Archive for Maynooth

Becoming a Culchie…

Posted in Biographical, Maynooth with tags , , on June 23, 2020 by telescoper

Among all the other things going at the moment, most of them to do with Covid-19, I am in the process of trying to buy a house. I did toy with the idea of moving to Dublin but property prices there are ridiculously high and I wanted to avoid having to commute, so I decided to stay local, not that houses are very much cheaper here in Maynooth…

Another factor has been my arthritis. It’s not at all bad at the moment, but a while ago I was viewing a property which was very nice but had very steep and narrow stairs and I suddenly struck me that in a few years’ time they would probably be quite difficult to manage. Eventually I found a lovely bungalow near Maynooth and last week had my offer on it accepted. There’s a lot that can go wrong from here but all the paperwork, survey, valuation and other stuff is proceeding and I am hoping to move into the new house towards the end of the summer. Fingers crossed. I know that a lot can go wrong in the house-buying business so I’m taking nothing for granted.

There are many similarities in the house buying saga here in Ireland compared to the United Kingdom (where I have bought and sold several properties over the years), but one big difference is the auction process. Estate agents here in Ireland are generally called auctioneers, actually. In order to register to bid you have to first show that you have the necessary funds and then you can place a bid online. It’s easy in an auction to get drawn in so far that you end up spending more than you wanted to, so I decided on an absolutely upper limit on how high I would go. Fortunately the bidding stopped well below that.

There are a few other differences between the UK and Ireland. One is that if you buy a new house here you have to pay VAT on it, which is a considerable increase in cost. Another is that stamp duty is just 1% in Ireland, whereas for a property of similar price in England it would be 5%. Other than that the business of mortgages and valuations and surveys and Land Registry is all tediously familiar.

When I told a friend what I was buying and where he described my putative new house as a “Culchie Bungalow”.
I’d heard the word Culchie before but decided to look it up. The original meaning was a person from rural Ireland, but nowadays it refers more-or-less to anybody who lives outside Dublin. I was quite surprised however to see that Maynooth is specifically mentioned as a place where culchies live on the wikipedia page

Anyway, I don’t mind being called a culchie. I’ve been called a lot worse over the years!

The Mains in Maynooth

Posted in Maynooth with tags , , on June 4, 2020 by telescoper

I don’t often post about local news but I thought for a change while I’m taking a break from examination marking I’d just mention a little local difficulty here in Maynooth.

When I woke up on Tuesday morning (2nd June) I was surprised by the amount of (stationary) traffic on the Straffan Road beside my flat. I later had to pop into the bank on Main Street and discovered that the reason was major roadworks reducing the traffic to one lane and necessitating the introduction of stop/go manual signals to replace the traffic lights. Unlike today, Tuesday was a hot day and the ensuing traffic jam caused a few frayed tempers among impatient drivers.

The roadworks are to do with the laying of a new water main, which is being done in phases. The job started down Parson Street a few weeks ago when construction work resumed (after a break for Covid-19 reasons) and gradually moved up towards the Castle. This was less disruptive than the current phase which is on Mill Street. This is the main thoroughfare from Maynooth both North to Moyglare and West to Kilcock. The works here have caused tailbacks all the way through the town. There are barriers along Main Street to enforce single line traffic which have turned the centre of town an obstacle course. This type of signal is very heavy on manpower: there must be at least 20 people standing at junctions operating the signs and signalling to each other. It’s working reasonably well, though, all things considered.

Here are a couple of snaps I took on Mill Street, first looking south towards Main Street and Leinster Street:

Here’s one looking North over the bridge towards Manor Mills shopping centre on the left:

The roadworks take up entire lane. There is no vehicle traffic visible because I took the picture just before traffic was allowed in from the bottom end of Mill Street.

I am a bit surprised that the new water main is being laid in a trench running right along the middle of one lane, rather than to the side, but I’m told that isn’t unusual in Ireland. When I asked someone the other day what the works were for he said “they’re replacing the old lead pipes”. I didn’t actually believe that there could still be lead water mains, but I’m told it is true. There has been so little public investment here that much of Ireland’s infrastructure is Victorian.

Anyway, although the constant traffic jams are a bit annoying (and noisy) it’s good that they’re doing this work. At the moment Ireland is experiencing something approaching a drought and is estimated that over 25% of the water in the system is being lost through leaky pipes.

I think that if there are no delays they should be finished by tomorrow evening (5th June) but as of this evening it seems that they still have a lot to do!

Educating Rita in Maynooth

Posted in Film, Maynooth with tags , , on May 24, 2020 by telescoper

Not a lot of people know that the 1983 film Educating Rita, starring Julie Walters and Michael Caine, though mostly set in Northern England, was entirely shot in Ireland.

For example, the scenes at the University in which Caine’s character Frank works were filmed at Trinity College Dublin. Here’s the facade from an early scene:

A list of many of the outdoor scenes and their actual locations can be found here.

One thing I hadn’t realised until yesterday involves the short part of the film in which Frank is on holiday in France. Here is a still from that sequence.

The setting is St Patrick’s College Maynooth!

Other scenes supposed to be in France were filmed just down the road from Maynooth, in Celbridge.

I never thought Maynooth looked particularly French, but there you go. You live and learn…

The 5km Limit

Posted in Biographical, Covid-19, Maynooth with tags , , , on May 2, 2020 by telescoper

Since the Covid-19 restrictions were imposed over a month ago I’ve been confined to within a 2km radius of my home.

Yesterday, however, the Taioseach Leo Varadkar announced that is being relaxed to a 5km limit. Eager to see what thrilling new horizons would unfold as a result of this announcement I checked on a phone app and found this:

Great. So now I can visit a little bit of Leixlip, a little bit of Celbridge, or an even smaller bit of Kilcock.

I can barely contain my excitement.

The Oldest Tree in Ireland

Posted in Biographical, History, Maynooth with tags , , , , , , on April 15, 2020 by telescoper

Regular readers of this blog – both of them – will know that I’ve developed a habit during the current lockdown of talking walks around the South Campus of Maynooth University in order to get a bit of exercise.

I’ve noticed a bit of a side effect of strolling around the environs of the old College, though, which is that I always return home sneezing. I’ve never really been susceptible to hay-fever before, but I reckon this is a reaction to tree pollen. It’s the right season for that, and there are many trees about.

Last night I was idly googling around in an attempt to identify the types of tree I would encounter on my wanderings and during the course of that I accidentally came across something fascinating.

This Yew tree stands near the main entrance to Maynooth University campus.

It’s not a particularly tall specimen and I’ve walked past it hundreds of times without paying attention to it. It is however generally believed to be the oldest tree in the Republic of Ireland (there is one tree, another Yew, possibly older, in County Fermanagh.) The tree in Maynooth germinated (or was planted) around the year 1267 ± 50, which makes it around 753 ± 50 years old.

The timing is interesting because it means that the tree is roughly the same age as Maynooth Castle and the old church. In this picture you can see the Yew tree on the left, with the church on the right and the remains of the Castle in the background:

Here’s a better picture of the Castle from another direction. Only a few bits of wall, the gatehouse and solar tower remain. The Castle was damaged and subsequently surrendered after a siege in 1535 (see below) then reoccupied only to be largely dismantled in 1647, whereafter it fell into ruin.

The tree is often called the “Silken Thomas Tree” after Thomas Fitzgerald, the 10th Earl of Kildare, who led a rebellion against the English authorities during the time of Henry VIII. He acquired the nickname “Silken Thomas” because of the ribbons of silk worn by his supporters. Needless to say, the rebellion failed and his family castle was destroyed. Thomas surrendered, throwing himself on the mercy of the King. That went exactly as well as you might have expected: Thomas was executed, along with several members of his family, in 1537.

The tree, of course, pre-dates Silken Thomas by three centuries, but legend has it that he played a lute under the boughs of the tree the night before he surrendered to King Henry VIII.

All that is quite interesting but doesn’t answer the question of which trees make me sneeze…

The Birds

Posted in Maynooth with tags , on April 5, 2020 by telescoper

One of the far from unpleasant side-effects of the lockdown here in Maynooth is that you notice the birds much more.

For one thing the marked decrease in traffic means that birdsong a lot more audible, which is very pleasant; for another, some otherwise rather shy species are to be seen out and about. I saw (and heard) one of these critters fo on Maynooth Campus yesterday when I went for my daily constitutional:

It’s a song thrush. I’ve never seen one on the campus before. I’ve also seen various colourful finches from time to time.

The resident bird population of Maynooth University campus is dominated by various members of the crow family: Jackaws, Rooks, Hooded Crows, Magpies, etc. They’re still around but they live mainly by scavenging and there are far fewer people around leaving far less stuff to scavenge, they seem to be roaming farther afield. Yesterday, however, I noticed that a couple of Magpies swooped on the cat’s dish after he’d finished his lunch to see if there was anything left to eat. They must be hungry.

Outside my flat there’s a group of tall trees. Yesterday afternoon I watched from a window for a full twenty minutes as a rather large and clumsy Rook tried to balance precariously on a long slender twig right at the top. Why it didn’t perch on one of the thicker branches lower down instead, I don’t know.

It struck me as an excellent metaphor, but I’m not sure for what.

Maynooth University Library Cat Update

Posted in Maynooth with tags , , on April 3, 2020 by telescoper

Quite a few people have been asking me how the Maynooth University Library Cat is coping with the lockdown. I always visit him when I take the daily exercise (usually after lunch) allowed by the Covid-19 restrictions. I know that others are looking after him too so he’s doing well.

When I saw him yesterday he was asleep in his box. He emerged to climb onto his wall to eat the food I put out, paused for a photo-opportunity on his usual post, then descended to ground level for a quick wash, after which he went back into his box to resume his kip.

Incidentally, you will see in the middle picture that the metal gate near his spot is now locked so it’s not possible to get from the South Campus to the North Campus past the Library. Not for us hoomans, I mean. The cat can manage it!

The 2km Limit

Posted in Biographical, Maynooth with tags , , on April 2, 2020 by telescoper

Under the Covid-19 restrictions currently in force in Ireland we’re not supposed to journey further than 2km from home.

The other day I went to the shops near me and decided to try out a helpful app that draws the 2km limit on a map.

Here’s what I got:

So it seems I can go anywhere in Maynooth without breaking the rules. Alarmingly, however, I see that if I’m not careful I could end up crossing the border from County Kildare into County Meath!

Towards the South is the famous Junction 7 on the M4 which in normal times features on the traffic news on the radio with alarming frequency because of one snarl up or another. I don’t suppose there will be much more of that for a while.

One of the pleasant side effects of the lockdown is a drastic reduction in vehicle traffic. That in turn means that I wake up to the sound of birdsong rather than car engines. That’s one part of this I’ll enjoy while it lasts.

Shopping Mad

Posted in Biographical, Covid-19, Maynooth with tags , , , , on March 22, 2020 by telescoper

Empty shelves in Asda, Swansea

I don’t know how widespread scenes like that pictured above actually are, but there seems to be a lot of panic buying and/or stockpiling going on.

Worse still are scenes like this:

Social distancing doesn’t seem to be a priority among these people.

It all seems a bit ironic to see this demonstrable lack of public-spiritedness alongside the usual rhetoric about the “Dunkirk Spirit”. With the latter in mind I’ve updated Winston Churchill’s famous wartime peroration from 1940 in a manner more suitable for the 2020s:

We shall fight in Tesco, we shall fight in Aldi and Asda, we shall fight with growing panic and growing stupidity in the aisles, we shall defend our toilet rolls, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight for the pasta, we shall fight for the hand-wash…(continued, page 94)

Anyway for what it’s worth I still haven’t noticed any shortages of food or household goods where I’m living. It may be different elsewhere of course but Maynooth is doing fine in that regard.

This is not to say I haven’t changed my shopping habits at all. I’ve never been in the habit of doing big shopping trips. I live alone, don’t have a freezer and my fridge is quite small. I tend therefore to buy bits and pieces as I need them. I prefer fresh food and, usually eating lunch in the College when I’m at work, I don’t need a main meal in the evening.

Now I’m having lunch at home every day I need to buy a bit more, which is one change. Mindful that a stricter lock down might be coming soon, I have also begun buying a few things I wouldn’t normally buy. To my usual shopping I’ve added the odd item of tinned food but never more than a can or two at a time. I also bought some powdered milk in case fresh milk becomes unavailable.

I haven’t eaten any of the tinned goods I’ve bought yet: I am still eating fresh things as they seem to be readily available. Who knows when or if that will change.

I realise my personal situation makes coping with this social distancing malarkey rather easier than most but I think certain individuals are making it even more difficult for the others with their selfish behaviour. I suppose there will always be some.

Anyway, do feel free to share your own experiences of shortages or lack thereof through the comments box.

The Vernal Equinox 2020

Posted in History, Maynooth with tags , , , , on March 20, 2020 by telescoper

With everything else going on I quite forgot that the Vernal Equinox or Spring Equinox (in the Northern hemisphere) took place today (Friday 20th March) at 3.49am (Irish Time). This is in fact the earliest Spring Equinox for 124 years, the fact that 2020 is a leap year moving it a day earlier in our calendar. It’s a lovely day in Maynooth too!

People sometimes ask me how one can define the `equinox’ so precisely when surely it just refers to a day on which day and night are of equal length, implying that it’s a day not a specific time?

The answer is that the equinox is defined by a specific event, the event in question being when the plane defined by Earth’s equator passes through the centre of the Sun’s disk (or, if you prefer, when the centre of the Sun passes through the plane defined by Earth’s equator). Day and night are not necessarily exactly equal on the equinox, but they’re the closest they get. From now until the Autumnal Equinox days in the Northern hemisphere will be longer than nights, and they’ll get longer until the Summer Solstice before beginning to shorten again.

Loughcrew (County Meath), near Newgrange, an ancient burial site and a traditional place to observe the sunrise at the Equinox

Here in Ireland we celebrated Saint Patrick’s day on March 17th, the reputed date of his death in 461 AD. Nobody really knows where St Patrick was born, though, so it would be surprising if the when were any better known.

In any case, it wasn’t until the 17th Century that Saint Patrick’s feast day was placed on the universal liturgical calendar in the Catholic Church. In the thousand years that passed any memory of the actual date was probably lost, so the Equinox was perhaps rebranded for the purpose.

The early Christian church in Ireland incorporated many pre-Christian traditions that survived until roughly the 12th century, including the ancient festival of Ēostre (or Ostara), the goddess of spring associated with the spring equinox after whom Easter is named.

During this festival, eggs were used a symbol of rebirth and the beginning of new life and a hare or rabbit was the symbol of the goddess and fertility.

In turn the Celtic people of Ireland probably adapted their own beliefs to absorb much older influences dating back to the stone age.

St Patrick’s Day and Easter therefore probably both have their roots in prehistoric traditions around the Spring Equinox, although the direct connection has long been lost.