Monthly Archives: October 2015

Mike Brookfield Band – Rock On!

Mike Brookfield

Mike Brookfield

It may have been windy outside The Hot Spot (Greystones, County Wicklow) the other night, but inside the Mike Brookfield Band were brewing up a storm! The three-piece are on tour, promoting their new album Love Breaks The Fall, and they ripped through a set with  songs from the album and others from, among others, Jimi Hendrix (a great version of Crosstown Traffic) and Bruce Hornsby. If you are a fan of Eric Clapton or Stevie Ray Vaughan then Mike Brookfield’s playing will certainly make you smile and tap your foot. His style is fluent and crisp, slow or fast, and he has all the touches that showcase his wide range of skills.

Bass & Drummer - Rhythm Kings

Bass & Drummer – Rhythm Kings

It’s impressive, as was the rhythm section behind him – the bass and drummer – that drove the music along incessantly. All-in-all it was a top performance from a band who demand attention – and rightly so. Do yourself a favour and check these boys out! Rock on and on…..

Mike Brookfield Band – Love Breaks The Fall

 

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Irish Parliament House – First and Last

The Irish Parliament House on College Green was the first bicameral (two chambers) building in the world. The foundation stone was laid by Thomas Wyndham, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, on 3rd February 1729 and construction took almost ten years. It was designed by renowned Irish architect Edward Lovett Pearce who sadly died in 1733, aged thirty-four, and never lived to see his most famous work completed.

Irish Parliament

Irish Parliament

It was built on the site of Chichester House (owned by Sir George Carew) and used as the Parliament House since 1673. The place was in bad condition and, moreover, lacking in space. Pearce’s building addressed these issues, and although its workings were often disliked the building itself was appreciated for the elegance of its fine Palladian lines.

From the 1780s after Henry Grattan had secured a number of concessions from London, allied to the dangerous influence of the French Revolution and the 1798 Rising, Westminster decided that Irish affairs should be in its control. A vote in late 1799 went against Westminster’s wishes, but a second one in February 1800 where there was widespread bribery and awards of peerages, won the day and the House of Commons voted for its own abolition. The last sitting of the House was took place in August 1800. The new law, the Act of Union, came into effect on 1st Jan 1801 with all authority now resting with Westminster. This soon led to an exodus of peers and wealthy merchants that had a major negative impact on the Irish economy and a sharp decline in Dublin’s status.

As a final gesture of defiance against vote, John Foster (of Foster Place fame), the last Speaker of the House of Commons, retained possession of the Mace. It is believed that he hid it under his bed at home on Molesworth Street, and nothing more was heard of it until 1937 when it was put up for auction by Christies, London. It was bought by the Bank of Ireland and it is now in a glass case in the House of Lords. The Mace belonging to the House of Lords is now on show in the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History in Collins Barracks.

Mace - House of Commons

Mace – House of Commons

After its abolition the building was variously used as an art gallery and military depot. In 1803 it was purchased by the Bank of Ireland (who bought it for £40,000) as its new headquarters. When the building was sold it was stipulated that both chambers (Commons & Lords) be dismantled (so that it could never be used again as a parliament house), but the Lords is today almost unchanged. All the original fittings, including the beautifully engraved oak fireplace, are in use, and the bright red Woolsack which the Chancellor of Ireland sat on during debates, has now been restored. The magnificent 1,233 piece chandelier is original, and its counterpart from the Commons can be seen in the Examination Hall, across the road in Trinity College.

Oak Fireplace

Oak Fireplace

Magnificent chandelier

Magnificent chandelier

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The National Library – Fountain of Knowledge

National Library

National Library

As a nation in love with words and writing, the National Library of Ireland is the vault where all the treasure is kept. Irish writers have made a significant and profound contribution to the world for centuries, and much of their original works are safeguarded in the building on Kildare Street that opened its doors in September 1890. It was designed by the architect Thomas Deane and proved to be very popular from the start.

The library traces its history from the Royal Dublin Society which was founded in 1731 ‘..for improving husbandry, manufactures and other useful arts and sciences’. A Royal Charter, which included an annual allowance, was granted in 1749. In 1836 a Select Committee recommended that the library should not just be accessible to a select few but opened as a National Library. At that time most of the library’s books were of a scientific nature, and future acquisitions included books with a more general nature and, of course, those with an Irish interest. In 1840 one of its earliest purchases was the collection of 17th century Irish pamphlets which was bought from the London bookseller Thomas Thorpe.

The library is open to one and all and is for reference purposes only – you cannot borrow books! The building’s main space, The Reading Room, is spectacular and definitely worth a visit. In recent years with the surge of public interest in tracing Family History, the Genealogy Department has become an important part in the search.

Reading Room

Reading Room

With such a large amount of material available the library holds many exhibitions and lectures. The WB Yeats exhibition is permanent affording the visitor a ‘comprehensive view of the great poet’. The library also holds many important papers belonging to James Joyce (early workings of Ulysses) and those of Roddy Doyle, Seamus Heaney, Colm Toibin and Brian Friel.

The library also holds the National Photographic Archive which is based in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar. Over 20,000 negatives have now been digitised and they are available online.

WB Yeats Exhibition

WB Yeats Exhibition

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Oliver St. John Gogarty – A man of many talents

5, Rutland Square

5, Rutland Square

Oliver St John Gogarty was a man of many talents and he was born in 5, Rutland Square (now Parnell Square) on 17th August 1878, the eldest of four children. His father, Henry, was a successful physician and his mother Margaret was from Galway. Henry died when Oliver was eight years old and he was sent to school in Mungret College in Limerick. later, he transferred to Stonyhurst College in Lancashire which he described as ‘a religious jail’. He returned to Ireland in 1896 and studied medicine at the Royal University and Trinity College, and graduated in 1907. Afterwards, he went to Vienna to finish his study and specialised in otolaryngology (Ear, Nose & Throat). His consulting rooms were in Ely Place, and he was a member of staff at the Meath Hospital until he went to America.

He was a keen sportsman and enjoyed cricket, football (he played for Bohemians FC) and a fine swimmer who saved four people from drowning. He wrote poetry and his poem Tailteann Ode won a bronze medal at the 1924 Olympics in Paris. And as a member of the Dublin literary community he was friends with the great and good, including WB Yeats, AE Russell, James Stephens and James Joyce. When Gogarty rented the Martello Tower at Sandycove in 1904 he invited Joyce to stay. Joyce, however,  stayed only a few nights but used the place as the opening scene in Ulysses and immortalised Gogarty in his character Buck Mulligan.

Martello Tower, Sandycove

Martello Tower, Sandycove

A close friend of Arthur Griffith he was an early member of Sinn Fein and became a Senator. In 1922 when Griffith died in early August he performed the autopsy, and he did the same for Michael Collins who died less than two weeks later.

Oliver St. John Gogarty

Oliver St. John Gogarty

In 1917 he and his wife Martha Duane, who was from Galway, bought Renvyle, a large house in Connemara. It was burnt down in 1923 during the Irish Civil War, subsequently rebuilt and operates to this day as Renvyle House. Gogarty had been in the USA since the start of World War II, collapsed and died on a street in New York in 1957. His body was returned to Ireland and he was  buried in Moyard, near Renvyle.

 

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Radio interview and short story reading

I was invited onto the Creative Flow literary show on Dundalk FM that is presented by Jacinta Matthews. We discussed my short story Let’s Dance which I read; finding inspiration and what I was currently working on.

Click to listen: Creative Flow

Creative Flowing

Creative Flowing

 

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Howth – Steeped in History

Howth Lighthouse

Howth Lighthouse

Howth is situated at the northern tip of Dublin Bay with commanding views that made it a perfect stronghold for the Vikings who first invaded in 819. The name is derived from Old Norse ‘Hofuth’ (meaning ‘head’) and it is where many fighters fled after their defeat in the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. The Norse maintained a presence there until they were eventually defeated by the Normans in 1177.

Howth Martello Tower

Martello Tower

The original Howth Castle was situated atop Tower Hill which affords a wonderful view of Howth harbour, marina and the islands – Ireland’s Eye and Lambay to the north. You can visit Ireland’s Eye (best in the summer) but Lambay is privately owned. There are Martello Towers on both, and that on Tower Hill is now home to Ye Olde Hurdy Gurdy Vintage Radio Museum.

Across from Tower Hill is St Mary’s Church. The original was built by Sitric, King of Dublin, in 1042. This was replaced in 1235 and the current building was erected in the following century. Again, the views of the modern marina from the medieval building are superb.

Royal Footprints

Royal Footprints

The harbour has plenty of history associated with it, as it was where King George IV first set foot in Ireland on 12th August 1821. This event has been commemorated with ‘his footprints’ (cut by stonemason Robert Campbell) at the end of the West Pier. Check them out and see if you could ‘fill the royal shoes’. And on the 26th July 1914 Erskine Childers and his crew (it included his wife Molly) of the Asgard  landed 900 rifles and almost 30,000 rounds of ammunition that Irish Volunteers used in the Easter Rising 1916 and the War of Independence 1919-1921. The harbour is a busy commercial hub and supplies seafood to many of the local shops and restaurants. Wrights of Howth and Beshoffs of Howth, both at the start of the West Pier, are long established and perennial favourites.

A walk around the marina and a bracing stroll on the East Pier is a particular pleasure and not to be missed.

Howth Marina & The Islands

Howth Marina & The Islands

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Ernest Shackleton – Man of the Sea

ES as a young man

ES as a young man

If ever a man lived up to his family motto then Ernest Shackleton is most definitely that man. The words ‘By Endurance We Conquer’ were borne out to the maximum as he led all his 28 men to safety during the Antarctic expedition of 1914-1917. It is a tale of unbelievable skill, bravery and determination that is considered one of the greatest achievements in exploration. For this he is remembered as a man who showed consummate leadership skills and, of course, endurance, and they are all well presented in the Endurance Exhibition in Dun Laoghaire.

35 Marlborough Road

35 Marlborough Road, Dublin

Shackleton was born on the 15th February 1874 in Kilkea, near Athy in County Kildare. His father, Henry, decided to study medicine in Trinity College and moved his family into 35 Marlborough Road, Ranelagh for four years from 1880-1884. After graduating the family moved to Sydenham, south London where he practiced medicine for more than thirty years. Ernest, or ‘Mickey’ to his family and friends, went to school in Dulwich College where he admitted that was ‘not a good student’. And, surprisingly, when you consider what he did later on, he did not like geography! He had no desire to follow his father into the medical world and joined the merchant navy when he was sixteen. He progressed quickly, becoming a very capable mariner and met many influential Navy officers. It was through these contacts that he was invited by Captain Scott to travel aboard the Discovery to the Antarctic in 1901. They failed to reach the South Pole, as did his own 1907-09 Nimrod expedition that got to 88 23 degrees South, only 97 miles short of its goal. They turned back due to lack of provisions and to ensure their safety. At that time is was the closest that anyone had got to the South Pole.

On his return he received much public adulation and was knighted by Edward VII. He was feted when he came back to Dublin, and gave lectures in Earlsfort Terrace (now the National Concert Hall) and the Gresham Hotel.

For the 1914 expedition to cross the Antarctic, the team sailed in the Endurance on the day Germany declared war. After a final stop on South Georgia they set sail for the Antarctic on 5th December and arrived in the Weddell Sea on 19th January 1915. The ship became frozen in the thickening ice and it was eventually crushed and lost on 21st November. The team headed in three boats to Elephant Island, and from there Shackleton and five others made the momentous 800-mile journey in horrendous weather to South Georgia. The 17-day journey in the James Caird, the strongest of the open 20-foot boats, and the subsequent safe return of all the crew, is heroic and bordering on the miraculous. Endurance, indeed!

The James Caird in Dulwich College

The James Caird in Dulwich College

Shackleton was only 47 when died on the 5th January 1922 on South Georgia. He suffered a fatal heart attack, and is buried in the small graveyard in Grytviken.

Photo Credit: The James Caird by P O’Neill

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