Let's Get Walkin'!
Dublin City Council maintains a fantastic program called Let's Walk and Talk. The aim of the program is to inspire fitness and community connection with a series free of guided walks through historic parts of Dublin. What parts of Dublin aren't historic? The Dundrum Shopping Centre? Did I mention it was free?
The main series of walks are all led and narrated by celebrated local historian, Pat Liddy. Mr. Liddy and his staff run the best-known series of historic walking tours in Dublin. Pat himself also appears to be a minor (maybe major!) local celebrity and the go-to guy for historical facts and stories of Dublin.
His celebrity status was confirmed with me when I showed up for this guided walk, titled, "Kilmainham to Goldenbridge." The tour met at Kilmainham Gaol, one of Dublin's most important and most somber buildings. As I rounded the corner to the gaol (jail), after missing the turn on my first try, I saw a large crowd gathered around the reflective-vested walk volunteers. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many people waiting to take a Wednesday afternoon guided walk. People here really do care about their history.
Listen, and You Shall Hear...
The total participant count was well over one hundred as the tour began. The volunteers, organizers, and Pat Liddy were prepared for the crowd, and the logistics of herding such a large group through Dublin were well planned. The City Council reps had a portable microphone and amplifier so Pat didn't have to shout over traffic. Two emergency medical personnel were on hand from the Civil Defense in case of any sudden health issues, of which there were none.
The weather was beautiful for early Spring, and the tour kicked off with stories of the gaol and its, ahem, guests during the two-hundred odd years of its use. Not many happy stories came out of the high stone walls of the gaol, but I was interested to hear that the people who pushed for the restoration and opening to the public of the gaol were... the last surviving prisoners. Most well-known among them (by the Irish public) is Eamon De Valera, the New York born Irish revolutionary and long time President of Ireland. He is known affectionately as "Dev" between Irish people, something I've picked up by attending the history lectures disguised as a local.
|Kilmainham Gaol Memorial|
Graduating to "Local" Status?
That was another great draw of this tour for me. It was aimed at an Irish (particularly Dublin) audience. I have done enough of the tourist-level walks and read the tourist-level books. I think I'm ready to take on the challenge of local history for locals. Just outside the gaol is the monument to the 1916 executions. During the 1916 Easter Rising, sixteen revolutionary leaders were taken to Kilmainham and executed. The English thought that the news of the executions would intimidate and discourage the Irish public. Unfortunately (for the English) the stories of the executions angered and turned the tide of public opinion to the rebels. Whoops.
Before the tour, I saw a few people standing around the memorial, naming off each of the martyrs from memory. Clearly, they learn these names in school just as American schoolchildren learn to recite the names of our own national heroes. If these people were here for this tour, then this was the tour for me.
After the gaol, we were off to the next stop in the Kilmainham neighborhood. Stay tuned!