Ireland: One Week

Rainy Grafton Street.

Captain American. Everywhere you want to be.

This day we had planned to devote to research. Our plan was to head to the National Library of Ireland, which even has a staffed genealogy desk. It was a good day to do research, as it was expected to be rainy all day. Since I planned to be inside all day, it was the one day when I decided it would be fine to leave my poncho behind.

I know, I know.

The National Library of Ireland is not far from Trinity College.  We took out usual route there, and then I somehow missed the turn  (I’m blaming the rain) and we ended up on Grafton Street, which is parallel to Kildare Street, the one we really wanted. Grafton Street is one of the main shopping districts in Dublin, and we ended up following it all the way to St. Steven’s Green before we turned around.

Did I mention it was supposed to rain all day, and I left my rain gear behind?

Here’s the one picture I took of rainy Grafton Street. The big neon sign on the left side is Captain America, and it’s a restaurant. From a distance, the character looks more like Spider-man, and then I saw the label of Captain America, and, the shield is there, but, well, I was amused by it.

By this point I was aggressively damp, and annoyed that I’d failed somewhat at navigation, but, in the end, we got to the National Library of Ireland. If you get to Dublin, even if you don’t need to research anything, I really, really recommend going into this building. It’s right next to the National Archaeology Museum, it’s got beautiful mosaics in the floor, the reading room is beautiful, and was a favorite haunt of James Joyce, it’s got a really huge collection of materials, and, it’s FREE. Did I mention FREE? Heck, even if you don’t take my word for you, you can take a virtual tour of the place, online. Click your heart out. Trust me. It’s a wonderful space for reading, and just hanging out.

The National Library of Ireland

Nice, huh? Be sure to visit the Reading Room. It’s FREE to access the materials, and FREE to go in, seriously, you’ll thank me.

We got in, and following standard research protocol the world over, locked our bags and damp outer wear in a locker, got out our pencils and the little notebooks I’d packed for us to record whatever we couldn’t photocopy, and we headed toward the genealogy desk.  We waited a few minutes, as the librarian was busy with someone else, and then, he motioned to us. I briefly mentioned what were looking for, specifically, records from a specific church in Dublin, that has been gone for more than two centuries, but, was less than half a mile from where we were.

He gave me a slightly awkward grimace, one that wasn’t apologetic, as in “Gosh, I’m sure sorry, but, as much as it pains me to say it, we haven’t got anything from that church.” it was more like “How dare you ask me about that church, Infidel!”  With his words, he said “St. Bride’s was Church of Ireland,” and there was a pause while he let that sink in, and I made a short nod of acknowledgement, as, until that moment, I had not known St. Bride’s affliction. His pause was followed by “We don’t have any records for the church of Ireland. We only have Catholic records.” Again I gave a nod of “No, of course I won’t mention the Church of the Oppressor again, I’m so sorry to have brought it up.” He warmed to my silent promise not to mention uncomfortable subjects ever again, and pulled out an information sheet with local genealogical repositories, and told us that the Church of Ireland records could be accessed at the RCB (the Representative Church Body) which, thank all that is holy, happened to be in Dublin, too, and open to the public. He pointed to a spot straight outside, and said, you take the number 14 bus straight to it. They’ll be able to help you.” I heard the implied “And may God have mercy on your soul” at the end of his statement, and we dutifully turned around, gathered our things, and went back out into the rain.

We did very quickly find the stop in question, and looking at the post, the fare was going to be somewhere between 2.60 and 11.80, and exact fare was expected. Seemed reasonable, but then reality set in. What if we got there, and learned they were not open on whatever day this was? Or that it was by appointment only? And, while the sheet of paper had a really bad map on it, how would we know where to get off? Entertaining all these unknowns was a bit more bravery than we wanted to exhibit on this rainy day, so we decided we needed to look this up before we went any further, and might as well punt, and do it the following day, when we were better prepared. We figured we might as well go see the Archaeology Museum, since we were standing right in front of it, and it’s also FREE. Plus, it had the distinct advantage of being an indoors-sort of place, which tend to be dryer than the outdoors places where the buses come.

And enter we did.

The Archaeology Museum is a mirror image of the NLI, and there are wonderful mosaics here, too. Plus, there’s some amazing treasures here. We had a special affinity for the reconstructed passage tomb, just having gone to Newgrange the day before, and some of the artifacts found on those sites live here now. There’s a collection of pretty amazing works in gold, and the bog people of Ireland are on discreet display, which sounds more oxymoronic than it actually is.

After a few hours, and now mostly dry, we were feeling peckish, and ready for some lunch. The cafe at the museum was packed, so we went to the museum shop. It was here that we found a suitable gift for mom. They threw in a free tote for it, which was good, because it was part cashmere, part wool, and water doesn’t agree much with it.  From there we thought, “Hey, there’s a cafe inside the library, let’s try it.” Sure enough, it was much quieter, and we had a lovely break.

From there, we decided to go to St. Patrick’s and if we had time, to go to the Chester Beatty museum.  We packed up, redistributed the spare rain gear, which means they took pity on my idiocy, and gave me an extra layer, and headed out.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Even in the rain, St. Patrick’s is photogenic.

I think dad appreciated his poncho, which looks pretty much identical to the one I’d left behind, but, I’m not sure if he’s at all pleased about this stomping about in the rain business. Me, I like the rain, and it was, as they say in Ireland “a soft rain,” not really cold, and not pouring.  I will take a soft rain over 8o degree weather any day.

My biggest interest in St. Patrick’s was, of course, the famous 18th century dean, a man by the name of Jonathan Swift. You might have heard of him, or know of his most famous creation, “Gulliver’s Travels.” And, by some curious chance, he shares a birthday with yours truly. I know that you’re amazed I don’t look a day over two centuries, and you’d be right. It pays to moisturize.

We were grateful to get out of the rain, and we stood in the entry way to try and drain the excess moisture off. It seems a tad sacrilegious to bring excessive damp inside, even if rain comes from the heavens.

Dad and his poncho, outside St. Patrick's.

Dad and his poncho, outside St. Patrick’s. Doesn’t he look happy to be there?

I was surprised at how many visitors were here on a rainy weekday, during business hours, but, maybe I shouldn’t have been. There was much to see inside. Besides the grave of Dean Swift, there were some pretty impressive stained glass windows, a remarkable pulpit, and several impressive sculptures. There are also some early Christian grave markers that were from the church grounds, but, which predate the structure itself. St. Patrick is said to have had a holy well on the site from which he baptized locals when he was in Dublin. Today, it is an Anglican church, and has been since well, as long ago as its near neighbor, St. Bride’s church, which was likely where our Barnes ancestors attended, to the later dismay of the genealogy librarian of the National Library of Ireland.

Bust of Jonathan Swift, right next to his memorial grave marker.

Bust of Jonathan Swift, right next to his memorial grave marker.

There were interpretive signs all over the place, and I learned how very little I really knew about Jonathan Swift.

After exhausting our interest in the place, we started to head back to the Chester Beatty Library. Sadly, we got there about 20 min before it closed, and that was too late to do the tour. We decided it was time to head back, given the rain was not giving up.

Since the night was young, we decided that the seemingly barely alive cinema next to our hotel deserved some patronage, so, when we got back there, we headed in. We were slightly disappointed that the movie that fit the “right now” option was Pompeii. Yes, it’s every bit as bad as you suspected, but, it was fun, and I realized it was my first movie theater movie in a foreign country. Here we were, propping up the international box office.  Plus, it turns out that the main character is identified as a Celt from Britannia, which would probably point to him being Welsh. Yes, that’s me thinking too much about a movie that wasn’t very good.