Monday, July 01, 2013

Ireland Day 4: Kilmainham and Glendalough

Days and nights merge into each other, and many people on our trip are still having trouble adjusting to the time change. Perhaps this is why we are a few minutes late getting on the bus every day, causing our bus driver (named, surprisingly, John) to tell us that our punctuality "needed improvement". It doesn't help that the tour bus clock is 5 minutes fast. But, I am sure we will all adjust.

Today's agenda includes the Kilmainham Gaol. On the way to the gaol, John points out the pub where Kevin Barry was hanged, and tells us about the invention of Irish coffee. Apparently it had to do with Powers Whiskey Distillery, and a man called Michael Sheridan, who once gave a man who asked for strong black coffee a drink that added Powers Gold Label whiskey, brown sugar, and a layer of cream to the coffee. When the man said, "I asked for black coffee," he said, "This is an Irish coffee."

We pass quite a few distilleries, some defunct, and lots of colorful doors, and a few bright green post offices that say "Offig an Phoist". We pass Watling Street, which commemorates a scene in Ulysses where Leopold Bloom gets caught up in a miscommunication about horse racing.

We finally reach our destination, and in my love of incongruities, I could not help but notice that right inside the gaol entrance, underneath a stone carving of monstrous serpents, is a sign for the tea room.

Our tour guide (called David this time, for a change) tells us about the fame of Kilmainham. From its opening in 1796, it held mostly petty criminals and some murderers. But it also held all the leaders of the Easter Rebellion, most of them executed there by firing squad. To put the era in context, John George Littlechild, who worked on the Jack the Ripper murders, was the same man who tracked down and arrested Thomas Clarke, one of the rebels. Clarke's copy of the Proclamation of Ireland as a republic is in the museum. This was read by Patrick Pearse on the steps of the General Post Office in Dublin. This led to a 6-day war with British troops, ending when Pearse finally surrendered. Charles Stuart Parnell also was held here, though as a political prisoner he lived as well as Al Capone did in Alcatraz. Eamon De Valera was also held here. He was opposed to the partition agreement signed by Michael Collins, ending the war with Britain, but leaving 6 counties in the North in the control of the British government.

We were allowed to look into the cell of Grace Plunkett, who married rebel leader Joseph Plunkett on the night he was to be executed. She had painted a mural of the madonna and child on her cell wall. The mural there now is a reproduction, but some of what they believe is her original artwork is still visible in the cell doorway.

After going to Kilmainham, we stopped at Powerscourt for lunch. Powerscourt is a beautiful old estate near Enniskerry, known mainly for its gardens for tourists today. We had a spectacular view of the Wicklow mountains. After lunch, we headed to Glendalough, to see the monastery of St. Kevin. It was a gorgeous sunny day when our group went outside. Not 5 minutes later, it started to rain, and rained harder and harder as we walked around. There are several ruined churches, and one that is still in fairly good shape. The graveyard is not as old as it appears; many headstones were from the 1800s.

Naturally, the sun came out again 5 minutes after leaving Glendalough. (Good old Irish weather...). We headed into Dublin for a musical pub tour, starting at Gogarty's, and moving to the Ha'penny Pub and then Brennan's near O'Connell Street. The musicians were excellent, and very funny, though they talked a lot about the history of the area and the music, and I think I would have liked to have heard some more music. At the end they let the audience members come up to sing. My roommate Deborah pretty much stole the show when she got up to sing a song she'd made up only 10 minutes earlier. Another member of our group, Kathy (who, in small-world fashion, was one of my MLIS students) was flashed by a guy dressed as a leprechaun. So, Deborah made up a song about this fellow, showing off his "Irish shortcomings". The guitarist said that was probably one of the top twenty songs he'd heard in the karaoke portion, ever. He later wondered if she had been a "plant", but Bill assured him that she was not.

It was an excellent end to the evening. A few of us stopped to have a glass of wine in the hotel bar before bed. And now we will be leaving Dublin.

1 comment:

Ima said...