Archive for Mount Street Bridge

Culture Night (and Afternoon)

Posted in Art, Biographical, History, Maynooth, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2019 by telescoper

I thought I’d do a quick round-up of my little trip around cultural and historic Dublin yesterday after being stood down from duty at the Higher Options fair at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS). I have to say it was wonderful to see so many people out and about in the City’s beautiful parks and public spaces enjoying the September sunshine as I walked around.

The RDS is in the Ballsbridge area in of Dublin, to the East of the City. My route into town from there took me along Northumberland Road, where I took this picture outside Number 25:

A little further along I went across Mount Street Bridge, passing this memorial.

If you want to know more about the significance of these memorials to the events of the Easter Rising in 1916, see my post here.

My main intention during my afternoon off was to visit the National Gallery of Ireland which is situated on one side of Merrion Square. I have to say that this was even better than I’d expected, and I’m sure to visit again many times in the future. The ground floor is dominated by the work of Irish artists from about 1660 to 1965, together with European Art from 1835 to 1965. You will find works by Monet and Picasso in this section, which has much to savour. Among the Irish artists represented in this show is Jack B. Yeats (brother of poet W.B. Yeats), an extremely interesting artist in his own right.

The highlights for me, however, were found on the 3rd floor which displays examples of European Art from the early Renaissance (c. 1300) to the Enlightenment. One of the interesting things about this collection is that it is arranged thematically rather than by artist (or nationality thereof). There is, for example, an entire room of paintings inspired and influenced by Caravaggio, all of them with an intensely dramatic use of light and shadow. The gallery is worth it just for that room, but there are also fascinating juxtapositions of religious paintings from the renaissance with icons and altarpieces from the Byzantine and Russian orthodox traditions from the same period.

Elsewhere in the collection there are notable works by Vermeer, Rembrandt and Perugino as well as a number of British works by, for example, Gainsborough and Reynolds.

The work that really stopped me in my tracks, however, was this:

This is St Francis Receiving The Stigmata by El Greco. I knew about this painting but had no idea it was in Dublin. Seeing it close up is a revelation: the swirling brushstrokes give it an extraordinary texture that makes it hard to bring the image completely into focus. The hypnotic feel that results is a brilliant depiction of a man undergoing a kind of ecstatic vision. This work has an unbelievably powerful effect on the viewer (or at least on this one).

After a break for a sit down and a cup of coffee I visited the Natural History Museum (which is practically next door to the National Gallery). This is a surprisingly old-fashioned affair, with hundreds of stuffed animals and birds crammed into two large rooms:

It reminded me a lot of visits to the Hancock Museum in Newcastle when I was a kid. It’s interesting, but more than a little creepy and would make an excellent setting for a horror story!

After adjourning to a pub for a pint of Guinness the final stop of the day was the National Concert Hall for yesterday’s Culture Night concert. On the way there I saw a big queue of people trying to get into one of the many free events around Dublin. It turns out this Culture Night was the grand opening of the Museum of Literature Ireland, which is situated in Newman House on the South Side of St Stephen’s Green. There’s another one to put on my list of places to visit.

The Culture Night concert was by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin. The opening piece, Kinah, was a composition by the conductor himself and is a sort of memorial to his parents, both of whom were classical musicians, one a violinist and the other a cellist, and together they formed half of the famous Hollywood String Quartet. It was a new piece for me, and I found it very moving indeed. After that there was a bit of reorganization on stage to make way for the Steinway on which the brilliant Xiayin Wang played the Piano Concerto by Samuel Barber, which consists of two fast and furious movements either side of a beautifully lyrical slower movement. This must be a ferociously difficult piece to play – especially the last movement which is at a breakneck pace in 5/8 time – requiring not only dexterity but physical strength. It was a wonderful performance by Xiayin Wang, who rounded off the first half with an encore in the form of a transcription of George Gershwin’s song The Man I Love.

After the wine break interval came the main course in the form of the Symphony No. 4 in E Minor by Johannes Brahms. This is of course a much more familiar work than the previous two, but I really like concerts that mix unfamiliar material with the standard concert repertoire. It also gave me the chance to persevere with Brahms as my friends keep telling me to. It’s not that I don’t like Brahms, it’s just that I don’t find that he moves me as much as many other composers and so many people rave about him that I think I must be missing something. The 4th Symphony is a very fine work, and was performed beautifully last night under the direction of Leonard Slatkin (conducting, incidentally, without a score), but I couldn’t stop myself thinking how much like Beethoven it sounds. That’s not meant to be derogatory, by the way.

But you don’t need to take my word for it. You can listen to (and watch) the whole concert here:

Anyway, after the applause had died down I headed out towards Pearse Station for the train back to Maynooth. I was a bit tired after a very full day and wanted to get the 10.08 train so I didn’t stop to watch any of the numerous musical and artistic events I passed on the way, including an intriguing installation involving images projected onto one of the buildings to the side of St Stephen’s Green. I made it to the station with 5 minutes to spare and discovered that, because it was Culture Night, the train home was free!

The Bloody History of Mount Street Bridge

Posted in History with tags , , , on April 27, 2019 by telescoper

Easter was quite late this year, as it was in 1916, the year of the Easter Rising: Easter Monday fell on 22nd April 2019, and on 24th April 1916 – the day that the uprising started. People who were brought up in Ireland would have learnt much events of 1916 at School, and through the annual commemorations, but we weren’t taught anything about the Easter Rising in Britain, so I’ve just picked up bits and pieces here and there from reading about it. This week one of the articles that particularly struck me was about the Battle of Mount Street Bridge so I thought I’d write a little bit about it here.

To begin with, here is an old map I came across a while ago that shows the extent of the area of Dublin seized by the rebels in 1916:

You can click on the map to make it clearer. The area of interest here is towards the right of the map, inside the blue perimeter marked ‘3rd Battalion’. The road marked in red leading North West to the Mount Street Bridge past the Beggars Bush Barracks (also marked in red) is Northumberland Road. It changes name to Mount Street on the other (NW) side of the bridge. Northumberland Road forms a junction with Haddingdon Road near the Barracks.

Most of the city’s street layout has survived intact so it is possible to walk around and visit many of the locations on this map, many of which still bear the scars of the Easter Rising. It’s quite a strange feeling doing that, as it brings the violence of the past rather too close for comfort. I think Mount Street Bridge is a good illustration. I walked through the area last year without knowing that it had such a bloody history, but now I don’t think I’ll ever be able to visit it again without getting the shivers. Still, at least it makes one feel grateful to be living in a time of peace though some people don’t seem to think that’s very important these days.

Anyway, the large area surrounded by the blue line to the right of the map was occupied on the 24th April 1916 by the 3rd Battalion of the Irish Volunteers under the command of one Éamon de Valera. De Valera commanded a relatively small contingent of fewer than 150 rebels, with a headquarters in Boland’s Bakery.

At 11am on 24th April 1916, acting under de Valera’s instructions, Lieutenant Michael Malone led 16 Volunteers from the 3rd battalion towards Mount Street Bridge, a key crossing point over the Grand Canal for a road that leads directly into the heart of Dublin. Their task was to stop British reinforcements entering Dublin from the South East. They set up several strong points either side of the bridge, marked on the map by the sold blue circles.

Meanwhile, British High Command in England received an urgent request from Ireland for reinforcements needed to put down the uprising. On the evening of 24th April 1916, the 59th North Midland Division received orders from Brigade HQ to ‘stand to’ for an immediate move. The division consisted of three brigades; 176th (2/5th, 2/6th South Staffordshire regiment, 2/5th, 2/6th North Staffordshire regiment); 177th (2/4th, 2/5th Lincolnshire regiment, 2/4th, 2/5th Leicestershire regiment) and the 178th infantry division (2/5th, 2/6th, 2/7th and 2/8th battalions of the Sherwood Forester regiment). The men were apparently enthusiastic at the thought of active service overseas and believed they were on their way to France or Flanders. In fact the Division began immediate embarkation for Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire), Ireland.

Lieutenant Malone was still fortifying his post in a house at 25 Northumberland Road on 24th April when his attention was drawn to the sound of soldiers advancing towards his position. Assuming this was the anticipated British counter-attack, Lieutenant Malone, together with James Grace and three others, opened fire on the troops as they reached the junction of Northumberland Road and Haddington Road. The British soldiers were caught completely by surprise. They were not, as it turned out, attempting to assault the rebel positions; they were just returning to their barracks after weekend manoeuvres. Many men fell where they were hit, others ran for cover. They were all unable to return fire, as their rifles were unloaded. After the gunfire had ceased, the street was littered with the dead and dying. Local civilians – the vast majority of whom wanted nothing to do with the uprising – ran from their houses to help the wounded British soldiers.

It was not until early on Wednesday morning (April 26th 1916) that the newly arrived troops from England had disembarked and assembled on the quayside in Kingstown. They were mostly raw recruits who had only just completed six weeks of basic training, and many of them had never even fired a rifle. Orders were received that two battalions were to make their way towards the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. Two more were to make their way to Trinity College. The other battalions were to remain in reserve. Carrying their full military kit, the Sherwood Foresters began to march towards the city centre.

On Tuesday 25th April, Malone had sent away three of his companions as they were `only boys’, leaving just himself and James Grace to defend the position on Northumberland Road. On 26th April, as the British troops reached the junction of Northumberland Road and Haddington Road, these two opened fire into the ranks of the oncoming Sherwood Foresters. The first hail of bullets claimed the lives of ten men.

Following instructions they would have been given in basic training, the British soldiers dropped to the ground in response to the gunfire. That would have been a good tactic to have employed when coming under fire in open countryside – such as they might have experienced in Flanders – as they would have had a chance of crawling for cover in a trench or ditch or hedgerow. In this situation, however, it was just about the worst thing they could have done. They lay prone in the middle of the road and were easily picked off by Malone and Grace, firing down on them from the windows of a house on Northumberland Road. To be fair to the British officers in command, urban warfare was a new thing in 1916 – the horrors of, e.g., Stalingrad were still to come – so they didn’t really know what to do.

The British troops regrouped and tried to charge the position where the gunfire was coming from, but were repulsed, suffering heavy casualties. Even more casualties were sustained when they tried to encircle the building. Finally, using grenades, they managed to blow in the front door of 25 Northumberland Road at the same time as others gained entry to the rear of the house via Percy Lane.

A barricade constructed of household furniture blocked those soldiers attempting to gain entry through the front door. As Malone descended the stairs towards the hall, he was confronted by the British soldiers who entered through the back door and was shot dead. In order to clear the house the military threw grenades into the basement but Grace, who was hiding there, had taken cover behind a metal oven and avoided serious injury. He stayed put, and wasn’t found until after the battle. He was arrested by the British authorities, but released at Christmas 1916.

Altogether the fighting at Mount Street resulted in almost two-thirds of the total British casualties during the Easter Rising. A total of four officers and 216 other ranks were killed or wounded during this bloody episode.

This short video gives some more details: