Where we left off the tale of the Dublin adventure, I was finishing lunch at the Chester Beatty Library. I was heading for Marsh’s Library, which I realised was not so far away, at the back of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. All I knew about it was that it was an old library but when I walked in and paid my €3 entry fee (roughly £2.60), I realised it was so much more than that. The library was founded in 1707, same year as the Treaty of Union between Scotland and England, and is full of old, leather-bound books. They are kept out of reach since some need special conditions but it’s none the worse for that. It was quite possibly the most peaceful library I’ve ever been in and that includes the reading room in Manchester a few weeks ago. Since it is the centenary of the 1916 rising, Marsh’s had a display about it, including some books damaged by bullets in the rising. There was also an exhibition of stories about the darker side of the library. Wonderfully, the library also features cages, where patrons were locked in as a sort of anti-theft device. I’ve known libraries where cages would be actively welcomed, I have to say. I just sat for a while in the still calm just thinking and enjoying the peace dropping slow.
I walked to the LUAS tram stop at Four Courts. The first tram was absolutely mobbed so I got the second, which was only slightly less busy. I was heading to Kilmainham, home of the Gaol where a lot of the leaders of the Easter rising were held then executed. Kilmainham is also where the Royal Hospital is, now home of the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Unfortunately the Gaol was full up, of visitors not prisoners, and the IMMA was closed. I walked in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, though, and when I sat on the grass, I noticed an obelisk somewhere in the distance. Being that kind of dude, I was curious as to what this was.
As it turns out, it was a memorial to the Duke of Wellington, all the way in the Phoenix Park. I walked a little way in the park, intending on taking a look at the Áras an Uachtaráin, the official residence of the President of Ireland. Michael D. Higgins is my kind of head of state, purely because he’s a poet and he makes intellectual speeches about history whenever he’s here in Scotland. You don’t hear the Queen or Barack Obama or whoever doing that. Alas, I didn’t get to do that, purely because I was a bit knackered. The Park was busy with people at Dublin Zoo and just having a nice day in the sunshine. I enjoyed my walk but I was still knackered.
Before I headed back to Belfast, I went to Eason’s, a bookshop/stationer on O’Connell Street. I still had some euros left so bought some papers to read on the bus back north plus a book of WB Yeats’s poems and a magazine called Humanism Ireland, which I sat and read while eating some fast food. I have a proud tradition of reading intellectual things while sitting in fast food places. When I used to do regular day trips on a Saturday, I would read the Guardian book review pages. Anyway, I walked back along to the Busaras and people-watched a bit before catching the 7pm bus back to Belfast, again in the sunshine. The sun was beginning to dip below the horizon near the border, which was rather lovely. The light as the bus crossed the Boyne was that twilight pastel yellow, casting a grey shadow over the fields and trees below. It was a nice end to the day, heading slowly northwards just watching the world go by.