2018 – Looking back

As 2018 draws to a close I thought I would recall just some of the events which have featured in my life and on this blog over the last twelve months. On January 3rd, after making an official complaint at the local hospital three weeks previously about the apparent misdiagnosis and lack of proper treatment of his broken ankle, Michael finally got to see the relevant specialist and was put on the emergency list for an operation asap. That took place just three days later when he had a bone graft and a plate and a couple of screws inserted to bring the broken bits together, followed by six weeks in plaster. His recovery was long, and certainly very painful in the early stages, but he finally went back to work ten-and-a-half months after he first broke the ankle.
Early February saw me succumbing to the much-talked-about-at-the-time Aussie flu virus and taking two weeks off work ; it was the first time in my life I’ve ever had flu of any sort and I’d never felt so ill before. The up side though, if you can call it that, was the opportunity to catch up on some reading and I got through several books in the time I was off work. Late in the month my washing machine gave up the ghost and after trying in vain to get someone to repair it I ended up getting a second-hand-but-almost-new one from a local shop ; it was in absolutely mint condition and is still working well. After several weeks of wet and often cold weather the last few days of February turned out dry and gloriously sunny so the end of the month saw me taking the dogs for a walk along one of my favourite routes through a local golf course and the Last Drop Village. It was a very pleasant and enjoyable walk and just rounded off the month nicely.
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The golf course pond
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The Last Drop Village
Early March saw the return of the sparrows which, the year before, had taken to perching on the outside window sill of the spare bedroom. I hadn’t expected them to come back so it was lovely to look through the glass and see them less than 3ft from where I sit when using my pc. In mid March, after several months of searching on the internet and in various camping stores, I finally ordered a new tent to replace my much-loved previous one which had sustained an irreparable tear in its roof the previous year. It wasn’t quite the same as my old one but it was near enough, it satisfied all my criteria and came at a good price with free delivery so I was more than happy. One evening late in the month saw part of my street turned into a river when a main water pipe burst and sent a substantial amount of water flooding across the road – it took two days for United Utilities to fix the problem but not before many gallons of fresh water had gone to waste down the drains. The end of the month saw the start of the Easter weekend and my 4-day break in North Wales, a break which wasn’t the best for many reasons and one in which the word ‘break’ could be taken literally.
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One of my feathered friends down in the garden
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My new tent
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A river in the street
The month of April certainly didn’t get off to a very good start for me. It rained on and off for most of the Easter weekend and put the kibosh on many of my plans, and on the Monday I woke to find that during an unexpected overnight snow shower which had turned to ice my brand new tent had collapsed on top of my belongings ; two of the three poles had broken completely and the end where I would have been sleeping had been totally flattened – thank goodness the dogs and I had been in the van. Fortunately the two broken poles were the only damages my new tent suffered and back at home a few days later I took them to my nearest camping store to get the broken sections replaced. The rest of April passed fairly uneventfully with the only other highlight being a visit to the animal sanctuary spring open day later in the month, and with Michael still being off work he came too – the first time he’d ever been there and he quite enjoyed it.
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My brand new tent – what a disaster!
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Disney at Bleakholt sanctuary
The beginning of May saw Michael finally going back to work on a phased return just over ten months since he first broke his ankle in June last year. It also saw a dramatic change in the weather with the rain of the previous months gone and the start of what was to be a very long and very hot summer. The first bank holiday weekend of the month saw me suggesting (very unwisely) that we go to a car boot sale on the Sunday and then on to St. Annes – the weather was extremely warm, the world and his wife were out on the roads and we ended up getting stuck in nose-to-tail traffic, going miles out of our way and missing the car boot sale completely. It took ages to find somewhere to park at St. Annes but once we did we had a very enjoyable afternoon with a good meal and a couple of dog walks along the beach. On the middle Saturday of the month I went to Hornby Castle gardens, somewhere I’d never been before and where I got some lovely photos, then the following day I managed to burn my foot with scalding water from a recently-boiled kettle. Silicone dressings prescribed by the doctor helped to ease the pain and promote healing, and after resting it as much as possible for a week I couldn’t ignore the continuing good weather any longer so the final weekend of the month saw me taking the dogs for a local walk to Smithills Hall and gardens.
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St. Annes promenade gardens
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The walled garden at Hornby Castle
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Smithills Hall gardens
My planned 11-day holiday on Anglesey at the beginning of June was shortened by several days due to circumstances beyond my control but I managed to get six days out of the eleven and with the continuing good weather I really made the most of them by exploring as many places as I could in the time that I had. The highlight of the week just had to be finding and photographing the old abandoned brick works at Porth Wen – it was difficult to get to and involved a long walk with a couple of hairy moments but it was an amazing place and well worth the effort for the photos I got. The rest of the month was fairly uneventful but then the 28th saw the start of a wildfire up on the moors not far from home, a fire which would eventually cover more than five square miles, mean the closure of several local roads including the one running past the end of my street, and would involve more than 30 fire crews while it was at it worst.
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Porth Wen old brick works
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Porth Wen sea arch
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Part of the Winter Hill fire on the west side
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Part of the fire on the east side
At the start of July Michael and I had a lovely day out in Southport then for his birthday in the middle of the month he went over to Ireland for a few days, where he encountered a coach driver who didn’t know the route from Dublin airport to Roscrea and had to be directed a couple of times. The highlight of the month though just had to be the tour of the new outdoor Coronation Street tv set ; with great weather, a very knowledgeable tour guide and the freedom to take as many photos as we wanted it was a great tour and one I would certainly do again.
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Southport promenade
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Lord Street gardens, Southport
Rovers return
This needs no explanation
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Our official photo
Although most of the Winter Hill fire had been extinguished by the middle of July and the number of fire crews reduced there were many hot spots still burning under the surface so it wasn’t until early August that it was officially declared to be completely out after a total of 41 days. On the 9th of the month I took my first walk up there the day after the land was reopened to the public and was shocked and saddened to see the large scale devastation the fire had caused. Two days later the highlight of the month came when, at the town’s central fire station open day, I got the opportunity to go up in the air on a fire engine hydraulic platform – from 100ft up the extensive views all round the town were brilliant and I got some great photos.
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Fire ravaged land on Winter Hill
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The hydraulic platform going up
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On the way up
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Winter Hill from 100ft in the air
The highlight of September came early on in the month when, during a Heritage Open Day, I got the opportunity to climb the 180ft bell tower at the local parish church and also try a bit of bell ringing. Although the weather wasn’t the best – the long hot summer had finally ended locally the day after my fire station visit – I still got some good photos from the tower roof and the bell ringing was quite an interesting experience. A very sad time came in the middle of the month when I accompanied my friend Janet on the day she had her dog Aphra put to sleep, then later in the month I had my second short holiday on Anglesey, with an impromptu visit to my blogging friend Eileen on the way there. The weather wasn’t the best to start with but it got better as the days went on so I still got out and about and had plenty of sunshine for my photos.
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A view from the parish church tower roof
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Benllech beach, Anglesey
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A Llanddwyn Island beach looking towards the Snowdonia mountains
Apart from when Storm Callum hit the UK towards the middle of the month October was really nice weather-wise and still quite warm for the time of year so I went on long walks with the dogs as often as I could, both to local places I’ve often been to and some I hadn’t even known about. In the process the lovely autumn colours gave me lots of great photos and I even had one featured in an online edition of the local evening paper.
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Farnworth park
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Firwood Fold’s hidden lake
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Close Park, Radcliffe
A dull day in early November saw me taking a photography trip to Preston Dock (now known as Preston Marina) after reading the very interesting history about it, then on brighter days I continued my autumn dog walks in the local area. The highlight of the month though was a dazzling light display which lit up the front of the local town hall on two consecutive evenings – unfortunately it was very poorly advertised and I think I may have missed some of it on both occasions but what I did see was amazing and I still got some reasonably good photos.
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Preston marina
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The town hall light display
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My short holiday in Ireland at the beginning of this month was very enjoyable and a day of exploration round Dublin city centre was so interesting that it left me determined to go back in the future and for much longer, as there’s so much to see that it can’t be done in just one day. Just over a week ago I developed a nasty sore throat, cough and cold which came from nowhere and robbed me of my appetite so Christmas in the Mouse House was rather a non-event, although as there was only me and Michael anyway it didn’t matter too much. I’m feeling much better now though and tonight we’ll probably drive up to the moorland road near here and watch the fireworks going off all over town.
So there it is, just some of the highlights of my year, and all that remains now is to thank everyone for visiting this blog over the last twelve months and to wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year – cheers!

Dublin to Roscrea – I survived the coach ride

Over the last two-and-a-bit years I’ve travelled to and from Dublin and Roscrea enough times to know that the coach service doesn’t always run on time, especially when it’s coming from the airport, so I was a bit surprised when it arrived at Dublin’s main bus station bang on time at 4.30pm, and with only a handful of people to get on we were on our way within minutes. All went well as we went through the city and its outskirts but once we left civilisation behind and got onto the open motorway things began to change.
Although it had been a reasonably mild day in the city the temperature must have dropped as darkness fell and the front windscreen of the coach misted up ; the driver put the heater on to clear it and it was okay for a while but then he turned the heater off and within minutes the windscreen misted up again. He drove for several minutes with it like that then instead of putting the heater on again he leant forward out of his seat and cleared a small space with the back of his hand – and for the rest of the journey he drove with a misted up windscreen and just a small space to see through which he constantly cleared by hand. This wasn’t a good situation at all, and it was made worse by the fact that every time he leant forward to clear the windscreen the coach would drift to the left and go over the lines onto the hard shoulder before he corrected it.
As if all this wasn’t bad enough the whole of the coach had to listen to a football commentary on the (rather loud) radio – and whenever we drove through a dead spot where the radio went off tune the driver would lean down to his left and try to retune it, which again caused the coach to drift over the lines onto the hard shoulder. The only time he turned the radio down was when we stopped at Portlaoise – it was obviously only for his own benefit as once all the passengers were on board he turned it up again louder than before. I’m not even remotely interested in football in any way but I can tell you who won the Merseyside Derby that day, who scored the winning goal and which minute it was scored in.
I was sitting in the front seat across from the driver so I could see everything he did and the sequence went like this – drive for a bit, lean forward, clear windscreen, drive, lean down, fiddle with radio, drive, lean forward, clear windscreen…etc. If I could have got some photos or a video of his antics I would have done but unfortunately it isn’t allowed. The coach should have arrived in Roscrea at 6pm but it was 50 minutes late – since leaving the last stop in Dublin it had only made one other stop, the one in Portlaoise, so there was no real reason why it should have been so late getting to Roscrea. I can only assume that the driver was going a bit slower than usual because he couldn’t see out of the windscreen properly.
This was the first time I’ve ever witnessed such appallingly bad driving from someone who is supposed to be a professional driver and needless to say I was so glad to get off that coach in Roscrea – it was going on to Limerick from there so I only hope the rest of the passengers made it to their destinations without mishap. I refused to let the experience put a damper on my day though – I’d had a lovely time exploring Dublin (or parts of it at least), I’d seen some things I knew about, many I didn’t, and got lots of good photos, so apart from that dreadful coach journey I considered the day to have been a great success.

North of the Liffey – Part 2

From Sunlight Chambers I walked along to the next bridge, the O’Donovan Rossa, and crossed back onto the north side of the river to get a shot of the Four Courts building. Built between 1786 and 1802 by architect James Gandon, who also designed the Custom House, the Four Courts houses the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court and Dublin Circuit Court and is the Republic of Ireland’s main courts building. Its large round tower with its colonnaded top and pale green dome is one of Dublin’s main landmarks but the whole thing was surrounded by scaffolding and shrouded in sheeting, presumably due to some major restoration/repair work – unfortunately it all looked quite ugly and would spoil the shots I wanted to get so I limited myself to just one of the main front entrance.
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The Four Courts building
Close to the end of the Ha’penny Bridge, and sandwiched between a couple of shops, was a closed and shuttered 3-storey building which, according to the name, had been the Bondi Beach Club. Built around 1830 as two separate houses they had been converted to a single unit around the year 2000 and turned into a bar and nightclub. With palm trees and sand in strategic places, walls full of painted beach scenes and bikini-clad girls, and a dance floor lit up with colour-changing lights it was a very popular place but had closed down in 2011 and remained empty ever since.
There was nothing special about the shuttered ground floor of the building but it was the lettering on the above facade which intrigued me enough to take a photo. Planning permission has recently been granted to demolish some of the buildings to the side and rear of the old club and turn the whole plot into a large aparthotel, and though the front facade is a protected structure and will remain the lettering will no doubt be removed.
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The old Bondi Beach nightclub – this makes you wonder what went on in there
Checking the time on my phone I realised I’d been so busy exploring and taking photos that I’d had nothing to eat and drink since breakfast time. A coffee was long overdue so assuming that any cafes along the riverside would have over-inflated prices I took myself off down the side streets in search of a reasonably priced one, and I was glad I did as I unexpectedly came across a brightly painted gable end wall which was worth a photo.
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It didn’t take long to find a pleasant looking cafe with coffee at a reasonable £2.25 so in I went and ordered a toasted sandwich to go with it. I was only in the cafe just long enough to eat the toastie and drink the coffee but when I went out again I found that it was raining hard. Dashing into a nearby indoor shopping centre I spent some time looking round there in the hope that the rain would soon stop ; it did but the blue sky of earlier had been replaced with yet more grey cloud.
The door I used to come out of the shopping centre wasn’t the door I’d gone in through and I came out into a completely different street ; following my nose I made my way back to the riverside and found that I’d emerged just beyond the Millennium Bridge so I had to walk back along the same bit of the riverside I’d walked along a bit earlier, but at least it gave me the chance to get another photo of the Ha’penny Bridge with not too many people on it. The next bridge along was the O’Connell Bridge leading into the big wide O’Connell Street, and just before the corner I came to the Abbey Court hostel with its brightly painted floral front facade – I’ve photographed it before through the coach window as I passed on the way back to the airport but I thought it looked so nice it was worth another shot.
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The Ha’penny Bridge from the north end
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With time getting on and the daylight gradually getting less I made O’Connell Street my final port of call. Although there were several buildings along there which would be architecturally interesting fading daylight and the damp weather limited my photo taking to just two things, The Spire and the O’Connell Monument.
The Spire of Dublin, alternatively named the Monument of Light, was commissioned in 1999 as part of a redesign of the street layout and was constructed during December 2002 and January 2003. Consisting of eight hollow stainless steel cone sections it has a diameter of 9.8ft at the base and narrows to just 5.9ins at the top, with a height of 390ft  ; the base section is lit up at dusk and a 33ft section at the top is illuminated by LED lights shining through 11,884 holes.
Born in Co. Kerry in 1775 Daniel O’Connell, often referred to as the Emancipator or Liberator, became a major political leader at the beginning of the 19th century best known for campaigning for Catholic emancipation, and in the early years of the Great Famine he led calls demanding increased aid for Ireland. In February 1847, as the Irish nation faced one of its worst years of hunger and even though his own health was failing, O’Connell travelled to the House of Commons in London to make one last desperate plea for aid to save the people. His words were mainly lost on the politicians however, and though the British Government opened soup kitchens which did alleviate some hunger they were closed again in September that same year.
A month after his plea to the government O’Connell left England in March 1847 on a pilgrimage to Rome, however he died after reaching the Italian port of Genoa in May that year. In line with his own instructions his heart was taken to Rome while his body was returned to Ireland for burial in Dublin’s Glasnevin cemetery in early August. The monument to O’Connell was commissioned by Dublin Corporation and initially designed and sculpted by John Henry Foley, being finished by Thomas Brock after Foley’s death. Although the foundation stone was laid in 1864 it took nearly twenty years for the monument to be finished and erected in 1882 at the end of Sackville Street overlooking the river and opposite Carlisle Bridge ; Sackville Street was renamed O’Connell Street and the newly-widened bridge was renamed O’Connell Bridge in honour of its main focal point.
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Looking up O’Connell Street
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Looking back towards the river
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The O’Connell monument
Situated where it is at the junction of a wide road with two busy crossing points the statue isn’t the easiest thing to photograph without someone walking past it or standing in front of it so I had to exercise a great deal of patience before I got the opportunity to grab a quick photo of it. By that time the daylight was fading rapidly so I made that my last shot then made my way back to the bus station for the 4.30pm bus back to Roscrea.

South of the Liffey – Temple Bar

Across the road from St. Stephen’s Green main entrance were four horse-drawn carriages so as I love horses I went over to say hello to them. The ponies were all standing patiently waiting for customers ; the black one obligingly lifted his head and posed for me while I snapped his photo and the one at the back made me smile as he was dressed for Christmas complete with reindeer horns on his head. A bit further along the road I came across two large bright yellow-and-blue amphibious tour vehicles belonging to Viking Splash, and although the prices aren’t exactly cheap it looks like a fun way to see some of the city.
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From the park the next place I wanted to see and actually go into was the Natural History museum ; built in 1856 as a ‘cabinet-style’ museum the building and its animal collections haven’t changed much since Victorian times and it’s often described as ‘a museum of a museum’ and referred to as ‘the Dead Zoo’. Unfortunately though I couldn’t seem to find it ; I’d turned down a street off the road past the park as I knew it was in that area somewhere, and though I found the archaeology museum, which I had no interest in, there was no sign of the natural history one. It was only much later, while studying a map of the city, I realised that if I’d gone just one street further from the park I would have found it, but at least now I know for another time.
Having given up on the museum I made my way back towards Trinity College and past a hardware shop with a name which amused me enough to take a photo of it. Past the big Bank of Ireland building I came to the maze of side streets known as Temple Bar, a busy neighbourhood just behind the riverside. Promoted as being the city’s ‘cultural quarter’ and centre for nightlife many of its pubs and bars host live music events and among its cobbled streets are quirky boutiques, contemporary art studios and galleries and many many cafes and eateries – it’s even possible to go on a ‘musical pub crawl’ for an evening of songs, food and drinks in three different pubs. Several buildings are painted in bright colours and there’s street art everywhere ; I could have spent at least half a day just wandering round all the streets but with limited time I didn’t go too far.
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A great name for a hardware shop
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A colourful mode of transport outside the Temple Bar Hotel
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ThunderRoad Cafe and party restaurant
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One of the area’s best known pubs – the musical pub crawl starts here
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Another popular place
Down a narrow side street and on a corner I came across the brightly painted Icon Factory, a cafe and art gallery, and in an effort to prevent unofficial and senseless graffiti the walls of the adjacent alleyway had been painted in bright patterns and designs. About halfway along were painted boards depicting some of Dublin’s humorous references to the various statues situated around the city, and though I’d previously known about a couple of the sayings featured I didn’t know about the others so I photographed them all.
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Retracing my steps back along the alleyway I went past the colourful Icon Factory and down to the end of the street which brought me back to the riverside not far from the pedestrian-only Ha’penny Bridge. Officially named the Liffey Bridge it was built in 1816 using 18 cast iron sections made by the Coalbrookdale Company in Shropshire and shipped over to Dublin. Before the bridge was built there were seven ferries which were used to cross the river at that point but they were in such bad condition that their owner was told to either fix them or build a bridge – he chose to build the bridge and was granted a 100-year right to charge anyone crossing it a ha’penny toll which matched the previous charge for using the ferries which it replaced – hence it became know as the Ha’penny Bridge. While the toll was in operation there were turnstiles at each end of the bridge but the toll was dropped in 1919 and the turnstiles were eventually removed.
Fast forward to the 21st century and in 2001 the number of people using the bridge on a daily basis was counted as a staggering 27,000 ; a structural survey showed that some renovation was needed so the bridge was closed for repairs and reopened in December that year. In 2013 Dublin City Council removed over 300kg of love locks from the bridge and signs were put up asking people not to put any more padlocks on it. It’s such a popular bridge that I hadn’t a cat in hell’s chance of getting a photo of it with no-one on it but I took one from a distance and luckily only a few people were crossing at the time.
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The Ha’penny Bridge looking west
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One of the fancy lamp fittings above the bridge
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Looking east from the Millennium Bridge
A couple of blocks along from the Millennium Bridge I came to an unusual-looking and rather elegant four-storey building on a corner ; this was Sunlight Chambers, currently home to a firm of solicitors, and it was decorated with picture friezes above the ground floor and first floor windows. I couldn’t really make out what the friezes signified but they were so unusual I took photos of what I considered to be some of the nicest ones.
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Sunlight Chambers
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The building and its friezes intrigued me so much that once I’d got settled back here at home I decided to do a bit of research, and what I found out really surprised and amazed me. Designed by Liverpool architect Edward Ould the building was constructed in 1901 to be the Irish headquarters and offices of Bolton-born William Lever (later to become Lord Leverhulme) of the well-known Lever Brothers soap company.
Sunlight soap was one of the first soaps to be made on an industrial scale from vegetable oil and using architect Edward Ould William Lever built Port Sunlight, a manufacturing base and model town on the Wirral in Cheshire. When he needed a name for his new Dublin headquarters a variation of the Sunlight theme was obvious so the building became Sunlight Chambers. The friezes were designed and crafted in 1902 and actually tell the history of soap and hygiene, with some of the features being symbolic representations of how Lever Brothers made and exported their products.
As I photographed Sunlight Chambers and various parts of the friezes I had no idea then that the building in front of me would turn out to have such a connection to my home town – and now I know about it I’ll certainly make a return visit in the not-too-distant future to take some more photos.

South of the Liffey and St. Stephen’s Green

As I crossed the Samuel Beckett bridge I stopped in the middle to take a couple of photos of the river in both directions then continued along the south quayside, and with not many people about that part seemed to be a lot quieter than across the river. Heading west the sky lost its blue colour and became dark grey and heavy although the sun was still shining so I kept my fingers crossed that it wouldn’t actually rain. Almost opposite the Jeanie Johnston ship I came across something which I didn’t expect – set back off the road and surrounded by modern office buildings and commercial premises was a row of 3-storey terraced houses which looked like the lower level was all basement flats with the actual houses up above. A highly commercial area seemed a strange place for a row of residential dwellings but they actually looked quite nice and they certainly had a good view of the river.
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Looking east with the MV Cill Airne – the Blue River Bistro Bar – in the foreground
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Looking west
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The Jeanie Johnston
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On City Quay and just past the Sean O’Casey bridge I came across The Linesman, a life-size bronze sculpture by Irish artist Dony MacManus. The winning entry in a public art competition in 1999, it commemorates the tradition of docking in the area and is a tribute to all the dockers who worked at Dublin port throughout the years. A few yards further on and across the road I descended from the sublime to the ridiculous when I came across a closed down cafe with a roller shutter displaying its daft name and picture which rather amused me.
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The Linesman
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I wonder who thought of this name?
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The Custom House and Talbot Memorial Bridge
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The next bridge along was Butt Bridge and just up the road on the left my eye was caught by a brightly coloured building so I went to check it out. There was nothing which gave any clue as to what the building actually was but later research has told me that it’s the Tara building, a co-working hub with a gallery and cafe, and the outside was painted by the Irish street artist Maser ; it was certainly very eye catching and worth a photo.
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The Tara building
Past another couple of bridges and opposite the wide O’Connell bridge I took a left turn and went in search of a couple things I particularly wanted to find. This area was much more central and compared to the quietness of further back along the quayside it was heaving with people and extremely busy. Although I hadn’t planned it the first major thing I came to was Trinity College ; there seemed to be a lot of people going through the gates so I decided to take a quick look. Founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth l it’s a sister college to Cambridge’s St. John’s College and Oxford’s Oriel College ; it’s also one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and Ireland and is Ireland’s oldest surviving university, with the ancient Book of Kells being kept in the library there.
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The campanile (bell tower) in the college’s main quadrangle
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The Graduates Memorial Building
Next on my list was the Molly Malone statue which I found outside St. Andrew’s church in one of the narrower shopping streets. A group of buskers were singing on the nearby corner so there was quite a crowd gathered, and as is often the case with famous statues it seemed that everyone around wanted to have their photo taken with this one and I had to wait quite a while to be able to get a shot with no-one else in it, though unfortunately I couldn’t do anything about the information kiosk behind it.
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St. Andrew’s Church
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The Molly Malone statue
Having previously studied a small map in a free booklet about Dublin’s attractions I followed my nose up to the top of the nearby pedestrianised shopping street to St. Stephen’s Green, a decent-sized park with a couple of lakes and oodles of green space. Surrounded on all four sides by blocks of offices and other commercial buildings it was a lovely peaceful, and obviously very popular, oasis and it was nice just to wander at will and take photos here and there.
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Park map at the main entrance
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The first lake
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The second lake
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Even though it was now winter there was still some autumn colour left in various parts of the park and it looked so nice that I could imagine it would be really lovely in spring and summer. I could have spent much longer in there but there was somewhere else I particularly wanted to find so reluctantly I headed back through the main entrance and off on my next quest.

A day in Dublin – North of the Liffey, Part 1

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.
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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.
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East side of the Custom House
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Custom House main frontage
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.
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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.
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Inside the EPIC mall
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A display above one of the shops
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”
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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.
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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.
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The Samuel Beckett bridge
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The Convention Centre – the criss-cross things inside are all escalators
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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.

St. Mary of the Rosary church, Nenagh

St. Mary of the Rosary church, built in 1896, is an excellent example of large scale Gothic Revival architecture, with the exterior being notable for its finely-carved dressings and elaborate west doorway. The interior of the nave revives the quatrefoil columns which would have been found in some of the 13th century Irish and English Gothic parish churches – the columns and pointed arches are built of Portland stone and the chancel features a series of fine mosaics designed by Ludwig Oppenheimer in 1911.
nenagh church
Photo taken from the internet – all the others are my own
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Looking down the main aisle
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One of the ornate filigree screens
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A section of tiled wall mosaic
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The finely-carved oak pulpit
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The beautifully tiled floor which runs throughout
The interior features of this church were beautiful and there were so many of them I could have spent much longer in there but while I was wandering round I noticed several young men in suits and other people obviously getting prepared for something so I thought I’d better make myself scarce. When I got outside the car park was full of cars with more arriving and from the outfits that people were wearing it looked like a wedding was imminent so it seemed that I’d timed my church visit just right. Next door was the much smaller St. Mary’s Church of Ireland which I hadn’t been into last year so now it was time to take a look in there.