Saturday, August 23, 2014

St. George's


Former St. George's Church, Hardwicke Place
Click any image for larger version

I am currently working on a talk on the cartoons of Gordon Brewster and on some aspects of his life. A major influence on the family was the death of Gordon's brother, Richard, towards the end of WWI.

I had been told there was a plaque with Richard's name on it in St. George's church in Dublin and I had seen a photo of it online.

In trying to trace the plaque I encountered Eugene O'Connor who now owns the former church which is currently seeking a commercial tenant. Eugene discovered that there was a stained glass window on which Richard is mentioned and that only made me all the more anxious to gain access to the interior.

Well, today was the day. The premises is open at the moment as part of Heritage Week and Eugene arranged for me to meet James O'Connor, the heritage architect on the project.

The place would blow you away. Not only has the exterior been saved from demolition but it has been lovingly restored and is now in magnificent shape. The interior is something else. Eugene and James have fully conserved the inner walls, including the organ, the memorial plaques and, of course, the stained glass window, along with some others.

But the way the premises is now fitted out as commercial floorspace is something else again. It is essentially a free-standing open plan structure within the building and the result is that you can still see the inside of the outer walls, including the stained glass windows. Of course the pews and the altar are gone, having given way to this office space. You can read details of the restoration here. Purely incidentally, I had already come across the altar rails in St. Iberius in Wexford town. These are the rails at which the Duke of Wellington was married, but that is another story entirely.

Anyway, I was anxious to see the full window and hoped I would be able to get a photo, which I did.


Memorial Window 1914-18

It is a magnificent resurrection window, as you can see. The border panels with the wreaths each contain the names of three parishioners who fell in WWI.


No greater love ...

The, by now, standard inscription honouring those who gave their lives is at the top, and while many might feel that, rather than giving, they had their lives taken away from them, that is not a reason to deny them the honour.


Fallen parishioners

The bottom script explains that the window honours parishioners who fell in WWI.


Richard G Brewster

This is the panel with Richard's name on it. It is in the top right hand corner of the window.


Boys Brigade Fallen

I did not succeed in finding the actual plaque I was looking for and James told me that it was not in the church when Eugene acquired it. The church in Cathal Brugha St., just down the road, inherited the parish functions and I may go in there just to see if the plaque was transferred.

Meanwhile on my way out I spotted the plaque above. The list of names is shorter and the regiments are specified. These are a subset of fallen parishioners who had also been members of the parish Boys' Brigade.


Richard G Brewster

There is Richard's name and regiment.

So, all in all, a good morning's work.

And, if you want to locate your business in a truly prestige premises, this is it.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Albert Reynolds RIP


Albert Reynolds, RIP

Albert Reynolds was my Minister from November 1988 to November 1991. He was the Minister for Finance and I worked in that Department (Ministry).

I didn't have any direct contact with him in the early days, or even during the negotiations for the establishment of the EBRD from late 1989 to mid 1990, which body of work was on my desk. The negotiations were led by Michael Somers and the then Taoiseach, Charlie Haughey, took a hands on interest in them as they had been initiated by his good friend French President Mitterand and Ireland held the EU Presidency in the first half of 1990.

Albert's first real involvement with EBRD was the signing of the Articles of Agreement in May 1990 at the Elysée Palace in Paris. He actually signed the articles twice. No, not in a gesture of extravagance which would not have been his form, but firstly as the Bank's Governor for Ireland and secondly on behalf of the EU Presidency.

His next involvement with the EBRD was at the inauguration of the Bank in London in April 1991. By then we had, of course, relinquished the EU Presidency and he was attending solely in his capacity of Governor for Ireland.

The Chairman and CEO of the Bank was President Mitterand's former adviser Jacques Attali and, as a man of high culture, he had arranged a working lunch for Governors where they would be entertained by the renowned cellist Rostropovich. As I have explained elsewhere, Attali had invited Mary Robinson, the newly elected President of Ireland, to the lunch in place of the lowlier Finance Minister and Governor for Ireland. I felt obliged to get this protocol gaff reversed and managed it by citing the likelihood of an Irish constitutional crisis if Attali persisted in his mistaken campaign to notch up as many Heads of State as possible at every function he organised. This was a working lunch for Governors and the presence of a constitutional Head of State with no executive functions related to the Bank was completely inappropriate.

I don't know if Albert appreciated Rostropovich more than Mary Robinson would have but that was not my problem.

I don't think he was in any way impressed by people's nominal status. I introduced him to Viktor Gerashchenko, then head of the Soviet Central Bank, and the lead Soviet negotiator at the talks. I thought he might like to have said hello to a Soviet dinosaur as the USSR was coming apart. He hadn't the slightest interest.

As it happened, after the first day, Albert got fed up with the whole thing and I got a call in the middle of the night to say he wanted to go straight back to Dublin. This was arranged for first thing the following morning.

Now Albert's speech was scheduled for that morning and as I was now Head of Delegation I was faced with either cancelling it or making it myself. As I had written the speech I was loath to see it vanish so I opted to give it myself. The Norwegian Minister, whose speech was scheduled for the afternoon, was also anxious to be gone. He was looking for a morning speaker to swap with and, as I was going to be around anyway, I swapped slots with the Norwegians. That gave me plenty of time to make a few amendments to the speech to insert a few, not too obvious, digs at Attali who had been getting on my wick from a good while back.

I did inform the secretariat of both the swap and change of personnel but the latter never got as far as the captioners in the video room. So the video of me went out captioned as Albert Reynolds, Governor for Ireland. It is now presumably reposing in some archive and may well confuse historians in times to come.

Finally, Albert is accused of being a "one page man" as thought he couldn't read more than a single page at a session. It was very clearly explained in this morning's excellent Today with Seán O'Rourke that this originally stemmed from Albert, the businessman, insisting on any proposal put to him not going over one page. If he liked it he would then follow it up. In a ministerial/civil service context the "one page" submission also served a purpose. It meant that the person writing it had to have a very clear idea what precisely they were proposing that the minister do and it also gave him a very focused action brief.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Grove


The Grove in Brewster's 1932 cartoon
(with thanks to the National Library of Ireland)

I have already mentioned, on this blog, that I will be doing a talk in the National Library of Ireland on the artist and cartoonist Gordon Brewster. This is now set for 1pm on 17th November 2014. In the course of preparing for the talk I am doing a more intensive analysis of his cartoons than hitherto. Yesterday I was looking at the one above. It's from 1932 and is entitled The Election Aftermath.

My interest was taken, however, not so much by the posters as by the house itself, named The Grove. Now this was 1932 and some five years later Brewster came to live in a newly built house in Sutton which he named The Grove.

It occurred to me to wonder if there was any connection between the cartoon and his new house of five years later.

Judge for yourself.


The Grove today

There are, of course, many possible rational explanations for this. Nevertheless, it felt a bit spooky standing outside The Grove today taking the photo. A bit like going back in time into one of Brewster's cartoons.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Eine Entschuldigung



I was giving out recently on my website about the appalling amount and quality of the graffiti in Berlin. I thought it was really shocking. Much worse than Dublin, I thought. And I was probably right. But I'll have to get down a bit off my high horse after a walk along City Quay yesterday.

Having left Matt Talbot, in all his pristine glory, behind me I came across one of my favourite sculptures - The Linesman. A very powerful piece by Dony McManus (1999). And what did I see before me. Mindless graffiti. I was disgusted.


And then I came to Creighton Street, where I was turning away from the river to go to Pearse Street library. More mindless shite.


And this bit looks like a whole can of paint was thrown at the window and shattered it.


I moved along the street in the direction of Windmill Lane and more of it.


And this time I took a closer look at the stuff on Windmill Lane itself. I had a sort of a recollection from passing by on previous occasions that there was some good stuff there. But on a closer look it was just more shite. Given the location I had probably been retrospectively attributing some creativity to it.


But really, it was just more of the same.


So I continued my depressing journey up Creighton Street and, eventually, the graffiti were no more.

Anyway I'm just apologising to the Berlin graffitiers. I should have given out about our own crowd first.

However, now that I have done that, I still think much of the Berlin stuff is wanton and absolutely awful.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Das Andenken


Click on any image for a larger version

It was 50 years ago this year that Silke came over from Neustadt to stay with my cousins, the Hegartys.

That family organised a remembrance get together this weekend to which Silke returned with her partner, Wilfred, and her niece, Svea.

It was a great family occasion, and I came away with a physical souvenir as well as great memories.


A rainbow loom Irish/German friendship bracelet. These were woven by Paul and Andrew Watson (first cousins twice removed, if you must know.)

To be carefully treasured and worn when I next visit Germany.

This is the home site for the bracelets and this his how you make them.

Thanks to Thérèse for conceiving the event and to Brian, Carmel and Niamh for hosting it.


Photo: Brian Kelly

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rose Festival 2014


Click on any image for a larger version

So I set off for the Rose Festival in St. Anne's Park and, as you can see, not a rose in sight. Now, I have been to the Rose Festival before and know that it is not just roses, roses all the way. It is a much wider based family outing with all sorts of entertainment for young and old. So, what's with the picture?

Well, I had a two hour window to check out the festival, but as parking would be a major hassle I decided to go on foot. And, not surprisingly I got distracted along the way. This to the point that I had barely a half an hour on the premises.

The first distraction was Dublin's two iconic ESB chimneys, which were unsuccessfully trying to hide behind a bush. While there is a lobby campaigning for their retention, and I gather the Council has now listed them, there is a vociferous lobby out there that wants them pulled down. So they are effectively an endangered species and entitled to some protection in the nature reserve in the photo above.


The next distraction was a pair of ducks making hay in the pond, or lake, or whatever Lord Ardilaun called it in his day.


And then there was this Greek folly. A mini Ozymandias close to home.


And if all that wasn't enough, what did I come across but my family tree with a profusion of roots to keep me busy up to next Christmas.


So it was with a half an hour or less to go that I finally hit the festival. My first priority was the Heritage Tent, and in this year of Brian Boru, I made for the Clontarf stand. Collette Gill was busy discussing Brian Boru's well with a client. I have dealt with the well's gate on Castle Avenue elsewhere. Collette has done trojan work during the year, and in the run up to it, bringing loads of threads together for the 1014 celebrations locally.


Just one of these projects has been the Battle of Clontarf Heritage Trail along the shoreline walkway at Clontarf (example of one of the panels above). I have reported elsewhere on the very high quality lecture series organised by the Clontarf and Raheny Historicals, and on other aspects of local commemorations, including the reconstruction of the Battle itself.


Madeleine and Brian

Next came the Raheny Heritage Society stand. The society has been working over the years researching and presenting the history of Raheny to the public and they have amassed a wonderful set of thematic displays.

The work is ongoing and their latest project is The Howth Road, exploring all sorts of aspects of the road from Fairview to Blackbanks. These include famous residents, house styles, historic sites and so on. It is the sort of project that just swallows you up if you don't call a halt at some stage. They have been reporting progress along the way in some of these displays and I hope to see a definitive book in the near future.


Before my half hour runs out, I want to come back to the Clontarf Historical Society display. It is an open question who won the Battle of Clontarf. I learned in school that Brian Boru was the decisive victor but nobody bothered to point out to me that Sitric was still King of Dublin twenty years later. Come to think of it, a lot of things were glossed over in my schooldays, like, for example, Gormlaith's romps between the sheets with at least three kings. No doubt the teaching of history has improved significantly since my day. As it happens, I'm a late comer to this sort of exciting stuff.


If the Isle of Man's 1014 exuberance is anything to go by the Vikings won by a mile. They have issued a beautiful series of stamps commemorating The Battle of Clontarf and the original artwork (on loan), along with many other aspects of the issue, were on display at the stand.


These are just two of the set of six stamps, a general battle scene and Brian with his sword and cross (yes, he had Vikings fighting on his side too and they were Christians, as were many of the opposing Vikings).


This cover for the set gives an idea of the quality of the artwork, really beautiful stuff.


And the back of the cover even has the Irish Battle of Clontarf logo on the sets at the festival, done by the IOM postal authorities. Pity An Post didn't rise to the specific occasion of the Battle's millennium celebration in this sort of style.


And what did I spot, just as my phone alarm went off to tell me to go home, but a real live version of Collette's Twitter avatar.

Enjoy.

Material from 2011 & 2013 Rose Festivals

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Friday, July 18, 2014

When buses had sex


Once upon a time, when we were all relatively poor, when you had to brave the elements to even get to the toilet, when the daily newspaper could end up in small squares on a piece of string on the wall, when we didn't have cars and traveled by shank's mare or bus, and when double decker buses didn't have rear doors, there was this bus queue outside Clery's across from the Pillar.

At the end of what was a fairly long queue was this typical Dubliner.

He was resigned to a fairly long wait, but consoled himself from time to time as the next bus came along and he moved slowly up the queue.

Each time a bus pulled up, his heart rose, but fell again when it became clear the bus was nearly full and took on only a few passengers, the conductors arm cutting off access with the familiar refrain “Bus full, another car coming along behind”.

However, he finally reached what he thought was as near the top of the queue as was needed to be taken on by the next bus.

When it came, he moved up slowly, counting the diminishing few people in front of him until it was his turn to mount the bus.

But no. The conductors arm came down in front of him with the by now annoyingly familiar refrain: “Bus full, another car coming along behind”.

After his long wait and rising hopes, this was just too much.

“Tell me” says he to the conductor “this next bus, will it be a male or a female bus?"

The conductor, when he got over his puzzlement was not amused.

“Step back now, there'll be another car along in a minute”

“Yes, but tell me, will it be a male or a female bus?”

This goes on for a few more rounds and finally the conductor asks, in exasperation: “What do you mean by that? All the buses are the same.”

“Well” said our friend “I mean will it have a great big bollix like you at the end of it”.

It has not been recorded what happened next, and now the driver operates the air powered doors and the question is moot.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tá sé fear


Joe McHugh TD

Is this the nail in the coffin of the Irish language, or just a statement of the obvious, or both?

The Government has now appointed a junior minister, Joe McHugh, with responsibility for the Irish language, whose Irish is not up to scratch.

The Taoiseach tells us that Joe's first priority is a "refresher" course in Irish but it is not clear how much will be refreshment and how much new learning. He must, at least, have school Irish, which is a sort of a block to build on. But one would have expected him to be beyond the refreshment stage by now as he was already Fine Gael Seanad Spokesperson on Gaeltacht Affairs between 2002 and 2007.

He lives in Carrigart, which is described in Wikipedia as a Gaeltacht village, and it does seem to be part of the official Gaeltacht, though Scoil Eoin Baiste is described as "ar imeall na Gaeltachta". In any event a significant proportion of the area represented by Joe McHugh is Gaeltacht.

As the Taoiseach seemed unprepared for the onslaught that has now hit him, is it possible he was not aware of the Deputy's lack of fluent Irish, given that he was appointing him principally for geographical reasons (to counter Sinn Féin in Donegal)?

In any event it does not say much for the Government's, and in particular Fine Gael's, respect for, or interest in, the Irish language.

Needless to say, the opposition are in a steam and Éamon Ó Cuív was reported to be apoplectic. No shortage of baying hounds there.

Raidió na Life reported that the Government refused to supply a participant for their programme today, Beo@2, which covered the street protest and had contributions from Conradh na Gaeilge, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin. The programme's being in Irish can't have helped and the Government could hardly have expected Dinny McGinley,who had just lost the job, to do the needful.

And Fianna Fáil needn't crow either. I remember when a crew from BBC Alba (TV) were in town doing a programme in Irish on the banking collapse, the best Fianna Fáil, then in Government, could do on the day was field Martin Mansergh who did his section in English.

You get an increasing smell of tokenism these days in almost everything to do with the Irish language. For example, Newstalk puts out little shorts in Irish where the reader (very obviously reading) seems to think the quality of Irish is gauged by the frequency of séimhiús and the amount of spittle going into them. His grammar (what's that?) is also atrocious.

The old argument for holding onto, or reviving Irish, was that it gave you access to much of your background which would otherwise be inaccessible and it represented a different way of looking at things.

The current pidgin Irish that I hear around me does nothing for anybody. It degrades any true Irish that might remain and is nothing more than a bad transliteration of the speaker's native English.

Go bhfóire Dia orainn.


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Monday, July 14, 2014

WHODUNNIT?


Alan Dukes

I am still absolutely staggered at the incompetence of the guy who set the charges at the abortive attempt to blow The Pillar on 1 March 1966. How anyone who didn't understand the 12 hour clock, as alarm clocks were in those days, how they were let near explosives just beggars belief.

However, every cloud has a silver lining, and Liam Sutcliffe's story reminded me of the manuscript of a whodunnit submitted to the editor of the Shanganagh Valley News, some seven years earlier in February 1959.

If the author, who was then about fourteen years of age, understood the 12 hour clock and expected his readers to, then there is clearly no excuse for a supposed explosives expert.

The editor of the Shanganagh Valley News in February 1959 was me and the contributor was Alan Dukes.

Enjoy the story.


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Friday, July 11, 2014

Pillar - a very close call


Liam Sutcliffe
Click image for a larger version

I have long had an interest in The Pillar, not least because I observed and photographed its dismantling after Nelson was blown off it in 1966. However, I never really took very much notice of who was supposed to have blown it up. The all encompassing term "The IRA" served the purpose very well.

It was only in very recent times, with the publication of Donal Fallon's new book, The Pillar, that I realised the IRA had condemned the explosion on the grounds that this sort of thing distracted attention from their main mission which was to change the system itself and not just its cosmetic aspects.

The only person so far to have come forward, in 2000, and claim/admit to having been involved is Liam Sutcliffe. He was at the launch of Donal's book the other evening and I went Googling for a caption to a photo I was blogging when I came across an hour long interview with him on Youtube, some ten minutes of which were devoted to the Pillar operation.

Believe you me, it was scary, really scary.

According to his account he took his three and a half year old child up the Pillar with him when he was helping out the man setting the explosives. As if that wasn't enough, the man setting the explosives was clearly an incompetent idiot who could easily have blown them all to kingdom come.

In the first place, the explosive device was a complete mess - miswired and with an unreliable type of battery. In the second place, the timing device (an alarm clock - very popular in those days) had been set to go off at four in the morning, except it was now around half two in the afternoon and this was a twelve hour clock.

When the trio came down from the Pillar, Liam and his son went to see "the funnies" in a picture house in Grafton St. The other man went back to report success in laying the charge to Joe Christle, the nominal boss of the operation. When Christle pointed out that the bomb would not go off at four in the morning, when presumably there would be nobody around, but at four in the afternoon, in about an hour's time when town would be packed, the man who laid the charge wanted to call the Special Branch to get in the army to dismantle it. Christle would hear none of it and decreed that it be left to go off as set.

As Liam later said, when he learned of this, "there would have been mayhem".

Fortunately, the bomb did not go off and it would be another week before the real explosion blew at half one in the morning. In the course of that week Liam had redesigned the package and it didn't let them down second time round.

Really scary.

Have a listen.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Pillar launch 2




Donal Fallon
Click any picture for a larger version

It felt very odd to be at one of these things, with my camera along, but not taking photos. I have done a substantive post on the occasion and am grateful to New Island Books, publishers of The Pillar, for these photos. You can see more on their facebook page. The photo above is of Donal speaking to the book and in the course of which he paid tribute to Shane.




Pól Ó Duibhir

This is me at my formal best. New Island says that I launched The Pillar "with a hilarious speech replete with anecdotes." So someone out there was listening.


Manus O'Riordan

Manus clearly can't get enough of it. No wonder the books are leaping off the shelves and a second edition may be needed soon.


Donal Fallon and Tom Stokes

I don't know how many books Donal signed. Must have run into the millions. I had a long chat with Tom myself outside The Duke afterwards.


Liam Sutcliffe and Las Fallon

Liam is still the only man to have publicly admitted involvement in blowing up Nelson and Las is Donal's father and a great supporter.



Donal Fallon and partner Aoife

Donal and Aoife had a well deserved evening basking in the limelight.


Ciarán, Donal and Sam

The team behind the iconic Dublin blog Come Here to Me!


Pól Ó Duibhir and Eoin Purcell

Myself and the publisher just about to start discussions on my own forthcoming book.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Pillar launch


Photo: Lisa-Marie Griffith
Click photo for a larger version

There I was, thinking I looked very impressive in my collar and tie.

Then, today, I saw Lisa-Marie's photo taken from the viewpoint of the audience and I realised that I looked more like a wonky version of the second coming.

The occasion was the formal launch of Donal Fallon's book on The Pillar on which I have already posted.

Donal had originally invited me to come along and say a few words, "just the two of us". Then a few days before the launch I got the formal invite, in which I was listed as the Guest Speaker and described as a Photographer. Very flattering but a bit scary.

Anyway I turned up, in collar and tie in keeping with my newly found self importance, and delivered my bit which I think people found interesting. At least that's what they said afterwards. Which was fine.

Then people came up to me asking me to sign their copy of the book, which, thankfully had already been signed by Donal, and in some cases, also by Liam Sutcliffe, who is credited in the book with having taken part in the dispatch of Nelson from his perch. Never signed a book before unless I was giving it to someone as a present. Weird feeling. But at least it's not like people screaming for your autograph. That could quickly lead to you losing the run of yourself.

I was reflecting on why people would have anyone other than the author sign their book when I recollected my own behaviour at the launch of Tim Carey's book, Hanged for Murder, where I not only got Tim to sign my copy, but persuaded Marie Cassidy, the State Pathologist, to sign as well.

And on this occasion I also got Liam's signature on my own copy of The Pillar.

It was an appropriate occasion to pay tribute to Shane Mac Thomáis to whom the book is dedicated and who, but for his tragic death earlier in the year, would have been launching the book in my place. Donal quoted the final verse from Donagh MacDonagh's poem Dublin Made Me:
I disclaim all fertile meadows, all tilled land
The evil that grows from it and the good,
But the Dublin of old statutes, this arrogant city
Stirs proudly and secretly in my blood.

While I had a few of my own plants in the audience (thank you lads and lady) I detected a sort of general air of "who is this guy" which made me feel a bit like Rip Van Winkle waking up out of a 1966 sleep."

But it was a great night. I met some old, and lots of new, people, and was even treated to a dissertation on aliens in The Duke afterwards. Saying that I knew a lady from Roswell, however, did not seem to impress my interlocuter who was more interested in persuading me of the planned role of The Spire in the next round of alien contacts.

I had done up a background web page for the launch, which I forgot to mention on the night, and which you can see here. Its main purpose is to bring together some few links relating to the book and beyond.

You can also see some photos from the New Island collection here and my "Guest Speech" here. As far as the latter is concerned, younger readers may need a little light cast on Des Fennell.



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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Where is it ? No. 33


Click image for a larger version

To see all the quiz items click on the "Where?" tag below.

To see all the unsolved quiz items click on the "unsolved" tag below.

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

What Nelson Saw


Click any image for a larger version

Five views from the top of Nelson's Pillar will give you some idea what Nelson saw at the dawning of every day. While the camera was not of great quality the fact that they cannot be retaken may make them worth a look.

The first one above looks towards the Liffey as it flows past the relatively newly constructed Liberty Hall, the Custom House and the Gasometer. To the left you can see Michael Scott's Busáras.

I don't want to dwell too long on the first photo at the expense of the others, but. I gather there was fierce opposition to the construction of Busáras on the grounds that it would dominate the Custom House (front of, presumably). Nelson must have died laughing, from his vantage point, when he saw Dublin's first skyscraper rising on the west side of the custom house. Clearly a no contest in his eye.


The second one looks across at the Pro-Cathedral and the Department of Education. For me, it emphasises the backstreet location of the cathedral, compared, for example, to Christ Church or St. Patrick's.


The third shows the buildings on the north-east side of O'Connell St. with the landmark spire of St. George's church and the back of the houses in Cathal Brugha St. Note the shadow of the Pillar itself which we might have used as a sundial instead of the Millennium Chime in the Slime had Admiral Nelson not taken his leave of us by then.


The fourth one looks straight up the middle of the street, clearly showing the public toilets and mid-street parking as well as bringing in Findlater's church and the Rotunda tower.


The final shot moves a bit westwards, retaining Findlater's but showing the full of Parnell Square, including the imposing frontage of the historic Georgian buildings where the Rising was planned and which subsequently housed Coláiste Mhuire where I went to school. You can see Phibsborough church and also the spire of the Black Church where legend had it that if you ran round it three times and then went in you'd meet Old Nick himself.

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