Archive | April, 2014

Easter Viking Festival

23 Apr

By: Jenna Gilder

On Easter I went with a few friends to the Viking Festival. It was the 1000-year anniversary of the famous Viking Battle in Ireland. We attended the festival, which took place in Dublin, but other Viking festivals were also held in Clare, Tipperary, and Armagh. At this festival, individuals dressed in full Viking and Irish army attire, reenacted the Battle of Clontarf. Over 500 people participated in this reenactment that took place in St. Anne’s Park. This was the largest re-enactment to ever take place in Ireland. It was definitely an unusual site to see as men ran at each other with swords in the rain. This battle ended with the Viking defeat and the death of the powerful Irish king Brian Ború. An exhibit on Brian Ború is currently in the Long Hall at Trinity University. I was able to visit the exhibit on Friday and I was amazed by the artwork that was on display.

The Viking and Gallic flags were held high and children at the festival were given the opportunity to create their own flags. One child’s flag that I saw said “war is awesome”, so I am not sure if these re-enactments, as educational as they are, are sending the right message to children. After the re-enactment we strolled around the Viking village that consisted of 80 tents, and found that individuals seemed to be actually living and sleeping there. One woman let us sit in front of her tent by the fire she made. We had a traditional Irish lunch of Shepard’s pie as we listened to a band play music. After lunch we walked around and shopped in the many sword, archery, and shield shops. It was quite an eventful day in which I felt transported into another time period.



Causey Farm

23 Apr

By: Jenna Gilder

On Saint Patrick’s Day weekend I went with a group of FIE students to Causey Farm. We left early in the morning on an hour-long bus ride. Once we made it to the farm, we were immediately welcomed in by the kind owner and her many sheepherding dogs. The first activity we participated in was bread making. We made traditional soda bread that we later enjoyed eating with our lunch. The eggs we used came from the hens on the farm. After making the bread we were introduced to all of the farm animals including lambs, goats, and pigs. We were also able to hold puppies that were only 6 days old.

One of my favorite parts of the day was when we were able to play the traditional Irish instrument called the bodhrán. This Irish drum is made out of wood and goatskin. The drum can be bought in many different sizes and the larger ones were used as war drums. I also saw this instrument being played in an Irish play we went to at the Abbey Theater called Sive. After playing the bodhrán, we learned a traditional Irish court dance. Although the dance was difficult to learn since it is usually taught with more people, it was a very fun experience.

After dancing and playing music, we ate our packed lunch in the main house before taking a tractor ride. We ended the day learning how to play “hurling” which is a very difficult sport to learn. The GAA states that hurling is thought to be the oldest type of field sport. Hurling has been played for over 2000 years. One way that hurling is unique is that a player is allowed to hit the ball with their stick when it is on the ground or in the air. Hurling, like other sports, can result in physical injuries, so while playing it we wore helmets that protected our heads as well as our faces. I really loved my day at the farm and I hope that I can return some day in the future.

Irish Bread Making Class

23 Apr

By: Jenna Gilder

A student at Trinity led an Irish bread making class that I was able to attend. In the class we made soda bread, sourdough bread and pizzas. The class was very enjoyable and through the class I was able to see the role that bread plays in the food culture of Ireland. Bread making is an important tradition in Ireland. In the 1800’s the female of the household was usually in charge of making the bread everyday. The Irish soda bread is the most popular type of bread in Southern Ireland, while brown bread is more popular in Northern Ireland. The main differences between these types of bread are that soda bread uses white flour while brown bread uses whole grain flour.

When making the soda bread in the class we used five main ingredients: baking soda, flour, eggs, salt, and buttermilk. We made the buttermilk by adding lemon juice to slightly old milk, which was a common trick to do in Irish homes when the milk was going bad. The reason the dough is able to rise is because of the reaction between the acid (the buttermilk) and the base (baking soda). After the bread was formed into its proper shape we dusted it with oats and then scored the top of the bread. The women who traditionally made Irish soda bread usually scored it with a cross before putting it in the oven because of the Irish superstition that this let out the devil. This type of bread is also called “quick bread” because it does not take very long to make. After the bread is cooked it is usually served either on its own with butter and jam, with soups, with fish, or with other dips. We enjoyed our bread with a traditional Irish vegetable soup and black pudding.



Secrets Beneath Christ Church: Mummies, a Coffee Shop and Jonathan Rhys Meyers?

21 Apr

About half a kilometer from Ireland’s National Cathedral, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral rests atop the hill at the end of Lord Edward Street. Here in the heart of medieval Dublin, the Cathedral, in some incarnation or another, has stood for approximately a millennium.

The oldest and arguably least ascetically pleasing of Dublin’s tourist-trapping churches, Christ Church was still my favorite to visit, simply because of the novelty of the medieval crypt located below the main floor.

The cathedral’s lack of opulence, when compared to St. Patrick’s, may nonetheless be excused by the numerous renovations the cathedral has faced over the centuries- most notably the Victorian restoration of the Cathedral in the 1870s, sponsored by distiller Henry Roe of Mount Anville. The eastern end of the cathedral was at this time built over the crumbling crypt.

The undercroft of Christ Church contains the largest crypt in Britain or Ireland, originally constructed in 1173 and finally renovated in the early 2000s. Here visitors can discover Ireland’s oldest non-religious carvings, two statues that once stood outside of Dublin’s medieval city hall. More dramatic perhaps are the stocks, once housed in Christ Church Place, and used to publically punish convicted criminals in the seventeenth century. Another notable treasure of the crypt is the tabernacle and candlesticks, used in mass during the brief period when Catholic King James II had fled from Britain to Dublin. However, the most amusing artifact located beneath Christ Church, may well be the cathedral’s “mummies.” 

The remains of a cat and rat can be found (across from the crypt’s café and gift shop) in the crypt, where the have made their eternal resting place. According to legend, the cat and his prey were entrapped in an organ pipe during chase. James Joyce even alluded to the novelty of the dehydrated Tom and Jerry; in his novel Finnegan’s Wake, Joyce uses the simile “as stuck as that cat to that mouse in that tube of that Christchurch organ.”

Another less historic exhibit below the cathedral is a display of costumes from Showtime’s “The Tutors,” which had used Christ Church as a filming location. The television series evolves around the melodramatic private life of Britain’s King Henry VIII, who did convert Christ Church Cathedral into a Protestant church during the Reformation in 1539.

Kilmainham Gaol: A Shocking, Tragic Reminder

19 Apr

Upon first entering Kilmainham Gaol I remarked to my friend that it felt like the set of a horror film. She said something to the effect of, “Oh come on, it’s not like a lot of people were dying here or anything.” Guess she should have paid more attention in our Irish Life and Culture class.

Built in 1796, Kilmainham Gaol is a historic Dublin jail that was in operation until the mid-twentieth century. The living conditions for prisoners were notoriously poor for much of its operation. Kilmainham Gaol is perhaps most remembered for holding many of the leaders of the Irish rebellions, such as Charles Stewart Parnell and Éamon de Valera, approximately a dozen of whom were executed on site.

There still exist many easily overlooked features of the jail’s horrific past. For example, two white squares rest in the stone above the main entrance. These are the remnants of the two wooden pillars used for public execution. In the museum area, visitors may read a section of the prison’s manifest, detailing how children as young as twelve had been arrested for such crimes as a “breach of the peace.” However the most moving and disturbing artifact in the museum, may well be a letter by James Fisher, an eighteen-year-old Irish nationalist who was executed due to his minor involvement a 1922 Civil War skirmish. The letter is addressed to Fisher’s mother.

It reads:

Dear Mother,


I am now awaiting the supreme penalty at 7 O’clock in the morning but I am perfectly happy, because I’ve seen the Priest and I am going to die a good Catholic and a soldier of the Irish Republic. Don’t worry or cry for me, but pray for the repose of my soul and my three comrades. I asked to see you, but they say that they would see what they could do.


Ask all my friends and comrades to pray for me and Dick and my two comrades. Mother I would just love one look at all the faces at home, yours above all, but seemly that is denied me. I get everything I want now, which as you know is the usual stunt. Mother my heart grieves for one look at your dear face; but please God I will meet you and them in heaven. I picture how this will effect you, but Mother don’t fret, for remember I am happy. The Priest here is going to get to me to hear my confession, and I will receive at the altar in the morning. 


Lord Jesus give me courage in my last moments. If I had only got told on my sentence I would have been well prepared before now. Oh Mother if I could only see you, just again. Don’t fret Mother because I am happy.


To my Mother I dearly love, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. 

We will meet again in heaven please God, Mother.

God Strengthen you in this ordeal Mother. 

I am to die for Ireland.


– J.B. Fisher

Since its restoration in 1960, Kilmainham Gaol has served as a reminder, shocking then somber, of the long and violent struggle surrounding Irish nationalism.

John Yeats Exhibition in the National Gallery- Dalton Cox

19 Apr

Though parts of the National Gallery of Ireland were being renovated during my stay in Dublin, the museum nevertheless maintains its power to captivate. Despite housing masterpieces from throughout Europe, the museum’s Irish collection holds its own, amongst the more ancient Dutch and Italian masterpieces.

Perhaps its because these are Ireland’s best. One painter, with whom I was less familiar, but intensely impressed, was John Butler Yeats. Though I had read works by his literary icon of a brother, W. B. Yeats, I had never researched much into his brother, also an author but more famously an artist.

The Yeats collection is unique to Dublin. The Yeats Archive was donated to the Gallery by Anne Yeats in 1996. John or “Jack” Yeats was born in Great Britain and named for his father, an Irish-born artist. After marrying Mary Cottenham in 1894, Yeats returned to Ireland. Here Yeats adopted a technique of Expressionism and frequently concentrated on distinctly Irish subject matter.

One of Yeats paintings found in the Gallery is “The Liffey Swim;” it does not immediately stand out, as it lacks the color, size and dramatic brushstrokes of some Yeats’ surrounding paintings. However, Yeats was awarded the silver medal for this work at the 1924 Paris Olympics. It depicts Dublin’s mile-and-a-half-long swimming race in the river Liffey, held annually in the early 1920s. The perspective of the painting is from a spectator’s point of view, surrounded by the crowd, leaning in to see the larger than life (literally in the painting) swimmers as they neared the completion of the race. By distorting size and angle, Yeats presents a more encompassing effect of what this scene may have actually been like. This is also one of Yeats more jovial subjects at this time, as many of his works in the 1920s represented the cause of the Irish Free State and related loss of life. In the “The Liffey Swim” all members of Dublin’s society are represented, joyful, unified and engulfed in a distinctly Irish tradition.

Muckross House in County Killarney, Fit for a Queen- Dalton Cox

19 Apr

Muckross House is a ninetieth-century mansion, nestled in Killarney National Park in County Killarney, between the park’s abandoned fifteenth-century abbey and Muckross Lake. The structure was designed by British architect, William Burn, and concluded its original construction in 1843. It was built as a home for MP Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife Mary. He was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Kerry in 1853.

When visiting Killarney, a friend and I made last-minute plans to bike through the park to Muckross House the next morning. However, when Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and several members of the royal family planned to visit the manor in 1861, they gave notice six years in advance. 

This exceptionally long notice was due to an expectation that the family would make extravagant improvements to the home, in preparation for the Queen’s visit. This included elaborate renovation and expansion of the garden.

According an 1861 article in the Kerry Evening Post:

“An entire section of the mansion has been set apart for the royal family, so that all their apartments communicate without the necessity of passing into the corridors to be used by other occupants of the house… In her sitting room- which, like all the others, is a splendid apartment furnished richly and tastefully, there is a series of views of the Lakes of Killarney, painted by Mrs. Herbert.”

The Queen arrived in Killarney on Monday August 26, 1861, and departed on Thursday, staying only three nights for security purposes. It is speculated the luxurious amenities procured in anticipation for the Queen’s arrival, placed a financial strain on the Herbert family, who were forced to sale the house. In 1899, it was purchased by Arthur Guinness and later by the Bourne-Vincent family in 1911. After the death of William Bowers Bourn’s wife, Maude, in 1929, the family donated the mansion and grounds to the Republic of Ireland. Decades later, the house itself would become accessible to the public- no six-year reservation required.