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Rory O’More Bridge – One Bridge, Many Names

One of the most attractive Liffey bridges, the single span Rory O’More that connects Ellis Street from the north quays to Watling Street on the south quays, has had an interesting history.
A wooden bridge was erected on site in 1670 to the great displeasure of certain vested interests. They wanted people to continue using the ferries that crossed the river, thus maintaining their influence and income. After an attack by hired thugs in 1671 a fight on the bridge with soldiers led to four fatalities and the bridge was soon known as Bloody Bridge.
A new four-arch stone bridge replaced the old bridge around 1700 and this became known a Barrack Bridge as it was the main route for soldiers travelling from Dublin Castle to the new barracks on the north side of the Liffey (now Collins Barracks).
Construction of the current bridge began in 1858 and after many delays the work was completed under the guidance of John Killen in 1861 at a cost of £11,000 – much more expensive than originally estimated! After Queen Victoria and Prince Albert arrived in Dublin they made their way along the quays and crossed the new bridge on 30th August 1861. From then on the bridge was called The Victoria & Albert Bridge.
As part of the 100th anniversary of Catholic Emancipation in 1929 when Benediction was celebrated on the bridge it then became known as Emancipation Bridge.

True blue and elegant

True blue and elegant

Finally, in 1939 the bridge was renamed Rory O’More Bridge in honour of the leader of the failed rebellion in 1641. He and his men had planned to seize Dublin Castle on October 23rd, but a traitor revealed the plan to the authorities. O’More managed to escape capture and made his way up north to continue the fight. However, when Oliver Cromwell and his 10,000 troops arrived in 1649, the final traces of revolt were brutally swept away.

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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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Eileen Gray – A Most Modern Woman

Eileen Gray

Eileen Gray

Iconic is not a description that Eileen Gray would have been comfortable with, but with her success as a designer, creator of some of the 20th century’s most admired and sought-after works and her continued artistic influence, it is certainly justified. The (permanent) exhibition that I visited recently in the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History, Collins Barracks, is both interesting and fun – not unlike many of Gray’s clever designs.

Bibendum Chair

Bibendum Chair

Gray was born near Enniscorthy, Wexford on 9th August 1878 the youngest of five siblings. Her father, James, was a painter and he was the first to encourage her artistic interests. When she was 20 she travelled to London and studied at the Slade School of Fine Art. While in London she became interested in lacquer and worked in for a time in an art shop in Soho learning the skills. Later, in Paris, she met Japanese expert Seizo Sugawara and she first exhibited her work in 1913 to critical success.

She returned to Paris after WWI having spent those traumatic years in London. A commission to decorate the apartment of Madame Mathieu Levy was completed in 1921 and brought immediate critical acclaim and financial independence. Gray had designed most of the furniture, lamps, carpets and also installed some of her famous lacquered panels. However, it was the inclusion of the Bibendum Chair for which this project is best remembered. Named after the Michelin character that advertised their tyres, the chair has become one of the most recognisable furniture designs. She was the first designer to use chrome, years before such acclaimed designers as Le Corbusier, Mies Van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer. Another furniture piece, her famous Dragon Chair made between 1917-1919, was acquired by Yves Saint Laurent 1973 when Gray’s work was becoming popular yet again. This piece was sold by Christie’s in February 2009 for $28m making, it the most expensive piece of 20th century art!

E1027 Table

E1027 Table

In the 1920s she designed E1027 house in Roquebrune on the Cote d’Azur, France. The unique name is decoded as follows: E = Eileen, 10 = Jean (J is the 10th letter of the alphabet), 2 = Badovici and 7 = Gray. She designed the furniture while collaborating with Jean Badovici on structural aspects. Her circular glass, table E-1027, was inspired by the Bauhaus design movement.

Although well-known in France it is only in more recent years that Gray has been re-discovered in Ireland. In 1973 she was presented with an honorary fellowship by the Royal Institute of Architects of  Ireland and the citation noted ‘…she was probably the  sole representative from Ireland wholly immersed as an outstanding exponent in the pioneering work of the modern movement.’  A TV documentary, a new novel The Interview (by Patricia O’Reilly and the issue by An Post of a stamp (in August 2015) are going a long way to correct that position. It’s the least an icon deserves.

E1027 - Cote d'Azur, south of France

E1027 – Cote d’Azur, south of France

 

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