WHAT a pity that President Michael D Higgins didn’t announce free ice creams for all the children in Dún Laoghaire in south county Dublin before he had planted a time capsule to commemorate the harbour’s bicentenary this week.
That way, his gesture might have been captured for posterity. A picture of a smiling child with a well-placed fleck of a Teddy’s 99 on the nose would have been a wonderful image to send off into the future.
As it turned out, the President didn’t actually fund the spontaneous largesse. Dún Laoghaire Harbour Board paid for it, but what matter — it’s the kind of gesture that is likely to resound through the ages.
It also seems entirely appropriate to pay tribute to Teddy’s. That hallowed establishment has been part and parcel of Dún Laoghaire harbour since it first opened the hatch of its premises on Windsor Terrace in 1950. It has been handing out the aforementioned 99s from that very spot ever since. The queues are testament to the enduring appeal of good ice cream in the sea air.
But Teddy’s didn’t make the capsule this time around. The 2017 version was packed full of letters from local schoolchildren, notes from harbour users, a photo of the bay as it looks today and a print edition of a newspaper.
It all went off with a bang: A 21-gun salute was fired from the gun battery at the end of the East pier battery and there was a fly over by the Air Corps.
Two hundred years ago, there was fanfare and celebration, too, when the then lord lieutenant of Ireland, Charles Whitworth, inserted a glass capsule into a hole in the harbour’s foundation stone which is thought to be in the vicinity of the King George IV monument. It’s said to contain 10 contemporary newspapers and a coin of the realm.
It’s strange to think that in 200 years’ time — maybe in even just 20 — it is entirely possible that neither coins nor newspapers will be in circulation.
So what would you put in a time capsule to capture the spirit of our age? Here’s my 2017 capsule collection:
- A selfie stick: Is there a better way of summing up our obsession with putting ourselves at the centre of everything? If you’re not in the picture, it didn’t happen — and it doesn’t count. To illustrate the point, I’d put in that picture taken in Orlando during the US presidential campaign when the crowd turned its back — every last one of them — on Hillary Clinton. Instead, they collectively raised their iPhones and snapped a pic of the occasion, making sure that their own mug was in the foreground.
- An iPhone: If only to show what obsolescence looks like. And worse, all the data that once told the story of an individual life will be trapped within a piece of outdated technology that will probably never yield its secrets. Pity the archaeologists of the future.
- A Starbucks paper cup: Will the world have reached Starbucks saturation point by 2217? Who knows, but just when you thought there wasn’t room for another outlet in Dun Laoghaire, another one pops up — right across the road from the previous one. Astounding. I’ll be including a black marker and the just-released list of most popular names from the Central Statistics so that the future recipient will know what to write on the side of the cup. Between 2015 and 2016, Muhammad saw the biggest jump in popularity in Ireland. James was number one for boys, followed by Jack and Daniel. Emily was the most popular girl’s name, followed by Grace and Ava.
- Donald Trump’s ‘covfefe’ tweet: “Despite the constant negative press covfefe.”
- And the following imagined exchange between White House press secretary Sean Spicer and the fake media.
Sean: ‘Forget the Paris accord… the President has a secret plan to solve the climate issue.
Fake media: ‘What is it, Sean?’
- A piece of cardboard with the words “I’m homeless” on it.
- A fact — if we can find one.
- A breathalyser test, or two, or possibly many, many more.
- A bag of curly kale. And a celebrity cookbook. No better way to sum up the madness of what constitutes healthy eating in the present day.
- A picture of Angela Merkel: There’s a chance she might even still be chancellor when the time capsule is opened.
- Two payslips: One with the earnings of a male worker and the other with those of a female worker. Is there a need to issue a little warning too: Mind the gap, perhaps?
- A Save the Seafront leaflet: The voluntary group opposed the construction of a 120-bed hotel on Carlisle pier in 2003. Later, it opposed the building of an eight-storey apartment block and retail units on the old Victorian baths site. It also spoke out against a proposal to build an artificial lagoon at the East pier and, later still, plans for an offshore oil rig and wind farm. Now, it’s opposing plans for a terminal for super-sized cruise ships.
- The Eighth Amendment: Is there a better text to show the divisions of Irish society?
- The following extract from Dún Laoghaire harbour’s history: “During the great storm in February 1861, two cargo ships were shipwrecked against the rocks of Dun Laoghaire pier. It was impossible to launch the lifeboat in time to save those on board the Neptune and Industry. Captain John McNeill Boyd of the Ajax and members of his crew formed a human chain to try to bring the men ashore. They were swept away by the raging sea. Many other townspeople rushed to help those drowning too.” That story somehow resonates in 2017; perhaps it might in 2217 too, but hopefully not because people are still drowning in the Mediterranean.
- President Higgins: But only if we can keep him in the present day too. He’s already proven himself to be a man for all ages.