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A Hall, a Brewery, and Musical History (2014)

My last day in Dublin was yet marked by another “pilgrimage,” this one was to Trinity College. Trinity is world renowned for its long-standing reputation for nurturing the minds of some of the greatest literary figures of the English and Anglo-Irish Cannons. Some of the names that mark its contribution to literature are: Thomas Moore, Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett, and others. With this panorama of emblematic literary names, one can match the legacy of Trinity College to its outstanding architecture. On first entering the campus, one finds the main quadrangle which is thought to be an exemplary architectural masterpiece in the Gothic style.

My time at Trinity College was spent enjoying the library exhibition on The Book of Kells which is housed in an air-conditioned room on the second floor of the library. The Book of Kells is one of the surviving Gospel books with intricate Celtic, early-Christian designs. The book stands as a testament to the historical period of the conversion of the Celtic peoples of Ireland to Christianity. The pages of this manuscript are beautifully written out and illustrated with an interesting use of Celtic religious symbols to represent the ideological shift of the country from paganism to monotheism. Late in its history, The Book of Kells was lastly housed in Trinity College to prevent it from being destroyed by the many fires that sprung up in the island monasteries where it was scribed and illuminated. The exhibition in itself givers a complete picture of the crafting, socio-historical, and religious importance of this Gospel book to the point that the actual viewing of The Book of Kells comes up short, at least for me.

On the second floor, I also enjoyed the exhibition titled, Emperor of the Irish, Brian Boru, & the Battle of Clontarf 1014. The exhibition tells of one of the first leaders of the Kingdom of Ireland after its Celtic unification, kept in the old section of the Old Library Room. The library is decorated by marble busts of influential figures in English history, including writers, that were considered civil servants of the crown. Among these busts are William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and others.

In my opinion, the surroundings of the Brian Boru exhibition were more interesting than the exhibition itself. The old library is for all intentions and purposes a hall of history, which is flanked on either side by rows of book shelves that hold a million plus first edition books that have to be brushed and dusted by hand every day by a team of literary historians and archaeologists! This feat of cleaning definitely shows the dedication of Trinity’s staff to upholding the historical legacy that Trinity College possesses and emphasizes the magnificence of the college’s achievements.

My visit to Trinity College was followed up by a tour of the Guinness Storehouse. Guinness is the hallmark and pride and joy of Irish culture; it’s a beer that has been in existence since 1759. Fun facts: the building is designed in the shape of a giant pint of Guinness that, if full, it would hold 14.3 million pints of beer. My time at the Guinness Storehouse was closed off by a delicious lunch of Beef & Guinness Stew with Champ Potato, but I saved the best for last. Before I left, I spent some time at the 7 Gravity Bar and enjoyed an awesome 360° view of Dublin with a pint of Guinness!

The Guinness Storehouse was the closing episode of my side-trip to Dublin and I afterwards made the three hour-long drive back to Galway for what was to be a great night out. I and my study abroad group were schedule to go to a staged musical performance of all types of Irish music: the classic fiddle, Irish language folk songs, Irish immigration ballads, and trademark hornpipe dance, hard shoe dance, and light shoe group dance. This musical event was named Trad on the Prom and was produced by Chris Kelly, guitarist, alongside world-class fiddle player and wife, Máirín Fahy. The line-up of Trad of the Prom includes: Yvonne Fahy, multi-instrumentalist, Gerard Fahy, composer and musical director of Lord of the Dance. The show also features champion Irish dancers led by Cian Nolan, Clare Greaney, The Keaney Brothers, Mary McDonagh, Siobhan Manson and Emma O’Sullivan. Singers include: March Roberts, Sean Costello, Yvonne McMahon and Nicola McGuire.

The array of performers subdivided the performance under three themes Irish love, war, and immigration. These three themes span the breath of the history of Irish music from its Celtic origins to the neo-traditional movement. Trad on the Prom was truly an impressive montage.

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