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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.