Another day in Dublin – Part 1

A day in which I find some subterranean ruins, a hidden park and a beautiful church, see a headless and legless man and meet Oscar Wilde…
My day started after an early breakfast with the 9am coach back to Dublin, where I got off near the Custom House and crossed the nearby bridge to the south side of the Liffey. The first thing I wanted to find was Mulligan’s Pub which has a long association with writers and journalism. It’s been a long-held belief that James Joyce may have written part of ‘Ulysses’  while sitting in Mulligan’s bar, though that’s highly unlikely as he left Ireland in 1912 and never returned, while ‘Ulysses’  was written between 1914 and 1921. In a book well known for mentioning many Dublin places and businesses of the time, there’s no reference at all to Mulligan’s in ‘Ulysses’  although the pub does feature in Joyce’s short story ‘Counterparts’. Probably the most famous journalist ever to drink in Mulligans though was a young American reporter who turned up one day in 1947 to research the pub’s connections with James Joyce – that young reporter’s name was John F Kennedy.
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Along the street from Mulligan’s was a building which, with its black-and-white English Tudor frontage, I thought was curiously unique among the rest of Dublin’s architecture. With a shuttered-up shop and locked gates to a central passageway there was nothing to say what it was and it wasn’t featured in my ‘111 Places’ book, however later internet research told me that it was the rear part of what was commonly known as ‘the gas building’.
The front part of the building was situated in the next street and was acquired by the Dublin Gas Company in 1884 ; the Tudor-style part was built in 1905 and the two buildings were connected at the rear by an integrated enclosed passageway at upper floor level, with a small market operating in the alleyway down below. Between 1931 and 1934 the front part of the building was remodelled in the Art Deco style with a large ground floor showroom ; the Gas Company remained in occupation until 2001 when the building was sold and purchased by Trinity College to become the School of Nursing & Midwifery, although to this day it still has the ‘GAS’ lettering above the door.
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The ‘rear’ of the gas building in Hawkins Street
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The front of the gas building, now a nursing school, in D’Olier Street – photo from the internet
The next three things on my list were all in the Temple Bar area, and though I’d only intended walking through there to find them I found the area so attractive that I couldn’t resist exploring up, down and along every street and alleyway I came to. I’d been that way briefly last December and thought the area looked nice enough then but now with flowers and colourful flags adorning many of the pubs and bars it looked even nicer. There was also quite a lot of street art dotted about but I’ll save all that for another post.
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Hard Rock Cafe, Fleet Street
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ThunderRoad Cafe
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The Quays bar
The history of The Temple Bar pub goes back to the early 1600s when Sir William Temple, a renowned teacher and philosopher, built his house and gardens on the corner of two adjoining streets on newly reclaimed land. In 1656 his son, Sir John Temple, acquired additional land which had been reclaimed by the building of a new embankment wall along the River Liffey ; at that time a raised embankment often used for walking on was known as a ‘barr’, later shortened to ‘bar’ and that section became known as Temple’s Barr, to be simplified later into Temple Bar, and which evolved over time to become the present-day main thoroughfare running through the area. Today The Temple Bar is not only well known for its daily live music and the famous musicians who have played there, including The Dubliners and The Fureys, but also for having one of the largest whiskey collections in Ireland and the exclusive bottling rights of Powers, one of Dublin’s great whiskeys.
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Entrance to the Temple Bar beer garden
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Oliver St John Gogarty’s
The first thing I actually wanted to find was Connolly Books which takes its name from James Connolly, the socialist leader executed for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising, and is Ireland’s oldest radical book shop. The first socialist book shop was set up at the beginning of the 1930s but quickly had to move following complaints from a nearby Franciscan friary ; a second shop, which was named Connolly house, was set up in 1932 but was besieged and burned down following a sermon in the Catholic Pro-Cathedral on the dangers of Socialism.
After the burning of Connolly House it became difficult to secure premises for the sale of literature seen to be left-wing and it wasn’t until 1942 that a third shop, called New Books, was opened after public donations made it possible. Unfortunately history repeated itself in 1956 when this shop too was attacked but it survived, and during the 1960s it was the only book shop in Dublin selling the writings of Marx, Engels and Connolly. The current shop was opened in 1977 by the Irish Communist Party, at a time when the area was run-down and part of it earmarked to be demolished and become a city-centre bus depot. Plans for that were eventually scrapped, the book shop survived and changed its name to Connolly Books in 1989 and the area was regenerated over the following years.
Since 1997 the book shop has also been the home of the 66-seat New Theatre, dedicated to presenting neglected Irish plays or works by small drama companies who can’t afford to perform anywhere else, though the shop and the theatre are run as two separate businesses. Both were threatened a few years ago though by structural damage partly caused by the River Poddle which runs underneath part of Temple Bar, but a left-wing builder helped to fund the refurbishment and the book shop and theatre were saved.
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Connolly Books & New Theatre
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Opened in 2018 the Wild Duck is Dublin’s newest bar and live music venue, headed by actor and restaurateur Gary Whelan and with a retro, vintage, funky look and feel to it but maintaining a cosy Irish atmosphere. With its open frontage in three sections it certainly looked very interesting and I was momentarily tempted to go in and buy a drink just so I could look round but being on my own I decided not to.
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The Wild Duck bar
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The Wild Duck entrance
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The Snug
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Isolde’s Tower was named after a 6th century Irish princess, one of a pair of star-crossed lovers (the Cornish knight Tristan being the other one) whose story inspired Shakespeare and Wagner among others. The tower, or what’s left of it, was originally part of the 13th century city walls and its base was discovered in the 1990s during excavations in preparation for another new building in Temple Bar. Construction went ahead on the condition that the tower’s ruins were incorporated into the development and made permanently accessible to public view, so they were enclosed on three sides within the foundations of the new building but with a metal grille on the fourth side which incorporates a design of how the tower would have looked. Unfortunately the spaces in the grille were only small so it was difficult to get a clear photo but there wasn’t much to see anyway, just a pile of stones and the base of the tower filled with manky water, so as important as these ruins probably are they aren’t particularly exciting.
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Isolde’s Tower
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Close to the tower was supposed to be the Czech Inn, a bar specialising in Czech beer and with holiday accommodation, but in spite of wandering round for several minutes I couldn’t find it anywhere. Eventually I asked someone and was told I was standing right across the street from it! The reason I couldn’t find it was because since it was mentioned in the ‘111 Places’ book it’s undergone a refurbishment and had a change of name, although many people still know it as the Czech Inn.
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Lundy Foot’s bar, formerly the Czech Inn
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Darkey Kelly’s
Passing Darkey Kelley’s bar I was at the far end of Temple Bar and heading out of the area completely ; it was lunch time by then and my thoughts were turning to a much-needed coffee and something to eat so I decided to go in search of a café and continue my walk later on.
To be continued….


Scavenger photo hunt – September

It’s that time of the month again and the topics for the photo hunt this time are – cosy, changing foliage, scarf, baking, cobweb and as usual, my own choice. Initially I wasn’t sure what to do for the first one then visiting a friend one day I noticed her rather attractive tea cosy so when I called there again a few days later I made sure I had the camera with me.
Cosy – my friend’s Portmeirion tea cosy
While on holiday in Ireland just over a week ago I was walking to a bus stop one morning when I saw this tree in someone’s garden. Most of the leaves were still green but some of them had turned to the most lovely shade of red, making it look really attractive in the morning sunshine.
Changing foliage – in an Irish garden
I was undecided which photo to use for ‘scarf’ so decided to use them both. The left hand one was taken in the gift shop at King John’s Castle in Limerick and the right hand one in a gift shop in the Temple Bar area of Dublin – mouse over the photos for the captions. It wasn’t easy getting the second shot as the Dublin shop was only small and the assistant seemed to be watching me constantly while I looked round, so I had to wait until his back was turned before I could snatch the shot. I suppose I could have just asked but sneaking around is much more fun!
The next category could have proved difficult as I never do any baking – I used to do years ago but these days I have neither the time nor the patience, however inspiration struck while I was looking through some photos I took last year on a day out in Southport. The continuing sunshine of a long hot summer had withered many of the flowers in the gardens along the promenade and the normally green lawns had been baked to a dry brown colour
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Baking – Southport’s promenade gardens baking in the sun’s heat
Back to Ireland again for the next one and it was taken in a castle which is supposed to be haunted by several ghosts and spirits. The castle is a very unusual place, part ruin/part renovated and is lived in by an Irish musician who is slowly restoring various parts of it – knock at the door and he’ll let you in for a look round. Somehow I never seem to be able to find a decent cobweb when I want one so this was taken while I was wandering round one of the castle’s upper floors and noticed an old chair with a bit of a cobweb stretched between one of the spindles and a front leg. As for any ghosts, I neither saw nor heard anything unusual, but I don’t believe in them anyway.
Cobweb – on a chair in a ‘haunted’ Irish castle
And finally, my own choice just had to be this one. Three days before I went to Ireland I had a day out to Heysham village on the coast, getting the train to Morecambe then walking along the promenade to the village. On my way back to Morecambe I passed a field with several friendly ponies, this one walked towards me then stopped dead just a couple of feet in front of me so I snatched the shot before it moved again.
My own choice – a friendly pony near Heysham village
Well that’s it from me for this month’s challenge ; a bit of a hurried post for once as I’m still in the process of editing the 951 photos I took on my recent holiday in Ireland and writing about the places I went to while I was there. I’m hopping over to Kate’s blog now to see what interesting photos others have come up with to fit this month’s categories.

A day in Dublin (1)

A day in which I almost lost my phone again, went looking for bullet holes and experienced being ‘underwater’ without leaving dry land…
My day started with a lovely breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast done by Nellie then I set out to get the 9am coach to Dublin city. As per usual it was late and when I got on I found the driver was the same guy as the previous day – and just like the previous day he was going hell for leather then slapping the brakes on when he had to slow down or stop. This time though, to avoid my phone slipping out of my pocket I’d put it in my small bag along with my camera, notebook and pen, and the bag was on the seat beside me. It didn’t make a scrap of difference though – at one point the coach pulled up so sharply that my bag fell off the seat and the phone came out, skidding along the floor underneath the seats in front. Not being able to see how far it had gone I waited until the coach stopped at Portlaoise and while the driver was dealing with the queue of passengers I went in search of it, finding it by the feet of a lady sitting three seats in front of me. The rest of the journey to Dublin fortunately passed without further incident and I got off the coach near the Custom House on the north side of the river.
After buying the book ‘111 Places in the Lake District That You Shouldn’t Miss’ for my holiday in June, and finding it very interesting and informative, I’d since got the equivalent one for Dublin and using that book I’d made a list of all the things in the city centre which would be relatively easy to get to on foot, although not all in one day. Plus I had a few ideas of my own, so join me on my Monday walk this week as I roam round Dublin searching out various serious, quirky, and interesting features of the city.
My walk started at the outer perimeter of Beresford Place, the attractive gardens which surround the north, east and west sides of the Custom House. In the centre of the north side was a rectangular pool and a fountain, with a larger-than-life-size bronze statue of Eire (Ireland) supporting a dying soldier. Designed and erected in 1956 the statue commemorates those IRA members who died in an attack on the Custom House in 1921 during the War of Independence.
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Statue of ‘Eire’, Beresford Place
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On the west side of Beresford Place, and standing in the shadow of an overhead rail line, was the statue of James Connolly, a Scottish-born Irish Republican and Socialist leader. He was centrally involved in the Dublin lock-out industrial dispute in 1913 and in 1916 was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising, aimed at ending British rule in Ireland and establishing an independent Irish Republic. Because of his leadership role in the Easter Rising he was executed by firing squad in May that same year.
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James Connolly statue, erected in 1996
Across the river, and facing the Custom House, was Georges Quay Plaza. A 13-storey complex of modern buildings completed in 2002, it houses the headquarters of Ulster Bank and is sometimes jokingly referred to as Canary Dwarf in reference to London’s Canary Wharf. Although it wasn’t actually on my list of things to find I took a photo just because I liked the pyramid-shaped roof tops at different heights.
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Georges Quay Plaza, home of Ulster Bank
Next was the Daniel O’Connell statue at the end of O’Connell Street. Although I’ve photographed it on previous occasions I didn’t know about the bullet holes until I read about them in the ‘111 Places’ book. Erected in 1882 in honour of ‘The Liberator’ the statue was very much in the line of fire during the 1916 Easter Rising and the larger-than-life bronze version of O’Connell was hit repeatedly. Also injured were three of the four angels who guard the monument’s base ; the figure of ‘Courage’ was shot through her right breast and ‘Eloquence’ was hit in the elbow. A total of 30 bullet holes have been found throughout the monument, 10 of them on O’Connell himself – rather an unfortunate fate for the statue of a great parliamentarian who detested violence.
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‘Courage’ with the bullet hole clearly visible
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‘Eloquence’ shot in the elbow
Halfway along O’Connell Street was the GPO (General Post Office) one of Ireland’s most famous buildings and the last of the great Georgian buildings to be erected in Dublin. The foundation stone was laid in August 1814 and the building was completed in about three years ; the main part was built out of mountain granite while the front portico was of Portland stone. During the Easter Rising of 1916 the GPO was used as the headquarters of the Rising’s leaders but in the course of the rebellion it was destroyed by fire and wasn’t rebuilt until 1929 by the Irish Free State government. In spite of its fame as a place of Irish freedom ground rent for the GPO continued to be paid to English and American landlords right up to the 1980s.
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The GPO building, O’Connell Street
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Mercury with his staff and purse
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Hibernia with her spear and harp
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Fidelity holding a key and with a hound at her feet
Just three streets behind O’Connell Street was Moore Street, Dublin’s oldest food market famous for its open-air fruit and vegetable stalls  It wasn’t in the book but I wanted to take a look as it had featured in Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie – which, incidentally, isn’t as funny as the tv programmes. Back in 1916, at the end of the Easter Rising, five of the seven signatories of the Irish Proclamation of Independence, including James Connolly, surrendered to British forces from a terrace of houses on Moore Street ; fast forward to 1998 and Dublin City Council wanted to demolish the terrace to redevelop the area but this was opposed by local groups who declared Moore Street and its surrounding area to be an important part of Irish history.
After many years of legal wrangling and campaigns to prevent redevelopment demolition work was scheduled to start in early 2016 ; legal action against it was started by campaigners and the houses were occupied and held for five days by protesters. The Save Moore Street 2016 campaign group was then formed and the site was blockaded to prevent building workers gaining access ; the blockade was maintained for almost six weeks and was only lifted after a legal judgement finally found in the group’s favour. On March 18th 2016 Justice Max Barrett declared that the whole terrace, street and surrounding lanes constituted a national historic 1916 Battleground. The plot of the Mrs Brown’s Boys film follows a very similar theme, possibly based on these modern day real-life events but with many adaptations, but while the film is mostly fictitious Moore Street and its market certainly aren’t.
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A section of Moore Street market
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Back to the riverside and the next thing I wanted to see was the Dublin Port Diving Bell situated across the Liffey and beyond the Samuel Beckett bridge. Created by Irish engineer Bindon Blood Stoney it was used in the construction of the city’s deep-water quays. Once lowered onto the seabed workers would climb down into the bell via the funnel – there was just enough room for six men to work – and they would flatten the seabed in preparation for huge concrete blocks to be laid. The bell was in service from 1871 to 1958 and in spite of the many risks involved the work on the quays never cost a life or even a serious injury.
After its working life was over the bell lay idle for many years and was in danger of being scrapped but in the 1980s it was hoisted onto one of the quays it had helped to build and left there, standing as a tribute to the many workers who had turned the former tidal harbour into a deep-water port. In spite of its heroic story it had no plaque or information to tell people what it was but in 2015 it was raised onto a specially constructed platform and transformed into a miniature museum which can be entered from two sides. Information panels around the walls give details of the bell and how it was used in the construction of the quays ; the space inside is small and the sound of constantly running water underneath a steel mesh floor gives an idea of how the workers must have felt at the time.
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The Dublin Port Diving Bell
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Heading back west along the riverside I came to something which had intrigued me when I passed that way last December. An old red brick building was being demolished to make way for the completion of a huge partially constructed modern building but it seemed like the workers were taking care not to demolish the front wall. This has proved to be true, the front façade of the old building has been saved and given a clean up and the new modern building stands behind it, although the two aren’t connected. There’s a huge amount of construction work being carried out across the city and I’ve noticed before that many old buildings are being saved while new buildings are erected round them ; the mixture of old and modern seems odd but in Dublin it works.
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A bit further along the quayside, and sandwiched between two other modern buildings, was the Immaculate Heart of Mary church, founded in 1908 and belonging to the Parish of City Quay. It wasn’t even on my list or indeed in the book but it was open, so never one to resist a church interior I went in for a look round ; I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
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The next thing on my list and in the book was the Countess Markievicz statue, unique among Dublin statues in that it also includes the subject’s dog, a Cocker Spaniel named Poppet. The Countess played quite a part in Ireland’s fight for independence and just before the 1916 Easter Rising she had the task of making a flag for rebel headquarters. With the shops being closed for Easter she had to improvise so used a green bedspread stretched out on her drawing room floor, and while she was trying to cut out the shape Poppet kept pulling at the material until he tore a piece out of the side. Undeterred, the Countess carried on, painting the words ‘Irish Republic’ in gold, then it was smuggled into the Irish Citizen Army headquarters and from there taken to the GPO to fly from the roof during the rebellion.
The flag is now on display at the National Museum, a revered symbol of the Republic’s foundation, although a rather damaged one. It’s believed though that the damage wasn’t all Poppet’s work ; half the ‘c’ in ‘Republic’ is missing, presumably shot away during the Rising, but if the original story is true then what was finished by the guns was started by an unruly spaniel.
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The Countess Markievicz statue
A few yards along the street from the statue was the Irish Times clock, fixed above the front of the newspaper office’s building. The exact age of the clock has never been established but it’s thought to date from the early 1900s ; it was originally erected on the old Irish Times building but was removed when the offices relocated to a different building in another street. It was never erected at the new building and was left wrapped in plastic and languishing in the back alley until it was noticed by one of the newspaper’s editors who mentioned it to the chief executive, after which it was cleaned up and erected on the building where it gained iconic status.
The clock found itself temporarily without a home when the newspaper sold the office premises in 2006 and relocated to the current building. In June 2007 it was sent to Stokes Clocks and Watches in Cork for a facelift when it was fully automated and illuminated from the inside so it will automatically light up at dusk, but its relocation suffered a hitch when it was found to be too heavy to put directly onto the new building. An aluminium-clad steel frame was designed to support the clock and mounted on a reinforced concrete base and the clock was finally lowered into position in 2008.
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The final thing on my list for the day was one of the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transport) trains. The DART system was established in 1984 and is an electrified commuter railway network serving Dublin’s city centre and coastline, stretching from Greystones in the south, just over the border into County Wicklow, to Howth and Malahide in north County Dublin. Unfortunately I couldn’t photograph a train at a station as I needed a ticket to get through the barriers but as I walked back along the riverside I managed to snap one as it passed on the overhead line nearby.
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A Dublin DART train crossing over the Liffey
With that being my last shot of the day I made my way to Busaras, the main bus station, for the coach back to Roscrea. Of course it was late but at least I didn’t have to suffer the same driver as before and I had quite a pleasant journey back ‘home’, where Nellie had a lovely meal waiting for me. It had been quite a long day with plenty of walking so after a quick phone call to Michael it was an early night for me that night, with tentative plans made for the following day depending on the weather.

From home to Roscrea…

A journey during which I fell foul of airport security and an obnoxious staff member, and almost lost my phone…
My flight from Manchester to Dublin was at 12 noon with the gate closing at 11.30am and I arrived at the airport at 10.20 ; with no luggage to check in I had over an hour to go through security and get to the gate in plenty of time. Well that was the theory but it didn’t work out like that in practise. When I got to the security area the queues were horrendous, zig-zagging slowly round and round the barrier ropes, but eventually I got to the conveyors and put my jacket and small case in one tray and backpack in another. I walked through the body scanner with no problem and collected my jacket and case from the far side of the conveyor but my backpack was a different matter as it had gone down a different conveyor to be checked over by one of the security staff.
Now I don’t know what they thought they would eventually find but that backpack was sitting, the first in line, for fifteen minutes while the guy pulled off and checked several bags which were behind it ; time was getting on but when I mentioned to the security guy that any further delay would mean I would miss my flight I was told abruptly “Well you should have got here in plenty of time then!” to which I replied “I was  here in plenty of time, my bag has been sitting there for fifteen minutes waiting to be dealt with”. I then got the reply “Well those other people were before you!” I don’t know how he worked that one out as all the other bags he was dealing with were behind mine, however mine was finally brought over to me and I was asked to open it up, whereby he had the cheek to swab it for drugs then took it away to be scanned again. Eventually it came down the right conveyor and I was finally able to grab it and hurry to the gate for my flight ; luckily it hadn’t started boarding so I was able to get my breath back while I waited in the queue.
The flight itself, although it took off late, was uneventful and I left a dull day in Manchester to arrive in an equally dull Dublin, though by the time I’d got off the plane and through the airport to the bus stop the sun was starting to shine through the clouds, making the rest of the afternoon quite pleasant.
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Leaving England behind
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Approaching Dublin – passing Howth
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Portmarnock golf course, North Bull Island top right
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Approaching the airport
If the plane had left Manchester on time I would have been able to get the 1.30 Kavanagh’s coach to Roscrea, instead I got the 2 o’clock Bus Eireann coach although that turned up twenty minutes late. Now whether the driver was making up for lost time or he was late for his dinner I don’t know but he certainly got a move on, however when he had to slow down or stop for any reason he didn’t do it gently and more than once I was jerked forward in my seat. I reached Roscrea in one piece though and as soon as I got off the coach I reached into my pocket for my phone to text Michael – except my phone wasn’t there. I’d used it to check the time while I was on the coach so assumed that it must have come out of my pocket on one of the occasions when the driver slapped his brakes on, in which case it was still on the coach.
Luckily the coach was still at the stop as quite a few people were getting on, so I got back on and asked the lady sitting where I had been to see if she could see it anywhere – and she found it, stuck down the side of the seat. Panic over, I sent Michael a quick text then walked the few minutes down to the family home, to be greeted by Nellie and a very welcome mug of coffee, with Paul from across the road popping in a while later to give me a ‘welcome home’ hug.
Later on, after a good meal cooked by Nellie, I decided to walk up to Tesco to get some batteries for my camera as I’d forgotten to pack my battery charger ;  I’d just left the house when walking towards me was Laura, Michael’s new girlfriend, calling at Nellie’s to meet me for the first time. We recognised each other instantly as we’d spoken a few times via video chat (or whatever it’s called) on Michael’s phone ;  she came back to Nellie’s for a while then came up to Tesco with me, inviting me back to her house afterwards for a coffee and a chat and to meet her two adorable little dogs Mack and Opey.
It was lovely chatting to Laura and getting to know her a little ; Michael had said I would like her and he was right, I did, but all too soon the long day started to catch up with me and it was time to think about bed, so Laura drove me back round to Nellie’s and left with the promise to take me out somewhere over the weekend. And when I went to bed this time there was no sharing with Nellie as on previous occasions ; Michael’s absence meant I could have his room and bed all to myself – it was a perfect end to the day.

An Irish holiday

Well I got back home on Tuesday after my short holiday in Ireland, a holiday which was badly needed to recharge my mental and physical batteries and to use up some of the time I had off work. It was a holiday of contrasts – dull days, sunny days, cities, countryside, rivers, a gorgeous lake, castles, churches, museums, a 108ft high tower, ponies and horses, bus drivers both fast and slow and those with only half a brain, things I knew about and those which I found unexpectedly, Irish times and distance as opposed to English times and distance, and lots of street art. Oh, and I also got ‘thrown out’ of a quarry for ‘trespassing’!
From taking off at Manchester airport on Wednesday last week to landing back there on Tuesday this week I took a total of 951 photos. Yes, you read that correctly, 951 – so I’m now in the slow process of sorting out, editing and resizing the ones to put on this blog, and day-by-day accounts of the holiday will follow in due course.
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I’m not sure if I’m glad to be home or not. In a way yes, as relying on public transport to get to anywhere over there limited my options of places to go to, but the weather here is currently sunny with blue sky so it’s making me want to be back in Roscrea. There’s nothing like being contrary is there?

Irish Philosophy and advice

As I’m currently on holiday in Ireland I thought I’d share this great bit of Irish philosophy which I came across the last time I was over here –
There are only two things in life you need to worry about – either you are well or you are sick.
If you are well, then there is nothing to worry about.
If you are sick, then there are two things to worry about – either you will get well or you will die.
If you get well, then there is nothing to worry about.
If you die, then there are two things to worry about – either you will go to Heaven or you will go to Hell.
If you go to Heaven, then there is nothing to worry about.
If you go to Hell, you’ll be so damn busy shaking hands with your friends you won’t have time to worry!
And a quick lesson in how to speak Irish – say it fast – Whale, Oil, Beef, Hooked
This post has been pre-written and scheduled so I’ll reply to any comments when I get back next week, and I’ll leave you with this bit of Irish advice – Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or an idiot from any direction!

Guy’s Thatched Hamlet – history and development

My Monday walk this week is more of a wander than a walk and takes in the delights of Guy’s Thatched Hamlet, a complex of thatched roof buildings sitting alongside the Lancaster Canal and just off the A6 at Bilsborrow, five miles south of Garstang. I’ve passed this place many times over the last few years and often thought how attractive it looks but I’ve never made a point of stopping off there until one sunny day just a few weeks ago.
The history of the hamlet goes back to the 19th century and one Thomas Duell who was born into a working Yorkshire family in 1804. In 1832 he moved across the Pennines to the village of Barton, north of Preston, and later that year was ordained into the church, becoming vicar of St. Lawrence’s Church and living in a small humble vicarage. Unfortunately the vicarage suffered a devastating fire and was burnt down, so while it was being rebuilt Reverend Duell went to Bilsborrow to stay at School House Farm which had been built in 1798, two years before the completion of the Lancaster Canal.  While there he helped to tend the orchards and look after the pigs and during his spare time in 1834 he built a Dutch barn to store the crops and shelter the pigs over winter.
Among the items that had been salvaged from the vicarage fire were some sacks of barley ; the sacks had been scorched by the flames and the barley toasted to a dark chocolate colour. Not wanting to waste it Reverend Duell steeped it in water and boiled it up, then noting the colour and aroma of the brew he cooled it, added yeast and made a beer which, due to the scorched barley, was as dark as porter is today. Setting up a small brewery in a corner of the barn he began brewing beers for the farm labourers and his parishioners, with that very first brew at Bilsborrow considered to be a porter.
Fast forward to the present day and the seeds of Guy’s Thatched Hamlet were sown in 1980 when Roy and Irene Wilkinson opened Guy’s Eating Establishment, a restaurant and pizzeria serving authentic Italian food and sited where Reverend Duell had built the Dutch barn all those years previously. In 1986 School House Farm was purchased and extended to become Owd Nell’s Canalside Tavern, selling Tetley ales, Castlemaine and Moosehead lagers, with Boddington’s Bitter being added to the range in 1987. One of the farm’s two wells was situated in front of the farmhouse and in 1988 a local man, John Bamber, descended this well ; it was found to be brick lined to a depth of 30ft with a wider sand and gravel bottom 10ft deeper.
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Guy’s Eating Establishment and Lodge Reception
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Owd Nell’s Canalside Tavern
In 1990 more land was purchased and Guy’s Lodge was built, creating 26 en-suite lodge-style rooms (though interestingly there is no Room 13) and the name Guy’s Thatched Hamlet was created to encompass Guy’s Eating Establishment, Owd Nell’s Tavern and Guy’s Lodge. In 1991 another six bedrooms were added to the Lodge and three craft shops were completed, along with the cobbled Spout Lane which was built on part of the old original route from Clitheroe to Blackpool. Spout Lane is also the site of the second of the original farm’s two wells.
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Spout Lane and shops
In 1992 the first Guy’s Oyster Festival took place, run in conjunction with Murphy’s Irish Stout and opened by Bob Kennefick from Murphy’s brewery and boxer Barry McGuigan ; this became an annual charity event with proceeds being donated to Guy’s nominated charities each year. 1993 was the year the cricket ground and thatched cricket pavilion were built and a cricket match was played against a select Lancashire XI which included David Lloyd, while the Guy’s Select XI included Sir Denis Lillie. The following year saw the founding of the Boddington’s Village Cricket League and the addition of another 21 lodge-style rooms.
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Cricket ground and pavilion
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In 1996 the crown green bowling green was built then in 1997 came the thatched bowling pavilion, staff accommodation and an extension to Durty Nellie’s Snug. Finally in 2002 another twelve en-suite rooms with spa baths were built, bringing the total number of en-suite lodge rooms to sixty five. Today Guy’s Thatched Hamlet is still owned and run by the Wilkinson family and their own porter is brewed using Reverend Duell’s recipe.
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Keeping cool outside a lodge

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Guy’s Thatched Hamlet had proved to be quite an intriguing place with far more there than can be seen from the road or canal and I really enjoyed my wander round, but finding any information about the place since then has proved very difficult. However, my thanks must now go to Anne Musella from Guy’s who very kindly responded to my email enquiry and supplied me with details about the history and development of the Hamlet, enabling me to write this post. And if the weather is nice the next time I’m passing that way I may very well stop off for a coffee and something delightfully indulgent at Owd Nell’s Tavern.
**There’ll be no Monday walk next week as I’m off to Ireland on Wednesday for a week. Having some time off work but unable to go camping a short holiday on the Emerald Isle seems a reasonable alternative, so hopefully the weather will be good and I’ll be able to explore one or two new places – I’m looking forward to it.

The joy of texting

Those with elephant-like memories may remember my post from last October when I mistakenly sent a text to Michael instead of someone at work and he had replied with a silly text of his own. Well I managed to do it again a couple of months ago, though this time the intended recipient was my friend Lin.
It was when Michael had gone to London for a concert and she’d asked me to let her know how he went on ; he rang me on the journey back to say he was at Manchester Piccadilly station waiting for the next train home so I sent Lin this text to let her know – “I’ve just spoken to Michael, he’s at Piccadilly station on his way back”. Back came the reply “I know, I am  Michael!” I don’t know how I managed it but I’d sent the text back to him instead of to Lin!
So this got me thinking about all the daft messages. either intentional or unintentional, that we’ve sent each other over the last few years – actually more sent by him than me – and I’ve thought some of them were so amusing (eventually) that, sad person that I am, I’ve actually made a note of them, so I thought I’d share a few of them on here as follows –
“She took one of everything we make, she also visited the Heinz factory so I guess she had beans on toast for tea”  This was when the Queen visited Warburton’s a few years ago and I’d sent Michael a text asking if she was given any complementary bread ; somehow I can’t see the Queen tucking into beans on toast but you never know….
“Just flooded the kitchen, cats are paddling”  This was before I dragged myself into the 21st century and still had a twin tub washing machine ; Michael was looking after the cats while I was away on holiday and he decided to do some washing one day. While filling the washing machine with a pipe connected to the tap he’d momentarily wandered off to do something else, forgot about the machine and returned to find it had overflowed and the kitchen floor was awash with water. I don’t think the cats actually were  paddling but the mental image was amusing.
“That one just blew me across the kitchen, I’m not going near it again!”  Another washing machine incident, this time at my mum’s old house when the washing machine there developed an electrical fault. He’d already had one minor shock off it and got another one a few minutes later ; the washing machine went to the local tip not long afterwards.
“Help!! Nellie’s keeping me prisoner, she’s locked me in and I can’t get out!”  While over in Ireland a couple of years ago he was in his room at the family home when Nellie went out somewhere and locked the front door, not realising he was in. He could have got out if he’d really needed to though, and Nellie did arrive back before too long.
“I’m at accident and emergency, I’m okay”  Err, no Michael, if you’re at A & E you are not  okay. That was the night a couple of years ago when he broke his ankle.
“I get put to sleep in 20 minutes”  That sounded like he was about to be euthanised at the vet’s but he was actually in hospital just about to undergo an operation to put right the broken ankle.
“Iffits”  A one-word text from me replying to one from Michael asking what I was doing for tea, as in “If it’s in the freezer I’ll cook it” meaning it could be anything. We ended up going out for tea.
“Mash it to mush”  My instructions for feeding a cat with a delicate stomach while I was away. Although it could eat normal cat food anything with chunks in it had to be mashed into a smooth mush-like consistency.
“Mum, you have got to come home, I just got a full cooked chicken in Asda for 3 quid and your bread is 10p a loaf!”  The silliest text to date, sent while I was camping in Cumbria earlier this year. He does love to get a bargain when it’s near to the store closing time but I certainly wasn’t going to come back home because of it.
So there you have it, just a small example of some of the texting madness from the Mouse House. I sometimes wonder if other people send each other texts as daft as these – or maybe it’s just us….

Southport, sea, and Red Rum

My Monday walk this week features a visit to Southport on a very warm and sunny day in July (before the theft of my van) and strangely enough exactly a year and one week since my day out there in 2018. Southport had once been the home of the legendary racehorse Red Rum and sometime in the months since my previous visit I’d found out (and I can’t remember where from) that there was a statue of him in one of the shopping arcades off Lord Street. Back in 1977 I’d had the privilege of meeting Red Rum when he was the star attraction at a local horse show just three months after winning his third Grand National ; I worked for a well-known national bookmaker’s at the time and interviewed Red Rum’s trainer, Ginger McCain, for the staff magazine. Rummie was a beautiful animal and had stood very patiently while I took several photos of him and chatted to his trainer, so having once met the horse in the flesh it would be interesting to see what the statue looked like.
Leaving the van in the car park overlooking Marine Lake I walked through the side streets from the promenade and emerged onto Lord Street just beyond the main stretch of shops, so I crossed the road with the intention of walking all the way along one side and back along the other. Not far along I came to a water feature where water bubbled up from a low fountain and overflowed down an area patterned with small stones before disappearing into a mesh-covered gully. It was actually hard to tell that there was any water there at all, but Sophie and Poppie enjoyed a paddle and a quick drink before we moved on to the gardens further along.
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The water in here really was coloured blue
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Reaching the end of the gardens I crossed the road again and walked back past all the shops. The first arcade I came to proved to be the wrong one ; the Red Rum statue was in the second arcade and I have to say that when I found it I was deeply underwhelmed and unimpressed. There’s a life-size statue at Aintree racecourse, an excellent likeness sculpted by Philip Blacker, a former jockey who knew Red Rum well, but I thought this Southport one was a very poor second best. Sculpted by Annette Yarrow (whoever she was) and presumably done from photographs, it was only half life-size and was completely out of proportion – the legs were too short and fat, the hooves were too thick, the body was all wrong and the head and facial features reminded me of a donkey. In short, it was ugly, and whichever members of Sefton council originally approved it should have gone to Specsavers.
Red Rum statue at Aintree racecourse – photo from the internet
Photo from the internet
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Statue in the Southport arcade
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Now while the Red Rum statue may have been ugly the arcade itself was lovely and I spent several minutes wandering round and taking photos. A Grade ll listed structure originally opened in 1898, the arcade is typically Victorian with a domed glass roof supported by ornamental ironwork, stained glass windows along the balcony and original mahogany shop fronts. Created by a Victorian entrepreneur who owned most of the shops on Lord Street it was first named the Leyland Arcade after a prominent Southport MP of the time. During the 1950s the arcade was renamed the Burton Arcade after it was purchased by Montague Burton tailor’s business, then in 1976 the head lease was purchased by an Anthony Pedlar who renamed it the Wayfarers Arcade. Over the years different parts of the arcade have gone through periods of restoration and refurbishment but these have always been in keeping with the original style of the building.
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Wayfarers Arcade, Southport
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From the arcade I made my way round onto the promenade and took a stroll through Kings Gardens and along the lakeside. It was nice to see that in contrast to last summer, when the flower beds were mostly bare because of the hot dry weather, this time there was quite a lot of colour in them, and the lake itself was very busy with lots of people taking to the water in various types of craft.
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A very busy adventure play area
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From the far side of the lake I wandered through Princes Park to the sea front where I got a big surprise – the tide was in and the sea was lapping the sand within just a few yards of the concrete walkway running along by the sea wall. Throughout the whole of my life that’s the first time ever  that I’ve actually seen the sea at Southport, it’s usually so far out beyond the end of the pier that it isn’t even visible ; I know someone who lives in Southport and even he has never known the sea to come right in. It was a photo opportunity not to be missed though and I took several shots before making my way back to the lake and under the bridge to the car park, where I sat in the van and had a pre-prepared light snack before setting off for home.
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The drive back was very pleasant and when I got home and told Michael about the sea he was surprised too ; he’d been to Southport many times during the years of his marriage and he’d never seen the sea either. I’ve no idea why it was so far in on that particular day but it was certainly a nice surprise and in a way it made up for the disappointment of seeing that awful Red Rum statue in the arcade.