Heading out of Dublin City by way of Leeson Street, we cross the Grand Canal into Dublin 4. This is the main road to Wexford via Donnybrook and the N11. Leeson Street was originally called Suesey Steet, with something of a sleazy reputation. In the early eighteenth century it was renamed for the Leeson family, local brewers and property developers. The Georgian development of the area came towards the end of the century and has come to represent the high watermark of the Neo Classical era. The canal established Dublin city’s southern border a decade or so later.
Leeson street continues as Upper Leeson Street heading south. The area hereabouts was known as Pembroke, from the estate occupying most of the land. By the middle of the nineteenth century Pembroke had developed into a sizeable middle class suburb. Further on, the village of Donnybrook was famous, or infamous, for its annual fair. First licensed by King John in 1204, the Fair, lasting a full fortnight, came to be regarded as a cauldron of brawling, drunkenness and vice. All the good things in life. As the suburbs seeped into this oasis on the periphery, respectable citizens campaigned against the Fair, and it was finally extinguished in 1855. However, though Donnybrook and environs might have become the home of the great and the good, the pot of Route Eleven continued to simmer.
In this acrylic I am crossing the route where it is known as Morehampton Road. Donnybrook glows in the distance. To the right, the Hampton Hotel was once called Sachs, a name resonating with its notorious nightclub, and weekend jazz sessions. On a Sunday morning, Chris Lamb and the Black Sheep would be doing their thing, when a white Rolls Royce would pull up outside. A heavy set man, black mane and moustache, would alight, steam into the joint and take his place behind the drum kit. Turning the volume up to eleven, he would just as enigmatically depart in a haze of cigar smoke. The Sultan of Rock and Roll.
The Leeson Strip has never lost its patina of vice. More red brick than red light, but there’s always the whiff of discreet abandon, as notes and aromas waft up from basements.
Loneliness is a crowded room
Full of open hearts turned to stone
All together, all alone
All at once my whole world had changed
Now I’m in the dark, off the wall
Let the strobe light up the wall
I close my eyes and dance till dawn
On a sunny morning, beneath the towering trees, life is a dappled mirage, the light above all the better for the shadows below.
Dance away the heartache
Dance away the tears
Dance away the heartache
Dance away the fear
Dance Away was written by Bryan Ferry in 1977 and was included on Roxy Music’s Manifesto album in 1979. It became one of the band’s biggest singles and reached Number one in the Irish charts, in the wake of Blondie’s Sunday Girl.