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Dr Marie Coleman: Former Student and one of Ireland's Leading Historians

9th December 2020

“If you drive around Castlepollard, you’ll notice it’s full of history. My cycle to school took me past a lot of historical places”, recalled Dr Marie Coleman in a recent discussion with the History Department here at Castlepollard Community College. “I always found it interesting, trying to figure out why older people in my community might have been involved in the War of Independence and what would have convinced them to do it?” As a history teacher here at the college, I recognise this way of thinking but it was great to hear a similar sentiment from one of the leading historians in Ireland today.

Dr Marie Coleman is a former student of Castlepollard Community College who has kept an eye on the development of the college since she left. Recently, Dr Coleman took part in the Bloody Sunday documentary on RTE. As an expert in the revolutionary era of Irish history, Dr Coleman’s voice is one of great authority on events like Bloody Sunday and as a teacher of History at the college, it was inspiring to see one of our alumni providing such insight for the country.

Along with taking part in this documentary, Dr Coleman’s expertise was sought in another similar production by RTE around the War of Independence. This documentary was based on the amazing, Revolutionary Atlas of Ireland(Cork University Press)(Book of the year, 2017) which Dr Coleman also submitted work to. Dr Coleman has also contributed to broadcast and news media for the BBC, The Irish Times and Irish News. Her accomplishments in the field are second to none and growing.

Having completed her studies in Castlepollard Community College, Dr Coleman studied at UCD where she earned a BA in History. Her thirst for the subject was far from quenched as she pursued a PhD. “I loved UCD. I loved every minute of it there”, explained Coleman who went on to complete her PhD over a four-year period. Her research formed the basis of a book, County Longford and the Irish Revolution, 1910-1923(Irish Academic Press). Along with this, Dr Coleman has produced a concise history of the revolutionary period, The Irish Revolution, 1916-1923(Routledge).

When speaking about the college, Dr Coleman mentioned a range of positives which struck me as still very much part of the fabric of the school today. “We were always encouraged to go on to third level. Even though the classes were small, we were always pushed and encouraged to go further.” This sentiment is very true now as the number of students going to third level from Castlepollard has been increasing every year. 68% of our students entered third level last year and this year we are targeting even more. In fact, one of our students, Megan D’arcy is now studying Maths and Computer Science in Dr Coleman’s current University, Queen’s College, Belfast.

“We didn’t have the resources that are available now but our teachers were brilliant. They put in so much extra time with us.” Dr Coleman’s first memory of her time at the college which she spoke about first was a school trip to France in 1988. She remembers visiting the Normandy beaches and being fascinated by them.

“The practical subjects were very well catered for at the time”, said Dr Coleman who remembered the old school building on Water St but is very impressed with the newer school building now in place, having visited a few years ago. Dr Coleman will be visiting the school again through the medium of a video call as she will give a talk to our current History students as they prepare for their exams this year. Having a talk from one of the leading historians in Ireland is not a bad way to prepare for their Leaving Cert.

Marie Coleman is a graduate of University College Dublin. She is the author a number of books (County Longford and the Irish Revolution, 1910-1923, The Irish sweep: a history of the Irish hospitals sweepstake, 19130-1987 and The Irish revolution) in addition to a number of refereed articles and essays on the Irish revolution. She is the joint editor of Irish Historical Studies and sits on a number of committees related to the Irish decade of centenaries (Military Service Pensions Project Advisory Committee; Beyond 2022 International Advisory Board; Northern Ireland Office Centenary Historical Panel). Dr Coleman has provided expert comment on the Irish revolution on radio, television and in the press.

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