Ferry ports to feature in short films to help boost tourism economy | Porthladdoedd i serennu mewn ffilmiau byrion er mwyn helpu i hybu economi twristiaeth

Sgroliwch i lawr am fersiwn Cymraeg

Five port towns in Wales and Ireland will feature in a series of short documentary films which are being commissioned by Aberystwyth University as part of the Ports Past and Present project.

The project is exploring the history and cultural heritage of the ports of Fishguard, Holyhead and Pembroke Dock in Wales, and Dublin and Rosslare in Ireland.

The aim is to increase visitor numbers and enhance tourist experiences in the five communities, as well as raise local awareness about the natural and cultural heritage of the ports, and their importance to future economic growth.

As part of a wide range of cultural activities, the project team in Aberystwyth is inviting tenders to produce a series of eight short documentary films to promote the five port towns and the three ferry routes which link them.

The films will combine historical film footage with new footage, capturing voices, sounds and scenes, as well as reflect the multilingual and multicultural nature of the ports and their surrounding areas.  

Professor Peter Merriman, project team leader at Aberystwyth University’s Department of Geography and Earth Sciences said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for film-makers to showcase the cultural heritage of these important port communities, narrating the rich history of places which may be at the geographical margins of our nations, but which serve as important passage-points for people and goods passing across the Irish Sea. Cultural tourism is an area of economic growth and we want to attract new overseas visitors to these port towns, as well as engage local communities with their port heritage, in order to help combat economic deprivation.”

The research team at Aberystwyth University are supporting the film production with their academic research on historical documents and footage found in film, county and national archives.

A series of roadshows is planned for spring 2021 when researchers will be asking members of the public to share their family films, photographs and stories of the ports.

The films will form part of a wider tourism campaign to raise awareness of the rich coastal and maritime heritage of the five selected ports and their attached communities.

The films will target ferry users travelling across the Irish Sea, as well as the overseas cruise ship market.

Project leader Professor Claire Connolly from University College Cork said: “The Ports Past and Present films will frame voices, images and stories from across the five ports, enabling new forms of engagement with a shared past.

Further information about the invitation to tender is available on Sell2Wales and eTenderWales.

Ports Past and Present is funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Co-operation Programme, and operates across four institutions in Ireland and Wales, including University College Cork, Aberystwyth University, the University of Wales Trinity St David and Wexford County Council. The film-making is being led by a team in the Department for Geography and Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University.

Further Information about the project:
Rita Singer, Ports, Past and Present, Aberystwyth University
ris32@aber.ac.uk

Holyhead breakwater. Image via Library of Congress.

Bydd pum tref borthladd yng Nghymru ac Iwerddon yn serennu mewn cyfres o ffilmiau dogfen byrion wedi’u comisiynu gan Brifysgol Aberystwyth fel rhan o brosiect mawr sydd wedi’i ariannu gan yr UE, gyda’r nod o ysgogi twf economaidd.

Mae’r prosiect ‘Porthladdoedd, Ddoe a Heddiw’ yn ymchwilio i hanes a threftadaeth ddiwylliannol porthladdoedd Abergwaun, Caergybi a Doc Penfro yng Nghymru, a Dulyn a Rosslare yn Iwerddon.

Y nod yw cynyddu nifer yr ymwelwyr a gwella profiadau twristiaid yn y pum cymuned, yn ogystal â chodi ymwybyddiaeth yn lleol am dreftadaeth naturiol a diwylliannol y porthladdoedd, a’u pwysigrwydd i dwf economaidd yn y dyfodol.

Fel rhan o ystod eang o weithgareddau diwylliannol, mae tîm y prosiect yn Aberystwyth yn gwahodd tendrau i gynhyrchu cyfres o wyth ffilm ddogfen fer i hyrwyddo pum tref borthladd a’r tri llwybr fferi sy’n eu cysylltu.

Bydd y ffilmiau yn cyfuno hen ffilmiau hanesyddol a ffilmiau newydd, gan roi ciplun o leisiau, synau a golygfeydd, yn ogystal ag adlewyrchu natur amlieithog ac amlddiwylliannol y porthladdoedd a’u cyffiniau.

Dywedodd yr Athro Peter Merriman, arweinydd tîm y prosiect yn Adran Daearyddiaeth a Gwyddorau Daear Prifysgol Aberystwyth: “Dyma gyfle gwych i wneuthurwyr ffilmiau gyflwyno treftadaeth ddiwylliannol cymunedau’r porthladdoedd hyn, trwy adrodd hanes toreithiog llefydd sydd ar ffiniau daearyddol ein cenhedloedd, ond sydd hefyd yn rhodfeydd teithio pwysig ar gyfer pobl a nwyddau sy’n croesi Môr Iwerddon. Mae twristiaeth ddiwylliannol yn faes twf economaidd a dymunwn ddenu ymwelwyr newydd o dramor i’r trefi porthladd hyn, yn ogystal ag ennyn diddordeb cymunedau lleol yn nhreftadaeth eu porthladdoedd, er mwyn helpu i fynd i’r afael ag amddifadedd economaidd.”

Mae’r tîm ymchwil ym Mhrifysgol Aberystwyth yn cefnogi cynhyrchu’r ffilmiau trwy waith ymchwil academaidd ar ddogfennau hanesyddol a hen ffilmiau a ganfuwyd mewn archifau ffilm, sirol a chenedlaethol.

Mae cyfres o sioeau teithiol ar y gweill ar gyfer gwanwyn 2021 pan fydd ymchwilwyr yn gofyn i’r cyhoedd rannu eu ffilmiau teuluol, lluniau a hanesion y porthladdoedd.

Bydd y ffilmiau yn ffurfio rhan o ymgyrch dwristiaeth ehangach i godi ymwybyddiaeth o dreftadaeth arfordirol a morwrol helaeth y pum porthladd a’u cymunedau.

Bydd y ffilmiau yn targedu’r bobl sy’n defnyddio’r fferi i groesi Môr Iwerddon, yn ogystal â marchnad y llongau mordaith tramor.

Dywedodd arweinydd y prosiect, yr Athro Claire Connolly o Goleg Prifysgol Corc: “Bydd ffilmiau’r Porthladdoedd, Ddoe a Heddiw yn fframio lleisiau, lluniau a hanesion o’r pum porthladd, gan alluogi ffyrdd newydd o ymgysylltu â gorffennol a rannwyd.”

Ceir rhagor o wybodaeth am y gwahoddiad i denro ar Sell2Wales and eTenderWales.

Ariennir Porthladdoedd, Ddoe a Heddiw gan Gronfa Datblygu Rhanbarthol Ewrop drwy Raglen Gydweithredu Iwerddon Cymru, ac mae’n gweithredu ar draws pedwar sefydliad yn Iwerddon a Chymru, yn cynnwys Coleg Prifysgol Corc, Prifysgol Aberystwyth, Prifysgol Cymru Y Drindod Dewi Sant a Chyngor Sir Wexford. Arweinir prosiect y ffilmiau gan dîm yn Adran Daearyddiaeth a Gwyddorau Daear Prifysgol Aberystwyth.

Gwybodaeth Bellach am y prosiect:
Rita Singer, Porthladdoedd, Ddoe a Heddiw, Prifysgol Aberystwyth
ris32@aber.ac.uk


Creative Connections: Commissions Awarded | Dyfarnu Comisiynau Creative Connections

Sgroliwch i lawr am fersiwn Cymraeg

These recent months have been very hard on the Arts in Ireland and Wales and the Ports Past and Present Project is delighted to announce the awarding of twelve commissions of £5,000 each to creative practitioners based in Ireland and Wales.

Creative Connections commissions will develop work that reflects the rich cultural and historic heritage of the port communities around Dublin Port, Holyhead, Fishguard, Rosslare and Pembroke Dock, along with the journeys taken across the Irish Sea between these places. The proposed work covers a wide range of media, from sound pieces and film to sculpture, postcards, poetry, photography and nature writing. Each commission will be produced in close conversation with the port communities and be supported by the wider work of Ports, Past and Present.

Our Creative Connections recipients are Rua Barron and Hannah Power, David Begley, Zillah Bowes, Gillian Brownson, Kathy D’Arcy, Jon Gower, Julie Merriman, Peter Murphy, Augustine O’Donoghue, Marged Pendrell, Peter Stevenson and Jacob Whittaker, and Jaqueline Yallop. Further information about their projects can be found on our website: https://portspastpresent.eu/.

Ports Past and Present seeks to investigate the heritage of these ports and the Irish Sea crossings, and create common understanding between these communities. The project team and the artists involved are interested in hearing from anyone with a story to share. You can email us at ports@ucc.ie and we will get in touch.

‘Ports, Pasts and Present: Cultural Crossings between Ireland and Wales’ – is a joint initiative with University College Cork (UCC) and Wexford County Council in Ireland, and in Wales with Aberystwyth University and the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

The Creative Connections strand is run by the University of Wales Centre for Welsh and Celtic Studies and Wexford County Council. If a member of the press would like further information on these awards you can contact mary-ann.constantine@cymru.ac.uk.

The project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Cooperation programme and is led by UCC. 

Departure by Julie Merriman

Mae’r misoedd diwethaf hyn wedi bod yn rhai caled iawn i’r celfyddydau yng Nghymru ac Iwerddon, felly mae’n bleser gan brosiect Porthladdoedd, Ddoe a Heddiw gyhoeddi bod deuddeg comisiwn gwerth £5,000 yr un wedi’u dyfarnu i artistiaid sy’n gweithio yn y ddwy wlad.

Bydd y comisiynau hyn gan Creative Connections yn gyfrifol am ddatblygu gwaith a fydd yn adlewyrchu treftadaeth ddiwylliannol a hanesyddol cymunedau’r porthladdoedd yng nghyffiniau Caergybi, Abergwaun, Doc Penfro, Rosslare a Phorthladd Dulyn, yn ogystal â’r teithio a fu o’r naill le i’r llall dros Fôr Iwerddon. Bydd y gwaith a gynhyrchir yn cynnwys ystod eang o gyfryngau, o sain a ffilm i gerflunwaith, cardiau post, barddoniaeth, ffotograffiaeth a llên natur. Datblygir pob comisiwn mewn cydweithrediad agos â chymunedau’r trefi dan sylw ac fe’i cefnogir gan waith ehangach Porthladdoedd, Ddoe a Heddiw.

Y sawl sydd wedi derbyn y comisiynau yw: Rua Barron a Hannah Power, David Begley, Zillah Bowes, Gillian Brownson, Kathy D’Arcy, Jon Gower, Julie Merriman, Peter Murphy, Augustine O’Donoghue, Marged Pendrell, Peter Stevenson a Jacob Whittaker, a Jaqueline Yallop. Ceir rhagor o wybodaeth ynglŷn â’u prosiectau ar ein gwefan: https://portspastpresent.eu/.

Nod Porthladdoedd, Ddoe a Heddiw yw ymchwilio i dreftadaeth y porthladdoedd hyn ac i’r teithiau ar draws Môr Iwerddon, a thrwy hynny feithrin cyd-ddealltwriaeth rhwng y cymunedau. Byddai’n dda gan dîm y prosiect a’r artistiaid glywed gan unrhyw un sydd â stori i’w rhannu. Gallwch anfon neges i ports@ucc.ie a byddwn yn cysylltu â chi.

Menter ar y cyd rhwng Coleg Prifysgol Corc a chyngor sir Loch Garman (Wexford) yn Iwerddon ac, yng Nghymru, Prifysgol Aberystwyth a’r Ganolfan Uwchefrydiau Cymreig a Cheltaidd ym Mhrifysgol Cymru y Drindod Dewi Sant yw ‘Porthladdoedd, Ddoe a Heddiw: Cysylltiadau Diwylliannol rhwng Iwerddon a Chymru’.

Arweinir cynllun Cysylltiadau Creadigol gan y Ganolfan Uwchefrydiau Cymreig a Cheltaidd a chyngor sir Loch Garmon. Os yw aelod o’r wasg am ragor o wybodaeth ynglŷn â’r comisiynau a ddyfarnwyd, gallwch gysylltu â mary-ann.constantine@cymru.ac.uk

Cynhelir y prosiect dan nawdd Cronfa Datblygu Rhanbarthol Ewrop drwy raglen gydweithredu Iwerddon Cymru, a than arweiniad Coleg Prifysgol Corc.

Cwch Ysbrydol by Marged Pendrell

The EU, Ireland, and Its Ports

The first fifty years of Ireland’s independent statehood were marked by economic stagnation, and by ongoing subordination to its more powerful neighbour across the Irish Sea. Its accession to what was then the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973 marked a turning point. Pooling sovereignty at the European level was not regarded by Ireland’s political leaders, or by a majority of its voters (83 percent of whom voted in favour of EEC membership in a referendum in 1972) as a sacrifice, but as an opportunity for economic renewal and a chance to re-make relationships with Britain, the European continent, and the wider world. And in more than 47 years of membership of what would become the European Union (EU), this small state on the western-most edge of Europe has indeed been transformed.

As Brigid Laffan has suggested, membership of the EU has provided Ireland with a

“geo-political and geo-economic anchor and shelter [and] a very benign geo-political, geo-economic environment [that has] allowed Ireland to transform itself from a very poor, dependent state into one of the most globalised economies and societies in the world…This small, peripheral, poor state made a success of membership.”

Drive on Left Sign approaching Rosslare Europort, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain

The early years of Irish EEC membership heralded progressive changes for the rights of women in Ireland and the state’s first gender equality legislation, while Irish farmers benefited substantially from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which provided guaranteed prices and opened up European export markets for Irish agricultural products. Over time, as the European project continued to evolve, Ireland’s EEC and eventual EU membership facilitated the Irish economy’s gradual transition away from its historical reliance on both agriculture and the British market. From the late 1980s, Ireland was opened up to new opportunities in growth industries like finance, communications and technology, as multinational companies were drawn to an increasingly dynamic economy at the heart of the newly completed European single market. The completion of the European single market in the 1980s and 1990s also provided new opportunities for Irish citizens to travel, live, work and study throughout Europe, and for European citizens to do the same in Ireland. This was combined with the benefits of EU trade deals, and huge levels of European investment in Ireland through the European structural funds. Between 1973 and 2018, Ireland was a net beneficiary of EEC/EU membership, receiving more than it put in, to the tune of some €40 billion. While Ireland’s relationship with the EU has ebbed and flowed, and debate about key areas of EU policy will undoubtedly continue, it is noteworthy that Irish support for remaining in the EU today stands at 84 percent.

Perhaps the most important contribution that EU membership has made to social, cultural, political and economic life in Ireland has been its role in ending the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Joint UK and Irish membership of the EU (the UK having also acceded to the EEC in 1973) recalibrated the relationship between the two states, provided new opportunities for British and Irish politicians and civil servants to work together and get to know each other, and a new forum in which to discuss issues of mutual concern, including the Northern Ireland conflict. Multi-level governance within the EU also provided a new framework for devising creative solutions to the conflict, and new forms of North-South and East-West co-operation, while EU PEACE funding supported community-led peacebuilding initiatives. In particular, the free-flow of goods, people, capital and services across the Irish border was facilitated by the EU’s single market and customs union. The pivotal importance of this open border to peace and prosperity on the island of Ireland has been acknowledged by both the EU and the UK, with agreement to protect it, even as the UK seeks a new path outside of the EU, enshrined in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

Of course, it is not only at the land border that the transformative effects of Ireland’s EU membership have been felt. Its impact has also been profound at Ireland’s ports. Indeed, as ‘gateways’ to the Irish economy, the ports have been bellwethers for many of the deeper and wider changes that Ireland has undergone since 1973.  The removal of barriers to trade and travel within the EU has altered the flow of both goods and people at the ports, with accompanying changes in their physical, cognitive and cultural infrastructure. EU frameworks have set new legal and regulatory standards in areas including workers’ rights, health and safety and environmental protection, while EU programmes have also supported growth in key sectors such as tourism. The Dublin Port tunnel, for which funding was provided by the EU has changed the nature of movement in, around and between the port and the city, with dramatic consequences for the social landscape in North Dublin. Improved connectivity between Dublin Port, the M50 and the wider motorway network (also financed in large part by the EU) has had important consequences for the all-island economy. Redeveloped between the late 1980s and the 2000s with the support of EU funds, Rosslare Europort now forms an integral part of pan-European trade and tourism networks.

Ongoing processes of change and adaptation in the EU, including in the wake of Brexit and in the face of the global Coronavirus pandemic, continue to bring with them new challenges, and the continued evolution of Ireland’s ports.

Port Health in Wales and Ireland

Port health has been an important aspect of public health since at least the middle ages. The practise of quarantine began in the early modern period, and focused in particular on ensuring isolation for a period of forty days during outbreaks of the plague. The use of quarantine continued when necessary throughout the early modern period and into the nineteenth century, by which time the ports of Britain were bustling with people, ships, and cargo. A number of Parliamentary Acts were passed with regards to health and movement, their aim being to prevent any infectious diseases that could spread through the population from entering the country whilst also maintaining trade and travel links between Britain and the world.

Whilst quarantine prevented diseases from spreading by curtailing the movement of people and goods, it only worked if a disease had been identified. When the so-called Spanish Flu entered Dublin Port in 1918 this was not the case – the disease came into the country among soldiers returning from the First World War. Although termed the ‘Spanish Flu’, the disease may have originated in Kansas and then spread to the battlefields of Europe and ultimately around the world as the soldiers in France and Flanders returned home.(1) It acquired the name ‘Spanish Flu’ as Spain – as a neutral country during the war – was the first to make a public declaration of the instance of the disease on its soil. The belligerent nations of Europe were hesitant to provide their enemies with any encouragement that news of the disease within their own territories might engender.

A monster representing an influenza virus hitting a man over the head as he sits in his armchair. Pen and ink drawing by E. Noble, c. 1918. Wellcome Collection, CC-BY license.

Wherever the disease came from, it was spread by the movement of people. During the war, people found themselves uprooted, in unsanitary camps, and vulnerable to infection. Furthermore, large numbers of people were on the move, which allowed diseases to spread from camp to ship, from ship to port, and on to the city and the country beyond.(2) Dr Kathleen Lynn, a female doctor in Dublin, called for returning soldiers to be quarantined and their uniforms disinfected – she referred to the front in Flanders as a ‘factory of fever’.(3) However, by the time this occurred the disease had already spread, exacerbated by civilian travel across the Irish Sea. The disease caused mass deaths on a scale not witnessed in living memory, both in Ireland and across the globe.

Although Wales did not escape the ‘Spanish Flu’, the disease did not enter the country through the three ports under study in the Ports, Past and Present project. However, the memory of the disease did inspire further concentration on port health across the Welsh ports. The records of the Medical Officer of Health that cover the Welsh ports in the middle of the twentieth century have survived, and provide us with an overview of the health of the ports under examination. In particular, the records detail the ways in which the port authorities sought to ensure that the port environment remained a healthy one. Ships were examined – particularly the sailors’ quarters, including their sleeping and cooking areas – to protect both the health of the sailors and those living in the port towns,(4) as sailors often took leave within the town between sailings. By thoroughly examining those entering the port, the authorities were able to assure the town that visiting sailors were not bringing potentially deadly diseases into the local area.

In addition to sailors, animals – both alive and as meat to be sold – were transported into the Welsh ports. Live animals, frequently but not exclusively horses, were removed from ships as soon as possible and immediately taken to quarantine. Whilst in quarantine the animals were fed and watered, given comfortable accommodation, and cared for by a veterinary officer. Those who were found to be healthy were permitted to continue to their destination. Those who were found to be sick were slaughtered and underwent a post-mortem examination to ensure they had not succumbed to an infectious disease that could be transmitted to humans.(5) Any meat products that were transported into Welsh ports that were found to be unfit for human consumption were burned. An example of this occurred at Fishguard in 1955, when 48lbs of beef (bruised), 2 bovine heads, 14 bovine livers, 6 horse livers and 6 horse lites were destroyed.(6) Food imported into Fishguard and Holyhead rarely stayed in the local area. Instead, it was often sent on to London. Therefore, the Sanitary Officers at the ports were responsible not just for ensuring the health of the people in the port towns and their surrounding environs, but for protecting the nation as a whole from the spread of contaminated produce and from outbreaks of preventable illnesses.(7)


(1) Laura Spinney, Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World (London: Vintage, 2017), pp. 163-4.

(2) Spinney, Pale Rider, p. 23.

(3) John Dorney, Ireland and the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918, https://www.theirishstory.com/2013/05/16/ireland-and-the-great-flu-epidemic-of-1918/#.Xntoxoj7TIU

(4) Fishguard Medical Officer of Health Report, 1954.

(5) Fishguard Medical Officer of Health Report, 1955.

(6) Fishguard Medical Officer of Health Report, 1955.

(7) Holyhead Medical Officer of Health Report, 1954.

Heritage at Home

Image taken from page 52 of ‘The Fishguard Invasion by the French in 1797’; Margaret Ellen James, 1892. Public domain via British Library.

There is port-related heritage material available online for all the family. As COVID-19 pushes us indoors, we can continue to learn about port communities and engage with their rich histories. Here are our recommendations, whether for perusing, amusing or home-schooling. Do you have any more suggestions, or have you created your own resources? Let us know and we can include them in the next blog post.

For future news and announcements, you can subscribe to our project newsletter!


RTE Archives contain clips from Ireland’s national broadcaster. We recommend:


ESB Archives feature carefully-curated material relating to Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board. Check out:


The National Archives website features a good overview of life around Dublin’s docks: Dublin Waters: the Liffey, the Canals and the Port


People’s Collection Wales features resources uploaded by local communities. Some interesting collections: 


Europeana is a treasure trove of material from many collections throughout Europe. We recommend: 


Royal Museums Greenwich features curated collections of maritime-related material and activities for kids. We recommend: 


Journey to the Past project features historic travel writing about Wales from France and Germany, with some great accompanying images. We recommend:


Early Tourists in Wales is a database of material about historic travel in Wales. Worth a dig around, but a good place to start is at the section Tourists in Wales 1700 – 1900

Seas of Ideas: Women and the Ireland-Wales Crossing c. 1800


The ‘acres of scintillating sea’ that ripple through Gwyneth Lewis’s 2007 poem ‘Prayer for the Horizon’ are no less than a figure for life’s passage, uncertainly steered through hazy ups-and-downs towards the final ‘event horizon’. The poem begins, however, on an altogether more practical and prosaic note: 

I wish you, first, an unimpeded view 
with a boundary in it, between seen and unseen, 
a line to hold onto when you’re feeling sick, 
something to aim for but which retreats 
as fast as you travel. (1)

Nothing in Lewis’s poem tells us which route this particular horizon might define. It’s probably nowhere and everywhere – ‘seen and unseen’ – but it could just as easily be set somewhere between Ireland and Wales, one of the long-running ‘cultural conversation[s]’ of Lewis’s writing life. (2)

At the ‘Ports, Past and Present’ project, we’re currently researching archival material relating to our five port towns of Dublin, Rosslare, Holyhead, Fishguard and Pembroke Dock. We’re gathering material and taking all kinds of impressions of the past – events, stories, encounters, images, writings, films – that we hope will inspire new creative connections in our own time. Women’s voices is a distinct strand within this work, though often buried in private letters or unpublished journals, these voices aren’t always easy to hear today. This post briefly introduces a few women commenting on travel across the busy Irish Sea area around the turn of the nineteenth century.  

Fig. 1. Sarah Grace Carr, ‘Holy head – 27 August 1819’, National Library of Wales, Public Domain

When Mary Wollstonecraft crossed from Holyhead to Dublin – ‘the best and shortest passage’, she noted – in October 1786, she was lucky. ‘[T]he weather was fine the prospects delightful’, she wrote in a letter to Eliza Bishop, looking back on the voyage, during which she met ‘a young Clergyman’ (probably Rev. Henry Gabell) also heading to begin tutoring work in Ireland, and ‘was in company with’ Arthur James Plunkett (Lord Fingall), a prominent Catholic peer opposed to the movement for Irish independence. Testament, perhaps, to the ‘sea of thoughts’ (original emphasis) she described herself as ‘lost in’ during this journey, Wollstonecraft concludes on a barbed note: ‘I would sooner tell you a tale of some humbler creatures … I shall make a point of finding them out’. As in Lewis’s poem, the line of travel may be one of hard-won insight: ‘the gift / of knowing where your own knowing ends’. 

Conditions during crossings could of course be challenging in a variety of ways. We know that sea travel in the period was often difficult, uncomfortable and dangerous. Anne Plumptre gives us a tantalising glimpse of the state of travel for women in her 1817 Narrative of a Residence in Ireland, observing that ‘very little attention is paid in general to the accommodation of female passengers’. It’s not clear exactly what she means here, but she goes on to reveal that women at sea sometimes prepared travelling comforts that went beyond physical surroundings. ‘I had made a little provision of food for the mind’, she writes, ‘and had put up some books with my other sea stores: among these was Lady Morgan’s excellent novel of O’Donnel. – As I was going to visit a part of Ireland admirably described in this work, the county of Antrim, and had besides a letter of introduction to the amiable authoress at Dublin, it received great additional interest from being read as I was crossing the Irish Channel.’ Sydney Owenson’s (Lady Morgan) O’Donnel (1814), a national tale-related work that explores themes of Irish ‘improvement’ (particularly in infrastructural terms) and identity, isn’t widely read today. (3) But it’s interesting that Plumptre was using it as a form of research ahead of her Irish stay – not so much a sea of ideas, but ideas on the sea, perhaps. 

The ships serving the Irish Sea routes were clearly impressive vessels. In 1797, the novelist and travel writer Catherine Hutton described them like this:  

The packets from Holyhead to Dublin are fine sloops of 70 tons burthen. I saw one at Caernarvon, wainscoted with mahogany, elegantly fitted up and furnished. They can carry a hundred persons each, but they only have sixteen beds. They are each allowed fourteen hands, though four would be sufficient to navigate the vessel. They are fast sailors, and will live in any sea, provided they have room. (4)

When it wasn’t dull or just uncomfortable, travel could be all too interesting – emotionally draining or painful as well as physically dangerous. In 1802, Mary Anne Eade made a different kind of prayer to the horizon when contemplating her journey from Anglesey to Dublin. Thinking of her little boy at home in London, and worrying that she might never see him again, Eade links her anxious state of mind with the harp music she’s listening to at a Welsh inn:  

my mind during this interval naturally dwelt on all those dear friends from whom the boundless ocean was so soon to separate me, to separate me indeed for but a very short time, but the idea of having the rolling sea between us was so new & so strange as to appear to me quite frightful; with this idea in my head I fa˄ncied the air in question seemed to correspond with my feelings, & that it lamented the pain of an approaching exile; I was induced to ask the harper the name of it, & found by his answer that the music had spoken truly, for it was a song made on the commencement of a long journey & began with a farewell to the friends whom the traveller was about to leave. (5)

She was right to be cautious. After a stay in Dublin and a tour of Wicklow, Eade returns to Holyhead, narrowly escaping injury when, within sight of the port, part of the mast collapses: 

soon after the Head faintly appeared in the horizon … a sudden crash over our heads fearfully reminded us we were not yet secure of obtaining it: this proceeded from the fall of our topmast, which a sudden squall took compleatly [sic] in half, happily the rigging prevented its falling quite down, or probably my head would have received it & my dear little boy been obliged to find in you a mother, as well as an aunt… (6)


(1) Commissioned by the BBC for Radio 3’s The Verb. See https://www.poetryinternational.org/pi/poem/10458/auto/0/0/Gwyneth-Lewis/PRAYER-FOR-THE-HORIZON/en/tile

(2) For Lewis’s discussion of Ireland-Wales ‘literary traditions’ and ‘cultural conversation’, see ‘Criss-Crossings: Literary Adventures on Irish and Welsh Shores’, Poetry Review 98.3 (2008), 54-72.

(3) For a recent discussion of the novel by Nicola Lloyd, see ‘Canals, Commerce and the Construction of Nation in Sydney Owenson’s O’Donnel’, Romantic Textualities 22 (2017), http://www.romtext.org.uk/articles/rt22_n04/  

(4) Catherine Hutton’s Tours of Wales 1796-1800 will shortly appear (edited by Mary-Ann Constantine) as part of the ‘Curious Travellers’ online edition of Welsh and Scottish manuscript tours; see https://editions.curioustravellers.ac.uk/pages/tours.html

(5)(6) For the full text of Mary Anne Eade’s 1802 Welsh tour, see https://editions.curioustravellers.ac.uk/pages/show.html?document=0013.xml 

Brief for Writers and Artists


Brief for Writers and Artists

The Ports, Past and Present team are offering 12 bursaries of £5,000 (or equivalent in euros) each towards the production of creative work that will contribute to the aims and objectives of this EU-funded project. Please download a PDF of the full brief below:



Project Overview

The project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland-Wales Co-operation Programme. It will develop new tourism opportunities between five port towns and their surrounding coastal communities on either side of the Irish Sea – Dublin, Rosslare, Holyhead, Fishguard and Pembroke Dock, drawing on academic research and community partnerships.

The project aims to bring life and colour to the five ports, enhancing the experience of modern travellers of all ages and interests, and encouraging people to spend more time and money in these towns. It will do this by working with tourism stakeholders and local communities to make passing tourists aware of the deep history of these places.

The project teams will produce information in various formats, working with port authorities, transport carriers, tourism agencies, and local artists and writers to generate new tourism sites/sights/traffic, and commission creative works in the visual arts, literature and film. New audiences will be sought through digital technology including apps and social media. Irish and Welsh language material will be fully integrated throughout the project content.

The project is being led by University College Cork in conjunction with Aberystwyth University, University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies (CAWCS) and Wexford County Council.


Creative Work

As part of this project, we will be commissioning six writers and six visual artists to be based in Wales and Ireland. They will be required to work with the port communities and PPP staff, to explore stories and themes relevant to the history and culture of the five port towns and the crossings made across the Irish Sea. The creative work arising from this research and engagement will then be displayed and exhibited locally and further afield as appropriate, with the support of the project team, and in some cases, local partners. It is hoped that some of the work generated will be displayed permanantly in the local area, for example in local libraries, heritage centres, port terminals or railway stations. Reproductions or mediations of the work will be included in one or more publications documenting the work and the creative process.

The purpose of this work will be to both deepen the knowledge and appreciation of the history and culture of the five port towns and crossings among local communities, and to maximise the tourist potential of these places, encouraging visitors to spend longer exploring the port towns and their environs.

During the process of making the work, artists will take part in public workshops or events organised by the project team. The Ports Past and Present project will also be commissioning a series of short films, and the film makers will be encouraged to work with the artists and writers. These activities and events will be supported and publicised by the project team, and designed to help raise the profile of the participating writers and artists, both locally and further afield.

It is envisaged that a wide range of different kinds of writers and artists with different skill sets will be engaged on the project. Artists and writers will be encouraged to work with each other as appropriate to their work and their locations. Participants should demonstrate an appreciation of the Irish sea area and its meaning for coastal communities.


Themes

The project team have identified a number of specific groups and organisations who would be keen to work with artists or writers; more information about these can be supplied on further enquiry. We welcome proposals that engage with any of the following themes, or other themes relevant to the project:

  • Movement of people and animals: work, recreation, migration, pilgrimage.
  • Weather and environment: climate stories, wildlife and the natural world, shipwrecks.
  • The politics of the sea: war and empire, the Irish sea as a landscape of power; borders, tariffs, Brexit.
  • States of mind and body: anxiety, excitement, sea-sickness, boredom, love and loss.

Fees and Expenses

A bursary of £5,000 (or equivalent in euros) will be paid in two instalments, the first after commencement of work, and the second on completion of the work.


Timetable

The period of activity will be June 2020 – December 2021. The work could be done in stages over the whole of this period, or in one or more short periods of activity. Artists will be invited to take part in related events and exhibitions until the end of the project (October 2022).


Application Process

Time frame:

  • Stage One Deadline: 20 March 2020 (shortlisted applicants informed by 3 April)
  • Stage Two Deadline: proposals submitted by end of April 2020 (12 successful candidates informed by 22 May).
  • Project Activity June 2020-December 2021

Stage 1: Expressions of Interest

Expressions of interest (ca 500 words) are invited from artists and writers, explaining reasons for their interest in the project, and providing a brief CV with relevant examples of previous work. See below for contact details. Selection criteria for Stage One

  • Quality of previous work and track record
  • Ability to engage with communities
  • Relevance to project themes

Stage Two: Invited Proposals

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to develop detailed proposals in conjunction with the project team and community groups (where relevant). Further guidance will be provided at this stage but proposals should cover:

  • the nature and scope of the proposed work
  • suggestions for how the work might be experienced and displayed
  • the nature and scope of engagement with local communities

The closing date for expressions of interest is 20 March 2020.

Applicants may be interviewed, or studio visits made, as part of our decision-making process. Successful applicants will be notified by 22 May 2020.

We welcome proposals involving the use of Welsh and Irish.

Please send expressions of interest to the Ports, Past and Present project co-ordinator Dr Sarah Baylis, University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies:

sarah.baylis@cymru.ac.uk

Twitter: @PortsPastPres


For informal enquiries on the bursaries contact:
mcrampin@cymru.ac.uk (brief for artists)
mary-ann.constantine@cymru.ac.uk (brief for writers)