Window in Skerries

This acrylic on board is based on a photograph. The photo was taken by M on a trip, many moons ago, to Skerries in North Dublin. Four of us found ourselves in Joe Mays which is located on the harbourfront and dates back to 1865. The upstairs lounge has fine views over the harbour. It was empty and dark, but strangely flooded with sunlight. We disported ourselves in the bay window and thought, in high spirits, to enact some Renaissance tableau, as you do. M arranged the scene with myself and our friend J. We were thinking of Venus and Mars. M is also known as Mars, which shuffles the roles slightly. Since we were having fun there’s no point in being too interpretative. The shoot would have called up a few references but this was the shot that worked best. Almost fifty years later the main thing it conjures up for me is our youth, and all that entails. 

Sandro Botticelli painted Venus and Mars in the late fifteeenth century, c 1485. Botticelli was born in Florence in 1445 and lived there all his life. His Birth of Venus and Primavera reside at the Uffizzi, but this painting has found its way to the National Gallery in London. It is often seen as an allegory of sensuous love, or might be read as love conquers war. It is also funny, playful; all of which fit the mood of our carry on. Manet’s Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe, which I alluded to in my last post on Raheny, and Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam also get a look in; as do Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma and Led Zeppelin’s Presence. As a music theme however, I’ll go for This Wheels on Fire, the title being a pun which only the protagonists in our scenario will get.

If your memory serves you well, we were going to meet again and wait

So I’m going to unpack all my things and sit before it gets too late

No matter what, we’ll come to you with another tale to tell

And you know that we shall meet again if your memory serves you well

The song was written by Bob Dylan and Rick Danko and would eventually surface on the Basement Tapes in 1975, but first appeared on the Band’s album Music from Big Pink in 1968. It was a hit for Julie Driscoll and the Brian Augur Trinity in 1968 which was the first I heard it. The use of Hammond organ and electronic distortion gave it a very psychedelic feel. This aspect made it ideal as the theme song for the tv series Absolutely Fabulous in the early nineties. And there we are, young hippies of the seventies, frozen forever on the event horizon. Still friends and lovers.

Wheel’s on fire

Rolling down the road

Just notify my next of kin

This wheel shall explode

The Palace Bar

The Palace in Fleet Street is a genuine old style pub dating from 1823. The first proprietor was named Hall. The Ryan family from Tipperary took over in the first half of the twentieth century. The license passed to Bill Aherne in 1946, then to his son Liam and today the pub is run by his son William. It stands on the doorstep of Temple Bar, where the word genuine is oft traduced. I’m not curmudgeonly about it, I delight in most manifestations of the Bacchanalian muse, but the Palace truly remains uniquely oldschool; a place where the discerning soul can commute with the timeless spirit of the capital city.

Back in the day, Temple Bar was a bus queue, waiting for a station, doomed to demolition. Early examples of those things dear to the urban hippy: free love and free trade, were thinly spread on a faded streetscape. These days the whole place is hopping from lunchtime to the wee small hours. The Palace remains unchanged. Always something of an oasis, it rejoices in a literary theme, celebrating Patrick Kavanagh, Brian O’Nolan, Brendan Behan and Sean O’Casey. Patrick Kavanagh described the Palace as “the most wonderful temple of art”. Amongst the artistic regulars were Sean O’Sullivan, Patrick O’Connor and Harry Kernoff. 

Kernoff became renowned for his paintings of Dublin streetlife and pub culture. The Palace was both a local and a gallery for Kernoff. He sold his paintings off the wall here through the thirties, forties and fifties. Renown at last recognised him in later years, and he died in 1974. Amongst his most famous pub paintings is A Bird Never Flew on one Wing. This was sold off the Palace wall for a tenner or so in the fifties and found its home in another famed hostelry, O’Briens of Leeson Street. There it hung for decades and I remember admiring it over many’s the liquid lunch back in my ad agency days in the eighties. It was sold to a private buyer for a hundred and eighty grand early this century. 

Over the years the Palace has also become closely associated with the newspaper trade, the Irish Times in particular, with their premises just a short block away. Editor RM (Bertie) Smylie would repair here of an evening with a coterie of journalists, in that bygone era when journalism was the thirsty profession. 

This acrylic is a snapshot of a sunny afternoon spent amongst friends. A brief lull in the conversation allows me to throw my eyes around the bar. I recognise a few of the faces, though things are getting a bit blurred around the edges; but pleasantly so. Perhaps I’ll have another.

North Dublin’s Sandy Shore – 7

From the Sheds, we blink into the dazzling sun on water which vista extends past Clontarf to Dollymount. Clontarf pier is a little north of the village and it’s suburban housing along the shore from here on. A horse tram service was initiated in 1873 from the city to Clontarf, attracting more and more day trippers. Later catered to by the Howth Tram, this electrified service connected to Sutton and Howth stations via the Summit. On May 31st, 1959, the last tram took its final bow. The colourful, and most useful, tram era was gone, obliterated by conservative forces. Almost fifty years later, the powers that be were persuaded of the error of their ways, and the modern tram service, Luas, went on line in 2004. It doesn’t operate at this end of the city, but there is a frequent bus service all along the coast road.

In the distance, the straight line of the Bull Wall, and its wooden bridge, is apparent between our standpoint and the peninsula of Howth. The wide embrace of Dublin Bay looks the most natural and beautiful of havens for the ships of the ocean. More than a millennium of navigators have been welcomed. But there’s a darker side. The commodious bay is prone to silting and many’s the ship has been wrecked in these waters, or run aground on treacherous sandbars that form across the mouth of the Liffey, and the confluence of other tributaries of the bay such as the Dodder and the Tolka. In medieval and early modern times, the Liffey port was so treacherous that Dalkey to the South, and Howth to the North acted as port for the city. This couldn’t continue. 

In 1715 work began on the Piles, a wooden construction built to provide a channel past the southern sand bank. Later this would be cast in stone to form the South Bull Wall. In 1760 Sir John Rogerson funded the extension of this westward to meet the Ballast Office and the South Quays. But the problem persisted and in 1801 the Admiralty commissioned William Bligh to survey Dublin bay. Just a dozen years earlier, Bligh had featured in that mother of all adventures at sea: the Mutiny on the Bounty. His four and a half thousand mile voyage with his eighteen loyalists in an open boat is truly the stuff of legend. The waters of Dublin Bay were rather calmer, though treacherous enough, and the Captian of the Bounty, and future Governor of New South Wales, brought his talents to bear on them. The result of Bligh’s survey was the recommendation to built the North Bull Wall, from the Clontarf Coast pointing southeastwards into the bay. This, he calculated, would build up the silt on the Northern side of the wall, which is now evident in the creation of the Bull Island.

Ultimately the design for the wall was made by George Halpin, Ballast Board engineer and designer of bridges and lighthouses. He was the uncle of Robert Halpin, the famed Wicklow mariner who captain Brunel’s SS Great Western in laying the first transatlantic telegraph cable in 1866. George is known as the father of the Irish lighthouse service. He was appointed inspector of lighthouses in 1810, responsible for over fifty lighthouses, including the Skelligs, and the Baily Lighthouse in Howth. He died in 1854 and was succeeded as Inspector of Lighthouses by his son, George.

Work commenced on the North Bull in 1819 with the construction of the timber bridge. The crossing of this seems almost a rite of passage for a true blue Dub. Car traffic is one lane at a time, controlled by traffic lights. On one childhood trip, I recall our packed Morris Minor, stopped halfway out by a car coming in the opposite direction. An amber gambler, no doubt. My father got out to reason with the errant driver, who, on seeing him, reversed furiously back to the island. My father was a diminutive man, but imposing. He was a military man, Irish Army, but with something of a British accent. We had a good laugh at his quick resolution of the short impasse.

Over the bridge, there’s parking adjacent to a service area which includes pay toilets and picnic benches. There’s a windswept coffee and snack place called Happy Out. I throw out an anchor and lean into the gale, feeling the defrosting balm of americano seep through my veins. All the better to fortify myself on my walk out to the end of the wall. 

The wall itself was completed six years after the bridge and extended for more than three kilometres into the bay. The walkway is paved as far as Our Lady Star of the Sea, and the last stage is a rough breakwater, covered at high tide, with a green lighthouse at the end. As far as the statue, there are a number of public bathing shelters, designated male and female and designed by George Simms, Dublin Corporation housing architect. Star of the Sea was first mooted in the fifties and funded by subscription from Dublin dockers, sailors and port companies. The structure comprises three tall concrete pillars which merge to support a globe on which stands the statue sculpted by Cecil King. It was unveiled in 1972.

Dollymount strand is a good five kilometres long and is both a splendid public amenity for the huge city on its doorstep, and also an invaluable wildlife reserve. The Bull island on the landward side is occupied by two golf clubs, the Royal Dublin and St. Anne’s. The Royal Dublin was founded in 1855 and is Ireland’s second oldest golf club. It is a regular venue for the Irish Open Championship. A causeway links with the mainland further on at Raheny

And so to stroll the sands of the neverending beach that is Dollymount Strand. It can be all things at all times, a capsule of infinity, a panorama of the memory. Life is a beach. I recall another childhood trip to Dollymount. Taking the car without incident onto the beach, my father gave each of us three kids a turn at driving on the hard packed sand. This is also something of a Dublin tradition. Many’s the driver who cut their motoring teeth here. And returned for other pursuits. It was also a popular nighttime hangout. Motoring, music and romance; what more could a  body ask for? There were cars, their drivers, and passengers, otherwise occupied, marooned by the incoming tide.

I want to take you to the island

And trace your footprints in the sand …

And in the evening when the sun goes down 

We’ll make love to the sound of the ocean

The Island is a 1985 song by Paul Brady taken from his album Back to the Centre. Brady hails from the town of Strabane, not far from Dungannon, in County Tyrone. My father lived in Dungannon from when he was six, or maybe seven. He died in the late eighties. Near the end of his life he spent some time at a Convalescent Home near Sandymount Strand, across the bay. It was me that drove him home for the last time. We walked out along the corridor together, very slowly, and I recall the song playing was The Island. It refers to the greater island of Ireland, and caustically to the Troubles, but like any great song it applies across a range of human experience. Here, memory, belonging and isolation are evoked in the permanence, and transience of the tide across an expanse of beach. It seems apt now, on this sandy island, to let it flow, and ebb through the soul.

But hey don’t listen to me

This wasn’t meant to be no sad song

We’ve had too much of that before

Right now I only want to be here with you

Till the morning dew comes falling

North Dublin’s Sandy Shore – 6

Stepping off the Yacht, I turn left and northwards along the coast. At least I will ultimately head North, way up north. Right now Clontarf Road is curving away east, south east. But there’s no way of getting lost. It hugs the coast, so eminently huggable, all the way onwards from its starting point in Fairview, through Clontarf and on to the timber bridge connecting to the Bull Island at Dollymount. There’s a long grassy promenade as far as the bridge, after which the coast road will continue alone past Saint Anne’s Park in Raheny until Sutton Strand at the isthmus of Howth. 

Dublins docklands form a spiky tableau along the horizon, the twin chimneys above all. The road curves away past salubrious suburbia. A few hundred yards on at Castle Avenue there’s time for a detour to Clontarf Castle. Castle Avenue is a sylvan boulevard, lined with attractive nineteenth century terraces and some more modern flats and houses. It takes a sharp right at the top where there’s a stone gateway inscribed for longtime owners of the Castle, the Vernons: Vernon Semper Virit, and dated 1885. This entrance is now dislocated from the Castle grounds, whose modern entrance is a hundred yards or so further on.

The original castle was built by Hugh De Lacy, Lord of Meath, following Strongbow’s conquest in 1172. His tenant, Adam de Pheypo, took up residence. Ownership passed to the Knights Templar and subsequently the Knights Hospitaller until Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. 

By the mid seventeenth century, times were becoming ever more interesting. The War of the Three Kingdoms kicked off, with the Irish Confederacy of Gaelic and Old English (the Anglo Norman Lords) adding fuel to the fire with the Irish Rebellion of 1641. Avid Cromwellian, Sir Charles Coote, Governor of Dublin, burned the castle as part of a campaign to exterminate the Catholic rebels holed up there. The lands were subsequently granted to John Vernon, Quartermaster general of Cromwell’s army, and he set about rebuilding it and adding a parish church whose ruins endure.

George Handel is a noted visitor. In April 1742, the first performance of Handel’s Messiah took place in the Concert Hall in Fishamble St. The choirs of St Patrick’s and Christ Church Cathedrals were used, though the Dean of St Patrick’s, Jonathan Swift, was initially reluctant until informed it was to be a charity event. And hugely successful too. Such were the crowds clamouring to go, that gentlemen were required to leave their swords at the door, to facilitate more people. Handel stayed for a time at Clontarf Castle, where he formed a close relationship with the lady of the house Dorothy Vernon, whom he honoured in his music. She is also honoured by the Dolly in Dollymount further along the coast.

The Vernon’s owned the castle for three hundred years but the line extinguished in the 1930s and the castle and grounds fell into decay. In the late sixties the castle was reborn as a popular cabaret venue. It was completely renovated as an upmarket hotel in the 1990s. The current structure was designed by Irish Architect William Vitruvius Morrison in 1837, in a Gothic Tudor style. The Tower House being a replica of the original Templar structure.

Another probable visitor, in its derelict days, was Phil Lynott who left his home in Crumlin and moved into a flat at 28 Castle Avenue in the late sixties. The three storey Victorian house where Lynott lived was recently renovated as a private dwelling and worth an approximate four million. But it was the castle that caught the young musician’s imagination.

The friendly ranger paused

And scooping a bowl of beans

Spreading them like stars

Falling like justice on different scenes

Around that time, Lynott joined Skid Row, moving on to front Orphanage and forming Thin Lizzy at the end of 1969 with old pal, Brian Downey, and Belfast duo Eric Bell and Eric Wrixon of Them. Thin Lizzy’s eponymous first album opens with the song The Friendly Ranger at Clontarf Castle. The lyrics suggest the castle and grounds are deserted, a place where wild and ragged people go, which Lynott and friends may have used for a hangout. The friendly ranger is part tramp, part guru, and evening brings a rush of hope and wonder.

To feel the goodness glowing inside

To walk down a street with my arms about your hips, side by side

To play with a sad eyed child till he smiles

To look at a starry sky at night, realize the miles

Like Dublin’s other great musical bard, Thomas Moore, Lynott sings of love and landscape, of lost and living friendships.

Back down at the seafront, there’s a water outlet in the wall, which it is said, derives from the spring where Brian refreshed himself at the Battle of Clontarf. It is known as Brian Boru’s Well; although he wasn’t looking so good last time he left the place, dead.

Turning back onto the coast, we pass Clontarf baths, The bracing shoreline with its spectacular panorama of the bay saw Clontarf become a fashionable resort in the nineteenth century. Catering for the influx, the baths were constructed by a Mr Brierly with hot and cold seaweed baths. These closed in 1996, but are currently refurbished with bar and lounge, although access to bathing remains nebulous.

A little further on we reach the junction of Vernon Avenue where an urban village juts onto the coast road. The ancient manorial village of Clontarf grew originally in the vicinity of the Castle, but the population in the late seventeenth century was less than a hundred. An important fisheries industry developed on the coast further east. Processing the catch, including fish curing and oysters, was carried on in a group of buildings called the Sheds and the modern village grew around this. The fisheries are long gone, but the name, The Sheds, lives on at Connolly’s Pub on the seafront. The small village is an interesting enclave with cafes, eateries, shops and the pub.

From here the road begins to curve northwards, towards Dollymount and the Bull Island. Guarding the route is an imposing head which resonates of a very distant culture. This is the Easter Island Maoi replica statue presented by the Chilean government to the city of Dublin in 2004. It was carved from the volcanic rock of Easter Island in the Pacific, and forms an eerie, though appropriate, connection between island cultures on different sides of the globe. Rock and roll! 

To see the sun set behind the steeple

Clontarf castle, no king, queen or knightly people

A coal fire and it’s pouring rain

To wave goodbye to a very good friend, never meet again

Little thoughts bring little memories of you to me

North Dublin’s Sandy Shore – 5

The station at Clontarf Road was an addition to the Dartline in 1997. The old Clontarf Station was at the start of the Howth Road, a bit further inland, which operated for a century from the eighteen forties to its closure in the 1950s. Dart dates back to 1984, and provides fast, frequent and affordable transport along the Dublin and North Wicklow coast. Clontarf Road is the last coastal stop between the city and Howth Junction, as the line plunges inland to serve the suburbs of Killester, Harmonstown, Raheny and Kibarrack. Aesthetically, the stop’s a dump on stilts, but function and convenience save the day. Numerous bus connections can be made along Clontarf Road itself, and I found the station ideally sited for visiting the Casino and the start of a few good walks north along the coast as far as Dollymount. 

Escaping the station, one is rewarded with a nexus of parkland and seafront promenade. To our left lies Fairview Park and Marino which we’ve recently explored. To our right, the road curves along the coast with the well-to-do suburb of Clontarf inland, and a pleasant linear park laid out on the seaward side. It’s similar to the coastal stretch on the southside at Sandymount. Across the water we see industrial East Wall and Dublin Port and Docks, and a bit further, the dominant striped towers of the Pigeon House and the Incinerator on the South Bull. An urban streetfront of red brick two and three storey premises continues as far as St Lawrence Road and the Yacht bar and restaurant. Cafe society clings to the pavement, an uneasy but distinctive mix of environments; city street and seafront.

Clontarf means Meadow of the Bull, and is deeply resonant in Irish History and identity. This goes back a thousand years to the Battle of Clontarf, where, it is said, the Irish under Brian Boru, drove the invading Danes into the sea. There is an information sign for the Battle of Clontarf at the start of the esplanade.The battle took place in 1014 and was not the Ireland v Denmark match of our schoolbooks. Brian Boru, King of Munster and High King of Ireland, led a coalition of forces, mostly Gaelic, but including Munster Vikings whom he had subjugated. Ranged against him was the alliance of Danish Dublin and Gaelic Leinster, with a number of Danes from the Isle of Man and the Orkneys. Leader of this alliance was Sitric Silkenbeard. Sitric was born in Ireland around 970 and became King of Dublin in the late eighties. 

At the end of the century he was obliged to submit to Brian Boru, becoming Brian’s ally in helpng him assert his rule over Ireland as High King. As part of the deal, Sitric married Brian’s daughter, Slaine, while Brian married Sitric’s mother Gormlaith. In marrying Brian, Gormlaith was on husband number three. She is cast as the femme fatale of her age, exercising a magnetic attraction at the apex of sex and power; a Celtic Cleopatra. But, hey, that’s the way the gals are in Dublin. 

She was the daughter of Murchada King of Leinster and brother of his successor, Mael Morda. She first married Olaf Cuaran, King of Dublin and York, with whom she had Sitric. Olaf abdicated following defeat at Tara in 980, and died in exile. The victor Mael Seachnall, High King of Ireland, aka Malachy II became husband number two. 

Gormlaith’s ardour waned with the arrival of a new force of nature. Brian Boru had by century’s end established himself as Ireland’s ruler and then captain of Gormlaith’s heart. Well, maybe. Things turned sour in a war between the sheets and Gormlaith left the ageing King. She also coaxed her brother and son away from their allegiance. The Gang of Three were now in open revolt. Sitric enlisted help from offshore Viking adventurers. Brodir and Ospak were Danish Manx brothers whom he hoped to persuade to join him at his day at the races. As it turned out they fought on different sides in the battle, Ospak finding Brian too good a king to oppose. Sigurd of Orkney supported Sitric. 

The battle took place on Good Friday, 1014. A day, you will be aware, the pubs were all shut. It could have ranged all along the coast from the Tolka River as far as where the North Bull now stands. Slaughter was huge on both sides. As many as ten thousand died. Brian’s son, Murtagh, and grandson Turlough were slain. Mael Morda also fell.

By the end of the day, the numerical superiority of the Irish forces began to tell. Many Vikings were marooned by the high tide and were drowned or slain. Sitric led what few remained of his forces back to Dublin. Brian, seventy years old was in his tent where Brodir found him and killed him, before himself being killed by Brian’s bodyguard. Legend has it that Brian was on his knees in prayer, giving thanks to God for his victory. Although he could have been trying to get the cork out of a bottle. Either way he was dead, as was his son and heir, Murtagh. This was a pyrrhic victory for Brian’s kin. 

Malachy resumed his High Kingship. He had brought his forces to Dublin, but they hung around the back smoking and playing cards, having forged a secret non aggression pact with the Dubs. He reigned until his death in 1022. Sitric, meanwhile, remained to rule the Fair City for a further two decades. Skilled in the not altogether disparate arts of piracy, pillage and politics, he is best known as patron of the church, establishing Christchurch Cathedral in a fit of piety after a pilgrimage to Rome in 1028. After almost fifty years in power, he was usurped in a palace coup in 1036, and exiled to York where he died in 1042. Gormlaith, the beautiful schemer, had died in 1030, in her seventieth year.

It’s thirsty work contemplating the legendary battles of yore. The wanderer, Dub or Dane, Gael or Gall, is welcome at the Yacht, a rare oasis in this seafront suburbia. They serve a good lunch, with battered fish and chunky chips the appropriate choice, either in the lounge of gleaming wood and glass flooded with seafront light or the windswept patio to the side. There, the cool wind blows, the seagulls call, and sometimes you’ll hear the echo of an ancient battle cry.

We come from the land of the ice and snow

From the midnight sun where the hot springs flow

How soft your fields so green

Can whisper tales of gore

Of how we calmed the tides of war

We are your overlords

Immigrant Song, was written on a visit to Reykjavik by Led Zeppelin, and opens their 1970 album Led Zeppelin III. Sitric would have loved it.

North Dublin’s Sandy Shore – 3

Cleary’s Pub lies in the shadow of the Loopline where it crosses Talbot Street. It is packed with the glinting brass and gloomy wood of the genuine, olde worlde Irish pub. With genuine passenger and freight trains hurtling overhead. I have stopped there on my way to concerts in Croke Park and in bygone days to slake my thirst after a hard day’s night in the Sheriff Street Sorting Office adjoining Connolly Station. Or even before the working night. The zombie shift could be tedious, but with hazardous interludes, so it was no harm to soften the sharper extremities of perception with a couple of pints before closing time. There were times too, in the wee small hours, when the Sorting Office would ring empty and hollow, the workers having repaired to some early opener to put in a round or two. I’d need to solve whatever task they’d set for me, some devious and booby trapped blockage, before sloping off into the dawn to herd them home from whatever watering hole they were hiding in. Grainger’s and the North Star being most likely.

Sheriff Street itself heads seaward before the Loopline, skirting the back end of the IFSC before crossing the Royal Canal to end off in the distance at East Wall Road. Our path continues northwards. A little further along Amiens Street we cross the line of the North Circular Road. Seville Place is on our right and Portland Row slopes up to our left towards Summerhill from where it continues on as the North Circular Road proper. At the five point intersection stands a notable Dublin landmark: the Five Lamps. This famous monument was erected in 1880 to fulfil the wishes of Lieutenant General Henry Hall who died five years earlier. Hall, from Athenry in County Galway, served with the British Army in Bengal and wanted his memorial to encourage sobriety. The cast iron fountain at its base provided clean drinking water, not available in the surrounding tenements.

The Five Lamps miraculously survived the North Strand Bombing of May 1941. WW2 was phrased the Emergency in neutral Ireland, but bits of war intruded. Three hundred houses were destroyed and twenty eight people died in this rare and brutal assault by German planes. Whether it was a mistake or a warning by the Luftwaffe we don’t know. Dublin had sent firefighters up to Belfast to deal with the aftermath of German bombings there, and Ireland’s neutrality was always slanted toward the Allies. Ireland remains neutral, though not passive, at time of going to press.

Continuing along North Strand Road, we cross the Royal Canal at Newcomen Bridge which is also the site of the first lock of the Royal Canal. The Royal Canal was the northside riposte to the Grand Canal on the southside. In 1790 construction began and soon the canal flowed westwards from Phibsborough to the Shannon River at Longford. The city extension of the Royal, as with the Grand, followed in the nineteenth century to link the Shannon with the Irish Sea. The Dublin Mullingar railway from the mid nineteenth century runs alongside the canal for much of its length.

Looking westward from the bridge, through the chaos of canal, railway and cityscape, Croke Park frames the horizon. The eighty thousand capacity stadium is the third largest in Europe. A feature of a stadium visit is the Skyline Tour. Way up in the eaves, it gives an elevated, dizzying, view over Dublin City. Croke Park has been the headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) since its foundation in 1884. The major finals in hurling and football are played there. It is also, betimes, a concert venue. U2, Bruce Springsteen and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers are amongst those who have headlined, and whom I’ve seen.

The Strand Cinema on the eastern side of the road was built in the mid thirties, becoming briefly a music venue and a bowling alley, before closing down along with so many suburban cinemas. The art deco facade was preserved and has been tastefully adapted as the frontage of an apartment complex.

Once more beneath the railway, this one also heading west, we continue through the dingy city outskirts to reach the Annesley Bridge crossing the Tolka River. Upstream, the river has enjoyed a pleasant suburban sojourn through The Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin and Drumcondra. But, off to our right, the murky Tolka seeps towards the docklands before taking a sharp left to join with the waters of the bay. East Wall Road continues straight into the docklands and eventually meets the Liffey at the East Link Bridge.

I worked in a factory down on East Wall approaching the Millennium. Planart made components for computers, bound for Finland mostly. It was a small operation, so I could follow through from darkroom to the final, messy business of etching. Urban spacemen in protective gear, the acid got everywhere. Not a place of love stories, so. Still, a young woman working production took a shine to the guy I worked with in the darkroom. I love a man with an accent, she said. Mac was from Arklow. I was appointed matchmaker, but such hints that I dropped, clanging from a height, went unheard by the Adonis of Arklow.

We argued regularly over music. There was wall to wall radio on the shop floor, strictly commercial, while one hip hop comrade was confined to the canteen for his aural hit. Rock music prevailed in the darkroom where I worked with Mac. The Cranberries were coming on strong just then. Their song, Zombie, stood out. Dolores Riordan wrote it in response to the death of two English boys in the IRA bombing of Warrington in 1993. Riordan’s enraged yodel fed directly into the zeitgeist. Mac quibbled with its political naivety, as he saw it. But it was a passionate vindication of light, and of leaving behind the dark, the heroic dead, and the persistent undead. No Need to Argue was the album, their second, released in 1994, and a global multi million seller.

It’s the same old theme
Since nineteen-sixteen
In your head, in your head, they’re still fighting
With their tanks, and their bombs
And their bombs, and their guns
In your head, in your head, they are dying
Zombie, zombie, zombie!
What’s in your head?

North Dublin’s Sandy Shore – 2

Memorial Road merges with Amiens Street as we head further north. This is transport city; seafaring ships on the river behind us, the railway curving along the Loopline to our left, while ahead Bus Aras forms a glass and steel embrace for the bus traveller.

Bus Aras is about my vintage. Blinking into the world in the mid fifties, just as I was, not far away in the Rotunda Hospital on Parnell Square. First mooted in the immediate aftermath of World War Two, it took ten years for the project to be realised. Dublin’s first modernist building, it was also emblematic of the modernist rebuilding of Europe after the war.

This significance sat uneasily with conservative Ireland. Bus Aras had to be scaled back from eight storeys to seven, providing a foretaste for Ireland’s perplexing fear of tall buildings. Ultimately, the building features two rectangular blocks of differing heights at right angles, over a circular central foyer, and a semicircular glass frontage jutting onto the concourse. It was designed by Michael Scott and a team of architects including the young Kevin Roche and Robin Walker. LeCorbusier was a major influence, enlivened by more ornate features such as the top floor pavillion and the flowing canopy sweeping along the frontage. This was the work of Ove Arup, structural engineer who would subsequently work on Sydney Opera House in the late fifties.

Through a changing scenario of clients and governments, the project proved expensive. Plans extended past functionality, with restaurants, nightclubs and cinema all planned for a multi purpose complex. High quality materials and various texturings were used: copper, bronze, terrazzo and oak Irish, and a number of expensive meals at Jammet’s thrown in; architects have to eat too.

A small newsreel cinema for waiting passengers ran for a couple of years until replaced by the Eblana theatre. Its small size and situation in the basement, next to the Ladies, led to detractors calling it the only public toilets in Dublin with their own theatre. The Eblana and its company Gemini Productions was founded by Phyllis Ryan and despite its shortcomings, and goings, survived as a theatre until 1995, premiering works by such major playwrights as Brian Friel, Tom Murphy and John B Keane.

Eblana is a name dating back to Claudius Ptolemaeus, or Ptolemy, the Greek astronomer and cartographer whose map of Ireland appeared in his Geographia in the second century AD. It appears south of the Boyne and north of the Avoca of Arklow, and is reckoned to be the first mention of Dublin in historical records. The placing looks right and the name could be a corruption of Dubh Linn, the Black Pool, used centuries later by the Vikings. There is no actual evidence of significant trading settlement hereabouts, way back when. Some scholars think Eblana may refer to areas further north which boast some evidence of Roman trade, with Loughshiny and Portrane as possibilities.

These days Busaras is central to a travel network throughout the city and country. You can even take the bus to London from here, via Holyhead. The Luas red line stops outside, connecting Connolly, next door, with Houston rail station away on the western end of the city. Eastwards, the Luas will continue past Connolly and on through the ultramodern development of the North Wall area as far as the point. There are bars, cafes and restaurants along the way, with Mayor Square providing a good oasis to stop and ponder the modern city.

Meanwhile, back on the banks of Amiens Street, Connolly Station is more than a century older than Busaras. Long known as Amiens Street Station, it was the terminus for the railway connecting Dublin and Belfast. This came into operation in 1844 as the Dublin and Drogheda Line. There was for a while a brief portage at the Boyne while the viaduct awaited construction. This provided the last link in 1853 and made the trip to Belfast a reality. The Dublin terminus was designed by William Deane Butler. It was built of Wicklow Granite and is distinguished by its ornate colonnaded facade and Italianate tower.

Amongst its many virtues over the years was the fact that the station bar worked as a sole oasis for the weary wayfarer. Designated a bona fide premises, that meant it could serve alcohol on days of abstinence, for the bona fide traveller. Armed only with a valid rail ticket, you could claim your reward at the bar, while luckless pedestrians waited outside in the cold and dry. The long Good Friday is no more, only Christmas Day remains as a day of abstinence; well publicly, that is. Matt Talbot would be turning in his grave. Madigans continues to serve food and drink for all who hunger and thirst, day in day out.

The Station faces down one of Dublin’s longest street vistas. The line of Talbot Street continues straight through O’Connell Street, becoming Henry Street, then Mary Street until it hits Capel Street. At 1.3km, it is almost a metric mile from the corner to Slattery’s of Capel Street. Talbot Street has nothing to do with the aforementioned Matt, it is named for Charles Cetwynd Talbot, Ireland’s Lord Lieutenant in 1820. The buildings were laid out in the 1840s at the start of the Victorian era. A certain pall of sleaze has hung in the air from early on. Monto, Dublin’s red light district in gaslight days, was just around the corner. The dreaded loopline came crashing through in 1890. Since then, such premises as the Cinerama, once the Electric Theatre, and Cleary’s pub on Amiens Street, functioned with the added sound effect of trains trundling overhead.

Talbot Street was one of three places in the capital hit by the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in1974. Fourteen of the thirty three victims died here, most of them women and including children and a full term, unborn child. The car bombs were planted by the UVF and exploded at Friday rush hour. The act was part of the Loyalist campaign against the Sunningdale Agreement which proposed a power sharing executive for Northern Ireland. Elements in British security forces, hostile to the British Labour Government, colluded. Peace would come however, twenty years later, with the Good Friday Agreement; Sunningdale for slow learners. A memorial to the victims was unveiled in 1997 and stands at the top of Talbot Street, across from Connolly.

The song Raised by Wolves from U2’s album Songs of Innocence references the event, describing the car and its registration. It features on their 2014 album, Songs of Innocence.

Boy sees his father crushed under the weight
of a cross in a passion where the passion is hate
Blue mink Ford, I’m gonna detonate and you’re dead
Blood in the house, blood on the street
The worst things in the world are justified by belief
Registration 1385-WZ

North Dublin’s Sandy Shore – 1

In contrast to the hilly southside, Dublin’s north shore is quite flat, other than the hill of Howth jutting into the bay. The coast makes an opening for the central plain, extending past Drogheda and on to Dundalk where the Cooley Mountains rise above Carlingford Lough at the Border.
It was an ancient power highway, connecting the Liffey to the Boyne and the centre of Irish power radiating from Tara. And it was a doorstep for invasion too. The Vikings established their first power bases along this coast in the ninth century, originally settling in Dundalk. The emergence of a strong high king, Niall Blacknee, forced them south to establish Dublin in around 845 AD. Originally the settlement was sporadic, but was secure by the end of the millennium, and remained so for two centuries until the Norman invasion.

Dublin was originally built on the higher ground south of the river. The north bank was farmland. The Ostmen were Danish speaking and their territory became known as Oxmantown. Further north the denizens were known as the Fingal, the fair foreigners. The fair foreigner is said to denote the Norwegian Vikings, while Baldoyle, further north, is the town of the dark foreigner, which is said to refer to the Danes. It seems unlikely that this signified distinct, contrasting complexion or even hair colour, the Vikings were generally fair in both. It may have been a note on character. In which case it was surely relative, Vikings were not usually renowned for peace, love and understanding. These days, beyond the city boundary, north county Dublin is called Fingal.

You’ll notice how the Liffey is already widening into its estuary east of O’Connell Bridge. The flow of water is tidal, with its inherent smell and rowdy host of seagulls. The land hereabouts has much been reclaimed from the shallow sea of Dublin Bay. Since the late eighteenth century, Dublin Port has developed along constructed quaysides with the silting estuary being cleared at last by the huge engineering feat of the North and South Bull Walls. While the South Bull is a direct extension of the south quays, the North Bull is farther away and out of sight, a finger extending into the bay from the distant suburb of Dollymount. The North Quays terminate at the Point and the East Link Bridge; Dublin’s modern port and docks extending further east for a bit.

As a starting point for our safari along North Dublin’s Sandy Shore, we can walk either bank down past Butt Bridge, under the Loop Line and on to the Talbot Memorial Bridge. The bridge was built in 1978 becoming then the easternmost crossing of the Liffey. It is named for Matt Talbot, poster boy of Irish temperance, with his statue standing on the southern end.

Matt Talbot was born in 1856 in North Strand and worked as an unskilled labourer. A fierce drinker from his early teens, he abandoned the demon drink at the age of twenty eight. His obsession with alcohol was replaced with an extreme, though benign, religious fervour. On his death in 1925, he was discovered to have practiced self mortification with several chains wrapped around his body beneath his clothing. He was renowned as an admirable worker and, while poor, was a dapper dresser. Some characterised him as a strike breaker in 1913, though there’s no evidence of this. Apparently he refused strike pay, donating it instead to comrades with families to support.

Photograph by Paula Nolan, a contemporary of mine at NCAD, George’s Quay. A fine photographer, she has exhibited at the RHA.

Also in 1978, George’s Quay became temporary home to the National College of Art and Design. I was one of the inbetweeners studying graphic design there as the college moved from its base in Kildare Street, between Leinster House National Library, to its current campus at Powers Distillery on Thomas Street. The surrounding area crumbled while awaiting the redemption of development. The theme song to the rubble and crumbling chimney stacks provided by U2 at Windmill Lane nearby. Today, the crystalline towers of the Ulster Bank form a significant landmark for the modern city. Begun in 1997 and completed five years later, the complex is distinguished by seven pyramid crowned glass towers and is now known as George’s Quay Plaza.

Another photograph by Paula Nolan, from the tv seat of a bus heading south on Memorial Road

Across the Bridge, the Custom House floats serenely above the waters of the Liffey. Initiated by Ireland’s first Revenue Commissioner John Beresford in 1780, it was designed by James Gandon and after completion in 1791 would be regarded as his masterpiece. The project had been much derided at the start, being built on a swamp and seen as remote from the city centre. The Corporation, enraged traders and the High Sheriff himself, sharked up mobs to disrupt construction, but Beresford prevailed. Now it’s a definitive symbol of Dublin, and stands away to the west of the extensive docklands.

Not that it hasn’t suffered its fair share of depredations in the meantime. It was burned by rebels during the War of Independence with the aim of destroying tax records. Unfortunately, the interior, the dome and irreplaceable historical records were also destroyed. The new government of independent Ireland moved quickly to restore the building. The renovation is apparent with the darker stone used for the reconstruction of the central tower. Meanwhile, Memorial Road was named in honour of those from the Dublin Brigade who died in this, and other engagements in the war.

Downriver, the International Financial Services Centre, is an undistinguished grouping of medium rise glass blocks from the late twentieth century. Beyond, lies the modern, geometric heart of the new commercial capital. Upriver, the Loop Line Bridge occludes the Fair City. This wrought iron bridge and carriageway of 1890 has attracted the ire of the aesthetically sensitive ever since.
The Loop Line linked Ireland’s South Eastern railway system, affectionately known as the Slow and Easy, with the Great Northern Railway, linking the capital to Belfast. Pragmatic trumped aesthetic, with the project crashing through the facade of the South Eastern’s Westland Row HQ, before masking off the view of the Custom House and much else to each side.

However it was functionally a boon, completing the East Coast railway axis and crucially linking the Mailboat service from Kingstown. Even more so today, providing direct access for freight and commuters between Dublin and Belfast, and all around the bay and beyond to the towns and cities of the South and East. Besides, it is a visual delight to sit aboard a train twixt Tara and Connolly and finding yourself at the centre of the joyful panorama of Dublin and its sublime River Liffey. Better yet, it is a vista unmarked by the intrusion of the Loop Line itself.

I referred to the song What’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding earlier on. Written in 1974 by Nick Lowe, it became a hit for Elvis Costello in 1978 and was tacked on to the American release of the album Armed Forces. It forms a neat counterpoint to the theme of conflict implicit, if vaguely, in the songs and album title. Oliver’s Army directly references British military campaigns in Ireland right back to Oliver Cromwell. Costello was born Declan McManus in London and is of Irish descent. His songs are rich in wordplay, snappy phrases, and catchy too. He didn’t write this, but he could have. It’s a song of other times, one that fits with our times, and one for all time.

As I walk through this wicked world
Searchin’ for light in the darkness of insanity
I ask myself, is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?
And each time I feel like this inside
There’s one thing I wanna know
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding? Oh
What’s so funny ’bout peace love and understanding?

Setanta Centre

Built in 1976 and designed by Brian Hogan, the Setanta Centre is a five storey office block that looks over the lawns of Trinity College from its perch on cold, cold Nassau Street. The ground floor frontage is most famously occupied by the Kilkenny Design shop and Read’s Design and Print. It functioned as a short cut on my way to Art College in the late seventies, through an entrance off Nassau Street, which opened onto an internal square leading to the rere of the building and on to Kildare Street. I had quit my job in the Dept. of Posts and Telegraphs that summer. Their HQ, Telephone House, at the top of Marlboro Street, was also designed by Hogan. Setanta seemed to occupy a space on which the sun never shone but this was alleviated by a good mural of the Tain Bo Cuailgne by Desmond Kinney to the right of that inner space.

The Tain is the major story of the Ulster Cycle of mythology, set in the centuries immediately before Irish written history. Hero of the saga is Cuchulainn, whose given name was Setanta. The Tain tells the story of the cattle raid of Cooley, leading to a war between the kingdoms of Ulster and Connaught. Since Connaught wasn’t established that early, drawing its name from Con Cead Catha (Con of the Hundred Battles) some centuries later, we can see that the area covered is a bit elastic. Ulster dynasties at various times annexed Louth, Meath and Dublin. Setanta probably hailed from Dublin. Given his prowess at hurling it could hardly have been Louth, Meath or Ulster.

As a boy, traveling from Dublin to Armagh, he came upon the house of Culann, smithy to the Ulster King, Conor McNeasa. Culann’s hound leapt at the young hero, slavering jaws agape. Setanta, drawing his hurley, thwacked the sliotar down the hound’s throat, killing him. Culann, who one would think should have tethered the brute, was not well pleased. So our hero had to take the post of guard dog to the smithy until a replacement guard dog could be trained. Hence the name, Cu Chulainn, Culann’s Hound.

Cuchulainn at last reached the school for warriors at Navan Fort (Armagh) where he could beat the men of Ulster, combined, at hurling (not hard, mind) and came to be their hero. When Queen Maeve of Connaught launched her audacious raid to capture Ulster’s prize bull, the Men of Ulster were asleep and it was up to Cuchulainn to defend the kingdom single handed. He did this by demanding single combat at a succession of fords until Ulster’s King could muster his forces.

Fighting Cuchulainn was a fearsome prospect. Amongst his special powers, most awesome was his warp spasm. His body would reverse within its skin, his eyes would oscillate, his hair transform into fearsome metallic spikes, and his warrior’s light, shining from his forehead, become a column of boiling blood to the height of a pine tree. If you were flatsharing with Cuchulainn, it was best not to leave the cap off the toothpaste.

Horslips second album was a rock opera based on the saga. They first performed it in concert at the National Stadium in 1973. Standout track is Cuchulainn’s first person eulogy, Dearg Doom. Horslips weird and compelling hybrid of rock and traditional Irish music is probably at its best here. It starts with a to-die-for riff, based on a traditional tune, O’Neill’s March. It became a hit single in Ireland and Germany. Dearg is the Irish word for red, while Doom refers to the legend that he was shadowed by the vision of his death foretold. Combined, the title evokes the red mist emanating from Cuchulainn as he entered warp spasm. It was adapted as the song of the Irish soccer team, the first ever to qualify for a world cup finals tournament in 1990 when they reached the quarter finals. Put Them Under Pressure featured a rare example of Yorkshire Rap from team manager Jack Charlton. Larry Mullen of U2 composed the montage, including the ethereal voice of Maire Brennan of Clannad and a rousing team chorus of Ole Ole Ole.

You speak in whispers of the devils I have slain
By the fire of my silver Devil’s Blade,
And still you dare to flaunt yourself at me.
I don’t want you, I don’t need you,
I don’t love you, can’t you see
I’m Dearg Doom

This painting describes a wet day entering Setanta’s concourse from Nassau Street. There is an echo of the painting The Wanderer, by German gothic romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich. Friedrich’s tableau depicts a silhouette poised before the aching beauty of nature. My wanderer carries an umbrella before her like a shield. But cities in the rain, even in their plainest raiment, are jewels to behold, whether rough diamonds or polished just so.

And a Happy Christmas to yous all.

Good Day in Blackrock

Blackrock has been, since Early Modern times, the first settlement you hit south of Dublin city. It perches above the rocky shore along the rocky road to Dublin. Whack fol dol de day. From where we pass Blackrock College the town begins to emerge. The main road, which for long wound through the old village, was rerouted along the western fork at Blackrock Shopping Centre in the 1980s. This new route, Frescati Road, takes traffic towards Dun Laoghaire and the N11. Veer left and downhill for the town centre.

In olden days, the entrance to Blackrock was presided over by Frescati House. This was a grand Georgian mansion built in 1739 as Dublin’s upper classes sought property outside the teeming city. The FitzGeralds, Ireland’s largest landowners, acquired it as their summer residence from Leinster House and Carton House, Kildare. It became the home of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, a leader of the 1798 rebellion.

Lord Edward had been a veteran of the American War of Independence (fighting for the British), but later took inspiration from the French Revolution and lived in France in 1792, where he repudiated his own title and was dismissed from the army. Returning to Ireland, Fitzgerald hosted meetings of the United Irishmen at Frescati, entertaining the likes of Tom Paine, writer of the Rights of Man, and Lord Cloncurry, a neighbouring landowner. However, the movement was riddled with spies and FitzGerald was betrayed by Thomas Reynolds and forced into hiding. On the eve of the planned uprising he was captured after a gunfight on Thomas Street. FitzGerald killed an arresting officer but sustained gunshot wounds and was taken. He died from his wounds in Newgate Prison in Smithfield in 1798 at the age of thirty four.

In the late sixties, the glare of development fell upon Frescati. The unremarkable exterior may have harmed its case for preservation, still, preservationists fought a thirteen year campaign before the house was demolished to make way for Roche’s Stores shopping centre in 1983.

The town itself was first noted in the late fifteenth century and was named, prosaically, Newtown. By 1610 Newtown became Blackrock. The black rock in question is limestone calp, which appears black in the rain. With the well-to-do colonising the coast in increasing numbers. Blackrock was booming by the eighteen thirties and provided a ready customer basis for the new Dublin Kingstown railway line. The construction of the railway causeway created something of a swamp north of the town, all the way up past Booterstown. In the 1870s the town commissioners tamed the part adjacent to Blackrock and turned it into a park.

Blackrock Park provides a scenic route into town and connects to the linear coastal park by way of Williamstown Martello Tower. The Rock Road entrance takes us across a rising green lawn which culminates in a twin pillar entrance against the eastern sky. To the left of this is a monument to Irish nationalism. The commemorative garden was opened in 2016 on the centenary of the 1916 Rising. The coastal views from here are splendid. Meanwhile, to our right, entrance through the twin piers takes us into the Park proper.

The ground plunges down to an attractive pond. This forms a naturalesque amphitheatre with the sloping green sward rising above the placid water. A small circular island provides an open bandstand. Time was, my friends and I would make our way here of a weekend, where we basked in those golden days with Thin Lizzy, Mellow Candle, Horslips, and, em, Chris De Burgh. That line up played here in August 1971.

What could beat a summer’s day, full of sunshine and flower power, and a vague scented mist settled over the hollow? Mellow Candle in one of their less mellow moments would launch into the manic vocalisation: toor a loor a loor a laddy, toor a loor a lay! Leading to the refrain:

I know the Dublin pavements will be boulders on my grave
I know the Dublin pavements will be boulders on my grave!

That number finished their album Swaddling Songs, released the following year, and brought their set to a close with audience and band taking a communal plunge into the pond. The waters are still and lily padded now with visual suggestions of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, mythology and rebirth. But if I hunker down here, I swear I can detect an echo of those soundwaves rippling the leaves and water like restless ghosts.

As a designated route linking Blackrock to Booterstown, the park is open all hours. There’s a children’s playground, designated cycle path, and an outdoor gym area. Heading around the pond, there’s a folly on the larger island to the south and here the terrain is softened and shaded by mature woodland. Farther on there’s a traditional bandstand. You can exit the park uphill at an entrance taking you to Main Street, or, as I did, through a narrow lane along the railway line, emerging at the Station.

Blackrock Station is a grand two storey structure with a portico. The Railway Station opened for business in 1834, being the one stop on the original Dublin to Kingstown line, twixt Westland Row in the city and the terminus at Kingstown.

Seaward of the far platform stood the baths and swimming arena. Blackrock Baths were built by the Railway Company in 1839. Fifty years later they were enlarged, with designated bathing for men and women in separate pools. In 1928 they were used in the Tailteann Games, an Irish Olympics after Independence, with a fifty metre pool and a stand for a thousand spectators. Usage declined in the seventies, leading to closure in the eighties. Sadly, the Baths were demolished in 2013. You can still see their outline from the pedestrian bridge over the tracks to the south of the station.

There’s still bathing along the coast from a narrow strip walled off from the railway. This culminates a hundred metres or so on at an imposing structure. The new railway crossed the private beach of Maretimo House, property of Valentine Lawless, Lord Cloncurry. By way of compensation, a grandiose bridge and private harbour were constructed. Up until recently, the harbour included a small shelter, rendered mythic by its classical portico, but this has been demolished. The bridge itself with its walkway strung between two elegant towers, has been allowed to fall into disrepair and access is fenced off. Lawless, appropriately named in his younger years, had fallen in with Lord Edward and was imprisoned for sedition in the Tower of London in 1798. He fled to Europe upon his release and settled for a time in Rome. Ultimately he reconciled himself with British authority in Ireland, becoming a Viceregal advisor and a magistrate.

This is the end of the line for the coastal path, though it resumes shortly past Seapoint Dart Station. In between, we must return towards Blackrock station, overlooked by the elegant Idrone Terrace to our left, and climb up to Blackrock Main Street. Our route takes us through the village and along Newtown Avenue and Seapoint Avenue.

The main street is busy, with several coffee shops spilling onto the pavement. Blackrock Market is entered through an archway where it opens into a sizeable maze of stalls offering a cornucopia of fashion, furniture, arts and crafts, food and drink. While many such markets have been squeezed out of the marginal properties they occupy, Blackrock has clung on since its establishment in 1986.

I take a pint of Guinness at Jack O’Rourke’s, the brew being a malty response to the changing of the season. And very good it is too, savoured in a slice of sunlight that chanced upon the lane to the side of the boozer. Blackrock’s bars also include the Breffni, the Wicked Wolf, Flash Harry’s and the Ten Tun Tavern. There is little concession to the drift towards al fresco in the bar trade, though you can perch on the pavement outside the Ten Tun at the southern end of Main Street.

Near the top of the town, there’s a 9th century cross. This was probably a burial marker to begin with, becoming a property marker and then from the eighteenth century the focus of a tradition marking the boundary of Dublin City. Every three years, the Mayor of Dublin and his Sheriffs would journey here formally acknowledging the cross as the southern limits of the jurisdiction of Dublin Corporation.

Main Street divides into Temple Road and Newtown Avenue. Along Temple Road, the right hand fork, we come across Blackrock Dolmen. This sculpture by Rowan Gillespie is evocative of ancient days and teeters near the entrance to the Church of Saint John the Baptist. The church was built in 1845 on land donated by Valentine Lawless and designed by Patrick Byrne, an early example of Gothic Revival, inspired by Augustus Pugin. The interior holds stained glass windows by Ireland’s two masters of the form, Harry Clarke and Evie Hone.

The left fork is Newtown Avenue, which keeps us to our coastal route. The Town Hall was completed in 1865 with the formation of the Town Commission a few years earlier. Next to the Town Hall, and forming a unified three piece, the Carnegie Library and Technical Institute were built in 1905.

Newtown Avenue leads to a sharp dogleg right, to avoid running into the front porch of Newtown House. Blackrock House from 1774 is adjacent, distinguished by its two storey brick porch. The next sharp left takes us down Seapoint Avenue. There’s a narrow laneway leading to Seapoint station. This opened in 1860 when it was called Monkstown and Seapoint. To access the coast, take the next laneway on the left which leads down to Brighton Vale, a pleasant row of bungalows nestled on the shore. A few yards further on is Seapoint Martello Tower, overlooking the popular bathing place. From here the walkway curves along the lower lip of Dublin Bay to its end.

The next station is called Monkstown and Salthill. Salthill Station dates from 1837, closed in 1960, but was reopened with the electrified Dart service in 1984. This was the site of the original terminus before it moved farther east to the current location of Dun Laoghaire station in 1837. On reaching the West Pier, we begin retracing the steps we trod on South Dublin’s Rocky Shore. So, it is possible, and very enjoyable, to walk from the Liffey estuary, all the way down to beautiful Bray, County Wicklow. From Raytown to Bray town; and beyond.