Archive | February, 2015

Dublin Writers Museum: Preserving Irish Culture

19 Feb

I recently had the opportunity to check off one of the top items on my Dublin Bucket-List: visiting the Dublin Writer’s Museum. After several minutes of fangirling and several more minutes of fighting the urge to steal all the rare books in the room, I began to appreciate the historical significance surrounding me. Literature is as deeply-rooted in Irish history as any other institution.

Dublin Writers Museum      James Joyce’s work is particularly noteworthy, as he sought to examine the essence of the Irish people throughout his career. Although he permanently left Ireland in his early twenties, Joyce’s mind seemed to constantly wander back to his home country; his four major works—Dubliners (1914), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), Ulysses (1922), and Finnegan’s Wake (1939)—are all set in Ireland. His writing is so significant, in fact, that Modern Library ranks Ulysses first on its “Greatest Novels of the 20th Century” and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man third.
I find that a striking aspect of Joyce’s legacy is how he was vehemently detested in Ireland for decades. Much of his work was protested and banned in Ireland in the early 20th century; Ulysses specifically was not allowed to be printed in Ireland until the 1950’s. The fervor over Joyce’s work was primarily due to obscenities, sexually explicit content, and his harsh criticism of the Irish people. Today, however, Joyce’s exhibit stands as the crown jewel of the Dublin Writer’s Museum; it features first editions of several of his works, as well as miscellaneous objects from his past.
Joyce  This is just one example of how important literature has been to Irish culture, as well as how much Ireland has grown over the years. With four Nobel Prize laureates for literature, Ireland ranks among the best in the world, and there is likely more to follow.

-Derek Rose


Lal the ral the ra The rocky road to Dublin. by Chris Shauinger Lewis & Clark Spring 2015

15 Feb

A weekend in Mullagh, Cavan County, for a theatre retreat.

In order to understand the Irish culture more fully we must embrace theatre, one of Ireland’s more inherent forms of expression. So it was. Saturday was spent working with a theatre group in this beautiful small town of Mullagh. The workshop was fun and the last act was performing in front of a crowded town hall after the dress rehearsal production of “Black Pig’s Dyke.” Yes that’s right, a group of nineteen psychology majors from America acting out a fifteen-minute act of “Black Pig’s Dyke.” Well it was entertaining to say the least. We all had a laugh, audience included.


We left the theatre and walked from one end of town to the other before meeting up with some of the actors from the dress rehearsal and towns people at the Pub. The town was calm. There was a peace to it that isn’t found in the city. We make it into the Pub to be greeted with open arms by so many new friends. It works that way in Ireland; Pub = Life, Meet once = friends for life, a unique phenomenon that I’ve only found in Ireland.

So I sit at a table with recognizable and start talking with the guy next to me. He’s an actor in the play and immediately joins in comfortable conversation. The conversation opens up to him commenting on the Irish accent that I used while on stage. He makes craic. He says that it sounded like a leprechaun from some Disney movie, we both laugh. It makes sense, after all that would be the only other exposure to the Irish accent. I ask about the Irish language and ask if he speaks Irish. He says very little, but some, enough he says. We talk about immigration and the different languages now in Ireland. He goes back to accents and starts to talk about the influence of the American accent in Ireland. He says that his niece and nephew watch American Disney movies so much that they speak with an American accent. He goes on to say that his niece and nephew are not isolated occurrences, that this is a fad in Ireland, sounding American. I mentioned that I could see that in Dublin because of all the international students, but not in such small towns. He then spoke of Dublin with an almost angst or fear. He says that he stay’s in the country and tries to avoid ever going to Dublin. He says the people are dead to the mundane schedule of work; they don’t look at you with the life you find out here in the country. It’s a rocky road to Dublin; he goes on to say, and a sad way. I smile and think of the song Donal played for my group. Interesting how pieces fit together.


The next morning I walked through and around the town of Mullagh. A fog blanketed the ground and all was very quite before the noon hour. Ahead was an afternoon filled with more theatre and then back on the bus, leaving the heart of Ireland and a wonderful experience. The bus door closed and the wheels began their decent along the rocky road to Dublin.


Molly Malone’s Football Game

12 Feb

Most Sunday nights at 11:30 pm you’ll find me sitting in bed, binge-watching a show on Netflix for the umpteenth time. However, on February 1 I was watching television, not in my bed, but rather Harry’s on the Green. It was Superbowl Sunday, the crème de la crème of American sporting events and end of another NFL season. After the final touchdown was scored, and the New England Patriots rushed the field, that was it, football season was over, right? Wrong. A mere week later I found myself watching another football game, but not just any old-NFL football game, no, this was a Gaelic football game.

After making our way to Croke Park and finding our seats (which were eleven rows away from the field) what I was about to witness was something so surprisingly different from American football that the likes of Tom Brady or Peyton Manning wouldn’t even have recognized what they were watching. While it resembles the US sport somewhat, Gaelic football could more adequately be described at the lovechild of basketball, American football, and soccer. Imagine a normal NFL field, put a soccer goal in front of the goalpost, decrease the amount of penalties and protective gear by 75%, add in the ability for players to carry, dribble, kick, and hand-pass the ball (which resembles a volleyball), and voilà! You have Gaelic football.

Despite its differences, the match was an absolute blast. The rules were easy enough to pick up and the crowd’s energy was contagious. I was surprised by the number of families attending the game, the majority of which had at least two kids under the age of 12, since NFL games back in the States can be a little kid-unfriendly. By the end of the match Dublin was ahead and to our surprise, the exiting song was Cockles and Mussels so we got to put some of our Irish Life and Culture knowledge to the test.

-Megan Cummins

To what may the beauty appeal?

10 Feb

To walk upon the rocky road is easy.

Easy, still, it is to reach the cliffs at the road’s end.

What to do upon arriving though?

That’s the ticket.

Stone, gravel, sand; openness.

Rocky plain spread in all directions. A new beauty is born on the island of Inis Mór.

Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands, is the source of the greatest curiousness I’ve grappled in Ireland yet. Only with a heart of journey may one come upon this place of stark stone and green grass. A bus, a boat, a bike; an alliterative expedition led over curving highway, grey ocean, and coastal drives. The island appears from the mist of the sea on the horizon from the rumbling ferry and its vast size is clear; the journeyer within leaps and cries out with anticipation. A new place, all our own, until the ferry leaves.

If one ascends to the tallest flat of Inis Mór, he would come upon the prehistoric fort of Dún Aonghasa. He would be welcomed to the cliff edge; dared to look down. He would be drawn to the fort itself, walk through the narrow entrance, and be surrounded by stone or sheer drop on all sides. A question would necessarily enter his mind, “What do I take from this?” He may laugh at the irony of his situation: his inability to understand his connection to this place so far away from his home while knowing damn well that the connection exists and is more powerful than, perhaps, any other sensation of connectedness. “What does this mean?” he thinks silently to himself. “Why does this feel so necessary and meaningful?” he ponders while entranced by the sapphire and foam ocean roaring in rhythm with the base of the tall cliff upon which he lays prone.

Although I experienced everything the role of the traveler  in the story above, the trip has become a story to tell. By telling the story and removing myself, I can hope to gain insight to the questions presented above. To which part of us does natural, unmovable, patient beauty appeal? How can I, as a living, transient observer show respect to a place that has held the living world for thousands of years? Most of all, what can I take away from a day like the one spent at Inis Mór.

I don’t have answers, but the insight I’ve gained in the weeks proceeding the trip has been bountiful and helpful. The path which makes itself most clear suggests an interconnectedness; a forming of a network of ideas. By seeing, tackling, and questioning the beauty and slow power of such natural and historical places, I invest in my own future. The potentiality for serendipity in my life has increased by a hugely significant, yet indescribable amount.

Until next time,

Greg Geraldo

The Bog Bodies of the Iron Age: The Clonycavan Man and the Old Croghan Man (Belen Gimenez)

8 Feb

After visiting the National Museum of Ireland, the exhibition that catches my attention the most was the one called Kingship & Sacrifice. This exhibition, part of the Archeology section, consisted of the showing of bog bodies and related findings. After encountering bunch of architectural spiral-shaped labyrinths that took me to see the found bodies very closely and to my amazement, I was curious about the stories of the mysterious bodies in the exhibition.
The Old Croghan Man and the Clonycavan Man are the two main features of this exhibition. These two bodies are the representation of the Iron Age and according archeological findings, they are around 2,300 years old.
These bodies have been preserved in bogs and they were discovered 12 years ago, in 2003. I had to look up to the meaning of the word bog in order to understand what it was and how it was possible for these bodies to end up this way. According to the information given by the international specialists who worked with the Irish Antiquities and the Conservation Department of the National Museum of Ireland, the one known as the Clonycavan Man was dropped off a peat cutting machine in Clonycavan, Co. Meath, and the one known as the Old Croghan Man was discovered in Oldcroghan, Co. Offaly during the clearing of a drainage ditch that workmen were doing through a peat bog. Another interesting comparison between the bodies is that according to the analysis done on them, they had different diets. The Clonycavan man’s diet was rich in vegetables, while the Old Croghan Man’s diet consisted on more meat.
What I also noticed from the exhibition was that some of the other go bodies were found in other countries. For example, there were findings in Denmark, as I remember. The exhibition also presented a theory about the proliferation of bog bodies that were discovered along ancient tribal boundaries and royal land; this theory links the findings of those bodies with sovereignty and kingship sacrificial rituals during the Iron Age. This means that the bodies must have probably been sacrificed to the gods of fertility in order to encourage a good harvest at the inauguration of a new reign. There is also the link of these bodies with the inauguration rituals of kings, which can be traced back to the Bronze Age.
This exhibition made me analyze the significance of different rituals that were done in the past, which involved the preservation of bodies. Seeing these bodies so well preserved considering how old they are, had a big impact in me, as I have never seen such a thing before, and especially in such a close manner. In a way, seeing the bones in some of the bodies made me realize how fragile and vulnerable our physiognomy can be, and that I am too made of the same things as these guys did. In synthesis, that weird pattern of thinking made me be grateful I am still alive, out and about.

old crogham manClonycavan-Man

The Aran Islands

8 Feb

10931288_10153001014688363_7896717870508879750_nI found the Galway trip to be a wonderful opportunity to explore Irish history and alternative Irish lifestyles. One of my favorite parts of the trip is when we got to explore and tour the Aran Islands. This was most interesting to me to ponder their way of life. On the tour I learned that their livelihood is dependent upon fishing, tourism, and farming. One of the highlights of my trip to Ireland so far was when we visited Dún Aonghasa. The sun shining through the clouds made the view incredible. I learned that ‘Dún’ is the word for fort. There are number of historical stone forts on the Aran Islands. They are thought to date back to the late Bronze age through the Iron age. Their function is not fully known. Many suspect that beyond being a habituation site, that the forts were also used for ritual purposes. Stone foundations for seven houses were discovered within the inner fort.

To my recollection, Inis Mór had a population of roughly 900 people. I found this to be an extremely interesting fact to comprehend. I imagined growing up on the island and all the positives and negatives that would accompany that. Beyond that, the tour guide mentioned that the inhabitants of the island rely strictly on the rainwater as their water source. This further helped me to conceptualize how much it must rain. Another bit of information I found intriguing was that the island only recently got electricity—which I believe was in the mid 1970’s. The lifestyle on this island is so unique to modernized standards of living elsewhere. I was very impressed at their unique way of utilizing various resources within the small population that they have.
10953184_10153001014678363_2920470625281843743_nThe Aran Islands are a native Irish speaking population. I also recently spoke with Michael Kielty at Dublin Business School, who was sent to the Aran Islands and stay with a family in order to continue his education in the Irish language. From further research, language classes are still offered and it is part of the culture on the Islands. 10941371_10153001029598363_6953732254702343527_n

The Rocky West

5 Feb

On a recent trip to the west of Ireland, I visited the island of Inishmore, the Burren, the Cliffs of Moher, and the vibrant city of Galway; each location was more beautiful than the last. I was surrounded by the beautiful gray sea, plummeting cliffs, and rocks. Rocks everywhere. Rocky terrain seemed to be a reoccurring topic throughout the entire trip. I had a very stereotypical idea of what the west of Ireland would look like—miles of lush rolling grIMG_0534een hills. I had no idea there would be so many rocks. I was told that the early settlers would make walls out of all the rocks in order to clear the ground for farming. Many of the stone walls that covered the land were built ages ago. I appreciated this little surprise but did not consider the rocks any further.

Then, while learning about early Irish history, it became clear to me. The rocky terrain of the west essentially preserved and now symbolizes authentic Irish culture. During the Plantation of Ulster in 1610, England sent in farmers and landlords to settle in the north of Ireland. Eventually, English planters were spread all around Ireland, with only a few around the west. These planters generally avoided the west due to the rocky land not being practical for farming. Fast forward four hundred years and Galway is one of the last Irish speaking counties in Ireland. Much like the rocks, the language has also survived the ages. While walking through Galway, I was pleased to hear the beautiful language spoken in casual conversations.

During the trip, I got the sense that people from the west are a bit rougher, their accents a bit harder to understand. The rocky terrain is a symbol for the west and the traditions it still upholds. Although the citizens of Galway may be a bit rough, they exude authentic Irish energy. All thanks to some rocks.

-Claire McCarthy