Sidelines

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, General, Issue 5 (Sept/Oct 2011), News, Volume 19

The recent death of Otto von Habsburg marked the end of an epoch in European history. The eldest son of the last reigning Austrian emperor, his death brings to an end a line stretching back to Charlemagne, the original Holy Roman Emperor. He was born in 1912 and became head of the imperial family on his father’s death in 1922. To the disappointment of some, Otto was a committed democrat who opposed the Nazi takeover of Austria and as an MEP championed the cause of European unity. He was buried in a traditional funeral in the family vaults. Requiescat in pace.

Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, recently unveiled the National Print Museum’s revamped permanent exhibition at Beggars Bush Barracks with a new display of equipment and artefacts from the centuries-old printing heritage. Items include a replica Gutenberg press (on loan from The Tudors TV series) and an original 1916 Proclamation, along with a machine similar to the one on which it was printed. The museum offers the chance to step back in time to discover traditional printing and appreciate the importance of the printed word through the ages. It provides guided tours, demonstration days, workshops, lectures and temporary exhibitions.

Success has a sweet taste for the Morelli brothers. Joseph, Dominic and Peter came to Ireland from Italy just over a hundred years ago and set up cafés in Belfast, Derry and Portrush. Yet it was not fish and chips but ice-cream that made Peter’s fortune, and his business in Portrush survived two world wars (including a spell of internment) to become an institution in the County Antrim seaside town. The Flowerfield Arts Centre, Portstewart, is staging a photographic exhibition to celebrate the Morelli brothers and their ice-cream, tracing the family history and the story of the café through the decades.

The Irish Georgian Society has recently announced plans to work with Dublin City Council to restore the City Assembly House, originally an eighteenth-century art gallery and academy on South William Street. One of the leading cultural institutions of Georgian Ireland, it was the first purpose-built public gallery in these islands. The society’s intention is to restore this internationally significant building as a new headquarters and as a centre for heritage and cultural activity in the heart of Georgian Dublin. Read more about the project on www.igs.ie.

The first-ever book of rules for association football (or soccer) was recently sold for around €1million. It was owned by the world’s oldest football club, Sheffield FC, and dates from 1859. The game was quite different in those days, with no offside rule, corner kicks or substitutions. And it was not all football, as catching the ball and manhandling opponents were allowed, showing that it was similar to the Gaelic version of the game.

Kevin Barry is an iconic figure from the War of Independence and commemorated in a popular ballad. But he also had an artistic memorial in the form of a stained glass window. Made by Richard King in Harry Clarke’s studios 70 years ago for UCD, where Barry was a medical student, for many years it remained in obscurity in the old Earlsfort Terrace campus but has now been moved to Belfield, where it has a prominent position. The window has eight panels depicting not just Barry but other Irish heroes from myth and history.

Belfast prides itself on opposing slavery in the eighteenth century, but a new exhibition in the Linen Hall Library (until 30 September) shows that this was not the whole story. ‘Hidden Connections: Ulster and Slavery 1807–2007 Revisited’ throws light on the province’s involvement—good and bad—in one of history’s most controversial epochs. There is updated material, including information leading up to and including the American Civil War. Featured are original manuscripts, artefacts and contemporary books and pamphlets.

We welcome the announcement of a campaign by the National Library of Ireland to clean up Irish literature. There is far too much smut about these days. The experts at the NLI have embarked on a major project to clean and preserve endangered items from its collection of books, manuscripts and newspapers. Now they will carefully have dust, smut and even cobwebs removed and manuscripts placed in state-of-the-art storage boxes. This is the first step in a major revamp of the NLI’s collection, and for the next couple of months members of the public can call in and see the conservators at work.

We’re always glad to see a miscarriage of justice righted but sometimes it can take a long time. Take the case of Irishman John Gordon, who was hanged in Rhode Island for the murder of a US senator’s brother. There were always doubts about Gordon’s guilt and now the governor of Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee, has agreed to posthumously pardon him. The thing is that Gordon was executed on 14 February 1845, the last man to be hanged in that state.

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