A Miscellany

Photographs of things Irish not included in other blog posts.

Our first stop after arrival: Bunratty, Co. Clare, home of Bunratty Castle, heavily restored in the twentieth century and now the centerpiece of a folk park, which includes transplanted farmhouses and village shops from the nineteenth century.

This bench in Bunratty is in the shape of a Celtic torc necklace, which I thought was a nice touch. We saw some real ones in the National Museum of Ireland.

Ewan Morris in Our Own Devices (2004) describes how the Irish Free State, as a statement of independence, painted all the pillar boxes green (they remain red in Northern Ireland, although I noticed one on the Falls Road whose color the locals had taken the liberty of changing – presumably there are others in other nationalist areas in NI). However, the royal monograms (of King Edward VII, in this case) tend to remain. Even now there are people who think that green paint isn’t enough, and who would like to get rid of these reminders of the bad old days; in return, local governments in some areas have listed them as protected structures, meaning that they can only be replaced by special permission.

(As an aside: could there be anything more British than the Letter Box Study Group?)

Three styles of architecture at Dublin Castle. In the center, the original Norman tower, the only one of the four original towers still standing. To the left, the Georgian-era State Apartments, once the headquarters of the Lord Lieutenant and his British regime, now used for formal functions by the Republic. And to the right, the Chapel Royal, in nineteenth-century “wedding cake Gothic,” currently deconsecrated.

I snapped this photo in Dublin Castle of the arms of Ireland, blazoned Azure a Celtic harp Or stringed Argent. These are the arms that appear in the third quarter of the British royal arms (although that harp is not designated a Celtic harp as such, and is often depicted as a topless female). Like Dublin Castle itself, here is something that the Free State retained from the British regime.

And here is an interesting rendition of the Irish arms that I saw, I believe at Taylors Three Rock, a dinner theater that we enjoyed in Dublin. This one uses the Brian Boru harp of the Free State, but it also includes the crest of the arms (A tower triple towered or, from the portal a hart springing argent, attired and unguled also or), created for the ascension of King James I in 1603 and not used by the Republic of Ireland. It also includes two Irish wolfhounds (?) for supporters, a novelty.

The Papal Cross in Phoenix Park, built for the visit of Pope John Paul II to Ireland in 1979.

Speaking of things Catholic: you’ll know it’s a Catholic church by a number of things, including the stations of the cross around the nave, and the Marian shrine outside.

And you’ll know it’s a Presbyterian church by the prominent place of the pulpit, which is front and center (unfortunately, my photo of the interior of the First Derry Presbyterian Church didn’t really turn out).

I did get a good shot of the Presbyterian emblem of the burning bush, with its motto “burning but prospering.”

More floor tiles: these are from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. I don’t know whether these are medieval or Victorian in origin but I do find them very appealing.

This is the Long Room at the Old Library of Trinity College, Dublin, housing its oldest books. You get to see this after you see the Book of Kells, on display in the basement. Both are impressive but I wonder how much they are famous for being famous? The Book of Kells is an important medieval manuscript but by no means the only one; all the same, it is apparently the number one tourist attraction in Dublin! If so, kudos to Trinity College for its successful marketing efforts. (If only Reinhardt could possess something like this…)

More signification: this is a photo of Gracehill House, built c. 1775 near Armoy, Co. Antrim. It’s not particularly distinguished, as far as country houses go (note the irritating asymmetry!), but the driveway leading up to it is interesting. This is now a road, and the beech trees that the owners planted still stand over two hundred years later.

Thus do we have something called the Dark Hedges, which is pretty evocative anyway, but which has been made really famous by the television show Game of Thrones. (I doubt that we would have stopped here otherwise.)

A view of Carrick-a-Rede, a small island off the coast of Co. Antrim in Northern Ireland. Salmon fishermen once lived there, and a fisherman’s cottage still stands, although no one lives in it anymore. Nowadays the island is maintained by the National Trust, is home to different wild bird and wildflower species, and sometimes enshrouded by fog, as it was when we visited. You get to it by crossing a rope bridge, which is not for everyone!

The Europa Hotel, Belfast, which is claimed to be “the most bombed hotel in Europe,” having suffered 36 such incidents during the Troubles. Happily, it appears to be doing just fine these days.

Finally, a view of Stormont, which I had my taxi driver take me to see on my way to the airport. This building was opened in 1932 and housed the parliament for Northern Ireland until 1972, when the British reasserted direct rule from Westminster. It now houses the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly, although this too is currently suspended for some reason or other.

I did get in to see the Oireachtas Éireann in Dublin, although the exterior of Leinster House, where it meets, was covered by scaffolding for renovations. No photographs of the interior were allowed, but the Dáil chamber looked just like it does on television! The Seanad, by contrast, was temporarily meeting in a room of National Gallery of Ireland, where some ceramic sculptures were still hanging on the walls.