Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Back to Ireland and Dublin Town

After our time in Galway, we took the train back to Dublin. We really hated to leave, and I do hope to go back next year to see more of Galway, county Clare, and perhaps get to Dingle and Connemara, and the village of Roundstone where one of my all-time favorite movies, The Matchmaker was filmed.

Last trip to Ireland in 2013, Larry and I met Leo East, who stopped to help us as we were puzzling over a map. That chance meeting led to me being able to connect Leo with his old schoolmate Rob who now lives in The Netherlands. Life has some unexpected twists, doesn't it? On this trip, Rob encouraged me to call Leo, so I did.

Leo came to Dublin to meet up with me and took me for a fascinating three-hour walk around the city. He pointed out many sites of interest, told stories and was just altogether a delight to get to know better. I hope I see him again on my next trip. He is a walking encyclopedia of Irish history.

For example, the lovely houses in Merrion Square where our hotel was located: According to Leo, they were built for members of the Irish Parliament when it met in Dublin. A beautiful private park in Merrion Square was developed just for these members of the ruling class, a place for nannies to take children to walk and play. Then, when the Irish Parliament moved from Dublin Castle to London, most of the gentry vacated their Georgian homes and moved to London too, a transition that began around 1800. The empty houses were taken over by Irish who had been living in the poorest of circumstances because of the British Penal Laws enacted against Catholics. They moved their livestock into the back yards, and sometimes as many as 20 families lived in one house (these homes were three or four floors tall, so there was a good bit of room in them, but still it would have been pretty crowded). Conditions in Dublin became pretty squalid as the city's wealth and prosperity disappeared with the gentry. But over the years the homes have been restored for the most part, often housing businesses on the bottom floors and housing above.

And there were these heavy glass grates, almost like manhole covers, but rectangular instead of round, that I kept seeing in the sidewalks. I knew the glass was old because it was turning purple, a sign of glass made prior to 1914. Leo explained that these were skylights in underground storerooms that often ran out under the streets. The glass panels provided light in these places at a time when electricity was not available.

There was much more that he told me and I wish I'd had a recorder with me because I cannot remember it all. Next time, I'll at least have a notebook to jot it down!

It was such a pleasure to see Leo again. What a guy. We finally said good night, and Theresa and I headed off to bed to be ready for our trip the next day to the Hill of Tara and Newgrange.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Rowan said...

There's nothing like having a local to show you round and fell you the history of a place ed and taking you to parts that you would never see on your own. Looking forward to reading about your visit to Newgrange, that's somewhere I'd love to see.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

I remember those "glass grates" being in Cambridge, they used to fascinate me when I was a child. I wonder if they're still there??????

Granny Sue said...

You're right, Rowan. Especially one steeped in history. It was like traveling in England with my cousin John!

Granny Sue said...

John, I bet they are.

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