Tag Archives: Easter Rising

The Long Room – with a great view!

The Old Library

The Old Library

As libraries go the Long Room in Trinity College is a ‘must see’ and one of Dublin’s great attractions. It is the main chamber of the Old Library (which houses the Book of Kells, the Book of Durrow and many other ancient manuscripts) and was built between 1712-1732. It measures an impressive 65 metres and is lined with more than forty busts of great writers, philosophers, scientists and famous former students like Jonathan Swift, William Rowan Hamilton and Edmund Burke.

Touching history

Touching history

From 1801 the library was given the right to receive a copy of every book published in Britain and Ireland, and the Long Room now holds over 200,000 books. Due to the amount books being received it was decided to extend the Long Room and the roof was raised. The construction of the distinctive, barrel-vaulted  ceiling and upper bookcases was completed in 1860. Walking among the bookcases, with their tall ladders reaching the highest shelves, is a real treat and a step back in time. With many of the books being very old conservators are kept busy caring for these priceless works.

Along the main floor glass display cabinets house exhibitions from the library’s vast collection. Exhibitions alternate every six months (April & October) with works from either Manuscripts & Archives (ancient books) or the Early Printed Books (modern books) – there is always something interesting on show. You can also see one of the last remaining copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic that was read outside the GPO on Monday 24 April by Padraig Pearse at the start of the Easter Rising. And there is the oldest harp in Ireland that dates from the 15th century and is now the symbol of Ireland.

In the movie Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones the Jedi archives bear an uncanny resemblance to The Long Room. This led to a certain amount of controversy but no legal action was taken the college. Well, would you want to argue with the Jedi?

(Long) Room with a view!

(Long) Room with a view!

 

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Liffey Bridges – a connecting history

We use them to get from one side to the other, but bridges are more than just physical things. Since we began making our way we recognised the need to span voids, and the concept of a bridge and its construction has held the imagination. And as the River Liffey makes its way on a 125 kilometre journey to Dublin Bay two dozen bridges with colourful and interesting histories play a major, if unnoticed and taken-for-granted, role in daily life.

Ha'penny Bridge - a real favourite

Ha’penny Bridge – a real favourite

Bridges have been built over the river long before records began. The earliest crossing points were mere fords and these were subsequently replaced by bridges. Old bridges were damaged, often swept away, and these were then replaced by newer, more stable structures. The oldest one is Anna Livia Bridge at Chapelizod which was completed in 1753. The name was bestowed on it in 1982, the 100th anniversary of the James Joyce’s birth, as this is how he refers to the Liffey in his great work Finnegans Wake.

Within the city limits, the oldest bridge is Mellows Bridge (Queen St to Bridgefoot St) dating from 1768. It was originally called Queen’s Bridge (after Queen Charlotte, wife of George III), but was renamed in 1942 in honour of Liam Mellows.

Grattan (Capel Street) Bridge - perfect symmetry

Grattan (Capel Street) Bridge – perfect symmetry

The recently opened Rosie Hackett Bridge (Marlborough St to Hawkins) is the only one named after a woman, the former trade union activist who played a part in the 1913 Lockout and the 1916 Easter Rising. However, Island Bridge (1792) was for 130 years known as Sarah’s Bridge until the name was changed in 1922. Sarah Fane, Countess of Westmorland, was the wife of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and its beauty was compared to the Rialto in Venice. It was a popular spot with both sightseers and artists.

The James Joyce and Samuel Beckett Bridges, both designed by the internationally acclaimed architect Santiago Calatrava, are white, steel and the most modern of bridges. ‘Sam’ also opens to allow ships to pass, an impressive sight if you get a chance to see it. And, like its older neighbours, doing an important job that Dubliners appreciate, if not always crossing their minds.

Samuel Beckett Bridge - light elegance

Samuel Beckett Bridge – light elegance

   

 

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Open House – ‘Come in, come in, come in..’

First Day

Saturday started warm and sunny and, thankfully, stayed that way. It was a perfect day for Open House events and I decided to ‘stay local’ and visit two buildings in  Rathfarnham. Both of these were on the interesting and informative double-sided poster, which has already turned into a ‘collector’s item’. Well done to its designers, as I am sure that it played its part in attracting many visitors who were willing to ‘check things out’ and, as a result, enjoy spaces not usually open to them.

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Ballyroan Library 2013

Having decided to avoid the inevitable crowds in town, I went, firstly, to see the recently opened Ballyroan Library. As a card-carrying member I was delighted to  see the  ‘new’  library, and it does not disappoint. The old building which I remembered fondly was long gone, and there now stood a modern, clear-lined building that was officially opened in April this year. A tall atrium is the centre of the building with study rooms, offices, bookshelves, gallery and other community spaces leading from it. It is very popular with users and it was recognised in the Irish Architecture Awards when it won Best Public Building 2013. (Architects/Designers: Box Architecture.)

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Padraig Pearse & Tricolour

Next on my list was St Enda’s. This is the old building where Padraig Pearse opened his school in 1910, determined to give pupils a broader and more balanced education. He had spent time in  Belgium, liked the way pupils were taught bilingually and decided to adopt this teaching method in Ireland. It was popular and the school attracted many students. However, with Pearse’s growing involvement in republican matters, the school inevitably suffered. After he and his brother Willie, along with Thomas McDonagh (a teacher and signatory of the Proclamation of Independence) were executed for the part in the Easter Rising the school went into decline. It was run, for a time by their mother who with the influx of funds after the executions was able to buy the property.  However, due to the falling numbers of pupils the school closed its doors for the last time in 1935. After Pearse’s sister (Margaret Mary Pearse) died in 1968 ownership of the property was transferred to the State. Recently, the building has been extensively renovated with many of the rooms now on show as they were in Pearse’s time, namely; his study, the sitting-room, art gallery (with a number of sculptures by Willie Pearse) and a pupils’ dormitory. A large timber block upon which Robert Emmet was decapitated is an interesting, if little publicised, item of historical interest. Outside, the gardens, paths and bubbling fountain are a perfect place for a walk and quiet reflection. It’s a hidden gem!

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St Enda’s & gardens

Second Day

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Buoy, oh buoy, oh buoy….

The sun was not as obliging today, but it was still very mild and just right for trip to the sea. I headed to Dun Laoghaire and to a building that I have passed by on countless  occasions, but never entered. The Headquarters of the Commissioners of Irish Lights building is a real eye catcher and was well worth the visit. Designed by the Dublin architects Scott Tallon Walker the building resembles a lighthouse, showing the essence of the organisation. Inside, the large amount of glass gives  a sense of lightness and it feels as if the place is floating on the sea. The almost 360-degree views are spectacular, none more so than those from the Board Room. The uninterrupted view across Dublin Bay was memorable! The central staircase twists like a double-helix DNA molecule, and everywhere gives the feeling of being at the cutting edge. The fifty minute tour with our guide  Rory (yes, he works there!) was very informative, and it was an Open House event I am glad to have attended. Put it in your diary for next year!

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Building or spaceship: a must-see!

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Open House Weekend

Mansion House

Mansion House

In a few short years the Open House Weekend has become something of a favourite with Dubliners and tourists alike. The fact that we can gain access to buildings, houses and offices that are normally off-limits to the general public, is a great reason to get out and about and enjoy the ‘search.’ Everywhere I went people studied maps, pointed this way and that and happily queued, cameras at the ready to snap a piece of history. There was, inevitably, lots of talk and much advice on offer as to which places to visit.

I began my walkabout with a visit to the Mansion House. The guide, a councillor and former Lord Mayor, really knew the history of the building and made the whole experience memorable. It was built by Joshua Dawson (who built many of the buildings on Dawson Street) in 1705 as his city residence, but sold it to Dublin Corporation in 1715 for £3,500! The Oak Room is lined with the crests of all the previous Lord Mayors with Daniel O’Connell’s (1841) being the first. There are many beautiful paintings in the Drawing Room where Eamonn DeValera, Michael Collins and others sat at the long table and discussed, no doubt heatedly, the division of Ireland.

A brisk walk took me to Dublin Castle where the queue for the State Rooms stretched almost around the Upper Castle Yard, and I decided it was a good idea to use my time and go elsewhere. I had not planned to visit Dublin City Hall but I’m happy that I did. Having, like many others, passed by the old place countless times, I had never given it much thought and walked on. But not today, thankfully. Formerly the Royal Exchange, built between 1769 and 1779, it has been the centre of municipal government since 1852. The building has recently been renovated to its former glory and it was well worth the visit. The rotunda was wonderful, especially when the sun shone down onto the colourfully tiled floors. And the ‘Story of the Capital’ exhibition in the basement is informative and well presented.

City Hall

City Hall

After that I walked the few yards across the cobblestones to the Rates Office. It was designed by Thomas Ivory in 1781 for the Newcommen Bank. Built of Portland Stone, in the style of John Adams, it was altered in the 19th century due to the demands for local road improvement. The renovated stairs was impressive as were the two oval offices that look down on the entrance to Dublin Castle. Eamonn Ceannt, a signatory the Proclamation of the Irish Republic and a leader in the Easter Rising of 1916, worked in the City Treasurer’s Department from 1900 to 1916.

Afterwards I made my way along Dame Street, past Trinity College and the Bank of Ireland, and squeezed into the lift that took me and my fellow passengers to the top of Liberty Hall. This is the tallest viewing area in the city and has been off limits for years. Built in 1965, the view from the roof terrace of what was Ireland’s first skyscraper was a real thrill, and I took the rare opportunity to click away at the panorama on offer. The Liffey sparkled as it snaked its way eastwards to the sea under the new bridges that have added hugely to the architectural landscape. To the west, the city spread out towards the Dublin Mountains, and the backdrop of a blue sky and puffy, white clouds was something special. Open House Weekends are fun and, hopefully, here to stay.

Atop Liberty Hall

Liberty Hall – what a view!

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