Irish History: As Fresh as Today’s News

Posted on: September 16th, 2009 by David J. Brown
River Boyne lock restoration project.

River Boyne lock restoration project.

As part of today’s International Conference of National Trusts, I joined a tour into the countryside to explore a bit of Irish history and see rehabilitation and interpretive efforts at work.

Our host for the conference, An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland, owns a 1748 canal running through Ireland’s valley of the kings along the River Boyne. The canal is under restoration and we had a chance to meet with the energetic project manager and learn about his work. The lock shown above is where the salt water from the sea meets the fresh water of the river.

This important part of the Irish attempt to capitalize on the Industrial Revolution was only one of the sites we visited. Another was the site of the Battle of the Boyne, where in 1690  protestant King William of Orange defeated the army of the Catholic King James II. There’s a recently opened visitors and interpretive center which we toured with a guide from the site.

The Battle of the Boyne.

The Battle of the Boyne.

As An Taisce put it in the conference materials, “the outcome of this battle has been the source of much bitterness historically and the correct interpretation of the site has been integral to the Irish Peace Process.” The closing line of the center’s interpretive film put it a little more directly: Issues arose in the battle that “reverberate to today.” The good efforts to focus on how different parts of Ireland view the battle and its outcome were obvious, showing another way historic places resonate even today. You could say that Irish history isn’t even history because it is as fresh as the morning’s news.

David J. Brown is the Executive Vice President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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