Heading back to Ireland for my post today, and after photographing a few of Dublin’s Georgian doors last September I went back in December to get some more shots. Back in the 18th and early 19th centuries Dublin’s Georgian houses were characterised by a uniform style to conform with building regulations at the time, which meant that all new properties in a particular area looked exactly the same, though there are a few urban legends behind the reasons why the door colours were eventually changed.
One story leads back to the Irish writer George Moore who painted his door green in an effort to stop another writer, Oliver St. John Gogarty who lived on the same street, from mistaking Moore’s house for his own when coming home drunk from the pub, then in retaliation Gogarty painted his own door red. Another story came from the poet W B Yeats who wrote that Moore painted his door green for artistic reasons, being of the opinion that ‘the whole decoration of his house required a green door’. Whatever the true reason was, Moore is widely documented as having fought many times with his neighbours over his green door.
Whether or not George Moore did actually start the door-painting craze is uncertain but it did catch on and eventually many of the residents decided they wanted to express their individuality by not only painting their doors in bright colours but also adding wrought iron boot scrapers to the front steps and changing the knockers and fanlights to make each house distinctive from its immediate neighbours.
Although, on the north side of the River Liffey, there are several streets which still have Georgian houses with colourful front doors the most popular ones are concentrated in an area on the south side of the river, so join me on my ‘door walk’ as I wander along three sides of Merrion Square and the south side of St. Stephen’s Green.
Merrion Square North –
Merrion Square East –
Merrion Square South –
St. Stephen’s Green South –
Today most of the houses still have their original fanlights and some have even retained the box-shaped glass recesses in which a lamp would have been placed. There were so many nice doors it was impossible to photograph them all ; I didn’t even venture into Fitzwilliam Square and the other streets in the area so maybe I’ll make that a mission for the next time I visit Dublin.
You ask for ‘a bit of cheap cake that will go with a brew’.
A few days ago Michael was popping down to our local Asda store and asked me if I wanted anything while he was down there, so I asked him to get me a bit of cheap cake which would go with a brew – I was thinking along the lines of maybe a box of individual apple pies or Viennese whirls, a couple of those go well with a mug of coffee. Half an hour later he was back – with a leopard print party cake which, according to the box, would serve 14! And it was all for me as he said he didn’t want any of it.
At first I couldn’t see how it would serve 14 people as it wasn’t really that big, but having sampled a slice I realised why it would. It’s very sweet and not the sort of thing you would want a lot of so a thin slice is quite sufficient, though I must admit to putting some squirty cream with it – and very nice it is too. So bang goes the healthy eating for this week – I’ve still got quite a bit of the cake left so the diet can start next week!
This week’s Monday walk, if you can call it that, features a wander round a church about seven miles from home in the next town. The Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin is situated right on the edge of Bury town centre, just a couple of minutes walk from the interchange and the main shopping centre and not far from the well known open market. Church records suggest that the first church on the site was a wood and thatch structure which was replaced in the late 16th century by a building in the Gothic style ; between 1773 and 1780 the main body of this church was demolished and rebuilt although the spire wasn’t touched.
The spire itself was replaced in 1842 but by 1870 the timbers in the rest of the church had rotted and another new building was needed. The current church was designed on a much grander scale by architect J S Crowther and was built leaving the 1842 spire in place ; construction took five years and the church was finally consecrated on February 2nd 1876. The interior features hammerbeam and tie-beam roof trusses, decorative mosaic flooring by Minton and stained glass windows by Clayton & Bell and Hardman & Company, while the tower houses eight bells, six of which date from 1722.
The nave is 84ft 6ins long, 30ft wide and 76ft 6ins high, with the windows on the north wall depicting Old Testament figures while those on the south wall depict those from the New Testament. Unfortunately most of the windows were so high up that I would have needed to use an exceptionally long step ladder to get good clear shots of them. The west wall rises in four stages to the great rose window and was inspired by Westminster Abbey, while the pulpit was given in memory of Reverend Roger Kay who re-founded Bury Grammar School in 1726 ; it’s believed that he is actually buried beneath the pulpit.
The organ was at one time situated above the west door but it was relocated to its current position when the church was rebuilt in 1876. Originally a tracker action organ electrics were eventually installed and the console was moved to the south side of the chancel where it faced east. The organ was rebuilt in 2007, keeping some of the original pipework and giving it a French sound, and the console was turned to face south.
The church is also the garrison church of the Lancashire Fusiliers. On April 25th 1915 the Lancashire Fusiliers were involved in taking West Beach at Gallipoli, for which the regiment won six VCs, and each year a service is held on the nearest Sunday to that date to commemorate those who took part in Gallipoli and subsequent battles. For anyone interested in regimental history the church has a number of colours hung on display along with memorial tablets, record books and other artefacts, with a dedicated museum in the old Fusiliers building round the corner.
I hadn’t originally intended going into the church as I was in Bury for an entirely different reason, but when I saw the ‘church open’ sign on the outside railings I thought I may as well pop in for a quick look and I’m glad I did. It’s a lovely place with many interesting features, more than I realised at the time, so it would be worth making a return visit the next time I go to Bury – and with a nice little café just across the road I can treat myself to coffee and cake as well.
A week ago, completely out of the blue and without me being aware of it, Sophie suffered what has turned out to be a stroke. She had been absolutely fine during the day but when I took her and Poppie for their bedtime walk she was behaving really oddly – going round in small circles then walking sideways and stumbling as if drunk, then stopping and staring into space, it was if she had suddenly developed dementia. A visit to the vet’s the following morning confirmed that she’d had a stroke and really needed an MRI scan which would cost in the region of £3,000. Yes, you read that correctly – three-thousand-quid! With the greatest will in the world, and as much as I love my dogs, there’s no way I could find that sort of money straight off so the vet said the best thing to do would be look after her as much as I could and take her back on a daily basis to be monitored.
The second visit to the vet’s wasn’t very encouraging at all. I saw a different vet, younger than the first one, and after giving Sophie a very cursory examination I was told that I should book her in for the following day to basically ‘say goodbye’ – no suggestion of any medication or treatment, just ‘say goodbye’. No way was I going to do that! I firmly believe that our pets will let us know when they’ve had enough, you can see it in their eyes, and I could tell that Sophie wasn’t ready for giving up yet so I decided there and then I would nurse her myself and try to get her through this with or without the vet’s help.
After the first couple of days, when I had to spoon feed her and give her water from a syringe, she’s been eating and drinking from a bowl while supported on my lap – she’s had pilchards, sardines (I seem to permanently stink of fish!) KFC, cat food chunks (easier to manage than dog food) honey roast ham, chicken roll, pork luncheon meat and normal fresh cooked chicken. She lost a lot of weight very quickly so I’m giving her whatever she will eat to try to put some of that weight back on. I’m also taking her for several short daily walks along the street, it’s a slow process and she now has the attention span of a gnat – she looks at the same stone every time we pass it as if she’s never seen it before – but she’s still very much aware of things going on around her and indoors she will watch me as I move about the room. Her sideways walking has improved a lot too and she can now get up and down the front step and the pavement edges without using the dropped kerb parts.
Yesterday I took her to see a vet at a different practice, I needed a second opinion and this guy was recommended by one of the bosses at my morning job. This vet was really nice, gave Sophie a thorough examination, watched for any responses for certain things and how she now turns in a circle – he said that ideally she should have had a scan as soon as she became ill but as she didn’t there’s no point having one now as it would only tell him what he already knows by seeing her. Thankfully he was able to prescribe something which should help her and I’ve now got some mild steroid tablets for her, one per day in the morning, and I have to take her back in a week. He was quite impressed that she has already come as far as she has since this happened last week – although she’s still a very sick little dog she’s showing no signs of wanting to ‘give up’ so with lots of home care from me she should recover sufficiently well.
I’m under no illusions though, there’s still a possibility that she could have a relapse and I could lose her, but at least I’m giving her a chance, which is more than the other vet wanted to do last weekend. Getting her well again is going to be a long slow process but this little girl means the world to me so I’m not giving up on her, neither is she giving up on herself – she may never be the lively run-around little dog she used to be but fingers crossed she’ll get through this and hopefully may be well enough to enjoy camping again in the not-too-distant future.
The Carmelite Church in Dublin, official title the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel but usually referred to as Whitefriar Street Church, is a place I discovered more or less by accident while roaming the city’s streets a few weeks ago in search of street art, and with my liking for stained glass windows I decided to go in and take a look – and I have to say that I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
The first Carmelites arrived in Ireland in 1271 and settled in Dublin in 1280 ; they stayed until the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century then later returned and established themselves in the oldest part of the city in the early 17th century. Although there’s been a church in the location of Whitefriar Street since then the current church wasn’t founded and consecrated until 1826/1827.
By 1840 the building had become too small for the congregation so a new nave and north aisle were added, with the existing church becoming the south aisle of the new church ; these additions effectively tripled the size of the existing church and established the building as one of the largest churches in the city. By 1951 the entrances on the narrow Whitefriar Street to the west of the church had become inadequate and indirect as traffic gradually increased, most of it coming from the east end of the building, so a plan was put in place which involved only minor structural alterations. The interior of the church was completely reversed, placing the high altar at the west end, adding on a sacristy and making a direct entrance off the main thoroughfare of Aungier Street.
With its relatively small entrance in the centre of something resembling a large apartment building the church didn’t look much from the outside, but this was very much a case of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ as the fairly unassuming façade really belied what’s inside. Through the outer wrought iron gates and double doors I found myself in a pleasant atrium with patterned mosaic tiling on the floor and walls painted in contrasting colours. In the centre was a shrine with an almost-life-size depiction of Calvary, and set back in an alcove on the right was the shrine of St. Albert of Sicily and two brightly coloured stained glass windows.
St. Albert of Sicily was born during the 13th century in Trapani and entered the Carmelite Order as a young man, then after his ordination he was sent to the priory at Messina. He was a man of prayer and penance and a lover of solitude but he was also very active within the church and spent much time studying, being regarded as the patron of Carmelite studies. He spent the last years of his life living in a hermitage near Messina ; he died in 1306 and though he was recognised as a wonder worker during his lifetime miracles and cures continued to be attributed to him after his death.
At the end of the atrium another set of double doors led into the church itself ; everywhere I looked were beautiful stained glass windows and as well as the two shrines out in the atrium there were several shrines within the church, including one to Our Lady of Dublin and the one most popular with couples, the shrine and relics of St.Valentine.
The church’s early pipe organ had been replaced in the 1960s by an electronic instrument but in the early 1980s the then Prior of Whitefriar Street, in consultation with the Carmelite Community, decided to install a new tracker action pipe organ. It was built by the renowned firm of Kenneth Jones & Associates of Bray, Co. Wicklow, and though much of the material was new some historical pipework by noted 19th century Irish organ builders John White and William Telford was sourced.
A tracker action organ is an instrument where all the parts are mechanical rather than electrical. Although electricity is used to power the wind blowing apparatus and the lights at the keyboard all the connections between the pipes and the keys are achieved mechanically. In total the organ contains more than 2,200 pipes ranging from the size of a small pencil to 16ft in height, and it’s one of the finest tracker action organs in Ireland.
St. Therese was born in France in 1873 and at the age of 15 entered the Lisieux Convent with three of her sisters, where she was appointed assistant mistress of novices five years later. While in the convent she wrote a brief autobiography and account of her spiritual teaching and asked one of her sisters to edit her writing wherever was necessary – this was done and in 1898 the convent had 2,000 copies printed. Although some Carmelite convents didn’t like the new book it sold 47,000 copies in twelve years with demand continuing to rise. Unfortunately Therese never got to see what a success the book became as she died of tuberculosis the year before it was published.
With the success of her book the previously unknown Therese was acclaimed as a saint and a great spiritual teacher. She had said that she wanted to spend her time in heaven doing good on earth and it seemed that those who prayed to her for help were finding their prayers were granted – she was beatified in 1923 and canonised in 1924. The Shrine of St. Therese was blessed in 1955 ; the marble statue of the saint is a replica of the statue which stands over the high altar in the crypt of the Basilica in Lisieux and the mosaic background depicts Our Lady of the Smile which was originally designed in 1750 for a church in Paris.
The sculpture in the centre of the shrine to Our Lady of Dublin is a life-size figure in oak and probably dates from the early 16th century. Originally it would have been brightly painted but sometime over the centuries it was whitewashed over ; the removal of the whitewash in 1914 unfortunately also removed the ancient surface underneath but after it was cleaned and restored the shrine of Our Lady of Dublin was formally erected in 1915.