The Perse School

Sixth Formers appreciate Irish literary culture on trip to Dublin

22 Feb 2018

Lucy Tansley, Upper Sixth, gives an insight into a recent English trip to Dublin.

At five thirty in the morning on 10 February, several hours earlier than anybody would have liked, fifteen sixth formers, plus Mr Green and Miss Bellamy, flew out to Dublin from Stansted airport. Being the day of a Six Nations rugby match, the flight was packed, with a man dressed as a leprechaun (complete with velvet top hat and Crocs) sat among us. After arriving at our hotel, we headed off on an open-top bus tour of Dublin, seeing the White House-equivalent home of the Irish President and Collins Barracks along the way. The weather was bright and clear, despite the forecasts of rain, and the journey was made all the more enjoyable by the frequent renditions of ‘Danny Boy’ from our bus driver over the loudspeaker.

In the evening, we walked to the gem of Irish dramatics, the Abbey Theatre, to see a re-interpretation of Swan Lake/Loch na hEala. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, but the production turned out to be moving and beautiful, combining dance, live Irish music, a tale of social injustice and dark undertones of depression.

The second day started off with a visit to the Little Museum, which was located in a Georgian townhouse, and comprised artefacts entirely donated by the people of Dublin. It was a very nicely curated collection, with a mixture of newspaper covers, posters, ornaments and paintings.

A highlight of the trip was visiting Sweny’s apothecary, famed for its mention in the pivotal Irish novel Ulysses by James Joyce. We passed around a copy of the book and read a section each, while the owner of the shop, who claimed to have read Ulysses forty-nine times in a total of five languages, showed us how they still sell the lemon scented soap which Stephen Dedalus purchased in Joyce’s epic work. The owner then offered to play us some traditional Gaelic songs on his guitar, and it truly felt like an immersive Irish experience.

After lunch, we took the Dart – an over-ground train that traverses Dublin – out to Sandycove and walked along the sunny seafront to the tower which James Joyce lived in, now turned into a museum. We observed rather than joined in with the brave swimmers who had dived into the freezing ocean, but got our taste of the chill as we sat outside on the blustery top of the tower and listened to Miss Bellamy read from Ulysses. Later on in the evening, we had the opportunity to have a look around Temple Bar, an area crammed full of cafes, pubs and bars, before heading back to the hotel and attempting to get some sleep amid the raucous sounds of a Brazilian carnival party taking place in our hotel until the early hours of the morning.

Not too sleep-deprived, we started Monday with a brisk walk over to the Writers’ Museum, which comprehensively covered a large number of writers who made up part of Ireland’s illustrious literary history. This was followed by an enjoyable, albeit very chilly, walking tour of Dublin, led by our guide Brendan. The tour concluded at Trinity College, where we were able to see the Book of Kells and impressive Long Room library as well as admire the beautiful architecture of Trinity, which several members of the group hope to apply to study at in the future.

Tired after a long day of walking, we went back to the hotel only to re-emerge a few hours later for our second theatrical production of the trip, Look Back in Anger at the Gate Theatre. The play, which focused on a married couple and their friends in 1950s London, garnered mixed reviews from our group, but it was an interesting experience with unusual use of meta-theatrics, adding to the confusion and drama of the plot.

On the last morning, we reluctantly packed up all our bags and left the hotel for the last visits of the trip, starting with the National Library of Ireland, where we explored an exhibition devoted to the poet W.B. Yeats. We then walked over to the Chester Beatty library, which houses an incredible selection of art and artefacts, most notably the Japanese and Chinese room, with some exquisite manuscripts and paintings.

We had a couple of hours of free time in the afternoon to sample a last bit of Dublin’s excellent independent café culture, before getting the bus to the airport and heading home. Overall it was a very enjoyable trip, with lots of interesting visits and excellent weather, and everybody came away with a new appreciation of Irish literary and national culture and amusing memories of our time there.


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