O’Connell Street is the city of Dublin’s major thoroughfare. It runs from the River Liffey at O’Connell Bridge northward for 500 meters to Parnell Square. In the 17th century it was called Drogheda Street for Henry Moore, the Earl of Drogheda. In the 18th century it was renamed Sackville Street after Lionel Sackville, First Duke of Dorset. In 1924 it was renamed again O’Connell Street after Daniel O’Connell, the great Catholic Emancipator of the 19th century.
Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847) is known as The Liberator and The Emancipator. He is credited with forcing the repeal of one of the most important penal laws imposed by the British government against Irish Catholics. In the 1690s laws against Catholics began to be placed on the books that forbade Catholics to worship, to attend schools, to own property. There was even a law that disallowed a Catholic to sit in Parliament. But in 1829 Daniel O’Connell was elected to Parliament but then not allowed to sit. The lawmakers were in a quandary and eventually decided that the law had to be repealed but managed to force O’Connell to run again and be re-elected in order to finally sit. He did, he won and he sat in Parliament the following year.
During his career O’Connell represented Counties Clare, Kerry and Dublin. He also served as Lord High Mayor of Dublin, the first Catholic to hold this office since the reign of James II. O’Connell was the leader of The Catholic Association which held monster rallies of 100,000 people or more all over Ireland. He also was a champion of non-violence and an influence on Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
Lord Horatio Nelson was a great British hero. In 1805 he commanded the naval fleet that defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar and he lost his life during this battle. In 1809 the Anglo-Irish leaders of the city of Dublin erected an enormous pillar with a statue of Nelson on top as a gracious tribute to this great hero. Inside the pillar a staircase of 168 steps led all the way to a viewing platform at the base of the 13-foot statue of Nelson.
Yes, Nelson was a great British hero. But not an Irish hero and many citizens of Dublin did not really care for this tribute to a British hero at this prominent place in their city. And one day in March of 1966 an IRA sympathizer bombed Nelson’s Pillar, sending the statue and half of the pillar to kingdom come.
The Spire of Dublin replaced Nelson’s Pillar in 2003. See the Irish Music Bonus section at the end of this posting for the conclusion to this story.
Did you see Batman in the above photo?
The next six photos were taken while traveling up O’Connell Street on a hop on/off sightseeing bus.
O’Brien was the leader of the 1848 Rebellion, one of many failed Irish uprisings against the British over the centuries.
Sir John Gray (sometimes his name is spelled Grey) was born in 1815 and died in 1875. He was a physician, surgeon, newspaper proprietor (Freeman’s Journal), journalist, and politician known for completing the new water supply for the city of Dublin and its suburbs. Leopold Bloom, the main character in James Joyce’s Ulysses, worked as an adman for the Freeman’s Journal.
The Spire is 150 meters (394 feet) high and at the time it was erected in 2003 it was the tallest sculpture in the world. Dubliners are known for their slightly cruel but humorous nicknames for their treasures and have come up with several gems for the Spire. Here are some of the them: the spike, the binge syringe, the stiletto in the ghetto, the nail in the pale, the pin in the bin, God’s rod.
Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891) was the leader of Ireland’s Home Rule League which became the Irish Parliamentary Party. His party played a key role in the 1880s when they joined Gladstone’s Liberal Party to form a government. In 1890 his long adulterous love affair was revealed and he lost his political stature and backing by the Catholic Church. James Joyce’s Ulysses takes place in 1904 Dublin where they still are talking about Parnell (13 years after his death) and what happened to his plans for Home Rule.
Our bus drove around Parnell Square and then headed back down O’Connell Street.
The Rotunda Hospital is a maternity hospital that opened in 1745. More than 300,000 babies have been born at the hospital.
Father Mathew (1790-1856) was a Capuchin friar from County Cork and a leader of the temperance movement. He influenced more than 7 million people in Ireland, Scotland, England and the US to take the pledge of total abstinence of liquor.
The General Post Office was the major scene of fighting in the Easter Uprising of 1916. An exhibit commemorating the 1916 rebellion can be found in the GPO’s basement (there is an admission fee). The GPO is the largest building on O’Connell Street.
North Earl Street is only two blocks long. It then becomes Talbot Street. We hopped off our sightseeing bus on O’Connell Street near North Earl to do some souvenir shopping and then get some lunch.
After lunch I walked around the Summerhill area for awhile and visited the James Joyce Centre on North Great George’s Street.
We then walked back to our hotel, passing the back of the Custom House on our way.
In my next post I will cover the rest of our adventures on the Dublin hop on/off sightseeing bus.
Irish Music Bonus — Nelson’s Farewell by Ronnie Drew and the Dubliners
And now for the conclusion of the story of Nelson’s Pillar. No less than three songs came out within weeks of the notorious event that took place on the 8th of March, 1966. One of them, Up went Nelson by the Go Lucky Four, claimed number one on the charts for eight consecutive weeks. Another was called Lord Nelson, written and and sung by Tommy Makem. Then the Dubliners recorded their first single, a song by Joe Dolan called Nelson’s Farewell. This video clip starts with Luke Kelly reciting a poem called Dublin and then Ronny Drew takes over the lead singing role.