‘If there were only three Irishmen in the world you’d find two of them in a corner talking about the other.
Maria Brandan Araoz (Argentine writer)
The History of Ireland in two words: Ah well.
The Invasion by the Vikings: Ah well.
Niall Williams, Irish author, born 1958, from ‘History of the Rain’
One was definitely Irish…. The second man was unmistakably American. It wasn’t so much his tan or dark hair that gave him away as how he held himself. He had an eager air, as though the world was full of possibility. Irish people never looked like that.
Rachael English, Irish broadcaster and writer, from ‘Going Back’
I think being a woman is like being Irish. Everyone says you’re important and nice, but you take second place all the same.
Iris Murdoch, Novelist and Philosopher, (1919-1999)
I am married to Beatrice Salkeld, a painter. We have no children, except me.
I think the Irish woman was freed from slavery by bingo…. They can go out now, dressed up, with their handbags and have a drink and play bingo. And they deserve it.
John B. Keane, Irish writer, (1928-2002)
I still hold two truths with equal and fundamental certainty. One: the British did terrible things to the Irish. Two: the Irish, had they the power, would have done equally terrible things to the British. And so also for any other paired adversaries I can imagine. The difficulty is to hold on to both truths with equal intensity, not let either one negate the other, and know when to emphasize one without forgetting the other. Our humanity is probably lost and gained in the necessary tension between them both. I hope, by the way, that I do not sound anti-British. It is impossible not to admire a people who gave up India and held on to Northern Ireland. That shows a truly Celtic sense of humor.
John Dominic Crossan, Irish-American scholar and writer (born 1934)
The Irish ignore anything they can’t drink or punch.
James Boswell, Scottish writer, (1740-1795)
I formed a new group called Alcoholics-Unanimous. If you don’t feel like a drink, you ring another member and he comes over to persuade you.
Richard Harris, Irish actor, (1930-2002)
It’s not that the Irish are cynical. It’s rather that they have a wonderful lack of respect for everything and everybody.
Brendan Behan, Irish writer (1923-1964)
I’m an atheist and I thank God for it.
George Bernard Shaw, Irish writer (1856-1950)
A Garda recruit was asked during the exam: ‘What would you do if you had to arrest your own mother?’ He answered: ‘Call for reinforcements.’
If this humor be the safety of our race, then it is due largely to the infusion into the American people of the Irish brain.
William Howard Taft, 27th US President (1857-1930)
When anyone asks me about the Irish character, I say look at the trees. Maimed, stark and misshapen, but ferociously tenacious.
Edna O’Brien, Irish writer, (born in 1930)
An Irishman will always soften bad news, so that a major coronary is no more than ‘a bad turn’ and a near hurricane that leaves thousands homeless is ‘good drying weather’.
Hugh Leonard, Irish writer, (1926-2009)
The English are not happy unless they are miserable, the Irish are not at peace unless they are at war, and the Scots are not at home unless they are abroad.
George Orwell, English Writer (1903-1950)
Dublin University contains the cream of Ireland – rich and thick.
Samuel Beckett, Irish writer, (1926-1989)
He knows nothing and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.
George Bernard Shaw, Irish writer, (1856-1950)
The most important thing I would learn in school was that almost everything I would learn in school would be utterly useless. When I was fifteen I knew the principal industries of the Ruhr Valley, the underlying causes of World War One and what Peig Sayers had for her dinner every day…What I wanted to know when I was fifteen was the best way to chat up girls. That is what I still want to know.
Joseph O’Connor,Irish writer, from ‘The Secret World of the Irish Male’
A candidate for the best sign ever! (love the parachute guy)
Spotted outside a lunchtime Restaurant in Dublin
Someone had too much time on their hands
Political Poster not quite up to the job
County Leitrim. We agree – dont shoot tourists
Dont stand on… something ??
100KM on this road/dirt-track! Please disobey this road sign
Dont walk on the water? Good advice!
You wait there. I’ll be out in a minute
Typical Tourist Town Blarney
It’s not easy being a sheep in Ireland
The Irish entrepreneurial spirit in action
Kids will love this one
Someone got busy with Photoshop!
Love’s Young Dream
Here is a DIY building situation that certainly does need a few warning signs!
No Latte or other Fancy Coffee!
Who says the European Union does not have a sense of humor!
Some things in Ireland are free!
Someone in this Church is taking things a bit literally
A Dublin Church at Booterstown gets with the times.
The Russian community in Ireland is very active!
All together now: “….you cant touch this…”
Cant imagine why this Chinese Restaurant in Dublin went out of business.
Another musical one – sing this to the tune of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen.
Creepy looking ‘kids crossing’ sign – must have been Halloween.
You get fined more if you dont have the exact amount! Make sure you have the 74 cents!
The sudden arrival of Summer causes consternation and panic among Irish citizenry.
Anyone who has a brother or sister can relate.
‘I wouldn’t do it again’ …..brilliant!
‘A Turkey never voted for an early Christmas’
‘On St. Patrick’s Day I to pretend to be Irish. At Christmas I pretend to be good.’
‘I think after Christmas would be better for publication: I am hardly a Christmas present.’
‘There is a remarkable breakdown of taste and intelligence at Christmastime. Mature, responsible grown men wear neckties made of holly leaves and drink alcoholic beverages with raw egg yolks in them.’
‘I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.’
‘Our children await Christmas presents like politicians getting in election returns: there’s the Uncle Fred precinct and the Aunt Ruth district still to come in.’
The Holidays are the one time you get to experience all the excitement of rush hour traffic in the mall parking lot.
‘The principal advantage of the non-parental lifestyle is that on Christmas Eve you need not be struck dumb by the three most terrifying words that the Government allows to be printed on any product: Some assembly required.’
‘Sending Christmas cards is a good way to let your friends and family know that you think they’re worth the price of a stamp.
‘Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.’
‘There are 17 more shopping days until Christmas. So, guys, that means 16 more days till we start shopping, right?’
Zen Christmas: the gift of nothingness.
During the 1970’s and 1980’s in Ireland the annual remembrance of those tens of thousands of Irish who gave their lives in the Great War was met with a kind of muted national indifference.
Certainly there was laying of wreaths and some elderly people would wear a poppy (before the poppy symbolism was hijacked by the British establishment in an effort to promote their own particular brand of nationalism).
But once the brief RTE television news report had been played the Irish people continued on without much acknowledgement of the anniversary, with younger people especially indifferent to what seemed like a quaint pre-independence ritual.
After all, the ‘real’ heroes of the Irish republic were the men of 1916, Pearse and Connolly, the men and women who had fought the War of Independence and the subsequent Civil War, deValera and Collins, plunging Ireland into a scarring divide that would hold the economically bankrupt country back for generations to come.
The Civil War divide still remains in Ireland, but it is very much on its last knees. At last a left-wing Labour movement has emerged (although not necessarily via the Labour Party). Incredibly that may even necessitate a union of the two former political enemies. Even twenty years ago this would have seemed like a fanciful proposition. It was just impossible to conceive that Fianna Fail and Fine Gael would form a coalition together. But now the electoral arithmetic makes that outcome a very real possibility.
What of the 50,000 who perished in the war? What is their legacy following the march of time.
Finally it seems that their sacrifice is being realized. It was in 1966 that Sean Lemass, the Irish Taoiseach who is credited with dragging the country into the developed economic world remarked:
‘In later years, it was common – and I also was guilty in this respect – to question the motives of those men who joined the new British armies formed at the outbreak of the war, but it must, in their honour and in fairness to their memory, be said that they were motivated by the highest purpose, and died in their tens of thousands in Flanders believing they were giving their lives in the cause of human liberty everywhere, not excluding Ireland.’
It would be nearly a half century though before an admiration, or at least an acknowledgement, of those Irish troops who joined the British army could co-exist with a similar admiration (even worship in many cases) of those men and women who had fought in the cause of Irish freedom in the ruins of the GPO on Easter Sunday in 1916, or in the fields of Ireland against the Black and Tans in 1921.
Why did they do it? Why did the Irish volunteer for the British Army?
The motivation of soldiers in any age, including today, who are often impervious to any criticism, such is the level of bombast in certain places, is rarely easy to grasp.
Many initially volunteered for the money. This was the Ireland of ‘Strumpet City’ and ‘The Lockout’. Jobs were very hard to find and when found, paid poorly. Poverty, especially in the main Irish cities of Dublin and Cork was extraordinary, even by modern day standards.
Today there are various definitions of poverty, the most often used in Ireland is that anyone with an income of 60% of the average national wage is ‘in poverty’. In the decade leading up to the great war such a definition would have been much more relevant. In modern Ireland the lack of a TV satellite dish is regarded as a symbol of poverty. Everything is relative.
Most however, joined to represent their country and to fight for freedom. When the all but forgotten Irish nationalist John Redmond encouraged and even demanded that his Irish followers enlist in the British army to fight the German menace he did so in the hope that the service of the Irish would be remembered and rewarded. It is easy to look back now and lament at how naive he must have been.
Francis Ledwidge was an Irish volunteer who was to die in preparation of the Third battle of Ypres in 1917:
‘I joined the British Army because she stood between Ireland and an enemy of civilisation and I would not have her say that she defended us while we did nothing but pass resolutions.’
The stage was set in Ireland for another dramatic failure, as that what the Easter Rising was from a military standing. But the British over-reacted, executed the Irish rebel leaders. Their martyrdom ensured that the die was cast and the Irish journey to independence was unstoppable.
What might those Irish trapped in the blood-filled trenches of Belgium and France have thought now?
Francis Ledwidge again:
‘If someone were to tell me now that the Germans were coming in over our back wall, I wouldn’t lift a finger to stop them. They could come!’
Poelcapelle Cemetery in Flanders is the final resting place of Private John Condon who hailed from Waterford and was known as the ‘Boy Soldier’. He had worked as a bottler in Sullivan’s Bottling Stores in Waterford before, aged 13 years, he lied his way into the British army. He is recorded as the youngest military casualty of the first World War.
He died at the second battle of Ypres in May 1915, killed in action at Bellevarde Ridge on a day when ‘a strange greenish mist crept across from the enemy position, to attack the eyes and throat and burn out the lungs.’
So many Irish soldiers returned to their country with damage to their lungs from the poison they had breathed, many to suffer for decades with their injuries.
As many as 206,000 Irish soldiers served in the British army during the first world war.
Over 50,000 perished.
On this Remembrance Day nearly a century later should we not ask: Is Private John Condon any less of a martyr in the cause of Irish freedom than Pearse or Connolly?
I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.
Oscar Wilde, Writer (1856-1900),
‘The Importance of Being Earnest’
Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught
Oscar Wilde, Writer (1856-1900),
‘The Critic as Artist’
I have never let my schooling interfere with my education
Mark Twain (1835-1910), American writer.
Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.
William Butler Yeats (1865–1939) Irish poet, dramatist.
Books are but waste paper unless we spend in action the wisdom we get from thought – asleep. When we are weary of the living, we may repair to the dead, who have nothing of peevishness, pride, or design in their conversation.
William Butler Yeats (1865–1939) Irish poet, dramatist.
There’s no use saying anything in the schoolyard because there’s always someone with an answer and there’s nothing you can do but punch them in the nose and if you were to punch everyone who has an answer you’d be punching morning noon and night
Frank McCourt, Writer, (1930-2009), ‘Angela’s Ashes’
He says, you have to study and learn so that you can make up your own mind about history and everything else but you can’t make up an empty mind. Stock your mind, stock your mind. You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace.
Frank McCourt, Writer, (1930-2009), ‘Angela’s Ashes’
An Irish prayer-book is a thing which the poor [Catholic] Irish peasant has never seen. Not only has he not been taught the language which he speaks, but his clergy have never encouraged, and have sometimes forbidden him to learn it. This objection arose chiefly, I believe, from the impudent intermeddling of Bible Societies with the religion of the people. By their patronage of the Irish language, they had desecrated it in the eyes of the Irish themselves
Conor McSweeny, ‘Songs of the Irish’, 1843
…it would be the veriest mockery to say to those people – ‘Don’t speak English,
or emigrate: speak Irish, stay at home and starve, cry out yearly for doles, and
send your children picking winkles instead of being at school, and earn the
contemptuous pity of the world
Patrick Conroy, (Coimisiún na Gaeltachta, 1926)
A child miseducated is a child lost
US President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)
Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education
US President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)
What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child
George Bernard Shaw, Writer (1856-1950)
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn
Alvin Toffler, American Writer and Futurist (b. 1928)
While a significant part of learning certain comes from teaching – but good teaching and by good teachers – a major measure comes from exploration, from reinventing the wheel and finding out for oneself
Nicholas Negroponte, Founder and Director of the MIT Media Lab, (b. 1943)
Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young
Henry Ford, Car Pioneer, (1863-1947(
I cherish the creation of public space and services, especially health, housing and the comprehensive education system which dared to give so many of us ideas ‘above our station
Frances O’Grady, British Trade Unionist (b. 1959)
You know there is a problem with the education system when you realize that out of the 3 R’s only one begins with an R
Dennis Miller, US Comedian (b. 1953)
The Wearing of the Green
The tradition of wearing Shamrock to celebrate Saint Patrick seems to date from the seventeenth or eighteenth century. This was a very turbulent time in Irish history. The suppression of the Gaelic way of life by the ruling British invaders resulted in many aspects of the Catholic religion in Ireland being forced underground. Strict laws were enforced which prevented the Catholic population from attending schools so ‘hedge-schools’ were operated in secret.
These were schools run outdoors in secluded places (sometimes literally ‘under a hedge!). The teaching of religion was also forbidden so it is only to be expected that teachers would use naturally available resources to inform their pupils. Thus the Shamrock plant was used to illustrate the message of the Christian Holy Trinity.
Saint Patrick was credited with using the Shamrock in such a manner so the wearing of the Shamrock by the oppressed Catholic population became a means of demonstrating their defiance to the ruling British class. It also imbued a sense of kinship among the native Gaelic people, differentiating them from their oppressors.
Wearing a clump of Shamrock is now a firmly established tradition throughout the world to celebrate not just Saint Patrick but Ireland itself. The Shamrock symbol is widely used by businesses seeking to associate with Ireland and, along with the Harp, is perhaps the single most recognisable symbol of Ireland. It is a shame though that the Shamrock is not a blue plant as the color originally associated with Saint Patrick was blue!
Saint Patricks’s Day Parade
Saint Patrick’s Day is unique in that it is celebrated worldwide. It is most unusual that a country has such an international celebration and is really evidence of the generational effects of emigration that has afflicted Ireland for centuries. After the 1845 to 1849 Irish Famine emigration soared with as many as a million native Irish leaving their homes in the decades after the famine to settle in places like Boston, New York, Newfoundland, Perth, Sydney and beyond. The US Census Bureau now reports that 34 Million US Citizens claim Irish descent. Most emigrants like to commemorate their heritage and thus the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade came into being.
The earliest record of a Saint Patrick’s Day Parade was in the year 1762 when Irish soldiers serving in the British Army held a Parade in New York City. Earlier records suggest that the day was celebrated by the Irish in Ireland as early as the ninth and tenth centuries.
Again, this was a very difficult time in Irish history with Viking raiders terrorizing the native Gaelic population. It is thus no surprise then that in times of strife the local population would turn to religion and to a commemoration of their own heritage and individuality – a practice that has been repeated by populations of troubled places since the dawn of time. The New York Parade is now the longest running civilian Parade in the world with as many as three Million spectators watching the Parade of over 150,000 participants.
The first official Parade in Ireland was in 1931. The 1901 law that copper-fastened March 17th as an Irish national holiday was later amended to insist that public houses close down on the day. This restriction was later lifted in the 1970’s. In the mid 1990’s the Irish Government really started to promote the event when it changed from a single day’s Parade into a 5-day festival attracting as many as a million visitors into the country. Parades are now held in just about every major city in the world with the biggest in several US cities reaching epic proportions.
Greening of Rivers and Buildings
The use of the color green reached new heights (or plunged new depths!) when in 1962 the city of Chicago decided to dye part of the Chicago River green. Since then the campaign to have just about every possible landmark turned green for the day has taken off in earnest and in recent years has included the Irish Parliament building, the Sydney Opera House, the Empire State Building, Niagara Falls and even the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt!
A Pint of Plain
The Irish association with drinking is well known and not always positive. Fortunately there are plenty of examples of the appropriate use of alcohol and Saint Patrick’s Day is one of them. It is a widely held tradition in Ireland that beer or whiskey can be taken on Saint Patrick’s Day although native Irish pub-goers can only look on aghast as visitors top the heads of their creamy pint of Guinness with a green Shamrock. Sacrilege! It is estimated that as many as 13 Million pints of Guinness are consumed on Saint Patrick’s Day, up from the usual 5.5 Million per day!
The tradition of dressing up in Irish outfits is not just confined to participants in Parades. Jovial creatures of Irish origin the world over use the opportunity of Saint Patrick’s Day to dress up as Leprechaun or even as Saint Patrick himself. Kids love to wear the big green, white and orange hats and receive sweets thrown to them by similarly clad operators of the various Parade floats.
The Saint Patrick’s Day Dinner
Corned beef and cabbage is as traditional and Irish meal as you will ever find and it is often hauled out for Saint Patrick’s Day. Traditional Irish music in the background and a family gathering are other Irish Saint Patrick’s Day traditions that have been going on for centuries.
The famous Irish song ‘Dannny Boy’ is one of over 100 songs composed to the same tune. The author was the English lawyer, songwriter and entertainer, Frederic Edward Weatherly (1848-1929). He wrote the lyrics to Danny Boy in the year 1910 but only used the traditional tune when he was sent the ‘Londonderry Air’ by his sister-in-law in 1912.
The song was republished in 1913. Alfred Perceval Graves was a friend of Weatherly but the two fell out when Graves claimed that his friend had stolen some of the lyrics that Graves himself had written for the song. The tune was also known as the ‘Air from County Derry’.
The earliest recorded appearance of the song in print was in the year 1855 in ‘Ancient Music of Ireland’ by George Petrie (1789-1866) when it was given to Petrie by Jane Ross of Limavady in County Derry, who claimed to have copied the tune from an itinerant piper.
The song became very popular in America where it was recorded by Bing Crosby. It has been used by many Irish folk, traditional and even rock musicians ever since. The famous Irish rock band, Thin Lizzy, used the music on their 1979 album, ‘Black Rose’.
It remains as one of the most popular and well known Irish love songs of all time.
Lyrics to the Song ‘Danny Boy’
Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side
The summer’s gone, and all the flowers are dying
‘Tis you, ’tis you must go and I must bide.
But come ye back when summer’s in the meadow
Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow
‘Tis I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.
And if you come, when all the flowers are dying
And I am dead, as dead I well may be
You’ll come and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an ‘Ave’ there for me.
And I shall hear, tho’ soft you tread above me
And all my dreams will warm and sweeter be
If you’ll not fail to tell me that you love me
I’ll simply sleep in peace until you come to me
I’ll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.
Listen to the tune to this and other famous Irish songs here:
There are a number of theories about the origin of the term ‘Black Irish’. Almost all were intended as a form of insult or as a means of differentiating one particular group from another.
The theories regarding the origin of the phrase ‘Black Irish’ include:
1. Descendants of Viking and Norman invaders who eventually settled in Ireland may have been referred to as ‘Black Irish’. This is more likely because of the dark intentions of the invaders rather than their physical appearance.
2. One of the consequences of the disastrous ‘Spanish Armada’ in the year 1588 was that groups of Spanish sailors were literally washed up onto the western shores of Ireland. In cases where these darker-skinned foreigners integrated into Irish society it is possible that their offspring were referred to as ‘Black Irish’.
3. Over a million of the poorest Irish people emigrated in the 1840’s and 1850’s in the wake of the great famine in Ireland. The height of the famine was the year 1847 – known as ‘Black 47′. The potato blight that savaged the countryside turned the potatoes black. It is possible that the arrival of the thousands of desperate emigrants into America, Canada Australia and beyond resulted in their being labelled as ‘Black Irish’, trying as they did to escape the black death they left behind.
4. Irish Emigrants to the West Indies and their families have often been referred to as ‘Black Irish’.
5. Catholics in Ulster referred to the immigrant Protestants as ‘Black Irish’.
A further examination of this history of the Black Irish can be found at:
Walter Osborne was born in 1859. He painted mainly in the French Brittany region of Quimperle but moved to England in 1884. His paintings of rural scenes that dominated his early years gradually gave way to an ‘impressionistic’ interpretation of those subjects that he had great empathy for, namely women, small children and old people. His superb images of young girls at play are still cherished by the National Gallery of Ireland: The Dolls School, The House Builders.
John Lavery was born in Belfast but was educated in Glasgow, London and Paris. He originally worked as an apprentice photographer but harboured ambitions to be a portrait artist. He became an official war artist and eventually a chronicler of his times with paintings such as ‘The Ratification of the Irish Treaty in the English House of Lords, 1921′ and ‘Blessing of the Colors: A Revolutionary Soldier Kneeling to be Blessed’. His most famous work was perhaps that of his wife, Lady Lavery, ‘The Red Rose’ which was a painting that had a number of incarnations before it forever bore the face of the woman who was to adorn the Irish Pound note for half a century.
William John Leech was born in Dublin in 1881 and studied under Walter Osborne at the Royal Hibernian Academy Schools. He became increasingly interested in sunlight and shadow and this perhaps might explain why the famous painting ‘The Goose Girl’ was accredited to him. So proud of this wonderful interpretation of a girl in a bluebell field was the National Gallery of Ireland that it adopted the image as their logo, only to finally have to accept that the painting was in fact completed by the Englishman Stanley Royle. He can be regarded as one of the great Irish ‘colorists’ as can be seen by his superb image: ‘Les Soeurs du Saint-Esprit, Concarneau’, c. 1910-1912 which has to be one of the finest of all Irish paintings.
HOW DUBLIN GOT ITS NAME
The Gaelic name for Dublin is ‘Baile Atha Cliath’ which translates literally as ‘town of the hurdle ford’, a description of the bank of wooden hurdles built up across the river Liffey by the Vikings. The word ‘Dublin’ is actually a composition of two Gaelic words: ‘dubh’ meaning ‘black’ and ‘linn’ means ‘pool’ (or ‘mire’). Thus the literal translation of the words from which Dublin gets its name is Black pool!
Crossing the ‘hurdle ford’ was not without its dangers. In 770 AD a band of Bon Valley raiders were drowned crossing the Liffey at the hurdle ford.
END OF THE VIKINGS IN IRELAND
The famous victory by Brian Boru over the Vikings at Clontarf in the year 1014 marked the end of the Viking raids on Ireland. By this time however, the Vikings had already begun to assimilate into, and make their mark on Gaelic society.
One such Viking was Sitric Silkenbeard, the King of Dublin. Despite the reputation of the Vikings Silkenbeard was a devout Christian and was responsible for the founding of the famous Christchurch Cathedral at the top of Dame Street in Dublin City Centre. His reign saw the first coins ever minted in Ireland. They bore his image on one side and a cross on the other. He remained in power until 1036 and spent the last of his days on the island of Iona, Scotland.
ORIGIN OF THE WORD ‘CHANCER’
The sixteenth century saw a fierce rivalry develop between the Butlers and Fitzgeralds. Violent clashes between the two groups were commonplace with one such melee occurring in 1512. Butler, the Earl of Ormond retreated and was forced to take refuge in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. He barricaded himself behind a stout wooden door and refused to leave until he got assurances for his safety. After some negotiation a deal was struck. In order to seal the deal a hole was hacked through the wooden door so that the two leaders could shake hands. It is thought that the modern expression ‘chancing your arm’ originated from this event. From that time on a ‘chancer’ was someone who took a risk or a gamble. The hole in the door can still be seen to this day.
In 1924 the main street in Dublin City had its name changed from Sackville Street to O’Connell Street, in honour of ‘The Liberator’. This change had for long been resisted by the English Vice-Chancellor, Chatterton, who prevented Dublin Corporation from granting the wish of the vast majority of Dubliners. Not to be outdone, the local citizenry opted to use the new name in spite of the lack of official recognition.
Dublin Corporation joined into the spirit of things by allowing the ‘Sackville’ street signs to deteriorate and even threatened to rename a street where prostitutes were known to frequent as ‘Chatterton Street’.
The creation of the Free State in 1922 finally allowed for the official transformation of Sackville Street into O’Connell Street.
Kilmainham Jail near Inchicore in Dublin was originally built on a site known as ‘Gallows Hill’. A jail had existed on the site since the year 1210 but was in such neglect that it was demolished and rebuilt in 1796. By the time of the 1798 rebellion the jail was overcrowded but further development did not take place until 1863. Many famous Irish famous historical figures were imprisoned there including Robert Emmett, Charles Stewart Parnell, Padraig Pearse, Countess Markievicz and Eamon DeValera. The prison was closed down in 1924 and is now a museum heritage site, a national monument.
The early part of the twentieth century was a magical time for Irish literature. Yeats, O’Casey and Synge were prominent in the famous Abbey Theatre while Dublin provided no less than three Nobel prizewinners. James Joyce was born in Rathgar although there are twenty houses in Dublin city that claim him as an occupant, owing to his family constantly moving about during his early years. His most famous work is Ulysses. Dubliners still celebrate ‘Bloomsday’ every year, named after his most famous fictional character Leopold Bloom. George Bernard Shaw was another Dubliner who won the famous Novel prize, renowned for ‘Pygmalion’ on which the movie ‘My Fair Lady’ is based. Dubliner Samuel Beckett also won a Nobel, and is perhaps most remembered for writing ‘Waiting for Godot’.
THEFT OF THE ‘IRISH CROWN JEWELS’
The 1907 theft of the ‘Irish Crown Jewels’ still remains a mystery nearly a century later. The famous regalia of the ‘Order of Saint Patrick’ were to be placed in a safe in a strongroom in Dublin Castle but, when it was found that the new safe was too large to fit into the strongroom the safe was located in the Library instead.
An inspection of the safe in July revealed that the treasure had disappeared. The haul was valued at 30,000 pounds, a huge sum at the time and has never been recovered.
THE ATMOSPHERIC RAILWAY
The famous Atmospheric Railway was opened in 1844. The line ran from Dalkey to nearby Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) on the southside of the city. This unique system relied on atmospheric pressure to force the railway carriage up the hill to Dalkey and then relied on gravity for the return to Kingstown.
A 483 yard pipe ran the length of the track from which air was extracted by a steam-driven pump at the Dalkey end. The resulting vacuum caused a piston to move along the pipe, to which was connected the train. Wax-covered flaps in the pipe opened and closed allowing the piston to move along its length. As the train moved along a wheel pressed down on the pipe sealing in the vacuum as progress was made. Problems with this system meant a man had to follow the train to manually seal the flaps.
Momentum from the journey would allow the train to travel the final part of its journey when the pump had been stopped. The piston was then hooked onto the train for the return journey back to Kingstown. If the train stopped short of the station the third-class passengers were required to push the carriage the final part home. Occasionally the train would fly past the Dalkey station and off the tracks at the far end.
The system worked well for a decade but was eventually abandoned because of the problems with sealing the vacuum flaps and because of developments with steam-driven engines. The grease and wax that was used on the flaps was also a great attraction for rats who caused repeated damage to the line. The tunnel that was constructed along the line only offered 3 inches of head clearance making it a tricky proposition passengers sticking their heads out of the windows!
The part of Dublin city just off Clanbrasil Street has for centuries been known as ‘The Blackpits’. The origin of this name is unclear. One theory suggests it is so named because of the large number of dead who were placed there during the ‘Black Death’. Another suggestion alludes to the black vats used by tanners during the eighteenth century.
The General Post Office in Dublin was first opened in 1818. A suggestion that the building be used as a Catholic Cathedral was rejected by the authorities as they did not want a religious institution in such a prominent place in the city.
The building was to gain international prominence however, when it was seized during the ‘Easter Rising’ of 1916. The rebellion, which was led by Padraig Pearse, was very much centered at the GPO which was gutted during the battle that ensued.
It was rebuilt during the 1920’s but several of the original bullet-holes from the Rising were left untouched, as a reminder of the turbulent history of perhaps the worlds most famous post office.