Britain and beyond… 2017 – Episode Three

Friday 1st  September 2017

It was with considerable regret that I bid farewell to Roger and Denise this morning. My five days with them passed just too quickly. Thank you both for making me feel so welcome and, as always, so at home.

After a hearty bacon and egg breakfast, Roger drove me to Manchester Airport to catch my Aer Lingus plane to Dublin. By a stroke of good fortune the Aer Lingus desk was open and, unlike many other Airline desks, I had it all to myself. And high time too says he.
It was then onto Border Control for the most thorough screening I’ve ever experienced. All hand baggage was opened and the contents “wanded”. All of this meant quite a wait but it was all done in a friendly and professional manner, and I heard not a single complaint from anyone.

The plane, an ATR 72-600 – see, he has been taking notes – is a 72 seat turbo-prop, one of a number used by Aer Lingus on its regional routes. It is a quite narrow-bodied aircraft with two seats on each side of the cabin. The seat, if small, was very comfortable however and the luxury of a vacant one next to me made it more so.

We took off on time and with a very smooth flight lasting only 50 minutes were in Dublin in what seemed like no time at all. I was even more pleased with how quickly both baggage collection and border control were completed. As a result I was checked into the Herbert Park Hotel, my home here for the next five nights by 2:30 pm – almost but not quite early enough for a siesta.

I stayed here in 2006 because it was within a 30 minute walk to the National Library of Ireland where I’ll again be spending some time – but also in an attractive part of Dublin adjoining a very pleasant park, unsurprisingly named Herbert Park. Weather willing I plan to re-explore that on Sunday.

Saturday 2nd September 2017

As if to celebrate my arrival in Ireland as well as set me up for my expedition to the National Library of Ireland, I indulged in a Full Irish Breakfast consisting mainly in my case of crispy bacon and black pudding. For those of you who appreciate such things, it was worth coming all this way for.
And as if to add to my now heightened spirits, the sun was shining, the air was balmy and the birds would I’m sure have been singing encouragement for my walkabout if they’d known about it.

On the way I diverted briefly at the corner of Merrion Square Park to view the sculpture of Oscar Wilde. Regrettably the photo I took does not do it justice. In my ignorance I had thought it was artificially coloured but I’ve subsequently learned that it is something of a geological wonder in that it incorporates five colourful and exotic rock types from three different continents. So now you know!!

Oscar Wilde, Merrion Square, Dublin
2 September 2017

I also took this photo of an accompanying statue of a kneeling pregnant nude.  I could find nothing to help me identify who she was while I was there but later read she was supposed to represent Oscar’s wife Constance.

An unnamed statue near that of Oscar Wilde, Merrion Square, Dublin
2 September 2017

And I could not help but take this photo of a small sign in the window of the Oriel Gallery in Clare Street promoting an exhibition of some of the works of Anthony Murphy, apparently an Irish artist of note, just in case there’s a genealogical connection there for Tony to explore.

Sign in the window of the Oriel Gallery, Clare Street, Dublin
2 September 2017,

At the National Library I obtained the ReadersTicket that I need for my visits there next week and re-oriented myself with where things are. It’s a beautiful old building that exudes its library-ness, and the staff today were as friendly and helpful as I remember them from my last visit in 2006.

Although the Library itself is open all day on Saturday, the Reading Room and the Genealogical Advisory Service Centre are only open until 12:45 pm. This being the case I headed homeward again but made a couple of detours on the way. The first was through Merrion Square Garden where I tried to capture the colours of at least one of the still brightly flowering gardens and also of a statue that attracted my attention.
Here’s one of the garden ones:

Merrion Square Park Garden, Dublin
2 September 2017

The statue was actually a bust entitled “Tribute Head” donated by the sculptor Elizabeth Frank in 1983 as a tribute to Nelson Mandela who was then still in prison. There had been considerable support for its erection in the park but an article I read later today suggested that it is now one of Dublin’s forgotten sculptures. I found it, despite the lack of TLC it has had to preserve it, a moving one.

“Tribute Head” (1975-76) – Elizabeth Frink
Donated in 1982 by Artists for Amnesty,
Merrion Square, Dublin
2 September 2017

Further along Northumberland Road was another photo opportunity – an appealing view of the Grand Canal which was made no less so including, as it did, a couple of fisherman trying their luck. I hadn’t realised what a significant structure the canal was only to find that it was and is, courtesy grandcanaldublin.com

“the southernmost of a pair of canals that connect Dublin in the east of Ireland, with the River Shannon in the west, is 131 km long and has 43 locks.”

Grand Canal, Northumberland Place, Dublin
2 September 2017

A little further down the street, I spied another piece of sculpture.  While the subject and the setting appealed, I have no idea what the intent of the inscription was.  Be that as it may, I thought it just beautiful.

“Love is the Natural in Between”, Northumberland Road, Dublin
2 September 2017

I once believed that the homeward leg of a long journey was always shorter, but I have now come to doubt that. At least for today that’s what my legs told me. I wonder, weather willing, if I’ll feel the same way tomorrow.

Foodie News; My dinner of Seafood Chowder last night was really very good. Tonight’s, Heineken-battered cod much less so, consisting it seemed to me to showcase the amount and thickness of the batter rather than the moist whiteness of the fish., which was neither particularly white nor moist.   Oh well, there’s always another day.
And to think that in an earlier life, I managed an entrée, main and dessert. Perhaps it’s all a necessary part of the ageing process.

Sunday 3rd September 2017

I awoke this morning to the sound of heavy rain. It had been forecast and I must admit to toying with the idea of staying where I was, but in a new-found sense of purpose leapt out and made myself a cup of coffee.  Not just any coffee but Nespresso – a machine for the brewing of and with which this barista is familiar just happens to be part of the room’s equipment. Some may even believe that the availability of this may have influenced my choice of hotel. How could they think such a thing?

Suitably stimulated, there was nothing for it but face another full Irish breakfast – which I did.
With no immediate sign of any let-up in the weather I retired to the lounge to keep my iPad company until the weather cleared or my room was serviced or both.
By 11:00 am the weather had cleared enough to seriously consider another expedition.

Needing to do a little shopping, including acquiring a pad, pencils, sharpener and eraser necessary for me to be considered a proper person to be let loose in the National Library, I set off again for central Dublin. It may have had something to do with still weary legs, but it seemed – and did take longer than the estimated 45 minutes to get there. This meant too that I spent only the amount of time and leg power absolutely essential to getting my shopping done before heading back.  And would you believe it this took even longer? I now have incontrovertible evidence that homeward journeys are longer than outward ones.

There was nothing for it then, on arrival home but to have a cup of tea a Bex and a good lie down – but without the Bex.

I have no admissions to make on how the later time was spent, but somehow, quite soon it was dinner time again.

And continuing to work my way through the lounge bar menu, I tonight had Baked West Coast Salmon, Chive Mash, Seasonal Vegetables and Lime Buerre Blanc.  While not up to Denise’s salmon from last Thursday, it was delicious – and went part way to making up for last night’s very ordinary offering.

Monday 4th September 2017

The morning dawned with that damp overcast look that I understand is almost quintessentially Dublinish if not Irish. But I had a big genealogical dig awaiting me so, after the required fortifying breakfast, I was off to the National Library as much full of purpose as I was of black pudding. The Library opens at 9:30 am and as is my wont I was determined to be there first. And I was.
This meant that I had immediate access to the advisory genealogist on duty, Stephen Pierce, and after politely allowing him time to get all the computers fired up, we got right into it.

Before I left home, I had prepared a documented summary of how far I’d got in my search for great great grandfather James and although reasonably confident I had found the right one I was looking to Stephen for assurance that I was not being too presumptuous.
Using the seemingly unlimited online resources that he has access to, he spent the next hour checking my data. Although, like me, he was unable to pin my James down as being a certainty, he was unable to find another candidate who matched as well.
He then proceeded to see if he could find any evidence of estates in and around Waterford where James may have been the Land Steward – something I had learnt from Stephen’s marriage certificate but had not given any importance to. His search didn’t reveal any but led him to suggest that it might be worth my while pursuing that line of enquiry at the County of Waterford archives when I’m there later in the week.

Another piece of information that he thought might help was to try and locate where the “Counsellors Road” that appears as the family’s address on the baptism records of Stephen and a number of the other children might be. He was unable to find it on any map he pulled up from the mid to late 1800s but was of the view that it may have been the local name for a specific road or one that had changed. In either case, a Waterford local might be able to help.

In all he spent close to two and a half hours helping me in just the way I had hoped. First to provide me with some assurance that I was on the right track – which he did – but also to suggest some further leads that might help me get closer to pinning James down. I really appreciate the time and trouble he took and in such a friendly and supportive way – and told him so. I will too be writing to the Chief Librarian to express my appreciation of both the Genealogy Advisory Service and Stephen’s professional help.

So, as it appears that I’ll have a short break from my treks and tramps to the library, depending on the weather I may either follow-up what leads I can online here in the comfort of the hotel – or perhaps even take a day trip somewhere.

Time and weather will tell…