My Dublin Inspired Irish History Lesson

Photo Credit - Elizabeth Harper - Dublin 2012

It was the angels that made me want to cross the street for a closer look. All four of them seemed almost identical with the rough surface of the sculpture looking almost like someone had made it of papier-mâché before casting it in metal.

It took me ages to discover any information about the angels even though there was a clue in the words, A Nation Once Again written in the stone wall surrounding them. The statue of the man in the background is Thomas Davis, a revolutionary Irish writer who died at 30 in 1845. There’s a snippet of information about him in the Wikipedia quote below.

“He himself was a Protestant, but preached unity between Catholics and Protestants. To Davis, it was not blood that made a person Irish, but the willingness to be part of the Irish nation. Although the Saxon and Dane were, Davis asserted, objects of unpopularity, their descendants would be Irish if they simply allowed themselves to be. ”

Irish Independence 

He wrote the famous Irish rebel song, A Nation Once Again. ” The song is a prime example of the “Irish rebel music” sub-genre. The song’s narrator dreams of a time when Ireland will be, as the title suggests, a free land, with “our fetters rent in twain.” The lyrics exhort Irishmen to stand up and fight for their land: “And righteous men must make our land a nation once again.”

Photo Credit - Elizabeth Harper - Dublin 2012

In searching for information on the angels almost at his feet, I found little except they’re considered to represent the four provinces of Ireland: Leinster, Ulster, Munster, and Connacht. I’m hoping for a little help from my Irish friends, Maria and Gina to fill in more details about the angels and the fountain and I’d be interested to know the name of the artist as well.

Photo Credit - Elizabeth Harper - Dublin 2012

I found two other photographs online to add to mine above. One gives you a visual of how the angel fountain and the statue of Thomas Davis look in the middle of College Green and the other shows you a larger view with people filling the street around both while they wait for a visit from Barack Obama in 2011.

Internet Photo

Photo Credit - Lawrence Jackson

I have to admit that I was a bit embarrassed to discover during my Dublin trip how little I actually knew about Irish history and how much of that has been influenced by movies I’ve seen rather than books that were historically accurate.

For instance, I had no idea that Ireland was neutral during WWII. Did I just sleep though that part of class?

6 thoughts on “My Dublin Inspired Irish History Lesson

  1. I have just completed reading the first year of your blogs (I have just finished June 27,2009). Not much has been accomplished by me in the last 24 hours. Luckily, as it is winter here (no obsessive gardening is happening), I can indulge myself, immerse myself, in the reading. I cannot tell you how much I am enjoying your insights and wisdom. Thank you.

  2. Argh! The pressure!

    I’ll be honest with you Elizabeth, having emigrated from Dublin as a 22yr old 16 years ago my knowledge of Irish sculpture is sadly lacking. I resorted to Google as I am sure you have probably already done and this is what I have found out…

    The sculpture of Thomas Davis was unveiled in 1966 and was made by Edward Delaney who died aged 79 in 2009. I am assuming that the four angels are also his work as they are talked about in the same passages as the Davis statue. He made his statues using the “lost-wax” method which involves making the piece in a soft medium such as clay and then making an outer cast and filling it with wax which is lost in the process of creating the final piece out of molten bronze. The four angels are supposed to represent the four Irish provinces: Leinster, Ulster, Munster and Connacht. Here is an old description of the four provinces from an ancient Irish poem…

    Connacht in the west is the kingdom of learning, the seat of the greatest and wisest druids and magicians; the men of Connacht are famed for their eloquence, their handsomeness and their ability to pronounce true judgement.

    Ulster in the north is the seat of battle valour, of haughtiness, strife, boasting; the men of Ulster are the fiercest warriors of all Ireland, and the queens and goddesses of Ulster are associated with battle and death.

    Leinster, the eastern kingdom, is the seat of prosperity, hospitality, the importing of rich foreign wares like silk or wine; the men of Leinster are noble in speech and their women are exceptionally beautiful.

    Munster in the south is the kingdom of music and the arts, of harpers, of skilled ficheall players and of skilled horsemen. The fairs of Munster were the greatest in all Ireland.

    And there ends my knowledge. I look forward to hearing any other comments which can fill in the gaps or inconsistencies I have left. The one fact that I hope is accurate is the one about Leinster women.(The fact that I was born there is purely coincidental!)

    Happy Sleuthing!


  3. Hi Elizabeth, I’m enjoying this post so much, it takes me right back. I’ve not been home in years.

    I love my native country, but since I’ve been out for eighteen years I’ve come to accept that I’m from a mixed background – both British and Irish. That shouldn’t be a problem, many Irish patriots were exactly the same. I never thought much about the British side of my heritage until recently and now think of the whole Ireland/UK landmass as my home. I hope I embrace both sources of heritage with equal love and acceptance.

    I adore Dublin and miss it terribly. I can’t read a post like this without shedding a tear or two.

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