Friday 24 November 2017

Savannah students to explore historic links with Wexford

The public meeting in taking place at the Athenaeum, Enniscorthy on Thursday, June 8
The public meeting in taking place at the Athenaeum, Enniscorthy on Thursday, June 8

Is your name Kehoe, Corish, Rossiter, Stafford or Murphy?. If so you may have a particular interest in an event taking place in The Athenaeum Hall in Enniscorthy on Thursday, June 8.

Students from Georgia Southern University (GSU) Savannah, the oldest city in the State of Georgia, are visiting Enniscorthy to further explore the Wexford-Savannah Axis, an innovative research and heritage outreach project that reveals, analyses and celebrates the historic links between County Wexford and the City of Savannah on the Georgia Coast.

Each year, Savannah hosts over 14 million tourists - an astonishing number. The majority of them are driven by heritage and history. Thanks to the WEX-SAV (or Wexford-Savannah Axis) project at GSU, they are now enjoying, via their mobile phones, a carefully researched, image-rich tourist experience whose focus is how hundreds of Wexford immigrants changed the face and culture of Savannah, beginning around 1850.

Savannah became one of the most Irish cities in the United States with Wexford born natives dominating the immigrant neighbourhoods. Many well known Wexford family names associated with the county abound in Savannah and It could be argued with considerable conviction that Savannah is Wexford's home city in the U.S.

The visiting GSU students will spend upwards of 10 days in this county doing further research. The public meeting at the Athenaeum will include a presentation by the students on how an Enniscorthy man developed the largest iron foundry in the South Eastern United States.

The attendance will also hear how the memory of Daniel O'Connell's speech at a meeting in Enniscorthy travelled to Savannah with the Wexford emigrants and how Wexford natives preserved the spirit of 1798 - Vinegar Hill, Oulart Hill and more - all across the city.

The students will use images, spoken word pieces, music and song and other means to convey these exciting stories, which reflect how, during the 1850s it was possible to sail on Wexford vessels non-stop from the Model County to Savannah. They will, in addition, have lists of names of Wexford people who settled in Savannah and they will seek the help of their Enniscorthy audience with identifying these people and, hopefully, with putting a backstory to the names.

The GSU Course/Trip Co-ordinator is Howard Keeley of the University staff and he is anxious that the planned Enniscorthy event is an interactive one involving his students and members of the audience. He is inviting attendees to bring and share information they may have about relatives who emigrated to Savannah between 1798 and 1850. Mr. Keeley is anxious to hear from people/individuals who may have information about the Repeal, the Temperance movement and Tenant Rights movements in and around Enniscorthy during that period. Information is also being sought on two businessmen - James Deveraux and T&N Sinnott, believed to have been merchants in the town, to which emigrants applied for passage to Savannah.

The planned Enniscorthy meeting is open to all members of the public and admission is free of charge. Because of the historical connections between Wexford and Savannah, it is hoped the event will be attended by a representative cross section of the local community in what must surely be an ideal opportunity to further links between County Wexford and the US city of Savannah.

Enniscorthy Guardian

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