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News from Nelson: The Imposter!

Nelson's Pillar exhibition roomI was snatching forty winks on the plinth, drowsing in the warmth of the Reading Room, when I heard one of the students saying: ‘Nelson looks very well in the Exhibition Room doesn’t he?’  What?!  Was there an imposter elsewhere in the building?  Well that woke me up smartly.  That night, I manoeuvred myself off the plinth (with some difficulty) and took the lift to the ground floor where the Exhibition Room is.  And there it was: my very own Pillar made out of cardboard, with not just one, but four copies of my very own statue.

It was not an imposter – rather it was a tribute to my own goodself.   On looking around, I saw that the back wall of the Exhibition Room was covered with an enormous photograph of Sackville (now O’Connell) Street, in the early twentieth century.  These people, going about their daily round, were about to get caught up in the conflict of 1913-23.

Manuscript of the Month: Jimmy O’Dea

Jimmy O'DeaThe great comic artist, Jimmy O’Dea, passed away on 7 January 1965, leaving behind a legacy of laughter.  Born and brought up in Dublin, O’Dea trained as an optician but the lure of live theatre was too great and he began to perform full time in 1928, having already appeared in silent movies. 

Image right: Jimmy O'Dea with bust by Marjorie FitzGibbon.

He formed his own company, O’D Productions, with Harry O’Donovan in 1928 and in Christmas that year they first presented their own pantomime, Sinbad the Sailor.  For decades to come, it was a Dublin tradition that an O’D pantomime would be shown at the Gaiety Theatre at Christmas, to be followed by a summer revue, Gaels of Laughter, starring Jimmy O’Dea with Maureen Potter and Vernon Hayden.

Embroidered postcards from First World War

WW1 Christmas postcardDCLA Manuscript of the Month December 2017:Embroidered postcards from First World War

Soldiers fighting at the Front welcomed any opportunity to write to their loved ones.  Seeing an opening, many individuals issued postcards for sale, including embroidered ones.  These were made by French and Belgian women many of whom had lost husbands and brothers in the war and welcomed this chance to make a little money.  The designs were picked out on gauze and worked in coloured silks to create an image.  The finished gauze was mounted on a cardboard frame and the postcard was then ready for sale.

Image right: Postcard with forget-me-nots and horse shoe theme: "With Greetings for Christmas and the New Year: Good Luck and Happy Days". Monica Roberts Collection, Ref. RDFA1.09.006cardA. (See larger version)

Irish Ramblers Club Archive

IRC badgeThe Irish Ramblers Club Archive is the newest addition to the Dublin City Sports Archives.  Since 2010, Dublin City Sports Archive has acquired material in written, visual and oral form, relating to a variety of sports and leisure activities from hockey, boxing, soccer, cycling, swimming and golf. The formal transfer of Irish Ramblers Club Archive was marked by a reception at Dublin City Library and Archive on 23rd November 2017, which included a talk by club historian Jack Morrissey and a poetry reading by first club president Sean Quinn.

The Irish Ramblers Club was founded in 1964 with the mission statement, “to explore, enjoy and protect our beautiful countryside”.  It has had 4000 members over a 50 year period and organises over 400 hikes per annum. The Club from the outset has taken a very proactive interest in conservation of mountains and forests of Dublin & Wicklow and has contributed to national issues – such as national parks, environmental awareness, rights of way and the development of the Wicklow Way.

Manuscript of the Month: Grant of arms to the Dublin Guild of Tailors, 1655

Tailors' ArmsThe very existence of this document is somewhat surprising, as it was issued during the Cromwellian inter-regnum in Ireland, a regime that despised ostentatious show. Nevertheless, ‘Richard Carney, Principall Herald of Armes for the whole Dominion of Ireland’ prepared this grant of arms to the Dublin Guild of Tailors in 1655.  This guild was founded in 1418 by royal charter and was second in order of precedence in the Dublin City Assembly.  The grant of arms states that the Dublin guild used the arms of the Merchant Taylors of London but that it had now applied for arms in its own right.  Carney concurs with this request, ‘in perpetuall memorie of (not onlie the ever constant Loyaltie of the said Cittie of Dublin and the many greate and famous services by them done the Commonwealth).’  The grant is issued on parchment and the top portion consists of three coats of arms, those of Ireland (left) and Dublin (right) with the arms of the Commonwealth in the centre; their inclusion indicates support for this grant. The Tailors’ arms is in the left panel, with its motto ‘Nudus et Opervistis Me’ (I was naked and you clothed me) a quotation from the New Testament (Matt. 25, 36). Elements of the coat of arms include the head of John the Baptist (whose feast was the guild’s swearing-in day, 24 June).  The guild colours were white and watchett (light blue) and these are referenced in the arms.

News from Nelson: Love me please!

Nelson's PillarAs I mentioned in my last blog, I went on top of Nelson’s Pillar in Dublin which was inaugurated with great fanfare on 29 October 1809 (Dublin First and Always). I had a great view, and with my one good eye I could see as if I had a spyglass, everything was magnified.  And of course when people climbed my Pillar I could hear what they were saying to each other – and in this way I knew what was going on in this great city which was my new abode.

As the century unfolded, it soon became apparent that not everybody loved me as much as I loved myself.  How could this be – the great hero of Trafalgar?  Listen to this: ‘At the monthly meeting of Dublin City Council of 2 November 1885 a letter from the architect and engineer John L. Robinson, C.E., M.R.I.A.I., of Great Brunswick Street, was read calling for the desirability of removing Nelson’s Pillar from its present position to a more suitable site.

Changing Face of Jacob's Biscuits

Fig RollsDown the years Jacob’s Biscuits introduced new products on a regular basis.  Some did not survive the court of consumer taste while others, like Cream Crackers and Fig Rolls, remain proven favourites. From time to time the more popular products got a new label, updated to reflect the style of the time.

Follow the changing face of your best-loved biscuit in the Changing Face of Jacob's Biscuits Image Gallery.

If you can contribute any missing packages we’d be delighted to hear from you. Get in touch on twitter @DCLAReadingRoom or email cityarchives@dublincity.ie

Manuscript of the Month: Grafton Street (WSC/Maps/564)

WSC Map 564 detailThis map is what we would now call the development plan for what became Grafton Street. The plan is by the Dublin City Surveyor, John Greene, to the scale of 10 feet to an inch and it is dated 17 January 1680. At that date, Grafton Street was a humble country lane, linking the two open spaces of St Stephen’s Green and Hoggen Green.  There was even a municipal dung-heap, known as ‘The Pound’ at the end of the lane.  The Dublin City Assembly’s plan envisaged a new street to be 46 feet wide, with removal of The Pound. As yet the new thoroughfare had not got a name – it would eventually be called after the Duke of Grafton, an illegitimate grandson of Charles II.

News from Nelson: Dublin First and Always

Thomas KirkThe year was 1809 and I stood patiently - enclosed in a block of Portland Stone, waiting to be released by the noted Cork sculptor, Thomas Kirk.  At last my mouth was completed and I opened it and spoke to him: ‘How do, Tom Kirk!’ and he replied ‘Tolerably well, Nelson – my work on you is almost done.’  But I was curious about something, and asked: ‘I presume that as I am the first monument to myself, I am destined for London?’  I was dismayed when he said: ‘No, I am under commission to Dublin.’   Dublin!  I had never been there and though I knew of its fame as ‘The Second City of the Empire’ I also knew that it had lost its Irish Parliament with the Act of Union and that poverty was looming.  And then I thought about it: in spite of its economic difficulties, Dublin had cherished me enough to be the first to raise a Pillar to my goodself.   I would be glad to go there.

Living in Victorian Dublin

GPODublin City Hall was the venue for our third Heritage Week event, our seminar ‘Living in Victorian Dublin’. This is the second in our annual series, the first was ‘Living in Georgian Dublin’ in 2016 and the next will be ‘Living in Restoration Dublin’ in 2018.  Our five speakers each spoke on a different topic, in order to cover all aspects of the Victorian city.  Michael Barry was our first speaker.  Author of Victorian Dublin Revealed he gave an overview of the entire city, demonstrating how many buildings, both public and domestic, have remained from that era and introducing them through his own splendid photography. 

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