The Old Fogies go to Dublin

Dublin has been on our travel radar for years, but for one reason or another has remained on the must do list. To rectify this oversight, we finally decided to bite the bullet and spend a few days in the Emerald Isle.

With a flight of just over a hour from London and a short coach ride from Dublin Airport to the centre of Dublin, the relatively stress free travelling experience meant we arrived in Dublin in good spirits.

We stayed near O’ Connell Street which is one of the main hubs of the city and the perfect place to begin our exploration of the city.

First impressions were that the city was small and compact which was easily traversed by foot.

North of the Liffey has plenty of shopping options with a number of shopping centres and the outside market in Moore Street. Places of interest include the General Post Office which played a pivotal part in the Easter Rising, The Dublin Writers Museum, The Hugh Lane Art Gallery, the Parnell, O’ Connell and James Joyce statues and the strange Monument of Light or Spire which is a stainless steel 393ft monument .

Also north of the river near the old dock area is the new Docklands area with the Custom House, a reminder of Dublin’s maritime past. The relatively new Sean O’Casey Bridge and Samuel Beckett Bridge connect the new developments.

It is safe to say that it is on the south side of the Liffey that will interest most visitors to Dublin, Trinity College is a popular attraction especially the library where you can find The Book of Kells.

Behind the college is the main Georgian buildings and squares which are location of many of the museums and art galleries. This is also the location of Irish Government buildings and relaxing parks.

One of the delights of visiting Dublin is to walk around this area enjoying the cultural organisations, the many small eateries and finding some of the hidden treasures.

Grafton Street is a major shopping and entertainment thoroughfare that leads in the north to Temple Bar which is full of shops, pubs and bars. A pleasant area to walk around in the day, in the evening it gets a bit more exciting with plenty of drink flowing and Irish music coming out of many of the establishments.

Religion plays an important part in Irish society and many of the main cathedrals have fascinating histories and are well worth a visit.

The Irish are often associated with drink and a visit to the Guinness Storehouse and the Old Jameson Distillery are on most people’s to do list, however due to time limits, we decided to pass on these attractions.

Dublin is one of those small European capitals which may lack many wow factors but is an enjoyable place with many diverse attractions. What really makes Dublin different is the Dubliners themselves, their legendary ability in enjoying themselves translates into a relaxing and good natured atmosphere with a genuine friendliness that is found almost everywhere.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

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The Story of The Ha’penny Bridge

 It might not be the most spectacular bridge in the world, but the The Ha’penny Bridge or Liffey Bridge is one of the iconic landmarks in Dublin. The story of the pedestrian bridge is a fascinating one. It was built in 1816 over the River Liffey , the bridge is made of cast iron and was cast at Coalbrookdale in Shropshire. The manufacturer, the Coalbrookdale Company cast the bridge in 18 sections then shipped it to Dublin.

The structure was originally called the Wellington Bridge before it was changed to the Liffey Bridge. However, Dubliners called it the Ha’penny Bridge due to the toll charged for crossing the bridge.

Before the bridge, a certain William Walsh operated a series of leaky ferries across the Liffey, Dubliners complained and the local authority told him to fix the ferries or build a bridge. Walsh being a canny businessman decided to build a bridge with the right to charge a ha’penny toll from anyone crossing it for 100 years. Remarkably the toll remained until 1919.

In the early years, Dubliners tried to take their horses across the bridge for free, arguing that they were not pedestrians, so could not be charged. Turnstiles were put in place to stop this practice. It was also said that during the Easter Rising in 1916, two men with bombs were refused entry to the bridge because they did not have the toll money. Only hundreds would cross the bridge when there was a toll, but know it is estimated that 30,000 cross it daily.

A plaque for leprechauns perhaps 

This addition traffic has put a strain on the bridge and it was closed for repair and renovation in 2001. More recently the habit of leaving love locks on the bridge has been frowned upon and they are removed.

The short trip over the 141 feet long bridge is perhaps not the most exciting, but the bridge remains one of Dublin’s iconic landmarks loved by Dubliners and visitors.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

 

An Irish History Lesson in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin

 St Stephen’s Green is one of the most popular public parks in Dublin and is a favourite with many Dubliners and visitors. Situated near Grafton Street which is one of Dublin’s main shopping streets, the park is one of the largest parks in Dublin’s main Georgian area.

As well as enjoying the pleasant surroundings, the park has a series of statues and monuments that provide some intriguing insights into Irish History.

Until the mid 17th century, St Stephen’s Green was a common on the edge of Dublin, used for grazing. Dublin Corporation decided to enclose some of the common and to sell land. By the end of the eighteenth century, the Green and surroundings was favoured by the wealthy of Dublin.

Access to the Green was restricted to local residents, until 1877, when Parliament passed an Act to open St Stephen’s Green to the public. The initiative of Lord Ardilaun and his generous funding of a new layout of the Green provided a greatly needed green space in the middle of Dublin. In a response to his generosity, the local corporation commissioned a statue of him, which still faces the College of Surgeons.

Working around the park provides an opportunity to discover other Irish heroes, there are statues and monuments to Fenian leader Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, Theobald Wolfe Tone, the leader of the 1798 rebellion and Robert Emmet, the Irish nationalist and Republican.

One of Ireland greatest writers, James Joyce is celebrated with a bust and garden. One of the more unusual statues is the Three Fates. The statue was designed by Joseph Wackerle in bronze in 1956. The statue was a gift from the German people in thanks for Irish help to refugee children following World War II.

The peace and quiet of the park was shattered during the Easter Rising of 1916, when a group of 200 to 250 members of the Irish Citizen Army established a position in St Stephen’s Green. They established road blocks but were soon under fire from Army positions and withdrew to the Royal College of Surgeons. The full drama of this incident is told on a large number of boards around the park, one of our favourites was that in the heat of the battle, fire was temporarily halted to allow the park’s groundsman to feed the local ducks.

Thankfully, now you can sit and feed the ducks in peace whilst admiring this most attractive park.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

The Dead Zoo and the Dublin Museum Quarter

When visiting anywhere on a limited time period, decisions have to be made about where to go and what to do. Dublin is no exception but fortunately for those who like museums, many are in a short walking distance from each other. Sandwiched between Trinity College and St Stephen’s Green and flanking the Irish Houses of Parliament are the Natural History Museum, the National Museum of Ireland, the National Library and the National Gallery of Ireland.

The National History Museum which is nicknamed the ‘Dead Zoo’ by locals is quite a shock with old glass cases full of stuffed animals. It really is a step back in time and has changed little since it was opened in 1857.

It offers quite a surreal experience as you wander between the old glass cases with the only noise being the creaking floorboards. The quietness was only broken by the arrival of a school party who were told very strictly not to make any noise.

We smiled to the teacher as we passed and she apologised if we were being disturbed. If we were disturbed it was not the children but rather the eyes of hundreds of dead animals watching us moving to the exit.

The National Museum of Ireland was a more conventional museum with attractive displays of archaeological treasures that provides plenty of insights into Irish ancient past and cultures. Major highlights are the prehistoric gold ornaments, artefacts from Ireland’s early Christian Monasteries, displays about Viking Ireland and the slightly gruesome Ice Age bog body.

Part of the National Gallery of Ireland was closed but we had a very pleasant coffee in the airy and bright café and had a quick walk around the masterpiece section which included works by Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Picasso and Vermeer. More of a surprise was a portrait of talk show host and celebrity Graham Norton looking very serious and quite rugged.

An entertaining couple of hours were completed by a short trip to the National Library and a wander around their Yeats exhibition.

Whilst the museums and galleries had a limited amount of exhibits and works, this is to their credit. The small spaces in very attractive buildings allows the visitor to really get some idea of the establishment before culture fatigue set in. Another plus was that they  all had free admission which is great if you are on a tight budget.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

 

Searching for Molly Malone in Dublin’s Fair City

Many are familiar with the famous song of Molly Malone with following catchy lyrics

In Dublin’s fair city
where the girls are so pretty
I once met a girl named sweet Molly Malone
and she wheeled her wheel barrow
through the streets broad and narrow
singing cockles and mussels alive alive oh

Walking through the city’s historic Georgian Quarter, many visitors make their way to find the Molly Malone statue unveiled during the 1988 Dublin Millennium celebrations. We decided to pay a visit to the famous statue and after consulting our map we set off for the bottom of Grafton Street.

Grafton Street is one of the most popular streets in Dublin, full of shops, bars and eateries, we gradually reach the bottom of the street to marvel at the statue when we are surrounded by road works and no sign of the statue. Double checking our maps, we scratch our heads and look bemused and wander around the corner to Suffolk Street where to our surprise, there stands our heroine immortalised in bronze.

Apparently the statue was originally erected at the bottom of Grafton Street, however in 2014 it was temporarily moved to Suffolk Street to make way for the extension of the Luas tram system. The map makers of Dublin have obviously decided that it is not worth the trouble of changing its location.

The statue by Irish sculptor Jeanne Rynhart features a rather buxom Molly in a traditional and rather revealing 17th century dress next to a cart of full of seafood including ‘Cockles and Mussels’. In typical Irish humour the statue has acquired the nickname of the ‘Tart with the Cart’.

For such a famous heroine, she is quite enigmatic with her origins often the source of some debate. It is suggested that the song which was originally published in the USA in 1883 and attributed to the Scottish composer James Yorkston was based on an old Irish folk ballad. Even more confusing was the discovery of a Molly Malone song in an 18th-century book called Apollo’s Medley printed in England in 1790 which has our heroine plying her wares in Howth, which was a North Dublin fishing village.

Desperate to provide a real life Molly Malone, many historians have trawled the records to find a Molly Malone from the 17th century, whilst some ‘Molly Malone’s’ have been found, no evidence of a connection with our fictional character have been made.

Whilst most people are familiar with the first verse of the song, the final verse tell us about our heroine’s tragic end.

She died of a fever
and no one could save her
and that was the end of sweet Molly Malone
now her ghost wheels her barrow through the streets broad and narrow
singing cockles and mussels alive alive oh

In many ways, her ghost does permeate the Dublin streets with the interest in her still as strong as ever.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.