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


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Opening of the Albany New Theatre

theatre-royal-1821The Albany New Theatre opens in Hawkins Street, Dublin, on January 18, 1821.

In 1820, Henry Harris purchases a site in Hawkins Street and builds the 2,000–seat Albany New Theatre on the site at a cost of £50,000. The theatre is designed by architect Samuel Beazley. The construction work is not completed at the time of opening and early audience figures are so low that a number of side seating boxes are boarded up.

In August 1821, George IV attends a performance at the Albany and, as a consequence, a patent is granted. The name of the theatre is changed to the “Theatre Royal” to reflect its status as a patent theatre.

On December 14, 1822, the Bottle Riot occurs during a performance of She Stoops to Conquer attended by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Marquess Wellesley. Orangemen angered by Wellesley’s conciliation of Catholics jeer him during the national anthem, and a riot ensues after a bottle is thrown at him. Wellesley’s overreaction, including charging three rioters with attempted murder, undermines his own credibility.

In 1830, Harris retires from the theatre and a Mr. Calcraft takes on the lease. The theatre attracts a number of famous performers, including Niccolò Paganini, Jenny Lind, Tyrone Power, and Barry Sullivan. By 1851, the theatre is experiencing financial problems and closes briefly. It reopens in December under John Harris, who had been manager of the rival Queen’s Theatre. The first production under Harris is a play by Dion Boucicault. Boucicault and his wife are to make their first Dublin personal appearances in the Royal in 1861 in his The Colleen Bawn. The first performance of Boucicault’s play Arrah-na-Pogue is held at the theatre in 1864, with Boucicault, Samuel Johnson, John Brougham, and Samuel Anderson Emery in the cast.

The theatre burns to the ground on February 9, 1880.

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Founding of the Dublin Society for Improving Husbandry

royal-dublin-society-logoThe Dublin Society for Improving Husbandry (Cumann Ríoga Bhaile Átha Cliath) is founded on June 25, 1731 “to promote and develop agriculture, arts, industry, and science in Ireland.” On June 25, 1820, the name is changed to Royal Dublin Society (RDS) and is commonly known as the “Dublin Society.”

The society is originally founded by members of the Dublin Philosophical Society, chiefly Thomas Prior and Samuel Madden, as the “Dublin Society for improving Husbandry, Manufactures and other Useful Arts.” On July 8, 1731, a couple of weeks after initial foundation, the designation “and Sciences” is added to the end of its name.

The stated aim of the “Dublin Society” is therefore to promote the development of arts, agriculture, industry, and science in Ireland. In 1792 the Society purchases the Leskean Cabinet to further this ambition. The “Royal” prefix is adopted in 1820 when George IV becomes Society patron.

The society purchases Leinster House, home of the Duke of Leinster, in 1815 and founds a natural history museum there. The society acquires its current premises at Ballsbridge in 1879, and has since increased from the original fifteen acre site to forty acres. The premises consist of a number of exhibition halls, a stadium, meeting rooms, bars, restaurants, and a multi purpose venue named RDS Simmonscourt Pavilion.

The RDS Main Hall is a major centre for exhibitions, concerts, and other cultural events in Dublin. It hosts, for example, the Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition each January.

The Simmonscourt Pavilion has a capacity of approximately 7,000, and hosted the Meteor Music Awards in February 2008, as well as a number of concerts including The Smashing Pumpkins and My Chemical Romance, and two Eurovision Song Contests, in 1981 and 1988. Simmonscourt is where the show jumping horses are stabled during Dublin Horse Show week.