Talks for 2023-24

Cork DFAS 10th Anniversary Year

All lectures apart from our Free Public Lecture at Cork Central Library, take place in the Conference Room at Nano Nagle Place at 11:30am on the second Saturday of each month.

11 May 2024

Ms Patricia O’Reilly, writer of biographical historical fiction: ‘William Orpen at War’

William Orpen: The Thinker on Butte de Warlencourt

As an official British war artist, Irish artist, William Orpen, arrived at the front in April 1917. Nothing in his privileged life had prepared him for the horrors he encountered – Tommies in rat-infested, water-sodden trenches; men charging across the tortured earth with fixed bayonets; the wounded tended to in hell-hole hospitals. His war paintings are unflinching.

Patricia O’Reilly writes biographical historical fiction, Her latest book Orpen at War is about Irish artist Sir William Orpen’s time at the front as an official British war artist during WW1. Other titles include The Interview, Irish designer and architect Eileen Gray (1878-1976); A Type of Beauty Kathleen Newton (1854-1882), Jacques   Tissot’s mistress and muse; and The First Rose of Tralee, Mary O’Connor (182?-1845) the inspiration for the Annual Rose of Tralee Festival.

She teaches writing in UCD and elsewhere, and has come the route of  newspaper and magazine journalism and radio writing.

13 April 2024

Shane O’Driscoll, visual artist and designer: ‘A journey in colour and shapes’

Shane O’Driscoll is a visual artist and designer who practices mainly in printmaking. He studied Visual Communications and is a member of Cork Printmakers and Backwater Artists Group.

He has exhibited his work internationally and throughout Ireland. Shane has work in the permanent collection of The National Gallery of Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, UCC, UCD and has also displayed work in The Irish Print Museum. He also has a number of works in the O.P.W. state collection







He is the recipient of the Print Network Ireland Paris residency in Centre Culturel Irlandais in 2024.

Shane is also a director of the Ardú Street Art Project, a platform which has brought 11 large scale murals to Cork City centre. He has curated exhibitions for Design Week Ireland, PhotoIreland Festival and OFFSET creative festival.

9 March 2024

Dr Kristina Decker: ‘Mary Delany: A Creative Life in Eighteenth-century Ireland’

Mary Delany, Rose, collageMary Delany (1700-1788) is best known for her ‘paper mosaicks’, a collection of botanically accurate mixed media flower collages that are held in the British Museum. She famously started creating these collages in her seventies, making nearly a thousand before her eyesight began to fail. These beautiful pieces combine Delany’s lifelong interests in art and natural sciences, and it’s unsurprising that they’ve entranced viewers for centuries. Yet comparatively little attention has been given to the approximately twenty years that she lived in Ireland. During this period her creative activities flourished. Her home, Delville, in Glasnevin, Co. Dublin, provided her with the space to explore creative possibilities. She painted and sketched, made decorative shellwork, collected and arranged prints, shells, minerals, and fossils. This talk explored Mary Delany’s creative life in Ireland, how her interests in art and science were nurtured during this period, and ultimately how these interests transformed her home, Delville.

Kristina Decker will shortly complete a PhD in the School of History at University College Cork. She received IRC funding in 2018 for her PhD research project, ‘Women and Improvement in Eighteenth-Century Ireland: the Case of Mary Delany’, which examines the ways in which Mary Delany participated in the culture of Improvement across such areas as education, sociability, landscape, and female ‘accomplishments’. Previously, she was awarded the 2017 Desmond Guinness Scholarship for research on the visual arts in Ireland from the Irish Georgian Society.

10 February 2024

Sian McInerney, Collections Project Manager, Hunt Museum: ‘Delving into the life and career of Sybil Connolly through the Sybil Connolly Collection at the Hunt Museum’

Irish fashion designer Sybil Connolly (1921 – 1998) put Ireland on the international fashion map in the 1950s. A true entrepreneur, Sybil Connolly designed her eponymous couture lines using Irish fabrics such as traditional baínín wool, tweed, flannel, and crochet.

The Hunt Museum houses a unique mix of objects that makes up the Sybil Connolly Collection, this extensive and definitive collection includes fashion garments, design sketches, original photographs, scrapbooks & sketchbooks and interior design objects. The collection has significant cultural heritage value as it illustrates Sybil’s wide-ranging career from emerging fashion entrepreneur, and global couture star, to interior design doyenne.

This talk told Sybil’s story through the lens of the archive, through designs garments, sketches, scrapbooks and interior design objects of the Hunt Sybil Connolly Collection. It described her story of success; looking at Sybil the Designer, Sybil’s signature fabrics and Sybil the Entrepreneur.

Sian McInerney: Coming from a multidisciplinary background (BA in Economics & Sociology, MA in Cultural Policy & Art Management, MA by Research of the Economic Impact of Art & Cultural Events), Sian has worked managing EU projects for the Hunt Museum Limerick such as Europeana Archaeology and Art of Reading in the Middle Ages. Part of her work as Collections Project Manager at the Hunt Museum is to manage and curate the Sybil Connolly Collection. In 2019, Sian curated an exhibition on Sybil Connolly at the Hunt Museum, and in 2021 the Hunt was awarded a Heritage Grant to digitise the Sybil Connolly archive. Sian has written on Sybil Connolly for Europeana and the European Fashion Heritage Association (EFHA) and has published Sybil’s design sketches with both Digitial Repository Ireland and (EFHA).

9 December 2023

Dr Siobhán Doyle, Curator in the National Museum of Ireland, ‘Picking up the Pieces: Ceramics and Glass in the National Museum of Ireland’


The National Museum of Ireland’s (NMI) ceramics and glass collections encompass a vast body of objects from archaeological discoveries to contemporary artworks. Through looking at recently conserved pieces, new acquisitions and current research, this talk highlighted the challenges and the charms of working with objects that form the NMI collections, and covered objects of international significance such as the Fonthill Vase to familiar pieces in many Irish homes such as Waterford Crystal and Belleek Pottery.

Siobhán Doyle is Curator of Glass, Ceramics and Asian Collections in the National Museum of Ireland. She holds a PhD in Museum Studies from Technological University Dublin and is a regular contributor to RTÉ. Siobhán’s research interests include Irish history, sports history, sociology and material culture. Her first book, A History of the GAA in 100 Objects, was published by Merrion Press in 2022 and has since been developed in a multi-media exhibition in NMI Collins Barracks.

11 November 2023

Dr Sighle Bhreathnach-Lynch, former Curator of the National Gallery: ‘Mia Cranwill (1880-1972): Craftswoman of Distinction’

Mia Cranwill: Senate Casket (1924), Royal Irish Academy

Mia Cranwill was a leading member of the Irish revival in arts and crafts. The movement looked to ‘pure’ native sources and early celtic designs in manuscripts, metalwork and on sculpted crosses were a major source of inspiration. By the 1920s Cranwill was firmly established at home and abroad. In 1924 she was commissioned to make a casket marking the setting up of the first Senate of the Irish Free State. She contributed to the famed miniature Titania’s Palace and illustrated a number of the Dolmen Press publications. Yet within a short time of her death she quickly faded into the hinterland of Irish Art History.

Dr. Síghle Bhreathnach-Lynch is an art historian and former Curator of Irish Art at the National Gallery of Ireland (1998-2009). Her research areas are 19th and 20th century Irish painting, sculpture and  the arts and crafts movement.

14 October 2023

Robert O’Byrne (aka ‘The Irish Aesthete’): ‘The Irish Country House today’

            Summergrove, Co Laois and Gloster, Co Offaly, photos Robert O’Byrne

In 1792 the English judge George Hardinge visited Ireland and wrote of the houses that he visited: ‘I see as much taste without and within to the full as in England, accompanied by more beauty…’ Come on a journey with architectural historian Robert O’Byrne as he takes you around the country, visiting some of our loveliest houses, many of them not customarily open to the public and therefore little known. Explore fascinating interiors that have either remained unchanged for hundreds of years, or have been restored and brought back to life in recent years, and discover the stories behind their preservation. And learn what makes Irish houses different from those found anywhere else, and how it is that they come to possess so much taste and beauty.

A former Vice-President of the Irish Georgian Society and author of more than a dozen books, Robert O’Byrne is one of Ireland’s best-known writers and lecturers specialising in the country’s historic houses and gardens. He is the author of more than a dozen books, among them Luggala: The Story of a Guinness House and Romantic Irish Homes and, most recently, Left without a Handkerchief. A contributor to Apollo magazine, The Burlington Magazine and the Irish Arts Review, since 2012 he has written an award-winning blog called The Irish Aesthete chronicling Ireland’s architectural heritage. A book of his photographs – The Irish Aesthete: Ruins of Ireland – was published in March 2019 and in December 2022 the Irish Architectural Archive in Dublin hosted an exhibition of his photographs. During 2021/22 Robert curated a number of events for the Irish Georgian Society, including exhibitions, lectures, a conference and a book, all on the theme of Ireland’s country house gardens. In Autumn 2021, his series on the same subject ‘Ireland’s Historic Gardens’ was shown on Irish television.

13 September 2023 at 7pm:

Free Public Lecture

Mr Bill Power, author and Mitchelstown Historian:

‘Doomed Inheritance; Two weeks of destruction in North Cork, August 1922’

Mr Bill Power

Bil Power is an historian and author who wrote the book ‘Doomed Inheritance’ about the looting and burning of Mitchelstown Castle in 1922. In this lecture, Bill will focus on the events in the weeks around the destruction of Mitchelstown Castle on 13th August 1922. The castle was the biggest house ever destroyed in Ireland. The author, who has an unrivalled knowledge of his subject, has shown that the prime motive behind the burning was that this might cover up the extensive looting from the building in the weeks before the fire. These items include fine art, silver, paintings, and mantlepieces that were ‘forcibly wrenched from the walls and carted away’. Bill sets the fire in the context of the loss of over 80 structures in North Cork in early August 1922, including bridges, military barracks such as Fermoy, Mitchelstown and Buttevant, and workhouses at Mitchelstown and Kanturk. This destruction came at a  turning point in the Civil War when the Republicans abandoned Fermoy (leaving its two military barracks in ruins) and took to a guerilla campaign against the Free State army. Bill is the chairman of Saint George’s Arts and Heritage Centre in Mitchelstown, where four coats of arms are now on permanent exhibition. His most recent book, ‘The Blackwater, history and images from the Irish Rhine,’ was published in April 2023.