A bank holiday weekend

tower

Friday.
Voted for Michael D. Higgins in the presidential election. And voted to remove the ban on blasphemy from the Irish constitution. The nation agreed with me on both counts. Then I went for a pint with a friend in the local Korean bar. Left quickly as there was an office party present.

Saturday
Met a friend for lunch of coffee and a ham and cheese toasty in the Flowing Tide on Abbey Street. Then crossed the road to see the matinee show of ‘Rathmines Road’ by Deirdre Kinahan in the Peacock Theatre. This was a wonderfully performed and written show about sexual consent and assault. Timely, and despite the heavy subject matter very engaging. Afterwards for the early bird menu at 101 Talbot Restaurant on Talbot Street – a splendid, spacious place with delicious food and excellent service. I had grilled halloumi for starter, lamb shank for main, and ice-cream with biscotti for desert. Washed down with some red wine. Onward to Vicar Street to see Lisa O’Neill in concert.  I had seen her perform three songs in spring 2017, at a Repeal the 8th benefit gig in the Olympia Theatre. She was excellent so a full gig seemed in order. She was supported by the brilliant Kerry concertina-ist (which I am sure is not a word) Cormac Begley, for whom I now have feelings. O’Neill herself was entertaining. She sings a type of new-folk. I am curious about the accent she sings in. Is the keening natural or forced I have no idea. Good show.

Sunday

croke
Today was the Croke Park Skyline Tour of Ireland’s biggest stadium, where we climbed to the summit and then circumnavigated the structure from the roof, with our eager tour guide. When he asked us where we were from, and I replied ‘Limerick’ he started roaring ‘Champions’ because of the recent All-Ireland hurling victory. I shuddered in horror and gave a death stare. I do not celebrate sporting victories. The views of Dublin from the roof of Croke Park are breathtaking. Later that evening I went to the Lighthouse Cinema to see the ‘Halloween’ film. Entertaining and nerve-wracking – so long as you suspend disbelief upon entry.

Monday

jjo
Near my house, along the quays of the River Liffey is a wooden ship called the Jeanie Johnston. In fact it is a replica of a boat by that name which sailed from Quebec to Ireland and back during the 1840s and 1850s. On the Canada to Ireland leg of the journey, its cargo was timber.  From Ireland to Canada it carried hundreds of starving people who were fleeing Famine ravaged Ireland. These ships were common during those dark times and earned the nick-name coffin ships as approximately 30% of passengers (and these ships carried up 500 passengers) would die of disease and starvation en route. It was vaguely diverting. I know the story of the Famine and I have seen similar style historical reenactments. I guess it might have been more shocking to witness the degradation of life at the time from the perspective of visitors from the New World. I attended because I live next door and thought I ought to get to know my neighbourhood.

At 2.30pm I was at Glasnevin Cemetery for a guided tour. I have been to this place on a few occasions and find it to be a very peaceful and relaxing place. But I have never known where to find the graves of the important historical figures of Ireland. The graveyard opened in 1832 as a non-denominational cemetery, a mere three years after the Catholic Emancipation of 1829 – one of the effects of which was that Catholics were allowed to have official burials. The graveyard was founded by the Great Liberator and human rights activist Daniel O’Connell who gives his name to Dublin and Limerick’s main street – O’Connell Street. His is buried in a fifty metre high tower which was built especially for him when he died in 1847.

The remains of over 1.6 million people are buried in Glasnevin Cemetery. Including some giants of Irish history – Eamon DeValera; Cathal Brugha; Maud Gonne; Countess Markiewicz; Charles Stewart Parnell, James Larkin. The only one of the sixteen rebels behind the 1916 Rising buried here is Roger Casement. Fourteen are buried in Arbour Hill and one in Cork. The reason Casement is buried here is that his remains were only sent to Ireland from England fifty years after his death, and his sister had already paid for a burial spot in Glasnevin. Elizabeth O’Farrell – the woman who delivered the rebels’ surrender in 1916 – is also buried here with her partner Sheila Grenan. Casement and O’Farrell were both gay, so it would have been nice to see some slight acknowledgement of this. Not to be however.

Eamon DeValera is buried in a very modest grave – unusual considering his historical stature. However his twenty year old son predeceased him by forty years. Brian’s modest grave became the family grave.

Michael Collin’s grave is far more splendid. Justice at last.

Parnell’s grave also looks quite grand. He is buried in the cholera pit though – as per his request. Although he is he only one in that majestic, green mass grave to have a tombstone.

docon
O’Connell’s tomb in the tower is an imposing marble structure. Touching his coffin and making a wish is an old tradition. Eleven members of O’Connell’s family are also entombed with him in the tower. Their coffins are not randomly piled in the corner as it might appear. They are encased in airtight, lead lined coffins meaning the contents are intact. They are positioned in such a way that they support each other and prevent breakage, which might release pestilence.

I finished my trip by climbing to the top of the tower. The tower was only reopened this year. The stairs to the top were destroyed by a loyalist bomb in 1971. Again open to the public the view from the top is amazing.

A trip to Glasnevin Cemetery comes with a high recommendation from me. A fascinating place.

 

 

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