A Dublin Week (from 2015-05-10 to 2015-05-16)

Creative Commons License
A Dublin Week, and all the linked pictures, by Andy Pepperdine is made available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

After a short flight from Bristol to Dublin across the Irish Sea on a dull Sunday, I arrived under a cloudy sky, but it was not raining despite the reputation of the country. The bus from the airport stopped very close to the hotel, which had been constructed from 5 or 6 old buildings, and hence inside it was full of changes of levels as one moved from one house to another.

I was told that my room was on the fourth floor – but in the lift the buttons went only up to 3. Previously I had stayed in hotels where the lift engine was lcated on the top floor, whose rooms were reached by a staircase from the floor below, and so I thought that perhaps the same applied here. Taking the lift to the third floor, I saw a staircase going upwards and climbed it – until I saw it led to a doorway out onto the roof. Where was the fourth? I found nothing else on the third and began to descend to the second when I noticed a sign for the fourth pointing along a long corridor, through a side door, across a type of bridge between houses and down a few steps to my room.

After leaving my rucksack there, I set out to find some supper. Outside the room were more steps leading down, which I followed until they emerged from a discreet door at the rear of the restaurant in the hotel – the place contained many narrow passages and doors like an enchanted maze.

The hotel did not serve meals on Sundays, so I soon left looking for a restaurant, but several places were closed, others were full. However, at last I did find a small table in a corner in a branch of Carluccios

The following morning I set out to look around the vicintiy of the hotel, starting at St. Stephen's Green, which is surrounded on all sides by long shady foorpaths. Nearby across the road stood the offices of the famous Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI). It was founded in 1874, but since the 1980-s the educational functions take place at another hospital. Above the door one can see a clock with a blue face. I noticed more blue faced clocks in Dublin, but never discovered why there are so many.

In the park there is an old-fashioned map among the interesting flower beds, paths and lakes.

Not far awy one comes to Merrion Square, another very pleasant park in which to relax and rest. There one finds more monuments to famous Irishmen, including strangely Bernardo O'Higgins. He was the illegitimate son of an irish immigrant to South America, and consequently not really an Irishman himself.

But in a quiet corner one can sit and comtemplate past struggles at the National Memorial to those died serving the state, as described by its plaque. It contrasts with the colourful statue to Oscar Wilde in another corner and its nearby associated ornaments.

Perhaps of more interested is the older part of the town just south of the river, and the bridges across the Liffey, one of which is the Ha'penny Bridge built in 1816 to provide a way for people to walk to the dancehall north of the river, and the fee was half a penny each.

Later in the day I met the rest of the holiday group, when they arrived. During a first walk around we passed one of the many old churches, this one with its blue clock. Public works of art can charm, like this girl and Patrick Kavanagh, Irish poet near the Grand Canal.

It is worth noting that Ireland, with a small population, has given to English language culture, so many authors. Apart from Wilde and Kavanagh, there were James Joyce, Richard Sheridan, Jonathan Swift, and four Nobel laureates for literature (W.B. Yeats, G.B. Shaw, Samuel Beckett kaj Seamus Heaney) as well as of course the poetic form of the limerick.

Many of the buildings in Dublin date from the time of the Georges from I to IV, but built of brick. One example near the canal is FitzWilliam Hall, which now has become a modern office block, with the usual blue clock.

On nTuesday we visited Trinity College, one of the best universities in Europe. Outside stand some public art works, but the chief tourist attraction is the long old library, where one can see the colourful Book of Kells, one of the most ancient books in Europe. Unfortunately the mass of tourists prevented me from photographing it – or even see it well.

The college buildings are mostly of grey granite, which gives the place a uniform appearance. Certainly ther are more blue clocks. Away from the visitors the atmosphere is quiet and calm.

One the campanile is sculpted a singlehead above the archway, which I think is strange as it looks like a caprice of the builder instead of something significant.

Our next stop was the Bank of Ireland. The building has an interesting history. It started in 1729 as a new building for that part of the British government which was located in Ireland. In those days Britain ruled Ireland.Over the following years many changes were made, until 1800, when the British dissolved the Irish parliament in order administer it directly from London. Then the Bank of Ireland bought the building on condition that the two debating chambers were destroyed. All the decorations of the lower chamber, that of the Commons, were removed and that chamber became the place where normal banking business is done, and houses the ATMS, etc. However, the other chamber, that of the lords, remained unchanged. It seems that no one knows why the condition was not obeyed. But than kfully we can now see the old tapestry, and an example of 200 year old clock.

In the afternoon we walked north of the river to the Garden of Remembrance, built to the memory of all those died for Irish liberation. Apart from obligatory statue, the garden consists almost entirely of a pool with designs among the bottom tiles, but it was empty when we visited it.

The main shopping street in Dublin is O'Connell Street, in the centre of which stands the "Spire" like a giant vertical pin over 120 metres tall. Near to it is found the central Post Office, which was the site of a famous gun battle in Easter 1916, during which most of it was destroyed; now only the facade remains of the original 1818 construction. If one looks carefully, one can still see some bullet holes in the stonework.

Afterwards I visited the excellent Dublin archaeological museum, which has many Irish finds, for example this golden model boat, part of the Broighter hoard in Northern Ireland. It is about 18 cm. long, made in the first century B.C. It appeared during double ploughing in 1896, but the plough so badly damaged it that a goldsmith had to repair it.

The museum is light internally with an interesting coloured floor.

When we went to eat in the evening, we passed a statue of Molly Malone, a name well know from a song about seller of shellfish who died early. But there is no evidence that such a person ever existed. The song is not typically Irish, and it was first publicised in the USA in 1883, so the mystery is why the myth grew.

The next morning we caught the train north to Malahide, some kilometers from the town, wher there is a fort with large gardens. The region has been owned by the Talbot since 1066 when they helped William defeat the Britons and take over the whole country, including Ireland. Inside ther are antique dark wooden panel and furniture. Outside, the gardens enjoy a favourable climate, in which many and various examples grow. Near the visitor centre a peacock strutted, but he did not show me his tail.

Thursday it rained, the only time during the week. We took the public bus to Kilmainham Jail a notorious place where political prisoners were held. It has a disageeable history, but now is a museum, which some may consider a symbol of the struggle for independence.

Afterwards we returned on foot through the grounds of the Museum of Modern Art, originally a hospital, whose design was copied freom that of Les Invalides in Paris, on the way to the Guiness Storehous, which was for a long time was the highest building in Dublin. It is now used as attraction to explain how the famous beer is made. From the bar at the top one has an excellent views across the city. In the picture, left of the centre on the horizon, you can see the giant pin en O'Connell Street.

Thay evening the group ate its last meal together, but I stayed another day, when I made a long visit to the ship Jeannie Johnston. In fact it is not the original ship, which was broken up after its busy life, but a copy as close as possible to the truth. In the middle of the 19th century due to the failure of the potato harvest a great famine, which drove many thousands of inhabitants abroad. Many died on the voyage, but the Jeannie Johnston became famous, because the captain employed a doctor, and thjey never lost anyone. It set sail twice a year between 1845 and 1853, bringing back to Ireland cargo of wood and iron from Canada.

The present ship acts as a museum to explain the history of those years, showing small space for the passengers over several weeks. A notice gives an example of the provisions which each passenger received. Also the rules of behaviour are clear. Not far away on the side of the river stands a memorial of the famine.

Then I looked at the castle, where one can find the fascinating library, founded by the American Chester Beatty, and containing very old books from all over the world – early Arabic, Persian and Indian works on paper, examples of early Chinese and Japanes calligraphy, together with writing implements and inks. Alas photography was not permitted.

Saturday I went home.

Andy Pepperdine

Creative Commons License
A Dublin Week, and all the linked pictures, by Andy Pepperdine is made available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.