Imagine how our understanding of the Norman invasion of Ireland might change if we had footage of Strongbow entering Dublin in 1170 or what we might think of Brian Boru if we had footage of his burial at Armagh in 1014. These comparisons highlight the role that film footage will play as we construct the history of the late 19th and 20th  centuries. While film is as biased as any other source it gives an unique insight into past societies. There are numerous free film clips online about Irish history but here’s five clips i think are really fascinating and informative…..

Belfast 1901

This footage by the film Company Mitchell & Kenyon and is an amazing snapshot of urban life in Ireland 110 years ago. The commentary is a great analysis and explanation.


The Funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, Dublin 1908

O’Donovan Rossa was one of the most famous Fenians in the 19th Century. He died in New York in 1908. His body was returned to Dublin and his funeral became one the first major shows of force for Militant Republicanism in the 20th century. Patrick Pearse gave the graveside oration famously uttering the words “Ireland Unfree Shall never be at Peace”. James Connolly the famous Socialist who would be executed 8 later for his role in the 1916 rising can be seen at 1:07 while Patrick Pearse can be seen 2:32.

Embedding has been disabled but you can view the footage of O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral here

Iniskea Whaling Station, Co Mayo 1908.

This film of a Norwegian Whaling station off the coast of Mayo is a great snap shot of rural Irelnad in the early 20th century. The industrialised nature of the operation is quite surprising. The last 1 min 50 sec is one answer to the often asked question “what did people do before the Internet?”


Interview with Tom Barry on the death of Michael Collins

The life of Michael Collins is often presented as black and white with his life being presented as almost saintly. This is far from the truth particularly when his role in the civil war is analysed. This interview although short is perhaps a good indication of the complexity around Collins. Tom Barry is generally regarded as one of the most effective IRA commanders during the War of Independence being the architect of the Kilmichael Ambush. He opposed the treaty and in this interview he outlines a bizarre scene he witnessed in Kilmainham Gaol when word of Collins assassination emerged. In this clip Barry does not share the sadness his comrades felt at the death of Collins.


Bloody Sunday, Derry 1972

One of the most controversial events in modern Irish History was Bloody Sunday. On January 30th, 1972 the British Army killed 13 people on a civil rights demonstration in Derry. This footage includes an interview with a British Army Commander clearly lying about what actually happened. The footage is clearly biased aimed at presenting the “official” story that the victims were killed as the soldiers came under fire. This footage will be invaluable to future historians in understanding the role of the media in creating confusion over what happened. The subtle inclusion of background screaming “of cease firing” and “Do not fire back for the moment unless you identify positive targets” are now known to be completely unrepresentative of the days events. (some people may find this footage disturbing)


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