The West Inishowen History and Heritage Society gave a fascinating talk at the Tower Museum in Derry City, about their ongoing work and experiences cataloging the Mabel Colhoun Archive. Two talks, delivered by the society’s Vice Chair; John McCarron and project Coordinator Dr Liam Gorry, provided an insight into the developments of the project and some of the wonderful finds they have encountered.
John, pictured above, had us captivated with stories uncovered through detailed letters in the archive between Mabel and Joseph Rafterty, a respected Archaeologist and former Head of Antiquities at the National Museum Of Ireland. Letters also included a dialogue between Mabel and the late Historian Harry Percival Swan.
Finds, such as those discussed above, offer a unique look at the relationships and social climate of the time, a type of time capsule offering an insight into life and work in Inishowen and across the Northwest. Joseph Raftery (1913 – 1992), had noted in his letter to Mabel that he had sent detailed maps to Moville Gardai station for collection. In a time, the 1940s, when google maps was non existent, accurate maps were crucial in order to locate and record archaeological monuments.
Dr Liam Gorry provided a detailed overview of the current voluntary cataloguing project. To date Dr Gorry, and five other members of the group have processed an estimated three thousand catalogue entries, accounting for 10% of the archive. Entries range from; artefacts, educational documents, letters, research documents, books, artwork and clothing. The goal for the current collection, is to make it accessible for the enjoyment of the public and for future research. In the not too distant future it will be made available on the Tower Museum database.
Work conducted by the group, in conjunction with the Tower Museum, is uncovering the important work and research carried out by Mabel Colhoun in the 1900s. Mabel had devoted over forty years of her life in a voluntary capacity to recording the Heritage of Inishowen, captured in the following publication; The Heritage Of Inishowen Its Archaeology History and Folklore. A former colleague of Mabel’s once refereed to the fact that “The book only pays lip service to Mabel”, emphasising that we have much yet to discover about the areas of research and projects Mabel was involved with. Former analysis of the Colhoun Archive, coupled with discoveries during the current cataloging project, has identified Mabel as a Teacher, Naturalist, Archaeologist, Storyteller, Explorer, Guide and Pioneer.
The hard work of both the WIHHS and Tower Museum will culminate in an eagerly anticipated exhibition in the Museum on the 7th of July, which will offer an insight into the life and work of this remarkable lady. This will be followed by another exhibition from her collection that will be hosted in Buncrana in the upcoming Summer months.Mabel R. Colhoun Collection
West Inishowen History and Heritage Society
We look forward to the exhibition and the opportunity to learn even more about the life and work of Mabel Colhoun, a leading voice, resource and pioneer of Inishowen Heritage.