A temporary absence – off to Cumbria

Tomorrow morning sees the start of my 10-day holiday in north west Cumbria, camping at the same site I stayed at over Easter. Since late Monday afternoon the weather here has been abysmal with rain for most of every day so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that once I get up there things will change ; while I can’t expect to get the same continuously wonderful weather as I got at Easter I’m still hoping that most of the days will see some sunshine as there are so many places I want to see and explore.
The van has been packed up since Easter but it’s not as simple as just putting in a few last minute items and the dogs and setting off – my wonderful son has seen to that! After his night shift tonight Michael has four days off so he recently decided he would spend those four days over in Ireland ; with a relatively last minute booking his choice of flights was limited to early morning or late evening so to maximise his time there he chose the morning one, flying at 8am. And guess who he asked to take him to the airport?! So on the very morning I’m driving myself up to north west Cumbria I’m going in the opposite direction first!
Michael would normally finish his shift at 6am but he’s managed to wangle a 5.30 finish which will be better ; there shouldn’t be much traffic on the roads so early on a Sunday so unless there’s an absolute major motorway hold up I should be able to get him there in plenty of time. As it happens my pitch at the camp site won’t be available until 1pm so once I’ve dropped him at the airport I can have a good couple of hours chill out back here before I set off for Cumbria – and thinking about it, it seems weird that he will be on the coach to Roscrea before I even leave here, and he’ll be at the family home before I get to the camp site. Time and distance can seem so strange sometimes.
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At the camp site I’m booked on the same pitch I had at Easter so with good weather I should hopefully get more or less the same views as those above. I’ve been looking forward to this holiday for a while so with any luck I should be able to do lots of exploring and I’ll come back with a ridiculous amount of photos, many of which will no doubt end up on this and my other blog – so I’ll ‘see’ you all when I get back.
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From Roscrea to home

My final morning in Roscrea saw me getting the 9am coach to the airport ; my flight wasn’t until 1.50pm but I would have been cutting it a bit fine if I got the next coach at 11am, especially if it was late, so I was better being on the safe side. Michael wasn’t coming home until two days later but he came up to the bus stop with me to see me off and for once the coach was bang on time. With a slight delay going through Dublin city centre I arrived at the airport at 11.20 with a good couple of hours to kill, and once I was through the security check (with no problems) I spent some time looking round the shops before getting a sandwich and a drink and whiling away some more time in a quiet corner.
As I’d been walking through the airport building I’d noticed a run of large back-lit pictures on the walls, advertising Skoda cars – the pictures were based on several Irish myths and legends and though each one prominently featured a car I thought they were lovely enough to take a photo of. Luckily that section of the airport wasn’t too busy just then so I got my shots without anyone getting in the way.
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St. Patrick
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The Children of Lir
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Cu Chulainn
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The Salmon of Knowledge
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Tir Na Nog
Although the plane from Manchester a few days previously had been packed the one going back wasn’t ; I’d pre-booked the same window seat but with no-one sitting in the two seats next to me I could have spread myself out if I’d wanted to. There was no-one in the two rows of seats behind me or across the aisle and only one person in front of me – that’s the first time I’ve known a flight to or from Manchester not to be full.
As we got over to the English side of the water I tried to make out where we were but though the day was cloudy and I didn’t recognise anywhere I still took a few photos. It’s only since I’ve been back home and done a lot of studying of the map book and Google Maps that I’ve realised exactly where we were – passing a part of North Wales which I’m very familiar with.
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Turning towards the Dublin coast
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Right : Anglesey and the Menai Straits – centre : cloud over the Snowdonia mountains – centre foreground : Conwy estuary, Great Orme – moving left : Llandudno, Rhos-on-Sea, Colwyn Bay
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Right : Barkby beach – centre : Talacre beach
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The Dee estuary – right : Talacre beach – left : Mostyn Dock
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The River Mersey – right : Birkenhead – left : Liverpool
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Approaching Manchester airport
It was 2.40pm when the plane landed at Manchester and by the time I’d got through the airport and walked all the way to the station I’d just missed a train and had to wait half an hour for the next one. Although it wasn’t ideal it was only a minor irritation and I could live with it, but what I didn’t know then was how many things would go wrong in less than 24 hours. But regardless of any disasters to come I’d still had a really nice time in Ireland – and my day in Dublin had inspired me to want to go back to see more in the not-too-distant future.

A walk to Mount St. Joseph Abbey

Although Roscrea is only a small town and is surrounded by countryside there are no really good dog walks anywhere unless you take a long walk out of town or drive to somewhere so the only place I could reasonably go to with Trixie was Mount St. Joseph Abbey, two miles along the country road from the bottom of Nellie’s street. I’ve been there a couple of times before and in spite of the frequent passing traffic it’s a pleasant walk past open fields.
I wasn’t far from the monastery grounds when I experienced the second great coincidence of the holiday. Houses along the road were few and far between and as I got close to the last one a man suddenly appeared through the gate onto the road, startling Trixie and making her bark. He spoke to her in a friendly voice and apologised to me for startling her, we got chatting and I mentioned that Trixie wasn’t actually mine. When I said who she belongs to he told me he knew the family and Michael’s dad and said he knew a young lad from the family also called Michael – and he was really surprised when I told him that’s my son. That was so unbelievable – two miles from town in the middle of nowhere and out of the blue I meet someone who knows Michael!
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Wandering round the monastery grounds I noticed that the church door was open – I would have loved to go in and look round but I didn’t know if it was allowed and there was no-one around who I could ask so I wandered past the guest house and round to the back and discovered a lovely peaceful apple orchard with a couple of benches set alongside the paths. One of the paths led through an archway to a courtyard beyond, it looked a bit like a farm yard and as I didn’t know whether it belonged to the monastery or was private I didn’t go any further.
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The monastery grounds
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The guest house
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Part of the apple orchard
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Back on the main path I made my way round to the stream with the man-made waterfalls, and though it was in shade just like last year the full sunshine did make things a bit brighter. From the stream I made my way through the woods back to the main path then with the last three shots taken I set off on the 2-mile walk back to Nellie’s.
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Some local residents across the stream
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Back at the house, and tired out from her long walk, Trixie curled up on her cushion and didn’t move much until later in the evening – two miles each way is nothing to me but obviously she isn’t used to walking so far all at once. Later on I popped up the road to take some photos of the Christmas lights in the garden of the house a few doors away – they add something new every year and this time it was penguins and lights on the ground – then I settled in to watch tv for the rest of the evening.
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Before I went to bed I packed my case and backpack ready for the morning as I had a reasonably early start and I didn’t want to be on the last minute. It was strange though – compared to here at home Roscrea is such a small quiet town that I wouldn’t want to live there permanently, but over the last few days I’d got so settled that somehow I felt reluctant to come home. Michael’s dad may no longer be around but it’s nice to be part of his home and the Roscrea life for a short while, and I know it won’t be long before I go back there again.

St. Cronan’s Church, Roscrea – a feast of stained glass

My last full day in Roscrea arrived with sunshine and blue sky and after breakfast my first task was to find some nice artificial flowers to replace the ones I left on Michael’s dad’s grave last year. Although I really wanted a single large arrangement I couldn’t find one so I settled for six small bunches, three red and three white, and back at the house I filched a length of Nellie’s green knitting wool and tied them all together into one arrangement before taking them up to the grave. While I was up there I noticed that the lantern and plaques that Michael and I had left at the time of the funeral were looking a bit grubby so I took them back to the house, gave them a good clean then went to return them to the grave. I took my camera with me too as I’d seen that the church was open so I went in to see if I could get some photos of the stained glass windows which I didn’t get shots of on a previous occasion.
The construction of St. Cronan’s RC Church started in 1844 just before the Great Hunger and in spite of the best efforts of the parish priest and the local community it proved impossible to complete during the famine years. After various fund raising efforts both in the community and in America the church was finally opened for worship in 1855 although it still didn’t have a roof at that time. In the 1870s the towers flanking the west end of the building were added, and before his death in 1902 John Francis Bentley, the architect of Westminster Cathedral, said that the hand carved altar pinnacle and screen was the most beautiful piece of church architecture he had seen in Ireland. In 1913 lightning seriously damaged the apse so restoration and redecoration was carried out on the whole church, then in the 1920s the statue of St. Cronan was added, which now stands above the main door.
It seemed like I was the only person in the church at that time so with no interruptions I wandered round freely and managed to get shots of every stained glass window in there. Someone belonging to the church must have been there somewhere though as only a few minutes after I’d gone out I heard the main door being closed and locked from the inside – it seemed I’d got my photos just at the right time.
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St. Cronan’s RC Church, Roscrea
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Back at the house Nellie made me a coffee and a couple of sandwiches then I got ready for the next part of my day ; earlier in the holiday I’d promised Trixie that I would take her for a good walk and as it was still a lovely day weather-wise that’s just what I was going to do.

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.