Core Values of SRL: Appreciation
Next up in SRL’s Core Values of G.R.E.A.T.E.R with have A for Appreciation. Appreciation is one of those words with multiple definitions—1) “a feeling or expression of gratitude” 2) “judgement, evaluation” 3) “sensitive awareness, especially: a recognition of aesthetic values” and 4) “increase in value.” While it’s easy to look at these definitions and deny that they have anything to do with a dance studio, the truth is all four of these definitions can and do apply in this studio. Between learning gratitude (for their opportunities, families, fellow dancers, etc.,) appreciating i.e. evaluating their own skills, cultural appreciation, and learning to see their growth as appreciating their own value—SRL dancer know that Appreciation is more than a thank you card. It’s the expression of respect, kindness, and self-love through hard work, dedication, and acknowledgement of others.
The first aspect of appreciation revolves around the idea and action of gratitude, a kind of buzzword these days. But Oprah’s gratitude journals aren’t just a trendy way to sell stationary—there are very real, proven mental health benefits to learning to find, express, and act on our gratitude in our day to day lives (including, of course, dance class!) Our dancers aren’t just in class learning steps (though they’re certainly doing that,) but helping each other learn and grow—just as someone has done for them, and they will continue to do for others. This community-focused gratitude includes their families and the time they sacrifice in support of their dancers’ dreams, appreciation of their teachers and their work, and, always, appreciation of their own hard work and achievements. Learning to feel this gratitude, show it, share it, and practice it can improve moods, lead to more optimistic thinking, improve social bonds, and even have physical health benefits!
The next facet of appreciation sounds like the opposite: “judgement, evaluation.” But in the dance world, we see the ability to self-evaluate as a skill that not only helps dancer become better in the studio, but to grow in all aspects in their life. This isn’t about judging themselves harshly, but rather the ability to self-reflect—whether it be about how much work they need to put in to meet their next goal in dance or in school (and one day, work,) or how their behavior affects others around them. Elementary and secondary educators emphasize the importance of children learning the skill of self-reflection for not only academic growth, but personal growth in their ability to be functioning members of society—it’s an expertise that begins to be taught as early as pre-school in order to see how their actions have consequences. It’s as true in dance as it anywhere else in life!
The next is clearer in Irish dance than perhaps any other dance discipline: cultural appreciation. While all dance disciplines have their own unique, cultural roots, Irish dance has kept an extremely high level of tradition in its dress, steps, and music that helps connect dancers around the world to Ireland’s historic customs and ethos. This has the positive effect of not only connecting them with Irish culture, but instilling in them appreciation for any other culture outside their own. The importance of opening ourselves up to different people, places, histories, and viewpoints can’t be overstated, and there’s no better lens to begin that journey through than the arts. Becoming part of the world, rather than just your part of the world, breeds empathy, opens minds, enhances communication, and allows you to learn! Irish dance and culture is only the beginning.
And lastly, we have the concept of appreciation when it comes to “increase in value”—something we tend to connect with homes, antiques, that kind of thing. So what does it mean for a dancer? At SRL, there’s no value inherent in your competition level, class level, etc., but rather in your own personal path, in setting realistic goals and working toward them, in doing your best and working your hardest. We see this version of appreciation as an increase in self-worth that comes from diligence and commitment, rather than the score the adjudicators hand down—winning is great, and we’ll always celebrate it. But knowing you gave your all is a more priceless victory—the kind that appreciates over time and contributes positively to a dancer’s self-respect and self-confidence.
Appreciation isn’t just a word, it’s an action we enact every day at SRL—from the way we respectfully treat each other, other cultures, and ourselves, expressing our gratitude for the incredible opportunities Irish dance and its community provides. But we haven’t completely covered how to be G.R.E.A.T.E.R. yet! Tune in next time to find out what that capital T is all about!
This post is part of a series. Read our last core values post, all about capital E Excellence, here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
Garden Creature Mythology, Part 2
Read part 1 here
We’re back for week two of the mythology of some of our favorite springtime bugs and beasts—featuring some four-legged friends this time! It finally truly feels like spring here in Connecticut, and while the average April temperatures in Ireland tend to be a little chillier (tends to stay in the 50s there,) it’s remains their first real season of blossoming and blooming as well. So get your wellies and gardening gloves on—we’re diving right under the hedgerow!
The first furry friend on our list is protected under the Wildlife Act of 1976—the badger (aka broc.) Due to the modern realization that they can carry diseases that affect livestock and the age-old (outlawed, but still practiced) sport of badger-baiting, populations are still in decline. But perhaps the folklore around badgers has a bit to do with it as well: badgers have long been considered to be bad luck and an omen of death. There’s an old saying: “Should one hear a badger call, / And then an ullot (owl) cry, / Make thy peace with God, good soul, / For thou shall shortly die.” But, like most things we considered bad luck, there are certain situations where they can be good luck, as well: if a badger crosses behind, rather than in front of you, that’s good, and badger teeth are considered good luck for gamblers. Badgers are quite powerfully built little mammals and will fight aggressively to defend themselves and their homes (underground tunnel systems called “setts,”) leading to a certain reverence for them—some tales even claim they’re actually shape-shifters that are actually warriors.
But those aren’t the only trickster animals in Irish folklore—for none can match the skill and cunning of the sionnach, aka the fox. They too are shapeshifters in the myths, due to their reputations of quick escapes, charming appearance, and ability to adapt to new situations and places. The word “shenanigans” is even thought to come from the Irish word sionnachuighim, meaning “I play the fox”—aka sly and calculating behavior (foxes, after all, can leave false trails to deceive hunters.) They’re so quick-witted, apparently, that they’re even able to foresee the future and hearing their bark is supposed to be an indication of eminent rain. It’s thought to be particularly unlucky if the first thing you see leaving your home in the morning is a fox (or a red-haired female stranger,) especially as a fisherman. But, of course, the fox is assumed to be able to confer good luck simultaneously as they can be a symbol of both diplomacy and protection—one of the “bog bodies” called the Lindow Man (thought to be a 2,000-year-old Druid) was found wearing a fox fur amulet.
On the smaller side we have the gráinneog, or hedgehog, though their small stature didn’t stop them from gathering a negative reputation. The Gaeilge word for hedgehog translates literally to “little, ugly thing” and their odd appearance (which has changed very little over the literal millions of years they’ve existed) has led to some odd superstitions and assumptions. In Ireland, hedgehogs were long thought to be evidence of evil spell work afoot to the point that a bounty was placed upon them during the early witch hunts of 1566. Some even thought that hedgehogs were witches themselves, shapeshifting to avoid detection and to drink milk from cows’ udders (though, it must be noted, hedgehogs are in fact lactose-intolerant.) Similar to the fox, they were considered able to predict changes in weather (probably due to the fact they hibernate when winter’s coming on,) which may actually be where our modern tradition of Groundhog Day comes from. No wonder they’re so abused in folklore—no one likes to hear there’s more winter coming.
Less furry, but still four-legged, we have the losgann, aka frog. The frog is yet another creature associated with witches and magic, as well as the underworld. This may be partly due to the fact that frogs are a late addition to Ireland’s animal life, thought to be introduced in either the 12th century by a Norman ship or even later—perhaps in the early 1600s by Trinity College students (no surprise this second date correspond to times heavy with witch hunts.) As frogs were often associated with potions and spells, the term “frog in the throat” may stem from the Irish superstition that putting a frog in the mouth of a child three times and letting it swim away could cure whopping cough. This isn’t the only illness frogs were said to be able to cure—anything from epilepsy and rheumatism to toothaches and colds. They also can predict the weather, supposedly, though by their color rather than their croak (their croak is, of course, a warning sign as a witch’s familiar.) And make sure not to let them in your home—like so much else, it’s considered bad luck.
Okay, we have to look up one more time for our last garden creature in Irish mythology: the bat, or the laltóg. I know won’t be shocking at this point in this post, but bats have long been associated with witchcraft in Irish lore and are often thought to be the souls of the dead (making it an ill omen if they enter the home or get entangled in your hair.) Like the hedgehog, there were rumors that bats were shapeshifting witches—particularly the enchantress Tehi Tegi, who used her bat form to bring men to their destruction by luring them into rivers. (However, seeing a bat at sunset was considered an omen of fair weather the next day—here are a lot of common themes here!) One of the most notable mentions of bats in all of literature has shaped how we look at bats for over a century--Bram Stoker’s Dracula, first published in 1897. Between the tale of the Irish vampire (the Abhartach,) the behavior of the now-called vampire bat, as well as the shapeshifting lore about bats in general, Irish-born Stoker immortalized a myriad of Irish folktales without many outside Ireland even realizing the origins!
That’s a wrap on garden creatures—though there’s so many more tales and legends we couldn’t fit in here. Folklore and legends prove time and again to be how we make sense of the world around us while science rushes to catch up and explain. So Happy Spring to all creatures big and small, furry and slimy, flying and land-bound, good luck and bad!
This post is part of a series. Read our last folklore post, with five other garden creatures and their mythos, here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
Modern Ireland: Uni Spotlight
Technological University Dublin
For this one, we have to start with a little clarification, as a technological university is a little different from your standard school. While your ordinary university generally covers the whole gamut of subjects available to study, technological schools are usually more STEM-based (i.e. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.) However, that doesn’t mean the arts and humanities are ignored (STEM is often now called STEAM or STREAM for this reason—adding the arts and reading back in as they only augment and enrich a science-based education)—just that the main focus of the uni tends to swing in the direction of science. Technological University Dublin is no different! While TU Dublin’s main focus is on STEM subject matter, it even has an entire school devoted to Arts and Tourism, attracting students across a wider variety of disciplines than their name might suggest.
This becomes even more clear when you learn that TU Dublin is the second largest university in Ireland, with over 28,500 enrolled! These students attend class over five different Dublin-based campuses--Grangegorman, Aungier Street, Bolton Street, Blanchardstown, and Tallaght—each of which mixes the forward gaze their technological school status suggest with Ireland’s most historic cityscape. Grangegorman is the flagship campus (with over a third of the students based there,) and includes one of the gems in TU Dublin’s crown: the Greenway Hub. This brand new and state of the art facility houses the Environmental, Sustainability, and Health Institute, as well as the DIT Hothouse with its start-up incubator. TU Dublin funds many student start-ups themselves, but also partners with multiple companies to help get entrepreneurial students the leg up they need—not to mention access to top-shelf staff, mentors, and research facilities.
TU Dublin as it currently exists is a relatively new school, technically only established in 2019. It’s past has much deeper roots, though—the original iteration, the City of Dublin Technical Schools, dates back to 1887, and the school has been adapting, growing, and absorbing other technical universities along the way ever since. While history can sometimes mean everything in a country as old as Ireland, TU Dublin’s dedication to revising itself is a testament to its current motto: Fédearthachtaí as Cuimse, aka “Infinite Possibilities"—this is a school committed to the cutting edge, doing all they can to help their students solve the world’s most pressing challenges and needs as they arise. A final count of all the different technological schools represented under the TU Dublin banner racks up to (approximately) nine!
While this relatively young university may fall behind in the rankings compared to some of Ireland’s more storied institutions (in the top 1000 schools in World University Rankings versus others under the 500 mark)--it does rank in the 200s when it comes to Impact, and in the top 400 in Young Universities. In terms of student satisfaction, it’s a definite win: the research site Study Portals ranks TU Dublin (in their cumulative Global Student Satisfaction Awards) at a 4.0 Overall Satisfaction and Student-Teacher Interaction, a 4.1 for Quality of Student Life, an impressive 4.4 for Student Diversity, and a whopping 4.6 for the ease of the Admissions Process. This reportedly stems from the breadth of student accommodation, the sheer number of societies and sports clubs, extensive library services, as well as its stand out: their comprehensive ICT services that make sure students have the most up to date technological services at their fingertips.
And all that without mentioning the benefit of living in Dublin! Whether you’re there for app development, environmental studies or the creative arts, in the School of Media or the College of Sciences and Health, TU Dublin lets students live smack in the middle of an intellectual, cosmopolitan city. From the history and culture to the unending activities and excellent public transport (not to mention ease of travel to other European destinations,) Dublin is an incredible place to experience college life!
But Dublin isn’t the only place worth visiting in Ireland! You’ll have to tune in next time to learn about another technological university—but in Munster!
This post is part of a series. Read our last modern Ireland post, with some YA book recs, here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
Garden Creature Mythology, Part 1
Happy spring, to one and all! With Easter just past (check out last year’s posts about Easter and springtime Irish traditions,) it’s finally starting to feel like the blooming season is upon us. To celebrate the return of the sun (and the feeling in our fingers,) we thought we’d bring the blossoming garden to the blog today with some interesting mythology surrounding the creatures waking up around us!
First up, the robin—the harbinger of spring across the world (slightly different species of this red-breasted little bird lives all across North America, Europe, and Africa.) In Irish, the European robin is called the spideóg, and spring isn’t what they’re considered a harbinger of…but rather, a death in the household (if they fly in or are tapping on your window.) However, other mythology surrounding the robin is more positive: robins are said to have plucked the thorns from Jesus’s brow, staining their breasts red (or possibly, the red is from fanning the flames of the hearth to keep the baby Jesus warm.) Similarly, they’re often depicted in Celtic folklore doing a good turn or granting wishes for people, so killing them is considered a grave offense that would result in a lump on or a tremor in the offender’s hand. As the saying goes: “Kill a robin or a wren, never prosper, boy or man."
But the robin isn’t the only bird that features in Irish folklore—as you can tell from the above quote, wrens (aka dreoilín) also feature prominently. Wrens were considered a sacred bird (also called the magus avium, or “magic bird”) by the Druids of ancient Ireland who were said to have practiced divination using their song, seeing them as symbols of wisdom and divinity. They’re considered the “King of Birds” for, as the story goes, when all the birds gathered to hold a competition to elect their king, the wren defeated the eagle through a clever deception—he hid upon the eagle’s back and thus was able to fly higher than him when no one thought he could! It’s also said that a wren’s nest is protected by lightning—try to steal their eggs, and you’d be struck!
Though we don’t associate them with the sun (despite the fact that not all species are nocturnal,) owls also have their place in the Celtic mythos (and in the garden—owls are important parts of their ecosystems as they control small animal populations.) The ulchabhán’s folklore is more fit for October than April, as owls are thought to be of the shadows and the otherworld, essentially representing and foretelling death (oftentimes called “the corpse bird”.) There’s even a 12th century story associated with the owl—when the god-like figure Gwydion creates a bride out of flowers (Blodeuedd—“flower face”) for his nephew Lleu. However, when the flower bride betrays her husband, she’s cursed by being transformed into an owl so she may never see the sun and will be tormented by other birds.
On a barely lighter note, we have the allegorical life cycle of the féileacán—aka the butterfly, which is thought to be a physical manifestation of a soul. The transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly exemplifies the now Christian idea of birth, death, and resurrection (and once the Druidic belief of the return to nature after death,) and the way butterflies hover in place is thought to represent a soul reluctant to move on. It’s thought that the ancient custom of flowers at a funeral derive from this belief, as flowers attract butterflies. The belief went so deep that into the 1600s, it was even common law that it was illegal to kill a white butterfly, as they were thought to be the souls of lost children.
And lastly we have one of the most important visitors to any garden—the bees! Bees (aka bumbóg) and their honey have long been considered such an important part of the Irish way of life, that it’s said you must treat them as you would your own family lest they take offense. That means the bees must be told (in a whisper, they hate a harsh word) of all births, deaths (along with a black ribbon laid across the hive,) and marriages (along with a slice of cake!) Bees were thought to be very wise in Celtic mythology, able to travel between worlds as messengers—so anything they did that could be considered an omen was taken very seriously. For example, bees swarming a dead branch predicted a death nearby, but a swarm in your garden would be a sign of good luck to come. Bees were so important there were even ancient laws protecting them! Called the Bech Bretha, these laws governed the treatment of bees and the ownership of bees, including the reparations made if someone was stung (and the much harsher punishment if that person lashed out at the bees!)
While this week we looked to sky, we’ll be returning to earth the next with part 2 of garden creature mythology!
This post is part of a series. Read our mythology post, all about Ireland’s name and the goddess Éiru, here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
Core Values of SRL: Excellence
And just like that, we’re on to capital E, Excellence, in our series about SRL’s core values (i.e. G.R.E.A.T.E.R—check out Growth and Respect first!) Excellence is defined, somewhat ambiguously, as: “the quality of being excellent.” And excellent is? According to Merriam-Webster: “very good of its kind, eminently good, first class.” There’s something very interesting hidden in this imprecise and rather elliptical definitions—the words “quality” and “of its kind.” Because excellence at SRL isn’t only measured by the adjudicator marks or a teacher’s comments, but as a more indefinable quality, something each individual dancer strives for on their own terms—because we know each dancer is of their own kind.
We are, of course, all about achieving excellence in the realm of Irish dance—each class at SRL is focused on the best conditioning, training, education, and choreography for each and every dancer, at each and every level. Our staff is a team of highly experienced instructors—both as teachers and in the world of Irish dance—and we take care to include student helpers in most classes to ensure individual attention is paid to each dancer (while giving the helpers a chance to learn how to be dance educators and mentors!) Our dancers lead the way on the competitive circuit, but we also see excellence on the smaller, everyday stage of the studio with the success of our Tiny Jig and Pre-Beginner programs. Excellence, at SRL, is a spectrum, and we embrace that excellence is a quality very much “of its kind.”
In that same spirit, striving for excellence on the dance floor is only one part of it—because every dancer is different, moving at different speeds, with different goals, all while experiencing the world as different people in different ways. We’re here to help our dancers find their individual definitions for excellence in the studio. And while Irish dance has its own qualities to work on, what we practice in the studio is reflected in the real world by helping students learn that real excellence is a personal journey and not necessarily a destination. There is no absolute definition for excellence, because excellence is a process of always working to better oneself in after some self-reflection, self-examination, and self-knowledge.
To give a concrete example: while one dancer might have some extra work to perfect her reel in dance class, needs to work on picking up after herself at home, and struggles with writing prompts in school, another might need help with his hornpipe in dance class, have a hard time communicating with his siblings at home, and be in need of assistance in math at school. While dancers may not see the correlation, dance can help instill important life lessons—resilience, goal-setting, problem solving, determination, the list goes on and on—by both the repetition of these skills in class and the benefit of kinesthetic learning dance allows for. So when dancers strive for excellence in dance class—personal excellence rather than a specific definition—they’re learning to strive for excellence in all parts of their lives.
We know there’s no pinnacle to reach, no one definition of excellence. Not in dance, and certainly not in life. At SRL we try for capital E is for Excellence by acknowledging that excellence is personal, not comparative. To be excellent is to be the best version of you—because only you can define that indefinable quality, and you are the only you of your kind.
This post is part of a series. Read our last core values post, all about Respect, here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
Young Adult Books, Part 2
Check out part 1 here!
As the school year creeps to a close, it’s easy for our YA-aged dancers (somewhere in the 13 to 18-year-old range) to feel bogged down all their school work. So why not give them something to read for fun instead? We’ve gathered together five (very different) YA books by Irish authors, set in Ireland, perfect for the YA Irish dancer in your life!
1. Perfectly Preventable Deaths, Deidre Sullivan
In the first part of this two-book series, readers are introduced to 16-year-old twins Catlin and Madeline as they move into a castle located in a small, isolated Irish town called Ballyfran. Even as the girls begin to grow apart—Madeline discovering her skill at witchcraft, and Catlin falling in love—they begin to realize that Ballyfran isn’t all that it seems. The seemingly sleepy town holds many a dark secret (and more than a few even darker inhabitants,) including the fact that for the past 60 years, teenage girls have mysteriously gone missing from the town. When Catlin finds herself in trouble, Madeline must really look at who she is—and who she’s willing to become—to help her sister. Eerie and haunting, but beautifully wrought, Sullivan’s book is full of twists and turns as if the reader is traversing the darkling wood alongside the twins as readers reflect on family and sacrifice.
2. Hope Against Hope, Sheena Wilkinson
Wilkinson, a five-time winner of the Children’s Books Ireland award (among other accolades,) tackles one of the most turbulent times in Irish history in this emotive and moving novel. Polly is a 15-year-old girl in 1921, living in the fictional town of Mullankeen near the border that’s been recently drawn between Ireland and Northern Ireland. When Polly’s difficult home life becomes too much, she takes off to even more turbulent Belfast where she finds solace and a new home at Helen’s Hope—a feminist and non-sectarian hostel for young women. Set against a richly described backdrop of a gritty and violent Belfast, Wilkinson balances the historical details against a character-driven plot that tells us more of the time than history books alone. This book is technically the third in a loosely connected series depicting important events through a young, female protagonist—readers can also check out Name Upon Name, set in 1916 during the Easter Rising, as well as Star Upon Star, which depicts the General Election of 1918, when woman first had the right to vote in Ireland.
3. The Carnival at Bray, Jessie Ann Foley
In this award-winning (and heavily nominated) book, Foley tells the story of 16-year-old Maggie Lynch as she’s made to move from Chicago to a small town on the Irish Sea with her mother and her mother’s latest boyfriend. The year is 1993, and Maggie misses the music scene of the big city and her grunge-rocker, 20-something Uncle Kevin, finding it just as hard to fit in in Ireland as she did in America. However, the small town begins to open a new world to her and through her friendships with the locals—a 99-year-old man, a bookish girl, and sweet boy she may just be falling in love with—Maggie finds pockets of security in amidst familial turmoil. With the twin formative experiences of death and first love happening in tandem, this powerful and transformative story anchors itself in the evocative and deeply felt world of music. Make sure to check out more of Foley’s work as well—the Irish-American streak runs strong!
4. The Bull Raid, Carlo Gébler
On an original and very different note, Gébler’s adapted a famous, epic Irish poem, “The Cattle Raid of Cooley” for YA readers, melding ancient myth with modern telling. Presented as a story within a story, almost lost to time, the narrative follows the half-human, half-god Cuchulainn. Since childhood, Cuchulainn has shown himself to have supernatural powers, including escaping from the curse that plagues the rest of the men of Ulster. The curse saps the strength of the men during the winter, leaving the covetable Brown Bull of Ulster vulnerable to attack by the renowned Queen Maeve of Connacht–which leaves Cuchulainn to take on an army all on his own. Gébler takes an old tale and breathes new life into it, creating real characters out of legend—including a teenage boy with too many responsibilities on his plate—in this beautifully told, if sometimes brutal, saga.
5. Into the Grey, Celine Kiernan
Kiernan’s novel brings us a rarity in typical YA fiction: a male protagonist. Well, two! Twin brothers Patrick and Dominic are devastated when their family home burns down and they’re forced to move into a summer seaside cottage in mid-winter. This eerie, fog-drenched, Irish setting sounds like the setup of a ghost story—because that’s exactly what it is. Pat and Dom are beset by nightmares soon after they move in, but slowly discover that these nightmares aren’t just their imaginations, but something more sinister from the past. Set in the early 1970s, Kiernan combines family and local history into a story about love, loyalty, and what we’ll do to protect those we care about in this deft combination of historical and supernatural fiction. Poetic, touching, and occasionally scary, this energetic story is punctuated by Irish diction that helps you sink into the world of the story.
Want a few more options? Check out this great list of YA by Irish authors!
This post is part of a series. Read modern Ireland post, all about DCU, here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
Modern Ireland: Uni Spotlight
Dublin City University
With four major universities and approximately 120,000 students within the city limits, it’s not surprising that we’re turning the spotlight back to Dublin again. This time our focus is on Dublin City University (DCU,) one of Ireland’s youngest (but up and coming!) universities. Founded in 1975 as the National Institute of Higher Education, Dublin, the school first enrolled students in 1980 and was elevated to the university rank in 1989. These days, it’s a thriving 85-acre campus with over 17,000 students (one-fifth of them international) and a thoroughly modern approach to education that’s led to its inclusion on the Times Higher Education Young University rankings year after year.
DCU’s motto is “Ireland’s University of Enterprise” and its take on revamping the Irish higher education system is the perfect example of how it lives up to the name. Beyond holding its own as a research-driven institution that’s led to it becoming one of Ireland’s fastest growing universities, DCU takes an extra step in fostering entrepreneurship with its technologically advanced Innovation and Enterprise Center—“The Invent.” This center is “the university’s commercialization and technology transfer unit where we work with companies and organizations to bring university research to the marketplace.” DCU works with companies of all sizes, connecting them with talented researchers and supporting startups both financially and through access to top research. On the student side, that means research funding while your intellectual property rights are protected with built in networking to help get your ideas to the open market.
DCU’s main research focuses span subjects falling under the following areas: health technology for a healthy society, educational research and innovation, democratic and secure societies, information technology and digital society, sustainability in economics and societies, and advanced manufacturing and materials. There’s a strong focus on interdisciplinary research, as DCU recognizes that “the greatest impact is achieved from a critical mass of multidisciplinary researchers tackling major research challenges. Such is the nature and complexity of these challenges facing the world that international collaboration is essential to make significant and sustained advances.” DCU is a truly modern university that is looking outward, toward global rather than institutional advancement.
But DCU’s innovations don’t stop at science, technology, and business, but cover the arts and humanities, as well. The impressive John and Aileen O’Reilly Library boasts 400 workstations, 1,200 seats, and 18 group rooms and “bills itself as the first university library to put digital records on the same footing as books and journals, granting access to some 250,000 volumes, a number that is growing as technology improves.” This has been a huge boon during Covid, as it’s allowed the university to continue with its record of academic excellence, all while shifting learning methods.
Student life is just another part of the college experience that DCU excels at! The school had multiple campuses—all situated in Northern Dublin closely enough that students can walk or cycle between them—that marry the social life of campus societies, clubs (over 120 to choose from!), and events with city living. DCU is one of the few Irish universities that has guaranteed housing for first year students on campus (and a host of other accommodations, as well!) Many students still chose to live in the city, as Dublin is known for its bustling nightlife, amazing restaurants, historic curiosities, and extensive galleries and museums, to say nothing of the many concerts, festivals, and events the city hosts every year. DCU might not have a storied history like some other schools, but it definitely has a bright and vibrant future with all it has to offer!
But we’ve still got one more university in Dublin to cover! Join us next time where we’ll take a look at Technological University Dublin!
This post is part of a series. Read modern Ireland post, all about kid-friendly Irish films, here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
Irish History: Volume XVII
Irish Inventions, Part 3
Check out part 1 and part 2 first!
1. The “bacon rasher” (aka English/Irish bacon versus the “streaky bacon” we colonists prefer,) was invented by Waterford butcher Henry Denny in 1820. This technique—cutting thin slices of pork loin and sandwiching them in between layers of salt to better cure it aka give it a longer shelf life—allowed for the long-distance distribution of meat, opening Ireland’s meat production to buyers beyond its shores.
2. Less delicious, but equally innovative, Castlebar-born Louis Brennan invented the guided torpedo in 1874. Though he started his career as a watchmaker, his patent for his invention was reportedly purchased by the British War Office for over £100,000 (more than 12 million pounds today.)
3. Born in Wexford, Ireland in 1822, Dr. Arthur Leared is now best known for inventing the binaural stethoscope—but only years later! The good doctor presented his work at the 1851 Great Exhibition and the next year an American named George Camman had created the first commercially sold stethoscope…but history has righted things, and we all know the truth now.
4. Did you know croquet, the mainstay of very English gardens, is actually, originally Irish? The game of croquet was invented as far back as the 1830s by the Archbishop of Tuam in County Galway. He even hosted tournaments—the popularity of which made sure the English had their hands on the game by the 1850s.
5. Known as “the father of emergency medicine, Professor Frank Pantridge is the inventor of the portable defibrillator. Born in County Down, the cardiologist’s medical training was interrupted by WWII, but he survived and went on to conceive of this device that’s now saved countless lives by 1965.
6. Speaking of life-saving medical marvels, we can’t forget the likes of Dr. James Barry, who performed the first successful cesarian section in 1826. Dr. Barry was born as Margaret Ann Bulkley in Cork in 1789, and kept the secret of her birth gender until her death in 1865, saving countless lives as a doctor (which she couldn’t have worked as if the truth was known) and obstetrician in her lifetime.
7. County Down-born Harry Ferguson is the man we have to thank for much of the food on our tables—he invented the modern tractor in 1936. His real break came when Henry Ford decided to back the project in 1939, allowing for a larger commercial production, but that relationship soured and the two were caught up in litigation for years. Still beats the plough!
8. Dubliner Walter Gordon is another military inventor—he’s who we have to thank for the tank! An engineer for the British forces during WWI, helped shock and overrun the German forces on the Somme in 1916, though the original design has been much improved in subsequent years.
9. Though Sir Charles Algernon Parsons was born in London, his heritage was Irish—he was the son of the Earl of Rosse, with a family seat at Birr Castle in County Offlay. Parsons’s father was known for interest in astronomy, but Parsons set his sights down to earth, where he invented the steam engine in 1884 and helped pioneer the use of electricity.
10. And lastly, we have Irish-American immigrant and laborer Humphrey O’Sullivan, who invented the rubber soled shoe. O’Sullivan worked at a print shop in Lowell, Massachusetts, and was suffering from fatigue from standing on hard floors all day—so he nailed a rubber floor mat to the bottom of his shoes. He started production in 1899 with only a $7k investment, selling the business in 1908 for approximately $4 million!
We hope all these incredible Irish inventors inspire you to go out and create, solve problems, and make the world a better place!
This post is part of a series. Read our last Irish History post, all about Irish Nobel Laureates, here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
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