Recently, I had the great pleasure of presenting my book Marked Off to the new DLR Lexicon library. And, as most of the story takes place within Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown (DLR) it is appropriate that it should ‘find a home’ in the library. Many thanks to DLR Libraries and Nigel Curtin for the opportunity – it is really appreciated.
Nigel & I and Marked Off
Edmund Burke was born in Dublin on 12th January 1729 to a Protestant father, Richard and Catholic mother, Mary Nagle who was County Cork. Richard was a prosperous solicitor and he sent young Edmund to be educated in a Quaker school in Ballitore, County Kildare. Later, in 1744 he entered Trinity College and in 1747 established a debating society called the Edmund Burke Club. The society merged with the Historical Club in 1770 to form the College Historical Society which is the second oldest student society in the world.
He went to London 1750 to study law, and against the wishes of his father, soon gave up and decided to earn his living by writing. His first published work, A Vindication of Natural Society: A View of the Miseries and Evils Arising to Mankind (1756), attacked social philosophy, especially that of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the great Swiss philosopher.
By the late 1750s he counted Samuel Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith, David Garrick and Sir Joshua Reynolds among his circle of friends in London.
After a return to Dublin, where he acted as private secretary to William Hamilton, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, he entered parliament in 1765. Over the following years he established himself as one of the greatest orators ever to speak in the House and his speeches have been studied ever since. He spoke out against Britain’s actions in America and thought war was the wrong path to follow. Subsequently, he attacked the French Revolution, for which he was criticised. However, many of his desperate warnings were borne out with the execution of Louis XVI and the rise of the despotic Napoleon.
A few of his many famous quotes:
- Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting
- Never apologise for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologise for the truth
- You can never plan the future by the past
He died in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire on the 9th July 1797 and is buried in the local churchyard with his infant son Richard, whose loss affected him deeply.
Statue in Trinity College, Dublin
Filed under Dublin, London
James Joyce Tower
Although it is the most famous of them all, the Martello Tower in Sandycove that houses the James Joyce Tower & Museum, is one of about fifty built to repulse a possible invasion by Napoleon’s navy. After the passage of the National Defence Act 1804, towers were erected along the East Coast from Bray to Balbriggan, with others on the south coast and Cork harbour.
When war broke out between Britain and France in 1793 two British ships, the Fortitude and Juno, attacked a round tower at Cape Mortella in Corsica in February 1794. After hours of heavy bombardment by the two ships the tower was finally taken with little damage to the structure. However, the Fortitude had been set on fire and lost 62 men in the fight. Impressed by the strong defensive nature of the tower, engineers used the design when building the line of towers in 1804.
Around Dublin 28 towers were erected: 16 stretching southwards from Sandymount to Bray, and 12 northwards from Red Rock, Sutton to Balbriggan. Seven of those to the south have been demolished while all to the north are standing. Many are in private ownership with Howth tower, now the Ye Olde Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio, the only one open to the public on the northside. Apart from Sandycove, Seapoint tower is the only other open to the public (during the summer) on the southside. There you can see the equipment used for loading the 18-pounder gun (there is a replica on the roof), and feel what it was like to have lived there. The towers were usually 40feet tall with eight-foot thick walls and housed an officer and 10-15 soldiers. Although built in time of war they, thankfully, never saw any action as the French invasion never materialised.
It is somewhat ironic that towers designed in Corsica, where Napoleon was born, were the blueprint for a defence against him!
Abraham ‘Bram’ Stoker was born in 15 Marino Crescent, Fairview, on the 8th November 1847, the third of seven children and baptised in the Church of Ireland, Clontarf on 30th December. He was a sickly child and did not attend school until he was seven. As such, he spent much time reading and he noted years later ‘I was naturally thoughtful, and the leisure of long illness gave opportunity for many thoughts which were fruitful according to their kind in later years.
He made a full recovery from his early illness and studied Mathematics in Trinity College where he graduated with honours. He was a keen sportsman and was awarded Athlete of the Year, as well as being Auditor of the Historical Society and President of the Philosophical Society. Oscar Wilde was a contemporary who Stoker proposed for membership of the Philosophical Society. Years later, after Wilde’s release from Reading Gaol, Stoker visited him in Paris. Coincidently, Wilde had once courted Florence Balcombe who Stoker married in 1878. She was almost the ‘girl next door’ as she lived at 1 Marino Crescent, a few doors from the Stoker household.
Stoker was always interested in theatre and became the Dublin Evening Mail’s (co-owned by the great Gothic writer Sheridan Le Fanu) theatre critic and respected for his incisive reviews. After seeing Henry Irving, the greatest actor his generation play Hamlet in the Theatre Royal, and writing a review which the actor liked, the two met for dinner in the Shelbourne Hotel. Irving invited him to London to run the Lyceum Theatre and be his business manager, and he and Florence moved there in 1878. He acted for Irving until the actor’s death in 1905.
He travelled extensively with Irving, met many famous people, and all the time kept writing. He produced a dozen books, countless articles and short stories, but it is Dracula (1897) for which he is best remembered. The book has been a favourite since its release and is considered to be one of the most widely read books ever. It has never been out of print. More than 200 films have been made about Count Dracula and he has also featured in numerous stage and television adaptions. Stoker, himself, produced the first stage performance in the Lyceum Theatre on 18th May 1897 (8 days before the book’s publication) which Irving thought was ‘dreadful’. Maybe the fact that it took fifteen actors four hours to perform had a lot to do with that! However, it is a magnificent achievement, and the sickly boy’s ‘fruitful thoughts’ have certainly been realised.
First edition 26 May 1897
Filed under Art, Dublin, London
Hi, here is the recording of my interview with Grainne Brookfield on Dublin City FM’s literary show the Book Club.
Click link: Dublin City FM
DC & Grainne Brookfield
It has played a part in Irish life for centuries and Dublin Castle had its origins back in time of the Vikings. It was originally settled on the high ground close to the Poddle and Liffey rivers and provided excellent an defence. However, with the Norman invasion in 1169 the old structure was demolished and a more permanent building was erected. King Henry II implemented this phase, which was completed in 1230 and was the beginning of the ‘Castle’ as we know it today. The Poddle was diverted underground and its water used to fill the moat that surrounded the fortress. Typical of Norman design there was a tower at each corner and the Record Tower (1228) is the only surviving one.
Over time many other buildings were added, especially in the Georgian period. The Treasury Building in the lower yard, the first purpose built office space in Dublin, was completed in 1714. In the upper yard the Bedford Tower, named for the Duke of Bedford who was then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, was constructed in the 1750s. And it was from here in July 1907 that one of the most infamous events in the Castle’s history took place when the Irish Crown Jewels were stolen on the eve of the visit of King Edward VII. They have never been recovered.
As the centre of British power it was often challenged with it coming under attack during Robert Emmet’s short-lived rising in 1803 and Easter 1916. British power ceased on the 16th January 1922 when Michael Collins took possession on behalf of the new Irish Free State.
An exhibition of sand statues is now held every August in the upper yard. It has become a favourite with locals and tourists alike, with different characters and themes being addressed. While taking a photograph of Samuel Beckett a man beside me commented that ‘Becket was not only a sound man, but now he was a sand man, too.’ The striking image of the ‘Feet of Sand’ seemed very appropriate in a place with such sensitive political overtones.
Feet of Sand
Also in the upper yard are the State Rooms which were originally constructed for the Lord Lieutenant’s personal accommodation and entertainment. Nowadays, these lavishly furnished rooms – St Patrick’s Hall, Throne Room, State Drawing Room and State Corridor – are used for Government engagements including the inauguration of Presidents and State visit ceremonies.
St Patrick’s Hall