Saturday December 1st was the day of the 10am memorial mass for Michael’s dad and uncle Jimmy and after the service Nellie treated us to breakfast in the Ugly Duckling Deli and cafe a short walk from the church. By the time we came out of there it was too late for me to think about going anywhere too far so I spent the day mooching about round the town and just generally chilling out at the house, with the intention of having a ‘big day out’ the following day. Over the last couple of years the several coach journeys I’ve done along the River Liffey through Dublin city have whetted my appetite to see more of the place so 9am on the Sunday saw me leaving Roscrea for my day out, finally arriving at Dublin’s Busaras (main bus station) at 10.30.
The bus station is situated just behind the Custom House on the north side of the river and as I walked round towards the quayside I unexpectedly came across the first thing to photograph. Outside the Irish Life assurance building was a large statue set on an equally large square plinth and surrounded by several fountains gushing water into a surrounding square pool. Sculpted by Oisin Kelly in 1982 its official title is Chariot of Life.
Passing the side of the Custom House I made my way round to the front and spent several minutes getting close-up shots of some of the architecture. Construction of the building started in 1781 and took ten years ; each of the four facades is decorated with coats-of-arms and sculptures representing Ireland’s rivers. It was originally used for collecting custom duties but then became the headquarters of the Local Government and now currently houses the Planning Department and Housing Department. In 1921 the building was extensively damaged during a large fire in which the central dome collapsed ; restoration was eventually undertaken by the Irish Free State government and the dome was rebuilt using Ardbraccan limestone which is noticeably darker than the Portland stone used for the rest of the building.
Heading east the next thing I came to was the old George’s Dock, set back off the road and surrounded by modern buildings. There was nothing special about it, it was just a square expanse of water with buildings on three sides, but I took a walk round and came across a large circle of upright stones set in a small garden area outside the International Financial Services Centre building ; there was nothing to say what the significance was but it was worth a photo.
Across the other side of the dock was a pleasant tree-lined walkway and the glass-fronted side of a long building – when I got round to the front I found this was EPIC, the Irish Emigration Museum. The entrance looked quite attractive and it seemed to have lots of Christmas decorations on display so I went in to take a look and discovered a long mall which seemed to go on for ever. The entrance to the museum itself was in one corner and the rest of the mall had small individual shops all the way along each side, most of which were cafes, coffee bars and eateries of some kind with banks of tables and chairs set down the centre of the mall. Although it was late morning by then and most of the shops were open there was hardly anyone around so the place had quite a deserted feel to it.
Back across the road and right by the riverside was the Famine Memorial, a collection of statues designed and crafted by Dublin sculptor Rowan Gillespie and presented to the city in 1997. The statues depict some of the starving Irish people walking towards the ships which would take them overseas to Canada and North America in an effort to escape the hunger and poverty of the Irish famine in the mid 1840s ; the men, women and children in the memorial are shown as skeletal figures wearing nothing more than rags. A stone tablet set into the nearby cobbles was presented by the Canadian Prime Minister in 1999 – featuring a maple leaf it reads “In memory of the victims of the Great Famine, and for their descendants who have done so much to build Canada”
Moored a bit further along the quayside was the Jeanie Johnston, a replica of one of the Tall Ships which transported people to North America in the 1840s. The original Jeanie Johnston was built in Canada in 1847 and was purchased by John Donovan & Sons of Tralee, Co. Kerry to be used as a cargo ship, but as the famine tightened its grip on Ireland the demand for transport to America became so large that the ship was used to take emigrants overseas. Sixteen voyages were made between 1848 and 1855, carrying more than 2,500 emigrants safely to the New World ; each journey took seven weeks and in spite of the cramped and difficult conditions no life was ever lost on board the ship, an achievement attributed to both the ship’s captain and the very experienced ship’s doctor.
Work on the replica ship started in 1993 and was completed in 2002 ; in 2003 it sailed to Canada and North America on a very successful trip which drew crowds at every port and has made several further trips since then. Set up as a living history museum it’s one of Dublin’s most popular attractions and 50-minute guided tours are available throughout the day – unfortunately though, having only a few hours in the city, I didn’t have time to go on one but I’ve put it on my ‘to do’ list for another time.
Continuing my walk east I noticed quite a lot of policemen and several police cars in the road ahead ; when I got to the Samuel Beckett bridge I found that the road had been blocked off although there was no sign of any ambulances or anything which would have signified a major accident. Not far from the bridge was the Convention Centre and barriers were in place along the edge of the pavements on both sides of the road ; nothing seemed to be happening other than a handful of people taking photos of the building so I asked one of them what was going on and was told that it was some football draw or other for UEFA Euro 2020 – well whatever that is I’m sure it wasn’t necessary to close the roads and have so many policemen there because of it.
Once I’d got past the Convention Centre I was heading out towards the port and there was nothing much else of any interest to see so I retraced my steps to the Samuel Beckett bridge and crossed over to the south of the river – I had an idea of a few places I could check out but it would be interesting to see if I could find some I didn’t know about.