2013 – what a year!

Well here we all are on the last day of 2013 and what a year it has been for those of us involved in the Tower at Howth. My colleague and I who are completing the cataloguing project at the museum have been busy with not only our own day jobs but also with our work at and for the museum!

Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio – Howth

So I’ve decided to do a quick rundown of the events we’ve been fortunate enough to be involved with as part of the Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio…

The year started off with the creation of this blog as another way of highlighting the collection and the events that Pat and the lads get involved in. Whilst we were focusing on collecting the data and the images of the collection that is currently stored in the basement of the Martello Tower… Pat was working on the important anniversaries to mark in 2013.

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Marconi tests at our Martello Tower in 1905

First up was International Marconi Day on Saturday 20th April – the lads welcomed many amateurs to the tower to be involved in celebrating the day where for 24 hours radio enthusiasts celebrate the birth of Marconi on 25th April 1874. Not content with a busy Saturday – on Sunday the 21st April Pat and the lads were at the Vintage Fashion & Decor Fair that took place at the Burlington Hotel. This was the first event that we joined them at – assisting visitors to the Fair in understanding the collection and some of the artefacts we took out of the museum to celebrate the history of communication. It was a busy and interesting day, interacting with the audience, seeing the wonder on children’s faces when they played with the ‘dial’ telephone; explaining the difference between the styles and the development of radio & telecommunication.

 'Have you the Endurance - Explore Dublin, past and present.'


‘Have you the Endurance – Explore Dublin, past and present.’

April was a very busy month for us! As the following weekend we held our Endurance Tour of Historical Dublin. We took a group through the streets of Dublin as we walked we discovered the history of Dublin from the Vikings to the Napoleonic Wars and finishing off in 1850 after the famine. This tour came about via a chance Twitter conversation about Tom Crean and the lager with his name brewed by the Dingle Brewing Co. We decided to call it Endurance – as on the route we would take in pubs that had Tom Crean’s Lager on tap and… to go through the walking tour you had to have Endurance. We began at 130pm at the Brazen Head and finished at 9pm in Kennedy’s on Westland Row. Whilst the tour finished at 9pm… the celebrations and chat didn’t end til closing. However, it wasn’t all about the drink… friendships were formed and connections were made on the walk – we had an international gathering for the tour from Brazil, Denmark, Sweden, France, Italy and even a few Irish thrown into the mix. This tour was created in order to highlight the history of Dublin and how it related to the building of the Martello Towers and their importance in Irish history.

July was the next big event for us with the celebration and commemoration of the Kingstown Regatta. This was a joint event Kingstown poster 4conducted between the Hurdy Gurdy Museum and the National Maritime Museum in Dun Laoghaire. During the day, communication was established between the two sites and the unique call signs EI115MAR and EI115KR were utilised throughout the day. Throughout the day we also had The Transmission Project recording at the tower and you can see the fruits of their labour here. On the weekend of the 27th July I conducted a ‘tweetup’ on #MartelloTowers exploring the history behind the towers construction not only in Dublin but across the globe during the Napoleonic Wars. In July, I also began to share my photographic exploits as I documented the accessible Martello Towers here in Dublin. During the August bank holiday weekend I took a trip to Bere Island to explore the military archaeology of the island and photograph the two extant Martello Towers. The balmy summer months that we experienced in 2013 also saw the J24 Worlds come to Howth in August. A very exciting few days both in Howth itself and out on the water. Here in the tower we also had a brief interaction with those taking part – a key factor in Marconi’s development of radio was his interest in serving the maritime community. Radio and mariners have had strong links from the start. Anyone who has been unfortunate enough to suffer a mishap whilst at sea understands only too well the importance of the lifeline that their radio is.

Culturenight2013Not content with a busy and balmy summer… Pat was then approached by Julian Clancy and asked to provide a ‘pop-up’ museum based in the ground floor of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland for Culture Night 2013. We were delighted to be asked by Pat to assist on the night alongside the team from the Hurdy Gurdy, in explaining the various artefacts that Pat had chosen as highlights of his collection. Everyone from the team enjoyed the night – engaging and interacting with the many people who visited the Broadcasting Authority on Culture Night 2013. Pat also brought along his Ediphone cylinder recorder which definitely caused a stir amongst those present who were fortunate enough to hear it when played to illustrate the importance of the work of the National Folklore Collection.

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Science Week 2013

November was filled with science – we had started our winter opening hours as usual but for Science Week we were open daily and we had free admission alongside our tours. Science is a key component of the history of communication from the discoveries and work of Volta, Faraday, Hertz, Lodge, and Tesla. To the developments and work of De Forest and Marconi – so not only our Martello Tower but the collection itself – is well placed to explain the importance of science in our daily lives. The team at the tower welcomed visitors and delighted adults and children alike with their tours that illustrate the history of communication not only in Ireland but across the globe. November also saw us back again at the Vintage Fair – this time in the Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire. Pat had created a display again to illustrate key items from his collection. One thing I’ve encountered frequently with our visitors is the emotional impact of some of our artefacts. Time and again through discussions with visitors and enthusiasts alike, people are transported back to their childhood, visiting their grandparents parlour to listen to their ‘valve radio’ or watch the telly in an aunt’s drawing-room. Fond memories are explored. Something as ubiquitous as a radio or an old telephone, can stir up strong feelings and impact not only our visitors but ourselves alike. It is one of the humbling aspects of our role with the museum and with the collection.

All in all it’s been a fascinating year for us involved with the Hurdy Gurdy, we’ve had lots of visits from our Twitter friends as well as from those on a day trip to Howth who just happen to discover us whilst exploring the Howth environs. We’re looking forward to another busy year, more anniversaries to celebrate with the coming of 2014… the Howth gunrunning for one! My colleague and I will continue our cataloguing project, we’re in this for the long haul. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Pat and the lads at the tower as well as all our visitors and those that have interacted and supported us during 2013. Onwards to more wonderful endeavours in 2014 from all of us at the Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio based in Martello Tower North #2…

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During the months of November to April the Hurdy Gurdy is open only on

Saturday & Sunday 11am until 4pm.

From May – October open daily.

Admission is charged to Adults & Students/OAP’s, but children are admitted free.

Issac Butt - 1874 election when 64 Home Rule party members became MP's

Issac Butt – 1874 election when 64 Home Rule party members became MP’s

Guided tours are provided of the various collections, illustrating the vast connections between Ireland, the history of communication and the Martello Tower itself.

Thousands of people – both international visitors to these shores and Irish – visit Howth (Binn ÉadairÉadar’s peak) walking to the top of Howth head for the stunning vistas it affords. Whilst here in Howth, many stop to take pictures from the Hurdy Gurdy plateau – an ideal spot for panoramic views of Ireland’s Eye (Viking Ey for island) and Lambay Island. It is also possible to view the Martello Tower on Ireland’s Eye from our plateau, highlighting the signalling connection between the two towers.

But most whilst visiting pass by the tower without attempting the ascent up the steps to view the collections within. If you are intending to visit Howth, take a look at some of our items within the collection… and release your inner culture vulture by making your way up our steps to the treasures contained within.