Intriguing courses at Stranmillis University College
The end of January sees the rolling out of a wide range of lifelong learning courses at Stranmillis University College, from history and archaeology to Ulster writers and modern art.
A popular evening course by the present writer on The Big House in Ireland is complemented with a day trip to Georgian Ireland's finest mansion – Castletown in Co Kildare.
Equally intriguing, I hope, is my course on Tracing the Irish Border from the mysterious Black Pig's Dyke of ancient times to Mrs Thatcher's drastic repartition plan of the 1980s.
Other courses explore the "decade which rocked Ireland" (1912-22), while a series of Hidden History morning tours will explore Old Belfast from Plantation to the Victorian 'Golden Age'.
Archaeologist Ruairi O Baoill returns with his popular Archaeology of Ulster, drawing on his recent magisterial books on Belfast and Carrickfergus. Dr Ian Malcolm traces the fascinating story of Protestants and the Irish language from the Bedell Bible (1685) to the present day.
Nor are other specialisms neglected in our programme. Art historian Dr John Nixon offers courses on the history of art from 1770 to the First World War. At the same time, former distinguished heart surgeon Dr Gianfranco Campalani invites the public to explore modern philosophical issues.
There are courses on computer awareness, languages, geology and genealogy, while Anne Taylor offers Joyce for Beginners and Ulster in Prose and Verse: a journey around the historic nine counties, from Sandy Row's Robert Harbinson to Polly Devlin's east Tyrone and Patrick Kavanagh's "stony grey soil of Monaghan".
For those enthralled with the children of the Vicar of Haworth, Dr Sophie Hillan offers a short course on the Bronte sisters. As Sophie observes: "We all know the Brontes. Or do we?"
This course looks at their novels in the context of their lives at the lonely parsonage on the moors and considers the background influence of their Co Down-born father, Patrick.
Dr Eamon Phoenix is a political historian and head of lifelong learning at Stranmillis University College