In search of misery…please help!

Over the next few months I’ll complete my tour of misery in Ireland (and hopefully complete my jigsaw). Most of the trips have been far from miserable, but I have sought out tales of suffering, misery and hardship as told through our museums and heritage sites. I’ve traveled thousands of kilometers up, down and across the country to see how sites tell the stories of conflict, starvation, emigration and death.

to see

So far I’ve visited twenty-three counties and I’ve another four counties – Kerry, Clare, Offaly and Fermanagh to visit over the next few weeks.

However, there are five counties where I currently have no sites to see – Cavan, Longford, Leitrim, Armagh and Kildare (and only one site in Clare). I’d like to be able to include all thirty-two counties in the book so if anyone has any suggestions of places to visit in those counties please let me know.

no sites

The key criteria is that there has to be some interpretation associated with the site – a memorial, statue or plaque isn’t sufficient (though I do stop by any that I happen to be passing). Ideally, the museum or heritage site should have some connection with the stories that it tells – places such as Wicklow Gaol, the Irish Workhouse Centre in Portumna, the Dunbrody Famine Ship in New Ross where the site is crucial to the visitor experience are ideal, but I’ll go anywhere that tells a story associated with a place rather than a generic story of the famine in Ireland – anything to get that jigsaw finished!

If anyone has suggestions for places I might visit please let me know via here, or twitter (@gillianmobrien) or email:


“One of the ghastliest and most curious crimes”: The Murder of Dr Cronin – 4 May 1889


Today is the 130th anniversary of the murder of Dr Patrick Cronin. On 4 May 1889 an anxious young man ran in a doctor’s surgery in north Chicago. He was agitated and desperate for help. A man had been seriously injured and needed immediate attention. The doctor packed his medical case, hopped into a waiting carriage and was never seen alive again.
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A Soapbox


I was busy standing on two of my many soapboxes last week – this time in relation to teaching history in schools and exhibitions in museums.

Draft Report on Junior Cycle History


This morning RTE reported on a leaked document from the NCCA which is currently considering the place of History in the Junior Cycle. Continue reading

Ireland’s Institutional Shame

home babies

Home Babies – (A)dressing Our Hidden Truth by Alison Lowry

(A)dressing Our Hidden Truths is an exhibition of work by Alison Lowry. It’s on at the National Museum in Collins’ Barracks, Dublin from March 2019 to May 2020. Continue reading

The Year they Cancelled St Patrick’s Day

I wrote this a while ago for History News Network and

The Year They Cancelled St. Patrick’s Day

Gillian O’Brien is a senior lecturer in History at Liverpool John Moores University and the author of “Blood Runs Green: The Murder that Transfixed Gilded Age Chicago” (Chicago, 2015). Follow her on Twitter @gillianmobrien or her personal blog:

Related Link HNN Hot Topic:  St. Patrick’s Day 


Today Saint Patrick’s Day is a broadly inclusive festival associated with fun, frivolity and, in Chicago, turning the river green.  Chicago’s first Saint Patrick’s Day parade took place in 1843 when the city was a mere six years old and the population about 8,000. By 1890, Chicago’s population had swollen to over one million and 17 percent of the city (or almost 180,000 people) were either Irish-born or had one parent born in Ireland.
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