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Dublin: 5°C Monday 24 January 2022

Double Take: The Waterford town that's splitting the atom

Take a stroll through Dungarvan and you’ll spot some intriguing carvings outside the shops on Grattan Square.

Image: Waterford County Museum

LOOK DOWN IN Dungarvan town’s Grattan Square and you’ll be greeted by something a bit unexpected.

Dotted around the street are dozens of carvings: all 33 are located outside shop fronts throughout the town, and are part of The Grattan Square Heritage Plaque Project, a project run by Waterford County Museum to start conversations about local history.

Perhaps the most interesting plaque lies unassumingly outside a Turkish Barber on Grattan Square. It’s a cluster of small circles surrounded by larger, overlapping circles. It’s familiar to anyone who studied science for their Junior Cert – but why is it here?

The “splitting the atom” plaque was laid in honour of Ernest Walton, who came from outside Dungarvan and won the Nobel prize in 1951: he, along with Briton John Cockcroft, were the first men to split the atom artificially.

waterford-county-museum-barber The site of Ernest Walton's plaque. Source: Waterford County Museum

Dungarvan’s Walton Park already pays homage to the physicist, but local historian Willie Whelan said:

A Nobel prize winner is really out of the blocks for a small community, so we couldn’t really leave him out.

They glow silver when the sun goes down, so people notice them more then – they’re unexpected.

So there you go now – Dungarvan is one of the only places in the country that can lay claim to anything as impressive as splitting the atom.

If you’re really curious, Waterford County Museum’s Facebook page has profiles on all the plaques on Grattan Square.

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