Welcome to Dublin

Dublin’s our October home. I’ll be here until October 25, Joy until October 14, when she leaves for Ballinglen, a bustling metropolis of approximately 260 resident in Mayo County, NW Ireland (you can’t get there from anywhere), for her second week-long painting class. Once again Mike is going to come to babysit me in her absence. I’m grateful.

Our Dublin Home-Irish green, of Course
Our Dublin home–Irish green, of course. Ours is the door on the right.

Our apartment is mostly adequate. It’s location is perfect (Joy knows how to pick them), just a block from city hall and right next to Dublin’s primary drinking district (which we haven’t explored. Yet.) The bedrooms are so tiny that the queen-sized bed in the guest room leaves only 12 inches on one side for people. And they can’t be in there if the closet doors are open the full 12 inches! (Some man planned this place, a man who had no intention of ever living here.) But it’s clean, has the basics—running hot and cold water, en suite toilet, heat. We’re comfortable.

We started our time here right by attending evensong at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, just a few blocks from here. It is Ireland’s largest cathedral, famous in its own right but of special interest to this English professor because Jonathan Swift was Dean here for 32 years in the 1800s.  The sung worship service, led by the men’s and boy’s choir accompanied by a masterful organist, was thrilling. We planned to return for an organ concert at 8:00, but an important phone call prevented. We’ll try again next week.

The Spire of Dublin, 398 feet high, stainless steel. Thanks to this landmark, it's pretty hard to get lost here--which, given our record, is comforting!
The Spire of Dublin, 398 feet high, stainless steel. Thanks to this landmark, it’s pretty hard to get lost here–which, given our record, is comforting!

Monday we once again did the tourist thing, riding Dublin’s Hop On Hop Off bus around town, regaled by the driver/host whose Irish accent forced us to pay attention (how many times have I already mentioned accents in this blog?) We like reconnoitering when we first arrive in a city, to get a feel for the place. We didn’t complete the circuit (saved some stops for later).

One of the joys in this Next Phase has been the discovery that even though we are far from loved ones in America they are so much with us that often something brings them to mind, like the name of this sushi restaurant:


Ted and Judy Yamamori are among our oldest and dearest friends. It was fun to spot this restaurant on one of my first walks. We’ll have to patronize it in their honor–although like Judy we aren’t real raw fish fans.

My big event on Tuesday was a visit to the Irish Writer’s Museum.

Joy had an appointment to repair some fingernails she destroyed in her painting class, so I went on my own. You can see here the results of her beautification program. Pretty funky for a woman of her class and sophistication. (Not to worry; she’ll probably destroy these in her next painting classes.)

Art Comes in Many Forms
Art Comes in Many Forms
This 18th century home now houses the Irish Writers Museum
This 18th century home now houses the Irish Writers Museum

That we went our separate ways was a good thing. I can’t expect her or anyone else to share this old teacher’s enthusiasm for  these writers. Ireland has contributed hugely to English literature. Let me drop a few names and you’ll see why I said this:

James Joyce (Ulysses, The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, Dubliners). He was a scandal in America early in the 20th century, his Ulysses being banned as pornographic. Now it’s considered one of the classics in the language. Standards have changed.)

George Bernard Shaw (Pygmalion, popularized as My Fair Lady), Man and Superman, Major Barbara, Saint Joan  and a host of other plays ).

Oscar Wilde (The Importance of Being Earnest, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Ballad of Reading Gaol).

C. S. Lewis (Yes, the C. S. Lewis was Irish, born in Belfast)

Frank McCourt (remember Angela’s Ashes?)

Playwright John Millington Synge (The Playboy of the Western World)

Philosopher Iris Murdoch, who gained additional fame in the film Iris featuring her heart-breaking slide into dementia.

And poets Seamus Heaney, William Butler Yeats, Oliver Goldsmith, among others

Towering above them all: that remarkable 18th century figure mentioned above, Jonathan Swift. If you got through public school without reading at least part of Gulliver’s Travels, often considered a children’s book but actually one of the most incisive political satires ever written, your education cheated you. For centuries he has challenged our prejudices and forced us to face our ridiculousness.  Of all its writers, Dublin seems most proud of Swift.

The museum itself is rather modest, but I spent a happy morning there. The downside? I now have this long list of Irish works I want to read or reread.

In a post from Paris I might have said a disparaging word or two about modern art. I did not even go inside the Pompidou Museum of Modern Art. Well, I repented of my negativity, so when Joy suggested a visit to Ireland’s Museum of Modern Art I said, “Good idea,” and off we went.

Bad idea. This museum is housed in a former military hospital. The building is worth a look-see. I tried in vain, however to connect with the art inside. Joy, with her artist’s eye, could say some nice things. Not many, I noticed, but some.

A bit of whimsy from a modern artist--the one thing at the IMMA that made sense to me.
A bit of whimsy from a modern artist–the one thing at the IMMA that made sense to me.

Just let me say that the best part of the experience for me was a brief but good visit with a couple and their adult daughter from Seattle. Tillamook meets Seattle, a happy occurrence. He was pushing a walker-with-seat, so I invited him to join me on my bench in the courtyard, cane and walker enjoying each other’s company. He brought his family here to trace his Irish heritage, as I traced my literary heritage this morning in the writer’s museum.

We went to jail this afternoon. Its real name is Kilmainham Gaol and it’s Trip Advisor’s Number One tourist attraction in Dublin. The bus drivers agree with Trip Advisor. So our visit was compulsory.

“The Hat” Facing the Chair for Sentencing at Kilmainham Jail-Dublin Ireland
“The Hat” Facing the Chair for Sentencing 

As it should be. The jail looms large in Irish history. Opened in the late 18th century, expanded in the 19th, and converted into a museum in the 20th, it captures much of Ireland’s oft-violent history, its rebellions and executions and unsteady groping toward a gentler, more humane future. Here is where the primary leaders of the Easter Rebellion of 1916 were hanged, their sad ending serving as motivation for future–and eventually successful–struggles for independence.


We walked through the damp, dark corridors of the west wing, peering into the darker, damper cells as we went. Then came the visit to the more modern east wing. Our guide compared the architecture to that of today’s shopping malls. (I liked that. When Joy drags me into one of them I feel a certain loss of freedom!) You can see the resemblance in Joy’s picture. This design affords the officer on duty a 360-degree view of the prisoners’ movements.

New addition to Kilmainham Gaol in Queen Victoria's day to improve health of prisoners
New addition to Kilmainham Gaol in Queen Victoria’s day to improve health of prisoners

Of particular interest to Joy and me, because of our Australian son-in-law, was learning that this was a transportation center, with many prisoners held here temporarily before being transported to their new home in Australia.

Kilmainham Gaol (Jail) Transports Prisoners to Australia
Kilmainham Gaol (Jail) Transports Prisoners to Australia

We enjoy reminding Michael that his country was founded on prisoners and not the universally high class persons who settled America. We feel  the need to remind Michael of American superiority from time to time. He tends to forget, especially as we often accuse Michael of stealing our daughter and carrying her off down under; he calls it rescuing her. Aussies can be very hard-headed.

Kilmainham Gaol was famous for its hangings; many leaders of the 1916 Easter Rebellion against England, for example, were killed here. We saw the spot where they died. This was considered a reformed jail, enlightened for its day. In truth, it’s but one more reminder that we seem never to have found the way to a genuinely humane penal system in any country. We still lock up too many, very often for the wrong reasons, and keep them there too long.

West wing cell door
West wing cell door

It was an instructive visit. As close to the inside of a jail as we want to get.

One woman prisoner found release in her faith-inspired cell wall art
One woman prisoner found release in her faith-inspired cell wall art


19 thoughts on “Welcome to Dublin”

  1. Such an interesting “world tour” you and Joy are having. And the places you have prioritized reveals how intensive our Father, His Son, and His Spirit infiltrated the world through the disciples of Christ who valued Christ above their own lives. Thus the Body of Christ really being the Body of Christ. Knofel

    1. Yes, it’s fascinating to revisit some of the key moments in Christian history here. But I’m afraid our choice of locations wasn’t very spiritual. We’re going where Joy found art classes she wanted to take! I get my turn in January when we go to India. No art classes there.

  2. love this, i am traveling with no expense or effort! hoping to do british isles, incl. dublin in 2018. God willing!

  3. Roy and Joy: Absolutely loving this one– and all the others! Loooove the photos as much as the wonderful story. Sending to Paige because she taught history and British Lit and even visited Ireland with some of her students in 1999 or so. Zach will be in London again in November. Xoxoxo Teri

    1. We’re going to be in London a few days in November, also. Do you know his dates and whether he’d be interested in connecting? He owes me big time, of course, after the wedding!

      1. Oops- didn’t ever get this reply from you about Zach being in England. You could have gone to a rock concert– lol! I should have the notifications by email box!😫 Now it’s February 💗💝💞💓💖 Love to you Roy and Joy. You are very dear to us! Chip and Teri

    1. Joy says they are right. As for me, I can’t really tell the difference between butter and good margarine, so you’ll have to take Joy’s word for it. (My culinary insensitivity is a constant source of embarrassment to Joy.

      1. This old Oregon cowboy/honky tonk Christian has a piece of advice, get yourself to the Trinity College Library (if you
        haven’t done so yet) without delay. Joycean pub crawls and Joycean epiphanies have their merits,I would be the first to vouch for that.,,,, but the Library and the Book of Kells,well that’s the Sublime squared.
        I’ve been following your odyssey, your post on the visit to Notre Dame mirrored my experience and insight at Westminster
        Abbey many years ago. I’m off to work in a few minutes but know this I’m looking over your shoulder and having a grand time
        on your journey.

        1. Boy are we glad to hear from you, Craig. Nice to know you’re looking over our shoulder. And to get your good advice. The next post will have something to say about my visit to Trinity College Library. Hope you’re doing well.

  4. I managed to make pilgrimage to house where GBS grew up–a tiny street house just a block or two south of the royal canal, marked only by a small round medallion. A glorious moment for me.

    1. On my morning walk I tried to find GBS’s house but didn’t succeed. I’ve drawn a new map and will try again. Thanks for the tip.

    2. On my second attempt to find the GBS house I discovered it’s been closed for about four years now. Sad.

  5. Roy – you have found my secret investment which is making me millions. When you go in to eat please feel free to drop my name. Can’t wait to show this on my next trip to see my family in Japan. Love your blog and love both of you. Judy loves Joys nails. Says “You go girl “

  6. Roy and Joy,

    Remarkable, the way you two drink in life. Clearly there is a part of you that never left the Garden.

    Speaking of gardens, I’m grateful that you straightened me out about Swift’s higher level of meaning. I didn’t grow cucumbers this year, but I did set out to extract some sunbeams from my chard in hopes of storing up some decent golf weather for this winter. Ah, we Knowleses are naive. Cousin Steve once selected “a simple sea story” from one of Wetzel’s options on a test on Billy Budd (he really did, ornery as he was in those days).

    May your journeys carry you, like Reepicheep, to the golden waters of Aslan’s very shores–but please skip the part about jumping overboard for now. We want you back for awhile.

    Next weekend we will be at the old alma mater celebrating her 150th and Lezlee’s 45th (I think I got that in the right order). A good part of my October heart belongs to that place, and to a couple of profs who made it special forever.

    God’s continued blessings,


    1. First response: Chard won’t work, Jeff. In fact, nothing works if the goal in extracting and saving sunlight is to make golf possible in the winter. I don’t think golf has ever received divine sanction, even in the summer. Second response: Wetzel is sneaky, so sneaky you have to be around him quite some time before you catch on. Third response: I’m not certain I remind you of a rat. Fourth response: Wish Joy and I could be with you for the Milligan weekend. Thanks for writing.

Leave a Reply