We checked out of our hotel one Monday morning in July last year and walked through Eyre Square to the Galway New Coach Station and hopped on board the coach for our return trip to Dublin where we planned to spend our last week in Ireland. Dublin is almost directly east of Galway and our trip would cover the entire 223 km width of Ireland from Galway’s western shore to the mouth of the River Liffey on Ireland’s east coast.
Click on any photo to see a larger version of that photo.
It took about two and a half hours for our coach to drive from Galway to Dublin. The M6 meets up with the M4 about 60 km from Dublin and the M4 follows the Royal Canal to central Dublin. The bus left us off about six blocks from our hotel. We walked to our hotel on Custom House Quay from there.
The Hilton opened in 2016. It was previously a Jurys Inn.
The CHQ building was formerly known as Stack A and was built in 1820 to store tea and tobacco on its ground floor and wine and spirits in its underground vaults. Dockworkers called it the Tobacco Store. Neville Isdell, former CEO of Coca-Cola, bought the building in 2013 and launched EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum in 2016.
If the above photo was a panorama you would be able to see the Custom House on the left and the CHQ building on the right.
The Custom House was built in 1891 and was burned to the ground by the IRA in 1921 during the War of Independence. It was restored by the newly created Irish State in 1922 and further restored in the 1980s. It is now the home for the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.
We visited the Famine Museum in Strokestown in 2002. The museum once was a mansion owned by a wealthy landlord named Denis Mahon. In May of 1847 Mahon evicted 1490 of his tenants and told them to make their way to Dublin and from there to Liverpool where they would find four ships that would take them to their new home in Canada. Mahon purchased tickets to take them across the Atlantic Ocean. And so the 1490 evicted tenants walked from Strokestown to the River Shannon and then continue walking along the Royal Canal all the way to the River Liffey in Dublin. It took them six days to walk the 167 kilometers. They then boarded a steamer that took them to Liverpool. In Liverpool the 1490 evicted tenants boarded one of four ships that would take some of the 1490 on a 56-day voyage all the way to Quebec. Some, but not all. More than 700 of the 1490 died on the way or while in quarantine on Grosse Isle. More than 50 orphan children were taken in and adopted by French-speaking families in Quebec. Some people in Ireland are still trying to find out what happened to these children. It took a while for the news to get back to County Roscommon. In November of 1847 Denis Mahon was shot and killed by someone who heard the story of the 1490 evicted tenants.
Those four ships, commonly called today “coffin ships,” looked a lot like the Jeanie Johnston replica that is docked right outside our hotel. It is estimated that about 100,000 people died on these coffin ships in the 1840s and 50s and about 5,000 people are buried in mass graves at Gross Isle.
Sean O’Casey (1880-1964) was an Irish playwright who was born and raised in a north Dublin slum and spent his life writing about the impoverished Irish working class. He wrote several successful plays in the 1920s, including Shadow of a Gunman, The Plough and the Stars, and Juno and the Paycock. The Plough and the Stars is a story about the Easter Uprising of 1916. It caused a riot on opening night at the Abbey Theatre when the audience expressed displeasure with the role of an Irish Catholic prostitute. W. B. Yeats, founder and director of the Abbey Theatre along with Lady Augusta, backed O’Casey up that night when he shouted down the rioters from the stage, asking them if they had no shame for rioting again. He was referring to a similar riot back in 1909 when J. M. Synge’s play The Playboy of the Western World debuted (see here for my recent post on Synge and the Aran Islands). Yeats refused to stage O’Casey’s next play, though (The Silver Tassie), and O’Casey left Ireland in a huff and spent most of the rest of his life in England. There he wrote 18 additional plays and also spent years compiling a six-volume autobiography called Mirror in My House. The Sean O’Casey Bridge, named in his honor, opened in 2005.
Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) was an Irish poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist and stage director. He lived most of his adult life in France and he wrote in both English and French and translated his English works into French and vice versa. He met James Joyce in Paris and the two became close friends. Beckett even assisted Joyce in his research that resulted in Finnegans Wake. He worked with the French Resistance during World War II and after the war wrote his most notable plays that have been characterized as being stark, full of despair and dark humor, and virtually plot-less. His most famous play, Waiting for Godot, was written originally in French in the late 40s and first staged in English in 1953. The celebrated Irish literary critic Vivian Mercier, a scholar of Beckett’s works, once described Waiting for Godot as a two-act play “in which nothing happens twice.” Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969. The bridge named after him was built in 2009. The James Joyce Bridge, further upriver, was completed in 2003. Both bridges were designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
We were not too impressed with the Sean O’Casey Bridge, especially when we compared it to the beautiful Samuel Beckett Bridge in the background. I guess the best thing I can say about this bridge is that the best view of the Samuel Beckett Bridge can be obtained from the middle of the Sean O’Casey Bridge!
We crossed about a half dozen different bridges during our week’s stay in Dublin but used the Sean O’Casey Bridge most often. The bridge starts at the CHQ building that houses the EPIC Museum and is very close to our hotel’s front door.
We used the Sean O’Casey Bridge to get to Trinity College, Merrion Square, Grafton Street and St Stephen’s Green. We used other bridges such as the Talbot Memorial Bridge and the Butt Bridge on either side of the Custom House and the O’Connell Street Bridge to get to other tourist attractions further west.
Our first stroll in Dublin outside the Custom House Quay was to the Temple Bar district south of the River Liffey and that will be the subject of my next post.
Irish Music Bonus — The Rocky Road to Dublin by Luke Kelly and The Dubliners
As you can see from the first photo in this post we had a pretty smooth ride on our road to Dublin but it definitely was not the case in this grand old song from the 19th century which relates the travel adventures of a fellow from the village of Tuam in County Galway who decides to walk all the way to Dublin where he gets robbed and then somehow finds himself on a boat to Wales and finally ends up in Liverpool where he meets some fellow Galwegians who come to his aid. Just about everybody in Ireland knows this song and many have recorded it. Let’s listen to Luke Kelly’s version:
OK, I guess some of you just might want to down a Guinness and fight somebody, especially those who remember that fight scene in the 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie. But I think there may be some of you who didn’t understand a word Luke Kelly either spoke or sang. So here’s another YouTube clip with the lyrics. Be sure to catch the lines about the western Ireland accent which is called the Connaght brogue in the song. Personally, I can handle the Galway accent very well but Luke’s Dublin accent in songs like this is a twister. Luke was born on Sheriffs Street near the Royal Canal just a few blocks from Custom House Quay.
The song is also a popular slip jig among Irish dancers.