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This is an online diary of my latest trip to Ireland.
Dennis J. Ahern

Wednesday, March 23rd

Before I left the hostel I sorted and folded my laundry from the day before and found one sock missing. Even here in Ireland, socks disappear. I wouldn't mind if they would take their mates with them. I might not even notice they are gone. Oh well. Walking down North Frederick Street towards O'Connell, I passed a fishmonger whistling loudly to himself as he laid out freshly iced filets in the window. Starting with the one euro per hour cybershop on Blessington, I counted eight cybercafes between there and the Liffey on the left-hand side of the street alone. That's including ones on side streets so long as they were within the first block from O'Connell Street, like the Chinese 24-hour [sic] one in Cathedral Street. There were about half as many more on the right hand side of O'Connell Street.

There was a real nutcase in the Planet Cybercafe in O'Connell Street this morning. This particular establishment is a real cybercafe in that they serve coffee, tea and other refreshments. This grizzle-faced guy in a denim jacket and wavy black hair was sitting there nursing a cup of coffee and talking loudly to anyone who would listen about what a load of rubbish this internet was. "It's all Americans! staring at screens" he declared. "I'm on the stage" he continued "They locked me up. Said I was neurotic. Was Oscar Wilde a Ho-Mo-Sex-Ual?" Later in the day I passed this same fellow on South Great George Street and noticed he was wearing a Che Guevera button.

I had been meaning to stop by the Aer Lingus office to confirm my return flight. They always use to tell you to do that after you had arrived where you were going. Once, in 1993, I had landed in London and took the trouble to confirm my return flight only to find someone had made an error and had me returning three days later instead of three weeks later. I was able to get it corrected without a change of date fee because I had the original confirmation code with the correct dates. Aer Lingus used to have an office on O'Connell Street, but no more. In fact, it looks like they do not even have an office in Dublin. I had a nagging doubt that this electronic, paperless ticketing was not going to go off without a hitch.

I had added yet another client to my list, someone who had just returned from Dublin only to find something a few days after that identified the parish her ancestor was from. She asked if I could spend up to one hour searching the parish records of Dunmanway, county Cork for his baptism. So off I went to the National Library. I went through several years but didn't find him before the budgeted hour was up. I did, however, notice an interesting notation in the baptismal register on 14 January 1827 for a Johanna Cunningham, daughter of Johanna Cunningham "this woman being both deaf and dumb and not married could not account for the father of the child." Shades of Johnny Belinda.

Then I was off to the National Archives for those Donegal Rental papers from the Four Courts. I was thinking I should tell you the quickest route between the National Library and the National Archives. From the Library, you cross Kildare Street and walk down to the end of Molesworth Street, passing the Government Printing Office bookstore on your right (the maps are no longer there). At the end of Molesworth Street, go straight through the Royal Hibernian Shopping Arcade until it comes out in Grafton Street. Turn left, then right at the first corner. This street curves around to the left then you have to take a right some place and eventually you come out on Aungier Street and turn left. Maybe you better look at a map first.

As I walked along I stopped to consider menus displayed in windows of various eateries. Several years ago, I had been on one of the Ulster Historical Foundation's research tours which spent a day at the National Archives in Dublin. When it was time for lunch we were taken to a nearby pub that had a carvery lunch. Unfortunately, I could not remember the name of the pub, nor which direction it was from Bishop Street. Once again, however, fortune favored the flexible. When I arrived at the research room of the Archives, who should I find sitting at one of the microfilm readers, but Dr. Brian Trainor of the Ulster Historical Foundation. I asked him for the name of the pub and directions. It's Whelan's Pub. To get there, go out the door of the Archives, turn left and walk to the corner of Aungier Street. Turn right and walk a few blocks and you will find it on the right-hand side amidst a block of small shops and restaurants. The dining room is in the back, but you can get sandwiches or soup in the pub. They had roast lamb, turkey, ham, chicken korma, Irish stew, fish and chips, and a variety of other dishes and vegetables, including potatoes mashed, roasted, or chipped. I had the roast lamb and extra helpings of roast potatoes for €8 and a pot of tea for €1.50. When you get tea in a pot, you should remember to fish out the tea bag before it sits too long and steeps strong.

Whelan's Pub
Whelan's Pub

Back at the Archives, it did not take me as long to go through the Donegal rental papers and as I had a little extra time before the reception at Trinity, I decided to swing by the National Library and spend a further half-hour on the Dunmanway parish register. Although I did not find the ancestor in question, I did find a possible sibling. The person I was looking for was a Maurice Mahony, born to a Michael and a mother whose name was not known. Having searched several years I found that Maurice was an extremely rare name and the only time it appeared in connection to a Mahony was as a sponsor at a baptism of a child born to a Michael Mahoney in which a Maurice was a sponsor. My thinking is that if a Maurice was close enough to a Michael Mahony to be a godparent of one child, it is quite possible he could be the namesake of another. All of this is, of course, merely a clue and cannot do more than suggest a possibility. Such is the game of genealogical sleuthing.

It was now past the stated time for the reception, and having observed that the Celtic Tiger seems to have put paid to the notion of "Irish time", I headed off to the Long Room, as the old Library of Trinity College is known.
Although I have been to Dublin many times over the years, I have never been to this Library before, as much due to the admission fee to see the Book Of Kells, as for the inaccessibility of its collection. But that would change this very night as the occasion was the launch of Archive CD Books Ireland. This is a new venture launched by Eneclann in conjunction with Trinity College. The interior of the Library was very dimly lit, but I managed to find a pair of familiar faces, my friends Norman Mongan and Aidan Synnott, both from Dublin. Aidan had very kindly put me up on his couch one night some years ago when I wasn't able to book into the hostel on account of a big rugby tournament that drew a lot of fans from the continent. The crowd was mainly clustered at the end of the room where the wine and hors d'ouuvres were being dished out. Occasionally a server was able to break through this throng and we managed to grab some little sausages on toothpicks that came within range. I cast a cautious eye through the gloom trying to pick out my would-be assassin, but she must have been tucked into the trough. To make matters worse, I had only a vague recollection of what her husband looked like and in the gloom there was more than one likely suspect. What was I to do, go up to every tallish, older man and ask if I owed him an apology? I decided to risk a glass of wine to steady my nerves. The Long Room at Trinity College
The Long Room at Trinity College

Our attention was drawn to a lectern where John Hagerty, Provost of Trinity College, made some welcoming remarks and introduced Brian Donovan who described the plans of Archive CD Books Ireland and informed us that several works had already been scanned and were available for purchase then and there. Books already scanned include an 1876 book on the Huguenots in England and Ireland, an Emigrants Guide to South Africa, an 1829 introduction to heraldry, an 1844 world atlas, a Catholic registry of Ireland from 1836, a variety of directories from all over Ireland from as early as 1783 and much, much more. This was just the beginning. There were ¼ million books in the Long Room alone and they intend to scan them all. Ireland, he said, was more aware than many of how irreplacable records can be lost forever. Eneclann has grown from an enterprise of two graduate students, sponsored by Trinity, to a business employing 24 full-time staff.

Brian then introduced Rod Neep of Archive CD Books, Ltd. who described how the whole concept of scanning rare books and making them available on CD came about when people in an online genealogy discussion group were complaining about a rare book that a certain Library in Nottingham, England would not let anyone photocopy. It was one of only three copies known to exist and they were reluctant to let people handle it. Someone suggested the book could be digitized using a high-resolution scanner and then the Library would not only be able to put the original away for safekeeping, but could profit from the sale of CDs. The idea was proposed and accepted and 65 volunteers each took a chapter's worth of images and indexed them by subject, place name and personal name. From that initial volunteer effort exactly five years ago, the project has grown into a major source of books on CD making information available to genealogists and historians around the world.

After the speakers were done and everyone turned their attentions to the dwindling supply of food, I approached Rod and asked him if the online group he alluded to was by any chance the Usenet newsgroup soc.genealogy.britain. When he said yes, I introduced myself and he said "Are you THE Dennis Ahern?" I admitted I was and that I had been a participant in the newsgroup since before the original group was split into soc.genealogy.britain and soc.genealogy.ireland more than ten years ago. I still copy many of my newspaper excerpts to both newsgroups.

As the crowd was thinning out I was able to identify the party to whom I was told I owed an apology. Drawing near with one eye cocked for his better half, I found that he was pleased to see me again and there was no allusion to any unpleasantness. We discussed the paucity of intelligent life in county Mayo and other subjects dear to his heart until the staff began herding stragglers toward the stairs. I caught up with Norman who had suggested earlier that we drive off into the hills to Johnny Fox's, reputedly the highest pub in Ireland. At my suggestion the invite was extended to Aidan, but he was not up for a late night, civil servant that he is, he had to be at his desk in the morning. It was decided instead that we would go for coffee someplace nearby and as we headed towards the door I separated myself from the group and whipping out my pennywhistle, I bounced a tune off the rafters of the Long Room with no Librarians in sight to shush me.

Aidan suggested a favorite spot of his, not far off and we repaired to Brooks Hotel in Drury Street about halfway between Temple Bar and Stephen's Green. As we walked, the light rain reminded me of the time a few years past when, after addressing the Irish Family History Society on the subject Researching of Irish Newspapers, my two same companions and I wandered the same pavements from pub to pub and eventually to a late supper in a Japanese noodle emporium. But coffee was our goal this night and we found ourselves ensconced in the lobby of the hotel, which is part of the Sinnott chain. I asked Aidan if he was any relation to the owners and he said no, but he liked the ambience. I puzzled for a long time over what to order and finally settled after having it explained to me several times, on a cafe Americain with poured cream. What arrived was a cup, about one third full of strong coffee and a pitcher of cream. Aidan also ordered a Drambuie and one for me as well. There was a fire in the fireplace and someone playing nothing I recognized on a grand piano. The wait staff all seemed to be oriental. We nursed our beverages and chatted about recent events and politics.

Parting company with Aidan, Norman and I went off in search of supper, the idea of driving into the Dublin Mountains in the rain to go to Johnny Fox's having lost its appeal. We ended up at the Oliver St. John Gogarty in Temple Bar, one of the places where Bruce and I had tried to get into on Friday the 11th when the town was full of rugby fanatics. The Oliver St. John has several floors. The restaurant used to be in the building next door but now it is upstairs above the two floors of the pub. I ordered the pot of fresh mussells cooked in white wine and cream for 14.50 euro and Norman had a platter of smoked salmon on brown bread, also 14.50. The mussells came in a huge pail. I mean it was a bucket of mussels. They were delicious and even with Norman helping me I never finished them all.

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