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  • Greg O'Loughlin

Walking Through Time - 1916 Rebellion Walking Tour

Greg O'Loughlin continues with his third and final instalment of An American Irish Republican Travelogue - links to Part 1 and Part 2.

After a week of exploring tide pools and picnics, we made our way back to the east coast. On a previous trip, I had been given a copy of Lorcan Collins’ book, Ireland’s War of Independence 1919 - 21 with the note, “Next time you visit, you must do his walking tour - it’s not to be missed.”

I read the book (highly recommended) during the first round of lockdowns and dreamed of the day when we might be able to return and do the walking tour. As plans for this trip came together, I was delighted to see that Lorcan had resumed his tours. We booked a walk for the family and folded the plans into the rest of the itinerary.

By the time we made it back to Dublin, the weather had returned to the type of weather you’d expect in Ireland in July. Somewhat unpredictable, rain, cooler temps, and greyer skies. Our time in Connemara was hot - a record breaking heat wave that made time on the shore feel essential. Our first day in Dublin was a cool-and-appropriate 14 degrees (58 F) with a good chance of rain throughout the day. Lorcan’s site made it clear that walks were rain or shine, so we prepared ourselves for the day as best we could and made our way to The International, the meeting place for the start of the historical walking tour.

Within the first few moments, my worry that I might be testing my childrens’ tolerance for history-as-holiday was laid to rest. Lorcan welcomed us along with the other folks on the tour and did a quick whip-around to find out more about everyone. He took into account our ages, our countries and cities of origin, and our preparedness for the weather and the walk. After a quick review of what to expect, we were off.

Setting the stage with a brief review of the geo-political state of affairs around the time of WWI, we made our way through streets, alleys, and parks while Lorcan’s descriptions made our walk feel more like time travel. The tour itself is billed as the 1916 Rebellion Walking Tour, though his deep knowledge of world history combined with an even more nuanced and impressive working knowledge of Irish history meant that we covered far more ground than one event or one year. From broad, sweeping political reviews to small, human-scaled stories, Loran made sure that we had enough of both the context and the details to help the learning feel revelatory and engaging.

We were lucky enough to have some Dubliners join us for the tour, which Lorcan took to heart as a challenge to create an experience for them that would help them see places they may have walked by hundreds of times in a new light. Everyone on the tour benefited from this layer of added detail and attention to our surroundings.

From house to house, statue to statue, storefront to storefront, Lorcan led us through complicated historical twists and turns with ease. His manner of storytelling is incredible, and needs to be experienced to be believed. It was clear that he had a map and a plan in his head for the tour, and it was just as clear that he was ready, willing, and able to dive into a topic when someone paused to ask for more information or to ask about something that hadn’t been discussed yet.

From the Sick and Indigent Roomkeepers Society to Dublin Castle to the guard booths outside of the castle, it felt like there was a story in every cobblestone and we were being led by a man who knew how to unlock the secrets hidden in them all. Bus stops, bridges, pedestals all changed from mundane infrastructure to settings for incredible story after incredible story as we walked and listened to Lorcan share and answer questions.

The two hours flew by. We covered a lot of ground literally and historically and after a few pictures and exchanges of contact information, we were all left to explore the city on our own, now with new lenses and a clearer perspective on the stories all over the city hiding in plain sight.

Lorcan’s tour is indeed not to be missed. You can find more information about what to expect and how to book here:

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