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My "Best of Ireland" Tour Journal

Chapter 5: Waterford to Dublin

KILKENNY
This area around Dublin where the English held Parliaments is termed as being "within the pale". When Henry VIII demolished the monasteries in England he also destroyed the Irish ones located within the pale. When Cromwell arrived he destroyed the rest.

Henry VIII inherited a large estate but wasted it quickly. In 1538, he decided that by dissolving some of the smaller monasteries he could acquire their accumulated assets and thus improve his economic position. He ordered the closing of all abbeys with an income of less than 200. Instead of restricting the closures to this, between 1536 and 1540, 800, virtually all of them, were closed. Henry took anything of value and attached it to the Crown. He even had the roofs removed for their lead content. This hastened the ruin of the buildings as they were completely exposed. He gave the monks the choice of reverting to secular life or joining a larger monastery, unaware that his armies had closed them all.

The castle at Kilkenny was built by William the Marshall, son-in-law of Strongbow. When Henry II came to Ireland for the first time he brought his whole court, including his chief butler to look after his wine and beer needs. The butler stayed on in Ireland. His grandson adopted the surname Butler. They became landowners around the areas of Kilkenny and Tipperary. They remained Royalists. From the 12th century to 1935 the Butlers owned Kilkenny Castle then they turned it over to the government. It was added to over the years until much of it is now 19th century construction. The Butler family were granted 10% of all of the wine imported into Ireland until Queen Victoria paid them a settlement of 210,000 and put a stop to the practice. By the time Charles I was beheaded, they were the Dukes of Ormond. However, during Cromwell's reign, they threatened to raise an army to reinstate the monarchy. This brought Cromwell's army over and led to mass destruction, massacre, and emigration. The people remaining became tenants on their own land. This had a huge impact on the social structure of Ireland.

In High Street in Kilkenny there is the Tholsel (Town Hall). Also the ruin of Black Abbey and the Kilkenny Cathedral dedicated to St. Cannis.

The principle crop of Counties Wexford and Kilkenny is 2 kinds of barley.

CASTLECOME
This used to be a coal-mining town. Now oil and natural gas are used mainly for heating. Coal is mostly imported from Poland.
COUNTY LAOIS
This area used to be called Queenstown when Mary and Phillip of Spain ruled. They took the land from the Irish and gave it to their English friends. This "plantation" was not successful. However, the plantation of James I (James VI of Scotland) in County Ulster was successful.

Holy Cross Abbey in Tipperary was built in the 12th century. From 1216 until today Mass has been said in Balintaber Abbey in County Mayo.

ATHY, COUNTY KILDARE
This was a milling town. Before the advent of the railroad, canals were built for transporting goods. There is a canal that runs all the way from Dublin to Limerick.

White's Castle was built by the Earls of Kildare and the Dukes of Leinster. Its purpose was for the defense of the town from the river side. It is now privately owned and lived in.

Saint Bridget is the Patron Saint of County Kildare. There are many of Saint Bridget's wells found throughout the county. Bridget was born in Folkhart, County Louth in the 5th century. She was the daughter of a pagan Chieftain. At birth her father picked out a boy for her to marry. As an adult she refused to marry and confessed her desire to convert to Christianity and start a Nunnery. Her father kicked her out of her home. She travelled by donkey to find a place to settle. When she found a place she thought was right, she asked the local landowner if he would donate the land to the Nunnery. He told her she could have as much land as her cloak could cover. It is said that she laid down her cloak and it bagan to spread in size and did not stop until it covered 5000 acres. The area is now known as the Curragh of Kildare. There was a round tower built on the site as was the custom. This was the second convent to be built. The first was built by St. Itha. In time Bridget also took men into the convent for religious education. Eventually her father converted and presented a beautiful gold cross to Bridget. After a time the cross went missing. Bridget decided to fashion a new cross of more humble material so that it would have no worldly value, only religious value. She made a beautiful cross from reeds. St. Bridget's cross is now used as the symbol of the Irish national television station. February 1st is the feast day of Saint Bridget. The Curragh is now owned by the Department of Defense.

The Irish National Stud Farm first belonged to Lord Waverley (John Walker of Johnny Walker Whiskey). It breeds and tends thoroughbred race horses for clients all over the world.

DUBLIN
Dublin is a Viking city. They landed in 795 and established a fort over the River Liffey. In the 13th century Dublin Castle was built as a fortress. It is now used for entertaining foreign dignitaries.

Trintiy College was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I in order to "civilize the Irish". It was erected on grounds confiscated from a monastery. Apart from one short break, Trinity College remained completely Protestant until 1793. Even then, when Catholics were allowed in, the Catholic Church forbade it. This restriction wasn't completely lifted until 1970. Now, the majority of its 9500 students are Catholic.

The Book of Kells is found at Trinity College. It was compiled in the 8th century. It is the illuminated books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It is unsure whether the Monks of Kells or of Iona in Scotland made the books. They were found buried in a bog in Kells. They were written on velum using vegetable dyes and the quills of birds.

From 1713 to 1745 Jonathan Swift was Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral. He is buried beneath the floor.

In 1745 the House of Parliament was built.

Through the middle to the end of the 1700's, during the reigns of Kings George I-IV, many houses of typical "Georgian" design were built as private homes of members of Parliament. Wrought iron railings were added to the windows during Victorian times. Most of the houses were built during the reign of George IV. They were all required to adhere to a strict code which limited the variations of the buildings. They could vary slightly in the choice of doors and windows over the doors but otherwise had to remain faithful to a common design. Even the doors could be painted only white or black. Whether true or not, the reason for the brightly coloured doors which now adorn these homes is sometimes said to have originated with the men of the families coming home late at night from the local pubs in an enebriated state and unable to find their home because they were all too alike. They started painting them bright colours so they could tell them apart.

In the back of the houses is a garden and a mews where they used to stable horses. Now they are residences only. Merrion Square used to be for the use of residents of the area only. Now it is a public park. In 1822 St. Stephen's Green was laid out by Lord Arbolorne of the Guinness family.

In 1893, to combat the anglicization of Ireland, the Gaelic Society was established to promote Irish literature, Irish culture, Irish games and Irish language. Dubliners have a very distinct accent. On the 13 April 1742, in Dublin, Handel performed "The Messiah" for the 1st time ever.

The National Museum is located in Kildare Street and the National Gallery of Art in Merrion Square. The main shopping areas are Grafton and Nassau Streets on one side of the river, Henry Street on the other side.

The Huguenots settled in the area known as the "Liberties". They were weavers and introduced fine linen to Ireland.

The oldest pub in Dublin is called The Brazen Head. It was established in 1198 and has been a pub continuously since then. The Guinness Brewery is the 2nd largest brewery in the world. It covers 64 acres.

Phoenix Park, covering 1,752 acres, is the largest enclosed park in Europe. There is a herd of Fallow deer in the park. It is a breed introduced by the Normans. There are three residences in the park. One is the residence of the American Ambassador to Ireland. A second is the residence of the President of Ireland. The house was built in 1752 by Nathaniel Clements. It was the official residence of the viceroys. The 3rd residence was once used by the Pape Enuncia (papal representative) but it is no longer being lived in.

There is a monument to the Duke of Wellington in Dublin. It was erected in 1829. He was Prime Minister of Britain when Ireland received Catholic emancipation. He was born in Dublin but never considered himself to be Irish. There is also a cross to commemorate the Mass given by Pope John Paul in September of 1979.

Dublin Zoo is the 3rd oldest zoo in the world after the ones in France and London.

On Inns Quay, beside the river, the extensive Four Courts, the head of the judiciary in Ireland, is considered to be one of architect James Gandon's masterpieces. Construction began in 1786 and continued until 1802. In 1922, when anti-Treaty forces seized the building and refused to leave, it was shelled from across the river. As the occupiers retreated, the building was set on fire and many irreplaceable early records were burned. This event sparked off the Civil War. The building wasn't restored until 1932.

Currently there is a law limiting the construction of buildings. No building can be erectd any higher than twice the width of the street on which it stands.

A large sculpture meant to represent a Goddess of the River Liffey has been dubbed by the locals as "The Floozie in the Jacuzzi". Also, there is a statue of Father Matthews, the Patron Saint of Temperance standing in one of the squares. In typical Dubliner fashion, during Students' Week it is traditional for the university students to put a glass of Guinness in his upraised hand and a placard in his lower hand stating "I've been drinking since I was this high".

In 1751 the Rotunda Hospital was built. It is the oldest maternity hospital in Europe. The Abbey Presbyterian Church is also know as Findlater's Church because it was that family who provided the funding for it. The Customs House was designed by James Ganion from England during the Georgian era. The Bank of Ireland building was formerly the Parliament buildings. This building was erected without windows. The term "daylight robbery" was coined during a period of time when there was a tax on glass. Therefore many buildings were erected without windows to save on the taxes. The residents complained that the Government was now even robbing them of their daylight.

In 1793 the church belonging to Maynoot College was erected. It was the first seminary in Ireland. The College, specializing in theology, is part of the University of Ireland.

Just outside of Dublin there is a pub called The Deadman's Inn and Pub. Years ago, when people carried the caskets by hand to the graveyard which was a ways past the Pub, they would stop along the way, put the casket in the corner and have some refreshment. They would then continue on their way. On the way back they would stop again to toast the departed.

INNISBOFFIN
This is a small island off the coast of Galway. Since 1855 there had always been a resident priest on the island of 250 people. Recently, the priest has been brought to the mainland effectively ending the priest-in-residence for Innisboffin.

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