Author Archives: Harry Warren

From top: Vartry Reservoir and treatment plant, Roundwood, county Wicklow

Water for Dublin.

Harry writes:

Taking a walk beside Vartry reservoir on a beautiful summer day, I think our Japanese friends may be onto something when they speak of shinrin-yoku, bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses. The reservoir and its woods have some lovely easy to walk trails and shinrin-yoku is simply yours to experience by being in nature, connecting through the senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.

Through the opening of our senses, shinrin-yoku bridges the gap between us and the natural world, and whether you believe in it or not, idling away a few hours in the woods is very calming for the spirit.

Woods surround the manmade lakes in Vartry, and they are a very scenic body of water, especially when you are looking at the volcano-like peak of the Sugarloaf (above), my favourite Wicklow Mountain.

The reservoir was the brainchild of Sir John Gray (1816-1875), more anon, with much of the ground and building works being carried out and completed by men using only picks, shovels, horses and carts. Development of the Vartry reservoir was greatly driven by Dublin’s cholera epidemic of 1832 where more than 5,200 people died.

Basic sanitation and clean water were scarce at that time, especially for the poor, and the overcrowded living conditions led to rapid spread of disease and infection. The death rate from cholera was extremely high at the time due to a lack of medical knowledge of the disease and how it spread. Some of the most well-known graveyards today have little-known corners that were used as cholera mass graves

As Dublin’s population expanded the need for additional fresh water supplies greatly increased. In October 1860, a Royal Commission, being mindful of previous cholera outbreaks urgently, recommended that a new fresh water supply should be provided from the Vartry River in Wicklow.

The project had an estimated cost of £500,000, around €71 million in today’s value. The canal companies provided the now inadequate water supply to Dublin and facing financial ruin, they did their utmost to prevent the Varty project and engaged in “many underhand ploys” to prevent it.

The Vartry scheme was completed due to the efforts of John Gray (above), a nationalist politician, he was an Irish physician, Surgeon, Journalist and Politician. Gray was born in Mount St Claremorris Co Mayo and educated at Trinity College and went on to Glasgow University in 1839. Growing up, he became interested in politics and the needs of communities.

Becoming proprietor of The Freemans Journal, he advocated repealing the Act of Union with England.Due to his political activity, he was imprisoned for 9 months with “The Great Emancipator”, Daniel O Connell. Gray helped to establish the Tenants League (1850) after the Famine.

Arguably his greatest public contribution was his work leading to the improvement of clean water in Dublin, resulting in disease free public sanitation thereby greatly reducing outbreaks of cholera and other diseases associated with contaminated water.

The new water supply also increased the water pressure to fight fires by the various Fire Brigades of the day. Gray employed all of his political skills to push the 1861 Dublin Corporation Waterworks Act through the Houses of Parliament allowing the Vartry scheme to proceed. To ensure the necessary land, he even purchased it using his own money and sold it on to the Corporation at cost price, to prevent profiting by speculators.

In November 1862 Work began on the Vartry scheme and it took six years to complete. A major earthen dam over 18 metres high was constructed and lined with stones to create a reservoir with a capacity of 11.3 billion litres and a maximum depth of 18.3 metres, it held 200 days’ supply of water, initially seven filter beds were constructed, three more were added in 1873. Another four were built in 1930, and two more in 2005. Work on a tunnel through Callow Hill began in 1863, and was completed in September 1866.

The tunnel was approx. 2 metres high, 1.5 metres wide and more than 4 kilometres long, large enough to contain a small car. It linked the Vartry reservoir to 40 kilometres of trunk water mains into a reservoir at Stillorgan then along to Dun Laoghaire and Dublin.

Today it currently supplies about 15 per cent of drinking water for the greater Dublin area. Some of the original iron work piping into Dublin can be seen beside Dublin’s Leeson Street bridge (above).

John Gray was deservedly knighted for his work on Vartry and rightfully credited with helping to reduce outbreaks of water borne diseases including the scourge of cholera.

So, today if you are strolling on O’Connell Street take a moment to glance at Sir John Gray’s statue, a man who did immense service for public health by providing fresh water and wonder what politician today would spend his own money in the interests of the public good, not too many I imagine.

Harry’s Dublin appears here every Friday.

All pics by Harry Warren.

Previously: Harry’s Dublin on Broadsheet

The Clock Tower, Grangegorman, Dublin 7, formerly the Cholera Hospital

Dublin and the Cholera Pandemic.

Harry writes:

Tragically, too many Irish people have died of a Covid-19 infection due to the current worldwide Pandemic and many of them were Dubliners. It is not the first time that Dubliners succumbed to a Pandemic disease and here’s a little history of another particularly nasty one that killed thousands in Ireland, Cholera.

The first cholera pandemic spread from India in 1817 -1824 and hundreds of thousands died. From 1823-1829, the initial outbreak remained outside of much of Europe. In the years following the initial outbreak further outbreaks of the disease spread through the Russian Empire and relentlessly moving westward it finally ravaged through Europe during 1831. Many hoped Ireland’s location as an island on the edge of the continent would save it. Inevitably the first cases were recorded in Dublin and Belfast in 1832.

Cholera killed thousands in Dublin, between 1832-3 upwards of 50,000 died in Ireland. A terrified writer described the new pestilence sweeping the globe. ‘It has mastered every variety of climate, surmounted every natural barrier, conquered every people.’. It was endemic on the Indian subcontinent for centuries, and the inhabitants of Lower Bengal worshipped it as the goddess Oolee Beebe. It was a new disease in Europe and Ireland, and was highly lethal due to a lack of immunity, thriving in the unsanitary crowded conditions that the poor lived in.

Early in 1831, with Cholera raging in Europe, it was realised that it was only a matter of time before it spread to Ireland. As it afflicted all classes of society and not only the poor, it led to greater government intervention. In preparation for the coming onslaught, the government re-activated the Irish Central Board of Health, a body that was formed during a previous Typhus epidemic.

The Board, more commonly known as the ‘Cholera Board’, ordered the public to bring their sick to hospital, to ventilate rooms, to scrape dirt from the floors and scrub surfaces with lime., warning: ‘Everyone affected is to seek medical attention or run the risk of death’. All straw bedding was to be burned. Recovered patients were to self-isolate: “not to visit in a family, or go to a place of worship, or any crowded assembly“. Funerals and mass gatherings were banned.

With the infection raging in Dublin, so many were dying hospitals refused to accept patients ill with cholera. A public meeting of medical officers was held in the Coffee Room of the Royal Exchange (now the Council Chamber in City Hall, above), to demand that cholera patients be treated, resulting in some existing hospitals being reconfigured into fever hospitals as an emergency measure. It was even suggested to use the police to force hospitals to admit cholera patients.

In 1832, many of the sick were treated in the Richmond Penitentiary (the Clock Tower building in Grangegorman) now put to use as the Dublin Cholera Hospital. A group of women known as the “Walking Nuns” members of an order that later became The Sisters of Charity, selflessly cared for those who were sick and dying. Taking a huge personal risk, they worked four-hour shifts, four people at a time. They washed, cleaned, fed, and offered emotional and spiritual support to the sick and dying. When their shift ended, they bathed both themselves and their clothes in lime and water thus minimising the dangers of contamination. Because of their sanitary practices only one of these ladies contracted the disease from which she recovered and none died.

Over 5 days in the middle of 1832, more than 600 patients were admitted. Patients dying from cholera in the hospital was extremely high. Relatives checked a list of names pinned daily on the entrance doors of the Clock Tower building to see if any family members had died overnight. Recent Luas works revealed over 1,600 cholera victims buried in mass graves nearby.

Cholera forced the closure of Dublin’s oldest cemetery, Bully’s Acre in Kilmainham (above), as it ran out of burial space. The plot in Glasnevin Cemetery’s in which Charles Stewart Parnell is buried sits atop a cholera pit. There was a mass grave here during a later cholera outbreak in 1849. Leakage from the cemetery flowed into the nearby Tolka river and it spread infection as locals used the water for washing and bathing.

After infection, cholera can strike dead 50% of its victims in a matter of hours in the most miserable and agonising of ways. As related about a family at the time, “we left them all well at half past nine, and the next morning at 9 o’clock we heard that six of the family were dead and had already been buried.”. Individuals suffered a sudden onset of stomach cramps, vomiting, fever, and explosive-severe-voluminous diarrhoea. Within hours of the disease’s onset, the cholera victim had expelled immense quantities of bodily fluids. The head, hands, and extremities turned cold, bluish in colour, shrinking due to dehydration and death like to touch. Death followed within hours of the first symptoms by cardiac failure due to a severe electrolytic imbalance.

It was a vile and repulsive death. The victims lost consciousness and it was difficult to determine if the individual was genuinely dead. There were reports of the body “twitching” for hours after an individual’s apparent death. Reports of live burials of unconscious victims were common. Burials were forbidden to take place less than 24 hours after death due to this phenomenon.

Anyone having contact with the individual, their soiled bedding, clothing, or infected water sources was a potential victim and carrier of the disease. Being highly virulent, cholera overwhelmingly proved fatal for the elderly, infants, and the otherwise infirm.

Cholera thrived in the unsanitary living conditions of Dublin’s poor, many of whom lacked access to clean water. Medical professionals had little knowledge of how cholera spread, believing it to be a “Miasma”, a mysterious atmospheric phenomenon of poisonous air, alternatively, some thought it spread by contagion by touching the infected.

Fear of the disease and the lack of knowledge about how it spread led to bizarre beliefs and conspiracy theories, paralleling today’s false misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic.

Public protests and rioting broke out; false stories were spread that doctors poisoned their patients for profit or that they killed them so their bodies could be sold for dissection. A cholera doctor assigned to various towns in Ireland described riots he witnessed at Ballyshannon, Ballina, Claremorris, and Sligo, reporting that the crowds believed, “the doctors, … were to have 10 guineas a day: £5 of every one they killed; and to poison without mercy.”. Others blamed the supernatural, a Dublin chaplain described it as “a pestilence, which walketh in the darkness”.

In early 1832 Thomas Rumley a future president of Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and a Dr. Stoker, diagnosed a case of Asiatic Cholera in Kingstown, (Dun Laoghaire). Rioting broke out as enraged boarding -house keepers fearful of losing business and an ‘infuriated mob’ attacked the two doctors with stones and bricks, they narrowly escaped with their lives

Nationwide incidents of mass hysteria occurred. A letter sent to Dublin Castle by Major General G H Barry, Co. Cork reported, “The Virgin Mary appeared in Charleville church, leaving certain ashes, which she warned were the only protection against cholera. These were to be delivered to four houses, and then these four householders were to proceed to four more homes to spread the message”.Long before mass communication and the internet, the message and its messengers reached Ulster within a few days.

The message was embellished as it was relayed across the country, 7 prayers were to be recited, ashes, turf and stones were used in the east, while straws were used further west. Locals in Ardara on June 14th 1832, ran into the town bearing lit straws to distribute, warning (falsely reporting) deaths had occurred in neighbouring counties that didn’t pass on the “blessed” straws.

Eventually, research proved that the disease was passed on via contaminated water. It was not until 1883 that Robert Koch, directing a German scientific commission in Egypt, succeeded in isolating the organism that causes cholera, a motile, comma-shaped bacterium. Today infection is treated by re-hydration therapy, by antibiotics and several vaccines have been developed.

So, Dublin suffered thousands of deaths and today many corners of cemeteries have generally unknown mass graves of cholera victims. The aftermath of the pandemic eventually resulted in an improved clean water supply for Dublin citizens and better sanitation as well as improved medical treatment. The interesting story of the water supply may become the subject of a future article.

Harrys’ Dublin appears here every Friday.

All pics by Harry Warren

From top: Goldenbridge cemetery entrance, mortuary and graveyard

Goldenbridge Cemetery, Inchicore.

Harry writes:

Perhaps it’s my inner Goth but walking around an old cemetery can be dreamily romantic, and Dublin’s historic Goldenbridge Cemetery, hiding away in plain sight in Inchicore beside the Grand Canal, is one of Dublin’s more memorable ones. It may of course be bitter-sweet seeing it’s a place of memorial, but it’s also a destination to honour the dead.

Nature lovers will appreciate this two-acre garden sanctuary dotted with beautiful mature Yew trees, a fine silver birch tree and various plants. Garden cemeteries like Goldenbridge were designed to be not only a burial ground but a contemplative place to enjoy outdoor recreation before there were many public parks.

Today visitors may enjoy the design, architecture, and the garden layout where you will find striking monuments, graves, and a fine neo-classical Mortuary Chapel completed in 1829 for the sum of £230, similar to the chapel in Paris’s iconic Père-Lachaise Cemetery.

Beneath this chapel are vaults originally built to house night watchmen and their Cuban bloodhounds to protect the graves against body snatchers. Back then it was a lucrative business to steal corpses and sell them to Trinity College, the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons and also to foreign markets.

The chapel was designed with an interior staircase leading to the roof so the watchmen could view the surrounding area, the cemetery’s high walls and railings were completed before any burials took place to further deter body snatchers and reassure relatives who were burying their loved ones that they would be protected.

For those interested in history Goldenbridge has a lot to offer. Established in 1829, following the passing of the ‘Act of Easement of Burial Bills’ in 1824, this was the first Roman Catholic cemetery to be opened following Catholic Emancipation in 1829, pre-dating Prospect Cemetery in Glasnevin by three years.

Before the passing of the bill Catholics in Ireland had to go to the clergy of the established church, the Church of Ireland, to arrange burial, and they had to pay for that permission. no prayers could be recited except those from the book of Common Prayer. Many Catholics around the country secretly buried their dead at night in sacred places like monastic grounds etc. but in Dublin the law was strictly enforced against Catholics.

There were three principal cemeteries used by Catholics in Dublin. St James in James St, Bully’s Acre in Kilmainham, (after a six-month cholera epidemic in 1832 the already congested Bully’s Acre received 3,200 victims of cholera and shortly afterwards was closed by order of the government) and St Kevin’s in Camden Row, Dublin.

In 1823 a confrontation ensued at a funeral in St Kevin’s graveyard, the Catholic Archdeacon of Dublin Michael Blake, was officiating at a funeral of a well-respected Dublin citizen and his funeral drew a large attendance. Archdeacon Blake was ordered to cease reciting his prayers for the dead by a Protestant Sexton.

This rebuke caused a major outcry amongst Catholics in Ireland catching the attention of the “The Emancipator” Daniel O’Connell and he campaigned to change this situation.

O’Connell conducted many “monster” meetings with crowds of 40,000 in attendance and skilfully used the St Kevin incident to pressurise the authorities to grant Catholic Emancipation. The Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829, also known as the Catholic Emancipation Act 1829, was passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom in 1829.

At the same time O’Connell and his supporters, the Catholic Association, sought land for a new cemetery where members of every religion and none could be buried and conduct whatever ceremony they wished without harassment or insult. In one of O’Connell’s great speeches, he said: “We wish to live on terms of amity and affection with our brother Protestant fellow-countrymen. We earnestly desire to be united with them in our lives, and not to be separated from them in death”.

In 1828 the Catholic Association purchased two acres of land on the south side of Dublin in Inchicore, two miles from the city for the then princely sum of £600 from Mathais O’Kelly. The first Trustees were Dr Coleman the Archbishop of Dublin, Rev Dean Lube P.P., Daniel O’Connell, Nicholas Mahon and Christopher Fitzsimon. The concentration of Goldenbridge took place on the 15th Oct 1829 just six months after the passing of the Act of Catholic Emancipation.

Eighteen-year-old Margaret Lowry was the first to be buried there and in the next two years 12,000 burials took place with an average of 20 funerals a day, six days a week. It was a popular cemetery as it charged less than half of the fees charged by St James cemetery.

After Prospect cemetery in Glasnevin opened the funerals at Goldenbridge reduced to an average of 500 a year. Goldenbridge was finally forced to close by the British Army in Ireland. The cemetery was bounded on three sides by the adjacent British Richmond Barracks, during the 1860’s British officers lodged a complaint asserting that water seeping from the cemetery was contaminating the Grand Canal, the canal provided drinking water for the soldiers and their families who lived in and around the barracks. An investigation was carried out proving the cemetery had safe drainage.

The real reason for the military objection was that troops frequently ended up drinking and fraternising with mourners after funerals. In addition, the military complained of the noise and commotion of rowdy funeral processions passing the barracks, supposedly disrupting military activity. A hearing was held and the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, Thomas O’Hagan, ordered the closure of the graveyard in 1869. He restricted any future burials to those who had acquired rights of burial by purchase or had relatives already buried there.

Despite being adjacent to the barracks, few soldiers are buried in the cemetery, but sadly at a time when death was high in infancy, 200 of their children rest in Goldenbridge amply illustrated by many of the grave stones displaying their young age when they passed away.

Many notable people are interred in Goldenbridge including Patrick O’Kelly (above), one of the leaders of the 1798 United Irishmen, William Sheehy, a member of the Fenian Brotherhood, Andrew Clinch, rugby union player who played on the 1896 British Lions tour to South Africa.

Two of the more famous graves are of W. T. Cosgrave (above right), the first Taoiseach of the Irish Free State in the 1920s and his son Liam, who was Taoiseach in the 1970s. In the south east corner of the graveyard, there are communal mass graves from both the Famine period of 1845-49 and of the cholera epidemic of 1867, hundreds if not thousands are buried in that dark corner.

After the cemetery was closed it slowly fell into a state of disrepair with totally overgrown weeds and vegetation. For 150 years the gates of Goldenbridge were locked to the public and visits were permitted by appointment only.

In the years leading up to the centenary of the 1916 Rising many commemorative restoration projects were carried out in Ireland. Richmond barracks was restored as a museum and the cemetery was also restored. As part of the restoration project, the vegetation was cut back, many graves and monuments were cleaned and restored, while excellent work was carried out on the Mortuary chapel leading to Goldenbridge being reopened to the public in 2017.

So, if you decide to visit, be on the watch for a weathered stone plaque mounted on a wall, displaying in Latin, “Memento Mori”, in English, “Remember your Mortality”, a piece of sound advice to get your priorities right, I hope it will inspire a visitor’s zest for life.

Harry’s Dublin appears here every Friday.

All pics by Harry Warren


If you’ve something nice to say, SAY it!

Harry Warren writes:

Strolling around Dublin I love finding street art, especially something that conveys a positive message and even better something the viewer can interact with.

Like myself I am sure Broadsheet readers have noticed the lovely street art of cartoon Bees by the artist Buzzy.Be and the positive messages of encouragement they convey as well.

Buzzy Be has been painting the happy little Bee art for a number of years now and leaving it to folks to draw in the face of the Bee’s themselves. His/her message as best I understand it is a joyful positive one, note his art works have lines like “Bee Happy”, “Bee Curious”, “Bee Kind”, “Bee Positive”.

So, as Broadsheet readers, how about taking the opportunity to fill in some joyful, happy and positive messages in the comments section below bearing in mind Buzzy Be’s request for “Be Happy”, “Be Curious”, “Be Kind” and “To Bee or Not to Be”.

Like Buzzy.Be’s encouragement, please let the comments be kind and positive.





All pics by Harry Warren

From top: Bermingham Tower and Middle Tower, Dublin Castle; Cook Street (top) and Ship Street; Isolde’s Tower, Exchange Street; Lamb Alley. and The Record Tower, Dublin Castle

The Dublin City Wall.

Harry writes:

During the medieval era Dublin had a protective wall surrounding it with Dublin Castle at its heart but only traces of the wall and its towers remain today. Dublin’s city wall was constructed between 1100 and 1125 to replace the earlier earthen and wooden stake defences of the Viking town of Dyflinn that had developed along the south bank of the River Liffey. In 1170, the Anglo Normans ruled Dublin and developed the town into a city, strengthening its fortifications and building gates, such as Newgate at what is now Cornmarket.

The Normans also built a moat at Dublin Castle, and from around 1240, began to extend the city wall to the north towards new quays on the River Liffey. On completion the limestone wall would have been very impressive towering to between 5m and 7m in height by a massive 1.50m and 3m in width

Although only limited parts of the wall and some of its towers survive today, with a little imagination almost the entire circuit can be walked along today’s streets: Cook Street, the wall along here has been pretty much reconstructed but it provides an excellent idea of how it originally appeared along with an entrance gate to what once was the medieval city. Essex Street West outlines the northern limit, while Ship Street Little and Lamb Alley just off Cornmarket, outlines the southern and western lines respectively.

Arguably the best places to view what remains of the wall are along Cook St with the wall being 83m in length and towering to at least 10m in height along with the entrance gate at St Audoen’s Arch. A continuation of this part of the wall approx. 100m in length, was discovered during excavations at Wood Quay and it is still partly intact, hiding in the basement of the bunkers of Dublin Civic Office.

There is a fine section of wall 14.20m in length by 4.80m in height to view at Lamb Alley. This is where the western gate (New Gate) stood. The original tower that was sited here was used as a prison until 1780, public hangings were carried out at gallows beside the prison while punishments were carried out at nearby Cornmarket. Other parts of the wall and its towers to see are within Dublin Castle along with the hidden remains of Isolde’s tower in Exchange Street Lower, Temple Bar.

Every section and tower of Dublin’s walls have an interesting history. In Dublin Castle the Bermingham Tower along the city wall was utilised as a main cell and dungeon block. It was named after Sir William Bermingham who was arrested in 1331 and imprisoned by the newly appointed Viceroy, Sir Anthony Lacey. Bermingham was later hanged for treason, ‘notwithstanding his great military services against the natives’.  Today only the base of the medieval tower is unchanged, the upper level had to be rebuilt in 1777 following an explosion in the castle’s armoury.

Following along the circuit in Dublin Castle we arrive at the Medieval Tower (Record Tower) one of the most historic, intact and important parts of medieval Dublin to survive today. Dating from 1204-28, it was largely constructed during the reign of Henry III (1207–72), King of England and Lord of Ireland. Its walls are up to 4.8 metres thick.

Over the centuries it was used as the king’s Wardrobe Tower, storing his armour, clothes and the king’s treasure. The Wardrobe was also the name for the department of the royal household that managed the king’s personal property. The tower was later used to house prisoners.

By the seventeenth century it was renamed as the Gunner’s Tower serving as the headquarters for the Master Gunner of Ireland. In 1811, it was converted to the Record Tower and used to store state papers, expensively bound books and ancient manuscripts, along with the correspondence of Viceroys and governments. It ended this usage in 1989 and the tower is now undergoing preservation.

Continuing along the circuit in Dublin Castle you will find the sign posted location of the Powder Tower. If you would like to view the remains of the Powder Tower you will have to do a highly recommended tour of the Castle where you can view below ground level, the towers Undercroft where gunpowder was stored.

This tower was originally 5 stories in height and the top floor contained the penthouse chambers of lord deputy John Perrot. Perrot had previously served as ‘President of Munster’ in 1571 to suppress a rebellion there.

Though he failed in his mission, his methods were characteristically violent as he hanged over 800 of the Irish rebels. He is probably mainly known for sanctioning the kidnap of Hugh Roe O’Donnell (Red Hugh O’Donnell) in which he was lured to a wine tasting on a merchant ship and then sealed in a cabin and later imprisoned at Dublin Castle. latterly the tower was used to store gunpowder, earning its name.

The base that you can view beneath ground level today has walls that are 5.5m thick and the interior is 5.5 to 6m in diameter. During excavation discoveries of plates of iron, mounts of bronze and buckles suggest it may have been used as an armourer’s workshop. Intriguingly a gold ring set with a small green stone was also found here.

Isolde’s Tower at the north-east corner of the city walls had strongly fortified foundations, the walls measuring 4m thick, but what is left today is only 2.50m in height. The remnants of the tower in Essex Street West, is behind a barred gate in an underground chamber and are viewable from the street. During excavation interesting but gruesome discoveries were made as human remains were discovered.

The heads of rebels and convicted criminals that had been executed in the city were mounted on poles as a warning to its citizens. Forensic archaeologists identified the skulls of six executed males with one displaying signs of a horrific death. The executioner missed his mark, perhaps his victim was struggling, his axe smashed into his victim’s jaw shattering it along with portions of facial bones rather than his neck resulting in the ensuing butchery of his head being hacked off with multiple blows.

The wall was used many times in the defence of Dublin from military attack but in an early use of quarantine when the Bubonic plague (The Black Death) arrived in 1348, people who wanted to enter the city were forced to remain outside the gates for a number of days until it was clear that they had no symptoms of the infection before being allowed to enter.

So, today if you decide to explore the route of the wall and its towers you will visit some of Dublin’s most historically interesting streets, its backstreets and side lanes as the wall appears, disappears and reappears again, enjoy your walk.

Harry’s Dublin appears here every Friday.

All pics by Harry Warren

From top: St Audoen’s Church and Park; The Portlester Tomb; a Memorial to children who died in the 1916 Rising

St Audoen’s Church and Park.

Harry Writes:

The Dublin 8 area is probably one of the more varied historic areas of the city and St Audoen’s Church and park is one of its highlights. Located on one of Dublin’s oldest streets, High St. The church is still in use today as a place of worship and it is Dublin’s oldest medieval church.

The church is named after St Ouen (or Audoen) of Rouen (Normandy), a seventh century saint and it was dedicated to him by the Anglo-Normans, who arrived in Dublin around 1172 and they built the church in 1190. There is also good evidence that the site they built on was of an earlier 7th century church that had been dedicated to St Colmcille.

On the left side of the church medieval steps lead down to the only remaining gatehouse of the original Dublin City Wall or to “The Gates of Hell” but more about that anon.

In the 14th century and over the next 100 years the church was expanded many times as the wealthy and powerful made charitable donations, bought indulgences, had their own personal altars built in the hope they could pay for a safe passage through the afterlife. Six separate altars were set up in this chapel by various merchant guilds of Dublin, butchers, smiths, bakers, bricklayers and clothmakers. The altars were in constant use with daily masses offered, financed by the guilds and wealthier parishioners.

Sir Roland FitzEustace, Baron Portlester, served as Lord Chancellor and Treasurer of Ireland and he was a generous benefactor of St Audoen’s. In 1455, he added the Portlester Chapel, the ‘Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary’ at the east end of St. Audoen’s Church, it was then the wealthiest parish in Dublin. FitzEustace built the new chapel next to the nave, in thanksgiving for his surviving from a shipwreck nearby.

Inside the tower there is a fine fifteenth century memorial displaying life sized effigies of FitzEustace depicted as a knight, alongside his wife, Margaret. If you visit take note of the stylised sculpture at her feet, it is actually a small dog. I would like to think she had a cherished pet, though there is the possibility that the dog may represent a symbol of fidelity.

Over the centuries the church fell into disuse and disrepair. The tower itself was badly damaged on the 11th of March 1597 when an accidental but massive gunpowder explosion happened on the nearby Liffey quays, killing 126 people and destroying between twenty and forty houses all around it.

By the 17th century the number of Protestant parishioners had seriously declined and the few left were unable or unwilling to fund the churches restoration. In 1671 the Church of Ireland Primate, Michael Boyle, ordered the church to be closed but it was still used intermittently over the next 100 years.

In 1755 Reverend Cobbe, the rector of St Audoen’s decided to remove the old cross from the church steeple and had it replaced with a boar’s head adorned with a crown.  The Dean of St. Patrick’s Jonathan Swift was not impressed and was quick to pen the following barbed verse,

‘Christ’s Cross from Christ’s church cursed Cobbe hath plucked down,

And placed in its stead what he worships – the Crown.

Avenging the cause of the Gadarene People,

The miscreant hath placed a swine’s head on the steeple;

By this intimating to all who pass by,

That his hearers are swine, and his church but a stye.’

By the 18th century and having only a small Protestant congregation to contribute to church funds, the church fell further into serious disrepair. Consequently, the roof had to be removed from the eastern end of the church. The church was reduced further when an eastern wall and window were constructed.

in the early part of the 19th century the roof of St Anne’s Chapel also had to be removed until the OPW refurbished and re-roofed it converting it to an exhibition space for visitors to St Audoen’s. Access for the congregation is now via the front door of the tower. Audoen’s tower also has the oldest church bells in Dublin that are still in use today with three of the bronze bells dating from the 15th century.

Inside the porch of the church mounted on the wall is the (Cloch an Áidh), the ‘Lucky Stone’, reputedly a 9th century grave-slab with an inscribed Greek Cross. There are many legends and superstitions attached to the stone. It is said to bring good luck and good health to anyone who touches it. The stone has an interesting history. Some archaeologists suggest it may have been a boundary stone removed from the very early Christian settlement where St Patrick’s Cathedral is located.

Most would argue it was really a grave slab of some now forgotten but venerated Saint. It was installed outside of St Audoen’s in the 14th century and anyone passing by up or down the medieval steps would be inclined to touch it for good luck. It was a popular attraction drawing passers-by to visit the church and contribute some donations.

In 1308-9, Dublin’s first public water supply, a marble fountain, was erected in nearby Cornmarket by John Le Decer, the Mayor of Dublin. Le Decer in a political act of self-promotion, had the Lucky Stone relocated beside the fountain so that all who drank from it would have good luck. It was a popular superstition to touch the stone, ” many of the humbler class of traders would reverently kiss (the stone) before venturing to engage in their daily occupations, being firmly convinced that it was endowed with supernatural properties’.

In 1826 The Lucky Stone was stolen by a group of country people and one of the many legends about it tells that during the theft the stone became heavier and heavier until the thieves’ horse and the wagon conveying it collapsed under the weight somewhere around Inchicore. The thieves were forced to abandon the stone on waste ground. Later, when stonemasons who were building a wall found it and raised their sledge hammers to break it to use as building material, the stone supposedly moaned and rolled away.

There was no record of its location until twenty years later where it was found in front of a newly built Catholic Church on High Street. Canon Alexander Leeper in the 1860’s then had the stone returned back to St Audoen’s and fixed to the interior wall to protect it from theft. In one of the many ghost stories associated with St Audoen’s, it’s said the ghost of the clergyman still walks the passageway to protect the stone.

About the “Gates of Hell” I mentioned earlier. Take a left at the front of St Audoen’s tower and you are now walking down the forty steps to “Hell”, a medieval short cut to one of the original city gates of Dublin’s medieval walled city. If you exit the gate on to what is now Cook St you are entering what was once a notorious area of brothels, pickpockets, taverns and otherwise unsavoury characters richly deserving the nickname of “Hell”.

So, in recent years St Audoen’s Park with its city walls dating from 1000 A.D. and its many features have been very tastefully restored. Both the park and the church are well worth a visit. In the park a number of archaeological finds discovered during restoration have been incorporated into the park’s pathways, the stone sets of a former lost alleyway, Keysar’s Lane.

The name Keysar is thought to come from a Dutch settler called De Keysar. However, in typical Dublin fashion, the laneway was given the nickname of “Kiss Ass Lane” because of its steep incline and the tendency for people to slip on it in icy and wet conditions. You will also find some medieval cobblestones and even some Georgian-era paving tiles.

Particularly poignant is a new memorial feature, dedicated to the once forgotten children who lost their lives in the events of Easter 1916 with their names now engraved onto stones mounted in the ground in their memory.

Harry’s Dublin appears here every Friday.

All pics by Harry Warren

From top: Bailey Lighthouse, Howth, county Dublin; Howth Harbour Lighthouse; a seal in Howth Harbour and King George IV’s foot prints on the pier

The King’s footsteps.

Harry Warren writes:

It’s nice strolling around Howth harbour on the northside of Dublin Bay, passing by the fishing fleet with its attendant circling gulls. Watch out for the harbour seals gently lolling in the water hoping a passer-by will throw them some fish. You may even be rewarded on the odd occasion with the site of a seal breaking the surface of the water with a fresh fish it just caught.

The view of the island of Ireland’s Eye just north of the harbour is splendid and the island may be visited by regular tourist boats from the harbour’s West Pier. Howth has many stories to tell and here is one of them.

The recent history of Howth harbour goes back over 200 years. Construction of the east pier began in 1807, but being poorly designed it suffered a partial collapse, the noted Scottish civil engineer John Rennie took charge giving Howth the fine harbour it has today.

Stone was supplied from the nearby quarry at Kilrock and granite from Dalkey Quarry was shipped in by boat. Dalkey Quarry also supplied granite for the construction of its great rival Dún Laoghaire harbour. The lighthouse at the end of the East Pier in Howth was built in 1817 and the adjacent lighthouse keeper’s house in 1821.

If you walk along the West Pier, towards the end of the pier if you bear right, watch out for a plaque mounted on a pole, easy to ignore as it looks like a traffic notice, it provides some information directing you along the granite steps to of all things an engraving of footprints. They commemorate the location and occasion when King George IV, on his 59th birthday stepped ashore. He arrived in Howth on August 12th, 1821 a few weeks after his coronation on July 19th, 1821 when he had been crowned King of Great Britain and Ireland and Hanover.

Amusingly, the upper classes and aristocracy of Dublin along with an estimated crowd of 200,000 had been anxiously waiting at Dún Laoghaire for the arrival of King George IV. Instead, his steam packet ship, Lightning, moored in Howth harbour, where a small crowd of onlookers, farmers and fishermen witnessed the Kings arrival as he stepped unsteadily ashore unaccompanied by a single guardsman. By all accounts he was in a convivial humour and when he alighted, he happily shook hands with the locals. Robert Campbell, A local stonemason, expertly sculpted the somewhat petite footprints on the granite where the king first stood on land.

King George IV, the son of Mad King George III, had sailed to Ireland ostensibly on a public relations campaign around Dublin and surreptitiously, to meet with his mistress Lady Elizabeth Conyngham, (The Marchioness of Conyngham), of Slane Castle. Slane had gained a fine straight road directly from Dublin allegedly laid to allow a quick journey for King George to visit his lover and he spent four nights with her in Slane.

The Irish Aesthete writes of the visit: “Neither the king nor his inamorata were in the first flush of youth, and both were equally corpulent. These circumstances however did nothing to dampen their ardour. A ballad was written of them at the time, ‘Tis pleasant at seasons to see how they sit, First cracking their nuts, and then cracking their wit, Then quaffing their claret – then mingling their lips, Or tickling the fat about each other’s hips.’

And, according to a royal commentator of the day, Lady Conyngham ‘lived exclusively with him during the whole time he was in Ireland at the Phoenix Park. When he went to Slane, she received him dressed out as for a drawing-room; he saluted her, and they then retired alone to her apartments.’

He was the first British king to arrive in Ireland without an accompanying army claiming on arrival “it was the happiest day of his life” and “That his heart was Irish”. Reportedly he was in “very high spirits”, well, literally in high spirits as he was very drunk on Irish Whiskey and had gorged on Goose Pie throughout the boat trip.

His arrival was the first visit of a king since the Act of Union in 1801. Making a good impression with the crowds he journeyed onwards to the Vice Regal Lodge (now Áras an Uachtaráin) in the Phoenix Park. For the King’s visit through Dublin the city was bedecked with royal bunting and flags in a colourful display of pageantry. He paraded through Dublin at the head of two hundred carriages with the royal flag atop Nelson’s Pillar (now the location of the Spire) blowing in the breeze as he passed by.

King George was a bit of a party animal in his day, very fashionable in his dress and noted as ” the first gentleman of England”, The Times newspaper reported that he would always choose “a girl and a bottle to politics and a sermon”.

Having visited Dublin for 18 days, the king then made his way to embark to the United Kingdom via Dún Laoghaire with the result that Dún Laoghaire was renamed Kingstown in his honour. It wasn’t until 1921 that the town regained its original name.

On the king’s departure the Great Emancipator, Daniel O’Connell, in the hope of being favoured politically in his campaign for Catholic emancipation presented him with a laurel crown. Unfortunately, O’Connell was soon to learn that King George IV, would become an unwavering opponent of Catholic emancipation.

So, the next time you visit Howth take a stroll along the west pier and if the fancy takes you, you can literally walk in the footsteps of a King.

Harry’s Dublin appears here every Friday.

All pics by Harry Warren

Harry Warren writes:

I chanced upon two stickers on two separate Dublin City Council traffic signs located near a girl’s school in Dublin.

Is it only me or do any other Broadsheet readers experience a little sadness, that someone has so much hate in their heart, that they would take the time and effort to have them printed and then hijack traffic signs near a girl’s school to stick their little small-minded pieces of ugliness upon them?

I think the world may be a better place if folks just tried a philosophy of “live and let live” and allow their fellow humans to privately get on with their lives?

I wonder what Broadsheet readers think of the stickers message and the individuals who stuck them there?



Harry adds:

I note the stickers have disappeared now.

From top: John ‘Copper Face Jack’ Scott’s House on Harcourt Street, where a tunnel took him to his ‘pleasure garden’ now the Iveagh Gardens; water features including ‘Rustic Grotto & Cascade’ are among the remains of the ‘Winter Gardens’ modeled on London’s Crystal Palace

The Iveagh Gardens.

Harry writes:

The Iveagh Gardens, a park surrounded by buildings hidden between Earlsfort Terrace and Harcourt Street probably has lost its name by now as being Dublin’s “Secret Garden”, but it was a lovely time back in the 1990s when it opened to the public and few knew about it.

It was easy then to find some quiet solitude amidst greenery in the centre of a busy Dublin. On a fine summer day, it is a lot less crowded than its nearby neighbour Stephen’s Green, a park that can be a bit boisterous, but the Iveagh Gardens itself was not always so peaceful, but more of that anon.

Ever wonder why the well-known nightclub on Harcourt St., is named Copper Faced Jack’s? It’s named after a nearby resident. In 1777, John (Jack) Scott, lawyer and MP, became Ireland’s Attorney General and the title of Earl of Clonmell was bestowed upon him in 1793. When he became Earl of Clonmell, he added an ‘L’ to his name.

Scott to say the least was generally disliked. A notorious scoundrel, he fought four duels in his lifetime, one over his involvement with another man’s wife and he almost fought a fifth for remarks made in the House of Commons against a political opponent in 1773. He was well known to bully and sarcastically ridicule his opponents. Being aggressive and having a ruddy complexion coupled to a scowling visage, it earned him the nickname Copper-faced Jack.

He was a very wealthy individual building a fine house, today’s Clonmel House on Harcourt St. For his family home Jack had a large pleasure garden built, Clonmell’s Lawns, now the Iveagh Gardens.To avoid the great unwashed along Harcourt Street, Copper-faced Jack had a personal underground tunnel built linking his house with his private gardens. Scott passed away on May 23. 1798 and his family sold the gardens in 1810.

The gardens were opened to the public in 1817 renamed as the Coburg Gardens. The pleasure gardens were popular with Dublin’s Georgian gentry, having music and firework displays as entertainment. In celebration of the coronation of King William IV during the summer of 1830, a magnificent fireworks concert was performed at the gardens with the finale being “a correct representation of the eruption of Vesuvius”.

As mentioned earlier the gardens weren’t always so peaceful, in August 1835 a trade union meeting turned into a huge row when Catholic workers assaulted one hundred and fifty Orangemen with “murderous instruments of aggression”.

By the 1860’s the once splendid gardens had fallen into a sad state of disrepair. A commentator of the time notes: “Sheep grazed there, between the piles of rubbish dumped by uncivic citizens”. Nothing new with violence in parks and litter louts in Dublin, eh?

And like many areas in Dublin, a member of the Guinness brewing family came to their rescue. Benjamin Lee Guinness, purchased the land at the back of his house, Iveagh House (now the Dept of Foreign Affairs), as a garden for his town house in 1862. He had the gardens completely redesigned by a famous landscape designer of the day, Ninian Niven, in the style we recognise today.

The Iveagh Gardens retains some secrets. One of its many design features was a boating pond for the Guinness family that has long since been emptied. It was located at the eastern end of what is now The Sunken Garden. This garden was put to use as Ireland’s only archery field. The field being lower than its surrounds helped to protect passers-by from being struck by stray arrows! Another unusual item, the remains of an elephant that died in 1922 after being examined by the veterinary students of U.C.D. are buried under this area today.

Sometime later Benjamin Lee Guinness sold much of the land to the Dublin Exhibition Palace and Winter Gardens Company, building a Winter Garden of glass and iron as well as an Exhibition Palace in brick and stone facing on to Earlsfort Terrace to “provide a permanent exhibition of Irish arts and manufactures and also reading rooms, flower gardens, and a gas-lit winter garden, for public enjoyment”.

The design of the new gardens was based on the acclaimed Crystal Palace of London. The Dublin Builder reported: “It would be quite impossible to convey in a picture any notion to the aspect of the enchantment which the Winter Garden wears under the mystic influence of gaslight…. Anything more exquisite than the effect produced in the grand hall can scarcely be conceived. Long lines of gas jets, carried over the ceiling, afforded the finest contrasts of light.”

On the May 9, 1865, Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales, visited and performed the opening ceremony of the International Exhibition of Arts and Industries. The gardens were very successful for some time but several years later when public interest waned,in 1870, Sir Benjamin Lee’s sons, Edward Cecil Guinness later Lord Iveagh and Arthur Edward Guinness later Lord Ardilaun, bought the buildings and grounds back into family ownership. In 1872, the site was used for an Exhibition of Irish Arts and Manufactures, unfortunately, this venture was unsuccessful and by 1882 the Winter Gardens and its great glass hall was dismantled and relocated to England.

Today some of the remains of the Winter Gardens are to be found in the park including two fountains a beautiful “Rustic Grotto & Cascade”, a water cascade with rockery from all of the 32 counties of Ireland. Other items are the remains of statues lining the path leading east along the avenue from the current rosarium, they were once inside the glass building along here. If you look closely, you will find some partial remnants of statues and demolished stonework scattered about the park’s shrubbery and trees. And in a corner of the park is a fine maze with a sundial at its heart also dating from the Winter Gardens.

Later in 1883, Edward Cecil Guinness sold the stone Exhibition Palace buildings to the Commissioners of Public Works and they were modified to house the Royal University with the gardens remaining as the property of the Guinness family. Further reconstruction work was carried out for the University College, Dublin U.C.D., in 1908 and in 1918. The gardens were later gifted in 1939 by Rupert Guinness, the second Lord Iveagh to U.C.D.

The present façade on Earlsfort Terrace (now the National Concert Hall) was created by the architect Rudolph Maximilian Butler. In 1991 the Government purchased the gardens and opened the 3.4-hectare site in 1992 as a public park that we know and enjoy today.

So, the next time you are visiting the Iveagh Gardens enjoy viewing the water cascade rockery and if the sun is at the correct angle, you may be rewarded with a beautiful rainbow created by sunlight on the spray of the water.

Harry’s Dublin appears here every Friday.

All pics by Harry Warren

This morning.

Harry Warren writes:

 Broadsheet readers may like to see today’s Annular Eclipse over Dublin, the Sun really has its hat on. I am looking forward to the next total eclipse visible from Ireland on the 23 September 2090…

Pic by Harry




This morning.

Outside Astronomy Ireland HQ, Blanchardstown, Dublin with its chairman David Moore (top) and members (including Gonzo, above) catching the partial eclipse.