After lunch my walk continued with a visit to Trinity College to find the Ernest Walton memorial, a modern sculpture with a series of five spheres ‘balanced’ one on top of the other. The college grounds are very extensive and in spite of getting directions from one of the staff at the entrance I couldn’t find this thing anywhere so eventually I gave up. What I did find though was a very peaceful little garden set back off one of the paths and with a bed of brightly coloured plants and foliage next to it.
From the college I headed up to the top of one of the busy shopping streets to the next place on my list, the Royal Fusiliers’ Memorial Arch, generally referred to just as Fusiliers’ Arch. It was built in 1907 and modelled on the 1st century Arch of Titus in Rome, and while most people just see it as the main entrance to St. Stephen’s Green it’s actually a memorial to the 222 members of the Dublin Fusiliers who died fighting for the British army during the Second Boer War in 1899 – 1902. Stand underneath the arch and look up and the names of all the fusiliers can be seen on the underside.
Next on my list was Iveagh Gardens, just a 3-minute walk away from St. Stephen’s Green, and tucked away behind the buildings on the south side they are still a secret to many as there is no obvious way in ; the entrance nearest to St. Stephen’s Green was actually at the end of a cul-de-sac full of parked cars so could quite easily be missed. The gardens owe their layout to the Great Exhibition of 1865 and have several unusual features including a miniature maze modelled on the one in London’s Hampton Court, although impossible to get lost in unless you’re only 2ft tall, and a water cascade over a rock feature made up of pieces from each of Ireland’s 32 counties. Unfortunately I’d only just got to the park when it started with fine drizzly rain and though I spent several minutes sheltering under the trees it showed no signs of stopping, so I gave up on exploring the place properly and took just a handful of shots from under my umbrella.
Heading to the next place on my list my eye was caught by a small and unusual looking building sandwiched between two much taller buildings. It turned out to be the entrance to a church and it was open so I went in for a look round, and what I saw really took me by surprise. The interior was absolutely amazing and incredibly beautiful, so much so that I’m saving the photos for another post.
And so on to my next port of call, the National Museum, to see the Bog Bodies. There are several of these on display in the museum but the one featured in the ‘111 Places’ book is known as Old Croghan Man after the area in Co. Offaly where he was found in a peat bog in 2003. It’s been estimated that he died sometime between the years 362 BC and 175 BC and would have only been in his late 20s ; what’s left of him indicates that he was 6ft 3ins tall and his smooth hands and manicured fingernails suggest that he was of high social standing, maybe a king or someone in line to become one. Whoever he was he died violently from a stab wound to his chest then he was decapitated and his nipples were cut off before his body was cut in half. Looking at this headless, legless torso in its display case it was incredible to think that this ‘thing’ that had once been a man was so old – certainly a testament to the preservation properties of peat bogs which can mummify human flesh and prevent decay.
Another reason for me to go to the museum was to visit the Natural History part of it which was in the same building and not far from the Bog Bodies. Established in 1856 as a ‘cabinet-style’ museum its layout and animal collections haven’t changed much since Victorian times and it’s often described as ‘a museum of a museum’ or commonly referred to as ‘the Dead Zoo’. It seemed to be a very popular place as it was extremely busy and I found it difficult to take photos without someone getting in the shot or standing right in front of what I wanted to photograph ; it was very interesting though and I could have spent far more time in there than I actually did but time was getting on and I needed to think about heading back to the bus station.
Across the road from the museum was Merrion Square, one of Dublin’s largest and grandest Georgian squares with an attractive central park, though my main reason for walking round there will be covered in another post. As I walked down the east side of the square I stopped briefly just inside the entrance to the park to snatch a couple of photos then continued along the north side where I came to the sculpture of Oscar Wilde lounging on a huge boulder across the street from the house where he was born.
The Wilde monument was created by sculptor Danny Osborne who travelled all over the world to source suitable materials for his work and brought back some of the earth’s rarest stones. The green of Wilde’s smoking jacket is nephrite jade from Canada’s Yukon, while the collar and cuffs are pink thulite from central Norway. The tweed-like trousers are sculpted from blue pearl granite with pieces of feldspar showing through, a material which came from a fjord near Oslo, and the shiny black shoes are charnokite, a black granite material from India. As the sculpture had to keep its colours while outdoors and subject to different weather conditions only the rare and ultra-hard materials chosen were suitable.
In 2007, ten years after he first appeared on the boulder, which is 35 tonnes of Irish quartz, Wilde needed a head transplant as the ceramic which had been first used had started to crack, so Osborne travelled to Guatemala and returned with a special white jade which was sculpted into Wilde’s permanent head. Oscar Wilde is remembered, among other things, for his extensive writings, his colourful personality and flamboyant dress, and this sculpture is certainly a great tribute.
The Oscar Wilde sculpture was the last thing on my list for that day ; apart from the very short time I’d spent having lunch I’d been walking constantly for over four and a half hours so it was definitely time to get the coach back to Roscrea. There were a couple of things on my list which I hadn’t found but I can look for those, and other things, on another day in Dublin sometime in the near future.