We completed our last tour of the year, for TBG+S, just 10 days ago, and our last public tour of the year, for our Dublin Decoded newsletter subscribers, around a month back, with our Monto tour.
Now that it’s all over for another year, we thought it might be interesting to look back, enjoy and reflect on 2018, and savour some of the brilliant tours. And the thought occurred to me that you, our guests and subscribers, might also enjoy seeing a few pictures too. After all, there’s nothing wrong with bit of nostalgia! So here we go, the first annual Dublin Decoded Year-in-Pictures Review…
It was a slow enough start to our year, mind you. What with thick snow in March, then a broken bone in my foot soon after. Not a great injury for a walking tour guide to pick up ! But recovery came in the end, while at the same time the weather slowly improved. Once we finally did get going with our walking tours, we barely drew breathe for the next seven months!
Snow, in March! With the sledges, in Weaver’s Park, Dublin 8
One particularly exciting tour early in our schedule was to 9/9A Aungier Street. Now concealed behind a later 18th century facade, this is actually a house from the 1600s, and in fact, one of the oldest surviving houses in Dublin.
9/9A is still undergoing a hugely complex restoration process. We are extremely grateful therefore, both to the owner, and to the conservation architect, Sunni Goodison for allowing us special access for this visit, and putting on such an illuminating, fascinating talk, of this venerable, deeply historic building. Among other treasures we heard of a small shoe, left in the ancient timbers of the buildings, then found in the restoration process. This hiding of a shoe was a common superstition of the Early Modern period (the 1600s) – done to ward off witches and evil spirits!
Art Tours, at the NGI, the Mahon Archive, Hugh Lane Gallery etc..
Through March and April, with the weather still not hitting the sunny heights we’d see later in 2018, we held some of other Spring-time tours indoors. These included including several visits to the National Gallery, both for our signature How to Read a Painting Tour (above) and on a special one-off visit to the Denis Mahon archive (below) Huge thanks to NGI Mahon archivist Leah Benson, and her team, for hosting us there.
above: guests on a trip to the National Gallery’s Sir Dennis Mahon archive on Merrion Sq.
In April however we really went up a gear, as we do almost every year. The whole month saw a range of varied tour events. An early example was our walk around some of the architectural gems of South-East central Dublin, taking in Kildare Street and Kildare Place, Dawson St and St Stephens Green. This tour concluded on Harcourt Street and a visit there inside the former HQ of old Sinn Féin during the Revolutionary Era, number 8, Harcourt St. This historic house, also formerly a residence of Cardinal John Henry Newman, is now home to Conradh na Gaeilge (the Gaelic League) I am indebted to the archivist there, Cuan O’Seireadáin, for the friendly welcome, and superb talk he provided. (Picture below)
above: Talimh Cardinal Newman and Michael Collins, at No. 8 Harcourt St with Conradh na Gaeilge archivist, Cuan O’Seireadáin
The weather was considerably better a few days later, for our next April Dublin Decoded event, when we walked a section of the “Dub-line” – the stretch that follows the ancient Slí Mor along High Street, Cornmarket, Thomas St and James St.
That tour concluded with a visit to the stunning Edward Worth Library, a fossil library established in the early 1700s and left untouched ever since. A truly magical place. (See pictures below) We are always treated there to a welcoming and scholarly talk on its history, and its extraordinary collection of rare precious books, by the head Librarian Dr. Elizabethanne Boran.
It has thus become something of a Dublin Decoded tradition to visit the Worth Library (within old Steevens Hospital) every 12 to 18 months. I have no doubt we will visit again sometime in 2019.
Around the same time we debuted a brand new tour we’d been preparing for several months, of the architecture and retail history of Grafton Street. This, it turns out is a story full of surprises. As you can see in the picture below, the weather was less obliging, alas! All my hardy guest git soaked to the skin. But everyone was such a good sport we somehow had a really enjoyable excursion nonetheless.
We ran the Grafton Street a few more times over the year, including a repeat for Dublin Decoded members, another version for the Irish Georgian Society and another two for Culture Night in September. Here we are on one of those tours, outside Brown Thomas’ on Wicklow St. Did you know there used to be a lane on this spot, that led to the Carmelite Church? Or the origin of Tangier Lane?
From May onward however the weather improved dramatically, as Dublin and Ireland experienced one of our hottest, driest summers for 40 years. Day after day of blue skies and baking sun. It made for great walking weather!
Next we went to Temple Bar, giving it the “Decoded” treatment. It turns out even the best known parts of Dublin are full of surprises.
Our next tour brought us to the North West quarter of the city, on a tour of the fascinating area on and around Grangegorman.
With its old Work Houses, Asylums, and Women’s Penitentiary, this is one of the most fascinating yet least understood quarters of Dublin. Accordingly it has become one of most popular tours. During 2018 we led walks there for our own Dublin Decoded members, as well as for the Rathmichael Historical Society and the Irish Georgian Society.
Collaborations with the Irish Georgian Society (IGS) in 2018.
We were proud to continue our traditional and highly valued association with the Irish Georgian Society (IGS) once again this year. In fact it’s a association that continues to grow. Not only did we lay on a number of our different walking tours for the IGS during 2018, (Camden St, Grafton St, Grangegorman) but the Society also invited us to design and lead a new, entirely unique tour themed around their key exhibition of the year “Exhibiting Art in Georgian Ireland” a large, prestigious exhibition focused on the groundbreaking mid- 18th century exhibitions of the Society of Artists in the Central Assembly House in South William Street between 1764- 1780.
(below: pictures from the Society of Artists exhibition, by Francis Wheately)
Above and below: pictures on show at the Society of Artists exhibition, these by Francis Wheately, including the Volunteers at College Green, image courtesy of the National Gallery of Ireland. Below, the Ambush and Blinding of Parolles, by the same artist, Private collection)
It was a huge honour to be involved in this exciting and prestigious exhibition. Our approach was to hold half our tour among the art within the exhibition, then the second half out and about on the streets, tracking down the lodgings and studios and other general whereabouts of the original, 18th century artists, such as Robert Hunter, Thomas Roberts and Hugh Douglas Hamilton, in places like Clarendon St, College Green, the now-vanished Shaw’s Court, and all over the Temple Bar area.
The whole Society of Artists tour was therefore something of a double-header, an art tour focused on the prints, paintings and sculptures exhibited at the Irish Georgian Society’s Central Assembly House, immediately followed by a walking tour of the surrounding area, pointing out and discussing the homes of different 18th Century artists.
As such, it was as you might imagine, something of a challenge to plan and deliver. But of course also fantastically interesting tour to research and put together. I certainly learned a lot. The other nice reward was that our guests seemed to get an awful lot out of it too.
Around this same time we did another Grangegorman walk since, very fortunately for us, they are always in demand. We never get tired of leading this tour.
Then we changed gears once again and explored another of my favorite themes, and one of my favourite approaches to any walk, Dublin’s Medieval Walls. This was a really fun day out. Here we are below, by the former church of Saint Nicholas Without.
Later the same afternoon, on our walk saw us hosted royally by the superb OPW guides,
at the ancient church of Saint Audoen, including a superb talk on the medieval Portlester Memorial. (Below)
Private tours and corporate work, small group and family tours; tours for schools, universities and colleges.
All this time of course, right through the year, we took on various private groups and private family and small group tours. So here I am below for example with the utterly charming Nozaki family from Japan, pictured first inside the University Church, then later at the National Gallery of Ireland.
We also worked with schools like the Horner School of English, and many other colleges, including Griffith College, the New York School of Design, a Furniture and master Carpenter College from Germany and many others, providing tours of Art, Architecture, and Design to students from all over the world. Here we are with the Horner School, supposedly on the way to the Hugh Lane Gallery. But in fact unable to resist giving them a quick taste of Irish Revolutionary Hostory, around the back lanes off Henry St and Moore St.!
and here below is another wonderful family group I’d the pleasure of guiding for four wonderful days, this time from the Flemish part of Belgium. (We were on a visit to Marsh’s Library at this point, as you may see!)
I had better warp it up there although i will say there were also a couple of very interesting late season tours to the River side quays, Grand Canal Dock and Hanover Quay. It is of course an extraordinary district, chock full of fascinating architectural, engineering, commercial and maritime history.
It is also an area that continues to change, very rapidly. I suspect we will pay at least one further visit in 2019. If you missed this tour in 2018, keep your eye on the mailing list for next year.
I didn’t even mention the two great Dutch groups we hosted. Nor my sense of extreme privilege to partner up for one day to collaborate with the great Shane O’Toole. Nor that Dublin Decoded were also honoured to be chosen to host and lead a group from the London Art History Society, for all four days of their tour here to Ireland. It was a total pleasure.
Here they are, in Edward Lovett Pearce’s extraordinary House of Lords, inside the old Parliament buildings. Huge thanks as always to Bank of Ireland for accommodating visits such as this on their premises. It is always appreciated.
In September his year, and for the first time in three years, we also resumed a relationship with Culture Night that lovely annual get-together. For Culture Night we laid on two editions of our Grafton Street tour, running almost back to back. The first was in daylight, the second in the dark. Both were equally fun, and extraordinarily well attended. I understand there were something in the region of 45 to 55 people on both tours!
above: our first Culture Night Tour of the Grafton St area this year. Below, a snap from the second tour, just near McDaid’s Bar on Harry’s St.
Our last two public tours of the year were that River, Canal and canal Dock tour for our Dublin Decoded members/ newsletter subscribers, and then a tour of the historic Monto District with local expert Terry Fagan.
above, Bernard Scales 1798 map of the area later often known as the Monto. Below, local archivist and historian Terry Fagan, with our guests on our Monto walking tour.
Very finally, we were very honoured for our two last tours of the year to be asked to lead two extraordinary tours in November.
The first was a tour for the Royal Hibernian Academy and Temple Bar Studio and Galley’s (TBG+S) These two institutions collaborated on the Winter Seminar, subtitled the Lives of Artists. Yours truly was very pleased to be asked to lead a Renaissance-themed art tour, mostly in the collections of the NGI.
Below you see one of the many Renaissance paintings we discussed on that tour, Marco Palmezzano’s Madonna and Saints in the National Gallery of Ireland. (Image courtesy of and property of the National Galley of Ireland)
Just a week later we led a second tour for TBG+S, this time at the invitation of the brilliant Ellen Rowley and TBGS curators Cliodhna Shaffrey and Orla Goodwin. This second walk was on the theme of books and libraries, traveling from the Chester Beatty, to Marsh’s Library, then the lanes around Temple Bar and Castle St. It was fantastic! I always feel honoured to be invited to lead tours like this, as you can well imagine.
And that was our final tour of the year, 2018. A very nice way to end.
So to sum up the year? Well, once again, at the end of 2018, it appears I have the best job in the world, doing what I love. Accordingly, once again, I’d sincerely like to thank all of my guests, for another year, for your custom of course through the whole last 12 months but also for your great company, humour, patience, and un-ending intellectual curiosity and sense of fun. You are, undoubtedly, what makes it all worthwhile.
I wish you all a very happy festive season and I hope to see many of you again next year in 2019.
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Happy Christmas and New Year everybody. We shall see you on the other side!
Arran Henderson – Dublin Decoded.