Following on from last year, the start of 2018 has been very successful. There have been many events organised by the Camino Society for members and friends. Most notably, talks, exhibitions, organised walks, and of course, the Celtic Camino Festival.

Tour of Pearse Lyons Distillery for Volunteers of Camino Society.
Saturday, 27th January 2018
Our first event of the year did not take us too far from home. The Camino Society brought its volunteers to the nearby Pearse Lyons Distillery on St. James’s Street. The site has a long and rich history dating back to 1190 – over 800 years.  More recently, St. James’s Church, formerly Church of Ireland, was built in 1859 and was closed in 1963. The remains of the church and graveyard were purchased by Pearse and Deirdre Lyons in 2013 and, following the renovation of the roof and spire, the distillery and visitors centre was recently opened to the public.
We were welcomed by storyteller Sheila who was happy to have the Society there, especially as the Church and Graveyard hold a long association with the Camino de Santiago. After a short film in which Pearse Lyons explains how he came to set up his distillery in the heart of the Liberties, we are led to the graveyard behind the renovated St. James’s Church. The first account of a body being buried in St. James’s is in September 1495 and it is estimated over 100,000 people were buried here between the 12th and 20th centuries.  The headstones also shed light on the type of trades The Liberties welcomed in the past. Tradesmen and women who worked as coopers, distillers, linen merchants, shoemakers, bakers, bishops, and soldiers have all found a resting place here at St. James’s Church alongside many members of the Lyons family.  Across the road from the church, in the middle of the road, is the “Fountain”, an obelisk with 4 sundials with a drinking fountain. It was an old custom that funeral processions passing the fountain would circle it three times before carrying on to the cemetery. We were also told that there is evidence of the establishment of a hospice for pilgrims traveling to Santiago de Compostela. We understand that this was located at the far end of the graveyard beside the Guinness Brewery.
Inside the former St. James’s Church and now modern distillery, we are greeted with four large stained glass windows. They let the bright light shine throughout the building. On the west side, the window honours the Camino de Santiago. We see a courageous pilgrim on his way to Santiago; a harp; some wheat; and, finally, the scallop shell. A beautiful sight. To the north, the stained glass, housed in a frame in front of the original window, depicts Robert Dunne, Pearse’s uncle, who was one of the last coopers who worked in Dublin. The window to the east tells the story of distillation, while the south window explains the brewing process.

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The site is now home to our two small-batch copper pot stills following their pilgrimage to Ireland from Kentucky. It is with these stills that the distillery crafts its whiskeys. The two copper pot stills have been christened Mighty Molly and Little Lizzie.
Following the tour, we were treated to a selection of Pearse Lyons whiskeys. All in all, it was an eye-opening occasion which shone more light on the history of the Liberties and the Dublin Camino. Thank you to Pearse Lyons Distillery for your hospitality.

Camino Talk – ‘St. James, the Camino & the Dublin Connection’
Presented by Cathy Scuffil – Dublin City Council Historian
Saturday, February 3rd, 2018.

Our next event again looked into Dublin’s history with the Camino. The Camino Society was delighted to have Cathy Scuffil visit St. James Parish Resource Centre and talk about Dublin’s history and connection with the Camino de Santiago. Cathy is Historian in Residence in Dublin City Council with a great knowledge of the Liberties area.

To learn about this connection, we were told that we need to focus on one part of Dublin – from St. James’s Street to Trinity College. Not only is this part of Dublin popular for tourists, but if you look closely enough, you will see plenty of evidence of the Camino within this short distance. We were told that this route was taken by pilgrims as they assembled at St. James’s Gate, walked through the city, before embarking on their pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

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Lazar’s Hill – St James’s Hospital.

800 years ago, Henry de Loundres, Archbishop of Dublin, founded the Hospital of Saint James, a hostel for pilgrims and the poor of Dublin, on present-day Townsend Street, then known as Lazar’s Hill or Lazy Hill. It stood roughly where Hawkins House stands today, right beside the All Hallows Monastery, which later became Trinity College.

In medieval times, pilgrim ships destined for Santiago apparently docked alongside this Hospital, then sailed directly to the coast of Galicia, at Ferrol or A Coruña, from where the pilgrims made their way to Santiago overland. By the mid-13th century, some of these ships were carrying people with leprosy who were desperate for a miraculous cure.

A rather more downtrodden colony is said to have existed in what is today, Misery Hill. Sufferers lived in these monastic-type establishments not simply for the good of their health, but also as a form of perpetual quarantine. The only acceptable way to check out of the hospice was to perish. Another word for these quarantine stations was ‘Lazaretto’ (linked to Saint Lazarus) and it is from this that Townsend Street took its former name of Lazar Hill, sometimes shortened to ‘Lazy Hill’.


Above is a map of the city of Dublin by John Speed, published in 1610. You will see St. James’s Street in the lower left area of the map while further to the right (listed 10. The Hospital) is St James’s Hospital on what is Townsend Street today. This is where pilgrims would rest before making their way to Spain by ship. 

The Scallop Shell and Water

The two things you associate with St. James are the Scallop Shell and Water, so even in the current tradition, those two things are replicated in ways that seem to commemorate the pilgrim.

For example, have you seen the street fountain on Lord Edward Street? It was installed in the 19th century and if you look closely, you will see the scallop shell motif at the top. Another example of something similar – the two holy water fonts at the front of St. Audoen’s Church on High Street. Both fonts are large shell-like features and were brought back from South America in the 19th century.

Other examples include

– A baptismal font in St. Audoen’s Church of Ireland church which contains the scallop shell on each side of its font.

– The Tailor’s Hall, Merchant Quay – Its fireplace contains no ornamentation except for a single shell.

– Hawkins House, Poolbeg Street – The Department of Health is located in the exact spot where the original St. James’s Hospital was located.

– The Fountain at James’s Street – It was a custom that funeral processions passing the fountain would circle it three times before carrying on to the cemetery at St James’s Church where Pearse Lyons Distillery is now. There are also two scallop shells on the Fountain, but we are not sure if the water is for drinking!

– St. James’s Gate – Perhaps, for many people, visiting St. James’s Gate is like a pilgrimage. With over 1.7 million people visiting in 2017, it is a great attraction and adds to the area.

– Pearse Lyons Distillery – The newest visitors’ attraction in the area which was the original Church of St. James.

– St. James’s Hospital – The Hospital’s logo contains a scallop shell.

These are all areas along our route that have an image of the scallop shell included.

Discovery at Frawleys on Thomas Street


The old department store “Frawleys” on Thomas Street is currently being redeveloped into student accommodation, and if you walk by it, you will see nothing more than a building site. The builder was given permission to dig down.  However, the city archaeologist had a feeling that there might be something there that she might like to know about. On their first dig, they found a skeleton with a scallop shell. All work has stopped and there is currently a 9-month archaeological dig taking place on the Thomas Street site. Since then, over 120 skeletons and 2 scallop shells have been found on the site. This further strengthens the connection between Dublin and the Camino. It is believed that the bodies have been there since the 12th century. You will all agree that this is exciting news as we wait for further news from this dig. All these burials are connected with the Abbey of St. Thomas and the Abbey would have had a guesthouse that pilgrims could have used. It would have been on the pilgrimage route.  We know that the Abbey of St. Thomas was behind Frawleys and the graveyard was under Frawleys. Two of the 120 burials were pilgrim burials in that they were buried with scallop shells. These are significant finds and absolute confirmation that we are on a pilgrimage route.

Cathy Scuffil has requested that if anyone sees an image of a scallop shell, whether it be on the end of a church pew, on an altar, or on a street, in the Dublin area, particularly in the Liberties area, could you please contact her. You can contact Cathy on Twitter @DubHistorians or by email Thank you, Cathy!

Camino Talk – ‘The Camino in Britanny’
Tony Grouard – ‘Association Bretonne des Amis de St Jacques de Compostelle’
Saturday, February 3rd, 2018

Please find the article here.

Camino Society Ireland Information Day
February 17th, 12pm – 3pm
St James’s Parish Hall

The Society’s first Information Day of 2018 was held on Saturday, the 17th of February at St. James’s Parish Hall. A large attendance turned out as expected eager to gain information about the Camino. Some had walked before and were interested in learning about other routes, while others were planning on taking their very first steps towards Santiago de Compostela.

After a welcome from our chairperson, Turlough O’Donnell, a short presentation was provided by Mike Timms. Mike gave some background information on the history of the Camino; some details of the many routes, how to plan your Camino and explained the significance of the Pilgrim Passport and Compostela. Information was also provided on what you can do in Santiago after your Camino. Mike then listed some of the more frequent questions, for example, “when should one go?” and “how much money to set aside?”.

The Celtic Camino Festival was mentioned also, a special occasion. Due to be held from April 13th – 15th in Westport, Co. Mayo, the Festival will feature “The Camino Voyage”, detailing the pilgrimage by sea made by a crew of four. The Festival will also hold talks, discussions, a photo exhibition, a gala dinner and a Celtic Camino Walk along the Croagh Patrick Heritage Way.
Following the presentation, which was well received, a number of tables were manned by volunteers – one table for each route in Spain, including the Celtic Camino. There was also a table where membership, pilgrim passports, and badges could be bought. It was a very successful day for all. There will be further Information Days throughout the country in the coming months. Details will be noted on this website.

Launch of the Celtic Camino Festival
Thursday, 8th February 2018
The Guinness Storehouse, St. James’s Gate.

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The Guinness Storehouse at St. James’s Gate welcomed the Camino Society and it’s volunteers to celebrate the launch of the first Celtic Camino Festival. The Festival commences on April 13th in Westport, Co Mayo and continues for the weekend, and how apt it was to stage its launch at St. James’s Gate.

Turlough O’Donnell, Chairperson of the Society welcomed those in attendance and explained the significance of the Celtic Camino Festival. In doing so, he alluded to the great work done by Fr. Jose Maria in San Juan de Ortega. Fr. Jose Maria knew that the ancient Camino de Santiago had run through that village, and he cleared the Way so that pilgrims could pass. Other men, such as Don Elias in O Cebreiro, were instrumental in revitalising the Camino from the late 1970’s. So the Festival is about people clearing the path for other people so that people will walk through rural Ireland again as they once walked to places of pilgrimage.

The Celtic Camino Festival is about celebrating the great walks in Ireland; places like Glendalough, Clonmacnoise, Ballintubber, Croagh Patrick. All of these ancient places are coming to life again. On Sunday, 15th April, the Festival hosts a Celtic Camino walk from Ball to Ballintubber Abbey. On completion, those who walk will gain a Celtic Compostela. The Festival also hosts the acclaimed film “The Camino Voyage” on Friday, April 13th and on Saturday, April 14th, there will be a day of presentations, discussions, and workshops from Camino experts. Later that evening, a Gala dinner will be hosted in Hotel Westport.

We would finally like to thank the sponsors of the Celtic Camino Festival,, Portwest, Hotel Westport, The Spanish Tourism Board, and Camino Ways.

Discover the Camino through Pilgrims’ Eyes
Photo Exhibition, Cervantes Institute, Dublin 2
March 21st, 2018
The opening of the exhibition of photographs taken by pilgrims on the many Caminos de Santiago took place this evening in the Cervantes Institute, Dublin 2. The exhibition titled ‘Discover the Camino through Pilgrims’ Eyes’ features 45 photographs chosen from more than 300 images submitted to Camino Society Ireland’s first annual photographic contest.
The idea for the contest and exhibition came from Oihana Traojola, a Basque native who has been living and working in Ireland, and who is an active member of Camino Society Ireland. Its aim was to engage with the Society’s current membership, interact with pilgrims from all around the world through social media and build a collection of first-class photographs for future exhibitions.
Photographs were received from all across the globe, from Ireland, the UK, North America, Australia and New Zealand and they were of a very high standard. The entries were scrupulously judged and winners were selected by a panel of experts: Alan Betson – a member of The Press Photographers Association of Ireland, Des Byrne – founder of the Irish Street Photography Group and Peter Varga of Humans of Dublin project. Many outstanding images have been received; from the sun gracefully rising over the Alto Del Perdon, to that of the most beautiful scenery in Galicia on the Camino Primitivo.
The exhibition was opened by His Excellency José María Rodríguez-Coso, Spanish Ambassador to Ireland following a message of welcome by the Chairperson of the Society, Turlough O’Donnell. Mr. Victor Andresco, Director of Cervantes Institute, was also in attendance and was thanked for his enthusiastic support of the Society. All three judges were guests this evening also. We much also thank the Cervantes Institute for the use of their premises for the exhibition.
In 2017 alone, over 300,000 people received the Compostela. You could at least double that number to estimate the number of pilgrims actually walking the Camino in that year because many don’t reach Santiago. Of those pilgrims last year, 47.39% gave their motivation for walking as “Religiosa / Cultural”, and 43.46% gave their motivation as “Religiosa” only. We can be reasonably sure that those who say “Religiosa” only are in fact interested in culture and those who say “Religiosa/Cultural” are particularly interested in Culture. And none who return from the Camino are disappointed in the exposure to the art, architecture, food and wine, music, and way of life along the Camino. In fact, they return enthused and motivated to learn more. In our photographic contest and exhibition, the appreciation for culture can be seen. And the great approach is not initially to teach or instruct but to question: it is to ask the photographer, “how did you see it?” or “why did that matter so much to you?” and the answers give the start to a most wonderful and enthusiastic dialogue. We have seen this work.

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Monthly Members & Friends Walk
Bray Head Loop
March 24th, 2018

Our first walk of the year was on a beautiful Saturday in Bray. A large turnout walked to the cross on Bray Head and back. Below are just a small selection of photos taken. For more, please see our photo album on Facebook.

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