seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Placement of the First Section of the Spire of Dublin

The first section of the Spire of Dublin, alternatively titled the Monument of Light, is lifted into place on December 18, 2002. The spire is a large, stainless steel, pin-like monument 390-feet in height, located on the site of the former Nelson’s Pillar and statue of William Blakeney on O’Connell Street in Dublin.

The Spire is designed by Ian Ritchie Architects, who sought an “elegant and dynamic simplicity bridging art and technology.” The contract is awarded to SIAC-Radley JV and it is manufactured by Radley Engineering of Dungarvan, County Waterford, and erected by SIAC Construction Ltd & GDW Engineering Ltd.

The first section is installed on December 18, 2002. Construction of the sculpture is delayed because of difficulty in obtaining planning permission and environmental regulations. The Spire consists of eight hollow stainless steel cone sections, the longest being 66 feet, which are installed on January 21, 2003. It is an elongated cone of diameter, 9.8 feet at the base narrowing to 5.9 inches at the top. It features two tuned mass dampers, designed by engineers Arup, to counteract sway. The steel undergoes shot peening to alter the quality of light reflected from it.

The pattern around the base of the Spire is based on a core sample of rock formation taken from the ground where the spire stands and the DNA double helix. The pattern is applied by bead blasting the steel through rubber stencil masks whose patterns are created by water jet cutting based on core sample drawings supplied by the contractor. The design around the 33-foot lower part of the Spire is created by the architects making a 3D pattern model combining the core sample and double helix and then digitally translated to a 2D image drawing supplied to the contractor and used by specialists for cutting the masking material.

At dusk, the base of the monument is lit and the top 33 feet is illuminated through 11,884 holes through which light-emitting diodes shine.

The monument is commissioned as part of a street layout redesign in 1999. O’Connell Street had been in decline for a number of reasons such as the proliferation of fast food restaurants and the opening of bargain shops using cheap plastic shop fronts which were unattractive and obtrusive, the existence of derelict sites and the destruction in 1966 of Nelson’s Pillar following a bombing by former Irish Republican Army (IRA) members.

The Anna Livia monument is installed on the site for the 1988 Dublin Millennium celebrations. In the 1990s, plans are launched to improve the streetscape. The number of trees in the central reservation, which had overgrown and obscured views and monuments, are reduced dramatically. This is controversial, as the trees had been growing for a century. Statues are cleaned and in some cases relocated. Shop-owners are required to replace plastic signage and frontage with more attractive designs. Traffic is re-directed where possible away from the street and the number of traffic lanes is reduced to make it more appealing to pedestrians. The centrepiece of this regeneration is to be a replacement monument for Nelson’s Pillar, the Spire of Dublin, chosen from a large number of submissions in an international competition by a committee chaired by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Joe Doyle. The Anna Livia monument is moved to make way for the Spire in 2001.

Some opposition initially greets the monument. Supporters compare it to other initially unpopular urban structures such as the Eiffel Tower, while detractors complain that the Spire has little architectural or cultural connection to the city. It has inspired a number of nicknames, as is common with public art in Dublin, including the nail in the Pale, the stiletto in the ghetto, the pin in the bin, the stiffy by the Liffey, the spire in the mire, or the spike.


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Birth of Architect Benjamin Woodward

Benjamin Woodward, Irish architect who, in partnership with Sir Thomas Newenham Deane, designs a number of buildings in Dublin, Cork and Oxford, is born in Tullamore, County Offaly on November 16, 1816.

Woodward is trained as an engineer but develops an interest in medieval architecture, producing measured drawings of Holy Cross Abbey in County Tipperary. These drawings are exhibited at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London in 1846.

The same year Woodward joins the office of Sir Thomas Deane and becomes a partner in 1851 along with Deane’s son, Thomas Newenham Deane. It seems that Deane looks after business matters and leaves the design work to Woodward.

Woodward’s two most important buildings are the Museum at Trinity College, Dublin (1854-1857) and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Oxford, (1854-1860). He is also responsible for the Kildare Street Club in Dublin (1858-1861) and Queen’s College Cork, now University College Cork (1845-1849).

The work of Deane and Woodward is characterised by naturalistic decoration with foliage and animals carved into capitals and plinths around windows and doors. It is extolled by John Ruskin in particular when he visits the Museum at Trinity College, Dublin. Woodward collaborates in particular with the O’Shea brothers, James and John, who are stone carvers from County Cork. They, along with London sculptors, carve the abundant decorative stonework at Trinity, showing owls, lizards, cats and monkeys, as well as other flora and fauna. Later the O’Sheas carve stonework at the Kildare Street Club, including the famous window piece showing the club members as monkeys playing billiards. Some stories tell of the O’Sheas getting into trouble and possibly even being sacked for carving cats or monkeys at the Oxford University Museum.

Benjamin Woodward dies on May 16, 1861.

(Pictured: Benjamin Woodward attributed to Lewis Carroll, albumen print, late 1850s, © National Portrait Gallery, London)


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Birth of Architect Michael Scott

michael-scottMichael Scott, Irish architect whose buildings include the Busáras building in Dublin, Cork Opera House, the Abbey Theatre and both Tullamore and Portlaoise Hospitals, is born in Drogheda on June 24, 1905.

Scott’s family originates in the province of Munster. His father, William Scott, is a school inspector from near Sneem on the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry. His mother is from County Cork. He is educated at Belvedere College in Dublin. There he first demonstrates his skills at painting and acting. Initially he wants to pursue a career as a painter but his father points out that it might make more financial sense to become an architect.

Scott becomes an apprentice for the sum of £375 per annum to the Dublin architectural firm Jones and Kelly. He remains there from 1923 until 1926, where he studies under Alfred E. Jones. In the evenings after work, he also attends the Metropolitan School of Art and the Abbey School of Acting, and appears in many plays there until 1927, including the first productions of Seán O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock and The Plough and the Stars. On completing his pupilage he becomes an assistant to Charles James Dunlop and then has a brief spell as an assistant architect in the Office of Public Works.

In 1931 Scott partners with Norman D. Good to form Scott and Good, and they open an office in Dublin. They design the hospital at Tullamore (1934–1937) and Portlaoise General Hospital (1935). Between 1937 and 1938, he is the President of the Architectural Association of Ireland (AAI). He founds his company, Michael Scott Architects, in 1938. That same year he also designs his house Geragh, at Sandycove, County Dublin.

Scott’s most important pre-war commission is the Irish Pavilion for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. He produces a shamrock shaped building constructed in steel, concrete and glass. It is selected by an International jury as the best building in the show. As a result, he is presented with a silver medal for distinguished services and given honorary citizenship of the city of New York by then Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia. Other better known architects who design national pavilions for this World Fair include Alvar Aalto of Finland and Oscar Niemeyer of Brazil.

Scott has three major commissions from the Córas Iompair Éireann CIÉ, the Inchicore Chassis Works, the Donnybrook Bus Garage and, most famously, the Dublin Central Bus Station, to be known as àras Mhic Dhiarmada or Busáras. Though initially controversial, Busáras wins Scott the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland Triennial Gold Medal for Architecture.

Later, Ronnie Tallon and Robin Walker become partners, and the firm is renamed Scott Tallon Walker in 1975, shortly after the firm wins the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Royal Gold Medal.

Scott, who spends most of his life living at Sandycove Point, just south of Dún Laoghaire in south Dublin, dies in Dublin on January 24, 1989 and is buried near Sneem in County Kerry.


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St. Patrick’s Cathedral Designated National Cathedral

st-patricks-cathedral-dublinSt. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, is designated the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland on May 2, 1872. Chapter members at St. Patrick’s are drawn from each of the twelve dioceses of the Church of Ireland.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is dedicated on March 17, 1191. With its 141-foot spire, it is the tallest church (not cathedral) in Ireland and the largest.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is founded on the spot where St. Patrick himself is believed to have baptized the first Irish believers into the Christian faith. The sacred well which St. Patrick used has been lost, but the Cathedral is built in the area where the conversions are believed to have taken place.

The first church is constructed here in the 5th century but St. Patrick’s as it stands now is built between 1191 and 1270. In 1311, the Medieval University of Dublin is founded here and the church begins a place of higher education as well as a place of worship.

By the 16th century, however, St. Patrick’s falls into disrepair following the English Reformation, a time when the Church of England breaks away from the Roman Catholic Church. In 1537, St. Patrick’s becomes designated as an Anglican Church of Ireland and it remains a part of the Church of Ireland to this day.

Repairs to the cathedral begin in the 1660s and continued in phases over the following decades to save it from falling into complete ruin.

As its status grows, St. Patrick’s begins to rival Christ Church Cathedral in importance. This is where the history of St. Patrick’s Cathedral takes a bit of a complicated turn in term of church definitions. The current cathedral building is often hailed as one of the best examples of medieval architecture in Dublin, however, it is only fair to point out that the structure went through a massive rebuild in the 1860s, mainly financed by money from Benjamin Guinness.

As one of Dublin’s two Church of Ireland cathedrals, St. Patrick’s is actually designated as the “National Cathedral of Ireland.” However, it lacks the one thing that usually makes a church a cathedral – a bishop. The Archbishop of Dublin actually has his seat at Christ Church Cathedral, which is designated as the local cathedral of the Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough. St. Patrick’s is instead headed by a dean who is the ordinary for the cathedral. This office has existed since 1219 with its most famous office holder being Jonathan Swift.

Today St. Patrick’s Cathedral plays host to a number of public national ceremonies. Ireland’s Remembrance Day ceremonies, hosted by the Royal British Legion and attended by the President of Ireland, take place there every November. Its carol service (the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols), celebrated twice in December, including every December 24, is a colourful feature of Dublin life. On Saturdays in autumn the cathedral hosts the graduation ceremonies of Technological University Dublin.

The funerals of two Irish presidents, Douglas Hyde and Erskine Childers, take place in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1949 and 1974 respectively. In 2006, the cathedral’s national prominence is used by a group of 18 Afghan migrants seeking asylum, who occupied it for several days before being persuaded to leave without trouble.[


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Royals Visit St. Malachy’s Church in Belfast

royals-visit-st-malachys-church-belfastCharles, Prince of Wales, and the Duchess of Cornwall fly into George Best Belfast City Airport on February 4, 2011 for a one-day visit to Northern Ireland. The primary focus of their visit is to view a £3.5 million restoration project at St. Malachy’s Church in Belfast.

First Minister Peter Robinson, who greets Prince Charles on the doorstep of the building, is quoted as saying “Northern Ireland has entered a new era. It is the first time in recent history that we have had a royal in a Roman Catholic Church here.” Robinson adds, “So it is a good start. It should send of an indication that respect, understanding and tolerance is growing in Northern Ireland.”

St. Malachy’s Church was destroyed by a Luftwaffe bomb in 1941, but in 2006 the Roman Catholic Diocese of Down and Connor embarked on a project to restore its original features. Robinson says, “It has been set out very well and has held on to the architecture of the original.”

Prince Charles also presides over the first inter-faith meeting of members of the four main churches, organised by the local branch of The Prince’s Regeneration Trust.

The Northern Ireland Trustee Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle says, “It’s a hugely exciting event. Not only does it celebrate the fantastic restoration of St. Malachy’s Church, but equally it is very significant because we brought together a group of very senior church figures to begin the discussion of unlocking the potential of redundant churches.”

The Royal couple also visits the Palace Barracks, Holywood for a medal presentation. They meet the soldiers of 2nd Battalion, Mercian Regiment who are preparing for service in Afghanistan.

(Pictured: First Minister Peter Robinson greets the Prince of Wales on the doorstep of St. Malachy’s Church; From a BBC article “Royal visit to St Malachy’s Church is historic,” February 4, 2011)


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Death of Architect Michael Scott

michael-scottMichael Scott, Irish architect whose buildings include the Busáras building in Dublin, Cork Opera House, the Abbey Theatre and both Tullamore and Portlaoise Hospitals, dies on January 24, 1989.

Scott is born in Drogheda on June 24, 1905. His family originates in the province of Munster. His father, William Scott, is a school inspector from near Sneem on the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry. His mother is from County Cork. He is educated at Belvedere College in Dublin. There he first demonstrates his skills at painting and acting. Initially he wants to pursue a career as a painter but his father points out that it might make more financial sense to become an architect.

Scott becomes an apprentice for the sum of £375 per annum to the Dublin architectural firm Jones and Kelly. He remains there from 1923 until 1926, where he studies under Alfred E. Jones. In the evenings after work, he also attends the Metropolitan School of Art and the Abbey School of Acting, and appears in many plays there until 1927, including the first productions of Seán O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock and The Plough and the Stars. On completing his pupilage he becomes an assistant to Charles James Dunlop and then has a brief spell as an assistant architect in the Office of Public Works.

In 1931 Scott partners with Norman D. Good to form Scott and Good, and they open an office in Dublin. They design the hospital at Tullamore (1934–1937) and Portlaoise General Hospital (1935). Between 1937 and 1938, he is the President of the Architectural Association of Ireland (AAI). He founds his company, Michael Scott Architects, in 1938. That same year he also designs his house Geragh, at Sandycove, County Dublin.

Scott’s most important pre-war commission is the Irish Pavilion for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. He produces a shamrock shaped building constructed in steel, concrete and glass. It is selected by an International jury as the best building in the show. As a result, he is presented with a silver medal for distinguished services and given honorary citizenship of the city of New York by then Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia. Other better known architects who design national pavilions for this World Fair include Alvar Aalto of Finland and Oscar Niemeyer of Brazil.

Scott has three major commissions from the Córas Iompair Éireann CIÉ, the Inchicore Chassis Works, the Donnybrook Bus Garage and, most famously, the Dublin Central Bus Station, to be known as àras Mhic Dhiarmada or Busáras. Though initially controversial, Busáras wins Scott the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland Triennial Gold Medal for Architecture.

Later, Ronnie Tallon and Robin Walker become partners, and the firm is renamed Scott Tallon Walker in 1975, shortly after the firm wins the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Royal Gold Medal.

Scott, who spends most of his life living at Sandycove Point, just south of Dún Laoghaire in south Dublin, dies in Dublin on January 24, 1989 and is buried near Sneem in County Kerry.


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The Millennium Bridge Positioned Over the River Liffey

DCF 1.0The Millennium Bridge is put into position over the River Liffey in Dublin on November 5, 1999, joining Eustace Street in Temple Bar to the north quays. The bridge is the second pedestrian-only bridge built in the city. The Ha’penny Bridge had been the only pedestrian bridge in Dublin for years.

The span is actually constructed in Carlow, 80 km from Dublin, as a portal frame structure made up of a slender steel truss and resting on reinforced concrete haunches.

The bridge is designed by Howley Harrington Architects, with Price & Myers as consulting engineers. The concrete base and steel structure for the bridge are provided by two firms from Carlow – Formwork 2000+ and Thompson Engineering respectively.

The Millennium Bridge opens on December 20th, 1999, to commemorate the new millennium. It is neighbour to the much older pedestrian Ha’penny Bridge to the east, and Grattan Bridge to the west.


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Laying of the Rotunda Hospital Foundation Stone

rotunda-hospitalThe foundation stone of the Rotunda Hospital, a maternity hospital in Parnell Street, Dublin, is laid by the Lord Mayor of Dublin on July 9, 1751.

The hospital is founded by Bartholomew Mosse, a surgeon and man-midwife who is appalled at the conditions that pregnant women have to endure, in George’s Lane as the Dublin Lying-In Hospital in March 1745. Lying-in is an archaic term for childbirth, referring to the month-long bed rest prescribed for postpartum confinement. The venture is very successful and Mosse raises money through concerts, exhibitions and even a lottery to establish larger premises.

The hospital moves to new premises, designed by Richard Cassels, where it becomes known as “The New Lying-In Hospital” in December 1757. The rotunda itself, which is designed by James Ensor, is completed just in time for a reception hosted by the Marquess of Kildare in October 1767. Extensive new rooms, designed by Richard Johnston and built adjacent to the rotunda, are completed in 1791.

Records indicate that around 1781, “when the hospital was imperfectly ventilated, every sixth child died within nine days after birth, of convulsive disease; and that after means of thorough ventilation had been adopted, the mortality of infants, within the same, in five succeeding years, was reduced to one in twenty.” This issue is not limited to the Lying-In-Hospital. In that era, ventilation improvement is a general issue in patient care, along with other issues of sanitation and hygiene, and the conditions in which surgeons such as Robert Liston in Britain and elsewhere, have to operate. Florence Nightingale famously works on the design of safe and healthy hospitals.

By the early 19th century the facility becomes known as the Rotunda Hospital, after its prominent architectural feature. The first Caesarean section in Ireland is undertaken at the hospital in 1889.

The Rotunda Hospital, as both a maternity hospital and also as a training centre (affiliated with Trinity College Dublin) is notable for having provided continuous service to mothers and babies since inception, making it the oldest continuously operating maternity hospital in the world. It is estimated that over 300,000 babies have been born there.

Rotunda Hospital is currently managed by RCSI Hospitals.


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Laying of the Foundation Stone of Parliament House

parliament-houseThe foundation stone of Parliament House in College Green is laid on February 3, 1729 by Thomas Wyndham, 1st Baron Wyndham, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Parliament House is initially home to the Parliament of Ireland and later houses the Bank of Ireland. It is the world’s first purpose-built bicameral parliament house. The current parliament building is Leinster House.

The building is home to the two Houses of Parliament, serving as the seat of both chambers, the House of Lords and House of Commons, of the Parliament of the Kingdom of Ireland for most of the 18th century until that parliament is abolished by the Acts of Union 1800, when Ireland becomes part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

In the 17th century, parliament settles at Chichester House, a town house in Hoggen Green (later College Green) formerly owned by Sir George Carew, Lord President of Munster and Lord High Treasurer of Ireland, which had been built on the site of a nunnery disbanded by King Henry VIII at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries. Carew’s house, named Chichester House after its later owner Sir Arthur Chichester, is a building of sufficient importance to have become the temporary home of the Kingdom of Ireland’s law courts during the Michaelmas law term in 1605. Most famously, the legal documentation facilitating the Plantation of Ulster is signed there on November 16, 1612.

Chichester House is in a dilapidated state, allegedly haunted and unfit for official use. In 1727 parliament votes to spend £6,000 on a new building on the site. It is to be the world’s first purpose-built two-chamber parliament building.

The then ancient Palace of Westminster, the seat of the English before 1707 and, later, British Parliament, is a converted building. The House of Commons‘s odd seating arrangements are due to the chamber’s previous existence as a chapel. Hence MPs face each other from former pews.

The design of the new building, one of two purpose-built Irish parliamentary buildings (along with Parliament Buildings, Stormont), is entrusted to an architect, Edward Lovett Pearce, who is a member of parliament and a protégé of the Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, William Conolly of Castletown House. During construction, Parliament moves into the Blue Coat Hospital on Dublin‘s Northside.

The original, domed House of Commons chamber is destroyed by fire in the 1790s, and a less elaborate new chamber, without a dome, is rebuilt in the same location and opened in 1796, four years before the Parliament’s ultimate abolition.

Pearce’s designs come to be studied and copied both at home and abroad. The Viceregal Apartments in Dublin Castle imitate his top-lit corridors. The British Museum in Bloomsbury in London copies his colonnaded main entrance. His impact reaches Washington, D.C., where his building, and in particular his octagonal House of Commons chamber, is studied as plans are made for the United States Capitol building. While the shape of the chamber is not replicated, some of its decorative motifs are, with the ceiling structure in the Old Senate Chamber and old House of Representatives chamber (now the National Statuary Hall) bearing a striking resemblance to Pearce’s ceiling in the House of Commons.

(Pictured: Architectural drawing of the front of Parliament House by Peter Mazell based on the drawing by Rowland Omer, 1767)


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Opening of the Custom House in Dublin

custom-houseThe Custom House (Irish: Teach an Chustaim), a neoclassical 18th century building in Dublin which houses the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, opens on November 7, 1791. It is located on the north bank of the River Liffey, on Custom House Quay between Butt Bridge and Talbot Memorial Bridge.

A previous Custom House had been built in 1707 by engineer Thomas Burgh. However, by the late 18th century it is deemed unfit for purpose.

The building of a new Custom House for Dublin is the idea of John Beresford, who becomes first commissioner of revenue for Ireland in 1780. In 1781 he appoints James Gandon as architect, after Thomas Cooley, the original architect on the project, dies. This is Gandon’s first large scale commission. The new Custom House is unpopular with the Dublin Corporation and some city merchants who complain that it moves the axis of the city, would leave little room for shipping, and is being built on what at the time is a swamp. Purchase of land is delayed and proves exorbitant and the laying of foundations is disrupted by the High Sheriff and members of the Dublin Corporation with a mob of several thousand. However, Beresford is determined to complete the project and ignores the protests.

Construction begins in 1781, and for his assistants Gandon chooses Irish artists such as Meath stone-cutter Henry Darley, mason John Semple, and carpenter Hugh Henry. Every available mason in Dublin is engaged in the work. When it is completed and opens for business on November 7, 1791, it has cost £200,000 to build – a considerable sum at the time. The four facades of the building are decorated with coats-of-arms and ornamental sculptures by Edward Smyth representing Ireland’s rivers. Another artist, Henry Banks, is responsible for the statue on the dome and other statues.

As the port of Dublin moves further downriver, the building’s original use for collecting custom duties becomes obsolete, and it is used as the headquarters of local government in Ireland. During the Irish War of Independence in 1921, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) burns down the Custom House in an attempt to disrupt British rule in Ireland. Gandon’s original interior is completely destroyed in the fire and the central dome collapses. A large quantity of irreplaceable historical records are also destroyed in the fire. Despite achieving its objectives, the attack on the Custom House is a setback for the IRA as a large number of Volunteers are captured either during the attack or when falling back.

After the Anglo-Irish Treaty, it is restored by the Irish Free State government. The results of this reconstruction can still be seen on the building’s exterior today. The dome is rebuilt using Irish Ardbraccan limestone which is noticeably darker than the Portland stone used in the original construction. This is done as an attempt to promote Irish resources.

Further restoration and cleaning of the stonework is done by an Office of Public Works team in the 1980s.