Maritime Road Trip – Dun Laoghaire

On Thursday last, Oct 5th, Michael Farrell of the Barony of Gaultier Historical Society and myself headed up to Dublin. The plan was to meet David Carroll and his old De La Salle school pal JJ Murphy at Dublin’s Connolly Station and from there hit a selection of maritime heritage attractions. David already had a packed itinerary, but I’d hoped to squeeze another in- a regular page supporter Áine had unearthed a name for me at Connolly and a tip about the Barrow Bridge. The traffic conspired against us however and arriving late, we just had time to shake a hand of welcome before running to meet the Dart to Dun Laoghaire.
Grizzled old me standing at the Hobblers monument
Photo courtesy of Michael Farrell
The first stop was the DLR Lexicon library where we enjoyed a look at the Irish lights exhibition entitled 1911-1923 Safety at Sea through War and Upheaval. I even managed to gleam an extra nugget of information for my every increasing blog on mine incidents in and around the harbour.  The particular event mentioned related to a mine that exploded beneath the Coningbeg Light Ship in 1913, causing no damage.
Next up was a visit that I looked forward to with relish – the National Maritime Museum, which is located in the old Mariners Church on Haigh Terrace, Dun Laoghaire. It was not just that I had never visited the museum before that made it special however.  A founder member, and I suppose a driving influence in the need for such an institution was none other than John de Courcy Ireland.  Even though I never met the man, he was a hero of mine growing up.  He was the first person I ever heard to advocate for Ireland sea fisheries, or to acknowledge the uniqueness of a way of life.  He also wrote wonderful books which I collected and devoured, and I dreamed that one day I might emulate him.

A reprint of my book is now available.

For details of where it is available or to buy directly click here

Entry is a very affordable €5 a head for adults with lots to see in the two floors of exhibitions. However we had an expert guide in Brian Ellis, one of the many volunteers who keep the museum going. Although we put him to the test time and again with question after question, he never disappointed with an answer or a plausible theory.


The optic off the Baily lighthouse turns proudly on the altar
An aerial view of the ground floor

Sirius, the first steam ship to cross the Atlantic,
one of an amazing number of models on show
Although our next appointment was due at 11.30 it was an hour past it before we finished with Brian, and we could have easily spent many more in his company.  There were many standout moments but for me I was delighted to see an exhibition of old outboard motors including the famed Seagull of my youth, and it was great to get a photo of David with Bob Lewis’ diving gear which we had tried to get previously for his story on the maintenance works at Dunmore East.  My one regret of the morning was that I would have loved to sit in the library with the vast quantity of books available for reference.
The gentlemen view the Hobblers monument
After lunch we decided on a stroll back along the harbour and I made a special request to David, to drop down and view the Hobblers monument, something that I find very unique, a monument to a hard working breed of men who are now almost wiped from the national vocabulary.  It might be out of the way, but at least they are remembered in a very fitting and poignant memorial. On the way we had passed the old railway link that had run down to the boat sheds, and from where generations of Irish had emigrated.  It’s now just a memory and not even the ferry still runs, its new terminal lying empty, preferring instead Dublin Port. Roy Dooney a pal of Michael’s, has written a beautifully produced brochure on the building of the Harbour, which I think people would enjoy. 
David had planned to visit the Commissioners of Irish Lights earlier that morning and now almost 3 hours late he rocked up to the reception desk and made apologies, while we drifted away to view the displays around the foyer. He must have been convincing for we were joined not long after by an amiable young man named Rory McGee. I’m not sure what Rory had in mind, but whether it was planned or just a reaction to the very curious men in front of him, he gave us over an hour of his time and showed us around every aspect of the building, the services history, and the activities that make up Irish Lights.
 Commissioners of Irish Lights building

A paraffin oil burner on display in reception, used in the past to light navigation lamps
The work area where all manner of navigation buoys are maintained
I was very taken by Rory’s passionate interest in his work.  The building must be a joy to work in both in its design and in the views it affords staff.  I particularly enjoyed some of the art work hanging from the walls, art that had a dominant theme of water and weather, a theme that dominates any mariners life.  I also enjoyed the old type burners used in navigation lights such as the paraffin one photographed above. I remember my grandmother sharing the story of Nick Kehoe, a lamplighter on the point light who had to sit watching it all night in order to ensure that the light kept burning.  I imagine he cursed the vagaries of the technology at the time, but when gas was introduced his job was gone.  
Although we had barely scratched the surface of what David had hoped to see on the day, we decided we would have to call a halt as evening came on. Talked out and tired a long return trip was ahead but at least we had all learned a lot. Here’s hoping the next trip finds us in the company of two men as passionate and interested in their respective roles as Brian and Rory. 

I publish a blog about Waterford Harbours maritime heritage each Friday.  
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