Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Last Day In Ireland

Sixteen years ago today, I spent my last day in Ireland sightseeing in the city of Dublin.
For two weeks I had been driving around Ireland seeing as many of the places I had long been dreaming of as I could.
I didn't care to be in cities then and I still don't, but there were some 'must sees' in Dublin on my list.
The Anna Livia Millennium Fountain wasn't on my list. I just happened upon it and found it fascinating.
The fountain took the place of "The Spire of Dublin" which had been commissioned for the Millennium but wasn't completed in time.
In 2001, the "Floozy in the Jacuzzi" as it was known to locals was packed away. In 2003, the Spire was erected in its place. (I prefer Anna.)

I spent most of the morning walking along O'Connell Street as well as Moore Street which is where Dublin's open air market is located.
I crossed the Liffey on the Liffey River Bridge - a car and pedestrian bridge - then crossed back over on this famous 'Ha'penny Bridge' for pedestrians only.
Built in 1816, this first iron bridge in Ireland was so named because until 1919, it cost a half-penny to cross. It's a lovely, free bridge now.

The focus of my Dublin excursion was to see places associated with the Easter Week uprising of 1916. I had to see the G.P.O., the steps from which Padraig Pearse read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. He and his followers then barricaded themselves inside the General Post Office fighting from there several days until the building was set on fire. Shortly after their escape, they surrendered to the much larger force of British troops.
Though the building was mostly destroyed, it was rebuilt several years later. Bullet pockmarks are still visible on these columns.

Before my dream come true trip to Ireland, I had spent years reading Irish history. I had Irish great-great grandparents who came to the USA during the time of the potato famine. I hated the British for the way they had treated my people. I felt very emotionally connected to Ireland's fight for independence even though the rebellions and suffering happened far away and long before my time.
I had seen the Wolfe Tones perform at the Val Air Ballroom in West Des Moines. I bought their cassette tapes. I listened to their rebel songs over and over and became even more incensed.
For me, the G.P.O. was where it began and Kilmainham Gaol was where it ended. Kilmainham would be my last stop in Dublin.
This picture is of the cell where Countess Markiewicz (Constance Gore-Booth) was held prisoner for her role in the Easter Rising. She was second-in-command at St. Stephan's Green. She was charged with treason and sentenced to die along with the other rebels - a sentence later commuted.
I don't want to say I identified with Connie Markiewicz, more like I empathized with her, being female. Though no way could I imagine what she went through confined to this small, dark, cold cell.

I almost didn't get to see the inside of Kilmain-ham. It took me awhile to figure out how to drive there. On the way I had a flat tire. I was very fortunate finding someone to repair it for me.
It was so near to closing time I was able to wander the prison on my own without having to be part of a tour.
For me, this courtyard was the most significant area of the prison. The similar wall opposite is where Padraig Pearse and the other rebels were executed.
James Connolly had been severely wounded during the siege at the G.P.O. He was too weak to walk into the execution area; too weak to stand. He was brought through the doorway on the right and tied to a chair. The small cross marks where he died before a firing squad.
"A great crowd had gathered outside of Kilmainham
With their heads all uncovered, they knelt on the ground
For inside that grim prison lay a brave Irish soldier
His life for his country about to lay down.
He went to his death like a true son of Ireland,
The firing party he bravely did face.
Then the order rang out: "Present arms, fire!"
James Connolly fell into a ready made grave.
(From James Connolly by the Wolfe Tones)

My amazing trip to Ireland was over. I flew home the next day with pictures and memories for the rest of my life. As emotional as my journey had been, I did not realize its true affects until I walked down the steps at the airport in Des Moines and saw Bud waiting for me. Not only was I glad my great-great grandparents had emigrated to Iowa, I was more than ever grateful for the love of my husband.


  1. That is an interesting song of mournful rage, a strange juxtaposition in my mind.

    The version of the James Connolly song I know has a great vitriolic line in it:

    "God`s curse on you, England, you cruel hearted monster,
    Your deeds would shame all the devils in Hell
    There are no flowers blooming but the shamrock is growing
    On the grave of James Connolly, the Irish Rebel"

    By the way, you saw the Floozy in the Jacuzzi, did you see the Tart with the Cart? I love the way Dubliners talk about their town.

  2. Ken - I missed the "Tart with the Cart". Too bad - she is a lovely lass.
    The James Connolly stanza you quote is also in the Wolfe Tones version. I just used a couple stanzas instead of the whole song.

  3. I've heard versions of the song where the verse is skipped. Just wanted to mention it.