I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Dublin stories

Shop Girls, High and Low

The arrival of the department store at the end of the nineteenth century gave birth to a new social actor, the shop girl specialising in sales. Exploitation, of more than one kind, remained, but here was a figure with more pride and independence than the traditionally heavily oppressed grocery employee.

The Costs of Technology

A tradesman’s demand for a fee that seemed exorbitant led ‘The Irish Penny Magazine’ back in 1840 to muse on the relative value of slaves in America and the children of the poor in Ireland.

Eastward Ho!

Peter Sirr prowls the tangled history and contemporary reality of Dublin’s Docklands.

Men at Arms

The differing attitudes of Irishmen in the period from 1914 to 1922 and beyond can be seen through a brief history of three men. One of them, Emmet Dalton, served with distinction alongside Michael Collins. He had previously been in the British army, and he wasn’t ashamed of that.

Vanishing Dublin II

Flora Mitchell’s warm tribute – in words, ink and watercolour – to old Dublin, published in the mid-1960s, records the city at a time when much of it was about to disappear forever, a victim of better economic times and the optimism, and heedlessness of the past, that accompanied them.

Vanishing Dublin

Maurice Earls writes: Six hundred copies of Vanishing Dublin by Flora Mitchell were published in 1966 by Allen Figgis. The book offers short descriptions of numerous streets...

‘The Sentiments of my Heart’

Peter Sirr writes: Cut throat Lane, above a list of churches and directly above the engraved figure of the surveyor and his tripod, as if...

Take Her Up The Mendo

A huge influx of beggars displaced from the land frightened 19th century Dubliners: the benevolent were imposed upon, the modest shocked, the reflecting grieved and the timid alarmed, one observer wrote. In 1818 the Mendicity Institution in Hawkins Street was opened to deal with the problem.

Digging In

An architectural competition for a design for a new church in Clonskeagh in Dublin attracted 101 entries. The winning entry, from a young architect with the OPW, was modernist in style. But the archbishop of Dublin wasn’t having any of it. Instead a ‘monstrous barn’ was built.

‘O commemorate me where there is water’

Peter Sirr sees ‘literary Dublin’ as having been characterised by the famous remark, the ultimate put-down, the libel trial, products all of a particular kind of competitive maleness. Behind the posters and brochures aimed at the tourists was a male kind of city, hard-drinking and cordially vicious.

Involuntary Icaruses

Before Yuri Gagarin orbited the earth in 1961 it was deemed advisable to test out the operation with an animal. The dog Laika became famous, but did not survive. An earlier test flight by balloon, in Dublin in the 1780s, also featured an unwilling passenger, a cat who sadly remains anonymous.

What Big Hands You’ve Got

The poet Patrick Kavanagh was a familiar figure in mid-twentieth century Dublin. Along Baggot Street he stepped out like a real countryman come up to town, long strides and hands swinging. Many young women were a bit afraid of him, but he could well have been putting it on a bit.

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