1932 Congress memories infused with tonne of tea
IT may be 80 years since he made his First Holy Communion but Harry McKeown will never forget "the biggest altar I ever saw" as he mingled with thousands of people in Dublin's Phoenix Park the last time the Eucharistic Congress rolled into town in 1932.
Mr McKeown was a wonder-struck seven-year-old when the newly created State hosted its largest ever public event.
"I had just made my First Holy Communion at the time and I can remember my father and the other men putting up bunting and papal flags in our street near Stoneybatter," he said.
Later he joined thousands of people in the Phoenix Park where the religious ceremonies were staged.
"I wasn't there for the ceremonies but when I arrived I do remember seeing the biggest altar I had ever seen -- it was huge and I thought it was a mile long."
Anne Whelan (87), from Glasnevin, Dublin, was the same age as Harry when she walked to the park with her mother and brother.
"O'Connell Street was a mass of people. There were flags everywhere and the window sills on the houses were painted white," she recalled.
"There were yellow flags everywhere and I wore a yellow ribbon in my hair."
Their memories are reflected in an exhibition of memorabilia from the 1932 Eucharistic Congress that was officially launched by Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin last night at the RDS.
The exhibition entitled "Christo Regi in Honorem" or "In Honour of Christ the King" features original black and white film and audio footage of the event as well as a treasure trove of memorabilia.
It includes a number of ecclesiastical robes worn by bishops at the ceremony that were embroidered by Lottie and Lilly Yeats, the sisters of poet WB Yeats and artist Jack B Yeats.
A glass case houses original newspaper cuttings from the event as well as souvenir booklets such as 'Christendom in Dublin' by GK Chesterton, along with the gilt crozier.
Dublin diocesan archivist Noelle Dowling also included some interesting trivia from the last congress which Archbishop Martin noted in his address, including the fact that pilgrims consumed 30 tonnes of potatoes, 4,000 tins of fruit and vegetables, one tonne of tea, one-and-a-half tonnes of sugar and 150 gallons of milk.
The exhibit opens to the public from June 5 to June 8 and June 18 to 22 but is open to pilgrims only during Congress Week from June 10-17.