Students soak up the culture in Dublin
23 Feb 2016
Over the half term break, a group of Perse students visited Dublin on the annual English and drama trip. Emily Frost-Smith in the Lower Sixth wrote a report on the weekend’s events.
“Fourteen Sixth formers travelled to Dublin at half-term, to experience its history and culture. The trip was focused on complementing English and drama studies and was accompanied by Mr Green and Miss Bellamy. After an early start and an uneventful journey we checked into the luxurious Clayton Hotel at midday. We then immediately indulged ourselves in the Irish culture by going on a walking tour, taking in the bridges: Ha’penny, Samuel Beckett and O’Connell and walking past memorials including the potato famine memorial. We then bravely sat on the top deck for the duration of the hop-on, hop-off bus tour – despite offers to sit elsewhere and the freezing temperatures. It was worth it for a close view of St Patrick’s Cathedral and Trinity College. The hotel staff were incredibly helpful and friendly at dinner each evening, and made the stay in Dublin particularly memorable. Dinner was followed by an unusual experience: a Beckett play, All that Fall, performed in audio version only, being a radio play, where we sat in the dark in rocking chairs. Luckily, in view of the early start from Cambridge, the potentially soporific effect of this setting was countered by the fact that bright lighting and dramatic sounds were used to create effects throughout. The play itself was a unique and memorable experience and provided plenty to discuss the following day.
Sunday began with more walking: a tour with a guide, who was studying at Trinity College in his final year, focusing on W.B Yeats. The route took us through the beautiful grounds of Trinity College (as a result now added to the list of prospective universities for some of us on the tour). After lunch we visited the Chester Beatty Library. This was a highlight, containing a stunning collection of Middle Eastern, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu and Christian scriptures. We then travelled by railway to the coast at Sandycove, where locals were swimming in the sea, which seemed fairly brave for February. When they emerged they were blue with cold! We chose to experience the seaside by buying ice creams and wandering along the promenade. We then had the chance to explore the James Joyce tower (now a museum) where he spent six nights in 1904. We also had the opportunity to visit a small market where many of us purchased crepes and hot chocolates to warm ourselves up after the bitter wind by the sea.
Monday was equally packed full of places to visit. We started again with a walking tour of Dublin in the morning. However this time, we explored new places, including O’Connell Street, North Dublin and the National Garden of Remembrance. The garden of remembrance is a memorial garden dedicated to the memory of ‘all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish freedom’ and, for all of us, was a particularly poignant part of the trip. We then proceeded to visit the Dublin Writers Museum, which was full of information about the writers of Ireland, including Joyce, Yeats and Wilde. This was particularly fascinating, and we were given audio packs, and therefore were able to learn a lot about the writers in a short period of time. After lunch, we continued our eventful day, by heading to Merrion Square, which is home to stunning Georgian architecture, and more importantly where Yeats and Wilde lived. We proceeded to walk past Leinster House, the formal ducal residence in Dublin of the Duke of Leinster, and now home to the Parliament. After lunch we then went to both the National Gallery of Ireland and National Library of Ireland, which both were full of intriguing collections and exhibitions relating to Irish literature, drama, art and music. In particular the National Library had both a James Joyce reading room and W.B Yeats exhibition, which interested us all and, in particular, helped many members of the Upper Sixth studying Yeats broaden their knowledge of his poetry. We then returned to the hotel for dinner. Following this, we were fortunate enough to attend another theatre performance, however this one was more conventional, with actors and a stage. The performance was of Juno and the Paycock, by Sean O’ Casey, and although at first it was difficult to understand the actors’ strong Irish accents, we all agreed that we learnt a huge amount about Irish history and the period of the Irish Civil War, which many of us had little knowledge about before watching the performance.
We started the final morning gathered at Trinity College Dublin, and explored the Book of Kells exhibition, which is home to an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament together with various prefatory texts and tables. This was thoroughly interesting, and it was no surprise to learn that it is one of Ireland’s greatest literary and religious treasures. We then had the opportunity to explore Dublin before our flight. Most of us took this opportunity to buy souvenirs and Irish merchandise on offer. Our flight home was equally uneventful as the journey to Dublin, and we arrived safely back in Cambridge in the evening. All fourteen of us agreed that the trip was hugely successful and as a result many of us want to return to Dublin and Ireland.”