While waiting for my train this week before returning to Cork, I took advantage of the lovely Spring sunshine to stroll around the area beside the Irish Rail Dublin terminus at Heuston.
We rush in and rush out of this building, eager to catch a train or a bus or a tram, too busy to appreciate where we are. The magnificent building that is Dublin Heuston train terminus was originally constructed to conceal the train sheds and platforms.
Dublin Heuston from John’s Road
Dating from 1846, it was designed by an English architect, and designer of many railway stations, Sancton Wood (1815-1866) . It is in the style of an Italian Palazzo and is highly decorated.
Dublin Heuston Station
Constructed on behalf of the Great Southern and Western Railway company it was originally known as Kingsbridge. Our mother, being from a railway family, always referred to this place as Kingsbridge.
It was so named as the terminal is adjacent to a cast iron bridge crossing the Liffey that was known as King’s Bridge which was constructed in 1823 to commemorate the visit in 1821 of King George IV. In 1923 the bridge was renamed Sarsfield Bridge and in 1941 it was renamed Séan Heuston Bridge.
Séan Heuston 1891-1916
Séan Heuston was born in Dublin and joined the Great Southern and Western Railway as a clerk in Limerick at the age of 17. He was transferred to Kingsbridge in 1913. He became one of the leaders of the 1916 rising in Ireland against the British. He was the youngest man executed for his part in the Easter Rising against British Rule. He was shot by firing squad in Kilmainham Gaol in May 1916.
Name plaque on Séan Heuston Bridge
The bridge has many very nice ornamental ironwork panels.
The view from the Séan Heuston Bridge down the Liffey is dominated by the famous Guinness James Gate Brewery, seen here on the right bank of the river. The famous Harp logo can be seen on the darker building, amid the high tech steel structures on the site.
Across the road from Heuston Station is the very impressive Dr Steevens Hospital. Now an administrative building for the health authority, the hospital was founded in 1720 by the sister of Dr Richard Steevens (1653-1710), under the terms of his will.
The building facing Heuston Station
It’s quite amazing to think that patents accessed the hospital through these impressive doors almost 300 years ago
East door. This was the original entrance
close up of east door
Guinness Brewery, founded in 1759, donated small bottles of stout to the patients from the brewery next door. The tradition of giving hospital patients a daily stout persisted well into the 20th century in many Irish hospitals.
There is always something interesting to discover in Dublin!
This post has taken years to get to publication! The original draft was made years ago when I first heard the intriguing story of a new sculpture of a young girl on a horse unveiled in Ballymun, a suburb of Dublin’s northside. Ballymun would not immediately spring to mind as a location for bronze street art. It was here that several high-rise blocks were built to rehouse people from the inner city. The high rise developments were totally unsuitable and with no amenities the area gradually became known for its many social problems. The high-rise blocks were demolished and replaced with houses. A sculpture was commissioned as part of the Ballymun Regeneration Project.
John Byrne is an Irish artist and winner of many awards for his work. At a recent event at the National Museum of Ireland, John was one of the speakers, along with my son, Damian Shiels, an historian of the Irish in the American Civil War and Dr Emily Mark-Fitzgerald, a specialist in commemoration and public art. As he began to speak I realized that he was the man who had conceptualized this wonderful Ballymun project. I was anxious to discover where it is located as several half-hearted attempts to locate it by driving slowly around Ballymun had failed to find any trace of it!
John’s story was as intriguing as the sculpture itself. How did a young bareback horse rider from Ballymun wearing a hoodie top and runners, come to be on the horse of a 19th century Viscount?
Years ago there was a celebrated equestrian statue standing in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. It had been erected in 1880 as a memorial to Limerick- born Viscount Field Marshall Gough. There was much public debate at the time as to where the statue should be located but eventually a site was chosen in Dublin’s Pheonix Park.
Gough’s monument in the Phoenix Park (Image Wikimedia Commons)
The inscription on the monument read
‘In honour of Field Marshal Hugh Viscount Gough, K.P., G.C.B., G.C.S.I., an illustrious Irishman, whose achievements in the Peninsular War, in China, and in India, have added lustre to the military glory of his country, which he faithfully served for seventy five years. This statue [cast from cannon taken by troops under his command and granted by Parliament for the purpose] is erected by friends and comrades’
The monument was designed by the renowned Irish sculptor John Henry (J.H) Foley. His better known works include the Daniel O’Connell Monument on Dublin’s O’Connell Street, Fr. Mathew in St Patrick’s Street in Cork, Prince Albert in the Albert Memorial in London and Stonewall Jackson in Richmond Virginia, as well as Burke and Goldsmith at the entrance to Trinity College, Dublin, to name but a few.
Gough’s horse was not created especially for him as it was was cast from an existing mould made by Foley some years earlier in 1858, for the equestrian statue of Viscount Hardinge. Obviously this magnificent animal was suitable for the most prestigious military men.
Viscount Hardinge of Lahore, in Calcutta in the 1860s (Image Wikimedia Commons)
The Gough Memorial, with a copy of Hardinge’s horse, stood proudly in the Phoenix Park for some decades. However, it eventually attracted the attention of militant Irish Republicans who made a number of assaults on it. In 1944 Gough was decapitated with a hacksaw and his sword was removed. It was some time later that the severed head was found, at low tide, embedded in mud in the River Liffey.
Irish Press April 11, 1945
The head was reattached but just over a decade later the right hind leg of the horse was blown off by explosives. Apparently he was then jacked up with bits of timber.
The final demise came in June 1957 when a loud explosion blew Gough and his horse from the plinth, with man and beast blown to bits. There was much genuine lamenting as the statue was considered to be the ‘finest equestrian monument in Europe’ by any commentators.
Vincent Capriana a Dublin poet, recorded an attempt on the monument in his well known bawdy poem (which some readers may find offensive).
GOUGH’S STATUE by VINCENT CAPRANI
There are strange things done from twelve to one In the Hollow at Phaynix Park, There’s maidens mobbed and gentlemen robbed In the bushes after dark; But the strangest of all within human recall Concerns the statue of Gough, ‘Twas a terrible fact, and a most wicked act, For his bollix they tried to blow off!
‘Neath the horse’s big prick a dynamite stick Some gallant ‘hayro’ did place, For the cause of our land, with a match in his hand Bravely the foe he did face; Then without showing fear – and standing well clear – He expected to blow up the pair But he nearly went crackers, all he got was the knackers And he made the poor stallion a mare!
For his tactics were wrong, and the prick was too long (the horse being more than a foal) It would answer him better, this dynamite setter, The stick to shove up his own hole! For this is the way our ‘haroes’ today Are challenging England’s might, With a stab in the back and a midnight attack On a statue that can’t even shite!
The remains of Gough and his lovely horse were put into storage and were eventually sold on to a distant relative of Gough’s. He restored the monument which now stands in Chillingham Castle, Northumberland in the north of England, safe from the matches of Irish Republicans.
Gough in his new home in Northumbria (Image Wikimedia Commons)
Enter John Byrne. John decided that he would like to copy the famous Foley horse, return him to Dublin and place him in Ballymun. He and his team worked with the new owner of the monument and made a polystyrene mould of the horse, which was sent to the foundry. He then held auditions to find a young Ballymun person to complete his sculpture. There is a tradition among young people in the area of keeping horses and riding them bareback. A young rider named Toni Marie Shields, then aged 17 was chosen as the model for the statue that was to be the centre piece of the regenerated Ballymun town.
The bronze sculpture entitled ‘Misneach‘, the Irish word for courage, with the casually dressed local bareback rider.
The sculpture is 1.5 times bigger than lifesize.
But the saga of Gough’s Horse does not end here. If you visit Ballymun town centre today Misneach will not be anywhere to be seen, much less be the centrepiece to the revitalized town.
The fabulous sculpture Misneach
Misneach became a victim of the economic collapse in Ireland. It was decided that it would be erected in a temporary location to save the expense of moving it again when the Metro North train link to Dublin airport through Ballymun was built. The Metro Rail link never went ahead although every now and then it gets a mention by politicians.
So where is Misneach? It stands proudly in the grounds of Trinity Comprehensive School in Ballymun, so easy to miss completely! Perhaps one day it will be the centrepiece of a vibrant new area. It is a most beautiful piece of public art and well worth seeing. And how lovely to think that Toni Marie, in her tracksuit and runners, proudly sits bareback on a horse designed for two Viscounts!
Memories almost overwhelmed me in the cinema during the opening moments of the Stephen Spielberg film ‘The Post’, starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. The sound of Huey helicopters is synonymous with the Vietnam War, a helicopter war that ‘wop-wop-wop-wopped’ from our television screens in the 1960s. The ‘wop-wop-wop-wop’ was the background music to the images of young men pouring out of these choppers being ‘inserted’ into fields in Vietnam. The ‘wop-wop-wop-wop’ was the background music to young men now with old faces, haunted expressions and staring eyes climbing back into them to be evacuated to safety. It was the relentless background sound effect to the crouching running stretcher bearers loading up casualties. It was the dirge to which thousands of bloodied and broken dead bodies of young men, in the hitherto unheard of ‘bodybags’, were loaded from battlefields and whisked away to be shipped home in boxes. ‘Wop-wop-wop-wop’.
And so the film began with the Hueys. ‘The Post’ tells the story of the publication of the Pentagon Papers, secret United States government reports of the political and military involvement in Vietnam that had gone on from 1945 to 1967. Daniel Ellsberg, a former Marine, who had worked on the reports, decided that the public needed to know that the government had been misleading and lying to them for decades about the reality of the war. It was a war that they could not win, yet it was peddled as ‘holding back the tide of Communism’. In reality, tens of thousands of lives were lost or destroyed because the United States needed to ‘save face’. Ellsberg copied the secret report and gave it to the newspapers- The New York Times initially, and when that newspaper was gagged by the Courts, the Washington Post continued the exposé. It is a fascinating story and well worth seeing.
It occurred to me that many of those viewing this film would not have any clue as to the extent of negative feeling about this conflict in far-off Asia. As I sat there I was reminded of those days and how I became involved in the world-wide protests and demonstrations of the 1960s and 1970s.
Roll back the clock a few years, to 1963. In August of that year I vividly recall walking into our kitchen at home and being rooted to the spot as Martin Luther King delivered his inspirational ‘I have a dream’ speech on TV. It was at this exact point in time that I became aware of what was not right with the world. In modern parlance we would say that I was ‘radicalized’. This was a time when African Americans were struggling for equal rights with their fellow white countrymen. News programmes were dominated by race riots and protests, with students and young people taking to the streets for a fairer society, often risking imprisonment or even serious injury.
It was difficult to avoid being ‘political’ in those days where everything was changing. Music had changed with the arrival of ‘pop’, The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and of course Bob Dylan. Fashion had changed with the arrival of Mary Quant, mini skirts and Carnaby Street and there was now a television set in most homes adding a new dimension to world events.
As 16 year old pre-leaving certificate year students in an Irish convent school in 1965 we were allowed access to newspapers in order to prepare for our examinations. Every day there was coverage of the Vietnam War. I remember well seeing a headline along the lines of ‘Vietnam War Escalates’. Visuals and sounds were added by the news on the TV. It was shocking to see these young lads a few years older than ourselves being shipped out, and to see what could happen to them. I was always eager for the news the following day to see what was happening and followed all events closely. I was of course delighted that the Vietnam War came up on the English examination paper in 1966!
Helping a wounded soldier to the medical facility. (Image Creative Commons)
I emigrated to England in 1966. My new work colleagues in the medical research laboratory were of a similar age and a political view was as important as being up to date with fashion and music. So we talked a lot about political and social issues, and of course the war in Vietnam.
Meanwhile, in 1967 Che Guevara, a young Argentinian revolutionary was executed by the United States in Bolivia. A major figure of the Cuban Revolution, his stylized image become a symbol of rebellion. With his image sellotaped to walls in millions of bedrooms, he inspired our generation. In 1968 Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, both iconic figures, were assassinated. There was a growing sense of social unrest as protests, mainly by students and young people spread across the globe. By this time there were a half million Americans in south east Asia.
Jim Fitzpatrick’s iconic image of Che Guevara. (Image Wikipedia)
Street demonstrations had a variety of themes, such as disapproval of nuclear weapons, Ban the Bomb marches, and the racism of Enoch Powell, but the hottest issue of the time was without doubt, the Vietnam War and specifically America’s involvement in it. All across the world protests were taking place – Italy, France, USA, Germany – in all there were anti war demonstrations in 56 countries. The daily statistics at the time were astonishing as the death toll kept rising…American soldiers deaths shot up as the war intensified.
I made my placard recording the number of dead young men – I think it was around the 12,000 mark – and headed off to my first demonstration at Trafalgar Square on St Patrick’s Day in 1968. We were a happy group of young people – at 19, I was one of the youngest in our group of friends – delighted to be adding our voices to the outrage, and feeling very strongly that we were a force for good and that we could change things. After speeches we headed off chanting and marching to Grosvenor Square, where the United States Embassy was located. The police had placed a cordon around the building and prevented the crowd getting too near. Being towards the back of the crowd, we did not experience the violence that ensued with baton charges and mounted police charging into the crowd. Hundreds were arrested and many people were injured. The noise was incredible! Martin Luther King was assassinated just weeks later in April, and in June of that year Robert Kennedy was also murdered.
In October 1968 the number of protesters on our demo had swelled to tens and tens of thousands – possibly 100,000 – and again we descended on Grosvenor Square. There were police everywhere, but the mood among the marchers was good as we chanted and sang our way along the streets. We again stayed at the back, but the pushing and shoving was frightening, yet we chanted away adding to the noise, and looked out for one another. It was a most exhilarating experience to know that similar protests were taking place across the world.
While the reasons for being there were varied, and many groups were represented, our protests at the time were very much focused on the soldiers of our own age whose lives were laid waste and on the huge number of innocent men women and children who were being killed and horribly maimed. Had we known at the time about the Pentagon Papers I wonder if we may have been out demonstrating more often and more forcefully?
The war raged on and although the number of casualties became fewer, more shocking images would stun us. Not least that of the little girl, 9 year old Kim Phúc,running screaming down a road having been set alight by a napalm bomb- a gel like substance that sticks to flesh and burns for at leasts 10 minutes.
9 year old burned by Napalm (Image wikipedia)
The horror of war (Image Wiki[edia)
Protests continued on campuses and cities across the world until finally the United States pulled out in 1975. And what if the reports in the Pentagon Papers had been known years earlier? How many lives would not have been lost in vain? While the leaking of the papers had a huge impact on the relationship between the U.S. Government and the people of that country, the war rumbled on for more years afterwards. The contents were ‘declassified’ in 2011.
The statistics of the conflict (war was never declared) are horrible and will never be really known. It is estimated that between 1 million and 3 million Vietnamese died in the conflict, together with a further 400,000 Cambodians and Laotians. Hundreds of thousands were wounded.
Many years later I stood at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. It is an astonishing sight. Two 75 metre lengths of black marble are engraved with 58,318 names of the men who lost their lives in a war to uphold the ‘honour’ of a country. The average age of those whose names are here is 23.1 years.
And what if the reports in the Pentagon Papers had been known years earlier? How many lives would not have been lost in vain? While the leaking of the papers had a huge impact on the relationship between the U.S. Government and the people of that country, the war rumbled on for more years afterwards. The contents were ‘declassified’ in 2011.
Vietnamese women and children in Mỹ Lai before being killed in the massacre, March 16, 1968. They were killed seconds after the photo was taken. Photo by Ronald L. Haeberlen (Wikipedia)
I look at these images of the wall with all those names and the faces of these lovely people about to die, and can’t help but wonder could they have been saved if we had protested earlier and more loudly.
The Pity of War.
The table of casualties is taken from the US National Archives at https://www.archives.gov/research/military/vietnam-war/casualty-statistics