Renmore History Society

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Below is a list of the previous lectures which have been presented by the society. We are adding summaries of each talk as we go along, click on the title of the talk to be taken to the summary page. We hope to have all summaries completed before too long, so please bear with us. We are happy to deliver any of the talks below to other history societies, community groups, clubs, schools or associations. Please e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more details. All talks are by Brian MacGabhann unless otherwise indicated.

Professor Fransjohan Pretorius.
Thurs 06th Oct 2011

Fransjohan Pretorius is professor of history at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. He is regarded as one of the leading experts on the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. He is the author of six books and editor and co-editor of two others on the subject. Both his Master’s dissertation and doctoral thesis have been published in Afrikaans as well as in English.

The professor is on a speaking tour of Ireland, and has very kindly agreed to deliver a lecture to our society. His talk looks at the foreign volunteers who fought with the Boers against the British, where volunteers from Ireland played a major role.

The reality of life for the ordinary soldier, from Waterloo to WW2.
Brian MacGabhann

Only recently has the voice of the ordinary soldier been heard, and their experiences recorded. For centuries they have been silent; their experiences interpreted and reported on by others. But this has led to some significant misunderstandings of what actually happens in battle, both among historians and among the public at large.

This talk looks at the reality of life for the ordinary soldier in battle, and seeks to record and report their actual experience of it. In doing so it throws up some remarkable facts, such as that in even the fiercest battle, nearly half of those in the thick of it never fired their weapon, or the fact that there is no recorded instance of an actual bayonet charge, or that Napoleonic cavalry charges never actually came into contact with each other. The talk makes use of history, psychology, movies, and even a bit of poetry.

Star Trek, and the influence of 60’s science fiction on today’s technologies.
Brendan Smith Thurs 08th March 2012

Yuri Gagarin

In Apr 1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first human ever to leave the confines of the earth, ushering in the space age, and in 1968 the Americans landed a man on the moon, capturing popular imagination and leading to an explosion in interest in science fiction; books, movies and above all, TV. The teenagers who grew up with such seminal programs went on to develop and invent the amazing technologies that surround us today.

Brendan Smith is from the Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) at NUI Galway, and is the founder of the recently-opened Communications and Computer Museum. In this talk he will give a fascinating insight into how science fiction, and in particular the original American 'Star Trek' series, inspired modern gadgetry from medical scanners to mobile telephones.

Fr. Hugh O’Flaherty and the Vatican Escape Route.
Brian MacGabhann Thurs 19th April 2012

Hugh O’Flaherty was born to an ordinary catholic family in Cork in 1898. While serving as a Monsignor in Rome he masterminded what became a huge operation from within the Vatican, plucking allied soldiers and Jewish families from under the noses of Rome’s German masters, and spiriting them away to safety.

Often described as the Irish Oscar Schindler, he became the centre of a secret network which ended up saving the lives of thousands. During the course of his work he had to evade numerous kidnap and assassination attempts, but despite the constant threat frequented the streets of Rome in a variety of disguises, including that of a nun, despite being over six feet tall!

This talk tells the story of this humble but extraordinary Irishman, his courageous exploits, and his personal battle with Rome’s Nazi master, the ruthless SS Colonel Herbert Kapler.

The 03rd Sept 2009 was the 70th Anniversary of the declaration that started World War Two, the most destructive war in human history. The events following that date are well known, but the events leading up to it far less so. This is partly because these events reflect glory on no one, and involve a catalogue of mistakes, abdications of responsibility and missed opportunities.
This talk will examine the events that led from the optimistic promise following ‘war to end all wars’, to the outbreak of a conflict that was to put the carnage of the Great War in the shade. Could it have been prevented? Could Hitler have been stopped? What lessons can we learn?