/ Ireland2018

The Lily Of The West

This late blossoming spring is slowing us down. Once again there is a bitter wind and it is raining as we eventually drag ourselves out of bed at 9:30. The forecast has the weather changing fortunately, but it does mean we've not explored Dublin as fully as we might. No worry, we were here 20 years ago and the Guinness experience was done then [1]

Today's port of call is the National Museum Of Ireland - Decorative Arts & History. But before we get there we pass one of Dublin's famous statues 'The Floozie In The Jacuzzi'

OK, so the sculpture's real name is Anna Livia and she is the embodiment of the River Liffey; the name Anna Livia Plurabelle was also a character in Finegan's Wake (but you knew that, didn't you?). Of course this being Dublin the arts are enjoyed whilst also gently poked fun at, so statues get nicknames. Molly Malone complete with barrow, is know as 'The Tart With The Cart', 'The Dolly With The Trolley', 'The Trollop With The Scallop' et al. Poor Oscar Wilde's statue is 'The Fag On The Crag' or 'The Queer With The Leer' whilst walking stick aided James Joyce fares no better as 'The Prick With The Stick'. It's not just people, the 120m high sky-scraping pin-like 'Spire Of Light' is more affectionately known as 'The Stiffy On The Liffey' or 'The Erection At The Intersection'.

Anyway, on to the museum. It's huge, housed in the old military barracks around a 100 paces wide square. Yep, in total the block has 4 * 100m long wings. Fortunately not all of it is museum. The assistant at the door and bag-check reckoned to allow 1.5- 2 hours. With a trip to the coffee shop for midway refreshment we were there well over 3 hours.

Sadly little would photograph well behind its protective glass but one of the highlights was an eclectic 50 object collection of curators' choices. No cohesion to this collection, just pieces individual curators thought best expressed his or her interest. One piece was this fantastic hurdy-gurdy

Another interesting rag-bag of exhibits were basically storage items being given light of day. Again, little thematic cohesion to the collection but staying with the musical idea there was this guitar

and way up high (hence the poor photo) this harp

But my favourite instrument was given pride of place, right at the start of the gallery tour - these magnificent pipes which really are worth zooming in to inspect

Oh, and one other exhibition was Irish money through the ages. We were amazed at just how detailed this exhibition was, spending far more time than we'd imagined. It was interesting how the coins could be used to illustrate what was happening in the country, with motifs such as a crown atop the harp to emphasise English rule, or the shortage of metal leading to bells and guns being melted down for gun-money.

The reason for our visit was to explore Irish costume and fashion through the ages. Another beautiful exhibition, but one that focused primarily on the gentry as opposed to the peasantry. I was hoping to get a glimpse of an original woven 'crois' belt for example, but no. Aran is famous for its knitwear but again this didn't feature, nor peasant shawls, something I always associate with Ireland.

Still even at 3 hours we missed chunks, the Irish silver exhibition would probably have been passed through quickly anyway but the Oriental art may have been interesting and we missed the military history sections entirely, including the 1916 Easter Uprising exhibition.

Just one other exhibit to mention. The wonderful Flora tapestry, designed by Edward Burnt-Jones for William Morris it is a masterpiece of Pre-Raphaelite art. My single number one item from today's visit ( the pipes were a close run second). And, Lily Of The West?

When first I came to Louisville, some pleasure there to find
A damsel there from Lexington was pleasing to my mind
Her rosy cheeks, her ruby lips, like arrows pierced my breast
And the name she bore was Flora, the lily of the West

An old American-Irish ballad, regular in Joan Baez's repertoire and convered by Bob Dylan, The Chieftains, Peter, Paul & Mary et al

Flora, is today's blog's cover picture. Sadly, reflections and strong lights behind mask some of her beauty.


  1. More than a week into our stay and we still haven't had a pint of Guinness. Many pints of craft beer, and many of them stout, but nothing by Guinness or Smithick's. ↩︎