historic Julian

another reason I so enjoyed driving up to Julian is the sense of history the town possesses. even though California became a state immediately after Wisconsin (and was followed by Minnesota), and San Diego was incorporated the year the state was established, it always seemed to have a more limited sense of history. (I anticipate that at some point I’ll get into San Diego history, but today is for Julian.)

the unincorporated town is a California Historical Landmark, and the surrounding area is the Julian Historical district. it was established following the Civil War by soldiers who headed west to California. gold was discovered in the area by a former slave in 1869 and a minor gold rush began. the lode didn’t yield much, but during the period another settler brought some apple trees up into the mountains and discovered that the plants flourished. now Julian is well known for it’s apple pie. mmm, apple pie.

the town was home to some of the first settlers in San Diego County and, according to information from the 1880 census, the majority of blacks in the county lived in and around Julian. the first business to be owned and operated by blacks in the county was in Julian — the Robinson Hotel, owned by Albert and Margaret Tull Robinson. it’s now the Julian Gold Rush Hotel (pictured above). it’s on the National Register of Historic Places.

San Jacinto

arriving into Houston late on Friday night, we headed to bed early for a full day of exploring on Saturday. first stop, the San Jacinto State Park, battle site where Texas won independence from Mexico in April of 1836. (Texas formally declared independence 174 years ago yesterday.)
San Jacinto was the last in a series of battles/sieges/massacres that also included that famous one in San Antonio, as well as less famous one in Goliad. (Goliad’s population in the 2000 census: 1,975.) the Mexican forces were commanded by President Antonio-Lopez de Santa Anna and Sam Houston led the Texans. the battle proper lasted 18 minutes, but, amped up and interested in meting out some vengeance for Alamo and Goliad, the Texan forces kept going for another hour. in the end, some 800 Mexicans were wounded or killed (many, many of those once the confrontation was “concluded”), while 39 Texans were killed and wounded.
Santa Anna was captured and held as a prisoner of war (a fact mentioned on the inscription on the outside of the monument — Santa Anna was granted a reprieve that he did not grant Texans at the Alamo or Goliad). during his captivity, Santa Anna signed the Treaty of Velasco, in which he agreed to remove troops from Texan soil.

St. Stephen’s Green

once enclosed, St. Stephen’s Green is now the main public park in central Dublin. the wall went up in the mid 17th century, was replaced by the surrounding homeowners with less-imposing railings in 1814, and finally opened to those who did not reside along the perimeter in 1877. (the land was opened to the public in part by the initiative of Sir A.E. Guinness, of the brewing family.)

throughout Ireland, the weather can be quite unpredictable, changing with little warning. the day I spent in Dublin, it vacillated between fantastically sunny, to crummily gloomy, to bursts of rainshower. luckily, the time I spend wandering around St. Stephen’s green was remarkably sunny, and showed off to remarkable effect multiple shades of green. there are paved paths around the perimeter and crossing the park. there’s a bandstand (seen above) and a remarkable number of statues and sculptures. one of Oscar Wilde in repose offers particularly amusing (or tasteless) photo opportunities. there are also busts or statues commemorating leaders of the 1916 Uprising, including one of the Countess Markievicz.

Daniel O’Connell

the man associated with Derrynane is Daniel O’Connell, referred to by many as The Liberator (or Emancipator) of Ireland. dedicated to gaining rights for the (mostly poor) Catholics of Ireland from the wealthy Protestant majority, O’Connell opposed the violence associated with armed revolts, such as that which occurred in 1798. he studied law in France during the Revolution, and returned to Ireland in time to witness the worst of the bloodshed for the ’98 Rebellion. consequently, he became a ardent supporter of non-violent direct action. basically, he inaugurated the first major non-violent, popular social movement in history. in 1823, he established the Catholic Association, which had a penny-per-month membership fee and championed electoral reform, tenants’ rights and economic development. in part because of his masterful oratorical skills, O’Connell cultivated a massive following. one of his “Monster Meetings” at the Hill of Tara drew 100,000 people.

he was the first Catholic person elected to the British Parliament, despite the fact that Catholics could not hold such positions at the time. apparently, he was only allowed to stand for the election because of a loophole, and it was assumed that he would not take his seat because it would require taking an (anti-Catholic) Oath of Supremacy, and acknowledge the King George IV as head of the Church of England. in order to prevent another uprising, the British passed the Act of Catholic Emancipation. 
having extracted rights for Catholics from the British government, O’Connell set out on a campaign to repeal the Act of Union. during this campaign, he was jailed in Dublin for a time. upon his release, the people of Dublin presented him with a magnificent “triumphal chariot,” which is now on display at Derrynane.

O’Connell died during the Famine in Genoa on his way to Rome (in 1847). his time in prison had weakened him and, at the age of seventy-one, the arduous trip to Italy was more than he could withstand. his heart was buried in Rome, and the rest of his body returned to Dublin for burial.
obviously, his non-violent tactics inspired later social movement leaders, including Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. additionally, his Catholic Association shaped politics in the United States, as it was carried over by emigrants of the Famine and used to shape political organizations where large Irish communities were established.


Derrynane, located on the southwest coast of the Iveragh Peninsula, is the ancestral home of Daniel O’Connell. the family purchased the house and parkland on which it sits through profits garnered from smuggling with France and Spain. the house is set on rather expansive grounds, with a view of the sea, and remarkably exotic gardens. our favorite were these six-foot tall fronds that looked like … I don’t know what, precisely. the flowers were also fantastic and multi-colored. on our way out, Nico plucked a bud off a bush and got a conspiratorial wink from a woman (leaving at the same time) who said she visits the gardens often and has, on occasion, plucked a flower or two for herself.

I wish I could capture the full sense of standing on the crest overlooking the beach at Derrynane, and then turning around to look back up at the grand manor house. despite being on such a heavily touristed route, and for receiving as many visitors a year as the place must, it felt remarkably isolated. perhaps it was because we reached the House a half an hour before it closed up for the day and there weren’t that many people about, or because we had to drive so far off the “main” road, along windy, single lane track that was my true introduction to driving in Ireland, but it did feel refreshingly off the beaten path.

Doo Lough Valley

though gorgeous, the Doo Lough Valley is known for one of the more devastating tragedies I heard about the Famine.
 in March 1849, destitute tenants of Louisburgh were told to walk to the lodge at Delphi (where they were told they would meet an inspector who would determine whether they could continue receiving assistance). some six hundred people set out on the twelve-mile walk along a beautiful but desolate valley. when they arrived at Delphi Lodge, they were turned away. (the inspector was supposed to show up in Louisburgh, but went on to Delphi Lodge for some reason instead.) the people were already devestatingly weak from malnutrition and years of living under the oppression of the Famine. numbers are disputed (at least between the places i checked), but on the walk back from Delphi Lodge to Louisburgh as many as 200 people died. there’s a stone cross commemorating the tragedy just over the road from where i am standing in this picture. every year there is a Memorial Walk, and in 1988 (just prior to the abolition of apartheid) Desmond Tutu participated.
that’s the thing about Connemara; because it was so dependant on the potato, the area was particularly affected by the Famine. it seems that around every corner there is some reminder of tragedy on some scale. but in spite of that, life has moved on; can’t dwell on tragedy and loss forever, even if it has dramatically shaped the present and fundamentally altered the course that events might take.
(Joseph O’Connor has an interesting historical fiction novel that personalizes the effects of the Famine, in which the characters hail from Connemara (the nearest town is Clifden, and the Big City is Galway): Star of the Sea.)

Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Castle (now Abbey) was built for Mitchell Henry and his wife during the 1860s. the couple honeymooned in Connemara during the Famine and loved the area so much they determined to establish an estate here. they employed many of the local community in building their new home at a time when there was no work and no prospects, particularly in an area as hard-hit by the potato blight as Connemara. consequently, the family was well respected by the local community, even now i am told.

i chose not to go in to the Abbey gardens or buildings — running short on time and disinclined to spend the entrance fee. but i think the location speaks enough for the place. imagine living here, or attending boarding school here!

after Mitchell Henry’s wife died, he didn’t return to Kylmore and, following his death, it was sold to someone with “new money” (in 1903) who squandered his money and ultimately lost the property (ten years later). in 1920, it was purchased by an order of Benedictine nuns, who have run it as a school since 1923 and who have restored the gardens to their original (and intended) glory. they make pottery, which they sell on the premesis (i got a tea mug with fucias painted on it), and the lake is (apparently) good for fishing.

Albert Memorial Clock Tower

the Albert Memorial Clock Tower in Belfast honors the Prince Consort of Queen Victoria (like every other Victorian-era monument anywhere in the British Empire). completed in 1870, it was built on wooden piles on marshy ground over the River Farset just before it joins the River Lagan. consequently, it leans four feet, which you can’t quite tell from these pictures. at one point, the base of the tower was quite popular for a certain character of women to offer their wares. it’s a straight shot down to the River Lagan, over the weir to the docks, and a large plaza to the west next to the customs house. there’s a large fountain in the plaza to the east of the tower (the kind that shoots water up at different heights in different patterns) and as we walked by there were a pair of sisters playing in the water, tempting fate to get a soaking.