History Where You Least Expect it

2 Mar

Walking the streets of Dublin, one is bound to meet history firsthand, whether it be by strolling down the famed O’Connell Street, or even just exploring some areas of the city one has not visited before− there are statues and plaques everywhere in this great city commemorating both Ireland’s recent and distant past. It is quite unlike anything that I have seen in the states, especially growing up in Southern California which does not have too much of a history and where the only real historical monuments that you will come across are some of the Spanish missions scattered about the area. California is so much different from Dublin in the fact that if you want to go out and find history, you have to really go out of your way to do so. Here in Dublin, sometimes history finds you.

One rare sunny Dublin afternoon I decided to take a stroll along a street that I had never walked down before in a quiet neighborhood just on the other side of the Grand Canal from Griffith College. It at first seemed like any other street in the area, nothing in particular that seemed to jump out, just a few small restaurants and odd tailor shops, but when I really looked around I was amazed by the historical connections that I would find. When I actually stopped to look around I found a small plaque fastened to a wall outside an old building and I stopped to see what it said, and I am glad that I did. There in front of me, the plaque said, was the house that Robert Emmet was arrested in in 1803 after fleeing from authorities post-rebellion. I do not really know why but I stood there for a second in awe. It seemed so strange to me that such a modest-looking old building could have such historical significance. This, mind you, was just several days after talking about Robert Emmet’s rebellion and his famous and great oratory work, the Speech on the Dock, in class. There I was able to conjure up images of Ireland of old and of this fierce yet well-spoken nationalist. History was right at my fingertips yet I could have just as easily not noticed the plaque and walked right past it.

The plaque that caught my attention

The plaque of Robert Emmet that caught my attention

Walking further down the same street, which I found to be called Harold’s Cross road,  I saw a cross with an inscription dedicating it to the men who lost their lives in the 1916 Easter Rising on O’Connell street. It was so simple and so beautiful and I felt as though I could actually connect with it in some way. I thought of my walk down O’Connell every time I go to my internship how I have been in the GPO now several times to send letters back home. It just feels so normal and so right for Ireland to have these small plaques, these statues, things to commemorate the past, even if some of the events are things that some people would rather forget or not mention. I think that history is such an important part of culture and developing both a sense of place and a sense of community and I have really come to admire Dublin for keeping history alive.

So, next  time you are walking down the street, make sure you take the time to look around because sometimes you find history where you least expect it.

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