Thirty-three years ago a group of local amateur historians formed a society that would, in time, become one of Ireland’s leading historical societies.
Their objective was simple; to bring together people of differing traditions and backgrounds to interpret, understand and to mutually appreciate our rich and
diverse past. They named their group; The O’Neill Country Historical Society (ONCHS)
These pioneers realised that meetings, talks and debates were important in influencing opinion but they were by their very nature ephemeral and transient.
They wanted to record and preserve our collective history in a more lasting and tangible manner and so they produced the society journal, Dúiche Néill volume
1. For most of the last millennia the valley of the River Blackwater, which divides the counties of Armagh and Tyrone, was the heartland of one of Irelands most important clans. This clan, led by ‘The’ O’Neill and incorporating families such as Donnelly’s, Hagans, Quinns, Devlins and many others, was pivotal in
every historic twist and turn since history was first written down in Ireland and therefore the name of the journal, translated as ‘O’Neill’s Country’, was an
There are amongst us many who are not necessarily academics per se, but do have a great interest and knowledge in some narrow aspect of our past; they
become the experts in their specialist field. The society gives these individuals a platform and more importantly a valuable repository for their painstaking
research and expertise. From the very first journal the editorial scrutiny was meticulous and thorough, if a statement could not be justified then it was not
published. This attention for detail garnished respect throughout Ireland and the society is rightly proud that it’s journal is now to be found in almost every
university reference library in Ireland.
Duiche Neill volume No 25 is now being launched ‘on the Hill’ in Dungannon, by Dr Eamonn O Ciardha from Ulster University on Saturday, November 17 at
1.30pm. This 250 page volume has 10 articles ranging in interest from the local, such as ‘Maydown, Benburb: A Millennium of History in an Armagh
Townland’ and the history of ‘Benburb plantation Church on its 400 year anniversary. The article on Tenant Rights at the end of the 19 th century sets the
scene to help us understand how the structure of Northern Ireland’s farmland and countryside developed in the late 19th century. Roads, in Ireland, only
evolved over the last three hundred years – who built them? More importantly who maintained them and considering the state of our roads today did they do a
better job? See the article on road mending. History is constantly evolving and the First Civil Rights March from Coalisland to Dungannon 50 years ago in 1968
is now recorded in this year’s journal. The history and genealogy of the O’Quinn mother of musicologist Edward Bunting is also explored in detail.
Equality of sexes, human rights and dignity, central government with regional governance and good jurisprudence are all now considered as modern
innovations of today’s society. We still have much to learn today from our ancestors who, here in Ireland and in Scotland, as little as 400 years ago, had
over the preceding millennia evolved and had perfected these so called ‘modern’ virtues.
Knowledge of our collective past and more importantly an understanding of it allows us to avoid mistakes that they may have made, but also to benefit from
their experience of what our society, in the past, got right!
ONCHS is a not-for- profit charity and the majority of any membership fees goes into the production costs of their journal but it still had time to promote a full
annual programme of talks and events in 2017.