Thursday, August 4, 2022
Irish speakers would say “Éire go Brách,” The phrase dates back to the Irish Rebellion of 1798, featured on a flag as a rallying cry for Irish independence from Great Britain. It’s a familiar phrase to all of us who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day every March 17.
When my son asked if I’d like to join him in touring Ireland, I jumped at the chance. My husband and I had visited 17 years ago, but there were many things I didn’t get to see at that time: the Cliffs of Moher and Newgrange, for example. Sean did stipulate that he would be going to a couple of sporting events, which I could attend or not. Other than that, he wanted to absorb as much history and culture as he could in our time there.
We boarded our flight from Minneapolis yesterday afternoon, arriving in Dublin around 8am this morning. Since it was too early to check in at our lodging, we stored our bags with Nanny Bag Storage. This service operates in many cities around the world, even in the US. The bags might be stored at a Western Union site, in the back of a shop or restaurant, or a local hotel. It worked very well for us, allowing us to begin touring without being encumbered by luggage.
Dublin was founded on the banks of the River Liffey, by Vikings, in 841 AD. The new settlement was called Dubh Linn, which means black pool. Despite ongoing wars between the Irish and the Vikings, an invasion by Scots, outbreaks of plague, the little town held its own, growing to about 600,000 inhabitants by 1700. Numbers declined during the Potato Famine of the mid-1800’s, and have not fully recovered. The population today is about 544,000.
One of our first stops was at Merrion Square Park, near the city center of Dublin. Oscar Wilde, WB Yeats, George Russell and Daniel O’Connell all lived in Merrion Square at one time. There is an interesting memorial to Oscar Wilde, with a sculpture of him lolling on a large boulder, and a few pillars with sayings attributed to the writer.
One of our priorities was to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College. The tours were selling out quickly, but a kindly tour guide managed finagle a way to get us both in at the same time, without having to wait several hours. This was one of many examples of the helpfulness we experienced on the trip. First, we toured the grounds of Trinity College, learned about many of its famous students – Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, Jonathan Swift and Samuel Beckett, to name just a few. For “Game of Thrones” fans, Jack Gleeson (Joffrey Baratheon) is also a graduate of Trinity. A class was graduating today. Perhaps some of them will achieve similar notoriety.
We popped into the Geology Museum building, where there is a skeleton of the Giant Irish Deer is on display. It looks much like our elk, but is actually the largest deer species that ever existed, standing about 7 feet tall, with antlers spanning up to 12 feet, much bigger than modern elk. These giant deer roamed throughout much of Europe over 10,000 years ago.
Next, we visited the Old Library Building, which houses the Book of Kells. Much of the area is off limits to cameras, so protect the manuscripts. It isn’t know exactly when or where the book was created, somewhere in Ireland, Scotland or England, probably during the time of St. Columba in the 7th century. The book consists of the four gospels of the Christian Bible. Whether or not it was created at the Abbey of Kells, in County Meath, it survived several Viking attacks, and was removed to Trinity College in 1661.
Built in 1712, the Old Library Building is still used by students at Trinity College. The main building, The Long Room, 213 feet long, houses 200,000 of the library’s oldest books. The Library is entitled to receive a copy of all works published in the Republic of Ireland, as well as a copy on request of all works published in the United Kingdom. To accommodate all of these books, the roof was raised in 1860, and an upper chamber added. Besides the books, several busts are on display, as is the Trinity College Harp, most likely made sometime in the 15th century. This harp is the national symbol of Ireland.