Wednesday 11 November 2015: Visit to Mellon Centre for Migration Studies
Speakers: Dr Brian Lampkin and Dr Paddy Fitzgerald
Dr Lampkin began by noting how recent events in Europe had pushed “migration” onto political agenda and used the crisis to invite a working definition of the term “migration”. While some in the audience felt it referred to the movement of people across international borders Dr Lampkin argued that the term also included internal migration, that is movement within a country, right down to something as commonplace as moving house. To illustrate the point Dr Fitzgerald asked how many of those present were natives of Omagh and how many were “blow-ins”. This led to an entertaining session in which a goodly number of those present recounted how they came to be in Omagh. Dr Lampkin then demonstrated an on-line resource called the “Citizens’ Atlas of Local Migration”. This programme allows modern satellite images to be overlaid with maps from different periods of history. When applied to Londonderry it was fascinating to see where features recorded on the 1611 map of the city now sit in relation to present day landmarks and how the picture changed as more recent maps were superimposed.
Towards the close of the meeting Dr Fitzgerald made reference to a book which had been presented to the Centre by Probian Jim Alderdice. This book, which is essentially a family history, includes a migration story – the one which brought Jim from his childhood home in Bessbrook, Co Armagh to his current home in Kylemore Gardens, Omagh. In similar vein Probian John McCandless presented the Library with a 150 page document about people with the name McCandless who had settled in North Carolina. John explained that the research had been carried out in the USA by members of the McCandless diaspora. Dr Fitzgerald was then questioned about some local place names and introduced members to the website www.placenamesni.org which sparked a further round of interesting exchanges.
After the meeting members were invited by Dr Haldane Mitchell to view an exhibition entitled “Omagh at War – Photographs of the town 1913 – 1919”, currently on public display in the gallery at the Folk Park. As members toured the gallery Dr Mitchell explained that most of photographs had been taken by one, Norman Holland, a qualified solicitor living and working in Omagh at the time. Considerable effort was needed to provide a meaningful commentary for each photograph, given that some were over 100 years old. The tour of exhibition proved as interesting and informative as the earlier session on Migration; it meant that those who were able to attend both, enjoyed two very different but equally engaging talks during the club visit to the Ulster American Folk Park.