Okay, the bad news was that the post office put up the price of stamps again so that my stash of Christmas 72c stamps was now insufficient – but the good news is that the new 28c stamps feature ancient treasures from the collection of the National Museum of Ireland.
If you ever get the chance, make sure you visit this museum in Kildare Street, Dublin. It’s hard to believe the skill of those early Irish craftsmen (or craftswomen).
For instance, there’s the Tara Brooch (see my sketch below), named after the Hill of Tara, seat of the High Kings of Ireland, although there doesn’t seem to be any connection to either the hill or the High Kings – it was apparently discovered on a beach at Bettystown, County Meath by ‘a peasant woman’.
It was first displayed at The Great Exhibition in London in 1851 and then at the Paris Exposition Universelle. In 1872, it was added to the collection of the Royal Irish Academy, which later transferred it to the National Museum of Ireland where it remains today.
The National Museum notes that it is made of cast and gilt silver and is elaborately decorated on both faces. The front is ornamented with a series of unbelievably fine gold filigree panels depicting animal and abstract motifs, separated by studs of glass, enamel, and amber. The motifs on the back consist of scrolls and spirals and recall the La Tène decoration of the Iron Age.
As for the ‘peasant woman’, there’s all sorts of theories about who she was and where she actually found it but all she would say was something like –
Och! but I’m weary of mist and dark,
And roads where there’s never a house nor a bush,
And tired I am of bog and road,
And the crying wind and the lonesome hush!
Only joking. Actually that was from a poem entitled An Old Woman of the Roads, by Pádraic Colum. My brother and his wife are making a film about this poem at the moment and I’m really looking forward to seeing it.
Slán go fóillín. Your comments are always welcome, thanks, eoin