10 Aug 2022

New history book launched in Frosses

 “History isn't simply about giving information, it's about developing an interpretation and that's what you get in the work of Helen Montgomery Meehan"

New history book launched in Frosses

At the launch were (l-r) Mary Coughlan, Helen Meehan, Dr Breandán MacSuibhne, Dr Fiona Beglane and Helen's daughter, Eucharia

Frosses Hall was packed to capacity on Friday night for the official launch of a new history book that will add to the life, understanding, and knowledge of everyone living in the Donegal Bay area and beyond.

Retired teacher Helen Meehan's More About Inver Et Al is an impressive volume that adds to her first book on the area in 2005, Inver Parish in History.

It was launched Dungloe native, Dr Breandán MacSuibhne, a lecturer, author, and renowned historian of society and culture in modern Ireland based at NUI Galway who said this was a particular honour for him as he had always been a great admirer of Helen's work. 

"I was always very struck by how meticulous it was, how much hard work had gone into it, and that you could see as you read it this was somebody who grasped that history isn't about dumping facts onto a page, history isn't simply about giving information, it's about developing an interpretation and that's what you get in the work of Helen Montgomery Meehan."

Other speakers praised her for her work, dedication, and ability to gather information and impart it in ways everyone could understand and appreciate. 

In a letter from Donegal County Council's director of cultural services, Eileen Burgess which was read by Helen's daughter Eucharia, Ms Burgess, who was unavoidably absent on the night, said the new book adds to the local knowledge and understanding of the area they all know and love.

"Helen's placing of local history in a wider context is very well done. I say this because really in terms of this publication local is the most important aspect. This is the starting point to the understanding of ourselves, our forebearers and it is grounding from which our successors create their own sense of their own lives and experiences."

Another speaker, Dr Fiona Beglane a zooarchaeologist, lecturer, and researcher from the Atlantic Technological University Sligo, who along with Helen is involved in the community-based archaeological research project at Disert in the parish of Inver said Helen's research there was the foundation of the whole project.

"Her local contacts, knowledge, and ability to communicate with people crossed all boundaries."

A section of the crowd that attended the launch in Frosses Hall on Friday night

Thanking the huge attendance and guests Helen said the aim of the book was to tell the story of the parish and of the Donegal Bay area in general.

"Since the original 2005 Inver Parish in History book came out much more information has come on stream.

"I've also tried to place our history within the wider context of the county and country and like the original book it is divided into different sections."

She talked about the challenge of choosing what to include not only updated material partly covered in her original book but articles she had written for other outlets over the years.

She added she was delighted to note the growing interest in local history, a great change from when she was young.

"At that time if you were talking and asking about long ago people would think you are odd or eccentric and if you took up the subject too often at dances or anywhere, you might find yourself a wallflower."

Her daughter Eucharia also paid tribute to her mother on behalf of the family describing her as inspirational while her granddaughter Aine presented her with a bouquet of flowers to mark the occasion.

MC for the occasion was former tánaiste, government minister, TD, and past pupil, Mary Coughlin who spoke of the admiration everyone had locally for her former teacher and the great educator she was over the years.

The book is dedicated to her late husband, John who passed away five years ago and her late father, Robert Montgomery who she said gave her that love of history.

It will be available throughout the county in the coming week.

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