Part 2: Cliffs of Moher. It’s a long, long way from Clare to here!

Ellie Reynaud

Well, here I am back in Dublin after three weeks work experience in County Clare, Cliffs of Moher Experience.  What can I say?

Out of my comfort zone? Yes, absolutely! Challenges? Most definitely!

Day 1.

Ok, bad start. On top of going to somewhere new to work, my car was giving me trouble!

However, once I got to work, it was an absolute joy! The days consisted of 8 and a half hour shifts, five days a week with two days off. No day is the same, no job is the same.  The best thing about it was the fact that the duty you had to perform changed every two hours so you weren’t stuck doing the same job all day long.  Also, the people I shadowed (without naming them all!) were all  ladies and gentlemen!

So, I arrive at the Visitors Centre and am greeted with a lovely smile by a lady who calls the Duty Manager and while I wait, I walk around the exhibition and watch videos on the screens in the exhibition.  The Duty Manager arrives and takes me to the basement where she fits me with a uniform and gives me a  fob.  The fob gives me access all areas so I was delighted with myself!

I am then introduced to another lady, she spends the day with me, going through the FAQ’s, telling me what the job entails and about the way the place is run. She then brings me around the building showing me the different areas of the building.  The “behind the scenes” kind of thing that visitors wouldn’t see! I get a two way radio (what a life saver) and she takes me to the Pod. The pod is the coach building where the tour buses arrive; she shows me what the procedure is and pre-printed tickets for the coach passengers are handed to the tour guide.  Then we spend time in the Cabin, in the car park there are 3 cabins, 1,2,3.  This is where cars come to park and the visitors purchase their tickets for the site.   The day goes so quickly, then it’s home time.

Day 2 dawns and as we’re in Ireland and the wesht (I spell it like that ‘cos that’s how they say it in Clare!) in typical fashion, it is raining! I arrive early and grab a coffee.  Staff rates for a coffee? Oooh, I love the sound of that! I can see myself drinking lots of this stuff! So, my day begins on administration with a different gentleman today. Once all the emails have been answered and sorted through, he explains a bit about the Visitors Centre and the daily goings on; dealing with visitors if they need questions answered, using the PC for google, handing out binoculars, and the first aid room. Then, it was down to the Pod, where I learned how to print tickets for the coaches.  Finally, the part I loved most, up to O’Brien’s Tower, watching people, making sure the tower doesn’t get too crowded as people go up and down the spiral staircase, answering questions, describing how the tower came to be and why it’s there, what it was used for etc.   (In case some of you didn’t know it was built in 1835 by Cornelius O’Brien, a wealthy local landlord and MP.  It was used as a folly for entertainment (afternoon tea) and as an observation point for the English tourists who frequented the area at the time.)

Then, down to the car park cabin with another hilarious gentleman – he should have been a comedian! Anyway, he showed me how to print tickets when cars came into the car park, (there’s different ways to do that as some visitors may have booked online or received complementary tickets from the place they are staying in) then there was some more work in administration and then back to the Pod. Then, you guessed it … home time!

So, my days go like this until I get a day off!  Oh yes, not one but two!  I get my car sorted out, had to call the AA, did a bit of shopping, made lunch and then… crashed out on the couch! I’d started out with a head cold before I left for County Clare and with the anxiety of beginning work experience and my car giving out to me, I needed the sleep! When I awoke two and a half hours later, I felt like a different person, I went for a walk in the afternoon. why? Well, this is Ireland and guess what? It rains! It had been wet, wet, wet all morning!

Anyway, day 6 comes, you would think that my job was just outside dealing with people, but (isn’t there always a but?!) that behind the scenes thing that I mentioned earlier? Well, that’s where the fun begins! The house-keeping part, ie cleaning toilets, cleaning the lift and surrounding areas, litter-picking etc. Yes, it is also part of the job, taking pride in the centre so people are comfortable coming to the Cliffs of Moher Experience. Actually, Day 6 was St. Patrick’s Day and the lady I spent the first day with,I told you about her earlier? Well, she is into photography like me and asked the management if I could join her to photograph a wedding proposal! The couple were taking a tour of the vicinity and we went up to O’Brien’s Tower to capture the moment. (She said yes by the way!) I also chatted with some visitors from the USA   giving them information about Clare, but also Dublin! Well, they asked, so, yes I did, I couldn’t help myself being the proud Dub that I am!

My days for three weeks were like this, I didn’t want it to end!  The weather didn’t exactly play ball while I was there, but it didn’t really matter.  I hardly noticed it. But, there was one day, the day after my birthday, the weather was lovely in the early morning, however, by lunchtime the heavens opened up again! So I went for a drive, and on my way back, there was ferocious thunder and lightning! Where I was staying was right on the cliffs of the Atlantic Ocean, I thought I’d have a heart attack!  Thunder & lightening and an angry sea, the vast open space of the ocean. I love open spaces but this thunderstorm really freaked me out, I was so afraid! But I got over it and here I am to tell the tale!

And then, my work placement ended. My time there was up. I now miss the sound of the ocean – especially when she’s angry. It was three weeks of wonderful enjoyment, being with likeminded people.  Everyone who works there seems to be always smiling.

And do you want to know the best part?  They’ve offered me a job when I am finished my course.  I even hope to get back there to volunteer during my week off. Yes, my week’s holiday from studying and I want to go back there to work!

Every day had it’s challenges and my next challenge lies ahead of me.   Better get cracking.  Bye!


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A Leap of Faith

Ellie Reynaud

1995 saw me beginning my working life in an office.   For 28 years, I ducked in and out of office life; that was until January 2021.  With life the way it was at that time, “the way of the pandemic”, saw the lights being switched off on my office career, though of course I didn’t realise it at the time.

I love being active, being sedentary five days a week, sitting on a chair, in an office, never appealed to me.  I began taking matters into my own hands and headed for the hills more and more.  Onwards and upwards right?

I knew in my own heart, that if I wanted something different, I needed to do a course, I searched online for various subjects but nothing floated my boat.  I still looked for office jobs as I thought, that was all I knew how to do.  I did, and still do, like typing, and during the pandemic working from home was ideal.

I managed to go abroad and visit the country my Grandfather was from, Malta. I loved the architecture and, in particular, the heritage of the place.  Unbeknownst to me then, this ended up being the route I would eventually follow.

In September 2022, I bit the bullet and went back to education! Yes, who would have thought,  (I certainly didn’t!), that for one minute that daunting leap into the next chapter of my life would have such an impact on me, my personal being and how out of my shell I would jump!  I began a Culture and Heritage Course, in the National Print Museum, Dublin. 

This “new me” felt good. I threw myself into what I was learning, not with much enthusiasm at first, it felt as though I had a daunting task ahead of me, with all the assessments and assignments and reading and researching that was to be done to get me to the place I want to be. The more I progressed, the more confident I became in myself, always a good sign! Then, I was to be assessed on my ability to give a tour of the National Print Museum.  That process took three months from the time I started my course.  A bird doesn’t fly on one wing right? So, there I was, the week before Christmas, nerves … what nerves! And then … BANG! I obtained my wings to be let loose on the unsuspecting members of the public… What’s there to it you might ask, sure anyone can that?  Actually, no, they can’t, it’s more difficult than you might think! This is my territory and I love it!

Being serious for a moment, I know more now about our “Proclamation” and our Irish History than I did before I began this course. 

Now I sit and wait for the next leap, which is my work experience placement.  I’ve applied to the Cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare; which will mean three weeks away from all I know! My home, my course colleagues, quite outside my comfort zone!!!

Keep an eye out for my next chapter – Part 2. Cliffs of Moher!

– Ellie

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Road to Trinity

Róisín Sheeran

Attending the Cultural and Heritage Course at the National Print Museum
proved to be a huge boon for me, not least because it put me on the road to
becoming a student at Trinity College.

I was already developing an interest in Local History before starting at the
Print Museum and the course further developed this interest. When three
former students, who had gone on to attend Trinity from N.P.M., visited our
class and told of their experiences, I realised there was a chance for me to
attend Trinity as a mature student. Also, I didn’t have to be thrown in at the
deep end, starting off in first year as an overwhelmed Fresher – there was an
opportunity to start off with a Foundation Course, which would further develop
my academic writing and other skills I might need. My options were not
confined to Trinity alone, I could also apply to Pearse College or Whitehall.
I had my heart set on Trinity and with a great deal of preparation, under the
guidance of my tutors at the N.P.M., I was successful in my application to the
Trinity Access Programme. Through T.A.P. I was able to experiment with a
number of subjects including Maths, Philosophy, History and English. Having
successfully graduated from T.A.P. I was able to start an English and History
combined course, as a Trinity first year.

Some say youth is wasted on the young and some might put forward that
sometimes education is also. I had actually attended U.C.D. after leaving
school in the last century but I never got beyond first year and it was a great
bonus to have a second chance and to be able to attend college because I
really wanted to learn this time, rather than becoming a student because I
didn’t know what else to do. I am entering fourth year now and next year I am
majoring in English. My biggest module will be to write a 10,000 word
creative writing, non-fiction piece under the auspices of irish writer, Deirdre
Madden. I have always written poetry and fiction, but another world of writing
has opened up to me through attending Trinity. I have become more rigorous
in my practice, more articulate in my arguments and my social circle has been
extended. I have made friends with young students and those of my own age
group and older. Attending college has broadened my horizons in many ways
and helped me develop my way of thinking.

I think it is important to study what you feel most passionate about. This does
not make your studies effortless, but regardless of your marks, what you
actually learn and how much you enjoy expanding your mind can be the most
important thing.

I would highly recommend going to college either for the first or second time
if you can. In T.A.P. it was explained to us we were becoming part of the one
per cent – not the one per cent that holds the bulk of global wealth, but the one
per cent of the world population who have been afforded the opportunity to
avail of third level education and work towards a degree. That is a form of
wealth and it is a sobering thought. It brought home to me how fortunate it
was for us excitable students to be able to exploit our chance. So grab the
chance if it appeals to you in any way at all.

(If you feel you don’t need to do a Foundation Course you can also apply to
become a first year student directly. Catherine who was on my N.P.M. course
went straight to U.C.D. and took a degree in Irish Folklore. Having completed
T.A.P. some of my fellow students also applied to other colleges such as
Maynooth and Pearse College.)

Róisín on the steps of the Dining Hall Trinity College

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The Spirit of Meitheal in a Time of Challenge

The Legend of St Brigid’s Cloak

It is said that every cloud has a silver lining, and while not dismissing the awful consequences of the current pandemic, how glad I am to have the Irish Cultural and Heritage Course, facilitated by the National Print Museum, to look forward to every day.  The ancient world of our Irish forebearers, which this course unfolds day by day, fascinates me. I am humbled by, and in awe of the beauty and artistry of ancient Irish artefacts. I am lost in the psychological drama and intrigue of Irish mythology. I mourn the loss of great Irish traditions, having learned about Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine and Lunasa and the communal spirit which underpins their festivities and rituals.

One of the most beautiful customs, which this course revealed to me, is that of Meitheal. It is a wonderful old Irish custom in which neighbours come together to work in union to ensure that each family’s crops, in the community, are saved before the onset of darker days.  In these challenging times which can be characterised by isolation and loneliness, this simple, practical and yet profound gesture of communal camaraderie, inspired me to reach out and make connections with family and friends. 

In the bleak, dark days following Christmas 2020, family members grieved for cherished relatives and treasured friends whose lonely empty spaces around the festive table were reminders of their absence.  Adults and children bemoaned the consequences of COVID which necessitated that, for Christmas 2020, gatherings had to be deferred for the common good. This January our class learned about the custom of Meitheal and the Celtic cross days, including the festival of Imbolc (or its Christianised appropriation, La Fheile Bride / or Saint Brigid’s Day) which is  celebrated on 1st February. The information  inspired  me to set up a zoom Meitheal  so that  relatives,   who were unable to travel home  for Christmas, could connect  with family in Dublin.  It was called,  ‘ A zoom  Meitheal : Imbolc/ La Feile Bride’.         

The Meitheal was a tremendous success with family members from all over Ireland and abroad participating. Children played tricks; held up their drawings of St Brigid trees; recited their own written poems on Spring.  Adults  sang and  told stories ; others  recalled  childhood on a  farm  in  Meath and the custom of hanging the St Brigid crosses in the houses and barns and then saving them from year to year; a St Brigid’s Cross was presented and its significance explained;  a storyteller  related the  Legend of St Brigid and the Cloak ;  a nephew, settled  in Italy, described the  veneration of Santa Brigida of Lombardy;  to this day in Leitrim, it was explained, it is possible to wake up on Feb 1st to find spring flowers on your doorstep and window sills, left by neighbours to ward off bad luck befalling the inhabitants. There were many highlights but two poems generated a communal spirit of good will and humour.  My oldest sister, recited the following poem, familiar to old and young from their school days:

Anois teacht an Earraigh – Spring is now coming

le Antaine Ó Raifteirí (1784-1835)

Anois teacht an Earraigh

beidh an lá dúl chun shíneadh,

Is tar eis na féil Bríde

ardóigh mé mo sheol.

Go Coillte Mach rachad

ní stopfaidh me choíche

Go seasfaidh mé síos

i lár Chondae Mhaigh Eo. 

The second poem recited by my daughter, who joined from Cork, brought a smile to those afflicted with the common family scourge of asthma:

The Benadryl Zombies

In the early Spring, when there’s pollen in the air,

The Benadryl Zombies can be spotted everywhere;

Stumblin’ down the sidewalk and walkin’ the dog,

Driving their Toyotas in a Benadryl fog.

Sleepin’ at their desks in the office or at school,

Sleepin’ on the train or sleepin’ in the pool;

Shiverin’ in the sunlight and complainin’ that they’re freezin’

Oh well, thank God, at least they’ve stopped sneezin’!

St Brigid’s holy well Clondalkin, Dublin 22

The second Meitheal took place on the eve of Imbolc for colleagues with whom I worked in Zimbabwe over twenty  years ago. Again, people from all over Ireland and abroad joined together in celebration of ‘La le Bride’. It was an amazing experience;  some people hadn’t  seen each other in months, due to COVID  and others not for years, due to the exigencies   of life. Our screens  reverberated,  as smiles  beamed  up, down and across  the rows of little  gallery frames, and  voices chimed  delighted greetings in Shona and in Irish,      

Mhoro shamwari! Maswera sei?‘ (Hello, friends!  How are you?)

‘Ndakanaka ndatenda’ ( I am fine, thank you)

‘Beannachtai la Fheile Bride!’

‘Dia dhaoibh’

The excitement was tangible as we exchanged precious memories of the wonderful people and stunning landscape of Zimbabwe.   Bulawayo, Marondera, Harare, Masvingo, Chitungwiza, Gweru, Mutare  , Dombo Tombo ( my own) unfurled a cartographical poem  as we recalled our locations.  Mary, gave a presentation on St Brigid and Noreen gave an update on Zimbabwe. We shared memories of craft making from our own school days, and the practice of customs on family farms. A retired primary school teacher demonstrated how she used to make Brigid crosses with her little pupils.   Everyone agreed that reaffirming   our friendship on the zoom  Meitheal, on the   eve of St Bridget’s Day, which welcomes the arrival of light and growth after the bleak days of winter, made the occasion very special.    

A hand-crafted St Brigid’s cross

A garnet of cultural wisdom mined from the rich resources of the Irish Cultural and Heritage Course shone light into our darkness and revitaliised our family with hope, connection, love and laughter.  We have agreed to come together for a zoom Meitheal for the cross days, Bealtaine, Lunasa and Samhain.  Family members are already preparing hats and performances for the St Patrick’s Day Meitheal!!!! I have agreed to sponsor a prize for the best hat!!  Likewise,  I  have just finalised  our next Meitheal for my group of friends with whom I worked in Zimbabwe.  It will take place on the Sunday before St Patrick’s Day in order to facilitate people who are resident abroad.   One friend will give a presentation on St Patrick.  We will also  have a  presentation on ‘Wildlife Conservation Challenges’ from a Zimbabwean professional who will  join us from the capital, Harare. Both of these subjects will undoubtedly generate some very lively discussions. We also plan to wear our green attire and toast to the health of St Patrick. Slainte!!

The Irish Cultural and Heritage course has extended its reach beyond my immediate participation to enrich the lives of many people, both in Ireland and abroad. Through the medium of future zoom Meitheals, a communal space will offer family and friends, a temporary release from the spectre of COVID-19 and an opportunity to connect with the joys of Irish culture.

The perpetual flame of St Brigid, Co. Kildare

~Roslyn Hickey

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I’m writing this on one of the most beautiful days of 2020 so far – it’s officially the beginning of summer, the sun is shining and people are out cutting their grass. It’s one of the weird days of the lockdown where, for an hour or two, you could almost forget what’s going on in the world. Most days we don’t quite have that luxury. For many of us, the disruption to our day-to-day lives has been catastrophic.

Things like ‘Memories’ on social media sites don’t help. Take this time last year, for example. I was living abroad but making plans to come home to Dublin and start the Culture and Heritage Studies course in the National Print Museum. My plan was to get back to tour guiding and get fully immersed in to the nitty gritty of working in the heritage industry. You could probably guess that things didn’t exactly go to plan. My class were four days in to work placements when the lockdown started. It has been 58 days since any of us were on site in the Print Museum, and realistically it’ll be at least another 60 or so before we’re allowed back.

To be truthful, there have been many days where I’ve felt massively disconnected from the course and from my original aims. Frankly with all that’s happened and that’s happening, not being able to give my tours and engage with visitors seems a kind of trivial problem. More often to the forefront of my mind is ‘what happens next?’. There have been many worried, late-night conversations with friends and colleagues about what the industry will look like when quarantine is lifted; ‘what will our job prospects look like?’, ‘how will museums and heritage sites survive the crunch?’ Sometimes, when things are particularly bad I find myself asking ‘what’s the point?’.

(Okay so if you’re still with me at this point, I can promise you this is building to something!).

So, while I’d been having a mope about how my glittering career was snatched from me before it even began, something pretty amazing was happening. Almost as soon as heritage sites around the world started to close their doors, virtual tours began to appear online. Free audio, video and digital content; unlimited 24/7 access to some of the most important cultural institutions around the globe. Within a week #MuseumfromHome was trending on Twitter and Instagram; the Louvre, MoMA, Rijksmuseum (among literally thousands of others) were promoting their content across social media. Smaller sites, like our own National Print Museum, had a digital collection put together to provide a virtual experience for would-be visitors online. The headline ‘Culture in Quarantine’ was splashed across the BBC and the idea gained some serious momentum.

The National Museum of Ireland seemed to go one further, and presented a special online exhibition ‘Reflections on Resilience’ – a celebration of human ingenuity and tenacity in the face of great odds.

So, why am I pointing this out? Well because if I’m honest, the #MuseumfromHome movement has been a bit of a turning point for me, and I doubt that I’m alone in that. It’s not about the quality of the content that’s been produced (although it has been amazing) – it’s about how eager people have been to engage with it. We’re not the only group tweeting and blogging about our (virtual) class trips; the input from both personal AND institutional accounts online has been staggering. People and organisations are reaching out to each other through the hashtag, suggesting tours, discussing their favourite exhibition pieces and discussing the places they want to visit when this all over. Cultural sites across the world are supporting and promoting each other, retweeting and advertising other museums for the benefit of the virtual visitors. In a time when people at home could do ANYTHING they wanted on the internet, what they want to do is discuss art, culture and heritage.

‘Reflection on Resilience’ opens with a bit of a blurb –

‘These objects tell their own stories of resilience, endurance and hope, and we hope they provide a moment for reflection in these challenging times.’

These ARE challenging times, for all of us. There are more challenging times ahead, and beyond that too. For those of us who are involved in the heritage industry, there is an uncertainty on how things will pan out. But… being involved with #MuseumfromHome for the Print Museum and experiencing ‘Reflection on Resilience’ has reminded me of three very important things;

Firstly – struggle and hardship have been a constant in history. So too has the strength of the human spirit.

Secondly – as long as there are people who want to immerse themselves in culture, as long as there are people who make lists of sites they want to visit when they can, as long as there are people who take virtual tours and support heritage sites and buy things they don’t need from a gift shop in a museum on the other side of the world…I think we’ll be just fine.

Thirdly, and most importantly (in my opinion anyway) – I love what I do, and I have no regrets.

– Jordan

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Access All Areas

If someone was to find my phone and looked at the photos on it,they would be treated to a wealth of imagery gathered from different sites around Dublin City. These images can be dated to the start of the Culture and Heritage Course in October 2017 and continues on through the weeks and seasons until now. It is a visual journey through parts of Dublin that were unknown to me and, I might suggest most of its inhabitants.
The most intriguing part of this visual journey shows behind the scenes -parts that are not in public view, the hidden corners, the crypts, the roof spaces and the basements. These out of bound places were very interesting and we had privileged back-stage passes being students of the Culture and Heritage Course.

Christmas at St. Patricks (Photo Sheila Robinson)

Coming up to Christmas 2017 we were brought on a tour of St. Patricks Cathedral. It was very atmospheric. The Christmas tree was sparkling in the main body of the Church and a general air of good humour and expectation hung in the air. Our guide was Ralph Smyth dressed in his characterful bowler hat, crombie and accompanied by a whiff of pipe tobacco. His infectious enthusiasm endeared him to us as aspiring tour guides. We were treated to the appreciation of fine marble sculpture, the best in Europe at this time and a short history of the Boyle Family (another Blog Entry) as well as of course, Patricks most famous Dean, Jonathan Swift-the author of Gulliver’s travels.


Marble calves (Photo Sheila Robinson)

As we were students of the Culture and Heritage Course we were invited to enter through a small door in the wall of the Nave. Unlocking it, the curator advised that there were many steps spiralling upwards. Well-lit and in a circular climb we reached another small door. Noting the thickness of the stone wall as we dipped through this opening we found ourselves in a gloomy hexagonal room aware that the space above us seemed to stretch unendingly into the darkness. As our eyes adjusted, the room opened up to us. We were in the Bell Tower.
The ringing ropes hung in loops above us and various boxes of different heights were placed in a circle. My companions were invited to climb further up the tower and because I had a painful knee, I made my excuses and decided to return downwards.

“You’ll won’t be able to” said the Curator

“You’ll have to wait here until we come back down.”

“Ok” I replied chipperly. This is how on the 20th December I found myself locked in the bell tower of St Patricks Cathedral.
So as the door closed behind them and their voices faded, I became aware of my aloneness in this room which seemed not to have a ceiling. The artificial light was centred on the middle of the room and daylight, all that it was on the 20th of December, was greying through the four ordinate gothic diamond paned windows. I became increasingly aware of not wanting to move from the centre of the room so willed myself to go exploring. Stepping forward towards the windows, my heart trying to keep in time with the ticking of the grandfather clock against the stone wall I started to explore. To my dismay I discovered that these were openings in the walls. Spiral stone staircases wound upwards within these spaces. The openings were situated in each corner. It was difficult to see beyond the first couple of steps. Black and white photographs in old frames were hung haphazardly their subjects dressed in indefinable fashions. Only that they were labelled April 1946 would I have been able to discern the decade. I imagined them to start moving about animatedly as they do in Harry Potter films.


Loops (Photo Sheila Robinson)

Suddenly there was a deep sonorous thump, bigger than the one in my heart. It seemed to come from somewhere else but the continuous ticking of the grandfather clock calmed me a little as I listened for any sign of life at all. I presumed that the noise was part of the clock works
I began to feel my imprisonment. Trying to be all grown up about this, I rang my husband, comforted that the technology worked.

“Guess where I am? I said In the bell tower of St Patricks.”

“ That’s Nice- I have to go” said Seumas “Bye…..”

Well at least he knows where to find me if I disappear I thought to myself. No sign of anyone- they couldn’t have forgotten me?
I resigned myself to be a princess and comfortable now, started to photograph my domain, laughing at the absurd signage and marveling at the lack of a draught.

Signage in the Bell Tower (Photo Sheila Robinson)

I sat down on a needle worked cushion and began to enjoy the exclusivity of my prison and almost felt put out when the handle of the door jangled and it opened. The gang were all here and we started our descent.

I’ve become a tourist in my own city. Looking back through my photos, I’m struck by not only the amount of visits to historic parts but also by the wealth of heritage that the city provides. The layers of history have been peeled back and revealed, interpreted by engaging guides, passionate about their place. And hopefully as I go forward as a fully-fledged tour guide I can display the same love and interest in this wonderful city of Dublin.

– Sheila

Sheila has gone on to become a tour guide with 14 Henrietta Street and is on the tour guide panel for the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks.

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Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Last year I found myself feeling like Dorothy when she met the Scarecrow, I was at a point in the road and didn’t know which way to go. Do I proceed along the current career route? But I would love to try something different, how do I do that? Well you’ve got to educate yourself don’t you? After all the scarecrow was looking for a brain. Don’t get me wrong, I do have brains but I wanted my brain to grow and expand so I could do something new. So I made a decision to go back to education which, as a mature student, is probably never an easy decision to make.
I discovered the Culture and Heritage Studies course almost by accident, (or was someone sending me a sign?). I met a woman at an education fair who told me about the course when I told her I was interested in culture; I wish I took that woman’s number so I could thank her, as I’ve spent the last year learning about what I love to do in my spare time, which is visiting museums and heritage sites. In this course I was going to study archaeology, history, heritage and folklore, I was also going to learn how to be a tour guide; it sounded great!
This course lead me onto becoming a tour guide at The National Print Museum, having a love of folklore, working at The National Museum of Ireland, Country Life and, a yet to begin, third level education.
I thought I knew what folkore was, but really it’s so much more than I realised. I still remember my first folklore class, I was so excited by the end of it; I couldn’t believe I was actually going to be studying this for a year, it was right up my street. The more I learned about folklore the more I realised that most of it is still part of Irish culture. For fans of Harry Potter did you know that JK Rowling did most of her research around wizards from folklore! I’ve found it’s just a fascinating subject.


The Druid, Cathbad, Seer of Deirdre (taken from Bard Mythologies)

This lead onto me seeking my work placement in the Museum of Country Life in Mayo.  The museum accepted me so it was actually going ahead, but ‘The Beast from the East’ was trying to prevent me but nothing was going to get in my way.  I packed up my car and with the snow receding in early March I moved to Mayo for three weeks.


Image of snow in a Dublin housing estate (by Deirdre McGuirk)

The team in Mayo welcomed me with open arms, and they gave me the opportunity to write my own tour of the museum. I found it very daunting at first but everyone had faith in me, so I realised I needed to have faith in myself. I got stuck into the task with my trustee copy of Kevin Danaher’s ‘The Year in Ireland’ by my side, which is full of insights into the folklore calendar of Ireland. My tour was a based on Calendrical Customs in rural Ireland which I presented at the end of my placement. Over three weeks in the museum I got to participate in excellent workshops and assist in writing a self-guided tour for children. By the end of my three weeks I felt right at home in Turlough Park and didn’t want to leave thanks to the great people I met there.


National Museum of Ireland, Country Life, Turlough Park (taken from

Returning to Dublin and The National Print Museum, we were all very happy with our work placements and had lots of news to share. Straight away it was back into the studies and I cannot believe how fast the last five months have gone. We’ve had exams and assignments keeping us on our toes from week to week, it is very hard work but so interesting and very rewarding. All our tutors and staff in the museum have been so helpful and have gotten me through this year dealing with life as a mature student. Even more than this I was encouraged to apply for third level education, which I had no intention of doing. There were gentle pushes from my tutors and I kept going with it, as the more I learned on this course the more I wanted to learn and to cut a long story short I start a third level degree in Culture and Environmental Studies in GMIT in September.
So now I am packing up my life, a born and bred Dub and moving to the country! I’ve wanted to do this for years but now it’s actually happening and it’s very nerve racking. Next I have to depart my safe and secure new home of The National Print Museum. I’ve had a wonderful time here; this is the best course I’ve ever done. Along with getting the opportunity to be a tour guide and imparting knowledge to the public, I’ve learned so much. This year has been hard to grapple with at times, but I wouldn’t change it. I’ve met some amazing people between the National Print Museum and The Museum of Country Life, who it will be very hard to say goodbye to, but if folklore thought me anything it’s to believe. I can go on a fantastic adventure and meet so new great friends along the way.

~ Deirdre

wizard of oz

The Tin Man, Dorothy, The Scarecrow and The Lion, from The Wizard of Oz

Deirdre has now gone on to study for a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Heritage Studies at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology.


Deirdre guiding visitors around the National Print Museum (Photo credit: Joe Melican).

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Retraining after Redundancy

In 2016, after working in the community & voluntary sector for over a 30 year period my post was made redundant. This was my third job loss and after seeking professional career advice, I took a deep breath and decided to retrain. Keen to link my early career in the hospitality industry with my love of delivering and making information accessible to everyone I opted to do the CDETB Cultural & Heritage Studies course at the National Print Museum. Yes, it was a bit of a shock to my system to study full-time & cover tour guiding duties in the museum at weekends. Still I have no regrets. I found each of the modules interesting, the tutors supportive & my fellow students a great bunch of people to share a classroom with. I did my work experience in Dublin Castle (OPW) and after the course I did a placement at 14: Henrietta Street (Dublin City Council) – these together with my course results led me to secure full-time work. Of course there were moments of question & frustration during the 48 week CDEBT programme – that’s life! Do I regret my choice of course? Not at all …so to anyone interested working in the area of culture & heritage why not visit the National Print Museum & make enquiries about the course!

Christine Flynn
Cultural & Heritage Studies Graduate 2016/17

Christine is currently employed by Cool Planet Experience, at Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow as a Visitor Services & Education Officer



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A Crafty Experience

National Print Museum Students visit to National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street 

Annie Birney, the National Museum of Ireland’s Educator, hosted an educational event on 19th May 2017, for the National Print Museum’s Cultural & Heritage Studies programme.

I was extremely fortunate to be one of the six learners, who together with our Course Co-ordinator Gillian Lamb, benefitted from a varied range of activities during this special day. At that time we were preparing for an assessment on Irish Leather Crafts. So in advance of our visit Annie, and our course’s Assistant Co-Ordinator Hillary O’Callaghan, devised a schedule that would maximise opportunities for learning in that context.

First Annie led us on a mini-tour of the museum, highlighting relevant craft or leather related artefacts. On previous visits we had self-guided –all agreed it was so much more useful to learn through Annie’s insider knowledge. After the tour one of the museums interns invited us to see Early Medieval pampooties. Found, preserved in a bog, these shoes were made from one piece of leather and were worn in the Aran Islands until the 20th century.

Next, we were introduced to the museums Handling Collection – a range of numbered replica artefacts were displayed. Their corresponding numbers were placed in a lucky dip jar. Once we picked a number off we went on a treasure hunt to find the real artefact in the museum. Our selection included Neolithic Bann Flake arrow heads and an Early Bronze Age funerary urn and afterwards everyone got to make a brief presentation on their chosen artefact.

Following a pic-nic lunch, which Catherine shared unexpectedly with one cheeky  feathered Stephens Green resident, we returned to do a Leathercraft Workshop.

Facilitated by Roísín Gartland, a conceptual artist and designer, the workshop proved to be an inspirational learning experience. Under Roisin’s gentle guidance we used prepared materials to create a simple leather phone case.

My prior knowledge of the ‘hairy vellum’ which medieval scribes had to work on made me extremely appreciative of the clean, soft leathers my inexperienced hands were manipulating. Our awls and hammers tapped out non-melodic rhythms, to create spiral patterns on the front of our cases. A satisfying, and relatively easy stage – almost therapeutic in nature.However the next stage was more challenging -the task of replicating our experienced facilitators perfect edge stitching. Tension mounted in more ways than one, resulting in a shortage of oiled cotton thread, mild frustration and in my case the tedium of unpicking of 74 loose stitches!

During this 60 minute process we chatted like the fictitious Ladies Aid sewing circles in L.M Montgomery’s  Anne of Green Gables. Reflecting afterwards, I had a sense of having been part of a temporary creative community. However, leather work I realise requires total concentration, good eyesight and a particular type of patience I have yet to acquire. The next time I pass a window displaying quality leather goods my first thought will be of the craftsmanship and not the price tag.!

Sincere thanks to The National Museum of Ireland, Annie Birney and all involved for making our visit a crafty learning experience

The National Museum of Ireland :

Roísín Gartland :

National Print Museum:

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Glasnevin Cemetery – A visit

The trainees from the Certificate in Cultural and Heritage Studies at the National Print Museum went on our Wednesday afternoon excursion to Glasnevin Cemetery on 17th May 2017.

We got the bus to Glasnevin and started with a leisurely stroll through The Botanic Gardens. It was looking beautiful as usual but with a bit of extra finesse because of the impending visit from Prince Charles and Camilla. The newly opened gate between the gardens and the cemetery is a bonus so a simple walk through brings you straight to the museum and tour start. It wasn’t always the way when I grew up beside ‘The Bots’ you had to walk around to the main gate but not anymore. It brought back some great memories and so nice to go mid-week.

We started our tour just outside the visitor centre. Our guide was Grainne and she definitely knew her stuff. She brought us to the grave of O’ Donovan Rossa and a eulogy from Patrick Pearse was read out by a fully uniformed gentleman.  He said it with such pride and conviction it was hard not to be stirred. It is read out everyday at 2.30 pm and well worth a look.


We then started the tour proper. Gráinne pointed out various graves relating to 1916. We then stopped at the monumental tomb of Daniel O’ Connell. She told us how he had a vision of one all inclusive cemetery so everyone can be lain together. The tower itself is not open to the public but should be within months. We then had to guess how much we thought a tomb in the O’ Connell circle would cost….€5,000….€10,000……..more like €40,000 She said. But this is for the whole family so do the maths. We then went inside his tomb, quite a sight to see his coffin and it is said to be lucky if you touch it. The walls are decorated with his achievements.

We continued on to other notable graves; Charles Stewart Parnell, de Valera , the Republican plot and also the cremation wall.

Then as ever the rains came and we all went inside to the visitor centre and upstairs Grainne very obligingly continued on with the tour. We had a great vantage point and we could pick out different graves. She had a wealth of knowledge and knew where everyone was resting.

We spoke a bit about the proclamation and we added our knowledge of the document from our original copy at the Print Museum. There was a big number on the tour and when the rain stopped not all continued outside again. Now we had a chance to ask where specific notables were buried like Erskine Childers, Elizabeth O’ Farrell and Countess Markievicz. Gráinne also brought us to the war memorial wall. It was sad to read all the names and ages. We had time at the end to go explore the museum and ask any questions. It is a very worthwhile tour and long overdue on my behalf.

I can’t recommend it enough.

Louise is a student on the Certificate in Cultural and Heritage Studies course at the National Print Museum.

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