I’ve been running the 1916 Rebellion Walking Tour for the past 20 years, bringing people around the city, showing them the sites of the Easter Rising. It’s not just for tourists, either. Sometimes these days you’ll get 95% Irish people on the tour. It’s great that we take a real interest in our own history, especially in this centenary year.
I do feel like I have a responsibility to show the good and bad of Dublin; it’s a great city, and a safe city, and I like bringing people around and saying ‘This is where it’s really at…’. Places like Moore Street, that might not be the cleanest, most fabulously tourist-orientated places, but nonetheless they are the real Dublin. There is an alternative to Grafton Street and the Dundrum Shopping Centre (laughs).
The tour is a bit of a history lesson, but I love having a bit of craic with people – that’s the absolute reason why people come to Ireland in the first place. They want to enjoy themselves. They don’t just want a bunch of dates. A bit of interaction with the people on the streets is always fantastic fun. There’s always some fella who wants to get involved; inevitable, his grandfather had been in the GPO in 1916. Sometimes I think everybody’s grandad must have been there, I hear it that often (laughs).
Stand at some traffic lights in Dublin for long enough with somebody in Dublin, and eventually you’ll both start to chat. We’re approachable in that way. The city’s a village, and the centre of that village is The GPO. And there are as many characters out there as ever.
Even after all this time, I love doing the tours. I love our revolutionary history – it’s a great David Vs. Goliath story. And I get to talk all day about my absolute favourite subject, and call it ‘my job’. I can’t believe how ridiculously lucky I am to do that? It took and long time, and a lot of work, to get to this point. I had to wait tables in the early years to keep everything going: you’re out doing a tour in the morning, and that evening you’re serving the same people chicken wings in the Elephant And Castle. They’re going ‘Weren’t you our tour guide?’ and you’re like ‘No, that was my brother…’
I’m not lazy, but I don’t like working for anybody – being a self-employed tour guide is a nice way of being your own person, and doing your own thing. I used to say to my Career Guidance Teacher that I want to work outdoors, and want to meet lots of people. And he used to say ‘I’ll put you down for the bank.’
Once you get over the fact that we’re all crazy in our own little way – a nice way, I stress – you begin to appreciate everybody in this city. There’s no other town like it.
The 1916 Handbook by Lorcan Collins (O’Brien Press) is out now.
Lorcan Collins was talking to Derek O’Connor