There were many reasons why three of my brothers and our wives found ourselves in Dublin together for our extended Summer holidays. The main reason of course was to get a sense of the country of our ancestors; our great, great grandfather had been sent out from the port of Cork for the crime of ‘keyning’ in 1828. However, family history wasn’t the only interest; all of us had an interest in broader Irish history and the desire to visit the famous places of Ireland celebrated in the songs that were the background of our childhood.
We arrived in Dublin late in the afternoon so we had little time to get a sense of the place after we had arrived at our Hotel for the next three nights. Finishing our late late evening meal, the four brothers decided we would meet at 6am the next morning and go for a walk. It was a good idea at the time but we little realised that we would encounter a situation that caused us to laugh regularly throughout our road trip. The map below shows our route for our early morning Dublin stroll. We exited Hotel Merrion’s front door, turned left and then left again onto Baggot St Lower and decided we would walk in a straight line until it was time to return. Without any accurate street knowledge about Dublin, we found ourselves walking straight towards a crossing of the Grand Canal which was flowing to its exit into the Liffey River.
The image below right is of the section of this canal that we became familiar with this particular morning. The canal itself is part of a very old plan for Dublin to be connected to the West Coast of Ireland by digging a canal that would meet up with the River Shannon that runs down through the middle of Ireland. A canal from Dublin to the Shannon means that people and goods could be transported directly across to Limerick without the usual dangers of Irish Sea travel. The canal became a reality in the middle of the 18th century but was never overly successful before being replaced by the train. The thing about train tracks is that when their structure breaks down, they don’t then flood the surrounding countryside with water as happened a number of times with this canal.
As four innocents abroad, we arrived at the bridge over the Grand Canal on Baggot St to encounter a scene that looked both curious and complex. There was a fire engine on the bridge, a rescue vehicle beside it as well a large hoist clearly being used to access the canal below the line of the bridge. Dublin life seemed to be going on around the vehicles so we stopped to watch the goings on. We decided that things looked so serious that we came to a group consensus that a body had been found below in the canal and we had stumbled upon the site of some IRA hitman incident. This view was encouraged by noticing that at one point a large black bag was hoisted up from the canal below the bridge. It was empty but we took it as evidence of our murder victim theory
Given I was an inquisitive Australian as free as a bird on the first morning of my holidays, I got out my handy movie camera and decided to take some shots of the general hubbub. This was perhaps my first mistake. We all then decided that our view of this morning’s entertainment was not clear enough so we crossed the road and wandered down Herbert Place that ran along beside the canal. It was only when I got to carried away with my role as journalistic photographer and decided to film over the railings of the canal that things turned ugly. I was spotted by an officer involved in the canal rescue who immediately charged towards me, waving his arms, telling me in no uncertain terms that I would be arrested and thrown into the police van and carted off to gaol if I didn’t clear off. I was very swift to oblige as I didn’t want to end up in gaol on the first morning of my Irish holidays. My three brothers who were standing nearby thought the incident was hilarious, particularly my swift backdown before the irate forces of Irish law.
We decided, as criminals often say, to make ourselves scarce, so we headed down the canal to inspect the very interesting locks of the Grand Canal. However my humiliation continued as the morning progressed as my brothers discussed and laughed at my encounter with the law, even at one point re-enacting for the camera the moment I realised as I looked though my camera lens that there was an irate officer of the law approaching rapidly whose body language indicated that I needed to move on from the scene. We checked the Dublin papers over the next few days for reports of bodies dumped in the Grand Canal but no reports were found which only made us more suspicious that something sinister and complicated was a foot! On returning to the hotel for breakfast with our spouses, our sensational news only led to a decree that we were not allowed to go out for early morning walks without somebody sensible with us.
Perhaps the only good thing to emerge from the morning walk was discovering that not far from the bridge over the Grand Canal was a statue of Patrick Kavanagh (1904-67), relaxing in the morning sunshine, idly watching the world going by on the canal. He is most famous for his poem ‘On Raglan Road’ which Luke Kelly of the Dubliners put to music and the combination resulted in one of the great, haunting Irish melodies of all time. There were many more similar encounters with memorials of great Irish artists as we roamed the streets of Dublin over the next three days. The links below give my account of the fascinating places we visited over our time in Dublin, with no more immature encounters with the Dublin constabulary.