Irish Ambassador to speak at Aberystwyth University conference

07 / 09 / 2016

Aberystwyth University conference to discuss the close historical links between Ireland and Wales and the momentous year of 1916.

A forthcoming Aberystwyth University conference featuring leading historians, as well as the Irish Ambassador to the UK, is to look at the historical and cultural links between Ireland and Wales and how a disused whiskey distillery in Meirionethshire had far reaching consequences for the Irish independence movement.

Organised by the Wales–Ireland Research Network, with the support of the Welsh Government’s First World War centenary programme Cymru’n Cofio Wales Remembers 1914 – 1918, ‘1916 in Ireland and Wales’ will focus on the momentous year of 1916 and look at the wider implications of events such as the Easter Rising in Ireland and the Battle of the Somme in the First World War and the contrasting cultural and political contexts in which they have been interpreted and memorialised in both countries.

Central to discussions on the day will be the pivotal role played by the village of Fron-goch, near Bala, following the Easter Rising of April 1916. The Rising was mounted by Irish republicans to end British rule in the country and establish an independent Irish Republic while the United Kingdom was heavily involved in the First World War. In the immediate aftermath of the failed revolt, the British Government moved 1,800 Irish prisoners to the former whiskey distillery in the village, who were now considered prisoners of war and included the future leader Michael Collins and the future Hollywood actor Arthur Shields.

The camp was soon to become known as the “University of Revolution” due to Michael Collins giving impromptu lessons in guerrilla tactics and the spreading of a revolutionary gospel among the prisoners. What took place there during 1916 helped shape the political careers of some key figures in Irish public life and the name of Fron-goch still resonates in the story of the struggle for Irish independence.

One of the speakers at the conference, His Excellency Daniel Mulhall, Ambassador of Ireland to Great Britain, describes the significance of this experience,

“Fron-goch holds a very special place in modern Irish history, for it was there that 1,800 internees from Ireland spent a formative period in the aftermath of the Easter Rising. The time they spent at Fron-goch had a major impact on the lives of those involved and their subsequent contribution to Ireland’s struggle for independence.”

Other topics to be discussed on the day include some of the other important historical events of 1916, including the election of the first – and so far, only – Welsh Prime Minister, David Lloyd George and also the costly attack  by the 38th (Welsh) Division during the first battle of the Somme at Mametz Wood, an event memorialised visually by the painter Christopher Williams and in print by the poets Robert Graves and David Jones, who both took part in the action.

Conference organiser Professor Paul O’Leary, who is a lecturer at Aberystwyth University and one of the managers of the Wales–Ireland Research Network says,

“With this year marking the centenary of the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme, it is an opportune moment to explore the close cultural and political ties that Welsh people share with our Irish counterparts and how the events of 1916 have had a profound impact on our recent history right up to the present day. I’m extremely grateful to all who have agreed to take part, and for the support we’ve received from Cymru’n Cofio Wales Remembers 1914 – 1918 and the Welsh Government, for making possible what I’m sure will prove to be a very interesting and lively discussion.”

The conference is being held at Aberystwyth University’s Penglais Campus on Wednesday 14 September. Attendance is free but advance booking is essential and the full programme, along with further information on how to register can be found at