Sidelines

Published in Issue 2 (March/April 2014), Volume 22

Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, has announced a programme to mark the millennium of the Battle of Clontarf, despite being told to ‘shush’ by a security guard at Trinity College, Dublin, where the launch took place. The events to mark the battle will truly be on a national scale, with his department, three local authorities, Trinity and the North–South ministerial council all involved. Trinity will host its own exhibition on Clontarf; there will also be seminars and conferences, and on the anniversary itself, 23 April, a major re-enactment of the battle will feature home- grown warriors alongside ‘Vikings’ from across Europe. Just like the original battle.

The latest collection of documents to go on-line is the Military Service Pension records. In what is only the first batch of documents to be released are the stories of men and women who fought in the War of Independence and subsequently applied for a pension. While their war service contains many remarkable stories, in some ways the fight to get a pension is more interesting. Letters from veterans arrived from many places, including Nazi Germany, and while only 20% qualified—corroborating proof of service had to be supplied—women in particular seem to have struggled to get the recognition they deserved. The collection can be accessed at militaryarchives.ie.

Limerick City Council, in what might be called ‘democracy after the fact’, has invited the public to submit their views on the naming of two bridges in the city—after it had unanimously decided to rename one bridge after John F. Kennedy and the other after Brian Boru. There seems to be no particular reason for the renaming other than the fact that Limerick is Ireland’s first City of Culture (no, don’t laugh, and don’t mention that other Irish city which was the first UK City of Culture). Reasons for choosing these two men do not hold much water. JFK, they claim, was descended from a Limerick man and of course visited the city. Brian Boru was born in County Clare, conquered Limerick and went on to become the first (not the last, as the council suggests) great high-king of Ireland. Send your suggestions for more appropriate names to info@limerickcity.ie.

There is no hiding place for war criminals, as the recent arrest of a former Waffen SS soldier proves. He took part in one of the worst atrocities committed in western Europe during World War II: the
annihilation of the town of Oradour-sur-Glane, in which the entire population was wiped out. No one knows the exact reason why this town was selected for such treatment on 10 June 1944. Its ruins are preserved as a monument to the dead, and having been there myself I know it is a grim place. The accused is one of the ‘small fish’, a private in the Der Fuehrer regiment, but he is accused of participating in the massacre and even at this remove will face charges.

Warrenpoint on Carlingford Lough
(originally Carlinn Fjord, a Viking name) was a major seaside resort in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A jewel in its crown was its park, where people picnicked, promenaded, listened to band music and so on on fine summer days. Opened in 1906, it has declined in recent decades and many of the original Edwardian architectural features, such as the fences, gates and bandstand, were in danger of being lost forever. Now, how-ever, the North’s heritage lottery fund is providing the cash to have the park restored to its former glory. It may not restore Warrenpoint to its place of prominence but it will surely make it a pleasant place to visit.

Plans have been released for major developments at Dublin’s Jewish Museum. One of the first to feature in our Museum Eye, it is a little-known gem in the city’s heritage attractions. The plans will see the museum expand and modernise on its present site at Walworth Road. Not everyone is happy, however. Many local residents argue that the proposed expansion is too big for the location and fear the disruption that the building work will create. Although Dublin City Council has approved the plan, battle lines are being drawn up and a long fight may be on the cards.

It’s an ill wind that blows no good. While the recent storms and high tides have caused horrendous damage along the coast, archaeologists are rubbing their hands with glee. Many millennia of ‘lost’ history have been uncovered, as sand-dunes were swept away and cliffs fell into the sea. Items from Mesolithic axeheads to skeletons from nineteenth-century graveyards have all been exposed. Archaeologists along the west coast, with help from local volunteers, are doing their best to collect, catalogue and map the artefacts and remains of buildings that have been revealed. But it is a race against time: what nature giveth she also taketh away, and soon all these may be swept into the sea.

Fancy spending a night in the nick? Well, soon you’ll be able to do just that, but at a cost of £10,000. The original Scotland Yard, headquarters of the London police, is being turned into a luxury hotel by a company headed by Irishman Don O’Sullivan. Located in Whitehall, the grade II listed building has many historic and literary associations, from Jack the Ripper to Arthur Conan Doyle. Of course, the building also has many Irish associations. It was home to the Irish Special Branch and was involved in investigations into the Fenian dyna-miting campaign, among other things. What ghosts must haunt its corridors!

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