30 April 2007

Famine Memorial

Originally uploaded by BKWellcome.
Took some time to take in the Famine Memorial site down the street from the Customs House over the weekend. Incredibly moving memorial. It captures the despair and sorrow of that dark time in Irish history well.

While many historical interpretations and analyses have been offered over the years, here are a few general facts:

  • took place from 1845-52
  • roughly 1 million people perished from starvation and disease
  • a further 1 million people emigrated
  • famine due in part to a potato blight caused by a fungus, and lead to massive crop failure
  • While most of the voluntary relief came from Britain (via the Quakers), historians also note that the British government (Ireland was a part of the UK at the time) demonstrated gross negligence in it's relief efforts. (Okay, maybe this point is moving away from the "general facts" side of things to "interpretation.")
  • The potato blight returned in 1860, 1879, 1890, and 1897 with further starvation and disease, though far less severe than the first famine.
A few quotes from Ireland: A Short History:
"[The Famine] established bitterness and deep resentment towards Britain, which has also had long-standing consequences." (p. 59)

"This overwhelmingly agricultural economy led to three important preconditions which made the Famine worse when it came: overpopulation, poverty and dependence on the potato as the main crop and food source." (p. 60)

". . . perhaps most significantly, the Famine placed the possibility of emigration permanently in the Irish rural mind." (p. 72)

26 April 2007

Dave, Dublin Street Artist

One of the consistent features you're likely to come across as you walk through Dublin town centre is on the corner of College Green and Grafton streets, right across from Trinity College, where Dave does his meticulous art work. I've chatted with Dave a few times and he's always happy to have a conversation. Something you might recognize pretty quickly is that Dave has an English accent. At some point, I'm hoping to ask him how long he's been in Dublin and, in particular, how long he's been working College Green.

The picture above is a new project Dave's begun where he's actually drawing on the pavement with chalk. When he's not there, it's covered up with some sort of canvas and weighed down by a few traffic cones. In my opinion, it's people like Dave who bring a personal familiarity and artistic charm to Dublin. Now, if we can just get him to do something a little more like this . . .

12 April 2007

South Dublin in Ruins

Recently, I’ve discovered a few historical sites of interest on the outskirts of South Dublin, all within a 10 minute drive from our estate. The gorgeous weather over Easter weekend afforded Kristy and I the opportunity to explore them.

First, there’s Kilgobbin Castle, located on what looks to be private property on Kilgobbin Road. However, the large gates are always open and the castle is far removed from the residence. The castle (or what’s left of it) is only a few walls overgrown with wild shrubbery and locals just think of it as a pile of rubble. However, given the height of the walls, there’s still enough there to imagine what it may have looked like when it was in use, circa 17th century.

Just up the road further into Stepaside are the ruins of Kilgobbin Church and cemetery. Also at the site is a granite high cross from the 12th century which was uncovered in the early 1800’s.

Moving on past Stepaside, through Kiltiernan and down to Rathmichael is another castle known as Puck’s Castle (pictured below). Situated in a farmer’s field, it has a great view of Dublin and the bay. King James II is known to have visited the castle in 1690 after he was defeated at the Battle of the Boyne.

Down a little further and up a gravel road is what remains of Rathmichael Church. According to Megalithomania.com, some of the stones hanging on the walls of the church show traces of pre-Celtic Neolithic art forms. (This of course isn’t to suggest that the actual church has been around since then, given the fact that neither Christianity nor "churches" existed.) While we were there, we noticed that the wall surrounding the church yard was very much intact, though overgrown in places. The place feels very secluded, until you stop long enough to realize you can hear traffic on the M50 in the distance.

Tom over at Megalithomania.com documents loads of these kinds of things around Ireland and even provides GPS coordinates for the ultra-nerdy. He also provides decent directions to the sites that we visited in particular.