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A Brief History | Ancient Dun Laoghaire | Dun Laoghaire Harbour | R.M.S. Leinster | The Railway | Dublin's Riviera | Local Features | Notable Buildings | Famous People
  Dún Laoghaire - Dublin's Riviera

The southern margin of Dublin Bay has been more built over than the northern. In the latter direction the suburbs cease definitely at Clontarf three miles out, in the former they extend along the whole nine miles, that lie between Nelson's Pillar and Dalkey. Yet the beauty of the coastline is not spoilt, but rather enhanced, by the expansion of the city. The houses are not crowded, there is ample room for garden, shrubbery, park and pleasure-ground. Ever and anon the foliage parts or the villas stand away for a moment so as to give glimpses of the sea below, in summer a broad expanse of blue, flecked with white sails, and placid as an inland lake.

As before, the top of the tram, that running to Dalkey, provides the best point of view. The town portion of the journey has mainly been described already. However there is an ancient pear tree at a house in Merrion Square North, which deserves some notice both for its great age and the success with which it has adapted itself to an unfavourable environment.

After passing the Botanic Gardens of Trinity College and the 'famous Show Yard of the Royal Dublin Society at Ballsbridge, the tram comes out on the seashore at Merrion, a village which gave its name to the fashionable square. Next is Booterstown, another hybrid of two languages. The first part is a corruption of the Irish bothair, a road. The name means "the town of the road," the hamlet by the wayside, where cars pulled up in order to refresh man and beast. It is the usual halfway-house for those going to Kingstown, or Dalkey.

Beyond Booterstown is Blackrock, which has lately risen into a fair-sized town. An ancient granite cross in the main street marks the old bounds of the jurisdiction of Dublin. At this spot, during the riding of the franchises, the mayor flung a dart into the water as a symbol of his right of admiralty. Thence the civic cavalcade rode off across country towards Donnybrook, where they went through further ceremonies. The mayors were inclined to neglect this triennial perambulation of the suburbs, but were kept to their duty by the murmuring of the commons. In the absence of documentary evidence, such as is now provided by maps and surveys, the rights of the city could only be asserted in this manner against the encroachments of neighbouring proprietors. The "franchises" were last "ridden" in the eighteenth century.

On the right hand, before entering Blackrock, is Frascati, sometime the residence of Lord Edward and Pamela Fitzgerald. They were both much happier here than amid the gloomy mausoleum-like splendours of Leinster House. Pamela was a pretty and fascinating little person, very much in love with her husband. After several years of married life, when Lord Edward was flitting from house to house and town to town in pursuit of his schemes, she wrote him delightful letters, in which lively prattle of domestic happenings alternates with expressions of her loneliness and anxiety. The correspondence is pathetic in view of what the future had in store for both of them, for the high-spirited husband a prison and a violent death, for the vivacious wife poverty and shame. The dark rock formation, which gives the suburb its name, is visible from the shore.

Monkstown succeeds to Blackrock. Here is a church of singular, not to say grotesque, architecture, adorned with curious little pinnacles, the rounded curves of which recall the familiar pawn at chess. About half a mile off the tramline to the right is Monkstown Castle, a picturesque and typical old Irish stronghold. Like Bullock Castle (pictured) further down the coast, it was built by the monks of S. Mary's Abbey to guard their estates in South County Dublin. In the old cemetery are buried the victims of perhaps the most disastrous wreck recorded in the annals of the bay.

The cross-channel packet Prince of Wales sailing to Parkgate in Cheshire, and the transport Rochdale, carrying the 97th Foot, left Dublin all well, but, a terrible gale and snowstorm coming on, they failed to get clear of the harbour, lost their bearings completely, and, in the night, were driven on the rocks near Monkstown. Four hundred lives were lost, and an entire regiment disappeared for a time from the British Army List. In those days of dangerous sea travelling, the military forces of the crown were often destroyed in this way. In fact, one regiment, the King's Shropshire Light Infantry, bears as its motto "Aucto Splendore Resurgam" in order to commemorate its successful revival after such a misfortune.

After passing Monkstown and before reaching Kingstown proper, the little fishing cove of Dunleary may be seen. Formerly the whole town was known by the latter name, but assumed its present appellation on the visit of King George IV. Viewed from the sea Kingstown presents a pleasant aspect. There is a good deal of grassy slope to be seen, and the spires of a couple of churches supply just the necessary contrast to the long horizontal lines of the Town Hall and the other buildings of the front. The large artificial harbour here is formed by two great curving breakwaters, that stretch out into the bay like the fore claws of a lobster until they almost meet. The work was undertaken in order to save ships from the fate of the Rochdale and the Prince of Wales. It was to be an "Asylum Harbour" or, as we should now say, a harbour of refuge. Since steam has diminished the dangers of a lee shore, the haven is not so much frequented by ships in distress.

Between Kingstown and Dalkey is another little cove, called Bullock, probably from a rock of that name at its entrance. With two "Bulls" and a " Bullock," Dublin Bay is surely bovine enough. The tiny harbour here was once considered important enough to deserve protection. A good-sized and well-preserved castle, evidently constructed for that purpose, still overlooks the little inlet. It dates from the twelfth century.

The tram is now nearing the end of its journey, the remarkably romantic and picturesque village of Dalkey, perched over the sea on a rocky promontory, which divides the beautiful semicircle of Dublin Bay from the still more beautiful crescent of Killiney.

The place was originally a Danish settlement as the -ey of its termination shows. Then, for a long period, it acted as the outport of Dublin, since ships, to which the shallow Liffey was closed, might cast anchor in the deep sound between Dalkey Island and the main-land. The fortifications were very strong, as they had need to be, for, what with hill caterans on one side and pirates on the other, the little town was literally "between the devil and the deep sea." Two or three of the seven castles, which formerly guarded Dalkey, still remain, notably one in the main street, which is, somewhat incongruously, made to carry a large public clock. There are also the ruins of an ancient church, dedicated to S. Begnet.

Off the coast is the little island of the same name as the township. It is associated with a freak of Dublin society in the past. A convivial party met here annually under the form of an independent monarchy and government. The president was hailed as "King of Dalkey, Emperor of the Muglins, Elector of Lambay and Ireland's Eye, Defender of his own Faith and Respecter of all Others," etc., etc. Fortunately for themselves the ministers of this little state were not bound to reside permanently within their dominions. The fun was harmless enough for a while, but eventually the club became tinged with the United Irish principles, and was accordingly suppressed by the government.

The Muglins referred to are a ridge of rocks to the north of the islet, where two notorious pirates were once hanged in chains for murder and robbery on the high seas. Our ancestors had a nice sense of the fitness of things. Marine criminals were exhibited at the entrances of harbours, just as highwaymen were left to swing at cross-roads. The ruffians whose remains were exposed on the Muglins had originally adorned the South Wall, but the citizens objected to their presence on a much-frequented promenade.

Their crime had been both daring and atrocious. Joining the crew of a treasure ship, they had, in mid-Atlantic, risen in arms, murdered the captain and the passengers, and made off in a boat with some 250 bags of dollars. Eventually they reached Waterford Harbour, where they buried most of their booty in the sand, until opportunity should offer for its removal.

However, they were soon arrested, put on trial in Dublin and executed at Stephen's Green. The Maiden Rock, the most easterly of the chain of islets beyond Dalkey Island, is believed to take its name from some hapless girls who perished there, having been cut off by the tide while seeking "dilisk," a kind of seaweed quite popular as an article of diet in Ireland.

About a mile beyond the town, at Sorrento Point, is perhaps the most famous view to be found in all Ireland, a scene which seems the dream of some great landscape painter, too lovely to be real. The spectator looking south-east from his lofty post has before him the long, gradual curve of Killiney Bay, the vivid green of the Irish countryside and the deep blue of the summer sea meeting and running side by side away into the remote distance, where the white specks, which are the houses of Bray, and the bold outlines of Bray Head terminate the picture. At a little distance inland are the mountains of Wicklow, ranged in a series of groups, so as to form a picturesque background. The conical peak of the Sugarloaf and the beautiful long sweep of the coastline recall Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples. Sorrento Point and Vico Road get their names from the foreign resorts, to which they have often been likened.

The road here becomes a cornice winding and undulating along the face of the gorse- and heather-clad bluffs, which overhang the sea. After a mile of up-and-down travelling, where the view at every turn is like a glimpse into fairyland, a gate is passed on the right, which gives access to Victoria Park, a half wild stretch of elevated woodland lately thrown open to the publice A winding path leads to the summit, which is cleared of trees and surmounted by an obelisk erected to provide employment for the poor in a season of distress.

The inscription records this act of benevolence in a Singularly quaint and laconic manner. "Last year being hard with the Poor, the Walls about these Hills and This, etc., erected by John Mapas, Esq., June 1742." This peak is the southernmost of the three hills, which might fitly serve as the armorial bearings of Dalkey, so strongly do they dominate the little town. The rugged slopes around are dotted with villas perched in seemingly inaccessible situations, while higher up an occasional castle, fort or signal tower lifts its sentinel form against the skyline.

Here again there is a magnificent panorama, not limited in any direction. Killiney Bay appears to the south-east, as it did from the road at Sorrento. But here to the north-west is the great bay of Dublin, invisible before. Due north across that bay is the great rock mass of Howth, while to the southward and nearer than we have ever seen them before, are the Dublin and Wicklow mountains, an endless succession of lofty summits, some wrapped in a mantle of cloud, others with the "soft sunlight sleeping on their green uplands" and forming the "picture rare" celebrated by the poetess.

Beyond that great range is the garden county of Ireland, where beauty is lavished on every side, legend-haunted Glendalough with its dark, lonely valley, its seven ancient churches and its two lakes, the verdant vale of Ovoca, "in whose bosom the bright waters meet," the tall waterfall of Powerscourt, the deep, wooded glen of the Dargle behind Bray.

To the eastward roll the broad waters of the Irish Sea, gleaming like silver when they catch the glint of sunlight. Far away to the westward stretches the green, level plain, which is Ireland with all its tragic history and its deep-seated, devastating hatreds and prejudices, always an enigma, often a reproach to the staid and practical Saxons, with whom her lot has been for centuries bound up. Many a brave, warm heart and generous hand are to be found between here and distant Galway Bay, yet prosperity and contentment are slow in coming to this lovely land and lovable race.

The information on this page is from The Story of Dublin by D. A. Chart, M.A.,
Illustrated by Henry J. Howard.
(J. M. Dent & Co., London. 1907).
Click Here to buy this book online



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