Tag Archives: Dublin

Easter Monday in Dublin …A stroll in Stephen’s Green

There is a song that goes :

For Dublin can be heaven
With coffee at eleven
And a stroll in Stephen’s Green.

Such was the case for us on Easter Monday 2016, as we ambled about ‘The Green’ as it is known. We were in Dublin, Ireland’s Capital City, for events commemorating the Rising against British rule in Ireland, which took place on Easter Monday April 24 1916. St Stephen’s Green, a beautiful Victorian park in the centre of Dublin was one of the pivotal sites seized by the Irish Citizen’s Army on that fateful day. Under the command of Michael Mallin, the Green was seized, trenches were dug and barricades were erected.

Shelbourne Hotel as seen from inside Stephens Green

Shelbourne Hotel as seen from inside Stephens Green- Image Library of Congress.

On that evening the British Army moved troops into The Shelbourne Hotel and the nearby Hibernian Club, and on the next day from these vantage points, they fired down on the rebels in the Green. It is said that fire was temporarily halted to allow the Green’s groundsman feed the local ducks! The Irish Rebels eventually had to retreat to the nearby Royal College of Surgeons which had been occupied by Irish Citizen Army forces, led by Commandant Mallin and Countess Markievicz.  After surrendering on 29 April,both were tried and sentenced to death. Mallin was executed while Markievicz’s sentence was commuted.

The \fusiliers Arch at Stephens Green with bullet damage from British trioops who were firing on insurgents in the Green

The Fusiliers Arch at Stephens Green with bullet damage from British troops who were firing on insurgents at the Royal College of Surgeons.

All was quiet on Monday as we commemorated those events from almost a century ago.

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Events in the Green included concerts and a vintage circus, all of which took place in beautiful springtime sunshine, with families and individuals lapping up the atmosphere.

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Outside the buildings were draped for the occasion

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The Royal College of Surgeons, where insurgents were based in 1916

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The lovely Unitarian Church on Stephens Green

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Damian Shiels, historian,outside the Royal College of Surgeons where he was scheduled to deliver a talk in the Reflecting the Rising series to commemorate the events of 1916.

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Postboxes were painted red for the commemoration, reverting to the British mailbox colour. Irish post boxes are green nowadays.

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People wandered about having a good time. The Irish flag is green, white and orange, although we often see green, white and gold flags, which are incorrect. The green white and orange is an all inclusive flag that symbolises peace between the green, Catholic Irish and Protestant Irish, represented by the orange.

Back in The Green,these two memorial busts epitomize for me the discourse that is Ireland, the contentious issues that to this day divide. To me they are powerful in that these memorials stand as equals in one of Ireland’s most prestigious sites, one that was pivotal on that Easter Monday in 1916.

On the left is Tom Kettle, who having joined the Irish Volunteers went on to enlist in the British Army (Ireland was at that time part of Britian and tens of thousands went to war in British uniforms). He was killed at Ginchy, during the Battle of the Somme in September 1916. On the right is the revolutionary nationalist Constance Markievicz a suffragette and a socialist, who was on active service at Stephens Green on Easter Monday 1916. I love that they are both of equal stature in this very special place. It was a good day to be strolling in Stephen’s Green.

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Filed under Celebrations in Ireland, Ireland, Irish at War, Irish Culture, Irish Heritage, Irish History, Living in Ireland

Postcards from Dublin. A September Morning

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Filed under Ireland, Irish Countryside, Irish Culture, Irish Heritage, Living in Ireland, My Travels

In Dublin’s Fair City

Last weekend I was in Dublin for a family occasion and stayed – for the very first time – in the rejuvenated  docklands  at Sir Rogerson’s Quay. I have long wanted to see at first hand the cleverly designed, harp shaped new bridge over the River Liffey …and there it was – right on the doorstep of our hotel! In the quiet traffic free hours of a Sunday morning I took a stroll along this lovely part of the South Bank.

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The Samuel Beckett Bridge, having ‘the appearance of a harp lying on its side ‘

The Samuel Beckett Bridge carries both vehicles and pedestrians and is, in my opinion,one of the most beautiful structures in Dublin.

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The Convention Centre, Dublin

Right alongside the bridge is another stunning structure – the world-class Dublin Convention Centre, with its tilted glass cylinder  beautifully reflected in the  Liffey waters.

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The Dublin Convention Centre from Samuel Beckett Bridge

The Convention Centre dissected by the stays of the Samuel  Becket Bridge.

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A view of Dublin City through the Samuel Beckett Bridge

Looking back towards the City Centre, some of Dublin’s iconic structures are framed by elements of the bridge. The tall building is  Liberty Hall. Built in the 1960s it is renowned for its non pleasing appearance, but is nevertheless an integral part of the Dublin sky-scape. In total contrast, the green dome is atop one of the most beautiful buildings in Dublin, the fabulous Gandon designed  18th century Custom House. The tall spire to the right of the dome is the Monument of Light, otherwise known as The Spire, reaching 121.2 metres into the Dublin sky.This very elegant and modern  stainless steel structure has been part of the Dublin skyline since 2002.

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Liberty Hall, The Custom House and The Spire ‘through the eye’ of Samuel Beckett Bridge

Another view of 3 of Dublin’s iconic structures, all on the north side of the River Liffey,  from the Samuel Beckett Bridge.

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Ulster Bank Headquarters, on the Liffey South Bank, from Samuel Beckett Bridge.

Equally iconic, although a recent addition to the Dublin sky scape, is the glass, multi-roofed building that is  the headquarters of the Ulster Bank. It looks very spectacular at night especially when approaching the city from the north side.

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The Jeanie Johnston Replica Famine Ship.

Moored  between Séan O’Casey Bridge and the Samuel Beckett Bridge, with the Custom House in the left background, is the replica famine ship, the Jeanie Johnston. Built about 2002 in County Kerry, she is a replica of the original that sailed between Tralee in County Kerry and North America from  1847 to 1855. The Jeanie Johnston was  remarkable in that no life was ever lost on the difficult voyages between Ireland and the New World. She is open to the public. I boarded her when she was tied up in Fenit, County Kerry, some years ago and she is well worth a visit to see at first hand what the living conditions were like for the emigrants who sailed in her.

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Statue of Mayo-man Admiral William Brown, ‘Father of the Argentine Navy’

A few yards from the Samuel Beckett Bridge, on the seaward side, stands a statue of  Admiral William Brown, or Guillermo Brown as he is known in Argentina. This illustrious Irish emigrant  changed the history of South America. This piece is from the Connaught Telegraph :

”Admiral William Brown, the hero of Garcia, Montevideo and Los Pozos, is acknowledged as ‘the father of Argentina’s Navy.’But he was even more than all that. He was a champion and friend of human liberty and the emancipator of a whole nation. In fact, the entire continent of South America owes him a debt of gratitude that can never be fully repaid. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that he was one of the world’s foremost and greatest men of action, and that his exploits and heroism have profoundly influenced the course of history.”

Feb13 Book Launch + Dublin 036Beyond the statue of Admiral Brown, looking seaward there are reminders of the history of the old Dublin Port when ships were once moored along these docks.

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The modern Dublin Port in the distance, with these once busy quays now providing an excellent recreational, commercial and residential amenity.Feb13 Book Launch + Dublin 035Reminders of the past are all along the quay wall.

References

http://www.jeaniejohnston.ie

http://www.con-telegraph.ie

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Filed under Ireland, Irish Heritage, Irish History, Living in Ireland, Mayo Emigrants

Happy Valentine’s day – from St Valentine, Dublin, Ireland

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Red Rose – Symbol of love . Image Wikimedia Commons

The red rose – a great symbol of love! February 14th is  a day when cards and tokens of love  are exchanged by lovers, spouses and partners. It  is almost a rite of passage for young teenagers to buy or make cards in quantity and send them anonymously to the objects  of their desires –  or if all else fails –  to send them to themselves, so as not to feel excluded when the peers arrive with barrowloads  from every male in the area. We could be forgiven for thinking that Valentine’s day is an invention of Hallmark Cards, as tens of millions of Valentine cards are bought each year, but would we be correct? As well as cards, millions of flowers will be handed over as tokens of undying devotion to loved ones to mark the annual Love-day,  the Feast of St Valentine.

But where did the tradition come from? Valentine’s or St Valentines’ Day is  a celebration of the feast day of the Saint of that name.  Scratch any religious ‘feast’ very gently and not far  under the surface there will be a pagan or ancient  celebration. In mid February, or the ides of February, there was the ancient fertility festival of Lupercalia  where there appears to have been some ‘blooding ‘ ritual whereby young women were touched with the  hides of freshly skinned animals. They then  placed their names in a container. Young men would select a name and would be paired with the girl of his choice for the following year, and apparently marriage often ensued. This practice was outlawed in the 5th century about the same time as  St Valentine’s Feast was announced.

Several men with the name Valentinus were martyred in the early church. One story suggests that a particular  Valentinus was imprisoned for performing marriage ceremonies for soldiers. Soldiers were forbidden to marry as having a wife might distract them from their soldiery duties. When in prison,this particular Valentinus supposedly healed the daughter of his jailer and some stories suggest he fell in love with her. Prior to execution he is said to have written her a farewell note signed :  “from your Valentine”. Whatever the origins, the Feast of St Valentine is marked in many cultures and   communions – such as the Lutheran Church, Anglicans, and  Eastern Orthodox.

In 1382, Chaucer  composed a poem to mark the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia, where he refers to Valentine:

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.

(For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day,

when every bird cometh there to choose his mate)

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Oldest known Valentine message c. 1477 from British Museum

By the 1600’s  it had evolved into an occasion in which lovers  expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confections  and sending greeting cards.

In 1850,Joseph R Chandler in an article entitled ‘St Valentine’s Day‘ in Graham’s American Monthly Magazine of Literature and Art , wrote:

The commercial revolution has loosed St Valentine Day from its previous  moorings in folk culture and redirected it into new and little charted waters”.

And it would seem that this  commercial revolution has continued unabated in the intervening 160+ years.

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The St . Valentine Shrine in Whitefriars Church, Dublin . The carved image of Valentine, martyr, stands above the reliquary that is venerated on February 14 each year.

On November 10, 1836, a strange event was taking place in Dublin. A reliquary containing  remains of St Valentine were brought in solemn procession to the Carmelite Church on Whitefriars Street. These had been the gift of Pope Gregory XVI  in appreciation of  Carmelite John Spratt who had visited Rome. John Spratt was as an eloquent preacher who ‘wowed’ both the elite of Rome and the Church itself.   In Dublin he was a well- known and respected figure who worked tirelessly for the poor and disadvantaged in the Liberties area and who had built the church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Whitefriars  Street. The gift of relics was accompanied by a letter in Latin which translates as follows:

“We, Charles, by the divine mercy, Bishop of Sabina of the Holy Roman Church, Cardinal Odescalchi Arch Priest of the Sacred Liberian Basilica, Vicar General of our most Holy Father the Pope and Judge in Ordinary of the Roman Curia and of its Districts, etc, etc.

To all and everyone who shall inspect these our present letters, we certify and attest, that for the greater glory of the omnipotent God and veneration of his saints, we have freely given to the Very Reverend Father Spratt, Master of Sacred Theology of the Order of Calced Carmelites of the convent of that Order at Dublin, in Ireland, the blessed body of St Valentine, martyr, which we ourselves by the command of the most Holy Father Pope Gregory XVI on the 27th day of December 1835, have taken out of the cemetery of St Hippolytus in the Tiburtine Way, together with a small vessel tinged with his blood and have deposited them in a wooden case covered with painted paper, well closed, tied with a red silk ribbon and sealed with our seals and we have so delivered and consigned to him, and we have granted unto him power in the Lord, to the end that he may retain to himself, give to others, transmit beyond the city (Rome) and in any church, oratory or chapel, to expose and place the said blessed holy body for the public veneration of the faithful without, however, an Office and Mass, conformably to the decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, promulgated on the 11th day of August 1691.

In testimony whereof, these letters, testimonial subscribed with our hand, and sealed with our seal, we have directed to be expedited by the undersigned keeper of sacred relics.

Rome, from our Palace, the 29th day of the month of January 1836.
C.Cardinal Vicar
Regd. Tom 3. Page 291
Philip Ludovici Pro-Custos”

All Catholic Churches have relics, usually contained in a cavity on the altar, or in a reliquary. The St Valentine relics are in a separate reliquary normally kept under a shrine to the Saint. It is not known what exactly is in the reliquary as it has never been opened. However it is recognized that there may be relics of this particular St Valentine in up to 10 different locations – not surprising when one thinks of the numbers of bones in a  skeleton! But, no matter! Whitefriars Church in Dublin,marks the feast of St. Valentine each year with special ceremonies that includes the blessings of rings. A beautiful sentimental tradition attached the the most ecstatic emotion of LOVE!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all my readers!

References:

http://carmelites.ie

http://www.history.com

 

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Filed under Celebrations in Ireland, Ireland, Irish Culture, Irish Heritage, Irish Traditions

Remembering

Today, Remembrance Sunday, the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) attended Remembrance services in Northern Ireland for the first time. Today too,  the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins will attend the annual commemoration of the War Dead at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.

Many ‘ordinary’ people of Ireland are passionate about NOT commemorating this day, in some cases probably because of a lack of understanding of the social conditions at the time,that compelled Irish men and boys in their tens of thousands to go to war.  It is true that after the conflict, many families  were ashamed of relatives returning from the War, but as this article in yesterday’s Irish Times demonstrates, things are changing. Those who had been ‘airbrushed’ out of Irish family history are now being honoured and remembered with pride.

The wearing of a Poppy in Ireland remains controversial in 2012 as demonstrated by this article from The Irish Independent on the reaction to a Poppy wearer in the streets of Dublin .  The reaction of the Chelsea Football supporter in this item is interesting  – sadly he probably verbalized what many think in private.   Why can we not treat the wearing of a Poppy as a memory of men  who died in awful circumstances, and not as a symbol of British Imperialism?

I recently discovered the website of the Limerick Branch of the Royal British Legion on which they have displayed a new Irish Poppy badge – a poppy overlaid on a shamrock. It’s a truly beautiful emblem and having worn it for the past few days myself, it has elicited a very positive response. I have no doubt that it will become a popular emblem for those who wish to commemorate the sacrifices of people from this island who put themselves in harm’s way in the most horrific circumstances. They deserve to be remembered.

The badge can be ordered here

Last year I attended a Conference in Ennis that resulted in the following  blog post – which I reprint here in tribute and in memory of all those who died .

A Poppy for Claremen,Munstermen and Irishmen

On Saturday October 1st 2011 at the Clare Roots Genealogy and Family History Conference, historian Liam Curran delivered what was to me a fascinating presentation on ‘The Irish Soldier in the British Army in the First World War’. Liam presented an account of the horrors of war that featured real people, including members of his own family, who lived and loved not far from where I now live; real people who died in the most horrific of circumstances  – sons, brothers, uncles, fathers.

During that presentation we saw a very famous painting entitled ‘The Last Absolution of the Munsters’ by the war artist, Matania.

 

On Saturday evening the 8th May 1915, prior to the battle in the Aubers Ridge area, the 2nd Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers marched through Rue du Bois, about one mile out from the town of Neuve Chapelle in Belgium. The Battalion halted near a wayside shrine. Moving off the road they formed up in their respective Companies, ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’. In front of each Company was a green flag with the Irish Harp and word “Munster” embroidered on it’

Most if not all the men depicted here are from Munster. The priest on horseback who gave a general absolution to these men was Francis Gleeson, one of 13 children from Templemore, Co Tipperary. On the extreme right is Regimental Sergeant Major John Ring born in Bandon. Also here are many men from Clare. The second mounted figure is 40-year old Colonel Victor Rickard, husband of Louise Moore from Mitchelstown, Co. Cork, whose father founded the  Cork Historical and Archaeological Society and was a Protestant Home Ruler. She herself wrote articles for the Cork Examiner Newspaper.

At dawn on 9th May, just hours  after the general absolution, these Irish men came out of their trenches. Within hours, 151 of them lay dead, including the Commanding Officer Rickard, and 16 men from Clare.

Just one of a number of Irish Regiments, the Munster Fusiliers consisted in the main of Munster men – mainly from Clare, Kerry, Cork and Tipperary. They fought and died in their hundreds in various areas of conflict during their long history including Afghanistan 1839,  Burma 1852,  The Crimea, the Boer War. It is reckoned that about a quarter of a million Irish men were involved in the First World War. They endured the horror of the killing fields of the Western Front, often cold and often hungry, surrounded by the stench of death, hearing the screams of the dying, with rats eating their feet. They were slaughtered, drowned and maimed in Gallipoli and in many places whose names they could not pronounce.

Text from Fr Gleeson’s Diary entry 10 May 1915 as inscribed at the Messines Irish Peace Park.

Growing up and educated in Ireland in the 1960s, I was never aware of the tens of thousands of our countrymen who fought and died in horrific conditions in many theatres of war down the centuries. These people had effectively been wiped from the history that we were taught in schools, wiped from our national memory, wiped from our very DNA.

The truth is that most were volunteers.  The truth is that, fired up by calls by Irish Nationalists like John Redmond, who claimed that ‘Ireland’s highest interests’ lay ‘in the speedy and overwhelming victory of England and the Allies’ they volunteered in their droves; the truth is that many went because they needed the money for their families; the truth is that many went because they belonged to large families with low-income and it would be one less mouth to feed. Undoubtedly some also went in search of adventure and perhaps also to escape issues at home.

The First World War was the war in which most Irish lives were lost and in which the Irish performed amazing acts of courage and bravery. However, when the survivors returned they were shunned and met with hostility and even physical violence. The honour with which they had departed was in stark contrast to the changed circumstances when they returned. Ireland had staged an uprising against British rule at Easter 1916 and the Ireland to which they returned was one with a new sense of nationalism and a different set of values.

We in Ireland have come a long way in redressing the airbrushing of our past. President Mary Robinson was the first Irish President to wear a poppy on November 11th each year and President McAleese has kept up her predecessor’s practice of attending the remembrance Sunday services in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.  President Mary McAleese also stood shoulder to shoulder with the Queen of England at the opening of the Island of Ireland Peace Park in Mesen (Messines) Belgium on 11 November 1998. We still, however, have a way to go.

Poppy Field on the Somme. Picture from the BBC.

In Flanders Fields – the iconic poem by John McCrae, MD, (1872 – 1918)  Canadian Army.

If ye break faith  with us who die,

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields’

I will not break faith and will proudly wear a red poppy on 11 November 2011 to honour all Claremen, all Munster men, all Irishmen who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Epilogue

Fr. Gleeson volunteered for a second time and returned to parish work in Dublin where he died in 1959. He is buried in Castlelough, Co Tipperary.

Sgt Major John Ring served for 5 years in France and repeatedly refused promotion to stay with his battalion. He retired to Limerick  and died in 1960. He is buried in Mount St Lawrence Cemetery.

References

Royal Munster Fusiliers Association

Royal Munster Fusiliers

http://www.limerickcity.ie/media/Media,3979,en.pdf

Liam Curran’s lecture – which also included an account of the Munsters in Gallipoli, notably those who landed from the steamer ‘River Clyde’ – is available on DVD from Clare Roots here

 

 

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Filed under Family History, Ireland, Irish Culture, Irish History, Living in Ireland, Social History Ireland