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- A week in County Waterford: Old Parish
- Times Higher Education Awards
- Down the rabbit hole
- BBC One this Sunday: The Hunt
Once again this Sunday we've got a double-hit of predatory action for you. First, at 4.50pm, you can catch up with Hunger At Sea; then, at 9pm the action switches back to dry land, as the struggle for survival on the plains is documented. For the prey, there's nowhere to hide:
Yesterday marked the 150th anniversary of the first publication of Alice In Wonderland. We're collected some Alice-related materials to celebrate. Anyone know how to get dormouse stains out a tablecloth?
So, not a prize-winning night for our courses team at last night's Times Higher Education awards - but a brilliant night, nevertheless, recognising some of the great things being done in the UK's Higher Education sector. We're happy to applaud all last night's winners:
University of the Year
Most Innovative Teacher of the Year
Momodou Sallah, De Montfort University
Entrepreneurial University of the Year
University of Leeds
International Collaboration of the Year
King’s College London
Most Improved Student Experience
Southampton Solent University
Outstanding Employer Engagement Initiative
University of Portsmouth
Outstanding Contribution to Leadership Development
University of Huddersfield
Widening Participation or Outreach Initiative of the Year
Business School of the Year
Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University
Outstanding Digital Innovation in Teaching or Research
Outstanding International Student Strategy
University of the West of England
Outstanding Support for Students
Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Technology
Research Project of the Year
University of East Anglia
Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers
University of Nottingham
Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community
Royal Holloway, University of London
Excellence and Innovation in the Arts
Royal Northern College of Music
The Lord Dearing Lifetime Achievement Award
In particular, warm congratulations to our nemesis in the Widening Participation category, Keele University - they won for a genuinely inspired project which takes a stardome out to schools to inspire pupils with the night sky.
Also, delighted to see Laurie Taylor's lifetime achievement award - as you may know, we work with Laurie on Thinking Allowed and earlier this year he spoke with us at length about his interests.
This week - coming between the two episodes of Ireland With Simon Reeve - we've been exploring some of the places in County Waterford. If you've missed any, here's where we've been:
- Kilmacthomas, where Cromwell was nearly sunk
- Cheekpoint, where perhaps Noah's granddaughter came to Ireland
- The Copper Coast, a buffet of rock types
- Dungarvan, birthplace of a Nobel laureate
We're finishing up our week in Old Parish.
After mysteries of names earlier in the week, there's no dispute about Old Parish, or An tSean Phobail in Gaelic. It's the oldest parish in Ireland, although obviously it wouldn't have started out being called the Old Parish. Nobody is entirely certain - might have lied a bit about there being no dispute - what the "old" refers to; some think it might refer to a rejigging of parishes in the early 1900s; others that it could be an acknowledgement that the area had been turned onto Christianity by Saint Colman long before Saint Patrick turned up with his snake-scaring ways to grab all the spotlight.
A third, more plausible explanation relates to how hard the area was hit during the famine. The parish saw so many starve to death so quickly that a new burial ground had to be opened. The population never fully recovered from the impact of the terrible deprivations, and long-abandoned cottages still pepper the area. The 'old', in this theory, is a sad acknowledgment of a vibrant community that had vanished, rather than a proud testament of longevity.
There were some glimmers of humanity and hope during the famine years - the Quakers came to the aid of nearby fishermen based in Ring:
Through [Reverend James] Alcock, aid was given by Waterford Quakers in a well-monitored scheme. Small loans were arranged and food for the boat crews given. By the summer of 1847 Alcock reported that 49 boats were helped, totalling 150 crew. Through these ongoing small grants and loans to individuals, the fishermen’s activities increased. Loans for new and better boats and nets enabled more fish to be caught.
A further 6 months on, Alcock wrote in his report to Strangman ‘We have had, thank God, no destitution up to the present time, all are beginning once more to look cheerfully robust and comfortable. They are provided with sufficient supply of fishing gear for their immediate wants, and therefore constantly employed whenever weather permits’.
Settlement at Old Parish reaches even further back than Saint Colman's times, though - there is a megalithic Crown Cairn in the area - unique, in that it is the only one in the South of the island and tells an important story:
Although the Ballynamona Court Cairn is neither spectacular nor large its importance cannot be overlooked. It is known to date from 2000B.C. during the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age. It is clear evidence of the early settlement of Old Parish by a developed, agricultural society.
A more recent building is the Mine Head lighthouse, built in the mid 1850s and still in use today (although it went electic in 1964). There had been rival plans to build a light on the cliffs on Capel Island, and work had even begun on construction there before the decision was made to switch to the Old Parish site. Today, the building is protected, and comes off well in the register of buildings of Ireland:
An elegantly-composed lighthouse, built by the Commissioners of Irish lights to designs prepared by George Halpin (c.1775 - 1854), which forms a dramatic landmark on Mine Head. The lighthouse is of particular importance for its associations with the maritime industry that has traditionally supported much of the economy of County Waterford. The construction of the shaft attests to high quality stone masonry, which is particularly evident in the fine tooled detailing, while the lantern is of technical interest. Very well maintained, the lighthouse retains its original form and fabric. A collection of related outbuildings each of which retains most of its original character, enhances the group value of the site.
And as we're at the coast again, this is probably a good place to leave County Waterford for now - there are, of course, stories untold - not least that of the town that gives the county its name, and the crystal that shares that name. Perhaps we shall visit again...