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News from Nelson: Absent Friends

filming nelsonWhen you reach my age – 209 and counting - you start to think about your old friends and long to meet up with them for a chat.  So I was delighted when Ken Dolan called in to see me the other morning. It was an important occasion – we were both being interviewed by the BBC for ‘The One Show’ which is hugely popular.   Nowadays Ken is a distinguished academic at the National College of Art and Design but in 1966 he was an impecunious student there and like many young men he was eager for the craic.  At that stage I had been blown off my Pillar and was nursing my wounds amid the remnants of my dignity, in a Dublin Corporation storage depot. St. Patrick’s Day arrived and it was cold and wet as usual – when over the wall came seven fit young men.  Acting together, they managed to lift me  – I’m really very heavy – and then they scarpered off, bringing me with them.

Manuscript of the Month July 2017: The Mystery of the Summer Islands

Usher IslandIn its natural state, the River Liffey is shallow – the Irish name for Dublin is ‘Baile Atha Cliath’ or the town of the ford of hurdles, which were put down on the river bed to allow people to have a firm footing while wading across.  Further east, the Nightingale Sands, which appeared in summer at the mouth of the Liffey at low tide, were used during the Riding of the Franchises to cross from Clontarf to Ringsend on horseback. 

And again in summer, a varying number of islands appeared in the River Liffey.  These were owned by the then Dublin Corporation which leased them out to citizens who hoped to build the summer islands up and reclaim them. Many of the summer islands appeared in the vicinity of Rory O’More Bridge and are shown on Bernard de Gomme’s 1673 map of Dublin; these were probably sand and gravel banks.  In 1670, the merchant Henry Orson secured a lease of these small islands and in 1685 Phillips’ map of Dublin shows them as a single island with a house – an indicator of Orson’s success in effectively consolidating them.  Orson’s islands were incorporated into the north bank of the Liffey by 1728 and the land is now known as The Esplanade and Wolfe Tone Quay.

News from Nelson: Kismet

Death of NelsonSince I came to live and work in Dublin City Library & Archive, I have been very conscious of being a rough diamond – we naval types were trained to sail and fight around the world, with no opportunity of furthering our education.  So any chance I have to expand my cultural horizons I seize on with enthusiasm. And when a kind invitation arrived from the Gorry Gallery to attend their summer exhibition, I was delighted and rolled around there one evening.

Image: Detail from 'The Death of Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar’ Engraving by Charles William Sharp after Daniel Maclise.

Sinead de Valera

The Emerald Ring by Sinead de ValeraJane Flanagan was from Munster Street in Phibsborough. Born in 1878, she remembered as a young girl following the cortege of Charles Stewart Parnell to Glasnevin. Flanagan’s family had moved to Phibsborough from Balbriggan when her father Laurence, a carpenter, had worked on the refurbishment of St. Peter’s Church. While she was working as teacher at St. Francis Xavier’s school near Dorset Street during 1899 Jane joined the Gaelic League. Thereafter she used the first name ‘Sinead.’

The Emerald Ring by Sinead de Valera.

Flanagan joined Inghínidhe na hÉireann, one of the first nationalist women’s organizations. She also acted in Irish language plays and taught the language to beginners, among them Seán T. O’Kelly, Ernest Blythe and Eamon de Valera. She met de Valera in 1909 and they spent that summer at an Irish college in Co. Mayo. They married in January 1910. By 1916 they had three children and were living in Morehampton Road. <--break->

Tipping off de Valera

de ValeraEamon de Valera was one of the republican prisoners who arrived back in Dublin to a tumultuous welcome on 21 June 1917. Already popularly known as one of the most senior veterans of the Rising, he became a nationwide personality when elected as MP for East Clare on 10 July 1917. At this point de Valera was living in Phibsborough, at the family home of his wife Sinead.

Image: "Irish Rebellion, May 1916. Ed. de Valera (Commandant of the Ringsend Area) Sentenced to Death; sentence commuted to Penal Servitude for life." (see larger version)

Historians in Residence – exciting new public history project

HistoriansDublin City Council has put history and communities at the heart an innovative new project which builds on last year’s commemoration of the 1916 Rising. The centenary of the Rising saw unprecedented engagement with history in the city as hundreds of thousands of citizens, visitors and community groups remembered this pivotal moment in our history.  Now Dublin City Council has recruited six Historians-in-Residence to build on this enormous public interest in history. The historians are working across the city and are talking history with the general public, community groups and schools from now until January 2018 and can be contacted at commemorations@dublicity.ie<--break->.

Historians-in-Residence pictured l-r:  Back row: Brian Hanley, Cormac Moore and Donal Fallon; Front row: Maeve Casserly, Cathy Scuffil and Darragh Gannon

News from Nelson: The Greatest?

NelsonOne of the best parts of having ‘retired into the Corpo’ is that I have plenty of time to sit and think of how wonderful I am – it passes the day for me.   Did you know that I am the greatest naval commander who ever lived?  Did I mention this before? Taking part in the Napoleonic Wars, I was victorious in the battles of Cape St. Vincent, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, The Nile, Copenhagen and of course Trafalgar.  Most of these battles were referenced on my Pillar and their names are now on display in the Craft Courtyard in Kilkenny City – the clean lettering is an inspiration to the practitioners there.

Letters Patent for the Theatre Royal Dublin, 1957

Theatre RoyalManuscript of the Month, June 2017. 
Dublin’s famous Theatre Royal went through three incarnations before finally succumbing to the developers’ wrecking ball.  The first version was founded in 1820 as the Albany Theatre – based in Hawkins Street, it boasted a 2,000 seater auditorium.  During his visit to Dublin in 1821, King George IV visited the Albany and subsequently issued it with letters patent, conferring the title of Theatre Royal.  This first Theatre Royal was burned to the ground on 9 February 1880 and was replaced on the same site by the second Theatre Royal in 1897.  This was designed by Frank Matcham and seated 2,011 people. But these numbers was not enough for all the people who wanted to enjoy an evening at ‘The Royal’ so in 1935 it was replaced by a behemoth, with room for 3,700 seated and 300 standing.   This third ‘Royal’ survived until 1962 when it was demolished and replaced with an office block, Hawkins House.

Total War in Flanders - the Irish Connection

Edward BrierleyThe Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association Archive held at Dublin City Library and Archive holds the personal papers of a number of Irish men who fought at the Belgium Front in 1917.

Dubliner, Edward Brierley fought at the Battle of Messines during his remarkable army career which included winning three Certificates for bravery. He survived the war and on returning to Ireland he went on to have a second notable career, signing for Shelbourne Association Football Club (AFC) in 1922 and playing in the FAI Cup Final on St. Patrick’s Day 1923. He also played for the Ballsbridge team St. Mary’s United (AFC).

Photo: Edward Brierley seated, in uniform (Ref. RDFA/09/27)

100 Years since start of Battle of Wijtschate /Messines Ridge

Messines Peace ParkThe Battle of Messines (7–14 June 1917) was an offensive conducted by the British Second Army, under the command of General Sir Herbert Plumer, on the Western Front near the village of Messines in West Flanders, Belgium, during the First World War. Today on the centenary of the beginning of the battle, an island of Ireland commemoration, jointly led by the Governments of Ireland and the UK, in partnership with the Mayor of Messines, will take place at 14.00 at the island of Ireland Peace Park in Belgium.

Image: Turning of the first sod on the site of the Island of Ireland Peace Park, performed by representatives of the British and Irish armies. Private Dickenson and Trooper Paul Kellett. (Ref. RDFA.068 pg.14)

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