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08-07-2021, 09:55 PM
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Journal he calls it but History...

A acquaintance of mine writes about History mainly.
Anyone who wants to read would be welcomed by him. He has dedicated most of his life to his ill Sister. She is incoherent now. but he still reads to her a lot...all kinds that he knows she likes. I like the way he writes. not stuffy,pictures here and there along the way...This is how he started off his Irish History..to me it is a book....





If Irish people go abroad, they're generally welcomed more than, say, English people. You're heard speaking English in a foreign country and they say “English?” and you shake your head and say “No, Irish.” Immediately there is a change in attitude, and you're more welcomed. Why is that? Well, part of it certainly has to do with our amazing sports supporters, the rugby and especially soccer fans who follow the national team when they're in international competitions such as The World Cup or the European Championships. Their impeccable behaviour abroad, compared to some (cough) Russia (cough) has earned them the deserved respect and love of just about every country they visit. They are a credit to our nation, without question. There has never been, to my knowledge, a single instance of one Irish fan being involved in any trouble in all the time they've been travelling supporting their country. And given how we Irish are known for drinking, that's damned impressive.

Another reason though could be that, to totally simplify things, just about everyone (with the possible exception of the English) love us and identify with us because we are a small country that has been occupied for most of our history. We have never made war upon anyone, we have never invaded anyone (couldn't remain sobre long enough to do so probably! ) and therefore we are not seen as an oppressive nation, unlike Britain, Germany and the USA among others. We have only been an independent, free country for less than a century, which makes us a very young country in comparison to most of the rest of the world, and we have been on the receiving end of occupation, oppression, injustice and discrimination.

However, all is not rosy in Irish history, far from it. Without any means to invade other countries, without a standing army or anything even close to a navy, trapped on our own little insular island for thousands of years, we Irish have in the past typically turned to fighting ourselves. Clan chief fought clan chief, territories were disputed, civil war erupted and of course we had “The Troubles” for over thirty years. So I began wondering what Irish history was like, and having been very interested in it while at school, I thought I'd like to explore the story behind my native country.

I'll therefore be looking into the very beginnings of Ireland with the ancient Celts and Druids, the Viking invasion, the Norman occupation, everything up to the Easter Rising and the eventual procurement of freedom when we became a free state in 1923. I'll then be going on from there, to meet up with the present, where, after over eighty years of freedom and self-determination we handed back our sovereignty to Europe in return for an IMF bailout caused by greedy bankers. This will be, simply put, the entire history of Ireland, which is deeper and more interesting than many might think, and is littered with treachery, betrayal, wars, tragedies and a struggle for freedom that would take centuries to eventually achieve. Like most countries, it's a story of heroism and failure, or cowardice and reversal of fortune, of strength and honesty and belief and faith, and it has its heroes and its martyrs while standing alongside those are its traitors and its villains.

I'll be using multiple sources, and will include any relevant music I can find, but overall this will be a written journal, not a music one, and perhaps the first one to focus solely on history, and within that, the first to concentrate on the history of one small country. It will obviously take a long time and will be a work in progress, but as ever you're all welcome to join in and comment.

Which just leaves me to issue the traditional Irish welcome: Cead mile failte (A hundred thousand welcomes) and hope you enjoy what I write here.
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09-07-2021, 09:12 AM
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Re: Journal he calls it but History...

I look forward to reading it.
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09-07-2021, 11:24 AM
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Re: Journal he calls it but History...

Be interested to read more. Know so little about the ancient history of Ireland.
Could be a good educational thread Di.
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09-07-2021, 09:08 PM
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Re: Journal he calls it but History...

Chapter I: Meet the Irish

Timeline: 1200 BC - 500 AD

So, where did the Irish come from? Was there some prehistoric pub from which, Flinstones-like, we all fell out of the door at closing time and started fighting in the street? Well, quite possibly, but historians and archaeologists link us to the ancient Celts, a pagan people who migrated from the Russian Steppes into northern Europe around about the time of the Iron Age, somewhere around 1200 BC, and ended up in the general areas of what was known at the time as Bohemia (part of Germany today) and Austria.

Before I go any further, I would like to qualify the rest of this by quoting from Richard Killeen's A Brief History of Ireland when he says ”What follows is not entirely true. No history can be complete. The sources on which it is based are always partial, often in both senses of the word ... For here we are dealing with the era before written records – reliable or otherwise – and have only the inferences drawn from archaeology and certain artifacts to guide us.” Worth bearing in mind, certainly.

The Celts were a deeply spiritual people, and though they worshipped goddesses as well as gods they were very much a male-dominated society, with few if any examples of female leaders having been discovered. They also are believed to have practiced ritual sacrifice, including human, to appease their gods and ensure bountiful harvests, fruitful women and victory in battle.

However, even these ancient people, though they became acknowledged as the ancestors of we modern Irish, were not the first people to live in Ireland. An unknown and vanished society which flourished from, it is thought, about 9000 BC (that's eight thousand years before the Celts got here) were responsible for the building of ancient tombs and monuments, such as the burial chambers in Newgrange, Co. Meath, which archaeologists believe were constructed five hundred years before the great Egyptian pyramids and over one thousand years before one of the most famous of the English monuments, Stonehenge. Hah! In your faces, ancient civilisations! Newgrange is therefore more or less accepted as one of the oldest monuments in the world today. It is probably well known (but I'll tell you anyway in case you aren't aware) that it is more than just a simple burial chamber. It is of the type known as a “passage tomb”, due to its long narrow approach to the burial chamber itself.

As a child I remember visiting this as part of a school trip, and being a child (probably nine, ten years old, I can't quite remember but young definitely) I was less than impressed. For me, as for all my schoolmates, all this was was a chance to skip a day in school, ride on a bus and go somewhere we had never been. I wish I could have known at the time how important that visit should have been, but all I truly remember of it is it being cold, dark and just the tiniest bit disquieting as you descended into the dark, hoping the guide would be able to help us all find our way back out into the light.


The truth about Newgrange though, which I never witnessed personally but is a matter of record and draws people to it in almost pilgrimage every year, is that it is so constructed that there is a point on the very top of the cairn (the burial mound) through which the sun will shine only on one particular day – the Winter Solstice, December 21 – and when it does, it travels along the passage until it illuminates, with perfect accuracy and precision, an ancient symbol of renewal and rebirth carved on the back of the furthest wall.

As a religious symbol, this marks the return of the sun, the giver of life, into the darkness to renew the spirit and bring hope. It is said to be a powerful, even religious experience to those who are lucky enough to see it for themselves, and it proves that ancient though the people were, they had enough knowledge of mathematics, astronomy and construction to be able to build such a thing, and they were obviously a people for whom religion was not just something you did; it was their whole life, perhaps their very reason for existence. They certainly worshipped what would be known today as pagan gods, but they were as faithful to (perhaps fearful of) them as the ancient Egyptians were to theirs.

The first known (given Mr. Killeen's important caveat above) inhabitants of Ireland were a Mesolithic people, meaning Stone Age (well, technically, Middle Stone Age, but you don't care about that, do you?) who were hunter-gatherers, and are believed (or assumed) to have come over from the mainland of Scotland to settle in what is now Northern Ireland, or the province of Ulster. This then essentially makes Northern Ireland the oldest civilised part of Ireland, which sucks for us in the Republic, but at least we have a better soccer team! As for the Mesolithics, they were supplanted or succeeded by a new race in around 4000 BC who began to settle and farm the land, these being Neolithic, or New Stone Age, and they created the first real settlements of people, farms and attempts at agriculture, sowing crops, raising cattle and building walled enclosures. With a good and regular supply of food and permanent settlements the population grew and expanded.

With the arrival of the Celts however, these people were either fought to extinction or intermarried with the newcomers, with the Celts becoming the ancient forebears of the modern Irish people. Unlike the Native Americans or the Australian Aborigines, there are no descendants of this original race that inhabited Ireland and nothing exists of them now but some fossils and the impressive structures they left behind. The future of Ireland would be written by the Celts.

Although we know virtually nothing about them, the original inhabitants of Ireland left no evidence behind to allude to any real sort of hierarchy or system of justice. Undoubtedly they had them, as even the most primitive society cannot exist without rules, laws and punishments for those who break them, but the first properly organised system of law, perhaps even a form of government, comes with the arrival of the Celts and the rise of their religious leaders, the Druids.


Best likened these days to a cross between judges, historians and wizards, Druids kept the ancient beliefs alive, ensured the proper gods were worshipped, passed and enforced laws, and were answerable to no man, not even the king or chieftain. They were what we would call today “freelancers”, and their word was law. Being outside the hierarchical structure of Celtic society, they could even call a king to account if he had transgressed the law. Despite what might seem though as unlimited power – an ancient form, perhaps, of Executive Privilege? - Druids did not challenge their leaders and were not involved in any military undertakings. They were peaceful men, whose main mission in life was to honour and preserve the Celtic way of life, to pass down the stories of their mythology – by mouth alone, for the Celts had no form of writing, beyond Ogham, of which more shortly – and to revere and placate the ancient gods.

They were poets and storytellers, judges and arbiters – none could be more partial in a dispute than a Druid – and even advisors to kings. They held great power, yes, but in this one instance power did not corrupt. While the Druids who served the Celts in Britain and Gaul rose up against the Roman occupation of their lands and led the resistance against the invaders, Irish Druids did not take up arms at all, remaining completely peaceful.

Although the Celts did not or could not write, they did have a very rudimentary alphabet. It consisted of a number of straight lines, sometimes slanted and/or crossing other lines. This was called Ogham (I was brought up to believe it is pronounced “oh-am” but most documentaries on the Irish or the Celts I have watched seem to think it should be pronounced “og-ham”. I'm not sure which is right) and was used mostly to decorate tombs, often by way of huge stone crosses which can still be seen on graves today, though of course the ones that mark headstones these days are replicas and copies. Still, originals can be found in various archaeological sites, and most people know what you mean when you speak of a Celtic Cross. If you don't, then look below.


Ogham was a very simple alphabet, with twenty-five characters but was apparently very limited in what it could say: basically, they used it for inscribing the name of the person buried under the cross, and that was about it. But writing isn't everything, and the Celts must have had great memories as they passed their stories on down, word for word, through successive generations. Many of these were of course the exploits of kings or leaders, but much of their lore centred around the deeds of heroes, whether real or imagined, that came to make up the basis of Celtic mythology. Like most peoples, the Celts did not relate made-up stories for entertainment; they actually believed these events took place in a far-off time. Some of them may have – the idea of a young boy killing a dog who was attacking him by hitting him with a hurley ball and thereafter having to take the dog's place as the chief's guard (the genesis of the legend of one of Ireland's most revered heroes, Cuchulainn) could be seen to have happened – others perhaps might be a little more fanciful, such as tales of frost giants and warp spasms and the Salmon of Knowledge, to say nothing of Tir na nOg.


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09-07-2021, 09:09 PM
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Re: Journal he calls it but History...

But in time, as Christianity took hold of the world and spread to Britain and Ireland, the Druids and the Celtic beliefs would be toppled, their gods either banished to fairy stories and myths or appropriated and metamorphosed into saints and martyrs, making Ireland in time one of the most Christian countries of the world. Old beliefs would die out as the new took hold, and civilisation of a different type would come to the Emerald Isle as we exchanged a group of powerful gods for one who couldn't even save his own son from death. Not the greatest bargain, in my view.
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09-07-2021, 09:16 PM
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Re: Journal he calls it but History...

Chapter II: The Book of Invasions, Part One: Onward, Christian soldiers

Timeline: 500 AD - 800 AD

It might seem a hell of a leap to jump from, what, 1200 BC to 500 AD, and it is. We're talking about a millennium and a half here. But in terms of Irish history, it's where you really end up next, as this was the beginnings of the conversion of Ireland to Christianity, a power that holds sway over us even to this day. Throughout its long history Ireland has been subject to invasions: the Vikings, the Normans, the English. Oddly enough, I was surprised to find my research turn up, we were not invaded by the Romans, unlike the English. Events seem to have conspired to have kept Ireland safe, as it were, at the eleventh hour. With a rebel Irish chieftain plotting with the Roman governor of Britain to aid in an Irish invasion, the governor was suddenly called back to Rome to deal with barbarian attacks closer to home, and so the invasion was cancelled.

We've always been a fighting people. On occasions we have allied to the enemy of our enemy (usually England), teaming up with or supporting the likes of the Scottish, the Spanish and the French, often along shared lines of faith, sometimes not. We have, in general, failed to drive back each wave of new invaders, but often have defeated them in more cunning ways, as they became integrated into our culture, marrying into Irish families and taking Irish land. Many Irish surnames that survive today have their origins in French, for example, as Norman conquerors became, slowly, Irish inhabitants. The same with the Vikings, with the famous slogan I recall from my history lessons that they “became more like the Irish than the Irish themselves.” Well, they certainly mirrored our drinking habits, that's for sure!

But perhaps the most insidious and unstoppable invasion of all was that of the Christian missionaries who set out from the Roman Empire (mostly from Britain at the time) in around 500 AD to convert all heathens to the new religion that was sweeping across Europe, thanks in large part to the change of heart of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, who, in around 306 AD converted to Christianity. Taking the title of Holy Roman Emperor he decreed tolerance and acceptance of the new religion which had up until then been mercilessly prosecuted by previous emperors, with the infamous stories of Christians being thrown into the arenas to fight lions and other wild animals, as well as other horrible punishments for what was seen as denying the true gods of Rome. Christian priests and monks were now free to travel throughout the empire, teaching the Good News and attempting to convert all nations to the true faith.

The most famous of these missionaries was a man who was born Palladius Patricius, but became known and revered in Ireland as Saint Patrick.

Saint Patrick

If you've ever wondered why Saint Patrick's Day is such a big deal in Ireland, you need to realise how important the man was to this country. Born to a Roman official in occupied Britain, he was captured by an Irish raiding party, many of which had become emboldened as the Roman Empire in general began to crumble and shrink back on itself, and as garrisons and commanders and governors were recalled to Rome to fend off the attacks of the barbarian hordes such as the Visigoths, the Franks and the Germanic tribes. I suppose from that point of view you could point to the beginnings of the long antagonism between Ireland and England as having been started by us, but I'm sure the English sent out raiding parties of their own.


At any event, Patricius was captured (some say by the famous Irish chieftain known as Niall of the Nine Hostages) and taken to Ireland, where he was pressed into service as a slave. After tending sheep for six years he escaped back home, but while there he was tormented by the voice, he claims, of God (sometimes this is claimed to be the voice of the Irish people) calling him back to Ireland. During his time in Ireland he had become quite religious, turning to the Christian God in his hour of need, and now he devoted his time to study of the word of God, training to be a priest. When he was ready, he returned to Ireland around 432 AD and became the most successful export of Christianity there, building churches, destroying the hold of pagan gods and beliefs over the Irish people, and virtually single-handedly converting Ireland to Christianity.

Around the fifth century he wrote what is generally accepted as the first proper written Irish work of literature, his Confession, in which he described his mission to build churches and bring the word of God to Ireland. It's from this account that we have most of our information about him confirmed, though there's still some debate raging, such as whether Palladius and Patricius are two people or the names of one, but that sort of stuff is really only semantics and doesn't matter here. What's more interesting is the legend that grew up around him; almost, you might say, a new Celtic mythology, some of which is related below.

The Shamrock: One of the most famous stories told of St. Patrick is when he wished to explain the complicated nature of the Divinity to the Irish, who just didn't understand. Three gods in one? What a bargain! How can I do better than twenty-nine ninety-nine, Troy? But seriously, it's a hard concept to get: how can you have one god who has a son and another part of him, each separate yet of the same being? Patrick explained this by picking a shamrock, and showing that though it has three leaves, they all rise from the one stalk. And so the people finally got it, and the shamrock became one of our most treasured plants, and indeed the emblem of our country.

The Snakes: Although historians agree that at no time in its history was Ireland ever troubled by snakes (except in the Dail! Irish in-joke) Patrick is said to have stood on a hill and waved his staff, driving them all into the sea. He is therefore credited with banishing all snakes from Ireland, though this is more than likely metaphor for his attempts – pretty much successful – to drive out the old pagan beliefs and discredit the gods of the Celts. Snakes being seen as evil, and all, and linked with Satan and the Garden of Eden. You know the kind of thing.


With the coming of Saint Patrick, it was the end of the old ways in Ireland. Christianity one, Pagans nil. Of course, in some corners of Ireland the worship of pagan deities continued for a time, and the old practices were kept up, but in time the Church consolidated its absolute power over the Irish people, and the old gods were remembered only in folk tales and legend. If you take Rome as being the centre of the Christian Church, as it was, then essentially the Romans did invade, and subdue, Ireland, though not by military might. This was one of the only invasions of our island against which there was no standing, and though in later centuries when the Church underwent a fundamental schism one faction of this new religion would battle another for supremacy, Ireland would always be, and always has been, a Christian country.

Hot on the heels of Saint Patrick came other missionaries, priests, monks, abbots and bishops, who built monasteries, seen as the first real centres of any sort of governance in Ireland, where the idea of towns or even villages had yet to take hold. With the newly-converted Irish people holding them in awe, and with tacit support from various chieftains and leaders in the hope of bolstering their own power, the monasteries became almost a ruling force in Ireland. This next-to-absolute power of the Church only strengthened over the centuries, and indeed, even as late as the middle of the twentieth century, and further, up to the 1950s, 1960s and even 1970s, the Church held a sort of hypnotic power over the people of Ireland. Priests were sacrosanct and their word was taken as fact. The advice or decree of one was followed blindly. Families sent their sons into the priesthood, seen as a status symbol, and if a priest accused you or your family of doing something, even if you had not done it, you had. The power of the Church was absolute, and though it was ostensibly separated from the State, in real terms the two colluded more than they disagreed.
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09-07-2021, 09:16 PM
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Re: Journal he calls it but History...

This blind obedience to the Church, especially the one which held sway over almost all of Southern Ireland, or what came to be known as The Republic, only began to be questioned around the 1980s, when evidence of clerical abuse towards children began to surface, and the almighty name of the Catholic Church began to be seen as an idol with clay feet. Suddenly, the evidence was there and the scales fell from (most) people's eyes; the Church was just another organisation, ripe for corruption and perversion, and priests were not infallible saints, merely men with men's sometimes ugly appetites. What did emerge during the various reports into clerical abuse was that the State, especially the national police force, the Gardai, who should have been the protectors of the children who were abused, failed miserably, allowing itself to remain bedazzled by the worship of the Church and unable to fathom how priests could after all be just men, and flawed men at that. Now we know better, and the Church has had to try to amend its ideas and remake itself in the image of twenty-first century Ireland – not, it has to be said, with too much success so far, though the new Pope is helping matters a great deal with his down-to-earth, return-to-basics approach, something that has not been seen coming out of Rome in hundreds of centuries – and people are wiser, no longer trusting blindly in their spiritual leaders, and holding them to account when necessary.

But back in Saint Patrick's time, such ideas were totally alien to the Irish and the clergy were seen almost as gods, or would be if the Christian faith allowed belief in more than one deity. In a way, I suppose the Irish transferred the awe and reverence and respect they had had for the Druids to the new preachers of the gospel of Christ, and priests and bishops and all the rest became the successors to the trust people had placed in their ancient judges and holy men. It should, in the interests of fairness, be pointed out that at this point the Church – certainly the Church in Ireland – did not at any time capitalise on their power in the sort of ways Rome's Popes would do later, raising private armies, living in luxury while their people eked out a pathetic existence, fighting “holy wars” and levelling taxes on the pilgrims who came to worship at the holiest shrine of Christianity. On the contrary, monks typically took a vow of poverty and chastity, leading a quiet life of gentle contemplation, praising God, preaching to the masses and when Latin was introduced to Ireland creating some of the most beautiful works of written art ever seen, including the famous Book of Kells, completed around 800 AD.



The Book of Kells

There can be few people, even outside of Ireland, who have not at least heard of the famous Book of Kells. Written, it is believed, on the island of Iona, in the Inner Hebrides just off the coast of Scotland, it was said to have been begun in 800 AD by Saint Columba, and because of this has sometimes been called the Book of Columba. Modern historians have challenged this though, pointing to the fact that the Book is known or accepted to have been begun in 800 but that Columba was already over two hundred years dead by then. Whatever the case, whatever its origin, the Book of Kells is essentially the four Gospels of the New Testament of the Bible, lavishly illustrated with animal, human and Celtic imagery, and is widely accepted to be the finest example of what is known as “insular art” in history.

At its core, insular art is a type of writing where the words are “illuminated” by having figures stand under them, surround them or wind themselves around them, or otherwise colourfully decorated. These are known as illuminations, and Irish monks are acknowledged as having been the finest experts of this art in the world. This concentration of expertise (as well as the fall of the Roman Empire) drew like-minded artists to Ireland, where they studied under the monks, and led to the famous epithet for Ireland as being “a land of saints and scholars”, true today as when it was written, I do assure you!

When Viking raiders attacked Ireland in the tenth century, sacking the monasteries and plundering their treasures, the Book of Kells was moved for safekeeping to the Abbey of Kells, in County Meath, which is where it acquired its name. Of course, this did not stop the Norsemen and they attacked the Abbey of Kells, yet somehow this amazing book survived, donated to Trinity College in Dublin in 1661, and can be seen today, for free, by anyone who wishes to do so, in the Library of the college It is a huge attraction and draws visitors from all over the world to see it.


Interestingly, as the rest of Europe suffered with the fall of the Roman Empire and was plunged into what we know today as the Dark Ages (approximately 500 AD to 1000 AD), Ireland enjoyed a time of peace and tranquility, and great artistic advancement as monks and even lay persons worked in the monasteries, translating books like the Bible into Latin and even Irish – now that there was finally a written language that could be used in Ireland , carving huge stone Celtic crosses, and engraving fabulous detail on items like drinking cups, brooches and other jewellery.

With the decline of the Roman Empire, it was in fact Ireland that took up the baton, as it were, of missionary zeal and monks and priests from here travelled extensively across Europe, bringing the word of God to the heathen, whose ranks they had previously belonged to. Irish scholars and poets, writers and thinkers began to populate the courts of the more important kingdoms, such as France and Italy. For a time, Ireland enjoyed the reputation of, if not being the saviour of Christianity, then certainly its most voiciferous, powerful and successful ambassador. Comparatively suddenly, a tiny, unregarded island far from the centre of the mighty Roman Empire had become all but its successor in terms of orthodoxy and belief, and from the court of Kiev to that of Charlemagne himself, everyone knew of her existence.

But with increased presence and fame comes unwanted attention, and far across the seas to the cold north, to paraphrase H.G Wells, other eyes regarded this island with envy, and slowly, and surely they drew their plans against us. The next invaders would not use faith and piety as a weapon, but brutal aggression and a callous disregard for the new religion, which they saw as vastly inferior to, and threatening to supplant their own.

Note: Although the early history of Ireland is replete with saints and mythological beings who may or may not have existed, I am not covering them in this journal, as although they would certainly be seen as central to Irish beliefs and therefore an important part of Irish history, I want to concentrate more on the actual happenings and not get too bogged down with who saw what, where, and how. If such events are to be recounted at all, I'll address them in my mythology journal at some later point. I've only given space to Saint Patrick and Saint Columba because it was impossible not to.
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09-07-2021, 09:19 PM
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Re: Journal he calls it but History...

It's a real shame the photos never came out..they are important...managed to add manually...hope you enjoy...
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09-07-2021, 09:53 PM
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Re: Journal he calls it but History...

Originally Posted by DianneWoollie ->
It's a real shame the photos never came out..they are important...managed to add manually...hope you enjoy...
The photos are there Dianne, they're wonderfully clear and illustrate the story perfectly. Thank you so much for this, I have so enjoyed reading it. I went to Dublin in the 80s and visited Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. Wonderful experience, I was totally in awe of it, and the library itself was such a thing of beauty - the photo above brought it all back so clearly.
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09-07-2021, 10:53 PM
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Re: Journal he calls it but History...

You have no idea this Guy has no confidence really but as writer he obviously wants to be heard.....glad it has bought back some good stuff for you....
 
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