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Maritime Museum of Ireland (Dublin)

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The National Maritime Museum of Ireland is located in the former Mariners’ Church in Haigh Terrace, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
tel = 353 (0)1 280 0969

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      30.07.2002 17:03
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      ~ ~ I’ve lived here in Dublin for over twenty years now, and it was only recently that I discovered that this small museum, the Maritime Museum of Ireland, even existed. I was stuck out in a seaside suburb of Dublin, Dun Loghaire, (where the ferries from Holyhead in Wales arrive) waiting for a fare to the airport in my taxi, and with an hour to kill. So the weather being rather pleasant, (a rare enough occurrence this year!) I parked up and went for a wee wander to take the sea air. ~ ~ The Maritime Museum is located in an old church called (wait for it) the Mariner’s Church, up a small side street called Haigh Terrace, just off the Dun Loghaire main street, and right beside the side entrance to one of the main hotels in the village, the Royal Marine. The old church has a bit of history attached to it. It was opened in 1837, to cater for the spiritual needs of visiting seamen and their families who berthed in the nearby harbour of Kingston, as Dun Loghaire was called during the time of the British occupation. It was extremely large, being able to accommodate no fewer than 1,400 souls, and it was written into its original Deeds of Trust that at least one third of the seating had to be reserved for the families of people who were employed in the seafaring, revenue and coastguard services. The Church ceased to operate back in 1971 due to a ever shrinking congregation, but in 1974 the owners, the Church of Ireland, were approached by the Maritime Institute with a view to opening the museum, and this eventually came to fruition 4 years later, in 1978. Most of the seating has now been removed to make room for the various exhibits, but a lot of the old character of the church still remains, with beautiful stained glass windows and plaques on the walls naming all the past ministers. In one area, you can still see cells where seamen who were awaiting trial on various charges (and thus confined to their ships) could be held while atten ding the Sunday services, lest they try to escape their just desserts. ~ ~ One of the main exhibits gives the history of the R.M.S. Leinster, (Royal Mail Ship) which was the old Dublin Steam Packet passenger ferry and mail ship, that plied its trade between Dun Loghaire and Holyhead in Wales during the First World War. During this period, the German Navy had many U-Boats (submarines) active in the Irish Sea. On the night of the 10th October, 1918, the Leinster was returning to Holyhead with over 700 passengers on board, over 300 of who were soldiers bound for overseas service in the war, when she was torpedoed twice by a prowling submarine. The ship sank quickly, and only 256 people were subsequently rescued, making this the greatest disaster ever to be visited on the small seaside town of Dun Loghaire. Here in the Museum you can view an original model of the actual ship, along with various papers and documents, and there’s an actual porthole rescued from the wreck itself. ~ ~ By the time the Second World war broke out in the 1939, Ireland had become a “Free State”, (not quite yet a Republic) and although many Irishmen actually fought in the conflict, on an official state level Ireland was designated as a neutral country, and took no part in the fighting. So it was that on the night of the 29th December, 1943, an Irish Merchant ship called the ‘Kerlogue’ went to the rescue of two German navy ships which were sinking in the Bay of Biscay of Spain, and managed to rescue 168 of their crew. An account of this rescue operation, and many others that Irish vessels took part in during World War Two, is related here at the Museum. ~ ~ Another exhibit is a fully operational clockwork model of an old Irish ship called the ‘Great Eastern’. Her claim to fame was that she was the biggest ship in the world when she was constructed in 1857. There are papers and documents from the records of her Iri sh Captain, Captain Halpin, and a history of the vessel itself, which went through many incarnations, being used first as a passenger vessel, and then in later years as a cable layer and as a showboat. ~ ~ Ireland longed for her freedom from British rule for centuries before it was finally achieved, and most Republicans around the time of the Napoleonic Wars in the late 18th Century were staunch supporters of the French cause. The French in their turn were supporters of the cause of Irish freedom, and in 1796 attempted an invasion of the country to wrest it from British control, trying to land a force of men at Bere Island of the Cork coast. The bold plan was a miserable failure however, and the only surviving vessel from this action is displayed here in the Museum. Called the ‘Bantry Boat’, it’s a 38 foot long officer’s barge, which was captured in almost pristine condition, and has been kept that way ever since, still proudly displaying the red, white and blue paintwork of the then brand new French Republic. ~ ~ Ireland has long been a seafaring nation, (which is hardly surprising as it’s an island) but what is a little surprising is that we have never really had a large Navy to speak of. Nowadays, the Irish Navy consists mainly of a few Fishery Protection vessels, used to ensure that the enormous European fishing boats and trawlers (mainly Spanish) stick to their allowed E.U. Quotas, and don’t break the strict rules. (as they try very hard to do!) Here in the Museum the history of the Irish Naval Service is traced from its roots before Independence right through to the present day. There are models of ships past and present, various different uniforms, and old documents pertaining to the navy’s history. ~ ~ And to cast a pleasant glow over the old Church/ Museum, there’s even a working model of a lighthouse, or to be more precise, a working light from a lighthouse. This is the old oil powered light from the Baily lighthouse in Howth in north Co. Dublin, which was removed when the lighthouse was modernised in 1972, and received a new electric light. The light was originally powered by gas when it was first used way back in 1902, and later was later modified to run on oil, throwing out light equivalent to that of over 2 million candles. Nowadays the brightness has been toned down somewhat to allow it to be used in the Museum, but it’s still a fascinating exhibit. ~ ~ The Maritime Museum is easy enough to find. If you want to make a special trip from Dublin to visit it, then the DART (local rail service) will drop you within 5 minutes walk. Head for the Dun Loghaire main street, and Haigh Terrace is the first left turn past the entrance to the new, modern shopping centre. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Opening Times October to Easter. Sundays only 1 PM to 5 PM May to September. Closed Monday. Tuesday to Sunday I PM to 5 PM Admission Prices Adult €1.91 Children €1.02 Family Ticket €5.08 Telephone Dublin 280-0969 (Code from the UK is 03531) ~~~~~~~~~~~~

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