Programme of Lectures 2018-2019

    Our lecture programme for Autumn, Winter, and Spring 2018–19 is listed below. We hope that you will find something in the programme  to interest, inform and amuse you during the long dark months that are not so far ahead now.

    The lectures will take place on Tuesdays at 8pm in the Westport Coast Hotel on the Quay on the dates listed below. 

    Admission is free for members of the Civic Trust and €5.00 for non-members. That means that paid-up members are making a profit after 2½ lectures . . . .

    18th September

    Cleo de Vito (Environmentalist and Organic gardener) ‘Our Cool Planet – a positive look at issues around climate change’’.

    Cleo de Vito - Mayo County Cool Planet Champion since November 2017, will be presenting, and discussing, some of the science, from a non-scientist's view, and some positive solutions to climate change. In this year which has seen droughts, wildfires, floods, bridge collapses, and many, many deaths as a result, what can we do? We can all make changes, so let us see what we know we can do, and what we can accomplish, locally, nationally, and internationally.

    Cleo has a varied career to date, laterally as a fundraising manager for a national UK charity. She has done lots of public speaking, training others, and team building, and always had her hands in the soil - loving nature. She now has a smallholding on which she has a forest garden and works, with her husband, to show others what can work on very marginal land, and how to design these types of systems.

    23rd October

    (in association with the Westport Arts Festival)
    Moya Roddy (writer) will give a short talk about living and writing in Connemara and read from her recent collection of poems, Out of the Ordinary (Salmon Poetry, 2018).

    Moya Roddy attended the National College of Art and Trinity Arts Lab as a night student. She continued painting during a two-year stay in Italy, before moving to London where she trained as a television director at the Soho Poly.  She worked in Current Affairs/Documentaries for Channel 4 on programmes such as  Promised the Earth, analysing the UN Decade for Women. 

    Returning to live in Ireland, her debut novel The Long Way Home was published by Attic Press in 1992.  Since then she's had numerous stories published including The Day I Gave Neil Jordan A Lift which was broadcast by RTE and CBS Canada. She wrote several episodes for RTE's sit-com Upwardly Mobile and her radio play Dance Ballerina Dance was broadcast by RTE. She completed an MA in Writing at NUIG in 2008.

    Moya combines her writing with facilitating meditation at Brigit's Gardens, Roscahill, GMIT and the National University of Ireland. She also teaches a workshop Writing With Heart  uniting writing skills with meditation techniques. Her short story collection Other People (Wordsonthestreet, 2010) shows a deep understanding and empathy towards the human condition – towards those ‘other people' who, in the long run, turn out to be just like ourselves. Her poetry collection, Out of the Ordinary (Salmon Poetry, 2018), delves into the ordinary of family life and evokes both the warm and painful intimacies arising from that. Moya’s parents were from Inishowen, and the book vividly evokes the awkwardness of country people trying to adapt to city life. ‘Bogtrotter’ says "Don’t speak like Dublin children,/my parents warned, terrified/something alien might leach in –/missing g’s, th’s pronounced d,/would undo all the things/they’d skivvied for."

    20th November

    Patricia Byrne (author) ‘Salvation or Starvation? The Disputed Legacy of the Achill Mission Colony’.

    Patricia Byrne explores the dramatic story of the Achill Mission Colony which exposed the fault-lines of religion, society and politics in nineteenth-century Ireland, and continues to excite controversy and division to this day. Religious ferment swept Ireland in the early 1800s and evangelical clergyman Edward Nangle set out to lift the destitute people of Achill out of degradation and idolatry through his Achill Mission Colony in Dugort. The fury of the island elements, the devastation of famine, and Nangle’s own volatile temperament all threatened the project’s survival. In the years of the Great Famine the ugly charge of ‘souperism’, offering food and material benefits in return for religious conversion, tainted the Achill Mission’s work. John McHale, powerful Archbishop of Tuam, spearheaded the Catholic Church’s fightback against Nangle’s colony, with the two clergymen unleashing fierce passions while spewing out vitriol and polemic from pen and pulpit. Did Edward Nangle and the Achill Mission Colony save hundreds from certain famine death, or did they shamefully exploit a vulnerable people for religious conversion?

    Patricia Byrne’s The Preacher and The Prelate – The Achill Mission Colony and the Battle for Souls in Famine Ireland, was published by Merion Press earlier this year. A previous book, The Veiled Woman of Achill – Island Outrage and A Playboy Drama, was published by The Collins Press and tells the story of the 1894 Valley House atrocity featuring James Lynchehaun. A native of County Mayo, Patricia lives in Limerick and has worked for most of her career in regional economic development. A graduate of the NUIG Writer Programme, her work has featured in New Hibernia Review, the Irish Times (Irishwoman’s Diary), RTE Sunday Miscellany and The Irish Story. Her memoir essay ‘Milk Bottles in Limerick’ was named one of the ‘Notable Essays of the Year’ in Best American Essays 2017.

    11th December

    Pip Murphy (long-serving stalwart of the Civic Trust leadership) 'Guernsey: this corner of old Norman land'.

    Guernsey is a unique place, and it is its history that makes it so. Situated in the Bay of St Malo and some 30 miles from the coast of France, its early roots in Normandy laid the foundation for the intriguing relationship the island has with England. However, Guernsey is not part of England, or Great Britain, or the United Kingdom or the European Union, so where does it belong? This talk will take you on a ramble through the history of this ‘bit of France dropped in the sea’ together with its folklore and customs till we arrive at the answer, coming across a couple of unexpected links with Ireland along the way.

    Pip Murphy came to Westport in 2000 from her native Guernsey. After many years travelling and living abroad, she attended Chester University as a very mature student, working thereafter in a variety of health promotion posts. Her family in Guernsey can be traced back to 1510 and she still has extended family there.

    22nd January

    Shane Young (Adventurer) ‘In search of the Sistine chapel of the Amazonias’.

    Shane Young from Killary Adventure Company in Leenane has been all over the world from Greenland to Patagonia. This talk will deal with his most recent expedition to the depths of the Amazon jungle. He went in with a team of Polish adventurers one of whom he knew well and two he met for the first time in Bogota airport. This led to a mixed bag of an expedition where the ultimate goal of finding the 10,000 year old rock paintings was successful but the personal relationships deteriorated to a large degree! The talk will deal with the mental and physical challenges of the expedition and also the history of the paintings and why there is such a desire to explore them. Over 23 days he kayaked and trekked through untouched virgin rainforest and discovered that true exploration is always difficult but always rewarding.

    19th February

    Frank Dawson (Railway Historian) ‘Railways in Mayo – past, present and future’.

    The campaign for the restoration of the western rail corridor, which potentially could link Westport – Claremorris – Tuam – Galway, is a hot topic at present. The Government is committed to policies of balanced regional development, and Minister Michael Ring has set up a working group to examine the potential for an Atlantic Economic Corridor which should include consideration of railway connectivities. The rail network in the west was an important piece of social and economic infrastructure 80-100 years ago but cars, lorries and buses have changed the transport landscape since then, so is a Western Rail Corridor a viable venture today?  Or would a Western Rail Greenway be a more realistic option?

    Frank Dawson (formerly of Galway County Council) has been campaigning with others for many years for the revival of the western railway. His father and grandfather were loco drivers based in Westport and Claremorris – his grandfather drove the last train from Achill in 1937. His talk will be illustrated with lots of photographs.

    19th March

    Enda O Flaherty ‘School Days Over: researching disused schoolhouses in rural Ireland, memory, and cognitive landscapes’.

    This talk examines the contemporary and historical social significance of the disused school houses scattered across the rural Irish landscape. It also looks at the use of the internet for the dissemination of ongoing research with the aim of bringing buildings to the attention of the public and drawing out the lost narratives associated with them. The overall aim of the disused schools project is to highlight these often-overlooked buildings and to engage the public with an important historical space with which many people have a deep personal connection. There has been little research on the significance of abandoned rural school houses in Ireland – as reflections of rural decline for instance. The physical remains of only some of these buildings have been recorded in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH) of Ireland (from 1990), and some have been afforded varying degrees of protection on their architectural merit only. This talk explores the use of evocative photographic imagery, narrative and new technology and media as methods of triggering memory and meaning for the online public.

    Enda O’Flaherty is an archaeologist based in Ireland with a particular interest in vernacular architecture and the buildings and landscape of rural Ireland. He is the founder of the Disused Schoolhouses blog (, and has spent over a decade and a half working as an archaeologist in Ireland and abroad, studying the remains of settlements from both the recent and distant past. His explorations of Ireland as a wandering archaeologist gave him a wish to understand better the deep and defining importance of the interaction between people and landscape. He now focuses on more recent remains of the past and is undertaking a PhD at NUI Galway, examining human settlement in karst landscapes. He lives in Cork.

    23rd April

    Noeleen Haylett (Long-time volunteer in overseas charitable work in Africa) will talk about her life and work to help impoverished communities in Ghana from her base in Kilmeena. To date she has dispatched 22 containers to Ghana and elsewhere – loaded with such things as tractors, wheelchairs, furniture, ambulances, buckets and pans.

    Westport Civic Trust Aims

    Promote and initiate the preservation and protection, renewal and improvement of the buildings and other features of the natural, historical, cultural, scientific and architectural interest of the area, for the benefit of the community.

    Westport Civic Trust


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