When workmen were seen taking away a padlock festooned section of balustrade on the Pont des Arts in Paris last week it sparked off some concerns that the "love locks" - cadenas - would be removed from other bridges too. The Libération newspaper reports here that there are no plans to do this however it also pointed out that not everyone is in favour of them and would like them removed.
A no love locks campaign has been set up and has organised a petition. Check it out here. Since they first appeared about 6 years ago the locks have multiplied to approximately 700,000 and on the Pont des Arts alone are estimated to weigh about 40 tonnes.
The locks above were pictured on the much smaller Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor, formerly known as Passerelle Solférino and don't look as if they would cause too much trouble. But how to remove them should that be necessary? By replacing the balustrade. There are no keys as having locked their love couples throw them into the Seine.
The locks are good publicity to those promoting Romantic Paris and if they have to be removed it will no doubt be with a heavy heart.
The origins of this talk by Hélène GUILLET and Philip McGRORY date back to an idea of then French President, Nicolas Sarkozy to mark Ireland's chairmanship of the European Union. He had the idea of an exhibition charting connections between the two countries.
The exhibition was set out in a series of panels with commentaries in English, French and Irish. We were therefore honoured that the person tasked with providing the French translation was none other than our speaker, Hélène.
Our speakers explained the origins of the Collège des Irlandais in Paris on the rue des Irlandais near the Sorbonne. Hélène showed us a picture of a wedding ceremony being performed in the famous cultural centre. It was her wedding from two and a half years ago in which she married Cairan who also worked on the President's commemorative project mentioned above.
Next, Philip brought us closer to home and into Lisburn. He shared a little known fact that Lisburn was the only town in Ulster to have a French church, in which the minister conducted and the congregation followed services in French.
Did you know that there were relatively few prisoners in the Bastille when it was stormed in 1789? And that one of them was Irish? And that there were Bastille day celebrations in Belfast in 1791 and '92? We learnt that.
Sir Richard Wallace was Conservative and Unionist MP for Lisburn in the period 1873 to 1885. He spent a lot of his time at his home, the Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne. Clicking on the following link to the Bagatelle reveals an interesting connection with Marie Antoinette.
|Detail on fountain at Wallace Park, Lisburn
There was still plenty to connect... we looked at the French background of local, familiar faces - former Taoiseach Sean Lemass, previous Unionist leader, James Molyneaux, Field Marshall Montgomery and to the Irish background of the familiar General Charles de Gaulle whose maternal connections include the McCartan's of County Down. In fact there were so many connections that Philip tested our knowledge with a picture quiz of 20 people with Franco-Irish connections. These included artist Sir John Lavery, engineer Peter Rice, and designer and architect, Eileen Grey.
Our speakers were bringing their fascinating talk to a close but there was still something to explain. Notice for the talk had referred to a sea-going snail, what was that about? At the foot of several of their slides we had noticed a picture of a snail. They hadn't referred to it but all was about to be revealed.
It turns out that one of the earliest Franco-Irish connections is embodied in a snail, the Irish cepaea nemoralis. Apparently this genus is found only in Ireland and the Pyrenees area. How did it get from there to here?
Hélène and Philip left that to their appreciative audience.