Eoin O’Mahoney Bursary

BMvYyUjCEAEQ_-pOur colleagues at the Royal Irish Academy have asked us to draw your attention to an upcoming funding opportunity for Irish historians. The description is below. Further details, including application forms and the link to the online application process, are available here.

Applications are invited for the Eoin O’Mahoney Bursary Award in Irish History. The bursary fund, which was established in memory of the genealogist and newspaper columnist Eoin O’Mahoney, is open to candidates engaged in historical research on subjects of Irish interest by providing a grant to support the direct costs of consulting sources which are not available in Ireland. Preference will be given to family history projects, particularly those associated with the ‘Wild Geese’.

Applicants need not be University graduates, but must satisfy the assessment panel that their research is likely to constitute a significant and original scholarly contribution to historical knowledge. Special consideration will be given to those who have been active in local learned and historical societies.

Deadline for receipt of applications: Wednesday 23rd October 2013

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Swimming Pools and Survivors

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I spent a week in Toulouse, in south-west France, during the summer, and with the temperature well into the thirties I paid a few visits to the municipal swimming pool. Like most French public sports facilities, it’s tremendous – two 50 meter pools (one indoor, one outdoor) and another outdoor pool that is 150 meters long and 50 wide, as well as free tennis, volleyball, table tennis and much else, all in a park with plenty of trees for shade.

But one of the things I like most about it is that one of the pools is named after an extraordinary man, Alfred Nakache. Nakache was an Algerian Jew who moved to Paris in 1933 and swam for France in the 1936 Olympic Games. After the defeat of France in 1940, he had to leave Paris, which was in the German occupied zone and where Jews had their French citizenship revoked. He moved to Toulouse in the Vichy state and continued to swim competitively with the famous local club the Dauphins (Dolphins), even setting a world record in Marseille in 1942.

In November 1943 he was arrested, along with his wife Paule and 2-year old daughter Annie, and deported to Auschwitz. He never saw them again, but he himself survived Auschwitz, including the notorious death march to Buchenwald when the camp was about to be captured by the Red Army. He returned to Toulouse weighing 44 kilos (seven stone) less than before his deportation, but resumed his training, and astonishingly competed for France in the London Olympics of 1948, one of two camp survivors to compete.

Nakache croppedNakache’s story is an extraordinary one, and if it was written as a work of fiction it might be thought implausible. For example:

– one of his principal swimming rivals in the 1930s was Jacques Cartonnet, who later became a right-wing and anti-semitic journalist and during the war conducted a press campaign against Nakache

– Nakache survived Auschwitz partly because the camp guards amused themselves by getting him to dive into a large tank of stagnant water and retrieve objects with his teeth

– when he got back to Toulouse after the war he found that the pool had been named in his honour on the assumption that he was dead, but the name was not subsequently changed

– he went to the railway station to meet trains for months after the end of the war, hoping to find his wife and daughter

– in his retirement he lived on the Mediterranean coast and swam a kilometre every day; it was during one of these swims that he had  a heart attack and drowned, in 1983 aged 67.

– Niall Ó Ciosáin