Field trip day, and the students travelled by bus to Dublin City Centre, where they met up with their minder for the day, Steve, and tour guide and architectural heritage specialists, Aislinn Collins.
Aislinn led the students from St Stephen’s Green (after a much needed coffee fix) to the front gates of Trinity College Dublin, founded in 1592. A brief tour of the college campus and it’s historic buildings and then out to Nassau St and up Kildare St, where in the mid 18th century the Earl of Kildare (James Fitzgerald) chose as the place to build his residence. This had been the unfashionable south side of Dublin, and his decision to build here changed the city forever. After the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, the Government secured a part of Leinster House for parliamentary use.
The tour continued up Kidare St and through St Stephen’s Green. St Stephen’s Green is Ireland’s best known Victorian public park. Re-opened by Lord Ardilaun in 1880 for the citizens of Dublin, this 9 hectare park has been maintained in the original Victorian layout. From the park Aislinn led us to Merrion Square past the rear of Leinster House, the Natural History Museum (locally called the ‘dead zoo’), and National Art Gallery, and in to Merrion Square. Merrion Square is one of the grandest and most-in tact Georgian squares in existence. On the day we visited, the square was being set up to host the Street Performance World Championships. Avoiding distraction, we stopped at the Oscar Wilde statue, a wonderful sculpture in stones from around Ireland, and great tribute to one of Dublins most famous and witty sons.
Thus ended the architectural heritage tour, and we said our goodbye’s to Aislinn, and headed through the National Art Gallery at speed through the Jack B Yeats wing, and back to Kildare St to visit the National Museum of Ireland. The students were set the task of going through the museum chronologically from the Prehistory to the Medieval period. The undoubted highlight was the bog bodies. The exhibition, called ‘Kingship and Sacrifice’, is the result of the findings of the National Museum of Ireland’s Bog Bodies Research Project, which was established in 2003 following the discovery of two Iron Age bog bodies at Oldcroghan, Co. Offaly and Clonycavan, Co. Meath. The remains were dated to between around 400 BC and 200 BC and they were in a remarkably good state of preservation. The Bog Bodies Research Project scientifically examined and documented the human remains in question using a multi-disciplinary team of international experts. Thirty five specialists, many of whom had vast experience in the field of bog body research, worked in conjunction with staff from the Irish Antiquities Division and Conservation Department of the Museum. A wide variety of analyses were carried out, including: CT and MRI scanning; palaeodietary analysis; fingerprinting; histological; and pathological analysis.
From here we stopped briefly to pick up sandwhiched to eat on the DART train to Dalkey, a beautiful heritage town to the south of the city. Here we met up with renowned archaeologist, Alex Mandal (aged 8), at the Dalkey Castle Heritage Centre. The local tour guides, dressed in Tudor costumes and in character, led us on a highly entertaining and informative (if somewhat zany) tour of the castle. The tour also saw the early potential blossoming of the first love of the 2010 season, between Rubert and a not-to-be-named student. The age difference of 400 years, plus the oceans between them could act as a barrier, but it was clear that the love was strong.
Dalkey is a Norse translation of the Irish place name Deilg Inis or thorn island. It is accepted that a Hiberno-Norse settlement developed here. There is little archaeological evidence to prove the location of the settlement other than finds of a large number of Anglo-Saxon coins featuring Eadgar who ruled from 959-975.
The Archbishop of Dublin was granted the lands of Dalkey along with Killiney and Shankill during the medieval period and established an archiepiscopal manor there. By the 13th century a considerable borough had grown up at Dalkey with burgesses holding a strip of land with associated gardens and access to grazing rights on Dalkey Common. Dalkey functioned as a port and the cargoes of large ships from Britain and mainland Europe were disembarked here and stored before transport overland to Dublin city. The town contained seven strong castles, two of the urban tower houses are still visible on Castle Street, namely Goat’s Castle, which functions as the Town Hall, and Archbold’s Castle opposite.
St Begnet’s church is located within the village at Castle Street, adjacent to and within the grounds of Goats’ Castle. The present church is late medieval in date but sections of masonry at the east end of the north wall may represent the fabric of an early medieval church. The churchyard contains an example of a small cross of Tau type (T-shaped), found in the north wall by OPW workmen in 1964.
After the tour ended it was time for the walking boots as we headed up above the town to climb Dalkey Hill, along the route of the old monorails for the carriages which brought the granite from Dalkey Quarry to the town and beyond to Dun Laoghaire for the building of the main port. At the top of the hill the students could see the wonderful vista of Dublin Bay, from Howth Head to the north, across the bay. The weather was particularly good so we could see from the Mountains of Mourne in the north to Arklow Head to the South. The vantage point at the top of the hill (on Mandal rock, on which Alex kindly let the students rest after their long climb) allowed us to view Dalkey Island below. Just off the coast of Dalkey, this small island was focus of human settlement and activity from the Mesolithic period onwards. The earliest evidence of human settlement on the island comes from middens which contained material relating to the manufacture of stone tools and the collection of coastal resources such as shellfish, fish and birds. The lower and therefore earlier layers of the middens included ‘Bann flakes’ and other Larnian material representative of the Mesolithic period while the more recent layers include arrowheads and convex scrapers more typical of the Neolithic period.
The remains of four Early Bronze Age burials have been uncovered on Dalkey Island. The use of the island as a manufacturing site for metal objects during the Bronze Age is also evident following the discovery of sherds of pottery and the remains of clay moulds and crucible fragments. Scattered postholes may represent the remains of huts or shelters used during this period. A single find of a flat copper axehead in a garden in Dalkey is the only prehistoric evidence from within the town.
Dalkey Island continued to be inhabited in the Early Christian period and is mentioned in the annals in AD 727. An early medieval church dedicated to St Begnet (as per that beside Goat’s Castle) was built there and may have functioned as a hermitage similar to those found on islands off the west coast of Ireland. During the construction of the Martello tower on the island at the beginning of the 19th century the church was altered for use as a dwelling by the addition of a fireplace and larger windows. The banks of an associated field system are located to the northwest of the church site.
From here, the students declined the opportunity to catch the 6.30pm bus home, and instead opted for the walk across to Killiney Hill to see the folly built at the behest of COl. John Mapas, then owner of the lands, in 1742. Taking in the views of the houses of the rich and famous (e.g. Enya and Bono – separate houses!), we made our way down to the car park for the specially organised Domino’s pizza delivery.
After resting weary bones, eating our fill of pizza, and for some sneaking off to play in the play-ground, we headed down the hill to Killiney beach, and from there on to Killiney DART station, where we commenced the journey back home.
What a day!