It’s our last full day in Ireland – a beautiful, non-rainy, morning and we are determined to spend it soaking up as much of old Dublin as we can.
Our first stop of the day: the Book of Kells exhibition and the Long Room of the Old Library at Trinity College. Sounds doable, since it’s not far from our hotel. We’re anxious to arrive early to beat the crowds.
So – wearing our good walking shoes, and with maps, cameras, and phones at the ready, we start off.
I head off in the wrong direction. M calls me back, explaining that the route she chose will take us through a slightly quieter, less busy area of the city – away from sidewalks teeming with Dubliners, students, clueless photog-travelers, and the noisy, torn-up city streets from the day before. Good plan.
Our pace is brisk but not overly so. M has quite long legs. I don’t. From the beginning of our Irish Adventure, she was very good to keep that in mind and did an exemplary job of slowing her pace in the hope that I could keep up.
I’m determined not to hold us back this morning; we have much to see on this, our last full day in the Land of Eire. My trusty Oly remains in the camera bag. But you know, Dublin has all these grand, old DOORS – lovely doors, built mostly in the popular, 18th century Georgian style. Yesterday afternoon, we both enjoyed taking pictures of them. So you’d probably think I’d gotten my fill. Um … no.
… And so it begins …
Less than five minutes into our walk, I spy a door. Red. A lovingly maintained house front and yard. Out comes the camera. (I’m not as fast as Annie Oakley, but I keep trying.) M stops and patiently waits, probably thinking to herself, “and so it begins.”
A few minutes later, we continue towards one of Dublin’s famous, historic parks – St. Stephen’s Green. (A wee bit of trivia: In 1887, Sir A.E. Guinness, of Guinness Beer fame, initiated an act passed by Parliament to open the 22-acre plot of land to the public. He paid for the design of the Green in 1880, which remains approximately the same today. Sir Guinness then gave it to the city. Today, Irish and travelers alike enjoy St. Stephen’s gardens, statues, ponds, and surprisingly quiet spots in the midst of metropolitan Dublin.)
A crisp and breezy early morning walk
My friend and I enjoy this lovely morning in warm sunlight, stopping occasionally to take pictures and check the map. Street and pedestrian traffic remains light at this time of the morning. M’s plans for a quiet, uncrowded walk is spot on.
We turn down the south side of St. Stephen’s Green Park and cross the Grand Canal, which runs through much of the south side of the city.
You know how things work out for the best, even when you’re not aware that there even WAS a “best” or “not best?” Well, this is one of those times. Coming to a large intersection, the map appears in M’s hand once more.
Straight, or turn right?
We choose right, taking us along the west side of the park – and find ourselves looking up at this symmetrically perfect, Georgian building, glowing in the east light. I stop because of the doors and that fine, turquoise clock above them. We appreciate the stately “elder statesman” grandeur of the place. I gawk in my American, touristy fashion, most likely annoying the locals who hurried around me, wondering of its historical significance.
… a whisper from history …
Unwittingly, we stand before an important player in Ireland’s fight for freedom – and I would be reminded of a truth that we would all do well not to forget.
While waiting for passersby to … well, pass by, before taking another photo, I have a moment to study the stately columns on the second floor. There appear to be odd marks and depressions in the surface of the columns.
My not-quite-awake-yet lizard brain stirs.
Are those bullet holes?
Wind back several months. Before our arrival in Ireland, I did some research about the country and its history.
Exactly 100 years and several months ago, a small collection of Irish men and women attempted to take on British forces to gain independence. Sadly, the Easter Uprising of 1916 was doomed almost before it began. One of the main characters on the Irish side was the Countess Constance Markievicz, a woman before her time and an uncompromising hero.
But at this moment, I know nothing of where any of that took place. I could only seethe with curiosity as I stare up at the scars marring the building’s facade.
We are standing where others a century before were fighting for their rights.
Turning aside towards Trinity College, I notice a small plaque on the building’s face. This unpretentious, yet long-lived, majestic building served as headquarters for the Countess and several members of the Citizen Army during the Uprising, receiving sprays of bullets from the British while doing so.
We continue on our way, stopping several times to admire the town surrounding us, review the map again, and yes, take more photos. I spend no more time considering the bullet holes in the elegant, wizened edifice.
Now that I’m back home …
I’ve had time to learn more of Irish history, gaining a better understanding of the The Troubles of 1916 and a bit about its heroes and non-heroes. A century following that bold and dangerous attempt, I am saddened by what transpired there for the sake of freedom, dignity, and the rights of men and women.
The Reminder that I received that day?