Archive for August, 2010

The end of an era? Bye Bye Now

30 August 2010

By Lisa Marie Griffith

In the collected essays Love of the World John McGahern tells a story about how the phone box was such a powerful local communication tool that the site of the phone box in his local village, Fenagh, was indicative of the political party in power. The site of the phone box would change variously from outside a pub on one side of the road (to where the Fianna Gael supporters drank) and to the other (where Fianna Fail drank) depending on exactly who was in power. The story is a nice reminder of the importance of the phone box in twentieth century Ireland as a major communication point, a significance that it is all too easy to remember when everyone has a mobile phone in their pocket.

Aideen O’Sullivan and Ross Whitaker, the makers of an Irish short Bye Bye Now, set out in 2009 to capture and record the significance of the phone box in Irish life, a timely idea as phone boxes are de-commissioned and disappearing from our streets quickly! Phone boxes are a bit of a mystery to our younger generation and I have caught my niece looking at them in wonder (apparently it was the question from one of their daughters ‘why would people use a phone box?’ that prompted them to make the short). If only the writers of Dr. Who could have anticipated that the phone box would become an alien image on our streets and the Tardis was not a good cover!

Bye Bye Now features a number of Irish people re-counting their experience of the phone box and how it touched or shaped their lives. Read more

Interview: Prof. Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, NUI Galway

27 August 2010

Another one of our long-delayed ‘bests’!

Interview date: 14 January 2010.

What book do you wish you had written?

Well, Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization sold so many copies, and made so much money for the author, that I’m tempted to plump for that one! But I’m sure you expect a more serious answer! Hmmm. Either James F. Kenney’s Sources for the Early History of Ireland (1929), or perhaps Helen Waddell, The Wandering Scholars (1927), or John Erickson’s The Soviet High-Command (1972).

What would you do if you were not a historian?

If I were not a historian, I might’ve been a spook! Have a curious fascination with spies & spying, codes & ciphers, and could imagine myself in some place like GCHQ or Langley! In fact, a job as archivist in the new Yasenevo KGB-HQ outside Moscow could be very interesting! On the other hand, I was once offered a (lowly) job in a bank …

When was the last time you looked at Wikipedia?

Can’t remember when I last looked at Wikipedia, but as I warn my students —under pain of death — NEVER to quote the thing as a source in their essays, I shouldn’t waste much time on it myself. Someone recently advised me to check myself out in Wikipedia! He meant it as a compliment! (I haven’t done so). Read more

A Little Light Summer Reading

25 August 2010

By Christina Morin

Leaving Cert and A level results were out late last week, to the joy of many and the chagrin of others. As an American student, I never experienced either of these exam processes, but witnessing the twinned celebrations and tears – both of happiness and grief – got me thinking about my own high school years. To tell the truth, it all seems so long ago, that my memories are generally quite hazy, though I imagine the best description of those four long years would have to go to Dickens (who obviously used it in a much different context): It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

A dedicated nerd and bookworm, my favourite bits about high school often revolved around the academics. For instance, I actually looked forward to receiving, every summer like clockwork, the book lists for the upcoming school year. With long sunny days and only a part-time job in the local ice cream stand to occupy me, I always got a head start on my English class reading. So, the summer before my second year of high school, I immersed myself in, among other texts, Watership Down, for which I bear an inveterate (and possibly irrational) hatred to this day. Recovering from my third year of high school, I escaped into Far from the Madding Crowd and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The latter served as a tantalizing glimpse into Joyce and a foreshadow of my eventual career choice, while the former remains one of my favourite novels of all time. Read more

Heritage Week 2010

23 August 2010

By Lisa Marie Griffith

The Department for Tourism Sport and Heritage have announced that there were over 1.4 million visitors to museums, galleries, archives, libraries and concert halls in Ireland in the first half of the year. Considering the decline in Irish tourism, this 9% rise is quite an astonishing number over a six month period and it shows that we are more committed than ever to supporting culture . The biggest cultural event of the year is taking place this week and I was prompted by their beautiful new tv advert for Heritage Week to go online and check out what is going on. The ad promises such a huge amount (art, music, history, archeology, genealogy… the list seemed endless!) which is not surprising considering so many organisations and institutions around Ireland can classify themselves as heritage and are taking part. The scale of the Heritage Week line-up suggests that it has not been hit by the budget cuts but this probably has more to do with the fact the week seems to run because of the  enthusiasm of already involved staff members who are keen to promote their organisations rather than increased government funding for a week a year. Indeed, with such an impressive list of free events its not surpsiring that Irish people are turning increasingly to events like this for entertainment. Read more

Review: Black Taxi Tour, Belfast

20 August 2010

By Christina Morin

After having lived in Belfast for a couple of months, I reckoned I’d lost my newcomer tourist rights and would therefore have to wait for visitors to take a Black Taxi Tour. Accordingly, when guests from the US arrived a couple of weeks ago, I jumped at the chance to show them around Belfast via one of these much-celebrated taxi tours.

Available from a seemingly endless array of companies, black taxi tours are essentially exactly what it says on the tin – a tour of the city from the (dis)comfort of a (not always) black taxi.  The history of these tours apparently stems from twinned tourist interest in but anxiety about wandering around on foot in certain areas of Belfast – the Falls Rd., the Shankill, the ever-changing display of murals around these areas, peace lines, etc. Although I imagine the tourist industry would be quick to deny any current threat to tourists taking in the sights on a walk through the city, a black taxi tour is, as advertised by the companies themselves, a pretty much guaranteed way of getting a safe and comfortable tour from a very knowledgeable guide with an incredible familiarity with the streets of Belfast and their sights. Read more

Review: The Plough and the Stars at the Abbey

19 August 2010

Contributed by John Gibney

The Plough and the Stars is back on at the Abbey. And why not?

It is hard not to mention it without thinking of the controversy that greeted it in 1926. But does that mean it is actually any good? It is the longest and most expansive of Sean O’Casey’s three Dublin plays, in dramatic and thematic terms, and crucially, it is the most verbose. But the Abbey pulls it off. This is a very impressive production of a notoriously acerbic play. For those who did their Leaving Cert at the wrong time, it is set in a tenement, a pub, and a tenement again, before, during and after the Easter Rising. And that is about it. The Plough does not have a plot so much as points to make. What gives its stature as a classic is that O’Casey made those points through characters rather than caricatures. What makes this production stand out is that the actors do justice to those characters. The first half is an excellent and hugely entertaining display of ensemble acting (either that or I should get out more), with Joe Hanley’s Fluther Good stealing the show by a country mile. Abbey actors are unlikely to live in tenements, so some of the accents do wobble. But in a world where depictions of Dublin’s working class and unemployed all too often turn into patronising caricatures, we can let the national theatre off the hook here. Read more

So why is it ‘The English Market’?

17 August 2010

By Lisa Marie Griffith

I visited Cork recently and it certainly lives up to its reputation for food and culture. While sampling the fares (i had to be rolled back to Dublin) I began to wonder why the Cork food market located off the main street is called ‘The English Market’? I asked many locals, staff working in the hotel where I stayed, some of the restaurants I visited and even some of those working in the stalls at the market to no avail. No one was able to tell me so when I returned home I did a little research. There has been a food market on the site since 1788 which means the English market predates Barcelona’s market ‘Boqueria’ by 80 years, surely making it one of the oldest covered food markets in Ireland if not Europe. London can claim an older out-door market than Cork in Borough Market. There has been a food market on that site continuously for 250 years although as their site points out there was a Roman Food Market around the area too. Paris can do one better for covered markets, however, and Marche des Enfants-Rouge dates to 1688.

But to get back to my point, where does the name come from? Read more

Choose an Irish Writer, any Irish Writer

16 August 2010

By Christina Morin

I mentioned in my recommendations for August having read and been thoroughly dismayed by a recent Irish Times article, ‘If ever you go to Dublin town’. In it, Rosita Boland reports that Dublin ‘might be a Unesco City of Literature with a rich literary history to be proud of’, but Irish visitors, locals, and tourists alike all seem a bit uninterested and uninformed about this history. One Texan tourist calling herself ‘just a clueless American’, for instance, said that she couldn’t actually name ‘any writers or books from Ireland, let alone from Dublin’. Others echoed her response with heart-wrenching regularity.

Boland’s unofficial experiment doesn’t bode well for Dublin’s new status as Unesco City of Literature. Dublin was awarded the designation – one of only four such honours – after a three-year long process headed by Dublin City Council under the auspices of Unesco’s Creative Cities Network. Other cities that already boast the ‘Unesco City of Literature’ title include Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Iowa, but what exactly does this mean for the cities involved? Reporting on Dublin City Council’s bid for ‘city of literature’ status in March 2009, Irish Times writer Charlie Taylor suggested that it all comes down to the tourism industry. As Taylor then wrote, ‘According to estimates, landing the prestigious recognition in 2004 has generated about £2.2m per annum for Edinburgh and an additional £2.1m for the rest of Scotland’. Read more

Interview: Dr Eoin Magennis, IntertradeIreland

13 August 2010

It’s been a while since we posted an inteview on Pue’s, so to make up for lost time, here are two of the best we’ve been saving for you.

Interview date: 14 January 2010

What book(s) do you wish you had written?
In the history field, EP Thompson’s Making of the English Working Class was the history book that first got me interested. But for fun I’d love to have been sitting down to write Gore Vidal’s The Golden Age.

What would you do if you were not working for a cross-border body?
In many ways I’m lucky to be paid for doing what I enjoy – research for InterTradeIreland (usually) gets someone to look at a policy/barrier to cross-border cooperation and (even sometimes) gets them to remove it! Still, if I wasn’t doing this it would have to be the gardening!

When was the last time you looked at Wikipedia?
A few months ago to check a question about econometric equations – you don’t want to know. Read More

Interview: Dr Ruth McManus, St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra

13 August 2010

Interview date: 26 January 2010

What book do you wish you had written?
I’m not sure that there’s a particular book I would have written, but there are many which have influenced me and, I suppose, inspired my own work, among them urban historian Jim Dyos’s seminal study of Camberwell – Victorian Suburb: A Study of the Growth of Camberwell (1961) – which opened up a whole field of research.  I admire the meticulous scholarship of many authors, but won’t name them here for fear of offending those that I’ll inevitably forget to mention!

What would you do if you were not a geographer?
My childhood ambition was to be a rural postman, but I suspect that I would have found myself working in education in some way, at some stage.

When was the last time you looked at Wikipedia?
Yesterday, when I was looking for some background on Ivor the Engine.   Read More