The Heron-Allen Society Trip to Dublin

October 2009

Members of the Heron-Allen Society at the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 2 October 2009

Members of the Heron-Allen Society at the Royal Irish Academy
Dublin, 2 October 2009

On Thursday 1 October my wife and I took a taxi to Southampton Airport, where we met up with Nichola Court (Member), her boyfriend Sam and her parents, Brian and Gill. Nichola a former member of the West Sussex Record Office staff is now archivist to the Royal Society in London, while her mother still works at the Record Office. We caught the 14.40 Flybe flight to Dublin. Nichola and her family were staying in an apartment in Temple Bar and they took a taxi from the airport, while we caught the bus into the city. Unfortunately O'Connell Street was blocked by a demonstration - we were not sure whether it was related to the vote on the European Referendum scheduled for the next day, or the taxi-drivers strike - and so we were diverted to the bus station. We walked to Temple Bar and found our hotel - The Riverside in Eustace Street. The hotel was adequate and we had a room on the third floor. In the basement was a very grotty bar with entrances at street level from the streets in front and behind the hotel. We quickly met up with John Whittaker, from the Natural History Museum, and his travelling companions Alan and Minoo Lord. Alan is a micropalaeontologist, currently working in Germany, and his wife Minoo, a Persian Muslim, also a micro-palaeontologist but who now works as a computer expert. We enjoyed our first pint of Smithwicks in the bar, and when Ivor Jones, Heron-Allen's grandson, and his travelling companion - Sue Bullivant arrived all seven members of the Society who were staying in the hotel had met up

We decided on an early meal together and they suggested that since I knew Dublin better than anyone else, I should lead the way. Alison and I had spied out various likely looking Italian restaurants in Temple Bar, which is not my usual stamping ground. We walked across Meeting House Square, where we were amused by some street entertainers and I took them into Il Baccaro, an Italian wine tavern in an underground cellar, where we had a superb meal and the consumption of wine was frightening. Ivor always drinks a lot of wine, John is a great trencherman but Alan Lord outdid us all. Alison was heard to remark that she had never before been a guest at a meal when we were well into the third bottle before we had even ordered. After the meal, Alison and I were not ready for bed so we walked down to College Green and down Grafton Street, and had a nightcap in 'The Duke' which our son James and I chose as our local, when we were in Dublin together twice in 2007.

We met our fellow travellers at breakfast in the morning, and since Ivor walks badly and John had put his back out a few days before, the three of us took a taxi to the Royal Irish Academy in Dawson Street. The Academy was founded in 1785 and quickly became established as a major repository of early Irish manuscripts, the latest scientific publications from the continent and other important philological and historical works. Its aims were to promote the study of science, polite literature and antiquities, and the Academy is housed in a splendid Georgian building near to the Mansion House. The three of us received a warm and enthusiastic reception and were quickly ushered into the back lecture room, which was a splendid room, apparently modelled on Euston Station, walled from floor to ceiling with books and decorated with statues, busts and fine furniture. I had sent my PowerPoint presentation by post, and it was mounted on the computer to await my arrival. John and I put out our material. John had brought Ivor's copy of Heron-Allen's holiday journal relating to his visit to Clare Island in 1911, complete with photographs, postcards, maps, bills, letters and ephemera and the Natural History Museum copy of Heron-Allen's Clare Island publication, also with photographs, bills, letters and other ephemera. I had brought over a selection of Heron-Allen Society publications with a specific scientific slant and some copies of our last three Newsletters. We set everything out and then the three of us wandered into Dawson Street and found a café for some welcome coffee. I then made a quick dash up the road to Hodges Figgis bookshop.

We returned to the Academy just before twelve, when we were ushered into another room and entertained to a buffet lunch by members of the staff of the Academy and representatives of the Clare Island Survey, which is sponsored by the RIA. The Clare Island Survey of 1909-1911, was a huge international multidisciplinary survey of flora, fauna, geology and antiquities, sponsored by the Academy and carried out by more than a hundred international scientists. Edward Heron-Allen went over in 1911 and surveyed the foraminifera and his published report was volume 64 of the survey. The Academy are now sponsoring a new centenary survey, and our seminar was one of the Academy's events to celebrate the centenary of the original survey. We were joined at the lunch by others of our members such as Garry Garrard, our Omar Khayyam expert, who came down on the train from Sligo and Robin Edwards on the staff at Trinity College Dublin, who is taking part in the new survey. Also my great uncle Maurice and Charlotte, his wife, who they kindly invited at my request.

After lunch Tim Collins, from the National University of Ireland, Galway, set the scene with a lecture on 'The Clare Island Survey of 1909-1911: Participants, Papers and Progress' and then introduced me. I spoke on 'The Singular Life of Edward Heron-Allen' and then finally John Whittaker spoken on 'Edward Heron-Allen's Holiday Journals from Clare Island'. There were a number of questions, most addressed to Tim Collins, who everybody knew, and the audience was appreciative and interested. It was a great occasion, and made a double with my lecture to the Royal Society in London in November last year. Then we looked at their exhibition, made arrangements for our material to be copied, made tentative approaches about a possible visit to Clare Island in 2011, packed up our stuff, said our goodbyes, and left.

We decided to go back to our hotel to get rid of all our papers - the Academy were incredibly generous and showered me with books and papers and pamphlets - and agreed to meet everyone back at 'The Duke'. We had a few Smithwicks at 'The Duke' and then Frank Downey. Maurice's middle son, joined us and the family all set off for a meal together. Frank took us to a very fashionable French restaurant called Gueuleton, where we were lucky to get a table, and where we had a superb meal, and some excellent wine. I think the others in the party were disappointed that Alison and I did not eat with them, so having said goodbye to the Downeys, we retraced our steps to Il Baccaro's where they had elected to eat for the second night, but found that they had already gone back to the hotel.

On Saturday morning we all met up at breakfast again and said goodbye to Ivor and Sue, and to John, who were flying back to England that morning. Alan and Minoo asked us to meet them in the evening for a meal. After breakfast we set off for the National Library, where I had to renew my Readers Ticket. Alison went off to the manuscripts Department, where she wanted to look at Sir Walter Raleigh's estates in Cork and to see if any of the rates or maps mentioned Thomas Harriott, while I opted for the Library and looked through Yeats's letters and his row with Edmund Downey about the Irish Literary Society. I also had time to read some of Katherine Tynan's autobiographical books and one of 'The Boss's' [Edmund Downey] short stories. We met up at Hodges Figgis, surely the best bookshop in the world, and then walked across the Liffey to Northside, and up O'Connell Street to Parnell Square. There we looked at the Hugh Lane Collection and especially their Harry Clarke stained-glass window. It was only a secular work, but a disappointing Harry Clarke work is much much better than no Harry Clarke work. Then we went almost next door to the Irish Writers Museum, where I have never been before. It really is a very nice collection, well displayed, the only disappointment being that there was no mention of 'The Boss'. At last we had something to eat, and then we walked down to the Pro-Cathedral to find out the time for Mass. After that we explored the shopping areas on North Side and walked around Temple Bar before having a short rest before dinner.

We met Alan and Minoo Lord at Reception, and the receptionist kindly telephoned to reserve a table for us, after we had first confirmed that Minoo was happy to eat at a restaurant called the Pig's Ear. We then walked via College Green and round Trinity College to Nassau Street. The restaurant was another success and we enjoyed a meal of Irish cuisine with Alan choosing the wine. We had never really got to know either of them before, though Minoo had helped me with identifying Persian quotations and lettering in the past, but they were very enjoyable company. As we walked back to our hotel, Alan suggested a night cap. I would have gone to 'The Duke' if he had mentioned it earlier, and everywhere in Temple Bar was packed and noisy, it being Saturday night and I, for one was keen to sit down. Then I had a brain wave. We walked round to the Central Hotel, where I asked if they had a bar. We were shown up to a first floor bar in an elegant library where we sat in four comfortable arm-chairs and enjoyed some welcome drinks.

On the Sunday morning, Alan and Minoo had already left for their flight when we came down to breakfast. We texted Nichola and her family and suggested we met up for lunch at 'The Duke'. We then walked to Mass at the Pro-Cathedral. It was a sung Latin Mass, with the Palestrina Choir. The all male choir had nearly forty young boys as well as a number of adults and the altar was full of servers from a local society. As well as a musical treat - the choir sang Victoria's 'Missa Ave Maris Stella' and a Peter Philips motet, 'Ave Jesu Christe' - the Mass was quite a spectacle and we sang Lingard's 'Hail, Queen of Heaven' and Credo III. After Mass we crossed the river again and walked to the National Gallery and then to Oscar Wilde's house at Merrion Square. We took some photographs and walked round the Square, into Fitzwilliam Square and then on to 'The Duke'. Together with Nichola's family we decided to eat at 'The Duke', where the food and the Smithwicks were highly enjoyable. We split up after lunch while Alison went shopping and I went back to the National Gallery. I looked at the exhibition of Edward Munch prints, which I enjoyed very much. I then looked at the eighteenth and nineteenth century Irish paintings, without feeling I had made any discoveries. I finished off in the twentieth century gallery where I always enjoy Keating, Lavery and Orpen and they do have one Harry Clarke. We met up in the bookshop where we bought lots of Harry Clarke postcards and a glorious Harry Clarke calendar.

By then it was time to walk back to our hotel, collect our luggage and catch the bus to the Airport. We met up with Nichola and her family, and, after Alison and I had had a quick meal together, we travelled back to Southampton with them. I have now got two days to prepare for my trip to Hungary.

Timothy J. McCann

Academy House, Dublin 2009

Academy House, Dublin 2009