Tag Archives: Harry’s Dublin

Sunlight Chambers.

Harry Warren writes:

Walking along Wood Quay towards the city centre on a miserable rainy January day, I couldn’t help but glance through the grey drizzle at the architectural monstrosities of Dublin Civic Offices.

They were erected in one of the greatest acts of cultural vandalism in Dublin’s history. The most historically significant area of Viking Dublin was literally destroyed by the then Dublin City Corporation in the name of progress during the late 1970s and early 80s.

The offices, visually having as much merit as some hideous wartime command bunkers, were dumped upon and destroyed one of the greatest and best-preserved Viking settlements anywhere in Europe.

My mood dampened. Ironically a parked cars radio was playing Morrisey’s “Every Day is like Sunday” with the classic lines “In the seaside town, That they forgot to bomb, Come, come, come, nuclear bomb”. Never a more appropriate sentiment I thought.

My spirits lifted when I reached Capel St Bridge (Grattan Bridge). The delightful Florentine style Sunlight Chambers building came into view on the corner of Parliament Street and Essex Quay.

Originally it was the Irish headquarters of Lever Brothers and it was elegantly designed by Edward Ould of Liverpool in 1899. The building was named after their most successful product Sunlight soap. It was one of the first soaps to be made on an industrial scale and brought the company huge success. It is still on sale today in Europe. Levers later merged with a Dutch manufacturer and became Unilever. Today you probably buy their supermarket products like Domestos, Surf, Persil, etc.

Sunlight Chambers was built to impress being Lever’s Dublin headquarters, with its renaissance stye windows on the upper floors, a red terracotta roof with wonderfully sculpted glazed terracotta faience’s or friezes on two levels. They depict animated scenes of agriculture and industry and the making of soap, along with some delightfully sculpted ladies doing washing. Sexist? perhaps by today’s standards but it is of its time and the detail and colours of the friezes are wonderful.

The sculptor, Conrad Dressler, designed and crafted the series of four roundels and twelve panels around the three faces of the building. The glazed ceramic friezes were made in 1902 in Dressler’s pottery works in Buckinghamshire. They were commissioned to fit in with W. H. Lever’s philosophy that “good art should enrich everyday life“.

So, the next time you are in that part of Dublin City, look up and reward yourself with a bit of time to enjoy the beauty of the sculptures and the story they tell.

All pics by Harry Warren

The Royal Hospital Kilmainham grounds include the faded headstone of the grave of a horse (above) buried in June 1899

Royal Hospital Kilmainham’s cemeteries.

Harry writes:

The Royal Hospital Kilmainham, now the home of the Irish Museum of Modern Art is well worth a visit. Designed by the architect William Robinson, the classical design of the building was inspired by Les Invalides in Paris. It was built as a retirement home for old soldiers. The foundation stone was laid in 1680 and it took on its first pensioners in 1684.

During the 243 years after it was opened, thousands of military pensioners lived out their final days within its walls. The last pensioner resident there was in 1927. Shortly afterwards it became the Garda Headquarters until 1949 when it was vacated as the building had many structural defects. It was used for storage facilities until it was beautifully restored during 1980 to 1984 and then reopened as the home of the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

The surrounding grounds include a couple of very historic cemeteries and a “long walk” where the retired veterans took their exercise. There is also a beautifully restored formal garden to enjoy, with ornate pathways, fountains and flowers. Tucked away in a corner of the gardens a very interesting grave but more about that later.

Down at the western ends of the grounds there are separate cemeteries for the hospital’s former residents, officers in one, rank-and-file soldiers in the other. Sited at the Kilmainham entrance is the easy to miss Bully’s Acre Cemetery as it is surrounded by high walls. One of Dublin’s oldest cemeteries, there is at least a thousand years of Dubliner’s beneath its soil.

The number of burials in the cemetery has been estimated to be at least 200,000. Brian Boru camped here on the eve of the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. Both his son and grandson were slain in the battle and are thought to be among the graves.

After the revolutionary Robert Emmet was hanged outside of St Catherine’s Church in Thomas Street on September 20th, 1803, his head was displayed to the crowd by the hangman Thomas Galvin. The remains of Emmet’s body were then taken to Bully’s Acre and he was temporarily buried there. Emmet’s remains were later secretly removed from Bully’s Acre and allegedly reinterred in St Michan’s Church in Church Street, Dublin, due to its associations with the United Irishmen. No one knows where his actual grave is sited and its location today remains a mystery.

Bully’s Acre was on “common” ground and burials could be performed without any fees being paid so it made it very popular with the poor of Dublin for interring their loved ones…and reputedly quite convenient for disposing of bodies that met a violent end. By the 1790’s most of the burials were in shallow graves little more than a few centimetres below ground level.

There are gruesome historical reports of “swine devouring human bodies while in the most pernicious state of putrefaction, and the torn remains of males and females left exposed to public view”. It was also a burial ground ripe for its picking by body snatchers and “resurrectionists” due to its shallow graves and plentiful supply of pauper burials. Many bodies were stolen on behalf or by the medical profession to study anatomy.

Cholera broke out in Dublin in 1832 and during a 10-day period over 500 bodies were buried in the graveyard. Over time the graveyard fell into a terrible state of squalor and there was a closure notice by the then Board of Health for the city of Dublin that noted, “the immense number of bodies buried there”, “many bodies lying exposed without any covering”, which eventually ended in its closure. Today the Office of Public Works now maintains the graveyards and they are kept very well by them.

And the grave that I mentioned earlier in the Royal Hospital Gardens? It is the grave of a horse buried in June 1899. The headstone notes that the horse’s name was “Vonolel”. He was decorated repeatedly by Queen Victoria for his services in Afghanistan and other battles in India, Burma, and South Africa.

He was the white coloured charger of the Anglo-Irish military man, Lord Roberts, the chief of staff of the British army during the heyday of empire. Lord Roberts estimated his faithful horse had travelled 50,000 miles during his career and was never sick or lame until the day he passed away in Kilmainham. A painting of Vonolel and Lord Roberts hangs in the Tate, London

A sentimental verse on the now faded headstone displays: –

“There are men both good and wise

Who hold that in a future state

Dumb creatures who have served us here below

Shall give us joyful greeting when we pass the golden gate.

Is it folly that I hope it may be so?”

So, the next time you visit IMMA at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, enjoy a stroll around the grounds, you are surrounded by history.

All pics by Harry Warren

St Stephen’s Green on New Year’s Eve

St Stephen’s Green Park.

Harry Warren writes:

St. Stephen’s Green is arguably the prettiest of Dublin’s parks, looking at its elegant design and beautiful gardens it’s hard to believe that it was once a marshy bogland on the edge of the city. It was a “common”, where people brought their livestock to graze free of charge.

In 1663, the city government closed off the centre and the rest of the land was used for development. Private homes were built to surround the edge and what was left of the green space was kept for the wealthy residents who used it and developed it as a private park for their exclusive enjoyment.

Despite many attempts by civic minded folk to open the park to the public it remained in private ownership until 1887.The city passed a new act at the urging of A.E. Guinness (of Guinness brewery fame) to open the park to one and all. Guinness paid for the modern redesign of the park and it formally opened to the people of Dublin in 1880 with some fanfare.

During the 1916 Rising, the park became a battleground when rebel freedom fighters dug trenches and blocked off the roads forming a stronghold against British troops.

Surprisingly in the midst of the carnage of battle, both sides called a short ceasefire to allow the groundskeepers to come and feed the ducks in St. Stephen’s Green pond!

Today unfortunately the duck population has been decimated by seagulls and very few ducks are to be seen in comparison to even a few years ago.

St Stephen’s Green is named after a church (and a leprosy hospital) also called St. Stephen’s which were founded in the area in the 13th century.

Pics by Harry Warren

The Olympia Theatre Ghosts.

Harry Warren writes:

Christmas time has long been associated with magic and supernatural happenings that have no rational explanation. During the mid-winter solstice when the veil between this world and the afterlife grows thin, Dublin has many ghost stories to tell. None more so than the wonderful old-world theatre, The Olympia on Dame Street.

Originally known as “Dan Lowrey’s Star of Erin Music Hall”, the theatre opened in 1878.It changed ownership over the years and in 1923 it emerged as The Olympia Theatre. Artists from Laurel and Hardy to Noel Coward and Alec Guinness or Obi-Wan Kenobi for Star Wars fans, have all performed there, but apart from an annual Christmas pantomime performance it is now mainly used as a music venue.

It has seen performances from Adele, REM, Barenaked Ladies, Big Country, David Bowie, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, Florence and the Machine, Foo Fighters, OMD, Radiohead and Kraftwerk to name but a few of the superlative performers that have graced its stage.

The Olympia does have a disquieting side. Over the years there have been many well attested, reports by staff, of an unearthly presence on the third floor of the theatre, along with phantom orbs of light being witnessed. Poltergeist activity has been rife over the years.

When closed for the night the upper circle bar has suffered unearthly disturbances with glasses and bottles being knocked over. There are tales of knocks on doors, ghostly footsteps echoing throughout the empty theatre and even the violent destruction of a dressing room by a discarnate entity. Most disturbingly cleaning staff have heard the sound of a child crying when the lights are low and the theatre is unoccupied.

A few years ago, an electrician friend of mine was working on a step ladder on the upper circle wiring some light fixtures, apart from the floor he was on, the only other thing lighting the theatre was the appropriately named “ghost light” an electric light that is left switched on the stage of a theatre when the theatre is closed to prevent accidents as otherwise it would be completely dark. It also allows a stage hand to navigate the theatre to find the lighting control console.

My friend was working away in the dimly lit theatre when he saw from the corner of his eye a gentleman sitting in the circle balcony facing the stage. He said a friendly “Hi” to him but had no reply, thinking nothing of it and assuming the gent was a security man he then continued working until it was time for a coffee break.

Afterwards he returned to the now empty circle, finished his job and was then joined by the theatre manager to close the premises. He asked about the other individual and the manager looked at him puzzledly and assured him he was the only one present on site. They walked the theatre from top to bottom checking all the locations and they definitely were the only ones at least, visibly there.
So, the next time you visit the Olympia and you are the last one leaving the building, look behind you and that shadow you see in the corner may not be a shadow at all.

All pics by Harry Warren

Come Friendly bombs. From top: Oscar Square Park entrance, Dublin 8. aerial view of Oscar Square Park; copies of ‘The Protection of your Home against Air Raids’ was supplied to every home in Dublin; St Patrick’s Park, Dublin 8; Merrion Square Park, Dublin 2

Hiding in plain sight.

Harry Warren writes:

I love walking through Dublin parks. City parks are a vital place of respite and rest. It’s good for the soul to take a leisurely stroll among the peaceful trees and greenery to unwind, perhaps take a seat and watch the world go by. Dublin’s parks have many historic features of interest that are hiding in plain sight but first let us point out where some these interesting features are located.

How about that nice hill in Merrion Square park where young and old run up and down at play, or the location of the normally beautiful view of St. Patrick’s Cathedral from the Bride St. side of Patrick’s park. I say “normally” as the Cathedral is being re-roofed and covered in scaffolding. Or that lovely little park in Oscar Square in the Tenters area in Dublin that has steps at its four corners? They all have one thing in common and their history should be told.

When World War II occurred Ireland being neutral declared an “Emergency”, perhaps ‘one of the understatements of the century. The population needed to be protected. A volunteer Corp known as the Air Raid Precautions was set up, generally referred to as the ARP. It was to be controlled by the local authorities, county councils and city councils.

Thousands volunteered. Dublin Corporation, being the largest of those authorities had full-time officials running the ARP. They produced a copy of a British publication “The Protection of your Home against Air Raids” that was supplied to every home and a decision was taken to build some public air raid shelters for fear of aerial bombing by Germany.

The historic features? The hill in Merrion Square park was built as an air raid shelter and the park in Oscar Square also had an air raid shelter. The Oscar Square shelter is in living memory of the older local folk in the area and they say the entrance to the shelter was along the steps at the entrance of the park. St Patrick’s park?

If you are enjoying the view of St. Patrick’s Cathedral from the Bride St. side of the park you are standing in the location of the original shelter. The above photos of the parks will give you a general idea where the bomb shelters were located.

Many areas around Ireland were bombed by Germany during WW II. Three bombings in Dublin of note were: –

The bombing in Rathdown park Terenure and on the corner of Lavarna Grove and Fortfield Rd on the 2 January 1941 with two homes destroyed, some injuries and damage to nearby homes.

The bombing raid on the morning of the 3 January 1941 in what was then Donore Tce. in the South Circular Road area. Fortunately, there was no loss of life but twenty people suffered injuries. There was extensive damage to property, three homes were completely destroyed, many more were damaged along with a nearby Jewish synagogue and a Presbyterian church.

And worst of all, the 1,000-yard swathe of destruction caused by two German aircraft killing 28 people with hundreds injured in the North Strand area on 31 May 1941.

So, the next time you are in those parks enjoy the fact we are living in more peaceful times and the parks now have more children’s playgrounds than bomb shelters.

All pics by Harry Warren

Bewley’s Christmas window (featuring a miniature Bewley’s).

Harry Warren writes:

In light of Johnny Ronan claiming that he owns the magnificent Harry Clarke stained glass windows in Bewley’s Cafe Dublin. I wonder will he also claim that he owns the miniature versions on display as a backdrop to the beautiful sculptures by Paddy Campbell currently on display in Bewley’s Cafe front windows?

All pics by Harry Warren

Earlier: Hate To be A Pane

Portobello Art Installation.

Harry Warren writes:

Portobello harbour in Dublin is a very nice area with its canal lock and a flock of very tame swans. Strolling along the canal I was very pleased to see the good use that has been made of the ugly hoarding around the building site of the new controversial 178 room hotel.

Despite widespread opposition An Bord Pleanála granted permission for the hotel despite its own inspector strongly recommending that planning should be refused on multiple grounds, but that is another story.

The hoarding has been turned into an outside art installation in a collaboration between Waterways Ireland and the National College of Art and Design. The NCAD students studying illustrations and graphics has resulted in a contemporary Zibaldone, or miscellany of artistic observations by the students, all of excellent quality inspired by our inland waterways.

The students artwork is playful and imaginative as well as creating some beautifully rendered information panels on nature and wildlife. So, if you find yourself in Portobello the art on display is well worth seeking out to enjoy.

Pics by Harry Warren

The Heart of The Liberties, Dublin 8

Harry Warren writes:

The Liberties area around the Coombe in Dublin is always worth a stroll, apart from it being a vibrant area in the heart of Dublin there are multiple items of cultural and historical interest to be enjoyed. Just off the busy shopping area of Meath St, there are two intersecting streets, Reginald St and Gray St.

The charming red brick houses in this part of the Coombe were built by the Dublin Artisan Dwellings Company in 1880-1882, chaired by the Victorian philanthropist, Sir Edward Cecil Guinness. Originally many of the houses were rented by the employees of the nearby Guinness brewery.

At the junction of Reginald Street and Gray Street there is a fine ornate structure with a statue of the sacred heart of Jesus at its centre. Perhaps surprisingly in these days of advancing secularisation, there are still many religious statues dotted around Dublin, particularly Marian statues, but this one is a statue of Jesus and it bears closer examination.

The statue is centred on beautiful wrought iron work set on an octagonal limestone base. In my over active imagination it always reminds me of a miniature Victorian band stand. I have heard it referred to as the Fountain, the Catholic Emancipation Monument or simply the Sacred Heart statue. Now a religious shrine it was originally a water fountain.

The fountain was commissioned in 1897 by the Earl of Meath, Reginald Brabazon to commemorate the visit of Queen Victoria to Ireland. The fountain was one of a large number celebrating Queen Victoria that were erected in Ireland and other British colonies of the time to a standardised design by Glasgow manufacturers Walter Macfarlane & Co. Manufactured at the Saracen Foundry, Possilpark, Glasgow, Scotland. There is a similar Victorian fountain at the bottom of Marine Road, Dun Laoire, but I personally prefer this one in the heart of the Liberties.

The water supply at the time was of poor quality so the fountain was installed to provide a source of clean water for the surrounding houses. Queen Victoria’s fountain did not last too long and as the words of the song “Dublin in the Rare auld Times” reminds us, there was a rebel streak in the Liberties. “A rogue and child of Mary, from the rebel Liberties,”.

During the War of Independence, there were skirmishes in the area and the fountain and canopy were severely damaged. There was an eagle originally mounted on the roof of the canopy but it was shot off by the Black and Tans and it is now replaced by a cross.

The copper canopy was once again damaged in the late twentieth century by a lorry. The current version of the shrine was restored to commemorate the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1979.

A plinth on the statue notes: –

“Erected by the parishioners of St. Catherine’s to the glory and honour of God and in commemoration of the Centenary of the Emancipation, 1929″

“Restored to mark the visit of Pope John Paul II to the Liberties 29th Sept. 1979″

So, the next time you are in the Liberties it is well worth diverting for a few minutes to enjoy this piece of street furniture. Proudly well maintained and kept in excellent order by local residents.’

Pics by Harry Warren’

Recent examples of street art in Dublin including Liberty Lane (above) in Dublin 8

Dublin Street Art.

Harry Warren writes:

I love walking around Dublin and discovering new street art Frequently I will take a quick photo of a new piece of art as you never know how long it will be there. Art isn’t just for stuffy institutions and galleries. Street art can simply be a visual treat on its own merit, or for many artists, it is also a creative space for political and social commentary.

Dublin is lucky to have a vibrant bunch of urban artists, street artists and muralists. Their creativity and vitality are accessible to one and all and it brings a much-needed brightness and soul to many areas suffering from bland architecture and monotonous design.

To name but a few, not forgetting that there are artist collectives as well, the creativity by artists like Canvas, Solus and Maser are always a joy to behold. Aches is a master of colour and perspective. Emma Blake‘s artwork “Not Asking For It” painted in Dublin at what was the Bernard Shaw pub in Richmond St is a thought provoking example of social and political commentary in a very accessible form.

If you would like to see some excellent examples of Dublin’s vibrant street art scene, take a stroll along Liberty Lane, it is an alleyway that connects Kevin St to Camden Row in Dublin and it features a continuously changing canvas of colourful street art and graffiti. If you are lucky you may catch one of the artists hard at work on their latest masterpiece.

In the past Liberty Lane extended all the way to Portobello and led to the long-gone St Kevin’s Gate, that was the entrance to the Liberty of St Sepulchre but that’s for another story. Follow the route up Camden Street and check out the side streets of Grantham St and Pleasants’ Place that also feature some excellent work. Continue towards Portobello and you will find more excellent art around the environs of the old Bernard Shaw pub.

Some folk see street art as vandalism. I personally draw a distinction between a type of tagging and street art i.e. those mere scrawlings that are motivated by a desire to mark territory. It is disappointing to see tagging scribbled over a street artist work or mural, or when I see the gable end of houses, walls and apartments defaced with bad tagging.

More effort and encouragement should be put into encouraging the tagging brigade to develop their self-expression away from tagging and into more artistic efforts. Real street art is urban culture in action and more designated wall space should be given over to it.

I hope you enjoy just a few of the many photos I have taken of Dublin Street art. If any Broadsheet readers have any favourite street artists or know of some good locations to visit please let us all know in the “replies” section.


Pics by Harry Warren

St. Kevin’s Park, Camden Row, Dublin 8.

Harry Warren writes:

Dublin has some beautiful well-known parks but one of my favourites is the petite St. Kevin’s Park on Camden Row. It is usually bypassed by tourists but favoured by locals. St Kevin’s Park is unusual in having the ruins of a church and being a half park and half graveyard.

The grounds were redeveloped some years ago and the cemetery became todays park. It has a long history, the first mention of a church on the site dates back to the 13th century. The church ruins in the park today are a later addition built in 1750. This church was closed in 1912.

The park grounds still have some notable headstones in situ but the majority have been removed. The old headstones now line the perimeter of the park and more are around the walls of St. Kevin’s church.

Unsurprisingly the park is reputed to be haunted. Archbishop Dermot O’Hurley was buried there after being executed for treason in the 16th Century. He secretly baptised Catholics during penal times in St Kevin’s. He was eventually arrested, imprisoned and tortured and was sentenced to death. The authorities had him executed by slowly hanging him until dead. He was buried in St. Kevin’s but his grave is unknown today.

His spirit is said to be seen in the park where he performed the baptisms. During the transformation of the graveyard into today’s park, the owners of graves that could be traced were offered to have the occupants remains exhumed and buried elsewhere but many graves were unidentified and their bones still lie there today. The angry souls of these disturbed graves reputedly haunt the park.

Notable existing graves on view in the park are:

The Moore Family, relatives of Thomas Moore the poet and composer.

Hugh Leeson, brewer, and whose family gave its name to Leeson Street in Dublin

Jean Jasper Joly captain of the Irish Volunteers in 1798.

John Keogh, friend of Theobald Wolfe Tone, he once owned the land that is now Mount Jerome Cemetery in Harold’s Cross

Also, of note, the 1st Duke of Wellington of the Battle of Waterloo fame, was baptised in St Kevin’s.

During the 18th century the cemetery was a hunting ground for body snatchers, a very lucrative business. After dark a fresh grave with loose soil was sought out. A hole was quickly dug down to where the head lay . On reaching the coffin, two broad iron hooks under the lid, pulled forcibly up with the rope, broke off a sufficient portion of the lid to allow the body to be dragged out.

The body was stripped of the grave clothes, which were scrupulously buried again. The body was then put in a sack for transport and the soil was restored. The body was then sold to one of Dublin’s many medical schools, Trinity College, the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons.

There is a dark history to the park as well. Tommy Powell a six-year-old child, was tragically murdered here in 1961. Broadsheet had an excellent 2017 article about the unsolved murder that you can read at this link here.

Today St. Kevin’s is a haven for wildlife. There are many species of birds including wrens, blue tits, robins, magpies, blackbirds and wood pigeons as well as mammals like hedgehogs, urban foxes, squirrels and wood mice.

Three species of bat are to be found in the park, Leisler’s bat, the common pipistrelle and the soprano pipistrelle. These bats make use of the ivy around the old church ruin as a roost. It is a lovely place to visit but perhaps for those of a nervous disposition, not after dark.

Pics by Harry Warren

Previously: Harry’s Dublin on Broadsheet