Monthly Archives: April 2015

Henry Grattan – Parliamentarian & Patriot

He was born on 3rd July 1746 in Fishamble Street and was a member of the Irish House of Commons. Although a member of the Anglo-Irish elite, he was a lifelong advocate and campaigner for Irish legislative reform. Famous for his stirring speeches in parliament he was described by one contemporary as: A superb orator – nervous, high-flown, romantic. With generous enthusiasm he demanded that Ireland should be granted its rightful status, that of an independent nation, though he always insisted that Ireland would remain linked to Great Britain by a common crown and by sharing a common political tradition.

Grattan went to Drogheda Grammar school, and followed that by attending Trinity College where he developed a love of Classical literature with a strong interest in the life and work of the famous orators of antiquity. This skill was to become his trademark and bring him fame and allow him pursue his desire for legislative reform. After college he studied at King’s Inns and was called to the bar in 1772, although with his growing interest in politics he hardly ever practised law.

Grattan's Parliament

Grattan’s Parliament

He was elected to the Irish Parliament in 1775, and due to his drive and outstanding oratory, he soon became the leader of the National Party. At that time Catholics and Presbyterians were excluded from public life under the brutal Penal Laws, while power resided in the hands of a small elite of Anglo-Irish families who were members of Anglican Church, and who owned most of the land. By the early 1780s, with pressure mounting for legislative independence, concessions were finally conceded by the British Government and Grattan was hailed as a patriot. As the influence of the American Revolution and later the French Revolution were felt Grattan achieved more freedoms, and the assembly became known as ‘Grattan’s Parliament’.

However, he vehemently objected to the Act of Union 1800 with its negative economic effect and subsequent cultural decline, and spent his final years in London where he died 6th June 1820. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Grattan Bridge (prev. Essex Bridge), rebuilt in 1874, was named in his honour, and his statue (by the renowned sculptor J H Foley) in College Green (across from the old Irish Parliament) shows him in all his oratorical glory.

In full oratorical flow

In full oratorical flow

 

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The Hugh Lane Gallery

The Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, usually referred to as The Hugh Lane, is unique in that it is the first known public gallery for modern art anywhere in the world. This is due to the work of Hugh Lane who was a successful London art dealer and collector. He had a particular passion for works of the Impressionists, and there are a number of fine paintings by such artists as Renoir, Pissarro and Manet on show.

Sir Hugh Lane by John Singer Sargent

Sir Hugh Lane by John Singer Sargent

Lane was born in Cork in 1875 and spent most of his early life in Cornwall. After school he began an apprenticeship as a painting restorer, but soon began dealing in paintings. Although he lived in London he often returned to Ireland and stayed with his aunt, Lady Augusta Gregory (a founder of the Abbey Theatre), and was familiar with Irish art which he praised and promoted. As such, he decided that Ireland needed a gallery to show these works and he opened the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in January 1908. It was set-up in temporary premises on Harcourt Street, and Lane hoped that Dublin Corporation would take over the running of the gallery. This, however, did not happen, as the Corporation were uncertain about the financial viability of such an enterprise. Sadly, Lane was among almost 1,200 people who died when the RMS Lusitania was torpedoed on 7th May 1915 off his native Cork, and never lived to see ‘his’ gallery.

Following his untimely death many years were spent arguing about the 39 paintings in the ‘Lane Bequest’. It was not until 1959, more than forty years after Lane’s death, that a deal was struck between the Irish and British governments for the custodianship of the paintings. Half of the paintings would be shown in Dublin every five years, but this arrangement was altered in 1993 whereby 31 of the paintings would stay in Dublin. Charlemont House (the former townhouse of James Caulfield, owner of the Casino at Marino) was opened as the permanent location for the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, and it is now one of the city’s favourite galleries.

Charlemont House

Charlemont House

 

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Abbey Theatre – Raising the curtain!

The Abbey Theatre (also known as the National Theatre of Ireland) has had a long and interesting history dating back over a hundred years.

Abbey Theatre

Abbey Theatre

In the 1890s WB Yeats, Lady Augusta Gregory and Edward Martyn published a ‘Manifesto for the Irish Literary Theatre’ with the intention of establishing a national theatre for Ireland. Allied to this was the work of the brothers William and Frank Fay who formed WG Fay’s Irish National Dramatic Company that helped develop local acting and writing talent, and the financial input and management guidance of Annie Horniman. She was from London and a friend and supporter of George Bernard Shaw and had financed one of his plays Arms and the Man in 1894. She came to Dublin in 1903 and worked as Yeats’ secretary when he, Gregory, Martyn, AE Russell and JM Synge founded the Irish National Theatre Society. She helped fund the new project which was soon augmented by members of the Fay group. The first plays were performed in the Molesworth Hall, but when the old Merchanic’s Hall on Lower Abbey Street became available Horniman and the Fays agreed to buy the premises.

William Fay was the appointed as the first theatre manager with responsibility for training new actors. Jack B Yeats, the renowned artist, was commissioned to paint portraits of the leading actors of the time that were on show in the theatre’s foyer. On the opening of the new theatre, 27 December 1904, three one-act plays were performed; two by WB Yeats and one by Lady Gregory. The theatre thrived for a few years, but after the riots that followed Synge’s play The Playboy of the Western World in 1907 and the split with Fays, the theatre’s fortunes slipped.

The old building was destroyed by fire on 17 July 1951, and the company performed at the Queen’s Theatre until 1966 when the newly built Abbey Theatre, designed by Michael Scott, was officially opened 18 July. With the contribution of new, exceptional playwrights like Hugh Leonard (Da 1973), Tom Murphy (A Whistle in the Dark 1961) and Brian Friel (Dancing at Lughnasa 1990), the fortunes of the theatre improved and helped raise its international profile.

Theatre of Dreams!

Theatre of Dreams!

 

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Marked Off – RTE Today Show interview

Interview on RTE’s Today Show with Maura Derrane and Daithi O’Shea, Friday  20th March 2015.

 

 

 

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Collins Barracks – steeped in history

Collins Barracks has a unique distinction that is little known. For three centuries it housed both British and then Irish forces making it the oldest, continuously occupied barracks in the world. It was handed over in December 1922 to Irish Free State troops, led by General Richard Mulcahy, who immediately renamed it Collins Barracks, after Michael Collins the first-commander-in-chief of the Free State who had been killed on 22nd August in County Cork.

Museum Entrance

Museum Entrance

The Barracks were designed by Thomas Burgh, Queen Anne’s Surveyor General in Ireland, and are neo-classical in style. (Burgh was a very successful architect having also designed the Trinity College Library, Dr Steevens’ Hospital and St Werbugh’s Church.) Typically, the original work was added to over the time of its occupation with significant extensions added in the late 18th and 19th centuries. The site had been cleared for a large mansion for the Duke of Ormond, and it has several big squares, with Clarke’s Square the biggest.
After the place was de-militarised in 1997, when the 5th Battalion marched out for the last time, extensive renovation work was undertaken before it was open to the public as part of the National Museum of Ireland. In fact, the work carried out in Clarke’s Square won the state’s highest award for architectural conservation, the Silver Medal for Conservation.

Clarke Square

Clarke Square

When the government decided in 1988 to vacate the barracks as a military facility, plans were drawn up for an alternate use. Eventually it became the Museum of Decorative Arts and History and was opened by Sile deValera, Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, on the 18th September 1997. It is a big building and there is much to see, as there are many permanent exhibitions; namely The Asgard, Eileen Grey, The Way We Wore, Irish Silver and The Easter Rising – Understanding 1916 to name but a few. And, of course, there are temporary exhibitions and shows, which are very popular, as is the café on Clarke’s Square. Check it out.

Front Entrance

Front Entrance

 

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