Spirit of Ethna Cantwell remembered at history society's journal launch

Seventh volume of 'Navan Its People and Its Past'

Paul Murphy

The measure of any project is that it survives the loss of any one individual who is central to it, poet Tom French said in relation to the late Ethna Cantwell at the launch of the seventh Navan Historical Society journal in the Solstice Arts Centre, Navan, on Saturday.

Ms Cantwell, a founding member of the society and secretary for 15 years, died in November 2022 and was fondly remembered by a large audience at the launch. The journal – 'Navan, its People and its Past, Volume 7' – was grant-aided by the Decade of Centenaries 2012-2023 Programme and can be purchased through the society’s website or through a number of sellers including Joe Tierney’s Newsagent, Navan.

Society chairperson, Paschal Marry, said it was a bittersweet occasion for the society and its members because one important person was not present.

“She was a life force and she put so much work into this journal in its early days”.

He said that the society had worked hard this year in Ethna’s absence. “We pulled together as a society and I think we are stronger but she is remembered in everything we do.” He thanked all those who had helped in the production of the journal, including the voluntary officers asnd members of the society but also councillors who had helped the publication through their discretionary funds. He extended his good wishes to County Librarian, Ciaran Mangan, on his pending retirement and thanked Tom French and recently retired Frances Tallon of the library staff.

Navan, Its People and Its Past, Volume 7’, cover design by Anú Design Tara; available in Joe Tierney’s shop, Navan.

Tom French said that one of the benefits of being surrounded by books every hour of the waking day was that on the not-infrequent occasion when he was stuck for words, all he needed to do was look around him. On one recent occasion he had picked up a book, M A McCormack’s 'Songs and Portobellos' and found the following which seemed apt after the loss of Ethna – “I believe that when you lose someone close to you, you take the things you admire about them, like courage and character, and put them with your own. That way the spirit that sets them apart lives on in you”.

The measure of any project was that it survived the loss of any one individual who is central to it, Mr French said.

“This is the test which confronted the editors. Volume seven stands out from the previous six volumes because one of the project’s guiding spirits has gone before us, and the editors have had to find it in themselves to regroup and dig deep and to set about the work of producing a volume of the quality of the previous six”.

He knew Mairead Crinion would not want to be singled out for special mention; however he felt it would be remiss of him if he did not. The love and care Mairead had put into the volume was apparent on every page, not least in her own contribution on Thomas William’s map of the town from 1756.

Topics covered in this year's journal include The Battle of Curraghtown House, by Noel French; Thomas Murray, executed by the Free State, by Mairead Crinion and Vincent Mulvany; the story of Woods' Drapery on Trimgate Street by Mary Woods; the Medieval Walls of Navan by Clare Ryan; a History of Saint Martha's College by Aine McNamara; and the story of Edward Smyth sculptor, (1749-1812), by Eilis Drum.