In the trenches in Cavan

If you are planning a visit to Cavan, you would do well to pay a visit to the Cavan County Museum in Ballyjamesduff.  We have visited a few county museums over the last few years but Cavan’s museum stood out.  Museums today should strive to create interactive user experience’s and the museum has embraced this idea.

The Museum is based in a beautiful 19th century building that was previously a convent used by the Poor Clare Order of nuns.

Ballyjamesduff convent
View of Cavan Museum building

The nuns arrived in Ballyjamesduff in 1872 with the convent itself being opened in 1883.

In 1992, with the dwindling convent community, a decision was made to close the convent and move to smaller accommodation within the community.  Cavan County Council purchased the convent to house the new county museum.

The museum is located on the Virginia Road – it’s signposted but easy to miss the turn (it’s a narrow slip road beside the church).

The building itself is substantial as you can imagine but luckily they have a lot of varied exhibitions to make good use of the space.

Exhibitions include Cavan GAA history, the history of the Barons Farnham (owners of the Farnham Estate for over 300 years until it was sold in the mid-2000s), the Great Famine, Percy French, local links to World War 1 and an exhibition on the Poor Clare Order of nuns.

There’s some other interesting pieces scattered around the museum like a gun belonging to Arthur Griffith.

Irish War of Independence
Arthur Griffith gun

Percy French was a famous Irish songwriter in the early 1900’s and he is connected to Ballyjamesduff as he worked in Cavan and wrote a famous Irish emigration song called “Come back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff” and in his honour a replica statue was erected in the town. I found out recently after posting the photo below on our Facebook page, a descendent of Paddy Reilly told me, he was a jarvey taxi man with a horse and cart who use to drive and collect people from Ballyduff and the Oldcastle train station, he did leave Ballyjamesduff, when he emigrated but he returned a few years later and settled back in Ballyjamesduff.

Ballyjamesduff statue
Percy French statue

By far the most impressive features of the museum are the World War 1 Trench Experience and the Visualising the Rising exhibition.

Cavan Museum have a replica trench onsite that was “built to the specifications and manuals of the Irish Guards and used by the Royal Irish Fusiliers at the Battle of the Somme 1916, it is over 350 metres long and includes frontline, communication and support trenches. Over 6000 sand bags were used in its construction. ”

World War 1 trench
Replica trenches – front line

The replica trench is the largest outdoor one of it’s kind in Ireland and the UK. This is very well done and you get a better understanding of what life must have been like in the trenches for the soldiers, they slept in something that resembled a shelf, never far from the rats and mud.  With audio posts dotted throughout the trenches, capturing some of the sounds of the WW1 trenches.

World War 1 first aid
Replica trenches – casualty clearing station

Also onsite is “a replica GPO façade and a series of tunnelled-through contemporary building interiors that allow visitors to experience the claustrophobic fighting conditions endured by the rebels.”

You can go inside the GPO during the Rising and experience the tunnelled Moore street houses.  We both read a book called Inside the GPO, it was a memoir by an Irish volunteer called Joe Goode, which recounts his time during the 1916 Rising. Goode paints a vivid picture of the last days of the Rising, volunteers tunnelling through the narrow rows of houses on Moore street and life inside for the inhabitants, with James Connolly stretchered into the house, a defiant Sean MacDiarmada and Patrick Pearse looking out at the civilians killed and writing the surrender letter and about life for the impoverished families who lived there. One story about the young volunteer Michael Collins trying to cook his ration sausages in a bedroom fireplace, on quenched emblems so as not to attract the British army snipers with smoke coming from the chimney stack, in the end ashes covered the sausages with Michael cursing the snipers.

General Post Office Dublin
GPO facade

The museum has a peace & reconciliation garden that remembers those from all sides of Irish society and the different paths they took, that led some to the trenches in World War 1 and others to the Easter Rising.

Photos from O’Donovan Rossa Funeral commemoration

Photos from the O’Donovan Rossa commemorations, the State service at Glasnevin Cemetery and the Sinn Féin funeral re-enactment.  Read all about it here.

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Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa commemoration

We attended two Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa funeral commemoration services this weekend.

Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa was an Irish Fenian, originally from Cork, he established the Phoenix National and Literary Society, which later merged with the Irish Republican Brotherhood.  He was imprisoned by the British and was eventually exiled to America, where he continued to campaign for Irish freedom.  He is most remembered today for his funeral, where Pearse gave a famous speech.  Which was said to be the start of the 1916 Rising.

Colourised version of the famous O'Donovan Rossa funeral from 1915
Colourised version of the famous O’Donovan Rossa funeral grave side photo


We heard about the first service on the Ireland 2016 Facebook page two weeks ago and applied for free tickets on the Glasnevin Cemetery website.   This first commemoration is part of the State’s official events.  We arrived at 9.30 am and queued up, along with 1500 people, we had got tickets to be inside the cemetery by the O’Connell Tower, near the Republican plot, although this been 2015 not 1915, we were about 100 metres back behind barriers from the grave site and watched on big screens.   On arrival, we received a souvenir copy of the funeral service, it was a copy of the original funeral booklet and had some old photos and an old photo of the grave site which had been colourised.

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The first service started at 10.30 am  in Glasnevin Cemetery, the American descendants of O’Donovan Rossa were in attendance and the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humpreys, the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and President Michael D. Higgins arrived and inspected the Irish Army, Defence Force’s 6th Infantry Battalion as the Army band played.

The director of the Glasnevin Cemetery trust, John Green, spoke and gave an account of O’Donovan Rossa, he also stated controversially that O’Donovan Rossa near the end of his life, had become repentant about his campaign on Britain, but this is widely disputed as untrue.

President Higgins laid a wreath on Rossa’s grave and the actor Jim Roche played the part of Padraig Pearse and gave the famous oration speech.

The fools, the fools, they have left us our Fenian dead and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.

This was followed by  a gun salute by a Defence Forces firing party.

The weather was lovely and it was blue skies and the sun came out. After the service we headed off and got the bus into town and got some lunch.

We then walked over to Dublin City Hall, for the second commemoration.  This service was organised by Sinn Féin and was a re-enactment of the O’Donovan Rossa funeral, which took place on the 1st August 1915.  Hundreds of people had dressed up in old costumes, ladies with big hats and long skirts and men in waistcoats and flat caps.  We only heard about this re-enactments a few days ago, so didn’t have time to gather a costume, but I would have loved to have taken part.

In the main hall, there was a coffin draped with a Irish tricolour, surrounded by men in Irish soldier costume.  An actor played the part of the priest Father Flanagan who gave a sermon before the coffin was removed.  Father Flanagan hailed from Cliffoney in Sligo.

Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa Funeral re-enactment City Hall Dublin (17)
Soldiers guard O’Donovan Rossa coffin in Dublin City Hall

We saw Gerry Adams there and he was in an old tweed suit costume and he was posing for photos with people in costume. Outside there was an ornate horse drawn carriage, with two black horse’s dressed in feather head wear and the bands practising and getting ready to depart.  We walked up ahead, as we wanted to take some photos as the cortege made its way passed the iconic GPO.

Rossa funeral cortege
Rossa funeral cortege

We stopped by College Green and the GPO and took photos, the pipe bands went by, four Army officers on horseback, the horse drawn carriage with the coffin, some relatives of Rossa followed along with Gerry Adams in costume and Mary Lou McDonald and Martin McGuinness, followed by soldiers and then hundreds of people in costume, pipe bands and many more people marching along, it was quite a spectacle and lots of tourists and people shopping, stopped to line O’Connell street and watch the parade re-enactment.  We didn’t follow it along as they were going back up to Glasnevin Cemetery for the rest of re-enactment and we didn’t have tickets.

Here are some more photos from the O’Donovan Rossa funeral re-enactment.

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Before heading home, we popped into the GPO and bought a commemorative O’Donovan Rossa stamp.

If we had known, we probably would have gone to this one as it was more interactive but it was nice to see President Higgins at the first commemoration service and hear Padraig Pearse’s famous speech and the booklet was very interesting.

I know the media are talking about a competition between the government and Sinn Féin, but I think its all good, especially for history buff’s like us, regardless of what political party if any you might be affiliated with.  I do think we should be commemorating and celebrating the 1916 Rising, in the same the way the American’s celebrate the 4th of July.   We were looking at the events for the official 2016 Ireland and the Sinn Féin events and I think it’s brilliant, there is a choice of different types of events for people to attend.

1916 Rebellion Walking Tour

We recently did the 1916 rebellion walking tour in Dublin city centre.  It is a walking tour based on the history of the Easter rising and encompasses some of the main streets and buildings that were involved in the battles.

Easter rising walking tour
Meeting point for the 1916 rebellion walking tour

The tour meeting point is The International Bar on Wicklow street in Dublin 2,  we did the tour on a Sunday and it started at 1pm and tickets cost €12.  The tour gets a mix of tourists from around the world and locals.  The guide Shane Kenna gave a background outlining the Easter rising before we headed off.

Trinity Dublin
Trinity College Dublin

We then headed over to Trinity College.  The guide explained how the British used Trinity College as an Army Base during the Rising and were able to use the roof of Trinity College to their advantage. He also told an interesting story about an Australian solder in the British Army.

Trinity College
Roof of Trinity College
View from Trinity College towards O'Connell Street
View from Trinity College looking towards O’Connell Street

We then walked up in the direction of O’Connell Street and the General Post Office, the GPO,  which was the rebel headquarters during the Rising.

GPO Dublin
General Post Office Dublin

Then to Moore Street which was quiet, as it was a Sunday, the majority of the fish, veg and flower stalls were closed, only one flower stall and a fruit and veg stall were opened for business on the Sunday we visited. Moore street has seen better days with the Ilac shopping centre looking a bit dilapidated, its brings the street down.

Moore Street Dublin
Flower stalls in Moore street in Dublin 1

There are 3 buildings on Moore street connected to the 1916 rising, Padraig Pearse, along with nurse Elizabeth Farrell and a group of volunteers took refuge in one of these buildings and then ended up breaking the wall through to the next building.  In these buildings on Moore street, the last army council meeting took place and the decision to surrender was made.

Moore Street 1916 buildings
1916 buildings where Padraig Pearse , Mairead Farrell and up to 100 other volunteers spent the last days of the rising

Michael Joseph The O’Rahilly was a founding member of the Irish volunteers and managed the journal An Claidheamh Soluis.  He was against an uprising taking place as he knew any such actions would result in defeat, just before the Rising started, he travelled around the country informing volunteers to not take up arms but by the time he arrived back to Dublin, soldiers had begun to mobilise at Liberty Hall, so he decided to join them,  he stated “Well, I’ve helped to wind up the clock — I might as well hear it strike!”

The O’Rahilly came under attack as he lead a group of soldiers who were looking for an escape route out of the GPO. He died in a lane off Moore street, now renamed The O’Rahilly parade. As he lay dying, he penned a letter to his wife, which has been recreated as a poignant plaque on the lane.

O'Rahilly Plaque
Plaque for  Michael Joseph The O’Rahilly

On Moore Street, there are plaques commemorating the 1916 leaders, which quite controversially, are erected on the gates of an apartment complex, perhaps this was only meant to be a temporary commemoration but it is not very appropriate.  It will be interesting to see how the 1916 commemoration visitor centre planned for Moore street will help to honour the memory of all those involved in the 1916 rising.

1916 Leaders Plaques on Moore Street
1916 Leader plaques that are erected on apartment car park gates on Moore Street

The 1916 rebellion walking tour is very interesting and well worth doing, it gives a great insight into the events that unfolded during the Easter rising and been able to see many of the streets and buildings where the battles were fought.


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