Dr Joachim Fischer is Senior Lecturer in German and Joint Director of the Centre for Irish-German Studies at the University of Limerick.
In 1954, German Nobel Prize winning author Heinrich Böll spent an afternoon on Hare Island, Lough Ree. An illuminating chapter in his Irisches Tagebuch (An Irish Journal; 1957) describes his visit including the man who brought him over in his boat, Harry Rice, one of the founders of the Inland Waterways Association. Böll was only one of a long line of German writers, travellers and other visitors who came to Ireland since C. F. Küttner started the tradition in 1783 when he took up a tutor position in Portlaw Co. Waterford. Küttner was fascinated by Macpherson’s Ossian which had swept the European literary world, and particularly Germany, by storm in the middle of the 18th century and generated considerable interest in Celtic culture. But not all Germans came for such lofty cultural reasons. There were also a good few soldiers among them who left less happy memories, be they the Hessian troops who helped to crush the United Irishman Rising or the King’s German Legion where Irish memory is more mixed. Some of these visitors left interesting accounts which are a useful source for social and local historians. The lecture will present a synopsis of these accounts by German travellers since the mid-18th century paying particular attention to the images they contain of the Irish Midlands. In the 19th century they include travel accounts by J. G. Kohl and G. Venedey, in the 20th by Böll and some lesser-known writers. The lecture will be accompanied by numerous illustrations.
Dr Fischer’s particular research interests are Irish-German relations, travel writing, national images and utopian studies. Among his book publications are The Correspondence of Myles Dillon 1922-1925 (with John Dillon), The Irish image of Germany 1890-1939: History – Form – Function (in German) and As others see us: Cork through European eyes (with Grace Neville). He is co-editor of two book series, Irish-German Studies and Ralahine Utopian Studies. Recently he has discovered local history as a particular fruitful area for Irish-German studies.