Trinity College Dublin

Trinity College Dublin

Sun, 29 Mar - Dublin

The clocks went forward an hour this morning, so we're now only 10 hours behind Sydney. 

Someone, on learning I was from Australia, offered his congratulations on winning the cricket World Cup, so I had to explain that I had actually been supporting the Kiwis.


Trinity was founded by Elizabeth I in 1592, since when it has been an absolutely central influence on Ireland and further afield, with a mind-blowing list of alumni such as Edmund Burke, George Berkeley, Swift, Wilde, Beckett, JP Donleavy ... If you click here, it takes you through to a montage of famous alumni. There's one notable absentee, however - my cousin Claire McKechnie-Henning of Seattle, no less.

The Book of Kells is just one of those things - the pinnacle of a tradition of calligraphy and ornamentation that was a speciality of the medieval Celtic church. I'm not sure if this will work, but try this link, Trinity seem to have digitised everything! The four Gospels as you've never seen them before. It's the lifestyle or culture behind them I find so utterly awesome.


Decorative Arts and History is one of four components of the National Museum of Ireland, the others being Natural History and Archaeology (both in Dublin), and Country Life, over in Castlebar in the West of Ireland, which I'm planning to visit later in my trip. The Decorative Arts and History section is housed in the amazing Collins Barracks, which used to be a major base for the British army, and then post-1922 the Free State army, until it was de-commissioned in 1997.

One of the Barracks' other claims to fame is as the location where Theobald Wolfe Tone (with whom I share a birthday) was held prisoner, court-martialled and convicted of treason for his part in leading the 1798 Rebellion. The monument to Tone (right), which stands on a corner of St Stevens Green in Dublin, is popularly known as Tone-henge. Nowadays, the main focus of the Museum galleries is on arts, craft and wares, including exhibits of Irish coins and currency, silverware, furniture, folklife and costumes, ceramics, glassware, etc. There is a special section on Eileen Gray, "regarded as one of the most influential 20th Century designers and architects" according to the blurb. The most impressive section for me was the Irish silverware.

  • The Old Library, Trinity College, Dublin

  • Collins Barracks, Dublin, now home to the National Museum - Decorative Arts and History

  • The William Smith O’Brien Gold Cup, 1854

There is also quite a lot of Military history in the Museum. I just visited the section on the Easter Rising of 1916. I know from my reading that this event was a bit of a shambles on both sides, which would have achieved nothing had it not been for the British over-reaction in the summary conviction and execution by firing squad of 17 ring-leaders. I found it quite harrowing to see artefacts that were part of the Rising - guns, uniforms, membership cards, letters of appointment, last letters from the convicted men, even the order to rescind the order to rise. Right down to personal effects like spectacles returned to a widow after the executions. 

So much did public opinion swing against the British because of these shootings that the Easter Rising became a trigger for a Sinn Féin landslide in the Westminster elections of Dec 1918, hence the War of Independence of 1919 - 1921, which led to Lloyd George partitioning Ireland and the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, setting up the Free State, followed by the Irish Civil war of 1922/23 in which the republicans fought amongst themselves over whether or not the Treaty was acceptable, largely over the issue of an oath of allegiance to the British King. The acceptors (under Michael Collins) won, but the opponents eventually got the upper hand when the Fianna Fáil party, newly created by De Valera won the 1927 elections. Here endeth the lesson.


Well, you'd be surprised if I didn't somehow fit a sporting event into my trip, but even I was thrilled when I found that my visit happened to coincide with a Euro 16 qualifying match. 

Pulling a string with the Football Assoc. of Ireland helped me to buy an excellent ticket. And it was a great night, despite the freezing cold. I even managed to tell a Polish supporter before the match what the final score would be, a 1 - 1 draw, just as it was on the only other occasion I have watched Rep. Ireland play, which was 25 years ago in Cagliari, Sardinia, against England in the 1990 World Cup finals. 

I had been at an Ireland v Scotland rugby match at the old Lansdowne Road when at I was at Inst - we played one of the Dublin schools in the morning and watched the international in the afternoon. Not surprisingly, half a century later, there's a very flash new 50,000 seat stadium in its place, seemingly holding as many Polish supporters as Irish. It was a great experience.

The players warming up.


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