Symposium Schedule

Friday 19th September 2014, 7pm, National Maritime Museum of Ireland, Dun Laoghaire


Baily to Bray (Photo Karl Partridge)

Baily to Bray. Photo Credit: Karl Partridge

This public lecture focused on the natural environment of the Irish Sea coastline from Antrim to Wexford. From its origins in the last Ice Age, the coastline has been moulded by erosion and accretion with numerous sea level changes over thousands of years. This has created a unique set of coastal habitats including cliffs, rocky shores, shingle barriers, sandy beaches, dunes, saltmarsh and offshore islands. Each of these habitats has its characteristic wildlife with highlights including the large seabird and grey seal colonies on Rathlin and Lambay, huge flocks of wintering birds in estuaries such as Strangford Lough, Dublin Bay and Wexford Harbour and the rich wild flowers on sand dunes in Dundrum Bay and the Bull Island. Rathlin and Strangford Lough both support fascinating marine assemblages while offshore there are porpoises, dolphins and whales. Climate change and its associated impacts are already evident so we urgently need a new approach to valuing the natural features of the coast.

The lecture is now available to hear on our podcasts page.


Richard Nairn is a writer and naturalist who has lived by the sea all his life. His first job was as a nature reserve warden on a magnificent sand dune system in County Down. He has worked as Director of the IWC BirdWatch Ireland and is an experienced ornithologist. He is currently an environmental consultant and provides ecological advice to Dublin Port Company.   He is an active sailor and has cruised every nautical mile of the Irish Sea coast. He has written three books including Ireland’s Coastline (Collins Press 2005).



Dolphins at Dalkey Island. Photo Credit: Sijtze Biesma

Saturday 20th September, National Maritime Museum of Ireland, Dun Laoghaire

All of the presentations and discussions listed below are available to hear as audio downloads by visiting our symposium podcasts page (click here), or by visiting the UCD Humanities podcast page (click here).

9.00am           Symposium Registration

9.30am           Welcome Addresses by Peadar Ward, President of the National Maritime Museum of Ireland, and by Tasman Crowe and John Brannigan, University College Dublin

9.50am           Panel One: The Material Uses and Histories of the Irish Sea (Chair: Richard McCormick)

  • Jim MacLaughlin (Political Geographer and Author)
  • The Irish Sea and the Atlantic Seaboard in Historical Context: A Tale of Two Seas
  • Maighread Ni Mhurchadha (Independent Researcher), read by Joe Varley
  • The Irish Revenue Boatmen, 1684-1765
  • Michael Keatinge (Bord Iascaigh Mhara)
  • The economic and social value of fisheries in the Irish Sea

This panel addressed past and current material benefits of the Irish Sea to the communities around its shores, in terms of fishing, shipping, smuggling, and other kinds of economic activity.

11.10am        Tea/Coffee

11.30am        Panel Two: The Natures and Histories of the Irish Sea (Chair: Tasman Crowe)

  • Andrew Gibson (Royal Holloway, University of London)
  • ‘Hope is a Geological Grace’: History and Geology in Norman Nicholson’s Poetry of the Cumbrian Coast, 1948-1954
  • Jan Hiddink (Bangor University)
  • The effect of fisheries and other stressors on the sea-bed ecosystem in the Irish Sea
  • David Brett (Independent Researcher)
  • The Irish Sea: history without nations
  • Ian Lawler (Bord Iascaigh Mhara)
  • The Irish Sea Through Commerce & War – A Window On History and Technology 

This panel discussed research on the natural characteristics of the Irish Sea, on the histories and impacts of human activities on its shores and seabed, and on the relationship between nature and culture.

1.10pm          Lunch

2.00pm          Panel Three: The Cultural Meanings and Values of the Irish Sea (Chair: John Brannigan)

  • John Mack (University of East Anglia)
  • ‘Frogs around a pond’? The Irish Sea as local and as global
  • Cormac Lowth (Independent Researcher)
  • Maritime Art from the Pre-Photographic era
  • Marcus Collier (University College Dublin)
  • Marine Cultural Ecosystem Services

This panel focused on what values and meanings we place on the Irish Sea, how we have represented and imagined it in the past, and on how we think about the sea as a place.

3.15pm          Tea/Coffee

3.30pm          Workshop: Future Possibilities for Research (Chair: Richard McCormick)

In three workshop sessions, the participants were invited to discuss the possibilities for future research which brings together the sciences and the humanities to enhance our understanding of the Irish Sea and its economic and cultural benefits to society.

5.30pm          Outcomes and Closing Remarks

7.30pm          Symposium Dinner: National Yacht Club, Dun Laoghaire


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