O’CONNELL ROUND TOWER

O'Connell Tower at Glasnevin Cemetery  Photo: © Michael Fisher

O’Connell Round Tower at Glasnevin Cemetery Photo: © Michael Fisher

On a recent visit to Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, the guide Paddy Gleeson took us into the crypt with the sarcophagus of Daniel O’Connell and the remains of some of his relatives in the base of the round tower that dominates the graveyard which O’Connell himself established in 1828. We were shown the inside of the tower and saw where there used to be a staircase leading to the top. But a loyalist bomb attack in January 1971 destroyed the stairs and its windows. Now Susan Daly Editor of The Journal.ie reports resident historian Shane MacThomais as saying that plans are at an advanced stage to replace the wooden stairs and allow visitors access to a viewing platform at the top……

Entrance to O'Connell Crypt and Round Tower at Glasnevin  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Entrance to O’Connell Crypt and Round Tower at Glasnevin Photo: © Michael Fisher

Bombed staircase in O’Connell Tower at Glasnevin to be rebuilt

Planning permission secured to rebuild structure 40 years after loyalists blew up original wooden stairs which led to top windows

“VISITORS TO THE O’Connell round tower monument in Glasnevin cemetery will soon be able to climb to the top for the first time in over 40 years. The winding wooden staircase that once ran up the centre of the 168ft-high tower was bombed to pieces by loyalists in 1971.

Interior of Round Tower seen from Crypt  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Interior of Round Tower seen from Crypt Photo: © Michael Fisher

TheJournal.ie has learned that the Glasnevin Trust has secured planning permission to reconstruct a wooden stair that will provide access to the four windows at the top of the tower. These face north, south, east and west and as Glasnevin already lies 110ft above sea level, the view spans from Meath to the Dublin mountains, and up to mountain ranges in Louth. Construction is expected to begin in about two months’ time.

Shane MacThomais, resident historian at Glasnevin cemetery, told TheJournal.ie that the timbers to be used for the stairs have already been cut and are being seasoned so that they won’t contract or expand to any great degree when in situ. Enough of the estimated €500,000 building cost has been raised to begin the process and the Trust is hoping for funding from the private sector for its completion”.

Sarcophagus of Daniel O'Connell at Glasnevin Cemetery  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Sarcophagus of Daniel O’Connell at Glasnevin Cemetery Photo: © Michael Fisher

The landmark was one of three blown up by loyalists in Dublin in January 1971. Glasnevin Trust is run by the Dublin Cemeteries Committee, a not-for-profit group established by Daniel O’Connell himself in 1828, with a remit ‘to bury people of all religions and none’.

Parnell grave at Glasnevin cemetery  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Parnell grave at Glasnevin cemetery Photo: © Michael Fisher

The Glasnevin museum opened in 2010. Among the famous people buried here are Michael Collins, Éamon de Valera, Jim Larkin, Padraig Pearse, Constance Markievicz, Brendan Behan, Charles Stewart Parnell, Maud Gonne, Hannah Sheehy Skeffington and many others. For details of tours of the cemetery, you can click here.

BRENDAN BEHAN

Brendan Behan's typewriter & NUJ Card: Photo: Dublin Writers Museum

Brendan Behan’s typewriter & NUJ Card: Photo: Dublin Writers Museum

Brendan Behan’s NUJ card and Remington portable no.2 typewriter along with a first edition of ‘The Quare Fellow’ (1954) are on display at the Dublin Writers Museum in Parnell Square. His membership of the union was discussed during a tour by an NUJ group of the graves of writers and other famous people at Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin on Sunday.

Tour Guide Paddy Gleeson points out Brendan Behan's Grave  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Tour Guide Paddy Gleeson points out Brendan Behan’s Grave Photo: © Michael Fisher

I am told that Joe Jennings (later CIÉ Press Officer) was his proposer when Behan started writing a weekly column and joined The Irish Press chapel in 1954. I also know that when my father was London Editor of The Irish Press (1954-1962), the playwright had called into the Fleet Street office, probably looking for an advance of some sort.

Plaque on Behan's Grave  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Plaque on Behan’s Grave Photo: © Michael Fisher

In May 1956, The Quare Fellow’ opened at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, in a production by Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop. The play later transferred to the West End. Behan died on March 20th 1964, aged 41.

Adrian Dunbar in 'Brendan at the Chelsea'  Photo: Lyric Theatre

Adrian Dunbar in ‘Brendan at the Chelsea’ Photo: Lyric Theatre

In May 2011, a play called ‘Brendan at the Chelsea’, written by Behan’s niece, Janet Behan, was the first work to be performed in the Naughton Studio at the new Lyric Theatre in Belfast. The production tells the story of Behan’s residence at New York’s Hotel Chelsea in 1963. It was a critical success and was revived for a tour to the Acorn Theatre in New York in September, before returning to the Lyric in October. Again, it received favourable reviews.

“In Adrian Dunbar’s riveting central performance, Behan plays the stage Irishman to perfection, a song permanently on his lips, his slurring, alcohol-soaked wit delighting a succession of hangers-on with its scathing, self-deprecating observations.” (‘The Stage’)

Brendan Behan's Grave  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Brendan Behan’s Grave Photo: © Michael Fisher

Starting tonight, the play has moved to the Project Arts Centre in Behan’s native Dublin and will run for five nights until Saturday. More information can be found here.

Adrian Dunbar plays Brendan Behan in this warm and funny drama of an Irish national treasure. It is 1960s New York in the legendary bohemian bolt hole, The Chelsea Hotel. Arthur Miller is just across the hall and the symphony of 24th Street is rising up and in through the open window of Brendan Behan’s room. He is broke, hung over and way past the delivery date of his latest book, the first line of which he is yet to write. He was told to stop drinking or he’d be dead in six months – that was two years ago. Today is not going well. His mistress keeps ringing, the bills aren’t paid and a wire arrives from Dublin with the kind of news that’s guaranteed to put his blood pressure through the roof…

Adrian Dunbar (who sings a song in Irish) and Janice Behan were interviewed on the John Murray Show this morning on RTÉ Radio 1.

Brendan Behan    Source: John Murray Show website

Brendan Behan Source: John Murray Show website

UVF EXHIBITION IN DUBLIN

Armistice Day Belfast  Picture: BBC News NI

Armistice Day Belfast Picture: BBC News NI

As the centenary of the start of the First World War approaches, a couple of important developments happened today on either side of the border on Armistice Day. Representatives of victims of the troubles were at Stormont to call on politicians to agree new mechanisms to investigate past human rights violations and abuses.

A Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Belfast, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir. became the first member of his party to take part in the official ceremony at City Hall. BBC Northern Ireland report here. As I commented elsewhere (on twitter), this was in my view the ‘right call to attend Armistice Day event: your presence at a Belfast ceremony was significant, not about wearing a poppy’. He was accompanied by some of the chaplains he had appointed at the start of his mayoral term, among them Fr Des Wilson from West Belfast, and a couple of party colleagues including Councillor Tom Hartley, a local historian.

Preparing the exhibition at Glasnevin  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Preparing the exhibition at Glasnevin Photo: © Michael Fisher

Meanwhile in Dublin, an exhibition developed under the auspices of the Unionist Centenary Committee and containing the largest collection of UVF memorabilia ever seen in the Republic was opened in the visitor centre at Glasnevin cemetery. This is the burial ground for some of the best-known figures in Ireland’s history, such as Daniel O’Connell and Michael Collins, and including many republicans. The Unionist Centenary Committee was formed in 2010 as a steering group made up from stakeholders from the Unionist community to oversee the decade of centenaries between 2012-2021.

Bag used by UVF Medical & Nursing Corps  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Bag used by UVF Medical & Nursing Corps Photo: © Michael Fisher

Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan   Photo: © Michael Fisher

Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan Photo: © Michael Fisher

The Ulster Volunteer Force was formed to resist plans to make Ireland self-governing, but many members went on to fight in the British Army in the First World War. The exhibition is called Home Rule Crisis… the unionist response. It covers the period from 1912-1914 and was officially opened by the Minister for Arts and Heritage Jimmy Deenihan, who had read a lesson at the Remembrance Sunday service at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin yesterday.

Some unionist politicians also attended the Glasnevin event. A priest read prayers before people in UVF costumes laid wreaths at the war graves commission memorial to those from the Republic who died fighting for the allies in the two world wars.

The collection of artefacts from the Home Rule period includes personal items  of James Craig, uniforms, and literature from that pivotal period. Tours of the exhibition will be provided free of charge. The exhibition focuses on the unionist reaction to events during 1912-1913,  particularly the Ulster Covenant and the formation of the UVF.

UVF armbands from Cavan and Monaghan  Photo: © Michael Fisher

UVF armbands from Cavan and Monaghan Photo: © Michael Fisher

The launch included a talk by Philip Orr and a drama depicting discussions  between Carson, Craig and Crawford at the time, and music. On Saturday 16th November, Quincey Dougan and Jason Burke will provide lectures on Unionism 100 years ago. The exhibition is free and will run for two weeks until the end of November. It will be followed by an exhibition on the Irish Volunteers, the formation of which was planned at a committee meeting 100 years ago today in Dublin.

Quincey Dougan, talking about the UVF in Monaghan in June  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Quincey Dougan, talking about the UVF in Monaghan in June Photo: © Michael Fisher

Unionist Centenary Committee Chair David Hagan said:

We are excited to be bringing such a major collection of Unionist artefacts to Glasnevin Cemetery. Traditionally a site steeped in Republican and Nationalist history, it shows the progress we are making in embracing and learning more about our shared history. Over the course of the week we are also holding lectures which provide a deeper insight into Unionist thinking at the time and we will have historians on hand around the exhibition to provide further information on the collection. We have already exhibited some of the collection around Northern Ireland and have received really positive feedback, so we are looking forward to offering the people of Dublin the opportunity to learn more about Unionism in Ireland 100 years ago.”

Figure of UVF member  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Figure of UVF member Photo: © Michael Fisher

GLASNEVIN: REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY

Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin 11am   Photo: © Michael Fisher

Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin 11am Photo: © Michael Fisher

At 11am on Remembrance Sunday our group was gathering at the entrance to Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin for a tour of graves. One of the first I noticed was the memorial to Irishmen who had served as British soldiers in the Great War and the Second World War. The monument had been restored in 2011 by the Commonwealth Graves Commission. The Royal British Legion had placed a wreath there and on Monday there will be special ceremonies taking place on the 11th hour of the 11th day of November, with a number of VIPs expected to attend.

GLASNEVIN CEMETERY

Crest from Memorial at RIC Burial Plot Glasnevin Cemetery Photo: © Michael Fisher

Crest from Memorial at RIC Burial Plot Glasnevin Cemetery Photo: © Michael Fisher

From a distance the crest looks similar to many you will find at graveyards in Northern Ireland: those of Royal Ulster Constabulary members, or possibly a deceased soldier from a British Army regiment. But this photo which I took this afternoon is from Glasnevin Cemetery, the largest in Dublin.

RIC Plot Glasnevin Cemetery Photo: © Michael Fisher

RIC Plot Glasnevin Cemetery Photo: © Michael Fisher

A year ago over one hundred people attended a ceremony at the newly restored graves of a number of RIC members who died during the period from the 1880s and during the War of Independence, before partition when the force was disbanded. The latest burial appears to have been in 1953. Opposite the RIC plot is a separate memorial for members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police from May 1881 up to 1910.

DMP Plot Glasnevin Cemetery Photo: © Michael Fisher

DMP Plot Glasnevin Cemetery Photo: © Michael Fisher

The service last year attracted a bit of controversy. This year the commemoration took place at Mount Argus Church because the organisers, two retired Gardaí, had been told they did not have the required insurance cover. It’s reported that both plots are still the responsibility of the British Home Office. There are many other interesting graves there including those of Michael Collins and the founder of Sinn Féin Arthur Griffith, to name but two.

Grave of Arthur Griffith TD Photo: © Michael Fisher

Grave of Arthur Griffith TD Photo: © Michael Fisher

Grave of Michael Collins Photo: © Michael Fisher

Grave of Michael Collins Photo: © Michael Fisher