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.

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 …….

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