Dublin, Newgrange and Maynooth

I had a busy weekend thanks to the Fulbright folks. Our orientation in Dublin proved to be a lively affair that kept us on the run. Thanks to Colleen, Sonya and Pippa for a great experience. Thursday started out a wee bit early, with a dawn train from Galway to Dublin. Good thing I live across the square from the train station!

I haven’t been in Dublin in thirty years. A lot has changed. While we started out at Trinity, there was no time to catch the Book of Kells exhibit, so I’ll be back (anyway I didn’t get a chance to meet up with Pádraig either, so I’ll be back soon).

We met the other Fulbright folks, including Michael, Leslie and Gurram who are all in Galway and we had a chance to chat and talk about our projects as we got to know each other. We had a lively welcome and a fun history tour of Dublin with our energetic guide Tommy. That evening we had a dinner theatre show — a sort of Riverdance light >_< The musicians and dancers were mostly good, but it was a bit cheesey and touristy. But the audience seemed largely pleased (apart from Dominique who’s doing a masters in traditional Irish music at Limerick; poor gal, she found it a bit trying).

In the morning we were off to Newgrange, an incredible megalithic site, older than Stonehenge. I wasn’t sure I would actually go inside. The passage into the temple is quite narrow and there are all those tons of stones overhead. The light at the winter solstice hits the interior through a special channel designed for that purpose, so they knew when the sun would return once again. Quite a sight, which they recreate with a 40 watt bulb 😉

So yes, I did it. I hung back at the very end of our group and was rather nervous, especially when they turned out the lights. Okay, panicky might be a better word, but I tried to relax (ha!) and while I may have run out pretty quickly at the end (oh yeah), I can say I did it and it was quite an amazing experience. You can throw your hat into the ring to be one of the lucky few who actually get to see the dawn rise there at midwinter; there’s a lottery to choose.

After that we went to the lovely campus at NUI Maynooth, where we had lectures on Irish history and language, a tour of the campus and a tantalisingly brief visit to the Russel Library and all its many treasures. We had a lovely dinner with the new President and lots of the other faculty that spawned a lot of conversations and connections. The second day we got our introduction to speaking Irish and in the afternoon Irish dancing. Hee, a bunch of academics! We did a lot better with the language than the dancing (well, most of us — Dominique and Amelia did just fine, and we were getting better by the end). Dinner that night was under the full moon that rose over Trim Castle, the twelfth century Norman fortification (take that, Strongbow!). It was an absolutely gorgeous night.

Sunday we headed back to Dublin for the Ambassador’s Remembrance and Peace event. The President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, spoke eloquently and there was beautiful music, including a new piece in honour of the day that featured the Irish Orchestra and Uillean pipes that had a soaring beauty, both melancholy and by the end, full of hope. It was that kind of event: NYFD and NYPD first responders were honoured — some dual citizens, some the children of immigrants. It was a very moving event.

Afterward we all headed back to our separate locations, promising to keep in touch and to practice our dancing 😉 I’m still without internet at home (finally have it on campus, hurrah!) so I may not be online as much as usual. Hopefully it will all be sorted soon (or I may just go crazy).