Tackling 2,000 Years of History, Culture, and Conflict with Sean Murphy

Sean Murphy: "What I would like people to understand, is that whether it was 100, 200 or 300 years ago, the vast bulk of history of their ancestors is rooted in Ireland"

By Maddie Kilgannon
BIR Correspondent
Irish heritage comes with an undeniably rich history, but approaching that history and seeking to understand thousands of years of conflict and resilience on the Emerald Isle can be a daunting task.
That’s where Sean Murphy comes in.
“Quite a lot of people have a vague knowledge of when their ancestors arrived, and they have a lot of the questions to try and clarify what was happening in Ireland at the time that might have caused them to leave,” Murphy said.
After retiring from his job as a math teacher, Murphy, who also teaches Irish music and dance, began developing a general Irish history course that tackles more than 2,000 years of stories, tradition, and legend to give people contact for their heritage.
“What happened really, is that people wanted to know about what happening in 1916 around the time of the 100-year anniversary,” said Murphy, a Dublin-native and current Centerville resident.
“My first courses were about 1916, and then I decided that I would do a chronological history, and that I would go back in detail to put St. Patrick in perspective,” he said.
After his general history course became popular, Murphy created other lessons about each county in Ireland.
“There’s a wide range of materials available for people to learn Irish history. The problem is for a lot of people is knowing where to start. Sometimes it’s almost like there’s too much there, so that’s why the structured classes are the best, ” said Murphy.
The rise in popularity of web-based DNA and ancestry databases has left many people with Irish heritage with a myriad of questions. Murphy believes that he is the only one offering this kind of Irish history course for adults.
“A lot of people used to think that an Irish person was very homogenous, that you were Irish through and through. But given the history of Ireland, there have been lots of invasions of Ireland and lots of interactions that have kind of mixed the blood, if you like,” Murphy said. “That’s come as a bit of a surprise for people who would have thought that they were 100 percent Irish.”
Murphy’s aim is to satisfy the interest of those looking to better understand where they came from.
“Most Irish people that came to America came here because they couldn’t stay in their own country. They were either driven out of it or forced out of it in one way or another, so it’s important that we don’t forget that history,” Murphy said.
Murphy believes there is enormous value in being able to trace Irish history back generations.
“What I would like people to understand, whether it was 100, 200, or 300 years ago that their ancestors arrived, that the vast bulk of history of their ancestors is rooted in Ireland— and that’s a good reason to want to understand that history and to be able then to work out what the cultural aspects of that are,” he said.
In addition to his course, Murphy also travels to give lessons at libraries and cultural centers around the region.
His four-week course is currently available at the Irish Cultural Center of New England in Canton, with a new sessions slated to begin September 12. People interested in enrolling Murphy’s courses can reserve a place by calling 781-821-8291.