On my second day in Dublin, I walk around the city to see what I could find along the way. My first glimpse of the city was the towering parapets and the front façade of the Abbey Church, colloquially known as “Findlater’s Church.” This building has stood in the center of Dublin for more than 150 years in Parnell Square. Its ornate architecture combines at least three architectural styles: Gothic, Romanesque, and Baroque, which interlace with each other, in layers of a masterful design. As one of the first monuments that I encountered in Ireland’s capital city, this church is surely one of the highlights that Ireland has offer.
Across from the Abbey church, one finds the Garden of Remembrance which is the home of the Irish Freedom Fighters commemorative statue. The statue itself uses the mythological theme of the Children of Lir. The intertwined figures of swans and fallen men (rising up into to sky), refers to the story of the three daughters of Lir, the Irish sea god, and how they transformed into swans in order to protect the men of Ireland from future harm in the years to come. The statue represents how Ireland is often thought of as a serine but brave country. The statue embodies the fighting spirit of the Irish people who worked during the eighteenth to twentieth centuries to create a unified country and rid themselves of the English yoke. With that historical context, imbued into the statue, it must be said that the Garden of Remembrance commemorates no less than five historical events that are closely interrelated: 1978: Rebellion of the Society of United Irishmen, 1803: Rebellion of Robert Emmer, 1848: Rebellion of Young Ireland, 1867: Rising of the Fenian Brotherhood, 1916: Easter Rising of the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, and 1919-21: Irish War of Independence of the Irish Republican Army.
After getting a look at the Garden of Remembrance, I took a walk across the Samuel Beckett Bridge that is named for Samuel Beckett, the playwright one of the plays I read for my 20th Century Anglo-Irish Drama class, Waiting for Godot. The cable-stayed bridge stretches across the south side of the River Liffey ever since, December 2009
My trek through Dublin continues, as I cross the Samuel Becket Bridge, I pass through the other side of the city and soon the Jeanie Johnson Tall Ship looms ahead of me. This replica of the original ship is a floating museum of the story of its namesake’s trips across the ocean to America and Canada. The original ship is also known to be one of the many ships that carried Irish immigrants who were escaping from the Potato Famine of 1845-1849. These famine years were the worst times of this event in Irish history which peaked in 1947, Black ’47.
As if the model of the Jeanie Johnson famine ship wasn’t enough of a reminder of the famine, nearby stands the Famine Memorial unveiled in 1997. The set of bronze statues crafted by Dublin sculptor, Rowan Gillespie, depict Ireland’s poor looking vacantly in the distance or upward towards the sky. They seem as if they are imploring God or life itself to put an end to their suffering –standing in front of these statues, the viewer seems small and insignificant, because of the pain and despair engraved in the statues.
The morning portion of my day almost came to a close with a stop at the Custom House, a neo-classical eighteenth century building burned by the Irish Republican Army in an attempt to disrupt English rule in 1921. The building was restored after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty later in the same year and later, in 1980, further restoration was under way.
I also stopped by the General Post Office which was the battle site of the Easter Rising of 1916. Because of its place in history, the building stands as a symbol of Irish nationalism to this day and is one of the emblems of the Irish War of Independence of the Irish Republican Army, 1919-21 and the Irish Civil War, 1922-23.
My historical walk through Dublin ended in the afternoon and then I headed down to the James Joyce Center. It goes without saying that James Joyce is also one of my favorite authors, so a stop by the center was essential because I’ll soon be studding Joyce and his works in depth. My time at the center was basically concerned with a viewing of the 1960’s film, directed by Joseph Strick, James Joyce’s Ulysses on the first floor of the building, afterwards I made sure to take some time to see the front door of the original apartment of 7 Eccles Street that became part of Joyce’s best known novel. My time at the center was topped off by a 90 minute tour around Dublin about Joyce’s life, works, and the socio-historical times in which he lived. Before ending my visit I went to the center’s gift shop and took advantage of being able to see a bookstore fit for a Joycean scholar. Let me tell you, I couldn’t resist having a book-binge…
Of course my second day in Dublin, Ireland’s literary and historical capital, didn’t end with the setting of the sun, the night was young…