On a cold October day I made my way from Jervis street car park in Dublin city, down the quays towards the CHQ building on Dublin’s Custom house quay. You may know the CHQ building from hosting the Christmas markets or Octoberfest in the past. In May this year a new exhibition was opened in the building showcasing the story of the Irish people and how we changed the world.
I had been trying to get a free day off to visit the exhibition since the summer so I was really excited about my visit. On entering the main reception the ticket desk is to your right. It is €14 for adults and €7 for children. Kids under the age of 5 are free and they have special family packages also. The lady at reception directed me where to go to pick up my passport and start my journey through Epic Ireland. Down the stairs and to the right I entered the departures hall where there was another lady waiting to tell me how the exhibition was laid out. She gave me my passport that had a space for a stamp as I walked through each gallery. The passport is a really nice souvenir to have and a great activity for kids throughout the visit.
There are 19 galleries to walk through starting with “An open Ireland”. The first thing that struck me was the visual installations here and the bright displays. This gallery has some beautiful audio also that sets the mood of the Irish theme. This gallery draws you into the next with a flock of geese rising up, a nod I presume to the flight of the wild geese in 1691. The next gallery is “Leaving the Island” and there is a pretty spectacular display of all the modes of transport that have been used down through the years to leave Ireland.
The next gallery introduces you to a group of people from different parts of Ireland and their reason for leaving. I took a seat here on the suitcases to listen to all of their stories. It makes you realise how lucky we are to have lived in an Ireland where we were not forced to leave the country to survive. Saying that, one of the stories is as recent as the 1980’s and of course the thousands of Irish people that have left the country since the recession come to mind also.
“Belief” is the theme in the next gallery and beacons of light showcase how Christianity, emergency relief,
medical aid, social work and advocacy played a part in the Irish travelling overseas and making their impact in the world. Most of the stories here are about Irish Priests and Nuns but there are some surprising stories of ordinary Irish people giving up their lives to help people less fortunate than themselves.
Belief leads into “Hunger, work and community”. This gallery is quite sad and focus’s on the hoards of people that left Ireland during the great famine of 1845-1849. Nearly 1,500,000 left Ireland during these years. Leaving Ireland to find work is a theme that we have seen all too many times down through the years. Community then refers to the groups of people who followed people they knew who had previously settled abroad.
“Conflict” and “State and Society” are the last galleries in this part of the exhibition. Here you will find the history of the fighting Irish, mostly on behalf of the Bristish empire or in earlier years- against them! Masses of Irish people also left Ireland due to religious persecution or on the Jail ships to Australia! This marked the end of the migration and motivation part of the exhibition (who left, where did they go and why did they go?). I was feeling quite lonely at this stage and I was looking forward to exploring the Irish as influencers.
“The Irish Influence” is an amazing video of Ireland’s most influential people and moments in history. I
actually started crying at the end of the video (how embarrassing, I know!) but I cannot even explain how emotional it made me. It made me supremely proud to call myself Irish.
The next two galleries are all about the Irish in sport. “Changing the game” tells you all about the interaction that the Irish diaspora had with sports all over the world. There is a really cool interactive table here where you can place a disc with a particular sport on it on the table, it will light up with various famous Irish that participated in the sport. “Playing the world” then tells you all about the GAA abroad. Its amazing how far our game of football and hurling have reached. My little sister plays for the ladies football team in Abu Dhabi so I know how big the game is over there.
“Discovering and Inventing” and “Leading change” tells you about some of Ireland’s inventors and those responsible for making historic changes in the world. In the past 100 years or so, being Irish, or having Irish ancestors is a badge to be worn with pride. There are some really interesting stories here about Bob Geldof, Che Guevara and JFK. It was great to see women featuring heavily in this exhibition also.
The next gallery is “Achieving Infamy”. This part of the exhibition was about Irish people who were famous for all the wrong reasons. The obvious characters feature here like Ned Kelly and Billy the kid but one story really caught my eye. Typhoid Mary was a healthy carrier of the deadly illness and she caused 51 outbreaks of Typhoid in the US before she was committed to Isolation for the rest of her days. Poor Mary!
“Music and Dance- sharing the tradition” is a fabulous display of how Irish music and dance has travelled all over the world with the Irish themselves. There is even little steps on the floor to show you how to try some Irish dancing. “Eating and Drinking” features next, with a really interesting display of an Irish pub and the history of Irish whiskey. Its so true that wherever you go in the world you will find an Irish pub. “Creating and Designing” showcases some of Ireland’s world famous designers. Did you know that the white house was designed by an Irish Architect? – James Hoban.
The last gallery in this part of the exhibition is all about the Irish as Storytellers. After walking through
all the other galleries it’s no wonder we had stories to tell! Irish writers of world literature, Irish films, comedians, actors and broadcasters are all featured here and there are some fantastic interactive displays too.
The last stage of the exhibition is about the diaspora of today. “Celebration” is a beautiful audio visual display of St Patrick day parades all over the world. The very last gallery is called “Connection”. Something us Irish are really good at. Here you can send virtual postcards to loved ones and friends. There is a tweet wall where any tweets you have sent with the #epicireland are displayed. The end wall projects scenes of home comings at airports, welcome home parties and scenes from the gathering in 2013. It was a lovely ending to the exhibition. I had my passport all filled out and I made my way back up the stairs to the gift shop. I entered the CHQ as a curious Cavan woman and I left as an extremely proud Irish person.
I think every Irish person needs to visit Epic Ireland to get a sense of how far reaching we are as a nation and how special we really are. The next time you find yourself in Dublin you should really visit this amazing visitor experience. It’s perfect for something to do on a rainy day or a place to bring vsitors to Ireland to show off our epicness!! I have attached the link to the website below with all the information on opening times etc. As always- Happy Galavanting! xxx