Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Deansgrange Cemetery World War I Graves Tour

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council are running a series free  heritage tours this summer and one I noticed today was for the Deansgrange Cemetery World War I Graves Tour, and I decided to tag along. 

Image source:
Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.
Over a one and a half hour tour I and about 20 other people were enthralled by the information about the dead of World War I that lie in the cemetery. It is known that there are about 125 people directly involved in WWI buried in the cemetery, with about 80 others thought to be involved. A difficulty in determining who was involved or not is divided along Catholic and Protestant divisions - Catholics tended not to want graves to indicate that the dead were in the British Army, while the Protestants celebrated this.

The first grave we saw was for Joseph Tierney. The regular headstone on his grave records that he died on "5 Jan 1916". However, a special Commonwealth Graves headstone notes that he was soldier 73108 with the rank of Corporal in the Royal Engineers who died on 5th January 1915 aged just 24. The one year discrepancy appears to be an error and our guide told us that it is due to be corrected to 1916.

There are several connections to the 1916 Rising with many graves of Sherwood Foresters who were killed at Mount St in 1916. One of the Foresters, Montague Bernard Browne, died in hospital on 28 April 1916 after being wounded in 26 April probably at Mount St. The Foresters exacted a little revenge on the 1916 leaders in that most of the firing squads who executed the 1916 leaders were drawn from their ranks. 

Below are some of the photos I took today - if you get a chance to make this tour, it is well worth it 

We were told that all buried here died of the Spanish Flu.

Only Victoria Cross winner in Deansgrange.

These guys are not actually buried in this grave.

Note small memorial bottom left.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Review: "The Floating Brothel: The Extraordinary True Story of an Eighteenth Century Ship and its Cargo of Female Convicts" by Siân Rees

Looking for something to read I checked out Amazon best seller list in the history category and noticed an unusual title at Number 1: "The Floating Brothel: The Extraordinary True Story of an Eighteenth Century Ship and its Cargo of Female Convicts" written by Siân Rees. Despite its slightly titillating title, this is a super book about how women from England were transported to Australia in the 1780s.

Image Source: Amazon.
The book tells the story of many women and what crimes they committed - mostly theft, prostitution, and shop-lifting. The sentence for these crimes was often death, but were commuted to "transportation beyond the seas". Rees paints a picture of dreadful conditions in jails at the time, and also the difficulty of dealing with prisoners and their crimes. There was also a desire by Government for people to set up a colony in what is now Sydney, and here was a handy way to get started - in particular there was a shortage of women. The ship used was the Lady Julian, and it was a much better place for the women than in the horrid conditions in jail. At times the women did turn the ship into a brothel, mostly while in port.

The voyage from England to Australia is described well and the lives of the women on board seemed to have been a lot better than for convicts on other ships. How the women did after they arrived is also described and the hardships of an early colony make for interesting reading. Women were used in ways that today we would consider barbaric, for example there is the description of the horrific burning at the stake of Catherine Sullivan in 1788 for forging coins, and the unwritten rule that sailors could take a "wife" for comfort during the voyage to Australia.

Siân Rees has written a very well researched and easy to read book that is captivating and informative. At 99p for the Kindle edition this is an absolute bargain.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Revisiting the #CausewayCoastalRoute and the #MourneCoastalRoute

Yesterday I traveled up to Ballycastle in County Antrim on my bike to revisit some parts of both the Causeway Coastal and Mourne Coastal Routes. My book is almost finished, but there were some sections where I was missing some photos or where I wanted to retake existing ones. The first port of call was at The Dark Hedges (of Game of Thrones Fame) near Armoy. Due to motorcycle races, the streets around Armoy were closed, so I had to take a detour. The Hedges are as magical and mystical as they are portrayed in Game of Thrones. I went to Fair Head and on a fine day there were great views from the top of the head out to Rathlin Island and even to Scotland. I also visited Torr Head and rode down the A2 around the Antrim coast. I also wanted a photo of St Patrick's Grave in Downpatrick, and of the Town Hall & Bagenal's Castle in Newry. Below are some photos from the trip
The Dark Hedges, Armoy.

Children of Lir and Fair Head, Ballycastle.

Lough na Cranagh at Fair Head

View of Mull of Kintyre from the top of Fair Head.

Cliff face at Fair Head.

At Fair Head with Rathlin Island in Background.

On the A2 near Glenarm, Co Antrim.

St Patrick's Grave, Downpatrick.

Town Hall, Newry.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Denys Corbett Wilson - First Man to Fly from Britain to Ireland 1912

While reading David McCullagh's excellent new book about The Wright Brothers, I heard about a commemorative stone in the townland of Crane near Monageer in Co Wexford and decided to go along for a look.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.
The stone is located on Google Street View here, and I have also uploaded it to the Open Plaques Project here. To the left is an image of the Bleriot XI that Denys Corbett Wilson flew after it crash landed. Wilson was a pioneering aviator - here is his Wikipedia page.

At 7.47am on the 22nd April 1912 he set out from Pembrokeshire in Wales and after about 100 minutes he crash landed in Crane. A hundred years later the flying route from Britain to Ireland (London-Dublin) is one of the busiest air routes in the world.

Denys Corbett Wilson was killed in World War I on 10th May 1915 when his plane was shot down during a reconnaissance mission over France.

Below is the granite commemorative stone - it does seem odd that the Corbett Wilson Committee erected this in "April 22nd 1987". Perhaps this is a typo?


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Book Review: "How To Fly A Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery" by @Kevin_Ashton

One day earlier in the summer I was listening to a radio show and author Kevin Ashton was being interviewed about his book "How to Fly a Horse". I was so impressed with his thoughts that I bought the book immediately the interview was over from the Amazon Kindle Store and started to read. I'd be interested to know if there was a spike in Amazon sales of the book in Ireland during and following this interview.

Image source: Amazon.
Using many interesting examples, Ashton explores creativity and creative people. He points out that many stories of creativity follow long hard battles with trial and error before finally something is created. He cites the work of James Dyson - widely regarded as a creative genius for his work on vacuum cleaners. Dyson follows a "make, break, make, break" approach. He made 5,126 prototypes of his vacuum cleaner before he finally "created" a marketable product. Ashton believes that much creativity is not about "eureka" moments, but is the result of hard work over a long period. He also cites great instances of "creativity" by the Wight Brothers, the Coca-Cola Company, Mozart, Bach, Steve Jobs, Stephen King, Fleetwood Mac, and many more. The common thread is that creativity followed enormous amount of hard work with much trial and error.

Many people believe that only special people are creative, and that they themselves are not. I never thought of myself as creative and cannot point to a new product or service as the likes of James Dyson and Stephen King can. The message for me from Ashton's book is that anybody can be creative as long as they work hard, keep trying, and never give up. From the last page of the book:

All stories of creators tell the same truths: that creating is extraordinary but creators are human; that everything right with us can fix anything wrong with us; and that progress in not an inevitable consequence but an individual choice. Necessity is not the mother of invention. You are.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Book Review: "River God" by Wilbur Smith

Ever since I came across a magnificent book called "When the Lion Feeds" when I was a teenager I have been fascinated by the books of Wilbur Smith. I have read every single one of them and always make it an automatic purchase whenever a new one comes out. His latest book, "River God" is the fifth book in his Ancient Egypt series.

Image source: Amazon.
His previous book in the series featured Taita and lots of magic. This book has thankfully less magic though it is a sometimes incredible story. Taita is the most egotistic man that ever existed - he has an answer for everything and seems perfect in every way (apart from having no goolies). That aside, the book takes us from Egypt to Babylon to Cyprus and back to Egypt. For Wilbur Smith fans it is true to form, but those new to Smith would do well to read the previous four novels in this series.

For me, Smith was in his prime writing about South Africa and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). He has been criticized for being racist and sexist - no arguments from me on this front. In "Desert God" there are no sweeping descriptions of the African landscape. The characters are weak, unlike the Ballantynes and Courtneys from his other books.

I read this book on holidays which fitted the bill of an easy read while soaking up the sun. I wish Smith would revisit his roots and write again about the Ballantynes and Courtneys - but this is surely not to be in today's PC world. No doubt I'll buy the next Wilbur Smith book when it comes out - but he lost his touch a long time ago.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Naples #Holidays

Our final day of holidays in Italy was spent in Naples. It turned out that it was cheaper to spend Sunday night in Naples in a hotel and fly home on Monday than flying a day earlier. We stayed at the Hotel San Pietro near Piazza Garibaldi. Coming down from the mountains the city is spread out under the shadow of mount Vesuvius. This volcano has not erupted since 1944, and will surely cause havoc if it does so again.

The first thing that strikes you about the area we stayed in is the filth of it. Graffiti and rubbish are everywhere, even on the churches. However, our hotel was excellent - very comfortable and clean. With just one afternoon and evening to explore the city we walked down to the old city centre (which is a lot cleaner). We had lunch on the Via Duomo, though disappointingly the Graffiti spoiled Duomo itself was closed. We visited the Buried City at the San Lorenzo Maggiore, and walked down an excavated old Roman street. Close by we enjoyed the brilliant Greco-Roman underground aqueduct - the Napoli Sotterranea. We had an excellent English speaking guide who brought us through some very narrow passages - this is well worth a visit. We stopped for a beer at the piazza Bellini, and later we had our last pizza in a very busy restaurant on the Via Tribunali. Even though it was a Sunday night, the narrow streets were very busy with people and fast scooters. Most scooter riders were not wearing helmets and they seem to be immune to any rules of the road. 

Naples is a very historic city, but not as well kept as Rome. Whether I ever go back I'm not sure, but I'm glad to have visited.

At Piazza Garibaldi.

On the Via Duomo.

Underground with some bombs.

Ravello #Holidays

1,500 steps up from our holiday apartment is the town of Ravello on top of a hill. We took our time and climbed the steps on a very hot day. Hard work, but worth it to get to the top. There are several very steep sections, but a couple of water fountains helped. Once there we made a bee line for a cafe and a nice cold beer. There are lots of nice shops with expensive ceramics and souvenirs. We went to Mimi's Pizzeria for a great pizza lunch, on the way passing a plaque dedicated to D.H. Lawrence who wrote Lady Chatterly's Lover here. I also looked through Villa Rufolo and its gardens - the best views of the Amalfi Coast are from here. I decided to take the steps back down to Minori, again hard work - but at least easier than going up. We thought about revisiting Ravello for its famed summer concerts, but it was too much to contemplate going back up the steps, a taxi would be €50, or we would have to take two buses. Instead I got a free classical CD in the Tourist Office which we played when back in the apartment. Ravello - definitely worth visiting.

About 1,400 steps to go!

Overlooking Maiori viewed from Ravello.

Roma and Eugene in Ravello.

Relaxing with a cool beer in Piazza Centrale in Ravello.

Thinking of new business for Monkstown Pharmacy?

Capri #Holidays

A day trip to the Island of Capri is an obvious must for any holiday on the Amalfi Coast. We travelled by ferry from Minori via Amalfi to Capri - a very pleasant trip with smashing views of the coast and islands. On arrival we were struck by the huge crowds everywhere. There were long queues for buses and for the Funincular. We decided on hiring a scooter, great value at €50 for the day. We rode up to the town of Capri, the scooter was difficult to handle at first - but thanks to the prayers Roma at the back was saying we made it to the top. Once again we checked out the shops and bought a few bits. We had a lovely lunch - our table was at the edge overlooking the harbour. We toured out around the island and visited the Azure Caves. Great chaotic fun and spectacular caves to see. We had a final beer at the harbour watching everyone go by - we heard Irish accents for the first time on this holiday. Nice trip back on the ferry. Lovely day out.

On the ferry to Capri!

Lunch on Capri.

Scooters are so much fun!

At the Azure Cave.

Minori #Holidays

After three days in the hustle and bustle of Amalfi we transferred to Suite Principissina near Minori - a beautiful apartment overlooking the sea. The good folks at AmalfiVacation transferred us the short distance from Amalfi and allowed us to get into the apartment earlier than normal. We were shown down the 160 steps to the sea - magnificent! For the next six days this is our base to check out the region. We are about a 1 km (scary) walk to Minori, and the apartment is right beside the main road - this means that it is subject to the constant beeping of bus horns as they navigate the narrow corners of the road. The view to the sea is directly south facing, this combined with the high hills behind us, means that we are in shadow from about 18.00 onwards. No harm in this as it is very hot. I already have a heat rash and am not too interested in getting a tan anymore. Lots of Mosquitos here, despite covering ourselves in insect repellent, the little bastards got through. Lots of scratching!

The veranda of Suite Principissa.

Relaxing at the Infinity Pool.

At the Santa Caterina Hotel.

Beautiful location of Villa Principissina (right centre of photo)

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Amalfi #Holidays

Cheers from Amalfi!
I'm just back from a 10-day break in Italy - Roma and I stayed on the beautiful Amalfi Coast and in Naples. We arrived very early into Naples airport where we were picked up by a driver who took us straight to the town of Amalfi via Ravello over the steep mountain climbs. Our apartment in Amalfi was provided by AmalfiVacation and I certainly recommend this company for holidays in this area. The town of Amalfi is lovely and we enjoyed the tiny streets and shops. The restaurants are plentiful and we certainly enjoyed the pasta and pizza. On our first morning there were fire works set off just after 7 o'clock (6 am on our biological clocks) - odd, noisy, unwelcome (at that hour), and a bit scary. The valley of the town fed the loud bangs up to our apartment and we had an early start on our first day. 

We were three nights in Amalfi and on one of the days we took a day trip to Positano 15 kms further down the coast. We went by bus which must be one of the best roller coaster rides in Europe. Great fun! (we returned by ferry). Positano has lots of winding narrow streets and many shops. We had lunch on a veranda overlooking the beach while we watched a man paint a picture of the coast. He had completed the painting by the time we finished lunch and we went down to have a look. It looked better from a distance and we didn't buy.