A QUICK VISIT TO COLLINS BARRACKS [NOW A MUSEUM]
Today a German tourist asked me for directions to the Arts & History Museum and for a few minutes I was a bit confused because I could not decide if he was looking for Collins Barracks or The Royal Hospital in Kilmainham which is now also a museum. He was actually seeking the Kilmainham site but he decided to visit Collins Barracks instead.
Collins Barracks was an army base for some 200 years before being renovated for use as a museum. The network of tall, granite-faced buildings occupy an 18 acre site and retain an imposing, military air.
The site boasts a rich and varied history. Completed in 1704, it played an important role suppressing uprisings over the centuries. Wolfe Tone, the founder and leading member of the United Irishman, was court martialled and imprisoned here after the 1798 Rebellion. During the 1916 Easter Rising, troops based here tackled rebel positions on Usher’s Island, at the Four Courts, and in the GPO.
Perhaps the clearest historical link is in the site’s name. Collins Barracks is named after Michael Collins, the first Commander-in-Chief of the Irish Free State Army. He had previously displayed heroic leadership during the 1920-21 War of Independence, only to be assassinated in 1922, during the Irish Civil War, aged just 31. Today, Collins occupies legendary status in modern Ireland.
Clarke Square, a large central courtyard, forms the heart of the Museum. It is named after Thomas Clarke, executed rebel leader during the 1916 Rising.
The local area surrounding Collins Barracks retains a tangible Norse and Viking heritage. This originates from the eleventh century, when this area was settled by Danish migrants. Roughly equivalent to today’s Smithfield, Arbour Hill, and Stoneybatter districts, this area became known as Ostmantowne (or Oxmantown). Local, Norse-influenced street names still visible today include Viking Road, Oxmantown Road, and Sitric Road.