16 May 2022

Then & Now: Be sure to mark down your spot in history

Then & Now: Be sure to mark down your spot in history

This year's Census was originally planned for April 18, 2021, but was postponed due to the Covid-19

CENSUS NIGHT was last Sunday night April 3, and all households are obliged by law to complete the form.
This is the 26th Census to be held since 1841 and the results will give a complete representation of the social and living conditions of the people and will help in planning for the future needs of the country.
On page 23 of the Census form was a space for a handwritten message to be used in a time capsule that will be made available to the public in 100 years. This new addition attracted some debate in the recent weeks on what to include as the space was limited and no photographs or other attachments could be included.
If this question was included over 100 years ago in the Census, what information would have been included in the forms and now available for the public to access about their family’s life and times? Ireland was in a far different place then and in the middle of a settled period that saw advances in farming, creameries, building, roads, libraries etc. Tenants were able to purchase farms following the Ashbourne Act in 1885.
The Public Libraries (Ireland) Act 1902 had enabled Rural District Councils to adopt the acts and provide public libraries in their areas. Rathkeale Rural District Council was one of the first to adopt this Act and with the assistance of the Carnegie Fund, the library in Rathkeale was completed in 1907. The Newcastle West Rural District Council followed their example and soon in west Limerick there was two large and thirteen small library buildings which were to prove very valuable in later years.
The steady building programme by the Rural District Councils resulted in a total of 4,000 labourers’ cottages being built by 1914, when the outbreak of the European War brought building to a standstill. The number of cottages built meant that about one fifth of the population of the county was living in these cottages at low rents. The energetic tenants could till their plots and supplement their incomes. The Railway service made a big impact in rural areas allowing people to travel and to transport goods to and from outside destinations.
In the ten years from 1891 to 1901, the county population dropped by 13,800, while in the next twenty five years it only dropped by 7,000. In the 1911 Census Adare and Foynes showed signs of life but the other towns and villages in the county seemed to be in decline. Rathkeale had shown the greatest decline in population, having only 1,700 inhabitants. Newcastle West had a population of 2,585, but Kilfinane had fallen to 890, Bruff to 648, Ballingarry was down to 462. The rural areas however seemed to be holding their population.
Making the news around Ireland and beyond included the following events which people could have included in the Time Capsule section if it was there back then.
In 1900 the life expectancy in Ireland for both men and women were just 49 years. Influenza killed 5,331 females and 4,800 males. Measles killed a total of 640 people. George Eastman introduced his Brownie camera to the world. This was in effect, the camera that brought photography to the people. The camera was made from stiff cardboard and had no viewfinder. The first bottles of Coca Cola to be sold in Britain went on sale on August 31. This was 14 years after the drink had been invented in America.
In London the 'two penny tube' came into being. Described as an electrified line running almost 6 miles (10km) between Shepherd's Bush in West London and the Bank to the East. Each fare cost two pence regardless of the distance travelled. The Parish International Exhibition attracted 40 million people in April. Spread over 220 hectares (545 acres) over seven sites the big talking points were the dazzling electric lightening display, and the first motor cars. The polo shirt was created by American John Brooks and the paperclip for holding office paper together was patented.
1901 was Census year in Ireland and the population of the entire island was almost 4.5 million. January saw the death of Queen Victoria who had been the longest reigning monarch in British history. In Dublin, banks, public offices, and theatres closed for her funeral. The world's first facelift was carried out by Eugene Hollander on a Polish aristocrat in Berlin. New Scotland Yard set up the world's first fingerprint file. The term 'female accessories' came into usage: 'small accompanying items, such as a handbag or gloves. Instant coffee was sold for the first time at the Pan American Exhibition at Buffalo, New York.
In May 1906 Irish temperance reformers sought Sunday closing for all public houses and earlier closing for Saturday nights. They also wanted a reduction in the number of pub licences being granted. Another interesting event was the completion of Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital. It was said to be the world's first air-conditioned building. The San Francisco earthquake occurred on April 18, lasting for three terrifying minutes. The death toll was put at over 3,000 people, with 28,000 buildings being destroyed.
The first motor racing Grand Prix took place at La Mans in France. It was won by the Romanian Ferenc Szisz in a Renault AK, at an average speed of 63 mph. On February 19 William Kellogg invented the first cornflakes, while in May, the Hurley Machine Company sold the first electric washing machine. The first petroleum store was opened in Foynes village.
Figures for 1910 show that almost 75,000 people died in Ireland from a variety of illnesses. 351 women died either in pregnancy or in childbirth. 62 infants of a year old died violently. In the west of Ireland following 8 to 10 days of almost continual rain and wind at the end of June it was noted that the potato blight had worsened considerably. The Glin area in west Limerick was similarly affected. The Society of United Irishwomen was founded by Anita Lett at Bree, Co. Wexford. In 1934 it was renamed the Irish Country Women's Association (ICA).
Neon lighting was invented in 1910 by French physicist Georges Claude. Americans celebrated the first Father's Day on June 16. The idea was the creation of one Mrs John B Dodd. In New Jersey Thomas Edison demonstrated the first talking motion pictures. The Kilfenora Céilí band was founded in Co. Clare. They would go on to become one of the most famous Irish musical acts ever.
In 100 years, time what would our descendants like to see included in the time capsule? Stories about Covid, Brexit, war, climate change, social media and high technical gadgets will be high on the list to be included. I think we should include good news stories about ourselves and our country. For example, Ireland's great welcome for the Ukraine people, front line staff dealing with Covid, Limerick's three All Ireland successes, personal achievements and so on. It will be a different Ireland then and it will give them a good insight into present times.

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