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Natural History Museum, Dublin

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I visited The Natural History Museum Friday, 8th October 2010. When I turned to their website yesterday I found these opening lines….

This building is now open again following a major restoration project.

Our exhibitions have changed very little in over a century…..

The second line pretty much summises the musty building interior and the scent and feel about the place.  It’s a nice building but there’s a linger of something more Friedrich Miescher as versus Watson and Crick. Maybe it’s the old glass with what I can only assume is formaldehyde preserving collections. Maybe its the leather that covers those insects at the end of the ground floor to protect them from the light. But then, the oft referred to Dead Zoo, has been collecting deadies since 1792 and has been in the same spot since 1857.

That said it what it is and for some reason I liked it. A lot. It continues….

….The ground floor is dedicated to Irish animals, featuring giant deer skeletons and a variety of mammals, birds and fish. The upper floors of the building were laid out in the 19th Century in a scientific arrangement showing animals by taxonomic group. This scheme demonstrated the diversity of animal life in an evolutionary sequence.

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The first floor is the main reason I went there. I wanted to see the collections of Irish slugs and more… but that sort of thing, in detail. I wanted to see Irish birds, the garden pests, the helpers the bugs, the spiders and the prey. Up close and motionless. And I did. I put in my ear phones and spent maybe two hours there. Entry is free and the art gallery nearby does decent coffee, a necessary for me to ingest regularly.

But there’s a problem. The guys were supposed to get a bag of cash from the boys next door. They didn’t. And for that I’m personally glad. There was talk of a new wing, a coffee shop etc. Lets put this in context,  my Beatles For Sale vinyl, in mono, has a big scratch on it – but I know when and where I need to lift the needle. More importantly I know why the scratch is there…. my own fault for breaking up with her while she was changing to side B. My point, we have history.

I shall continue on – the second floor one can’t get to the upper galleys which would be nice. Some health and safety crapology doctorite decided on that one – and so they remain closed off. A shame, yes, but I’ll settle for it.

For me, I liked loved The Natural History Museum. I can see why a younger mind may be bored senseless. I know the upper of upstairs is closed off. I find it rhetoric that it’s next to Leinster House where the people who run our country make decisions [?] But I personally hope it never gets the funding it was told it would get.

It’s a great place to go, in a beautiful part of Dublin City. Argue all you like regarding upgrades and changes – but similar to, I wish Irelands roads were toll free.

If you do intend go there, watch out for exhibition and event dates if you want some peace and quiet like I did. Also the staff there are amazing, brimmed with information and were more than willing to answer all of the questions I had and point out of pieces of interest they thought I might like.

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In the front lawn is a gentleman called Thomas Heazle Park.

Surgeon-General Thomas Heazle Parke (1857—1893) was an Irish doctor, explorer, soldier and naturalist, born in 1857 at Clogher House in Drumsna, County Leitrim, Ireland, and was brought up in Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim. He graduated from the College of Surgeons in Dublin and was appointed to a post in Ballybay, County Monaghan.

In 1881 he joined the British Army and served in Egypt as a surgeon. Parke fought to Khartoum in relief of General Gordon in 1885.

He became the first Irishman to cross the African continent. During the expedition Parke bought a pygmy girl. They travelled together for over a year and she nursed him through malaria. In the end he was forced to leave her behind because her eyes could not adapt to sunlight after the darkness of the forest.

When Parke returned home he received an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and was awarded gold medals from the British Medical Association and the Royal Geographical Society. Among his published works are My Personal Experiences in Equatorial Africa (published in 1891) and A Guide to Health in Africa. He died in Scotland in 1893 and his coffin was brought back to Ireland and drawn on a gun carriage from the Dublin docks to Broadstone station. He was buried in Drumsna.

On the granite pedestal is a bronze plaque depicting the incident on August 13, 1887 when Parke sucked the poison from an arrow wound in the chest of Capt. William G. Stairs to save his life. He is also commemorated by a bust in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

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View More Images of The Natural History Museum. One is permitted to take photographs, just not with the use of flash.

Opening Hours:

  • Tueesday – Saturday 10am -5pm
  • Sunday 2pm – 5pm
  • Closed Mondays [including Bank Holidays]

UPDATE: 7th January 2011

Whilst I was at the Museum I filled out the comment form. I can’t remember what I said exactly now to be honest. But I just got this email today.

Peter

Thank you for taking the time to fill out a comment card during your visit. To answer your query about access to upper floors, the National Museum of Ireland has prepared a plan to build a new structure beside the Natural History Museum that will include a lift and provide universal access. This was allocated €15M in funding under the National Development Plan but this funding has since been withdrawn and the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport is not able to fund the development at present. The structure would allow us to remove any modern intrusions (e.g. the shop) into a separate space and reinforce the Victorian style, allow access to all floors and provide spaces for education and proper visitor services that are sorely needed.

Balcony access is not possible at present due to the lack of emergency exits from these upper levels. The solution, once funded, would have minimal impact on the historic interior. The Natural History Museum Staff are working on virtual access to areas of the museum and its collections that are not physically accessible to all.

I share your disappointment in the lack of access, unfortunately until funding is made available for this work the upper floors will remain out of reach for many visitors. Funding for the National Museum of Ireland is the responsibility of the Minister at the Department of Tourism, Culture & Sport.

Nigel
Mr Nigel T. Monaghan,
Keeper,
Natural History Division,
National Museum of Ireland,
Merrion Street,
Dublin 2,
IRELAND

Boyle Pleasure Grounds, Boyle, Co. Roscommon

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Without any doubt, this is one of the finest public parks I have ever visited in Ireland. It’s not massive. It’s not received too much notoriety, at least that I know of anyway. But for me it was an absolute gem as I searched for a quite spot to picnic.

In the park lies a statue-less monument where once stood King William.

D’Alton Annals of Boyle refer to ‘a statue of King William representing his majesty with a crown of Laurel on his head and the Order of the Garter on his knee’. When the new bridge was built in 1834, Viscount Lorton had the monument moved to the Pleasure Grounds. Later ,during the ‘Troubles’ in the early 1920’s, the statue was beheaded. Subsequently the rest of the statue was removed and now only the pedestal remains.

That aside, the park [n 1 a large area of open land for recreational use by the public] is one that I loved. It is very well laid out. The play ground is brilliant and was being used as were the basketball and soccer all weather pitches. I loved the plant choices, that were slightly unusual for a public park [They are generally of the brutal guaranteed to grow variety].  The layout was amazing. It sits right beside the water, has picnic benches and secluded seating, the layout and overall design. The list goes on….

The bits I didn’t like so much were the missing plants and the littered rubbish dotted around the waters side. That said and as public parks go – it is one of the better ones that I have been to in a long while. I would be really impressed and proud if something like this sat on my doorstep. Surprised it wasn’t used more and best of all – it’s free and it’s yours!

Trinity Island, Lough Key, Boyle, Co. Roscommon

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The image above is Trinity Island. Doesn’t seem like much and possibly because it’s a little more out of sight than Castle Island, also on Lough key, it maybe doesn’t get the same attention. I didn’t see it on too many of the tourist trails either….[?] I found out about it because I got talking to Oliver and Peter of Lough Key Boats. Nice guys.

This one, in my opinion is a bit too far for me to be rowing to. It’s a motor boat job for sure. Is it worth going out, absolutely.

While I was there I wondered how the monks fed themsleves…. never mind that…. how did they get the stone out there ? How did they build this thing?

Either or, it is one of Irelands hidden gems. I got to get out there because of 2 gentlemen from Boyle.

To you both – thank you. Sincerely.

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View more images of Trinity Island

Courtesy Of Lough Key Boats Website

Trinity Island is the site of one of two religious foundations on Lough Key.

The ranks of Canons were augmented in 1228 by the defection of monks from the Cistercian Abbey of Boyle, which was seen by the Cistercian Council of that year as having become too gaelicized. The monks brought with them their manuscripts and learning, which, under Clarus’ direction, developed eventually into the great manuscripts of the Annals of Lough Key and the Annals of Connacht.

A text in latin records a dispute between the Canons here, and the Monks of Boyle, over the burial of Dermot Mac Gilla Carraig, erenach of Tibohine, in 1229.

The monastery was granted protection by the Justiciar of Connacht, when he and other Anglo-Norman notables visited it to pray, prior to attacking MacDermot’s castle in 1235. After the general suppression of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1536-7, this monastery was granted to the Mac Dermots who allowed the Canons to remain in occupation, and it appears that they continued to occupy the House until it was confiscated by James I in 1608. The Island is the burial place of Sir Conyers Clifford, the Commander of the English forces in the Battle of the Curlews, 1599.

Castle Island, Lough Key, Boyle, Co. Roscommon

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A huge thanks to Peter Walsh [and son in law Oliver] of Lough Key Boats for doing this podcast with me, books are one thing, but a voice tells the story so much better.

How do you get there ? I stayed in Lough Key camping. After that, one can rent a paddle boat to get out – when the weather is slightly calm-er, but I would highly recommend the pleasure cruise tour of the entire lough. That said, I was absolutely honoured to get a personal tour by Oliver of Castle Island and Trinity Island where, his ceremony of marraige to Peter’s daughter took place.

Go to Lough Key and have a chat with the lads. 😉

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View more images of Castle Island.

I’ll do a seperate post on Trinity Island later.

For the moment – thanks again Oliver mate. So very much appreciated.

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Courtesy Lough Key Boats:

Castle Island has passed through the ownership of two famous families the Mc Greevy’s and the Mac Dermots.

The island is sometimes referred to as Mac Dermots Island to this day. We first hear of a castle Island when the Annals of Loch Cé report that it was burned down in 1187 by lightning.

A 1792 print shows the original castle tower (see right)

The castle featured in the final act of the conquest of Connacht in 1235, by Richard de Burgo whose army included 500 mounted knights. The castle came under siege, first by a raft-mounted perrier (catapult), and then by fire ships comprising wood stripped from the nearby town of Ardcarne. The combination of rocks and flames proved too much for the castle garrison, forcing Cormac MacDermot, King of Moylurg to surrender.

The castle is mentioned frequently in the ancient annals, being a focus for both fighting and partying. A poem addressed to Tomaltach-an-einigh MacDermot (King of Moylurg 1421-58) tells the story of the Hag of Loch Ce who used (or abused) Cormac MacDermot’s (1218-44) hospitality by staying on the Rock for a full year, and laid upon the MacDermot family the obligation of perpetual hospitality.

Brian of the Carrick, Chief 1585-92, is the last head of the clan who lived on the island.

A poem by Eochaidh O hEoghusa, written about 1600, laments the castle’s uninhabited and ruinous condition:

…Thy bright fair form has changed, gone are thy gold-rich dwellings from thy fair comfortable long-walled enclosure, nor does the lime-white adorning of thy frontal remain…

Lord Lorton built a folly castle in the early part of the 19th century, as one of the adornments to the estate whose centrepiece was Rockingham House.

Isaac Weld, writing in 1832, describes as part of “the castle proper” 2 rooms, one above the other, each 36 feetby 22 feet, with walls of 7.5 feet thickness. It is not clear whether this refers to part of the original castle, or the later construction. The folly castle, used as a summerhouse, was gutted by fire shortly before the Second World War.

Bloom 2010 – reviewed

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If you did read my post on Thursday, you would have got my recommendations for Bloom In The Park 2010. And so I went along again on Sunday and Monday.

The weather was cracking for most of Bloom, but the last two days meant the umbrella’s had to come out. But then, this is Ireland… That said, I did notice in contrast to Blooms first year a massive difference in the ‘dealing with Irish weather‘ facilities around the festival. Well done behind the scenes team.

The layout did change slightly to the main area outside the show gardens and for some I wondered why they had a prime pitch, with almost little or no relevance to horticulture. It was however a little easier to navigate than the year previous so maybe there’s method behind the decision. From a visitors perspective it was one I was glad of.

I did like the food area and the tasting and it was nice to see the forgotten crafts speaking taking place. I particularly enjoyed the Burren Smokehouse talk. I Never really knew what went into making a good smoked salmon. I do now. As a by the way, they sold out of every single piece of fish by 4pm on Monday.

To the right of that were some crafted outdoor displays which I felt delivered a nice message. Of note was the Wicklow Educate Together School Tin Man and the display for oil versus renewable energy. This replaced last years Obama replica vegetable garden. Very refreshing.

As always I don’t really like to comment on the gardens, as I’ve built and designed, been awarded medals and not…. That said I do recommend you read this post on building a show garden. It’s not easy 😉 I think I’m personally still suffering the aftermath of 2 years without a sponsor. Anyhow, you can comment, I won’t, but I will say the layout was good and quite relaxing walking around. Well done to all the sponsors and gardeners.

I didn’t make it to taste the crafted beers… but I did get to hear some of the bands in that area and it was great to see on Monday evening families dancing in the rain to a chorus of ‘Hello Mary Lou‘. Next door, the crafts area was nice and open and left places for people to sit and picnic. I also like the arts and crafts dotted throughout and the gentlemen singing acapella were amazing.

I thought the fact that speakers like Shawna Coronado from the U.S. were introduced was a great idea – I also believe her talks went down extremely well. Well done Shawna. [Also: my interview with Shawna Coronado]

There were suggestions that the food was well priced. On a different note, phone coverage and in particular internet phone coverage was poor. This I heard from too many people and from a meeting up point of view I only found afterwards that they’d been there. It also meant I couldn’t do live video’s and picture posting.

From speaking with Aidan Cotter and some of the Bord Bia team I believe numbers were up on last year which is great to hear. Aidan also queried whether I was returning to Bloom 2011 to build another show garden, with a twist difference…. I meant to ask him if there’s a chance of me getting partnered with a sponsor 😉

Overall, some say the direction has changed. Some say the garden judges were a little tougher this year. Others simply say Bloom 2010 has come along way in, what one should not forget, is just 4 years. All in all, I personally and sincerely enjoyed the show. Whether I go back in 2011 as a visitor or as a designer is a question I’ll need to answer soon. Either way, you will see me there.

Well done to all involved. Take a bow and when you find the time a well earned rest.

I’ll have some video’s and information to go up this week. You can also view my other images from Bloom 2010. I personally love this picture taken by my good friend Stephen 😉

What do you think….?


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