AT the last Westmeath Archaeological and Historical Society event, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern spoke on the Good Friday Agreement - local TD, Robert Troy, second from right facilitated the invite from the society to Mr Ahern's office, and with him to greet the visitor to the Greville Arms Hotel were Jim Burke (left) and Seamus O'Brien.

WAHS Christmas event includes preview of major book on River Brosna

Two local books are being launched at the final Westmeath Archaeological and Historical Society event of the year, on Wednesday, December 13 in the Greville Arms Hotel (7.15pm).

The evening will include a lecture by Dr John Feehan, who has published several well received studies of the Slieve Blooms as well as many others on aspects of the heritage of Laois and his native Offaly.

This time, he has turned his attention to something that everyone in Westmeath will be interested in – the River Brosna. This mammoth undertaking (almost 500 pages) examines all aspects of theiconic midland waterway from its source in Lough Owel to its eventual confluence with the Shannon in Offaly.

John has agreed to give the society a preview of the contents of his book, which will be published in early 2024.

The book launches will commence at 7.15pm with Emper native Sean Byrne’s monograph Poverty in pre-Famine Westmeath. This academic study of social conditions in the county before the onset of An Gorta Mor is part of the Maynooth studies in local history.

Sean has maintained close links with his native county and has published extensively in Iarmhí and Riocht na Midhe. Dr Tom Hunt will launch Sean’s book.

Despite being one of the oldest burial grounds in Mullingar, the Famine Graveyard is one of the least known. That has now been rectified as historian Seamus O’Brien has gathered together all the sources to describe the opening of the graveyard in 1849 and its subsequent history as a paupers burial plot.

Ignored and neglected for a century, the graveyard it has been renovated and restored over the last few decades. It has, in the interim, attracted the attention of artists such as Nuala Gorman, Mary J McCormack and Lorna Farrell, all of whose work features in this publication, which is richly illustrated throughout.

It also inspired traditional singer Roisin Gaffney to write a moving song about the graveyard called the Hungry Cry, which she will perform on the night of the launch. Westmeath artist Nuala Gorman will launch Seamus’s book.

All proceeds from the sale of the book go towards the care of the Famine Graveyard. A reception will follow the book launches.