Wow, it has been some time since I’ve committed virtual ink to virtual paper and put something before you readers. It has been quite busy to be fair.
My thesis was accepted and I am now Dr. Gardiner, a truly terrifying prospect. The second edition of my first book was greenlit, which is having mixed progress; a solid idea, though with difficulty finding the time. I had an article published in a military history journal; the paper examined the organisation and training of members of the Irish Volunteers, in the lead-in to the Easter Rising of 1916.
A busy enough 18 months really when you think about it.
But the blog, and to a lesser extent, the twitter have suffered. The blog has really suffered, so you have my apologies.
I have been on a number of trips around Ireland during this time and what I have found is that our shared heritage is stronger than ever, but more than that, our military history sometimes suffers. In many cases a more oblique presence, such as a monument to the 1916 Easter Rising, often in areas with a tenuous link to the activities of Easter week, may eclipse all other aspects of a martial past.
In the proud military city of Limerick, Ireland, both the British and Irish armies maintained strong garrisons, owing to nodal nature of the river Shannon and the strategic fording point therein. The docks and the military clothing factory and chandlers are mentioned elsewhere in this blog, but it is the social and structural aspects of our history that I would draw your attention to today.
I was walking home from a sporting fixture on Easter Sunday evening and was waiting for a local bus. As I waited at the stop, I noticed, probably for the first time ever, a curious stone set into the pavement. The road split into a ‘T’ junction at this point, leading up to the rear gate of the ‘New Barracks’ (Sarsfield Barracks, in modern military parlance). The stone in question was about two feet high and was what was known as a benchmark. Essentially this was a triangulation point (and/or a boundary marker), used by members of the British War Department’s Ordnance Survey, for cartographic and engineering purposes. Deaglan DePaor has a good example of a ‘cut benchmark’ in his own blog, https://deaglandepaor.wordpress.com/tag/cavalry-barracks/
Here was a prime example of the mark left on the civic and social landscape…and it was literally lying around.
Here was a prime example of the mark left on the civic and social landscape by our shared military history, and it was literally lying around at the foot of the British military presence in Ireland and now lies almost totally ignored by passers-by. This datum was used to build the city that those people lived in; it is literally a part of the social fabric of society. The author Frank McCourt probably passed this iconography every day, as he wound his way about the streets of his home by the mighty Shannon river.
For the remainder of 2018, I will endeavour to present similar stories to you, the reader. With this I hope to not only encourage myself to write about objects which have traditionally been overlooked but also to engage with the quotidian and the sublime.
UPDATE 17/04/2018: My colleague and #twitterstorian, EamonnF at @GalwayPens, has kindly pointed out that this may also have been a boundary marker, delineating the physical footprint of the military installation.