Sunday, August 13, 2017


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The National Library of Ireland is one hundred and forty years old just about now. And they're having a party. And they're inviting everybody.

So I went along, thinking I'd meet some of my old fellow fogies that I run into from time to time at things. Nary a one of them there. I knew nobody bar the staff of the Library, though Esme did turn up at fifteen minutes to closing time. I think she must have been at another party.

The place was rocking. Even before it filled up, it was rocking to the buzz of the Halleluia Gospel Choir. Small choir, big sound.

And they rocked us through the first half of the party.

Sandra Collins, Director NLI, and PJ Lynch, Laureate na n-Óg

Now you can't have a birthday party without a cake, and this was some cake. A stack of books, including Ulysses and topped by a volume that must have already been ancient by 1877.

A mortal sin to deface such a work of art but you have to cut the cake.

The Cake, from Manning's Bakery, Thomas Street.

Just look at that. If you defaced a real book like that you'd be thrown out of the library.

And the kids. Did I mention the kids? The place was full of them. Little ones, and not so little ones, all having an absolute ball.

Library staff all rose to the occasion without exception.

See, I told you, Ulysses.

PJ gave a speech which I didn't really hear as I was too busy taking his photo, complete with the balloons. You can check out the background to Laureate na n-Óg here.

However, he was no sooner finished that, and the co-cutting of the cake, than he sat down at one of the children's tables and started doing portraits with the children's markers.

Demand was brisk and many youngsters will have enduring souvenirs of the day.

Just putting the finishing touches and hey presto.

One very satisfied young lady who won't forget this day in a hurry.

Meanwhile, a thousand schools of thought contended as the youngsters produced a raft of birthday cards from materials distributed by the library. There was a profusion of coloured markers and transfers and stick-on 3D bits. The place was a hive of activity. You can see some samples above.

And then the Maynooth Gospel Choir started up. And they brought their own conductor. I was wondering what they needed a conductor for until I heard them sing. A nicely blended sound and with loads of gusto.

Lots of passion and some very nice arrangements. The congregation was, unfortunately, thinning out a bit by the time they came on, but anyone who had gone missed a real treat.

The Episcopal Purple is a nice touch and adds to the class of the music.

This lady runs a tight ship, something the choir agreed with when I mentioned it. You might feel it a bit tight for this sort of singing but the great advantage is that when you've mastered the stuff and are in full control, you can let go at the edges without losing the quality.

And the conductor herself is no mean singer as became obvious when she stopped conducting and joined the singers. Special treat - one number only.

Katherine McSharry & Orla Sweeney

We mustn't forget that this is a library and not a bookshop and the primary function of a library is to lend you books. At the end of the day they all have to be returned to take their rightful place on the shelf. And that's precisely where the cake-books are going, unless, of course, they are further desecrated by the staff and gobbled up.

Mark Stedman, Photographer

I'm looking forward to seeing Mark Stedman's photos of the party. He had the children eating out of his hand. If he ever gives up the photography he'll have a job waiting as a stage director.

Louise Archbold, from DHR Communications

The day would not be complete without a word of thanks to the lady who organised the whole thing.

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