May 31, 2009

Dublin Day 2

I was keen to see the Georgian Merrion Square where Oscar Wilde, his parents, and other famous Dubliners resided. In the square itself, now open to the public, is a bunker that could accomodate 1500 during airstrikes.

I have always been fascinated with how "ordinary" people (as opposed to royalty and generals) lived and the Number 29 House Museum was perfect for me. Olivia Beatty was a wine merchants's widow who raised seven children on her own with money settled on her by her father-in-law (her husband left no will). Olivia decorated her public rooms (e.g. back drawing room below from museum website) as opulently as possible, but she could only afford three servants - housekeeper, manservant, scullery maid - and one governess. The housekeeper kept all the accounts and ran the household - she enjoyed the luxury of her own room in the house. The manservant, responsible for such chores as getting the carriage and horses ready for an outing, probably lived in the carriage house. The scullery maid did most of the work including lugging water up and chamber pots down - all for breakfast and beer. She had to go "home" every night to her desperately poor room. The governess was usually a relative or family friend whose family fortunes had taken a turn for the worse. The introductory film and guided tour of the home made life on Merrion Square starting 1794 for Olivia Beatty and her family and servants come alive.

After all this history, Kris felt he deserved to tour the Jameson Distillery. This was touristy but on a much smaller scale than the Guinness Storehouse. Kris successfully volunteered to join the panel comparing the tastes of Jameson Irish Whiskey (distilled three times) to Scotch Whiskey (distilled only twice with peat smoke blown through to give it a characteristic smokey taste) and American Bourbon (made with corn instead of barley and probably only distilled once). Under no pressure at all, Kris agreed that the Irish Whiskey was of course the best!

The Jameson Distillery is not in the best part of Dublin and after getting lost for several hours in some of the more unsavoury neighbourhoods, we made it back to Temple Bar in time for the Irish Musical Pub Crawl. A group of about 70 of us met in one of the upstairs rooms of the Oliver St. John Gogarty's pub. Two musicians told us about Irish music and instruments and played for us. Then they led us to another pub for more music and information. A third musician joined us as we made our way north of the Liffey to the third pub. After some more music, they asked if anyone wanted to sing a song. I raised my hand and sang a carefully abbreviated (to tell the story without singing ALL of the verses) version of "Maids When You're Young Never Wed An Old Man" - very appropriate for the venue and well-received (although Kris is still a bit shocked that I would sing in front of such a large audience, he said several of our fellow pub crawlers came up to him later complimenting my nerve and voice).

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