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A history book club

book club loveI love books; reading books; buying or borrowing books; thinking about what I’ll read next, and of course, talking about books . I think I’ve been part of at least one book club (if not two or three) for the last ten years. Whether its friends, colleagues, my local library or part of an independent bookshop (shout out to Bob in the Gutter Bookshop for the excellent book clubs he runs!), being in a book club has always seemed like a great way to share an experience that can be so personal and make it communal.

As a Historian-in-Residence working with Dublin City Council and through Dublin City Libraries it made perfect sense to me to bring the two together… History + Libraries = a new History book club! But would the book club format work for history books? With fiction, the standard genre for any book club, it’s all about your opinion. Did you like the book, the characters, the plot, the style of writing…etc. You don’t have to be an expert on the subject of the book to discuss it. Whereas with a history book club would people feel that had to already be familiar with the historical content of the book before giving their opinion on it? There is such a huge interest in history in Dublin; in local, Irish and international history, I thought I’d take a chance. So began two new History book clubs in Terenure and Pembroke Libraries. So far they’ve been going great!

Rialto Bridge

Rialto BridgeEvery day, thousands of people travel on the Red Line Luas from Tallaght or City West on their journeys to the city centre.  What many may not realise is that the Luas follows the former Main Line of the Grand Canal – now filled in as a Linear Park from Davitt Road to the Basin Lane end of St. James’s Hospital.  Enroute, the Luas passes under the former canal bridge at Rialto, the only remaining on the former Main Line from Griffith bridge to the old harbour at James' Street.  Known today as Rialto Bridge, the proper name is Harcourt Bridge, called after the  Chairman of the Grand Canal Company, the First Earl of Harcourt.

Photo: Rialto Bridge, filling in of the Grand Canal. Dublin City Council Photographic Collection, digital.libraries.dublincity.ie (view larger image)

Cabra’s Liam Whelan

Liam WhelanThis month marks the sixtieth anniversary of the death of Cabra’s Liam Whelan, an integral part of Matt Busby’s famous Manchester United side.

Whelan, born in 1934, began his footballing days with Home Farm F.C, a Dublin institution founded in 1928. He was raised in Cabra, then a totally new suburb on the northside of Dublin, as the city began to tackle its housing crisis. He was among the first generation of youngsters to partake in street football in a new suburb so full of hope for Dublin’s working class. In signing for United in 1953, he followed in a long tradition of Dubliners which including the great Johnny Carey, who amassed more than 400 appearances for the club between 1936 and 1953. Irish newspapers closely followed the escapades of Irish players in the English league, both on and off the pitch, and there was delight during the years of ‘The Emergency’ in Ireland when Carey returned to domestic football, playing two matches as a guest for Shamrock Rovers.

Meet the Historians in Residence

HistoriansDublin City Council has a team of part-time Historians in Residence working with communities across the city. This public history project began in Spring 2017 under the auspices of the Decade of Commemorations designation within the Council, and the historians work in the five administrative areas of Dublin City  to make history and historical sources accessible and enjoyable for all.

Pictured l-r: Donal Fallon, Maeve Casserly, Cathy Scuffil, Bernard Kelly, Cormac Mooore (view larger photo)

Dublin City Council Historians in Residence are working on all sorts of history events throughout the city including talks, walks, tours, discussions, history book clubs,  blogs, exhibitions and more. They are:

Dolphins Barn: Creative Digital Animation Series

Creative Digital Animation title In April and May of 2017 Dolphin's Barn Library hosted a series of workshops where young historians learned how to combine research, storytelling, drawing and digital animation to tell a tale from Irish history.

Expert facilitators included historian Conor Kostick and author and illustrator Alan Nolan.

The result is this exciting video set in Dublin 1920. In it Tadhg undertakes a dangerous mission to deliver a message to Countess Markievicz. On the way he evades policemen, befriends Victoria Jacobs and is shot at by the 'Black and Tans'!

The project was supported by the UNESCO City of Literature office.

Dogs Days in Rathmines

dog by Tarsila KruseFor the month of February, Rathmines Library will be going to the dogs, or rather, the dogs will be coming to us!  Tarsila Kruse’s exhibition, 100 days of Dogs, will be visited by 200 local schoolchildren, we will be running a Paws and Claws Animals in Literature Quiz and Canine Capers, two doggy-themed films, will be shown  in the library on the afternoons of 16th and 17th February.

For schools, we will have some very special visitors to library. Their minders will also be along  tell us about the valuable work they do in the community.

New Laureate for Irish Fiction - Sebastian Barry.

Sebastian BarryCongratulations to Sebastian Barry, son of Dublin and well regarded around here this long time as he embarks on his three year stint as Laureate for Irish Fiction.

As who for what?

The Laureateship is an initiative of the Arts Council which has the following aims:

  • honouring an established Irish writer of fiction;
  • encouraging a new generation of writers;
  • promoting Irish literature nationally and internationally;
  • encouraging the public to engage with high quality Irish fiction.

90 Years of The Gate Theatre

Micháel Mac Liammóir and Hilton EdwardsThis year the Gate Theatre is celebrating 90 years since its opening in 1928, a historical and momentous occasion that shaped and changed the theatrical world for Dublin. To commemorate this occasion Dublin City Archives are hosting a seminar Commemorating 90 Years of the Gate Theatre on Tuesday 13 February from 6pm to 8pm at The Conference Room, Dublin City Library and Archive. The seminar will consist of five short illustrated presentations – each about 10 minutes in length, which will focus on different aspects of the Gate’s early history and archival records, followed by panel discussion. Dublin City Archives are also putting together an exhibition for the public to enjoy filled with the history of the theatre and photographs which display the costumes, stage designs and productions from the founders of the theatre Micheál Mac Liammóir and Hilton Edwards.

Image: Micheál Mac Liammóir & Hilton Edwards outside Gate Theatre, 1974 (see larger version) Image courtesy Irish Theatre Archive at Dublin City Library and Archive.

News from Nelson: Flags

VictoryThe first time I was here, flags were an essential part of communication and identity.  I used flags myself on HMS Victory which was the most important ship at Trafalgar and was known as ‘the flagship’.  Most famously, I sent a signal to the rest of the fleet, spelled out in flags and saying: ‘England expects every man to do his duty’.  When I died at Trafalgar – leading from the front as usual – my men were distraught, including 1,800 Irishmen who served with me, of whom 403 were Dublinmen.   My body was packed into a cask of brandy and sent to London for a state funeral at Westminster Abbey, when my coffin was draped with national flags from Victory. The funeral over, my most senior men cut up the flag and divided it among themselves.  Well believe it or not – a large portion of the flag was auctioned last week in London.  The estimates were £80,000 to £100,000 but in the end it fetched £297,000. You see, I continue to be respected and popular.  But oh! if only I had some of that flag myself – I would now be comfortably off, as my overheads are nil!

Manuscript of the Month: The Insect Play

The Insect PlayMicheál Mac Liammóir and Hilton Edwards founded the Dublin Gate Theatre in 1928 and this year its 90th anniversary will be marked with seminars, exhibitions and publications.  It is worth remembering however that the duo had to share the Gate Theatre building with Longford Productions, on a rotating six-month basis.  While Edwards-Mac Liammóir toured in Europe as much as possible while they were temporarily homeless, more often than not they availed of a residency in the Gaiety Theatre. 

Image: Poster advertising The Insect Play (view larger version)

The Insect Play was performed at the Gaiety starting on 22 March 1943.  It answered Hilton and Micheál’s avowed intention to bring the finest and most challenging of European theatre to Dublin.  The original play was written in 1921 in Czech by Karel and Josef Kapek and here it has been translated by Myles na gCopaleen.

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