Street Photography By William Murphy

Irish National War Memorial Gardens
MARCH 7 2011

Today I used a new combination of camera body and lens: Sony NEX-5 and Sony SEL18200 Lens.

I had a bit of luck when I visited the Irish National War Memorial Gardens because I met a very nice gentleman who gave me a guided tour of two of the 'bookrooms" (mini-museums) however for various reasons I did not photograph the interiors. When I asked him if there was any possibility that the Queen of England might visit the Memorial Gardens he said that it was unlikely to happen in his lifetime … he was wrong.

The Irish National War Memorial Gardens is an Irish war memorial in Inchicore, Dublin dedicated "to the memory of the 49,400 Irish soldiers who gave their lives in the Great War, 1914–1918", out of over 300,000 Irishmen who served in all armies. The Gardens also commemorate all other Irish men and women who at that time served, fought and died in Irish regiments of the Allied armies, the British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, South African and United States armies in support of the Triple Entente's war effort against the Central Powers.

Designed by the great memorialist Sir Edwin Lutyens who had already landscaped designed several sites in Ireland and around Europe. The sunken Garden of Remembrance surrounds a "War Stone" of Irish granite symbolising an altar, which weighs seven and a half tons. The dimensions of this are identical to First World War memorials found throughout the world, and is aligned with the Great Cross of Sacrifice and central avenue. Opposite to the Phoenix Park obelisk, it lies about three kilometres from the centre of Dublin, on grounds which gradually slope upwards towards Kilmainham Hill. It is commonly believed that Kilmainham Hill as the camping place of Brian Boru and his army prior to the last decisive Battle of Clontarf on 23 April 1014. The Memorial was probably the last to be erected to the memory of those who sacrificed their lives in the Great War, and it is one of the finest if not the best. The elaborate layout includes a central Sunken Rose Garden composed by a committee of eminent horticulturalists, various terraces, pergolas, lawns and avenues lined with impressive parkland tress, and two pairs of Bookrooms in granite, representing the four provinces of Ireland, and containing illuminated volumes recording the names of all the dead.

Although small commemorations took place for a few years from 1948, the political situation did not sanction that the Gardens be "officially" opened and dedicated, subsequent lack of staff also allowing the site to fall into neglect, decay and dilapidation during the 1970s and early 1980s, when it had become an open site for caravans and animals of the Irish Traveller community. In addition, sixty years of irish weather had left its mark. From the mid-1980s, restoration work to renew the park and gardens to their former splendour was undertaken by the OPW, co-funded by the National War Memorial Committee which is representative of Ireland, both north and south. On 10 September 1988 the Gardens were formally dedicated by representatives of the four main Churches in Ireland and unofficially opened to the public.

The first real, fully official "opening and dedication" took place with a state commemoration to mark the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 2006, attended by the President of Ireland Mary McAleese, the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Members of the Oireachtas, leading representatives of all political parties in Ireland, the Diplomatic Corps of the Allies of World War I, delegates from Northern Ireland, representatives of the four main Churches, and solemnly accompanied by a Guard of Honour of the Irish Army and Army Band.
A formal visit to the Memorial Gardens on 18 May 2011 was one of the historic highlights of the Queen Elizabeth II's visit to the Republic of Ireland. The Queen and President Mary McAleese laid wreaths of poppy and laurel respectively to honour the dead.

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