Sidelines

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 2 (March/April 2010), News, Volume 18

n The British Museum has undertaken a major exhibition called A History of the World in 100 Objects, which has proven to be a great success. There is an accompanying series on BBC Radio 4 (www.bbc.co.uk/
ahistoryoftheworld), and museums throughout the UK have followed suit with their own best 100 objects. Could we summarise Ireland’s history in 100 objects? What could they be? A stone axe, the Tara brooch, a Guinness bottle . . . ? Answers by email only.

n Another highly respected British institution, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, has made a bit of a gaffe on its Irish history website. That august authority informs us that the War of Independence was followed not by partition of Ireland into two states but by a civil war between the Catholics of the South and the Protestants of the North. We know that the poor British sometimes get a bit confused by Irish history and politics but we expect more from the good old Encyclopaedia Britannica. What makes it worse is that the Irish government financially supports this website on the understanding that it would be used as an educational aid in schools. No wonder standards are slipping.

n ‘Cé a chónaigh i mo theachsa?’ or ‘Who lived in my house?’ is a question we have all asked and is also the title of a new series on TG4. It is being made by the Magan brothers, Manchán in front of the camera, Ruán directing. The series starts shooting in March and will feature six houses with a story. Expect tales of murder, ghosts, love affairs and famous residents. The producers are still looking for other interesting houses to feature in the series, so if your house has a history why not contact them at www.tilefilms.ie?

n Does this mean they really exist? Leprechauns, that is. A new National Leprechaun Museum opened in Dublin in March. The first ever of its kind, it is just off O’Connell St and promises to ‘take visitors deeper into Celtic culture to discover what really lies behind tales of leprechauns, rainbows and pots of gold’. The museum takes its subject seriously and explores the leprechaun myth and its place in culture, showing that there is more to it than little men in green jackets. There are interactive experiences, from the first ever sighting in the eighth century to modern-day representations in film and popular culture. For information visit www.nationalleprechaun museum.ie. And don’t forget—if you see a leprechaun, don’t take your eyes off the wee rascal till he tells you where he’s hidden his pot of gold!
n You can see what goes on in local museums across Ireland with the Irish Museum Association’s travelling exhibition Museums Matter, which has already been a big hit from Belfast to Galway. Featuring exhibits and information about museum collections throughout Ireland, the exhibition has just a couple of months left to run, in which it will be visiting Mayo, Dundalk and Offaly. For details visit www.irishmuseums.org.

n OK, don’t panic! We know that the Leaving Cert is not too far away but help is on hand from those nice people at Newstalk’s ‘Talking History’. Last year the radio station launched a very successful series of podcasts from its popular history programme based on the Leaving Cert syllabus. This year sees the return of the podcast series, updated with relevant modules and available on www.newstalk.ie and iTunes for students to download from March. And there’s more—‘Talking History’ will tackle the history exam by airing a special Leaving Cert programme on Sunday 11 April. Patrick Geoghegan and a team of historians, teachers and students will discuss key topics, questions, examination approaches and themes. So don’t forget to tune into 106–108FM or visit www.newstalk.ie/talkinghistory.

n A little gem of Dublin history disappeared with the closure of West’s jewellers. First opened in 1720 on Capel Street, West’s was one of the oldest jewellers in Europe. The shop moved to College Green in 1845 before moving to its last location in Grafton Street. Its premises at 33 Grafton Street were where both Dubliner and visitor alike bought engagement and wedding rings, watches and necklaces over the decades. Competition from big-name jewelry stores has forced West’s to close down, with the loss of three jobs. Another part of ‘aul’ Dublin’ gone.

n A century ago Yeats told us that romantic Ireland was dead and gone. It seems that traditional Ireland has gone the same way. According to the latest Lonely Planet guide, Ireland is so modern and European that it has lost its distinctive character. It’s all very well being multicultural and hip, but what about good old-fashioned craic, a warm welcome and homely comforts? According to the guide, the Emerald Isle is now the skinny latte isle with a dose of crappy tourist products on the side. O’Leary must be spinning in his grave!

 

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