A Merry Christmas from Nelson’s Head

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PaintingThe British Navy was always proud to say that its best ships were crafted from Irish oak from Coolattin Woods in Co. Wicklow. As Admiral of the Fleet it was part of my remit to ensure that our ships remained seaworthy. They were sent in relays to dry-dock, where each vessel received ‘caulking’ – in other words any gaps in the hull were sealed with oakum, applied with a caulking gun – oakum is hemp fibre soaked in tar, and when properly applied it was fully water-repellent.  Ropes were checked for fraying and were replaced as necessary.  This painstaking work was carried out by the ship’s crew, who were trained especially for this work.   It is something akin to Spring-cleaning a house.

One of the customs which I have observed since I came to live in Ireland is Christmas-cleaning.   The lady of the house gears herself up after Hallowe’en and any spare men are called to the command.  Appointments are made with the chimney-sweep, the carpet-cleaner, the window-cleaner and if necessary the gardener.  The dusters are taken out and every hidden nook and cranny is expertly cleaned.  The silver is polished in advance of Christmas dinner and the best china washed and dried. Only then can the decorations and the Christmas tree be put up.

So I was delighted to discover that the Reading Room in Dublin City Library & Archive was to be painted at the end of November 2017, in time for Christmas! The Carnegie Library was designed in 1909 by City Architect Charles J. McCarthy and was refurbished in 2003 by Dublin City Council.  The top floor room, 100 feet long and double-height, which had acted as a storeroom for books, now became our Reading Room – I moved there myself in 2005.  It is fitted with 100 reader spaces, each table equipped with a light and a socket.  However, the Reading Room had not been painted since it was re-opened in 2003, so it was time to refresh it.

Painting the Reading Room

Painting work began on 20 November and was finished on 1 December. As regular readers know, I’m accustomed to giving orders, and I began to instruct the painters in what to do. For some reason that I couldn’t fathom (an old sea-salt word that) the painters didn’t welcome my intervention.  In fact they covered me over with bubble-wrap so that they couldn’t hear me, as you’ll see in the above photograph. (I have to say that they were also worried that they might spill paint on me by accident).  The walls are now a shade of pale grey, the woodwork is in white, and the north-facing wall is a bright but warm shade of red.  Apart from one day, when the painters were working over the Issue Desk, the Reading Room stayed open to the public throughout, and we would like to thank the members of the public for their patience and good humour.  With the bubble-wrap removed, I have now resumed my task of keeping an eye on the students.

Reading Room

A very merry Christmas to one and all!


Nelson's HeadAbout Nelson's Head

The Head from Nelson’s Pillar is on display in the Reading Room of Dublin City Library & Archive.  As Admiral Nelson is a valued member of staff, we have invited him to write his own monthly blog.

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Great too see you are keeping the room ship shape. GreT that the city has the money to spend.

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