Thursday, May 8, 2008

Dublin, 28.7.01: Madness, Mayhem, Maps

Two days gone, fast, and I’m behind with journal-keeping. Thursday a blur now. John and Maura drove us to Waterford, where (as Maura went to the doctor), we did a quick tour of the Anglican (Church of Ireland) cathedral, and then had lunch at Reginald’s pub.

The cathedral pretty, with beautiful Georgian plasterwork on the ceiling, and the panels painted in bright pastel yellow. Two rather sullen young men staffed the information desk. One looked Mexican-American and had a close-shaven head. I imagined he was a seminarian. He became overly solicitous after awhile, alarmingly so: perhaps he believed I wanted to steal some religious gewgaws from the gewgaw booth.

The pub built around and using for its own walls the ancient city walls. We had a pureed soup, a mix of undistinguishable vegetables, potatoes, carrot, broccoli.

Then on for a drive along the Waterford coast to Dungarvan. The places we saw now a blur—Dunmore (or was it Lismore?), the copper coast, the gold coast, Dungarvan itself. John told us the copper coast was so-named because copper was mined there, perhaps from the Celtic era. During the Famine—or was it a later famine?—the mine owner kept the men on, even when it cost him. Eventually, they moved en masse to Butte, Montana.

Maura interjected that other people from the area had gone to Newfoundland, to work in its fisheries. The Sweetman family of Waterford hired people from up the Suir Valley down to Waterford to fish off Newfoundland, so that today one can find a Waterford accent in Newfoundland.

The coast beautiful, though I was anxious as the day went on, since we wanted to be in Dublin before dark. St. John’s wort growing as a shrub, glowing yellow flowers, thrift just past its bloom.

At one point, we passed an area John said had been inhabited by Huguenots brought over by the landlords. They proved a poor investment, since they fomented revolution.

To Dublin by late evening, after an uneasy departure from John and Maura: had we thanked them enough? How to thank them? Did we appear too anxious to leave? Did they feel used? Should we have accepted Maura’s offer of a cup of tea? Should we have insisted on their having dessert at the hotel in Carrick on Suir (Carriag na Suir, rock of the Suir), where we ate an undistinguished supper?

The Mont Clare hotel on Merrion Square in Dublin a welcome oasis, with its air-conditioning and assertive shower flow.

Friday a vexatious day. The rigamarole at the National Library unbelievable: put it there; don’t put that here; get this ticket; get that ticket. After getting a general-admit ticket—they wouldn’t allow us one to view manuscripts until we were ready to see one—at 1 P.M., we want to see a map. Sorry, the man who issues manuscript ticket is gone till two. Frantic shopping, back at two.

There’s a line, of course. He punches computer buttons one by one, with index finger and agonizing slowness.

We finally get to his desk. Oh, sorry, I need two passport photos. I show him my passport, and say I have other id’s, and he says, as if I ought to have known, No, passport photos from the booth downstairs.

Down I run, since he’s holding the line for me (but he will take the time punch punch punching those buttons). Another line. Snap, snap, hefty fee. Back up the stairs.

I get the ticket and go up to request the map (and the other ticket one needs for a map), clock ticking: will the Valuation Office, which has the map of Inchacarran townland that I desperately need to deciper Griffith’s, be closed?

To the desk to request the map, and more rigamarole. A pretty, but cold, red-haired young woman assists us. Well, this map may no longer be available. I believe it’s off for preservation. Shall I just go and check?

Yes, please do. Back she comes. She’s sent someone else. He comes back. It is available.

But we do prefer you to see the Griffith’s maps rather than this one, to preserve it. But I was told this morning you don’t have Griffith’s maps. Yes, we do, the six-inch ones. Will you please consult it? If it has the same information, then that’ll be the end of it, will it? But the map I want to see is 1823, and Griffith’s is 1850. Tick tick tick of the clock towards 5, when the Valuation Office closes.

In despair, I look at the dratted Griffith’s maps, which arrive after another long search. They show only large owners of tracts.

I go back and let Madame know I need the other map. Grudgingly, she issues yet another ticket. And, oh, by the way, do you know our manuscript room is in a building up Kildare Street? Hell no, how would I have known: run run run!

I present all my chits and vouchers. Bleary-eyed man looks at me incredulous. I could have walked in from the street and requested the map.

He calls down. The map is brought up. I look. No Ryans in Buckstown in 1823, no Tobins.

Run run run to Valuation Office. It’s way across town. The afternoon is sunny, muggy, and warm. Dubliners walk any old where on the sidewalks, cluster in knots across the way, creep at maddening snails’ pace. Some are drunk. Others are sprawled over the sidewalk begging. A tiny little boy is shrieking out songs in Irish, a tattered cardboard box in front of him.

Finally find the building that houses—or is supposed to do, an important qualification—the Valuation Office. Sign on door says next building over. We run into that building. Two chatting office girls look blank. Ah, down the street.

In we run, 4:15. Sit, please, and I’ll be with you soon. Wait, wait. Sweat, sweat. How can you be hot? Isn’t it hotter where you’re from?

But I ran over here, afraid you’d close. Ah, yes, we close at 4:30. (All preceding sources had told me 5.)

And what do you need? County, townland, parish in rapid-fire fashion. All printed out. Now I’ll take you to another office. And, by the way, there’ll be a charge.

Into the inner sanctum. Please wait. I’ll be with you soon. Wait wait wait. Chat with nice lady from Minneapolis whom I encountered at National Library.

Finally I’m served, a map is brought up on computer and printed. It shows the little house beside Watt Costello in which Val Ryan lived in 1850, up to 1852. An 1865 map the man showed me has the house gone, pulled down or fallen down in 12 years after Bridget and the children left in 1853.

A bit more shopping—a Beleek vase, a little china harp for Billie, a Jerpoint glass paper weight for Mary—and on to dinner at the Mont Clare. I had tagliatelle carbonara, which turned out to be an inexplicable pasta in an inexplicable cream sauce. Steve had lamb medallions. My side salad was just what you’d find in a pub—a dollop of very gloppy coleslaw beside a pile of lettuce topped by tomato and cucumber, no dressing.

John calls Maura bird affectionately—What did ye say, bird? Birds themselves are always little birdies, ducks are duckies, especially to Maura. All the preceding written aboard the ferry from Dun Laoghaire to Holy Head.

No comments: