Ann O’Dea and David McCourt to speak at the 2020 Valentia Lecture

8 Oct 2020

Valentia Island, Co Kerry. Image: Alla Laurent/Shutterstock

The fourth Valentia Lecture will look at how communication technology has evolved since the first transatlantic message was sent from Kerry to Canada in 1858.

Tomorrow (9 October), the Valentia Transatlantic Cable Foundation is hosting the fourth Valentia Lecture, focusing on the theme of globalisation and communication technology.

The event, which is going virtual this year, will feature a discussion between National Broadband Ireland (NBI) chair David McCourt and Silicon Republic CEO Ann O’Dea. Head of LinkedIn Ireland, Sharon McCooey, will also provide a keynote address.

The lecture will focus on how communication has evolved rapidly since the first transatlantic message was sent from Valentia off the coast of Co Kerry in 1858 to Newfoundland in Canada, and how comms technology continues to shape how we live, learn and work – particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

There will be a live link-up with Heart’s Content in Newfoundland, including a fireside chat between the two communities at each side of the Valentia Transatlantic Cable, along with musical performances from both sides of the Atlantic.

The event will also include the signing of collaborative memorandum of understanding between the two communities in Kerry and Newfoundland, which will be welcomed by the Irish Ambassador to Canada, Eamonn McKee, and Sabine Nolke of the Canadian Embassy in Ireland.

The online event will be livestreamed from 3pm (UTC +1).

Transatlantic talks

The Valentia Transatlantic Cable Foundation said that the first message sent through the transatlantic cable reduced communication times from weeks to minutes and could be considered the 19th-century equivalent of putting a person on the moon.

The first message transmitted over the 3,000km cable was a note of congratulations from Queen Victoria to US president James Buchanan. A permanent connection was established between Valentia Island and Heart’s Content in 1866.

Chair of the foundation, Leonard Hobbs, said that the group has been continuing its efforts to pursue World Heritage status for the transatlantic cable.

“We were delighted to have worked with Kerry County Council in submitting a draft proposal for inclusion on the Irish Tentative List to the Department of Heritage, Culture and the Gaeltacht at the end of September, and have established an international expert panel under Dr Donard de Cogan.”

Hobbs also said that the foundation is making “good progress” with its plans to restore the Valentia cable station with the support of Kerry County Council, the Department of Rural and Community Development and Fáilte Ireland.

“We look forward to establishing an engaging visitor experience of the historic cable story while also transforming the upper floors of the building into a bespoke digital hub,” he said. “We welcome the decision of Kerry County Council to select the cable station as one of its first broadband connection points, a fitting recognition to the historical significance of the building.”

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic