Archive for October, 2011

Seeing the woods and the trees

28 October 2011

This is an image from the Library of Congress that shows the spot near Walden Pond that Henry David Thoreau built his cabin.  From this spot he wrote his most famous work, Walden.  It is still seen as a classic of American nature writing and an inspiration to environmentalism.  The image that the book projects is of Thoreau reveling in isolation and reflection, immersed in nature.  If you take a wider view point, as many have pointed out, Thoreau’s splendid isolation was a mere 30 minute walk from the village of Concord.  He was apparently brought supplies of food by a servant.  Nevertheless, he seems to have successfully created a productive isolation for himself in which he wrote at least one book and laid the ground work for a second.  I somehow need to find a similar kind of retreat if I am ever to finish my present book.  I find my perspective swinging wildly between woods and trees: one day I am focussed on the big picture and the next I am overwhelmed by the details of data.



Halloween Thrills

26 October 2011

By Christina Morin

With Halloween fast approaching and in keeping with this week’s ‘Top 5’ theme, I thought I might share a few of my favourite thrillers in case you want to scare yourself this weekend. These are my picks for a fantastic fright night, in no particular order:

1. Jaws (1975) – I’ve written before about Jaws and my use of it as a tool in explaining the Burkean sublime. This year, I showed the clip to a 2nd year class and was somewhat dismayed to discover that more than half of the class hadn’t seen the film. I guess I’m showing my age and will have to find something a little bit more au courant in future, but I still claim Jaws as a firm favourite and one definitely worth including in any horror fest.

2. Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte (1969) – I only watched this for the first time a few weekends ago and really enjoyed it! Bette Davis looks decidedly haggard, but that just adds to the creepiness of the whole thing. Both she and Olivia de Havilland are alternately heart-wrenchingly and hair-raisingly good. Yes, the special effects sometimes leave a little to be desired by twenty-first century standards, but, in many ways, that doesn’t matter much, given that this is very much a psychological thriller, along the lines of my next recommendation… Read more

St Patrick’s Cathedral, tower and roof tour

25 October 2011

By Juliana Adelman

I was lucky enough to accompany some of the winners of our competition on the prize tour of the tower and roof of St Patrick’s Cathedral.  The tour was given by the cathedral’s two new (and excellent) education officers, Andrew and Laura.  This post is illustrated with photos taken by Ciarán McCabe, one of the winners and a pretty darn good photographer too.  Although the views from the roof were stunning, I think my favourite view was the one in this first picture.  The first stop as you climb the tower is a little ledge in front of the stained glass window that faces onto Patrick Street.  From there you really get a sense of the magnificence of the cathedral and of the height of the vaulted ceiling.  We then climbed further and visited the ringing room.  The ringing room had the strange feeling of a place where someone had put down their cup of tea and walked out fifty years ago, never to return.  In fact, the bells in St Patricks are still rung by people and not machines and the room is very much in use.  [If you are interested in bell ringing I have to recommend The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers, a mystery novel that centres around a small cathedral town and its bell ringing.] Read more

Top 5ish: History board games

24 October 2011

By Juliana Adelman and Martin Fanning

First, I (Juliana) should confess that I have never played any of the games I am going to discuss.  Instead, I have garnered all the information below from Martin and a great website called Board Game Geek.  I think relatively few girls are drawn into the world of war games and pretty much all historical board games are war games of one kind or another.  This weekend we had some friends over for the night and we pulled out one of my favorite board games (Ricochet Robots, it’s kind of a math puzzle game, yes I am a nerd).  The problem with Ricochet Robots is that it’s really hard and you have to think silently for each round.  This means it’s not a great party game.  But it did remind us that playing board games is good fun and it got me thinking about history board games.  So, after having picked Martin’s brain for childhood memories I came up with this brief list that you may or may not have played.  I’d be really interested if anyone knows of any other Irish-history related board games than the one (Army of Ireland) I have listed below.  If there’s no 1916/1798 board game I plan to make one and retire on the proceeds…In the meantime I am bidding on ebay for some of the following and I have Christmas break all planned out! Read more

Mass observation project, Dublin 2011

20 October 2011

Last week Pue’s was contacted by Ruth Kenny who is looking for assistance on an exciting project that she is putting together in November. Ruth is running a Mass Observation project in Dublin. This is a re-creation of the Mass Observation project that first took place in the UK in 1937 and which involved 2,000 voluntary observers watching, listening and reporting on the streets of Bolton and London. The original project was led by Tom Harrisson, an anthropologist and adventurer, Charles Madge, a poet and journalist, and Humphrey Jennings, a documentary film-maker. Nothing was beneath their attention; from snippets of overheard conversations to the number of people wearing tweed overcoats on a given day; from a survey of window displays to the average number of chips in a six-penny portion (25 and one-sixth chips, excluding the small bits, in case you’re wondering).

Ruth is looking for a team of volunteers to undertake this observation in Dublin, every day, throughout the month of November to record what people are talking about and doing throughout Dublin. Read more

Traditional Halloween Barmbrack

18 October 2011

By Lisa Marie Griffith

I am spending this Halloween with my family and nieces in Cork and wanted to resurrect one of my favourite Halloween traditions-the Barmbrack. For the non-Irish the Barmbrack, or tea brack, is traditionally consumed on Halloween with a number of items hidden in the cake which reveal the fortune of those who consume it. According to Darina Allen (in Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course) ‘Barm’ comes from an old English word ‘Beorma’ which means yeasted or fermented liquor and ‘brack’ is the Irish for ‘speckled’. Growing up in Ireland in the 80s I did not consume the traditional home-made Barmbrack- the shop bought was always more highly prized than the home-made and so like many homes we sat around a shop bought brack that was inferior in a number of ways. Only one item, the ring, was ever included and this item was meant to symbolise that the person would marry shortly. Like the free toy in a cereal box all four of us kids fought for it (although I am sure none of us had any interest in getting married at that point)!

Despite, or perhaps because of this, I wanted to try to introduce my nieces to the traditional and proper Irish concept of the Barmbrack and I thought I would share my brack findings with you. The Barmbrack is essentially a simple fruit bread, but traditionally the dried fruit is soaked overnight in tea to give it an added flavour. There are a number of different items which are included and which I am sure varied widely. Read more

Competition winners!

14 October 2011

Thanks to everyone who took part and entered our very first competition. The challenge was to: Summarize your favourite century of Irish history in 115 characters or less.

We would also like to thank everyone who re-tweeted and shared the competition details on Facebook. An enormous thanks also to St Patrick’s Cathedral who provided the prize, a tour of St Patrick’s Cathedral and roof time by Andrew Smith, the Cathedral Education Officer. Due to the fantastic response we got we will be running another competition shortly.

While there was no overall winner, we wanted to give a special mention to Joanne McEntee who not only managed to write a history of the nineteenth century in 115 characters but also submitted her entry as a limerick. Here is Joanne’s entry:

Disunion (old Irish curse)

Among opponents & even divorce

Meant Union remained

Queen reigned

& separatism = discourse!

The other five winners in no particular order are: Read more

Something for a Wednesday… the Bayeux Tapestry animated!

12 October 2011

By Lisa Marie Griffith

Hit a mid-week slump? Wednesday is my busiest lecture day so I always find it a little difficult to be inspired after all my prerp on Monday and Tuesday. Here is something a little bit more fun for those of us feeling a little uninspired this Wednesday (via the website Open Culture). This is a wonderful and very faithful animation of the Bayeux Tapestry, this is a great example of how history artefacts can be brought alive for students (of all ages). I love clips like this. They are great to share in class and tend to inject some life into students slumped over the desk at the end of the day.

Trinity Revamp

11 October 2011

By Lisa Marie Griffith

I had to share this picture that I took yesterday at Trinity, particularly for those of you who are not in and about the capital at the moment (or for those who weren’t quite sure what was going on). One of my recommendations this month was to visit Dublin Contemporary but I must admit it was not until yesterday morning when I arrived to get some work done in the library that I realised that Trinity is one of the venues for the exhibit. To advertise the venue at the Douglas Hyde Gallery this image has been added to the front of the University. One of the first aims of the exhibit is to reach ‘out to encompass the city’s lively public realm’. While I am not sure about charging 10 euro admission to the main exhibit at Earlsfort Terrace, I think this is a fantastic way of making some of their work accessible to those who may not be drawn inside. The exhibit at Douglas Hyde is by Alice Neal and is, however, free and worth a look. I love this image- I find it so striking!

Once I stepped inside to front square I spotted a large film crew. A friend on facebook later mentioned that  Bollywood has come to Dublin and filming for an Indian film is going on at venues across the city. Unfortunately when I went back for a look rain had forced much of the cast in doors so I don’t have an equally exciting image of Bollywood dancers on the cobblestones for you but I will keep my phone ready in case I spot any!

The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce

10 October 2011

By Lisa Marie Griffith

This weekend I watched Australian/Irish production The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce (2008) about the infamous Irish convict turned cannibal.  Last year I had a complaint from an Australian tourist on my walking tour that I did not deal in enough detail with the Irish transported to Australia but I doubt this was what they had in mind! Alexander Pearce (played by Ciaran McMenanin in the film) is probably Australia/Ireland’s most famous cannibal and his execution in 1824 was reported on around the world. Pearce was born in Clones, Co Monaghan in 1790, and seems to have worked as a farm labourer in Co. Fermanagh. In 1819 he was convicted for stealing 6 pairs of shoes and was transported to Van Diemen’s land to serve seven years for theft.  The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce, a made-for-tv-film, looks at how this petty criminal turned into a cannibal. Pearce and seven other convicts escape from the prison and try to strike for the nearest urban settlement. Lost in the vast countryside, their provisions soon run out and the will to survive  takes over. Read more