Liz and I visited two museums in Ireland; there are so many more that I’d love to go back and explore and learn from in the future. But I’ve been thinking about the two we went to and how they represent two sides of Irish history.
|Dublin Castle courtyard|
|St. Patrick’s Hall|
St. Patrick’s Hall in Dublin Castle used to be a ballroom and it’s beautiful. This one guy decided to lay on the very plush carpet to get a better look at the painted ceilings.
|Ceiling of St. Patrick’s Hall|
Also, St. Patrick’s Hall is the room where the President of Ireland is inaugurated every seven years.
There are a lot of portraits of lords and British kings and very fancy interiors. I felt a bit like I’d popped back in time to one of those period dramas I like.
The Bog Museum is a representation of what a typical rural Irish farming village would’ve looked like during the Great Hunger of 1845 to 1852.
There are different thatched, whitewashed cottages–all one-roomed and very tight. We went into the Laborer’s Cottage and it’s dark and small. Our ancestors in County Mayo probably would have lived in a cottage that was very similar. I knew that intellectually, but to actually be in a space like that?
Other cottages were meant to represent small shops or a stable or a priest’s house. There was a small field of potatoes in the middle of the village, the staple crop of the Irish poor.
There was a ruined cottage in the middle, too, which the sign said was Bridget O’Shea’s Cottage. During the Famine, Bridget lost her husband, was hungry, couldn’t pay her rent, and was evicted by her landlord. She ended up in the workhouse.
My family didn’t leave Ireland until sixty years after the Famine. Liz and I are here, so clearly they survived to perpetuate the family, but I don’t know specifics of what my ancestors may have experienced in those times. They may have been thrown out of their house, unable to pay the rent. They may have lost family members, I don’t know.
I know I get my obsession with stories and with history from the Irish side of the family–my dad is the person who taught me to read and also the guy who very patiently explained various salient points of history to me as a kid. As this trip was my first time in Ireland–my first time in Europe–coming into contact with places that have seen some of that painful Irish history I’ve heard about my whole life blew my mind a bit.