A host of treasures

The Hurdy Gurdy collection hosts a vast array of artefacts – some of which we will share with here on our blog here and on our Flickr – click here to see a small selection of images.

Michael Collins plate

Michael Collins plate

Royal Canadian Air Force Signalling Lamp

Royal Canadian Air Force Signalling Lamp

Mullard valve box

Mullard valve box

Black Cat & Fortunes

Lighthouse Bulb

Lighthouse Bulb

Gentleman's pocket shaving kit

Gentleman’s pocket shaving kit

Woodbine pack with 4 cigarettes

Woodbine pack with 4 cigarettes

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.