Limerick: Irish City of Culture 2014

Limerick made history by winning the prestigious accolade of Ireland’s first ever City of Culture 2014. It was announced on 9 July 2012 by Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The aim of Limerick’s bid for the initiative was to put the city firmly on the map by delivering a calendar of cultural and other events during 2014 to showcase the city and its people at home and abroad, to the overall benefit of Ireland. The city underwent major developments in preparation to be fully equipped and demonstrate internationally putting arts, sport, culture and music to the fore. Original and innovative new technologies are being used to the full.

Working partnerships were established in the ambitious project and a full time Cultural Team pulled together to organise a spectacular programme transforming the city’s stages and streets and placing of giant screens for all to share. A number of high quality events are in progress to explore the city’s history and heritage, art and music culture, traditional and modern, providing outside and indoor events that include ‘pop up venues’, filling places and spaces to capacity. One highlight is a week of traditional music classes held at the Irish Harp Centre, Castleconnell for harp, uillean pipes and bagpipes with added concerts and also many theatre productions.

City and County of Limerick

Conquered by the Vikings it was originally a Norse settlement established in 922 as a maritime trading post. It stands at the estuary of the River Shannon and is part of the province of Munster. Today as Ireland’s third city it is the capital of the mid-west region with an urban and hinterland population of over 200,000. It has a rich medieval past that resound in its ancient streets. The older city consisted of three parts and historically much of the city’s industry was based on a rich agricultural hinterland. In old times Limerick was famous for its ham from a thriving pig industry and also its fine lace. At present about fifty per cent of Limerick’s population is under thirty. The modern city is known for its higher education institutions with a university and institute of technology and for its contribution to the arts. New research centres are becoming established in and around Limerick city.

A legacy from its turbulent past Limerick is known as the Treaty City. It was an important garrison town and historical turmoil led to the city’s motto from Latin ‘An ancient city well studied in the arts of war’. In the late twelfth century Limerick became the seat of the O’Briens of Thomond and in 1197 received a charter from Prince John. The ancient walled city has several medieval remains and many buildings of note. Its museums include the Hunt Museum in the eighteenth-century Custom House, a collection of 2,000 works of medieval ecclesiastical art donated by the Hunt family.

‘Limerick’s Limerick’

The first printed limericks appeared in the anonymous The History of SixteenWonderful Old Women (1820). The origin of the Limerick is disputed, as is any relation to Limerick city and county; the similarity in content and verse form between conventional limericks and the early nineteenth century Irish-language satirical verses of the Poets of the Maigue from Co. Limerick may be more than coincidence.

Ita Marguet, August 2014

Note: Acknowledgement is given to sources used in this text. A long list of famous Limerick sons and daughters include President of Ireland Eamon de Valera (1882-1975) raised in Bruree, Co. Limerick, and the current President of Ireland, Michael Daniel Higgins, born in Limerick. There is a published text on Michael Daniel Higgins: “Presidency of Ideas” by Ita Marguet, November 2011.