Saturday, September 23, 2017


Thanks to the Lord Mayor for the lend of the photo
Click on any image for a larger version

I didn't really sign up for Culture Night. I just knew that Lisa Marie Griffith was guide for a tour of Trinity and South City Georgian Dublin on 22 October 2017 and I went and booked myself in. Then I forgot about it until the day arrived.

My first contact with Lisa was through that wonderful blog "Pue's Occurrences". This was a real quality blog and it's an awful pity it is no longer active. But at least it is still online.

My attitude to town is, when in town do as much town stuff as you can. So, once there I rarely sit down.

The walking tour didn't start until 5.30pm, which I only later realised was the kick off time for culture night. My plan was to go in early, do some stuff, take the tour and, if I then saw any culture happening around me, give it a whirl.

So my first port of call was to the Dublin City Library and Archive where I thought I might remind whoever was in charge, now that Máire Kennedy is gone, that I had tentatively offered to do a talk for a family history day on "A Whimsical Look at Death". But there was nobody around.

Anyway, I had missed taking a photo at the opening of the Jacobs biscuit exhibition there which I needed to garnish an already published blog post, and I sorted that. You can see the result above.

Then I checked out the visitors' book for updates. Since the opening of the exhibition various people had signed in. In general the praise for the exhibition was fulsome and the book recorded the visits of many who either worked in Jacobs or whose relatives had worked there.

Despite it being a fantastic exhibition, there were, of course, the few begrudgers, and that saddened me. However I cheered up when I found a new entry by Mark Merrigan whose grandmother had worked in Jacobs and whose photo I had taken at the exhibition launch. Ann Rogers is now in her 90s.

I then dropped in to the Alliance Française with the aim of trying to flog them a talk. When I gave a talk there in 2015 on Killiney Bay and its Martellos, the Director was quite pleased and asked me if I had any more. I didn't. But then I got to thinking and came up with a sort of "Me and the French" narrative and the Director sounded like he might be interested.

But now he's gone so I thought I might slip in a reminder in person to the new guy if he was around. After all I just walked in off the street with my original talk. However, I forgot it was culture night and everyone was flying around the place like busy bees.

Defeated, I took refuge in the Café Joly in the National Library of Ireland, and while there spotted the typwriter. This time it was not on prominent display and had its cover on. But I spotted the yellow frame peeping out at me and was glad to see it back. Last time I was there it had gone missing.


It wasn't quite 5 o'clock but I decided to go round and check out the assembly point for my tour at the Mansion House.

That was when I spotted the mile long queue in Molesworth St. Yes I know the street is not a mile long but you know what I mean. All thes people were queueing to get a glimpse of the inside of the Freemasons' HQ.

I figured they must all have been Dan Browne fans on a pilgrimage from Roslyn. Unlike at Roslyn, where entry is £9 a pop, this was free. Everything on culture night is free. That's what it's all about.

Needless to say, there was no sign of action at the assembly point. Well, it was more than half an our before the appointed time.

So I continued on to Stephen's Green and lo and behold. Another monster queue outside the Little Museum of Dublin.

Now this is a real gem and if you haven't been, a visit is a must. It does help if you're Irish, and a Dubliner and born before the Holy Year as it is a real trip down memory lane. If you're a visitor, the guide will explain it all to you.

So back I come to the asseembly point at the Mansion House, but still no action. I spent my time watching the world go by in all its shapes and sizes. Then, out of the corner of my eye I spot something that sets my euro-red-lights flashing and my euro-bells ringing.

Surely that euro-flag on "The Dawson" & "Sams" is not flying upside down. It's very hard to make it out when the flag is just drooping but eventually a little gust does the needful and yes, upside down it is.

With time on my hands I cross the road, carefully avoiding the new LUAS trams. I eventually run down a member of management sufficiently high up the food chain to receive my report.

I am first met with some incredulity, but I'm well used to that. People still don't realise you can actually fly the European flag upside down. When the light dawns I am assured that the matter will be attended to and thanked for my trouble.

Back to the assembly point only to find that some cheeky person has parked their car right in the middle of the forecourt.

On closer inspection the reg looks suspicious. The first Dublin registered car of 2017 parked on the forecourt of the first citizen's residence.

Yes, it's the Lord Mayor's own car. A bit flaunty I thought. But you can't blame the current Sinn Féin Lord Mayor, Mícheál Mac Donncha, as he only came into office mid-year. Now what was the name of the fella before him?

Shouldn't have said that. There goes any prospect, however slim, of the Freedom of the City before I go.

Anyway, time for the tour and no sign of Lisa. This other fella calls us to order and begins to tell the story of the Mansion House quarter, the foresight of the developers, not to mention their skullduggery and the venality of the politicians of the day.

Turns out it's Eamon Darcy from the history faculty in NUI Maynooth. And he turned out great.

We got a historical debunking tour - an education for any true blue Dubliner or Christian Brother's boy. [I should just give a plug here to the Dominican nuns from Eccles St (Scoil Caitríona san áireamh) or I'll be relegated from Blogger to a humble position on the free version of Wordpress.]

The tour was well structured with three stopping points: the Mansion House, Trinity College and Merrion Square.

In the Trinity quad, beside but carefully not beneath the campanile, we got a deconstruction of the 1641 "massacres" and depositions, an end-of-term report on sexist Provost Salmon, and a eulogy of, what would then have been considered revisionist, historian Lecky. All heady stuff and with the statues of these two luminaries flanking the speaker..

Finally in Merrion Square/Street, we learned of the Duke of Lenister's arrogance and Developer Fitzwilliam's foresight and abhorrence of the Duke. We discovered that although Wellington, contrary to popular belief, had not been born in a stable, Daniel O'Connell couldn't tell the difference. And finally, that there were no ordinary people in this area in those times.

Thanks to Eamon for a most informative and entertaining tour.

What next?

I had noticed a trumpet quartet in the newly re-opened forecourt of the National Gallery of Ireland as we passed earlier. The Gallery has just completed a major refurbishment during which some two thirds of it was closed to the public and you couldn't get in from the Merrion St. end.

A pity there were only a few stragglers listening to the music. But never mind, the night was still young.

I decided to go on inside and check out the fluctuating fortunes of a man who had attended the Central Model School and Synge St. in his day and who was subsequently the major philanthropic benefactor of the Gallery.

Good, following the refurbishment, during which he was a bit sidelined, George Bernard Shaw is now in a central position in the foyer at the Clare St. entrance.

Content, I moved on to my next port of call.

I stopped off at the Alliance Française once again, but the action there was not scheduled to commence until eight o'clock and it was still about twenty minutes short of that. However, I did get a chance to speak to the Assistant Director and there is the possibility, but only that for now, of another talk there.

There was also a young lady with a pile of yo-yos to interest the children. I was amazed that the legacy of Billy Panama, from my youth, appeared to have been forgotten and the belief now appeared to be that the height of yo-yo competence was simply to get the damn thing to go up and down, the up bit being the major challenge. [Note to myself: market niche there. Twas not for nothing that I won a leather football in the yo-yo competition in the Royal Cinema in Bray all those years ago.]

So off I went to the next venue, promising to drop in on my way back to the DART.

The National Library was offering a performance by the Bach Singers, also starting at eight o'clock, which by this time was fast approaching.

I filled in the few remaining minutes looking at the Library's mini-exhibition of formerly banned or censored film posters from the period long before the Late Late Show brought sex to Ireland. These are from the Library's Liam O'Leary archive which spans the period 1910-92.

The Bach Singers were a treat. They don't just do Bach so we had some other classical composers and a suite of Irish melodies while I was there. Handel's Halleluia Chorus went down a bomb.

The acoustic in the foyer is quite good and these singers sang without amplification.

I decided to head back to the Alliance to sample the Creole Music Night. On my way out, I was dumbfounded to see that there were still long queues waiting to visit the holy of holies. That made it a solid three hours of a long queue and the night was still young.

When I got back to the Alliance, it was packed with a queue way out the door. So I decided to call it a night.

On rounding the corner into Nassau St. I could hear the pulsating music from the inside and just get a glimpse of the back of the musicians from the far side of the street.

I'll leave you with this Dublin icon as I wend my weary way home.

Don't know how these young, and not so young some of them, folk keep going till 11pm when it's all supposed to shut down for another year.

And the day wouldn't be complete without this contribution to our culture in our first national language from the ever-to-be-relied-on Iarnród Éireann.

Oíche mhaith.

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