Our friendly and excellent guides are available as Step On Guides for any visiting tour or coach operators who may like a unique, entertaining and educational tour of Irish History and the events of Easter Week 1916.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Carlow 1916?

Carlow as a county has often been ridiculed as the only county never to have won a senior GAA football or Hurling title despite at times having produced excellent club teams at All Ireland club level but statistics from police records in 1916 also show Carlow as a county with a number of other duck eggs. Along with The Kings County (Offaly), Carlow were the only county's where no recorded rebellious activities took place and the only county with no arrests in the aftermath of the Rising.

No doubt the confusion in orders did not help activities in the Barrowsiders county.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Sandymount International Airport

On a warm summer afternoon a glance skywards as you lay on Sandymount beach a passenger jet blazes a trail across the sky but in the 1930’s plans were developed for a new International airport for Dublin to be located in Sandymount on the land now occupied by Sean Moore Park and the Irish Glass Bottle site. In the early days of the Free State, international flights left from Kildonan Aerodrome in Finglas but when Aer Lingus was launched in 1936, its first flights departed from Baldonnel. The decision was eventually made that a former RAF airfield at Collinstown would be developed into what is today Dublin Airport.

In 1935 following a Dublin Ports and Docks Board visit to Sydenham Airport (now George Best Airport) in Belfast which was built on reclaimed land, the plan was proposed to build a walled enclosure to reclaim land from the sea from Newgrove Avenue to the Pigeon House and into Irishtown. The report stated that the 15,000 feet wall would enclose 1,400 acres and with reclamation would cost £1.5 million with another £1m needed to build a runway and infrastructure. Its proximity to the tram line into the city centre and the nearby railway station at Sandymount Avenue were cited as important criteria.

In 1936, Mr. J Johnson Mullan of Sandymount Castle in a letter to the Irish Press advocated the plan as an excellent idea and marvelled at the possibility of seeing the lights of an international airport on the foreshore. He recommended that the Dublin Corporation and the DPDB immediately begin work its implementation. The first flight into the completed alternative Dublin Airport was in January 1940 after a three year building project

An aerodrome of sorts in Sandymount was operational during the visit of the aircraft carrier USS John F Kennedy in 1996. With the massive vessel anchored in Dublin Bay, Ciaran Haughey’s Celtic Helicopters operated a sightseeing service for the duration of the visit from what is today the park area nearest the beach on Strand Road. Two helicopters were deployed and hundreds availed of the opportunity to have a helicopter jaunt out over Dublin Bay spotting both the massive ship and most probably their own home from the air. 

At one stage proposals were placed before Dublin County Council for the creation of a heliport on the Poolbeg Extension but were quickly shelved.

In 1998 the then Councillor and later An Tainiste John Gormley complained at a Dublin Corporation meeting that a deal had been struck between the Corporation and Celtic Helicopters to allow Sean Moore Park as a base for commercial flights. The Corporation did admit there was an agreement but that it was only for occasional flights and they did not reveal the financial arrangements that had been made.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sandymount Green Through History

The story of Sandymount begins with an area known as Scallet Hill in the middle ages. The area then was a swampy marsh land surrounded by the Irish Sea on one side and the unbridled River Dodder on the other side. In the late 1700’s Lord Fitzwilliam built an embankment to hold back the sea from Merrion to Sandymount. The course of the Dodder was regulated and the land dried enough to begin building houses. The area was renamed Brickfield and from the 1820’s onwards the development of Sandymount continued apace and is still evolving even today.

The centre piece of Sandymount is the Green. A triangle of recreational green space that was opened to the public in 1900 after Lord Pembroke donated the waste ground hoping that a nice park would allow him to charge higher rents for the many properties he owned in the area. In 1904 an ornate water fountain was erected as a centre piece but it has long since disappeared although the drinking fonts that were also put in can still be seen today.

The statue sculpted by Arthur Power in the Green is that of the great poet William Butler Yeats. His family at one time lived in the Castle at one end of the Green. Yeats himself was born on June 13th 1865 on Sandymount Avenue. Yeats would be romantically involved with Maud Gonne and won a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923. He passed away in 1939 in Paris France but it was not until September 1948 before his body was repatriated to Sligo and upon his headstone are the lines,
                        Cast a Cold Eye
                        On Life, on Death,
                        Horseman pass by.

The first recorded licensed premises on the Green was in 1834 and a hotel and tavern owned by Anne Tunstall. In 1850 Martin D’Arcy operated a public house at Number 5 Sandymount Green also known as ‘Tippers’.

The advertisement for the sale of White’s notes that Number One had the lease as a pub granted to it on September 29th 1849.
In 1870 there were three public houses on the Green. Apart from D’Arcy’s there was Fox and Hanrahan’s and Peter Kenny’s. Michael Hanrahan was the first man to have a pub located at Number One Sandymount Green and named it the Sandymount Tavern. With his partner Fox they also had a pub located at 72 Upper Dorset Street on Dublin’s North side.

In 1875 Charles McCabe arrived in the Village with his brother Richard who opened a grocer’s shop next door which was numbered as 1a.

In 1880 Daniel Burke became the publican at Number One Sandymount Green. This was one of four pubs he owned in the city. He was also operating on Baggot Street, 2-3 South King Street near where the Gaeity Theatre stands today and at Number 4 Ballsbridge near where Crowe’s Public House now stands.

Much of Burke’s success was probably due to the arrival of the tram system that connected the village with the city centre. Sandymount became a popular tourist attraction with it beaches, open spaces and off course fine public houses.

In the early 1870’s tram tracks were laid from the city centre along Mount Street and through Bath Avenue and onto Sandymount village for a horse drawn tram service that connected the Martello Tower on the Strand Road with Nelson’s Pillar in O’Connell Street. The service began on October 1st 1872. In 1872 the service then began at Gilford Road where horse stables and garages were built. The journey with a two horse tram would travel from the Tower via the Green, Tritonville Road and down London Bridge Road until they passed beneath the railway bridge where a stable hand would be on duty with two extra horses to pull the tram up onto Northumberland Road and then return to Bath Avenue to await the next tram.

On January 14th 1901, the horse was replaced with electricity on William Murphy’s Dublin United Tram Company route. It was one of the few routes served by a single deck tram known as a ‘bogeycar’ due to the low bridge on Bath Avenue.

In those days the routes were not numbered but name plates at the front of the tram indicated its destinations and in order to assist those many who were illiterate at the time in Dublin a green half crescent indicated that it was the tram required for any one travelling the route from Sandymount to the city centre.

The tram service ceased on the route on 31st July 1932. For many years Coras Iompair Eireann, the forerunner of Dublin Bus operated the number 52 bus, a single deck bus that became a one man operation and ran from Lakelands School to Hawkins Street. The number 52 which was then used to service University College Dublin was removed from the route in 1998

Today the Dublin Bus routes Number Two from Parnell Square to the Green and the Number Three from Whitehall to UCD through Sandymount serve as the quickest way to find your creamy pint in Ryan’s. The Number Eighteen arrives at its terminus on the Green from Palmerstown. The DART stations at Lansdowne Road and Sandymount are only minutes away.

In 1890 John Butler a young publican arrived to serve the pints to the growing and affluent suburb. John Butler was a native of Annefield County Cork and died January 18th 1890 just thirty three years old. He is buried in New Drom Cemetery, County Tipperary with a headstone erected by his sons Lawrence and Thomas. Thomas ran a pub at 18 Camden Street where Anseo is presently located. Thomas died two years after his father on March 4th 1892 while Lawrence died March 31st 1904 aged seventy three. Following the death of Thomas the pub was put up for sale.

In 1893 Patrick S Fleming arrived. Fleming saw in the new century and perhaps he was standing at his door when Leopold Bloom passed through Sandymount on June 16th 1904. Bloom’s exploits were magically recounted in James Joyce’s work ‘Ulysess’

Then there was the exciting events surrounding the Easter Rising in 1916. No doubt many of the Irish Volunteers frequented his premises as they used the Sandymount Castle grounds as a training area under their local commander John McBride.

The 1911 Census lists the occupants of Number One Sandymount Green as

Patrick Fleming, 50, Roman Catholic born in Co Limerick and married for 17 years
Kate Fleming, 48, Wife Roman Catholic born in Co Tipperary mother of 4 Children
Mary Fleming, 15 Daughter Roman Catholic born in Co Dublin
Thomas Fleming, 14 Son Roman Catholic born in Co Dublin                          
Francis Fleming, 13 Son Roman Catholic born in Co Dublin
Florence Fleming, 11 Daughter Roman Catholic born in Co Dublin
Patrick McEvoy, 28 Boarder Roman Catholic born in Co Dublin Barman
Edward O'Grady, 26 Boarder Roman Catholic born in Queen's County Barman
John Hughes, 24 Boarder Roman Catholic born Co Roscommon Barman
James Cullen, 23 Boarder Roman Catholic born in Co Kildare Barman
James Hennessy, 18 Boarder Roman Catholic born in Co Tipperary Barman
Alfred Coffey, 18 Boarder Roman Catholic born in Co Meath Barman 
Margaret Connelly, 30 Servant Roman Catholic born in Co Wexford Domestic Servant

The Irish National Census of ten years earlier noted that Fleming’s staff were
Patrick Hedigan aged 26 born in County Limerick
Daniel O’Connell aged 26 from County Limerick
Gerald Barry aged 23 born in County Limerick
William Lawlor aged 18 from County Tipperary
Phillip Ryan aged 17 from County Tipperary

In 1920 Fleming’s friend and publican across the road Sylvester White bought the premises. White had been the landlord in what is today O’Reilly’s on Seafort Avenue and sold to the O’Reilly family arrived in 1922. In the Poor Law Elections the two men are noted as the proposer and second of George Bardon of Prospect Place. Sylvester then forty three years old was ably assisted by his older brother Denis.

In 1925 Joseph Ryan bought the pub and traded successfully through ‘The Emergency’, the Irish term for the Second World War. During the war years 1939-1945 the local air raid siren was located on the roof of the pub. Kevin Mullan remembered the night it sounded in earnest when German bombers flew over Dublin on May 31st 1941 and dropped their deadly bomb load on the North Strand killing twenty eight people and destroying over three hundred houses.

In 1958 through the estate agency Morrissey’s, the pub was sold to Mary Heelan. In 1974 the same agency sold the pub for £172,000 and renamed ‘Fagan’s’.

In 1985 it became known as The Sandymount House and attached was the Le Detour Restaurant and the offices of Diamond Windows Limited. The pub was bought by well known Tipperary born Dublin publican Gus Ryan. In 2008 Gus retired from the business and his son Vincent and his wife Elizabeth became the publicans.

Today Ryan’s on Sandymount Green is a vibrant pub at the heart of the village. 

The Wren…….
If you have never heard of the ‘wren boys’ on St Stephen’s Day in Sandymount, where have you been?
The Wran - The Wran - the king of all birds
On Saint Stephen's Day was caught in the furze
Although he is little his family is great
Come out your honour and give us a trate

Hurrah me boys hurrah

The origins of the Wren Day are based on pagan legend and its true beginnings lost in the fog of history. In modern times, the Wren Boys descend on Sandymount Green on St Stephen’s morning to celebrate and enjoy the festive season. The Guinness Gig Rig, a mobile stage, is on hand to let hundred of performers play and dance to Irish traditional tunes and maybe to give the few bars of a song.

The tradition is marked with those involved dressing up in masks and straw hats and as colourful pieces of clothing as you have in your wardrobe. If you are in the crowd you are known as a mummur. In rural parts of Ireland, the children dress up and go from pub to pub entertaining the customers with music and dance and earning some pocket money along the way. Once the festivities on stage in Sandymount reach there conclusion perhaps on a cold December morn its time to repair to the warm comfort of Ryan’s for a few hot whiskeys and the sharing of the Christmas spirit.

The Good, The Bad and The …….

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Four Corners of Hell


In 2002, The Woods Band released a critically acclaimed album called ‘The Four Corners of Hell’. The title comes from the local name for the junction of Kevin Street, Clanbrassil Street and Patrick Street. It was so named as at one time there was a pub on each of the four corners of that intersection. In fact in 1960, you could start a journey at Harold’s Cross Bridge and walk the mile to Christchurch Cathedral and visit nineteen pubs. If you walked the same ‘Olden Mile’ today the people who preach responsibility in alcohol would be delighted as only five pubs would be entered.

The oldest licence is that belonging to the presently closed Man of Achill that dates back to 1760 or as it was known then as ‘Ye Olde Grinding Young’.  Many great bar names have disappeared over the years since1960, The Bunch of Grapes, Larkin’s, Nash’s, Biddy Mulligan’s and the Tap.

The Four Corners of Hell were Quinn’s at Clanbrassil Street and The Coombe, Kenny’s  on the corner of  Patrick Street and the Coombe, Lowe’s on the corner of Patrick Street and Kevin Street and O’Bierne’s on the opposite corner. Many of the pubs were demolished to make way for progress when in the nineties Clanbrassil Street, named after James Hamilton, Earl of Clanbrassil, was widened to cope with growing volumes of traffic.

One of Dublin’s major tourist areas is around St. Patrick’s and Christchurch Cathedrals and the terminus of the Viking Splash Tours. Patrick Street in 1960 boasted six pubs now there is none. In 1960 J.A. Maguire’s, The Tap was located at 12-13 Patrick Street on the corner of Dillon Place. Number 21was Michael Ryan’s on the corner of Hanover Lane. Number 25 was A. Brennan’s later known as Birchall’s between Hanover Lane and Dean Street while at 36 was  T. McDonalds and finally down to the Corner of Hell with Kenny’s (Once known as Pat McManus’s) facing Lowe’s the last pub to disappear in 2005 when then called Nash’s and owned by the famous English Channel swimmer Pat Nash it was demolished.

Patrick Street is not the only street in the area to see all its pubs disappear. Bride Street in 1960 had John Corry’s at Number 33, The Sinnott Brothers and 85, the Napper Tandy. P. McColgan’s, Mrs O’Bierne’s and Thomas Kenny’s pub at the corner of Golden Lane all now demolished and banished from the landscape. No smoking ban will affect them.

With Farrell’s pub currently closed, New Street is also devoid of pubs when it once boasted The White Horse Bar, the New Inn and O’Bierne’s on Hells Corner.

1960                                                    2005   
Upper Clanbrassil Street
No. 1 Patrick Doyle                             Leonard’s Corner Café
            (Once Known as Christy Carr’s)
No 29 Cyril McDermott                       McKenna’s
            (Once known as The Fiddlers Green)
No. 30 The Poplars                              CLOSED
No. 35 Carroll Brothers                        The Harold House
Lower Clanbrassil Street      
No. 30 William J Barrett                       GONE
No. 56 Thomas Keogh                        The 57 Headline
No. 67 T MacDonagh’s                       GONE
            (Also known as Biddy Mulligan’s & Pearse Bar.)
No. 91 J Fitzpatrick                              GONE
            (Once known as The Bunch of Grapes)
No. 108Larkin Brothers                       GONE
No. 116                                               McAuleys
New Street    
                                                            No. 35 James Kavanagh                       Farrell’s
                                                                        (Once known as Donlon’s)
                                                            No. 45 Pat McAuleys                           GONE
                                                                        (Once known as The White Horse Bar)
                                                            No. 65 The New Inn                            GONE
                                                            No. 1   O’Bierne’s                               GONE
Patrick Street                                    
No. 12 J.A. Maguire                            GONE
                                                                        (Once known as Dunne’s)
                                                            No. 21 Michael Ryan’s                        GONE
                                                            No. 25 A. Brennan’s                            GONE
                                                            No. 36 T. McDonald                            GONE
                                                                        (Once known as Donnelly’s)
                                                            No. 49 Pat McManus                           GONE
                                                            No. 50 JD Quinn’s                               GONE
                                                                        (Also known as Lowe’s & Nash’s)
Dean Street                                       
No. 7 W. Lowe’s                                 GONE
Bride Street               
                                                            No. 33 John Corry                               GONE
                                                            No. 85 Sinnott Brothers                        GONE
                                                                        (Once known as Finnegan’s)
                                                            No. 87 Thomas Kenny                         GONE
                                                            No. 101 Sean O’Connor’s                   GONE
                                                                        (Once known as The Napper Tandy)
                                                            No. 102 P. McColgan’s                       GONE
                                                            No. 104 Mrs A O’Bierne’s                  GONE

Gone but not forgotten.

Monday, April 3, 2017

The History of Shelbourne Park Greyhound Stadium

Over the years I have written a  number of historical articles on the area I live in and these next couple of weeks will have a small selection of those articles.

The History of Shelbourne Park Greyhound Stadium.

Every Saturday night between 8pm and 10pm the place to be in Dublin is greyhound racing at Shelbourne Park. Located on South Lotts Road which itself dates back to 1721, the stadium has become a mecca of sports and gambling. But while today those guests sitting in the park’s excellent restaurant see it associated solely as a greyhound venue, it has a very colourful sporting past.

Just like its Northside cousin Croke Park, the stadium originally began life as a soccer ground. Originally a derelict site, it became the home of Shelbourne FC pre-season in 1913. A trial match took place on August 16th when Shelbourne played a Leinster League select eleven. At that time Shelbourne played in the all-Ireland Irish Football league and their first league match was a one all draw with fellow Dubliners Bohemians. The ground was operated by the Shelbourne Sports Company Limited and many various fund raising activities took place in the first couple of years to pay for and extend the facilities at the ground. In March 1914 the club played Manchester United while on May 23rd a fifteen mile challenge race was run featuring Irish international running sensations Charlie Harris and Paddy Fagan. A track around the pitch was used for Wednesday trotting and whippet racing. Trotting on a Friday would cost one schilling admission while to enter your pony cost £1 but there was a prize of £30 if you got through the qualifying rounds.

Over the following decades Shelbourne’s home venue was also used by the Football Association of Ireland following the establishment of the Irish Free State and the split from the IFA in Belfast, as home of both semi finals and finals of the FAI Cup including an enthralling final in April 1929 between Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians. Shelbourne remained at the ground until the 1948/49 season when Shelbourne’s last match against Waterford ended just like their first in a draw.

In September 1921 the then titled President of Ireland Eamon DeValera officially opened a Fete that featured seven a side Gaelic football tournament. Billed as the ‘best of outdoor and indoor attractions’ the indoor featured Irish dancing Feis, a Ceili and a cinema.

As a greyhound venue it was Ireland’s second after the opening of Celtic Park in Belfast. Greyhound racing began on May 14th 1927 in front of ten thousand spectators packed into the venue. The National Greyhound Racing Company Limited, the forerunner of Bord Na gCon and the Irish Greyhound Board was the brainchild of Kerry native Jerry Collins, Paddy O’Donoghue, Patsy McAlinden and Jim Clarke.

But the early days of greyhound racing was not without its difficulties. A riot broke out in September 1927 when two dogs Galbally Lass and Skeango racing in the semi final of the Civic Cup stopped mid race and savaged each other. The crowd expected a blue flag denoting a ‘non race’ but to their dismay the 6-4 favourite Gone For Sure was declared the winner. The ‘mob in the cheap enclosure invaded the ground trampling wire and person and attacking the judges box’. Police from nearby Irishtown police station restored order.
Hockey arrived in March 1924 when Ireland beat England in a 3.15pm tip off to win the triple crown, a year later 1/6 would gain you admittance to the Ireland v Scotland encounter.

In 1934 another new sport arrived when thousands arrived by ferry from Britain to watch the inaugural Perpetual Challenge Cup match between Warrington and Wigan in rugby league. The match was sponsored by the Hospital’s Trust and Wigan overcame their opponent thirty two points to nineteen. Alas despite its proposed annual status, this was the only rugby league match played at the south Dublin venue.

On July 9th 1937 promoter Joe McAllister organised a boxing tournament featuring flyweight contender Jim Warnock. Warnock won his bout but lost a belt eliminator to Peter Kane two weeks later in a fight held at the home of Liverpool, Anfield.

In 1950 a new sport arrived, the thrill of the speedway. Motor bikes were speeding around the course in a sport that was now attracting both spectators and American riders eager to earn a living. The sport initially stayed four years at Shelbourne Park promoted by Ronnie Green. It returned in 1961 for a season and a further two years in 1970/1971. Although mostly made up of American riders The Shelbourne Tigers captained by seventeen year old Ronnie Moore matched many of the big teams from across the Irish Sea drawing thousands to the south side venue.

In recent years greyhound racing has shared its space in Shelbourne Park with show jumping. The ‘Jumping In The City’ event organised by the Irish Greyhound Board as a way of utilising their venues in Limerick, Cork and Dublin on days when their stadia were empty.