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.


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.


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…

How do you eat an elephant?

How does one eat an elephant? – this was a poignant question posed to me today.

How do you eat an elephant?

The context? I have been allowed the mammoth opportunity to catalogue a tower full of treasures. How did this come about? Well, the good people at the Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio have let me in, to document as much of their vast collection as is possible. The contents of the Martello Tower, over looking Irelands Eye island in Howth Co. Dublin is comprised of all manner of communication devices spanning decades and even centuries.

The collection is a lifetime compilation of the museum’s curator, Mr. Patrick Herbert. Pat gained access to the historical tower which was used by Marconi’s communications company since 1905 and had its first broadcast in 1903. It’s the ideal site to house this collection. Even though Pat and his band of volunteers have provided this museum service for the past ten years, the collection had not been catalogued. As this venture is not for profit and purely for the love of radio, I asked if I could create a catalogue of these much cared for items.

So, where to start? I first needed to check if the museum had the basics which, we or at least I, very much take for granted these days: broadband and a functioning computer. Phew, it was all there.

Now I had options. My initial research into collection managment systems (open source of course) lead me to create a local server. I began this process, but the deeper I got into it the more cons there were than pros. I looked at “Collective Access” and other such systems. Testing the Apache server proved too slow on my computer. For this reason, I felt that any excessive drain on the museum’s computer was not an option, so I looked to the cloud for another solution.

Luckily web 2.0 offers a wealth of options. My favourite and chosen tool is Omeka.net. Here a free collection management space allows 500MB which is ample for this project, as can hold up to 5000 items if the photo size is reduced significantly.

In order to failsafe against account losses or other incidents, I also decided to create a local Access database. This database will hold a back-up list of all items in the Omeka space.

So how do you eat an elephant? One bit at a time…

Originally composed in June 2012


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.

Upcoming events

Join the team from Ye Olde Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio on

Saturday 27th April 2013 3pm at the Brazen Head Pub for the start of our historical tour.

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

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

Taking in 10 historical drinking establishments along the way.

We will journey through the history of the city from the edge of medieval Dublin into the heart of 19th century Georgian Dublin.

You can learn more here as we are on The Gathering site also.

Keep an eye on this blog for further information and details.

This tour is sponsored by Tom Crean’s Lager and the Dingle Brewing Company and the tour is strictly for over 18s only.

There will be 6 specific staging posts for where the tour will take place along the map route.

165 20070908 Dublin - Dublin Castle - Coach House and Dubh Linn GardenStarting at the Brazen Head – with an introduction to the genesis of the town of Dublin – a city so good they named it twice ‘Dubh Linn‘ and ‘Baile Átha Cliath‘ – both names have historical and topographical significance.

We will then traverse the river Liffey over the Father Matthew Bridge (1818 – previously the only bridge across the Liffey dating from 1014 and 1428). Taking note of the width of the river – which had been three times its current width during the times of the Vikings and the Normans. Land reclamation and quay building firstly with timber and later with the inclusion of stone has altered the width of this tidal river. As we cross, we will be crossing close to the ‘ford of the hurdles’ for which the city secures its Irish title – Átha Cliath. Unlike our forbears, we will not get our feet wet as we cross the river. We are now entering ‘Ostmen’s town’ or ‘Oxmantown’ – the town of the men of the East. This is where the Vikings and the Irish settled after the Normans took the town of Dublin in 1170. Hints of this history can be seen in the street names Oxmantown Lane for one. We will stop in Smithfield market to further elaborate on this historical area. You can then refresh your thirst at the Cobblestone pub…

We will then move through the town of the Ostmen to Mary Street where our next stop will be The Church. Site of St Mary’s Abbey – we will then 5373610500_78458f4879_z1discover that we are standing on what had been the wealthiest Cistercian Abbey in Ireland. All that remains is the Chapter House and the Slype. Here we will discover the changes that the Reformation brought to Dublin and to Ireland. The Reformation was a slow developer here in Ireland, Henry VIII disestablished the monasteries and many families in Dublin became very rich from taking over previous religious settlements. However, the Protestant faith did not really take hold until the reign of James I of England (VI of Scotland) after he ‘planted’ his Protestant subjects mainly from Scotland in the northern part of the island. This is keenly illustrated in the records of St Anne’s Guild based in St Audoen’s Church on High Street. Where Catholic masses were still being conducted well after the establishment of the Church of England and of Ireland.

3332022734_b5fb893344_zWe will then progress back across the Liffey and visit the Temple Bar area of Dublin, now the must see destination for most tourists… but the current endeavours provide little indication of the rich history within these cobbled streets. But look around at the various styles of architecture, and you will catch a glimpse of how this area has altered over the centuries. Facets of its history are still present – the society of Friends or Quakers settled in this area and set up their Meeting House (Meeting House Square) in Eustace Street. Famous Quaker families have become household names here in Ireland through the course of their business exploits – Bewley’s, Jacobs and Goodbody. Whilst we’re here we will visit Brewery Lane and Farrington’s were you can gain a little of Temple Bar’s famous hospitality and refresh your feet for the next stage of the tour.

We will then cross over Dame Street to O’Neill’s pub where across the road outside the dublin16aTourist Centre we will have our next stage on the tour outside the St Andrew’s Church. As late as the 1640’s, Dublin was a medieval town largely confined within its town walls.  Cromwellian soldiers, Huguenot refugees and Palatine families settled in Dublin and the population rose steadily. It doubled to 60,000 by the end of the century – making Dublin the second city of the British Empire. Despite the embargoes placed on the Irish colony, trade grew by adapting and becoming more market orientated – dairy produce for Continental Europe, woollen produce for the English market. Large-scale deforestation opened up new tracts of land and agricultural methods improved.

We will then move onto Bruxelles, where we will learn a little more on the expansion of Dublin. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Dublin prospered and grew substantially, with the development of a number of relatively wealthy housing schemes for the landed nobility and gentry, the growing merchant class, administrators and those who served them. This is what became a golden age of architecture for Dublin, more widely known as Georgian Dublin. With the developments of the former Sackville Street now O’Connell Street into a wide boulevard under the auspices of the wide street commission. Whilst in this area you can relax in 3 different establishments – Bruxelles, Neary’s and Sheehan’s – spoilt for choice so you are.

screen-shot-2010-07-18-at-19-04-24From this stage we will meander some of the streets leading up past the palatial St Stephen’s Green and our last port of call prior to our final stop at Kennedy’s will be at what is commonly known amongst Dubliners as ‘Tone Henge’. Here we will learn a little about the turn of the 1800’s – a turbulent time in both Ireland and in Europe. With the unification of Ireland with England in 1801 meaning an end to the Irish parliament in Dublin and a change in the fortunes of the Irish ascendency. BHBVTEECYAENBjj.jpg large

Coupled with the threat of the Napoleonic Wars and the constant fear of invasion, led to the construction of a series of defences along the Dublin coastline of Martello Towers. These military towers were to be an early warning system and a means of defence against the expected French invasion… which never took place. Our museum is housed in Martello Tower #2 out in Howth. During the early 1800’s we also had the rise of Daniel O’Connell and the struggle for Catholic Emancipation, finally achieved in 1829. There is so much to delve into with Irish and Dublin history – this tour is just a taster. We will then take ourselves for a final beverage in Kennedy’s (established in 1850) and if you have lasted til the end you have indeed the Endurance of Tom Crean!

If you miss the start catch us on route using our web app  for a full list of pubs and arrival times. It works on almost all mobile devices.

This tour is sponsored by Tom Crean’s Lager and the Dingle Brewing Company and the tour is strictly for over 18’s only.