Butlers & Fitzgeralds

To Chance Your Arm

I missed the point in history when gift shops started popping up in Churches, but then I also missed the point when all politicians, heads of state and Kings and Queens were honest loyal citizens who were respected and looked up to for their integrity and principles. The pages of history are littered with nobles and powerful families who act in ways that seem to range from just a little peculiar to acts of complete lunasee. 

In the 15th Century, two powerful Irish families that competed for positions of power were the Butlers and the Fitzgeralds. The Butlers of Ormonde and the Fitzgeralds of Kildare didn’t like each other very much. Saying that these two Irish clan’s found each other repugnant might even be a little kind. The fact is that these two families despised each other. 

At the time of 1492, parts of Ireland were ruled by the King of England (The King of England was also the Lordship of Ireland) who was Henry VII. As Henry was a very busy person and couldn’t be in two places at once, he was represented locally in Ireland. At this time in Ireland, the King’s representative was called the Viceroy of Ireland. As the Viceroy was also a very busy person, he too had a deputy. This position was called the Lord Deputy. It was this high position of office that the powerful James Butler and Gerald Fitzgerald were bitterly arguing over. Unfortunately the appointment of Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1492 was not the honest, calm and well-mannered debate of modern day elections. The years of hostility, bickering and disagreement between the two families broke out into a violent conflict of outright warfare.

Outside the city walls of Dublin, the fighting escalated into a brutal battle which obviously started to go badly for the Butler’s as he and his followers took refuge at St Patrick’s Cathedral. Once at the Cathedral, the Butlers then bolted themselves inside the Chapter House. Angered by this, Fitzgerald followed them into the Cathedral, thumping on the door that separated the Cathedral from the Chapter House, demanding they come out. Afraid they would be slaughtered, the Butlers refused. 

Fortunately sanity took hold of the situation when Fitzgerald realised that here were two families, living in the same country, worshiping in the same church, trying to kill each other.  Needing to show his honest intent, Fitzgerald ordered a hole be cut in the middle of the door. When it was finished, an undefeated and defenceless Fitzgerald, at risk of having his arm chopped off, thrust it through the hole and extended his hand in peace. 

At once, Sir James Butler realised that the offer of peace was a serious one, took his hand, shook it and unlocked the door to the Chapter House of St Patrick’s. Restoring peace to the Butlers and Fitzgeralds families, giving us the phrase “to chance your arm” and the Cathedral a nice little gift shop 520 years later.

Now I’m not suggesting this is the way we should solve all our political disagreements or that politicians should risk having their arm chopped off however the idea has some merit. An action like this requires a test subject who would be willing to blindly stick their arm through a hole to a waiting angry mob for no other reason than to prove a point. I would like to suggest we try first with Donald J Trump.

St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin

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Is It Irresponsible Chasing Rainbows?

Visions, Illusions & Me.

Recently I came across something interesting in Queenstown which has occupied my thoughts off and on since. It was a faint rainbow stretching out across Lake Wakatipu. 

It isn’t the location of the rainbow itself that is of interest to me, nor the question of how rainbows are created, what drew my attention was pondering the curve of a rainbow. Or to be more precise, do they always have the same angle? I keep imagining Kermit sitting on a schist stone dipping his toes in the water of Lake Wakatipu, bango in hand, singing rainbow connection. As a rule of thumb, I would like to suggest that if like me, Kermit the frog springs to mind when you think about the science behind rainbows, you’re probably not an expert on them. 

In this moment the contemplating thoughts in my mind went in two directions. The first was what other naturally occurring scientific concepts do I not understand. The second direction was understanding the mathematics behind rainbows. I decided that trying to understand the concepts of nuclear fusion, string theory, starling murmurations and Auckland traffic was far beyond my mental capacity at this point, so I went with exploring the latter. Plus, since I now had Kermit loaded into my Spotify playlist I felt I was committed. 

My curiosity aroused, I felt there was only one place that would provide me with the facts I needed, the one place that keeps me reliably informed and up to date with the latest world developments. Google.

I feel I should point out at this juncture that I’ve become suspicious about Google and our relationship. It has soured somewhat. The long held trust and mutual respect we once held I fear has been lost. What brought our relationship to this point? Well, I suspect that Google has been lying to me. I must confess that this realisation hurts. My suspicions were aroused when a recent trip to Ireland resulted in zero Leprechaun sightings. 

As it turns out I’m not the first person to become fascinated by a rainbow outside the window, in fact I’m in very good company. Greek philosopher Aristotle devoted serious attention to the study of rainbows as did Roman theorist Lucius Annaeus Seneca (who probably peeked at Aristotle’s study notes). This cycle of building off others’ study notes before adding their own thoughts then continued for some time, right through to Rene Descartes who started playing with light passing through a sphere of water. Throughout this lineage of rainbows, one person who does seem to stand out in a very understated way is Roger Bacon. 

Not only does Roger Bacon have a fabulous last name that makes me hungry, he can also tell you how to make gunpowder! It transpires that Roger Bacon was the first European to describe in detail the process of making gunpowder. He also proposed flying machines, motorized ships and carriages some time in the 1200’s. Now anyone who is suggesting motorized machines and can tell you how to make gunpowder in the 1200’s must have been fascinating after a few beers! Along with describing how to blow things up, he also first measured the angle through which light is bent to our eye by a rainbow as being 42 degrees.  

Having discovered that the arc of a rainbow is 42 degrees, that the length of rainbow is dependent on where it is viewed from, that everyone sees a rainbow differently, that they form perfect circles (which is why you never reach the end or the bottom) and that there are 12 types of rainbow, I naively thought my pursuit of had come to an end. Until, Google threw me a curve ball. It brought me back to Leprechauns. Now, I must confess that my curious nature got the better of me and no matter how distrusting of Google I was, I went in search of pots of gold. 

I had it in mind that there would be a fairly bright and easy yellow brick road that would lead me to the end of the rainbow, however unlike Dorthey I wasn’t lucky enough to have a glowing yellow road to follow.  My own search was filled with many no exit streets, detours and wrong turns that seemed to add neither confusion or clarity to my quest until I came across the Vikings! If you want to make a story interesting, just throw in an ill tempered Viking or two to jazz up the plot. Fortunately for me, the pot of gold myth that I liked the best, had loads of Vikings in it.  

It seems that back in the days of the Vikings – who weren’t really very nice people but had amazing beards – they spent much of their time raiding, plundering and looting Irish villages for money and gold before burying it all over the countryside. Upon leaving Ireland, the Vikings proved that despite having fabulous beards they were incredibly absentminded and forgot to take their treasure with them, which was promptly found by the underground dwelling and human mistrustings Leprechauns. Knowing the origins of this treasure and claiming it for themselves, they reburied the gold. Nowadays, whenever a rainbow appears it’ll end where the gold is buried.  But then again, can you trust a Leprechaun or a Viking for that matter? No matter how fabulous his beard is! 

Until a few days ago I thought that a rainbow was simply light reflecting and bending off water droplets in the atmosphere resulting in a colour appearing. But, it transpires that they are as complicated as they are beautiful.

From all this we can draw four important conclusions. Firstly, Aristotle was a science guy as well as being a philosopher dude. Secondly, Roger Bacon would have been a wonderful drinking companion. Thirdly, the Vikings had fabulous beards but were incredibly forgetful. Fourthly that a little green frog was the most insightful of all when he observed that ‘rainbows are visions and illusions and probably contain a little touch of magic.’It seems that pursuing rainbows isn’t a bad thing after all. 

Rainbow over Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown.

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College & Westmoreland Street

The Thomas Moore Statue

I know this is hard to believe but there are times when I get over excited when I’m taking photos and then there are occasions when I completely forget where I am and become obsessed with the image I’m taking. Usually this happens when I’m somewhere new, using a new piece of equipment or there’s some cool light happening. When all three of these elements come together I’m a bit useless for anything else. Recently in Dublin My wife and I had just walked back from O’Connell Street and over the River Liffey when I insisted to my wife that we stop by the Thomas Moore Statue as the evening sky was turning a lovely blueish-purple. I grabbed my camera and new mini tripod and excitedly setup position to get a shot where College & Westmoreland Street meet beside the Irish Houses of Parliament.

After a good 5 to 10 minutes, happy with my efforts, I returned to the statue where my return was greeted with an annoyed “where the hell have you been?” It seems that in my excitement and rush to grab my camera, tripod and set up I not only forgot to say where I was going, but also took off with my wife’s wallet and phone in peak rush hour traffic! It didn’t make things better when I pointed out the rather dangerous place I was standing. At this juncture there was only one course of action left open to me, insist we head to the near pub to make amends, she didn’t argue.

College & Westmoreland Street – Order Print

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Dear Mammy

Postcards From Ireland

Postcards from a travelling photographer discovering Ireland and connecting with some truly wonderful people along the way.

The RMS Titanic was the pride of Belfast in the years leading up to (and including) 1911.

Malahide Seawall and Beach, DublinDear Mammy [or insert own name here]
Had a very quiet New Years as we spent the day relocating from Shankill to Sandymount and collecting belongings from Malahide.  It’s nice to have all our gear back in one place. 
It was a beautiful New Years day here with almost a cloudless day. The temperature was around 10 to 12 degrees, very crisp but fine and clear. We’ve hardly had any rain since we’ve arrived. The weather is so mild no-one can believe it!
It was such a grand day today we went for a walk from Sandymount to Sean Moore Park in Dublin Bay and around to Poolbeg Lighthouse and back. Such a lovely place to visit, and a great stroll by the sea. There is even a little coffee van that serves hot drinks to keep you warm and hydrated. 
After such a splendid walk we definitely deserved a whiskey and beer. 
Hope you get some fine summer weather soon.
Love John


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Peace & Beauty In Dublin

Daniel of Dublin

Discovering a little peace and beauty in Dublin.

Amongst the jigsaw puzzle streets of Dublin that twist and turn across the city, you’ll find St Stephen’s Green. Undoubtedly one of the hearts of the Irish capital. While in Dublin, if you’re looking for a bit of  peace and beauty with a touch of tranquility then St Stephens Green is the place to head too. And within St Stephen’s Green, you’ll find a man called Daniel. 

If you take the entrance to the green via the top of Grafton Street, you’ll pass under the impressive Fusilier’s Arch that was built in 1907. The pleasant sights of lush green spaces, water stretching and bending out of sight and trees of all ages shading and arching over the many walkways. It was while slowly wandering around one of the many paths that loop back to Fusiller’s Arch that I spotted him, a man called Daniel. 

The few items that he was carrying with him were carefully placed on a park bench while he chatted to anyone who would stop by to talk. He was polite and friendly and spoke in a gravelly tone that told of a less than comfortable life on the streets of Dublin. He spoke of having many favourite spots in the city centre but this spot was by far his favourite. Manly because of how peaceful it is and the calmness of the place. Then just as he spoke they arrived, pigeons. Lots and lots of pigeons. 

It turns out that Daniel works for one of the homeless shelters in Dublin. Collecting money and donations, along with doing other ‘odds and ends’ that need to be done. But, what he really likes to do is feed the pigeons. As he threw seed out for them and gently poured it into the hands of strangers who stopped, the pigeons were quick to find the food source. In an instant, three to five pigeons were on heads, shoulders and arms, gently pecking. Suddenly, as quickly as they had arrived they were off into the sky. They swooped in a massive loop before landing in exactly the same spot and continuing their hunt for food.

Only then in the peace and beauty in Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green did he ask for a small donation.

St Stephens Mall Buy

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Fairytale of Dublin

The Christmas Lights of Dublin

It’s Christmas evening in the Irish capital of Dublin. The temperature is now sitting on a chilly 5 degrees and the clock has just struck 9:30pm. A fire roars, spreading out heat and warmth to a room filled with good company, good food and plenty of laughter while talk turns to Christmas Day, St Stephen’s Day and the upcoming festivities. 

Across Dublin, the glow of the Christmas lights have long taken hold of the city of merriment and festive cheer. The streets surrounding Grafton Street and O’Connell bridge are decked out with twinkling lights of all shapes and sizes that make you stop and wonder while the air is filled of music coming from buskers up and down Dublin’s cobbled streets.

If you haven’t experienced a Northern Hemisphere winter Christmas then it really should be on your bucket list. Having grown up with Christmas in the summer, New Zealand traditions revolve around BBQ’s, trips to the beach. Relaxing in the long twilight hours with an ale or two until the Christmas lights take hold after 9pm or 10pm (ish). Christmas lights certainly give kiwi homes a very festive feel, but it’s not till you experience a city where nightfall takes hold around 4pm, that Christmas lights really make sense. People hurry from shop to shop filling their bags with last minute gifts or food items. People are warmed and brightened by the wonder of the Christmas lights on show. It’s in this moment that Christmas lights make sense.

Corner of Grafton and Annie Street Buy

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