Decade of Centenaries 2021

David Gunning is the Decade of Centenaries dlr Historian in Residence for 2021.

David took inspiration from the archives, collections and heritage buildings under the custodianship of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and has developed a programme of exhibitions and events for Autumn/Winter 2021.  The programme explores new perspectives on the Big House in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown with a focus on the shifting social foundations in the run up to, during and after the War of Independence. 

The key dlr Decade of Centenaries exhibition, Shifting Foundations, opened on December 9th and is now on display in dlr LexIcon. It explores the stories of the big houses in dlr in the run up to, during and after the War of Independence and includes never before published photos. Panels explore the histories of Marlay, Fernhill, Cabinteely and Airfield Houses, the big house during the War of Independence and the big house as religious institution. It also includes a section on the little buildings that guarded the grand houses - the gate lodges of dlr - many of which remain in place around the county.

The exhibition accompanies a new book, Shifting Foundations, The Big Houses of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, edited by David Gunning and including chapters from Peter Pearson, Rob Goodbody, Georgina Sweetnam, Nicola Kelly and Deirdre Raftery. The book is available at dlr Lexicon or Dubray books, Dún Laoghaire. 

To mark the centenary of the signing of the Treaty, an outoor exhibition was launched by An Cathaoirleach at dlr Lexicon on December 6th. Gateway to Independence charts the role of Dún Laoghaire Harbour as a place of departure and arrival for the negotiating delegation and includes up close photographs of the men and women involved in this crucial time for the emerging new state.

In October, the new publication "Haunted Houses and Creepy Castles of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown" was launched with words by David Gunning and illustrations by Katelyn McKenna. It brings the stories and folklore associated with several big houses in the county to spooky life and is available to purchase in dlr LexIcon and Dubray Books.

Continuing to explore the social context of the big house in 1921, the Historian in Residence led the discussion at the first Big House Book Club, with readers meeting in Marlay House in October to discuss Elizabeth Bowen's "The Last September", set in a big house during the War of Independence. 

David has prepared a wonderful online exhibition, Cottages in Livery, focusing on the humble (and not so humble) gate lodges of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown.  Explore their role in the landscape of the past; as expressions of the style of the residents of the big house, as a home for the men and women working on big estates, as a security measure against intruders and as a welcoming first impression to visitors. Many gate lodges have been lost, but many remain dotted around the county in new contexts their original builders could not have imagined.

More is to come in January, with another Big House Book Club and online talks. Keep an eye here for details and dates as we have them.

David’s recent publications include What’s in a Name – Dunleary, Kingstown, Dún Laoghaire and the award-winning Divine Illumination as part of recent dlr Decade of Centenaries programmes. He has a deep interest in the built heritage and history of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and worked as a tour guide for the dlr Summer of Heritage series for a number of years. He most recently worked as the Archivist in Residence at dlr Lexicon and his innovative dlr Cinema Book Club, based on the theme of The Big House, ran for several years at the library.

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