The AFS group left Bundoran at 6am, catching an amazing sunrise over the hills and lakes of Fermanagh. Our first stop was at the Hill of Tara in the Boyne Valley, the ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland. Niamh said she has been
at Tara in all sorts of weather, but never did it look so lovely, with the July sun burning off the morning fog, and revealing the four provinces of Ireland all around. We looked at the ancient passage grave and the sacred stones that allegedly cried out when the high king was worthy of coronation. Devon observed that the ghosts of the old celts were everywhere.
We then went on to Dublin city, enjoying a wonderful picnic in St. Stephen’s Green, before going onwards to check out the treasures in the National Museum. By now, the students had all learned of the various periods of Irish History, so it was great to see the actual remnants from those times, including the stone-age and bronze-age weapons, the amazing Gold collection of the Celts (the “Bling” collection, as we called it, ) and the awesome Treasury collection, from the Golden Age. After that, we visited the W.B. Yeats exhibition at the National Library, to see the original manuscripts of many of Yeats’ work. There were mixed feelings about the Maud Gonne portrait, and whether she would have held the same romantic influence over our boys!
We checked out the Dail (Irish house of parliament) and went on to the campus of Trinity College, and the Library which houses many wonderful books, including the Book of Kells. However, as the lines to view the book were horrendous, we marched on, up past the Statue of Daniel O’ Connell (a distant relative of our Cameron, of course), and up to the General Post Office, site of the 1916 rising. We enjoyed the beautiful sculpture of Chuchullain, strapped, dying to a tree which was commissioned to commemorate the rising.
Onwards to the Georgian architecture of Parnell Square, and we stopped off at number 36, to see the interior of these fine buildings. Number 36 is now the home of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, and we enjoyed tea and scones (or “biscuits” as some of our crew said… though Niamh pointed out that there was no gravy, or grits, but homemade jams and butter..). We enjoyed this little break in the room where Irish writer James Joyce took his music lessons, back in the day when he was not sure whether to become a singer or a writer…. Oh the pages of scholarship that would have been saved if
he had have chosen music!
Our last stop was the Garden of Rememberence, a little oasis in the city designed to commemorate all of the Irish lives lost in the pursuit of freedom. The astonishing centerpiece here is a sculpture of The Children of Lir, captured in transition from human to swans. Our students know this old Irish myth, and appreciated this beautiful work. But then, Niamh was forced to admit that it was shopping time!
The students (and leader Jill) were released to explore the wonders of Carroll’s gift shop, Penneys and the stores of Henry Street. We gathered again at 6pm, tired, happy and ready for home. We stopped by Molly Malone on the way to the bus, and finally, departed the capital. Our final treat was a late stop at McDonalds on the way home…well, there are times when only a cheeseburger will do!