YOU CAN LEARN A LOT IN AN IRISH CEMETERY
Friday, September 6th in Dublin
Like every other day in Dublin, today was cool. I’d never have thought we’d end up where we did, but it turned out to be one of the most interesting parts of our time in Dublin.
To start we headed down O’Connell St. for breakfast and made our way to O’Shea’s. It’s a hotel and pub in the true Irish tradition.
Since I’d arrived I’d been eating the Full Irish Breakfast every morning. I said yes the first time it was offered to me and loved it, so I pretty much stuck with it the entire time in Ireland. Give or take an item or two a Full Irish is one sunny side up egg, one or two banger sausages, one or two rashers (Irish back bacon), grilled tomatoes and mushrooms and black and white pudding – I’ll come back to that. Depending on where you are you’ll see few things added like brown bread or toast and a thing or two borrowed from the English breakfast like baked beans. You may also luck out and get potato farls, which are like potato cakes and bread merged into one yummy side dish. When we got to Northern Ireland I got to have the Ulster Fry, which is basically all of the above… clearly they know what they’re doing in Northern Ireland! Back to the “pudding”… being an American and seeing black and white pudding on the menu with the Full Irish I thought “chocolate and vanilla pudding with breakfast????” – Nope. LOL. What came were these little sausage patty looking things that are made from pork, spices, grains and one extra special ingredient to make the black pudding black. So this being my 4th Irish breakfast I finally asked the waitress “what’s in black pudding?”… she obviously knew exactly why I was asking because all she said was “pig’s blood” and went on about her way. Yup, the magical ingredient in black pudding is pig’s blood… and dipped in the soft yolk it is A – MAZE – ING! It took about 2 seconds for the surprise to drop away and I was sold on blood sausage – which as I learned, is very common all over Europe. If you’re in Ireland, eat your black pudding… it’s delicious and nutritious and dipped in an egg yolk it’s so good!
I realize at this point I have written almost 350 words on Irish breakfasts and black pudding… if you think that seems excessive or insane, to you I say shut up and eat your black pudding!
Robert loves plants and gardening and we’d heard the Botanical Gardens in Dublin is not to be missed… so after an amazing O’Shea’s Full Irish, off we went.
I’m not a big plant person but the National Botanical Gardens was cool. The grounds were very beautiful and well kept, so even for someone like me, it was enjoyable. Even more so was the art. Ireland is a very artistic country and culture. Art is everywhere, especially in Dublin, and I mean every kind of art. Theater, music, dance, gallery, street art and performance, indie art, spoken word… it’s literally everywhere and plastered all over the walls in the streets, it’s really cool. So when we got into the gardens, there was no shortage of cool art to compliment the beautiful grounds and plant life.
While we were there we met 2 grounds keepers who were the Irish equivalent of Bert & Ernie to me, but they looked more like the old guys in The Muppet Show that sat up in the balcony and bitched the entire time… just with coveralls and a friendly disposition, LOL. I’m kicking myself for not getting a picture with them or of them, but they showed us true Irish hospitality. I chatted them up on politics, which they were happy to share their views on, then we asked them what we should do next. They both enthusiastically pointed us to Glasnevin Cemetery. It’s a massive cemetery in Dublin full of history with tours and a museum. Now when I said I’d have never guessed where the day’s sightseeing would end, this is what I meant. If you’d told me to go to a cemetery and pay for a tour I’d have thought you were a little off, as did Robert – and was reluctant to do the tour all the way up till the start. The gents told us it was a long walk out of the Gardens and around to the entrance of Glasnevin and offered to give us a ride on their golf cart and let us out the back of the Gardens to save us time. They invited us to join them for tea on their break in a few hours after we’d toured Glasnevin, that’s the hospitality of the Irish… and it was the norm throughout the island.
So we headed into Glasnevin and went into the visitor’s center. The tour was a little more than we expected price wise, but the kid inside really sold it, so against Robert’s desire to spend the money, I went for it. We had a bit of time to kill which we spent in the visitor’s center museum looking at the history of the place, which was also lesson in Irish history… which is also what the tour turned out to be. The tour itself was quite amazing… our guide, a young lady who seemed fresh out of college, was very versed in the topics. We moved from area to area and learned who was buried there, when and why… major parts of Irish history and the history of Dublin were outlined in tour. We learned of great periods of disease, famine and death… times of great social change… important figures in Irish history like Parnell and O’Connell… major events in the history of Dublin. The tour finished with arguably the 2 most important figures in modern Irish history – Eamon De Valera and Michael Collins. As the tour ends you come to the Republican area where many of the major figures of the 1916 Easter Rising, the War of Independence, the Irish Civil War and the foundation of the modern Irish state are buried. The rivalry between the factions is discussed in depth and the tour ends with the graves of Dev and Collins, to allies and friend who end up on opposite sides of the Civil War. Collins tragically died in that war leaving Dev to tower over Irish life for decades to come. Eamon De Valera had a massive effect on modern Ireland and many, like myself, wonder how different it would have been had Collins not been lost at such a young age. Rather than going into my opinions about Eamon De Valera and his hold and influence on modern Ireland, I’ll just leave it at that.
A final and very moving part of the tour ended with an actor in the uniform of an Irish Volunteer delivering the famous graveside speech of Pádraig Mac Piarais (Patrick Pearse) at O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral.
“ …we pledge to Ireland our love, and we pledge to English rule in Ireland our hate. This is a place of peace, sacred to the dead, where men should speak with all charity and with all restraint; but I hold it a Christian thing, as O’Donovan Rossa held it, to hate evil, to hate untruth, to hate oppression, and, hating them, to strive to overthrow them. Our foes are strong and wise and wary; but, strong and wise and wary as they are, they cannot undo the miracles of God who ripens in the hearts of young men the seeds sown by the young men of a former generation. And the seeds sown by the young men of ’65 and ’67 are coming to their miraculous ripening to-day. Rulers and Defenders of Realms had need to be wary if they would guard against such processes. Life springs from death; and from the graves of patriot men and women spring living nations. The Defenders of this Realm have worked well in secret and in the open. They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools! — they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace!”
Just reading that stirs my soul, hearing it in Glasnevin was a truly unforgettable experience… “while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace!”
Check out the film One Million Dubliners to learn more about Glasnevin Cemetery, it’s history and significance… but be warned, like so many Irish stories, it’s beautiful and tragic.
After that moving and amazing experience we headed back to the back entrance of the Gardens… and sure enough there were Bert and Ernie having their tea. We went over and sat with them, chatted a bit more and thanked them for their hospitality and kindness. Now I really wish I’d gotten a pic with them.
The Gardens and Glasnevin turned out to be a very full day and we had to head back as tonight was the National Symphony Orchestra’s season Taster Concert at the National Concert Hall… a concert I was very much looking forward to, but would ultimately sleep through the majority of despite my best efforts to stay awake and enjoy. The Hall itself was beautiful inside and out, so at least I have that to remember.
Up next – DAY 5 – HEADING SOUTH OF DUBLIN