I love the internet.
I suppose that’s not the most revelatory statement I’ve ever made. It’s probably up there with “I like cupcakes” and ” OMG TRAVEL IS NEAT-O.”
But cupcakes existed long before I did, and travel has been around since the day that a caveman went for a long walk and thought, “Grog grunga tok.” Which, in this little vignette I’ve created, roughly translates to: “OMG TRAVEL IS NEAT-O.”
But the internet? It hasn’t been around all that long. I clearly remember a time before it. I won’t call it the Dark Ages, mostly because that phrase is already used to describe the cultural and economic deterioration that supposedly occurred in Europe following the decline of the Roman Empire (source: THE INTERNET!) But things before its existence were indeed less enlightened than they are now.
I’ve heard the claim that technology has stolen our humanity. It’s made us cold and isolated. I think the opposite is true. We now have the power to connect with one people across town or across the globe.
Some days, I simply have to marvel at it.
Like last week. I posted about the Little Museum of Dublin, and included an anecdote about the music stand they have on display – one that JFK used as a lectern on the first and only trip he made to Ireland.
I thought that the stand was borrowed from a local music shop. That was not the case.
The day after the post went up (and after a bit of back and forth on Twitter), I received an email from a gentleman named Mark, whose father had owned the music stand. He gave me the whole (correct) story behind it. His letter was so beautifully written, I asked if I could print it on the blog. He agreed.
My father Colonel John Brennock was a musician with the Army School of Music, a conductor of the Army Band and ultimately Director of the School. In the late 1940s or early 1950s he bought for himself the music stand from an antique dealer in Dublin’s Fishamble Street (the same street, incidentally, where Handel’s Messiah was first performed in 17something). He cycled home to the Army Barracks where he lived in Rathmines, about two miles away, with the music stand balanced somehow on the bike.
In early 1963, as Assistant Director of the Army School of Music, he was involved in the preparations for the JFK visit. In discussions with all State agencies involved (police, army, parliament, Government, etc) on the logistics of the visit it emerged that there was no podium in the Dail chamber from which JFK could speak. My father said he had something that might suit, the Office of Public Works (which manages State Buildings) came to have a look and took it away.
I remember vaguely the fuss when JFK was assassinated. I was three years old. I remember a few months later a car pulling up outside our suburban house with the music stand strapped to the roof. I didn’t understand what it was about then, but there was great excitement, people came in to have a look. The Office of Public Works had kindly put a plaque on the stand saying it was used by JFK when addressing the Houses of the Oireachtas, and that it had been loaned by my father. I used to play with the stand as a kid – as you may have seen you can rotate the top part to raise and lower its height and I did this for years. I used to drive my Matchbox model cars along the ledge where JFK rested his script and his hands. When I bought my first house my Dad shocked me one day by saying: “You know that music stand you always liked? Do you want to take it for your house?” I did.
Then someone told Trevor White (Hugh Grant to you) that I had this item at home. He was setting up the Little Museum of Dublin and he called and asked could he have it on loan. I initially decided against – I love having it – but he is very persuasive (like Mr Grant really). I agreed to loan it for five years.
I miss it terribly. It is for me a connection with history and politics around which I have spent much of my working life, and also with my Dad. I am happy to hear that people get a kick out of seeing it – though I do shudder at the thought of people balancing their cameras on it and touching it and messing with it, just as I did as a child. It will be returning to my home at some future point.
Remember how I told you every object in the Little Museum was rife with history? How it felt like these were treasures from someone’s home? Indeed, they were. Each one had a story to tell.
And so I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m feeling a bit indebted to the Internet this week. It connected me to Mark, so that he could tell me the music stand’s story, which I now have the privilege of relaying to you.
Naturally, I replied to him and apologized profusely for using his family treasure as a tripod. And I thanked him for sharing a bit of his family’s and his town’s narrative with me.
Oh, and I learned that the dishy tour guide is the founder of the museum. The good news is that his equally-dishy wife has a great sense of humor. On a related note, I’m learning if it is humanly possible to die from embarrassment. Fortunately, the internet says no. That sort of thing is highly unlikely.
I’m just going to go ahead and trust it on that one. After all, it so rarely leads me astray.