteenth century Dublin as captured in the unpublished memoir of E. J. Dillon’


Emile Joseph Dillon (1854-1933) was a distinguished correspondent with the London Daily Telegraph newspaper where from a base in Russia he reported on all major events from the 1880s until after World War I including the Dreyfus trial, massacres in Armenia, conflict in the Balkans and the assassination of the Tsar.

     When W. T. Stead was asked who, excluding himself, did he consider the most brilliant living journalist, he replied: ‘A little man who hides his light under a bushel and shuns the public gaze as the plague, but is the honoured friend of sovereigns and statesmen. I take my hat off to Dr. Dillon’’.

This paper focuses on Dillon’s childhood in Dublin in the 1850s and 1860s drawing on a draft memoir that recently become available in his archive at the Green Library, Stanford University.

The Dillon family ran a hardware shop from their home in Charles Street on the north side of the Liffey quays. ‘The main purpose of the building was the warehousing and display of the goods, the lodging of the owners was secondary,’ Dillon recalled, ‘our house was gloomy, uncomfortable and scantily furnished.’

Life centred on religious worship. Dillon wrote that his father’s life was all about preparation for death and meeting his maker. Along with his two younger sisters Dillon experienced a strict childhood – books were frowned upon as a distraction from work and prayer; whenever the young boy misbehaved he heard familiar words: ‘You who expect to enter the Church one day, dare to carry on like that. Be ashamed of yourself… Joe, think of your holy vocation.’

This paper draws on previously unpublished material chronicling life as a child in Dublin. The paper, in particular, illustrates the power of parental aspiration and the strength of the Catholic Church in mid-nineteenth century Ireland.


Kevin Rafter is Associate Professor of Political Communication at Dublin City University where he is also Associate Dean for Research. He has written and published widely on media and politics in Ireland including The Irish Presidency (Irish Academic Press, 2014 with J. Coakley), Independent Newspapers: A History (Four Courts, 2012 with M. O’Brien) and Irish journalism before independence: More a disease than an profession (Manchester University Press, 2011 editor). His research has been published in Media History, Journalism Studies and the International Journal of Press/Politics. He is currently writing a biography of E. J. Dillon.

Jennifer Redmond, ‘Immigrants, Aliens, Evacuees: Exploring the history of Irish Children in Britain during World War Two’


While the wide-scale evacuation of children in Britain has been fairly well sketched in historical studies, literature and film genres, the evacuation of Irish born children, or second generation Irish children, is a less well known facet of the history of children in World War Two.

This paper addresses the topic using previously unavailable primary sources – the travel permit application forms instituted for security for travel between Ireland and Britain after the fall of France in 1940. The forms detail demographic material about Irish emigrants in Britain, including their children, that is unavailable from any other source, including Census data. The permit applications also contain photographs of parents with their children, providing an invaluable and revealing illustrative documentation of this group of wartime evacuees. Additionally, applicants had to provide qualitative comments on their reason for leaving the country and these reveal much anxiety for children in the wake of repeated bombings of civilian areas in Britain. As the majority of applicants for permits lived in urban areas, predominately in London, the need to evacuate children was pressing. Many utilized the network of friends and relatives to transport children and to house them in the safety of neutral Ireland. This rich resource provides a window into the arrangements, both personal and formal, made to keep Irish children safe.

The forms reveal a variety of stories, from self-evacuation of pregnant mothers to families being bombed out of their homes. There is also significant evidence of parents accompanying children to their Irish relatives and then returning to Britain to avail of the plentiful wartime work opportunities. The stories of these children have thus far not featured in the vast historiography on children’s experiences of World War Two. This paper seeks to illuminate this hidden history, sketching the story of Irish emigrant children who found themselves aliens in a belligerent nation, desperate to escape.


Dr Jennifer Redmond is Lecturer in Twentieth Century Irish History at the Department of History, NUI Maynooth, where she was previously an Irish Research Council postdoctoral fellow. Dr. Redmond’s two year fellowship encompassed a large scale analysis of over 23,000 individual travel permit application forms from Irish people in Britain during World War II, the data from which forms the basis of this paper.

Conor Reidy, ‘‘Hands and faces gnawed by rats’: children of the drunken criminal classes in early twentieth-century Ireland’


Between 1900 and 1918 there were 330 inmates detained at the Irish State Inebriate Reformatory for criminal drunkards at Ennis. Of that number, 126 were male and 204 were female. Statistics on offending, place children as the victims of three of the top five criminal acts of those detained in Ennis giving rise to a combined total of 103 convictions for child-related offences. The reformatory came about as a result of the Inebriates Act 1898 and during a period when British penal administrators were becoming more open to experimentation. The most significant feature of the system, both in Britain and Ireland, was the disproportionately higher number of women detained for alcohol-related criminality. This was in spite of a far greater number of convictions for males. Historians have posited numerous reasons to account for this imbalance including the ‘reclamation of women as the future wives and mothers of a healthier imperial race’. (Hunt, Mellor and Turner, 1990)

This paper will consider the lives of the children of these parents, all of whom were convicted of habitual drunkenness as well as their child-related offence. Using a combination of court reporting, institutional case files and personal accounts from inspectors working for the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, this paper will reveal the distress suffered by the children of the despised criminally drunken classes. It will show that not only were children faced with the daily misfortune of poverty, violence and ill-health but they were also confronted with the emotional anguish of rejecting the offending parent once they were empowered to do so upon the intervention of the authorities. To this end society played the dual role of saving children from the dangers that lay inside their own homes while they acted at the same time as witness for the prosecution.


Conor lectures in History at the University of Limerick (UL). He received his PhD from UL in 2007 and is the author of Ireland’s ‘moral hospital’: the Irish borstal system 1906-1956 (IAP, 2009). His second monograph, Criminal Irish Drunkards: the inebriate reformatory system in Ireland 1900-1920 will be published in late 2014.

Robbie Roulston, ‘‘There was some mysterious influence in the background preventing this reform and this influence had an ecclesiastical flavour’: establishing and reforming legal adoption in Ireland, 1952-74.’


The Adoption of Children Act, 1952 formalised the adoption process in Ireland for the first time. Before this, adoptions had been arranged informally or by private contract, and the legal position of such adoptions was precarious. The 1952 act aimed to provide greater security for adopted children and adoptive parents, and was the result of a lengthy campaign by several different civil society groups. However, the ambition of the act was tightly constrained by the demands of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Ireland and the subservience of the Department of Justice in meeting those demands. The final act was qualified by a series of religious restrictions, which had been formulated by an episcopal committee of the Catholic Church. These restrictions included a ban on adoptions for children whose parents were of different denominations, or whose parents were of no religion. Protestant churches managed to negotiate separate criteria which allowed for adoptions across denominational lines if all parties were drawn from a set list of Protestant churches. These religious restrictions were fed into the legislation, and regulated Ireland’s adoption regime until they were found unconstitutional by the High Court in 1974.

Coordinated efforts to reform and professionalise Ireland’s adoption regime, led by women’s groups, legal societies, a cross-party group of TDs, and Protestant churches, were repeatedly frustrated. Clandestine contacts were maintained between the senior civil servants in the Department of Justice and certain personnel in the Catholic Church. These senior civil servants briefed against other state agencies in these communications and explicitly sought to keep information away from the body with statutory responsibility for adoptions, the Adoptions Board, because it had Protestant members. These campaigns and counter-campaigns reveal the priorities that were observed in the sensitive and intimate domain of legal adoption: the interests of churches and ‘harmony in the community’ were paramount and were not to be unsettled by the welfare and interests of children.


Robbie Roulston lectures on Irish Protestants in independent Ireland in UCD’s School of History and Archives. His PhD thesis was entitled ‘The Church of Ireland and the Irish state, 1950-1972: education, healthcare and moral welfare’ and was supervised by Dr Lindsey Earner-Byrne. He was an Irish Government Scholar with the Irish Research Council and held the Albert Lovett Memorial Scholarship.

Patrick J. Ryan, ‘How ‘Irish’ is Childhood History in Ireland?  Some Historiographic Observations on Continuity and Difference’


This paper will provide commentary and questions on the developing historiography of childhood in Ireland from a perspective deeply-rooted in the study of childhood, but outside the specialized geographic, linguistic, and cultural knowledge of historians of Ireland. Reading from the bibliographic resource presented by the organizers of this conference, I am interested in two analytic questions.

1) How does this literature draw upon or offer innovations/departures from the historiography of childhood of other European cultural groups (American, British, French, German, Scandinavian, etc.)?  In what senses are the assumptions, questions, key terms, interests, narrative structures of these studies distinct or similar to historical childhood research upon other cultural groups?

2) In what ways do the findings of these studies overlap with, confirm, depart from, shed new light upon issues that have been studied outside of Irish sources?

How ‘Irish’ has childhood in Ireland’s past been?  Does this literature help us identify discursive structures penetrating national, ethnic boundaries that shape a larger landscape of modern childhood?  Conversely what might be surprising or novel from an outsider’s point-of-view?  Are these novelties ‘Irish,’ or merely another example of the unpredictable, arbitrary shapes and jagged edges that we find in all human histories?


Patrick J. Ryan is co-founder of H-Childhood (est. 1998), a network of over 1,400 scholars studying childhood historically from around the globe.  He has published articles on the history of childhood in the Journal of Social History, the History of Education Quarterly, the Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Paedagogica Historica among other peer-reviewed journals. His recent book Master-Servant Childhood: a history of the idea of childhood in medieval English culture (Macmillan, 2013) is an interdisciplinary synthesis that offers a new understanding of childhood in the Middle Ages as a form of master-servant relation embedded in an ancient sense of time as a correspondence between earthly change and eternal order.  It argues for the value of studying childhood as a structure of thought and feeling, and as an important avenue for exploring large scale historical changes in our sense of what it is to be and become human.

Paul Sargent, ‘Wild Arabs and savages: childhood identity as a regulatory ideal’


Within the context of the history of juvenile justice in Ireland, childhood identity has been conceptualised in various forms. From its origins in the early nineteenth century, the ‘juvenile delinquent’emerged as a separate form of childhood identity distinct from the adult criminal. In Ireland, from the mid-nineteenth century, the ‘delinquent’ child emerged as a target for a range of specific reformatory technologies as exemplified in reformatory and industrial schools and the Borstal institution. In contrast, the identity of the ‘psychological child’ was slow to emerge. This particular developmental definition of childhood, which began to emerge in Ireland in the mid-1960’s, signalled all children out as targets for a range of governmental strategies including youth work, family-support, social work, pre-school, community initiatives and residential care.

One can discern a continuous discourse surrounding the ‘at risk’ child from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. The act of designating a section of young people as ‘at risk’ is essentially a political act that constructs the child as someone in need of supervision and authorises a range of interventions that are justified on the basis of the protection of society and of the individuals themselves. In recent years, another distinct form of childhood identity has emerged whereby the child is viewed as a ‘bearer of rights’. This form of childhood identity has emerged as a result of the action of a range of forces that have sought to regulate the child in accordance with what could be described as a more liberal set of political principles. Whether viewed as a delinquent, a subject of reformation, a psychological entity, at risk or a bearer of rights, the child remains a target for a range of regulatory technologies designed to shape its identity and govern its behaviour.


Dr Paul Sargent isa research associate at the School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin. His research interests include the history and development of the juvenile justice and welfare systems in Ireland. He is the author of, ‘Wild Arabs and savages’, the first history of juvenile justice in Ireland, which will be published in January 2014 by Manchester University Press.

Karen Smith, ‘Constructing the Child in Need of State Protection: Continuity and Change in Twentieth Century Ireland’


Laws and policies in relation to child protection are necessarily grounded in assumptions about childhood, children and appropriate standards of child-rearing, which can vary considerably over time. Uncovering the assumptions about childhood which inform political discourse is of vital importance in analysing historical policy developments as well as in evaluating the claims to progress inherent in subsequent reforms. The few studies which have looked at constructions of children in need of protection in Ireland have focused primarily on the child welfare system. The aim of this paper is to explore the discourses of childhood and child welfare deployed by the legislators and policy makers who ultimately bore responsibility for children in need of protection in Ireland.

This paper draws on official reports and parliamentary debates to trace the changing conceptions of the child in need of protection which shaped legislative developments at key points of reform, including the development of the modern Irish child welfare system under the 1908 Act, amendments of the 1908 Act during the post-independence period and finally the belated introduction of a new legislative framework for child welfare and protection in 1991.

There have been significant shifts in constructions of childhood and children’s needs in Irish child welfare discourse over the course of the twentieth century, as scientifically-informed conceptions of self-hood gradually supplanted those grounded in morality and religion. Nonetheless it is argued that a certain degree of continuity is apparent in representations of the child in need of protection over time. In particular in Ireland – as elsewhere – we find the durability of the idea of ‘investment’ in child welfare discourse which has served both to objectify the young and to position children in need of protection as potential ‘liabilities’ within a ‘cost-containment’ discourse.


I am a lecturer in social policy/ social theory in DIT. I was awarded a PhD in 2009 for a study entitled Governing Young Citizens: Discourses of Childhood in Irish Social Policy. I am currently completing a book on the government of childhood from the sixteenth century to the present for Palgrave Macmillan.

Julie Anne Stevens, ‘Territories of Childhood: A discussion of children’s literature in relation to the Irish Land War’


Padraic Colum’s first children’s book set during the Irish Land War, A Boy in Eirinn (1913), dedicates itself to Patrick Pearse and is illustrated by Jack B. Yeats. Does the book preach the gospel of patriotism in the manner of children’s propaganda of the period, as discussed by scholars Ríona Nic Congáil and Marnie Hay, or does it offer a new venture in creating a distinctly Irish national children’s literature? Do earlier illustrated children’s books or picture books about the land war contribute to what Colum and Yeats were trying to do with their first collaborative work in children’s literature? To answer these questions this paper will initially consider Colum’s novel in the context  of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Irish children’s literature and will then look at the correspondence of Colum and Yeats about A Boy in Eirinn from the Berg Collection of New York Public Library.

Because the book under consideration includes both textual and visual material related to Irish childhood during the land war period, this paper will consider both discourses and, in so doing, will acknowledge significant contribution by Irish women writers and artists. It will show how writers/artists such as Flora Shaw, Edith Somerville, Ethel Penrose, and Rosamund Praeger closely observed Irish childhood culture in relation to land matters, both directly and indirectly referring to the land wars. This paper will argue that Colum’s subsequent children’s novel with Yeats’ pictures provides an interesting compilation of heroics and folklore valorized by nationalist propaganda of the period alongside a study of vernacular culture that is indebted in part to the work of pioneering female writers/artists.


Dr Julie Anne Stevens lectures in English literature in St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra. She also serves there as the Director for the Centre for Children’s Literature and Culture and part of her role includes directing the Masters in Children’s Literature.  Her background in Irish Literature concentrates on the study of picture and text as examined in her book, The Irish Scene in Somerville and Ross (2007). In addition to this work she has co-edited a book on the ghost story, The Ghost Story from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century(2010). She has also published articles on a wide range of writers, including Irish and American children writers/illustrators such as Padraic Colum and Jack Yeats or New Yorker, Elizabeth Enright, who show particular interest in visual discourse.

Mai Yatani, ‘Irish cultural revivalism reflected in girls’ novels at the fin-de-siècle Ireland’


The fin-de-siècle Irish society which produced the revival movement also saw a significant increase in fiction, and girls’ novels were part of this expansion of print material. Recent studies of English literature have started to shed light upon such popular readings and to show that national ideals are rather strongly reflected in girls’ and boys’ fictions. The present literary canon, however, has obscured the importance and relevance of popular literature within the revival movement. This paper will examine how the Irish revival movement was represented in girl’s novels and girl’s reading habits. Given the fact that the Irish Catholic middle class is regarded as the main force behind the radicalisation of the nationalist movement, it is necessary to look at what they were actually reading at that time. Especially in Ireland, the expansion of readership is the fruit of the improvement in Catholic education and the increased number of Catholic middle class who could afford to indulge in pastime readings.

In this paper, several girls’ novels will be mentioned but especially two works will be examined: Rosa Mulholland’s Cynthia’s Bonnet Shop (1900) and Katherine Tynan’s The House of Crickets (1908). There are two reasons why these novels are going to be taken up. Firstly, these two novels present an interesting contrast of how the revival movement is reflected in the works during period. We see positive reflections of the revival movement in Cynthia’s Bonnet Shop and negative reflections in The House of Crickets. Secondly, we can also see that female writers regarded the revival movement as a means of women’s self-realisation. To sum up, the analysis of the girls’ novels can give us new insights into the revival movement and the construction of Irish girlhood during the revival period.


Mai Yatani is a second year PhD student, working on the female reading habit during the Revival under the supervision of Dr Ciaran O’Neill and Professor David Dickson. She received both her BA and MA from the University of Tokyo and the topic of her MA thesis was the revival movement of Irish language in 1880s.

[1] James Boswell, The life of Samuel Johnson LL.D.: including a journal of a tour to the Hebrides, Vol. 2 (Boston, 1832), p. 398.

[2] Simultaneous translation service available.

[3] Elaine Farrell (ed.), ‘Introduction’ in Eadem (ed.), ‘She said she was in the family way’: Pregnancy and infancy in early modern Ireland (London, 2012), pp 1-3.

[4] Simultaneous translation service available.

[5] Simultaneous translation service available.

[6] National Library of Ireland, MS. 4897, inventory of Sir Baldwin Conyers, 1731.

[7] William Buchan, Domestic Medicine (Dublin, 1774), p. 31.


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