On the fifth of July last year we woke up to a rainy Friday morning in Dublin and thought what would be a better day than to visit the magnificent museum next door to our hotel: EPIC the Irish Emigration Museum. We weren’t disappointed. In fact, we spent half a day at the Chq Building touring the museum, visiting some of the adjacent shops and eating lunch in the extensive food court. Tripadvisor rates the museum # 9 of 643 things to do in Dublin. I would rate it even higher.
Click on any photo to see a larger version of that photo.
Neville Isdell was born in County Down and at the age of 10 moved to Africa with his family. He spent 43 years of his life working for Coca-Cola and retired as Chairman and CEO in 2009. In 2013 he bought the Chq building next door to our hotel on Custom House Quay and contracted with London-based Event Communications (the same folks who designed the Titanic Experience in Belfast and the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin) to build his EPIC museum which opened its doors in 2016. We were introduced to Isdell shortly after walking inside those doors that morning last year when we paused to view a video of him welcoming us to his museum and explaining why he thought it was necessary to tell the story of the Irish Diaspora.
I hope with this post I can get across a bit of his message about the influence of Irish emigration on the rest of the world.
The museum contains twenty galleries and we will walk through each one of them as we learn about the ten million Irish who emigrated from their country in the last 1500 years.
Emigrants brought their memories of the homeland with them wherever they settled.
Why the Irish emigrated.
Gaelic games have spread not only to the UK and the US but also to Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Kuwait.
Senior Engineer Sir Charles Algernon Parsons (1854-1931) was an Anglo-Irishman whose family came from County Offaly. He was home-schooled in Ireland and attended Trinity College Dublin. He spent most of his career in Newcastle where he invented the modern steam turbine.
22 of the 45 presidents of the United States had some Irish ancestors.
A few of Obama’s maternal ancestors came from County Offaly.
Yes, some Irish really were bad guys. Hard to believe, isn’t it?
Ireland’s contribution to the world’s favorite foods and drinks: beer, whiskey, soda bread, cheese and onion crisps. Also, the French cognac company Hennessy was founded by an Irish officer in the French army.
Yes, I know, where have I seen that lady before? Go back to the very first photo in this post and look at the lady in orange just to the right of center.
Orla was born in Dublin but set up her business in London where she now lives.
No wonder it took me two months to read Ulysses!
There are so many Irish storytellers who told their stories elsewhere that the museum had to reserve two galleries to tell their stories. Some of the storytellers told their stories on stage and screen: Richard Harris, Peter O’Toole, Maureen O’Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Jimmy Cagney, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Day Lewis. Others used their pens: George Bernard Shaw, Bram Stoker, Jonathan Swift, Edna O’Brien, James Joyce.
Joyce wrote most of Ulysses when he was living in France and Switzerland.
Everyone is Irish on March 17th.
At the beginning of our EPIC journey each of us was issued a passport which we then got stamped as we walked through the museum’s galleries. At Gallery # 20 we were given the chance to use our passports to connect with friends and relatives back home on social media by sending them a virtual postcard. And we were told that we will always be welcomed to come back again.
EPIC won the World Travel Award for Europe’s leading tourist attraction in 2019. And they should probably receive an award for their excellent website, too. The museum is closed these days due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But see here if you wouldn’t mind taking a virtual tour.
Irish Music Bonus — Will You Come to the Bower by Luke Kelly and The Dubliners
The legendary Irish poet and songwriter Thomas Moore (1779-1852) wrote this song in the early 1800s (probably 1807). It was based on an old Irish folk tune and is basically a love song. A bower is a secluded spot in a garden surrounded by greenery where two lovers can possibly find some privacy. About 50 years later an unknown sympathizer for the Fenian Movement changed the words of the song to be an exhortation for young Irish men who had departed Ireland for England and the US to come back and fight for independence. The bower he sings about in this case is the entire island of Ireland.
This is my penultimate posting on our 2019 trip to Ireland and I can’t think of a better singer to sing my penultimate song than Luke Kelly of The Dubliners, allegedly the greatest of all singers to come out of the Irish Folk Music revival of the 1960s. Luke sang this song in Vienna in 1981 shortly after collapsing on stage in a performance in Cork in 1980 and then being operated on the next day for a brain tumor. He endured additional brain surgery in 1983 and performed his last song with the Dubliners in November of that year. He died in January 1984 at the age of 41. Here we go.
On our last day in Ireland last year we walked to Merrion Square and then on to Temple Bar for dinner. That will be the subject of my next post.
This truly a fascinating museum! Every country where thousands of people emigrated from should have a museum like this one.
What I found fascinating were all the different reasons for emigrating. Some were religious, some humanitarian, some business opportunities. Most of my Irish ancestors emigrated to the US to escape starvation in the 1840s. Thanks for commenting, Peter!
I agree with Peter; there should be one of these in every country (there might be, for all I know).
Thanks for the song, Disperser!
You are welcome . . . here’s one of my favorite one of theirs, specifically for the line: “well, so could anyone”