Fieldwork notes – June 2010

These last two days, I have been doing some fieldwork on the Catholic statues, placed in residential areas of Dublin. With the help of Dympna Doyle and a few others, I have identified 18 sites in and around the Dublin city area. There is a small number of suburban areas left to chart but for the most part these statues and grottos are placed in working class areas of Dublin city. There may also be something about these grottos marking the boundaries of their areas but that’s another day’s theorising.That might have more to do with the fact that I wanted my cycling tours to end at those points!

Two contrasting experiences in the last few days points to the joys of getting the head out of the books – or more accurately, out of Thomson Reuter’s Web of Knowledge. It was about 3.30 yesterday afternoon and I was cycling around Dublin 8 looking for the fifth site of the day. I thought that I would ask an older man coming out of his house if he knew where the Catholic grotto is in the estate. Older people tend to know these things, both having been more likely to have lived in the area a long time and more likely to have had some knowledge of Catholic practice. Not only did this man know where it was but he also was the one responsible for its maintenance for the past 25 years. I asked if I called to him again soon could we talk about the grotto and his role in its maintenance and he agreed. This is one of those rare moments when my intentions and his interests met randomly.

On Monday, a visit to a site in Dublin 1 resulted in angry dismissal. The door of the house next to the grotto was open so I thought I would knock on it and see if the resident knew anything about the grotto. She sat in the shadows on a sofa and faced away to my left. She did not hear my initial

“I’m interested in the grotto next door and wondering if I can ask you about…”

What? (I took a step of no more than four inches further.)

“I’m interested in the statue there…”

Don’t you step into my house, don’t you dare step inside my house!

“I didn’t mean to….” another woman appeared who appeared to be a bit more forthcoming. They knew nothing about it so why didn’t I go a few doors up. I took my leave quickly.

You never know what you get.


2 thoughts on “Fieldwork notes – June 2010

  1. I must ask; is there a political campaign to have these statues removed? If these statues were in the United States, it seems like we would have people claiming that they violated religious freedom or something.

    1. As far as I am aware, there is no campaign to rid Ireland of these statues. And that may well be one of the key differences between Ireland and the US, in as much as they can be compared. In the US, there tends to be a clear conception what the republic means, to a greater or lesser degree. In Ireland, there is no clear delineation when our suppression by the UK was to have ended and the republican dream was to have unfolded. Despite this difference, many of these statues were ercted in the mid-1950s, about 5 years after the semi-formal declaration of Ireland as a republic. Thanks for your comment, keep reading.

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