Archive for Maynooth

Moving Over

Posted in Biographical, Covid-19, Maynooth with tags , , on September 18, 2020 by telescoper

Although I moved into my new house in Maynooth nearly three weeks ago, it was only today that my former landlord came to collect the keys to the flat I was formerly living in. I am quite pleased that I no longer have the keys because having them made me feel some sort of responsibility for the place even though there is nothing of mine there. Handing over the keys is a form of closure, I suppose.

The fact that the landlord wasn’t in a hurry to complete the formalities gave me a bit of extra time to finish a couple of tasks that took longer than I’d expected.

The first was to close the electricity account for which task I needed a final reading from the electricity meter. One of the awkward things about the flat I was in was that the electricity meter isn’t in the flat but in a cupboard in the hallway along with the meters for the other three flats in the building. The cupboard belongs to the management company and they have the only keys. Whenever I needed a meter reading I therefore have to ask them to take one. I contacted them before moving out to do this, but they only sent me the reading this Monday so I only just got the account closed this week. I was a bit irritated that it took so long, but pleased in the end because the reading was substantially less than the `estimated’ reading used by the electricity company in the absence of any readings during the lockdown so I got a nice farewell refund.

Incidentally, the level of sloth of managing agents is by no means unusual in my experience. They always seem to manage to do as little as possible.

The other thing was the washing machine. The appliance supplied with the flat broke down at the start of the lockdown so I bought a new one just in time before all the stores closed and, with the landlord’s permission, I scrapped the old one. I always had the intention of taking the new one with me when I moved out. When the time came however it proved more difficult than I’d imagined.

In order to detach a washing machine from the water supply it is necessary to close a valve, otherwise there will be a flood. Unfortunately the valve was jammed and I could budge it. No worry, I thought, I’ll just turn off the cold water at the stopcock. Mostly this is found under the kitchen sink but when I looked for it I realized that whoever had installed the unit under the sink had boarded up the stopcock so it was inaccessible. I therefore had to take the back panel off the unit to get at the stopcock. When I had done that I found the stopcock wouldn’t budge. Not at first anyway. Eventually, with the application of a bit of elbow grease, I got it to turn. And so it came to pass that the washing machine was detached.

I then had to cart it to my new house. The only hard bit of that was lifting the thing onto the trolley I’d borrowed for the purpose. Washing machines are rather heavy, you see. After some struggling I managed to get going and trundled quite happily down the road to my new house and got it attached to the water there without any problem.

After having a cup of tea and a bit of a rest I thought it would be a good idea to go back to the flat and leave a note to explain that the cold water was turned off at the main and that it would be inadvisable to turn it on without sealing up the inlet pipe with a blank (or indeed another washing machine).

These tasks completed, and the keys returned, one part of the process of moving is now over. Phase Two will involve transporting the rest of my belongings from Cardiff, but that won’t be possible for a while as it looks like both Ireland and the UK are heading for more restrictions on movement due to Covid-19.

The one thing that has really struck me since moving is how much quieter my new neighbourhood is. The flat was on a main road so – apart from the full lockdown period in the spring – there was constant traffic noise. Although I got used to it, it did make it very hard to record video lectures etc. The new place is sufficiently far from large roads that the background noise is negligible, and it’s a detached house so there’s no noise from the neighbours either!

The Ghost Room in Maynooth

Posted in History, Maynooth, Poetry with tags , , , on September 9, 2020 by telescoper

I stumbled across this rather macabre post about Maynooth University and thought I’d share it….don’t have nightmares!

That reminds me of this poem by Emily Dickinson:

One need not be a chamber to be haunted,
One need not be a house;
The brain has corridors surpassing
Material place.

Far safer, of a midnight meeting
External ghost,
Than an interior confronting
That whiter host.

Far safer through an Abbey gallop,
The stones achase,
Than, moonless, one’s own self encounter
In lonesome place.

Ourself, behind ourself concealed,
Should startle most;
Assassin, hid in our apartment,
Be horror’s least.

The prudent carries a revolver,
He bolts the door,
O’erlooking a superior spectre
More near.

Come Here To Me!

Path leading down to the College Graveyard at Saint Patrick’s College. (Carax)

Just on the outskirts of Dublin lies the historic university town of Maynooth. It is the home of Ireland’s main Roman Catholic seminary, St Patrick’s College, which has been churning out priests since 1795.

One particular room in the college has been associated with demonic apparitions, suicide and paranormal activity for over 150 years.

In the mid 19th century in Room Two of Rhetoric House, two young seminarists took their own lives, nineteen years apart, and the room has been the source of many tales ever since.

Rhetoric House in the South Campus, built in 1834, was formerly a residential house for trainee priests. It now hosts the Department of History.

Rhetoric House, Maynooth (

On 1 March 1841, a young student from Limerick by the name of Sean O’Grady (b. 1820) jumped out of room and fell…

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Back to School

Posted in Biographical, Covid-19, Education, Maynooth with tags , , , , on August 26, 2020 by telescoper

News that primary and secondary schools in Ireland are re-opening this week reminded me of this picture I saw a year ago:

I suppose the items on display there provide one way of dealing with the stress of worrying whether re-opening will result in a large increase in Covid-19 cases!

Meanwhile the Third Level sector is also preparing to re-open. Although we have another month to go before teaching is supposed to restart at Maynooth University, I’m already getting quite a few emails from students asking what things are going to be like when it resumes in September. All I can answer is what our plans are, but whether or not we can put those plans into practice depends crucially on things outside my control, including local factors (such as the number of students taking each module) and national factors (especially the restrictions intended to prevent the spread of Covid-19).

On the first matter we’ll have to wait until students register which, for first years will be very late in the day because of the delayed leaving certificate results this year. We will know a bit sooner about returning students, but even for them it will be a couple of weeks or so.

The national picture is even more uncertain. As of yesterday, the average number of new Covid-19 cases per day over the last 7 days was an uncomfortably high 103.6:

Over the next month will the local lockdown in Kildare carry on? What will be the impact of schools’ reopening? Will the national Covid-19 picture improve or deteriorate? Although at this stage we plan to resume (partly) campus-based teaching on September 28th, but we have to accept that if things take a turn for the worse we might not be able to do that and will instead have to go online. We’ll just have to wait and see.

That doesn’t help students, of course, because they have to make decisions about accommodation and travel. It’s a very awkward and stressful situation for them but I think the only way to approach the queries I’m getting is to tell the truth. Sometimes “I don’t know” is the only honest answer.

At least my own preparations are proceeding. I’ve just had my own tensor barrier put in. This is intended to deter people from wandering into my office and spreading their germs. I don’t think the installation is finished yet, however, as it doesn’t seem to be connected to the mains electricity.

Forgotten Fires at Maynooth

Posted in History, Maynooth with tags , , on August 17, 2020 by telescoper

I’m taking the liberty of reblogging this fascinating bit of local Maynooth history. I did know about the 1878 fire on South Campus, having read about it here, but for some reason I had imagined it happened elsewhere in the College. St Mary’s Square, which was designed by Augustus Pugin,  is actually behind St Patrick’s House as you look at it from the larger St Joseph’s Square.


The college chapel was not completed until 1891 so can’t be seen on the picture of the aftermath of the fire shown in the blog post; the spire wasn’t built until 1895. St Mary’s is part of the national seminary, as opposed to Maynooth University.

New House, site of the later fire in  1940 , forms the North side of the quadrangle enclosing St Joseph’s Square which is to your right as you look towards St Patrick’s House. It is home to the Law Department of Maynooth University.

MU Library Treasures

by Sarah Larkin, Archivist, St Patrick’s College Maynooth

Dublin fire brigade attending the fire at New House, 29 March 1940.

This yearSt Patrick’s College, Maynooth celebrates 225years since its foundation in 1795. This blog post is the second in a series highlighting some of the interesting and lesser known events and facts of the College’s history. This postlooks attwo occasions when fire broke out in the College, and how tragedy was avoided.

On 1 November 1878, at 8am in the morning, fire broke out in St Mary’s inMaynooth College. The College fire engine proved to be inadequate. An attempt to summon help from the Dublin fire brigade failed, as the local telegraph failed to work and a message had to be sent from Celbridge. A special train was immediately laid on in Dublin to bring the fire engine to Maynooth. It was thendrawn to the College…

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Three Funerals and a Cartoon

Posted in Biographical, Football, Maynooth with tags , , , on July 21, 2020 by telescoper

I was later than usual coming to the office today as I had to arrange some things to do with the house I’m buying in Maynooth. It was mid morning when I walked up towards campus. I was a little bit confused to see a large crowd of people walking along Main Street, but when I got closer I realized they were all walking behind a hearse on their way to a funeral service at St Mary’s Church. I followed the procession all the way along Main Street and up Mill Street where another large group of people was waiting outside the Church. I don’t know who had passed away but judging by the attendance they must have been popular in the community.

This is the first time I’d seen such a procession here in Ireland, though I was of course already aware that the Irish treat funerals very differently from the English. Coincidentally, though, today saw the funeral of Jack Charlton which began with a procession through the streets of Ashington, the cortege led by piper playing the Northumbrian pipes. Many hundreds turned up to show their respects.

Because of Covid-19 restrictions, only about 20 people could attend the funeral service, which was held at the West Road Crematorium in Newcastle upon Tyne. As it happens, that was where the funeral of my Mam took place about 9 months ago. There were no Covid-19 restrictions then, which makes it seem like a different age altogether.

Anyway, going back to Jack Charlton, I saw last week marvellous comic book tribute to him called The Life and Times of Jack Charlton by David Squires in the Guardian. The poignant last panel is beautifully done.

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…