Thursday, 26 May 2016

Rathmines' great gift to Austrailia: The Great Melbourne Telescope

Casting the GMT in Rathmines works
The Great Melbourne Telescope was built by Thomas Grubb at Grubb’s works in Rathmines in 1868. The 48-inch reflecting telescope was, at the time, the second largest in the world. Erected at the Melbourne Observatory in 1869, it was considered to be revolutionary in its design removing many of the unwieldy features of previous large telescopes.

GMT erected at Grubbs in Rathmines

 The GMT was primarily used to observe the southern hemisphere nebulae. Photographic equipment was added in 1872, resulting in photos of the Moon that were hung in the meeting rooms of The Royal Astronomical Society in London. It was also used to take the first photos of nebulae in the southern hemisphere in February 1883; successful images were taken of the Great Nebula of Orion.

GMT in Melbourne in 1869

In 1945 the Observatory closed and the telescope was relocated to the Mount Stromlo Observatory near Canberra.  It was decommissioned in 1973 and in 1984 many of the original parts were returned to Melbourne. After extensive rebuilding modernisation in 1992, it was given a new lease of life in detecting evidence of dark matter. In 2003 the telescope was practically destroyed in a bush fire, with remaining parts sent to Melbourne.

After the 2003 bushfire

In August 2008, the Astronomical Society of Victoria, Museum Victoria and Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne initiated a restoration project with a view to restoring it in its original building at the former Melbourne Observatory site, adjacent to the Botanic Gardens.


Saturday, 19 March 2016

Rathmines' Poet Laureate: Pearse Hutchinson

The Literary Wall at Rathmines Library is a wonderful illustration of the township’s rich literary heritage. Of course it can never be complete, but there is one name that ought to be there, Pearse Hutchinson.
And maybe it’s partly because he was as far away from being self-promotional as one could be. One look at him: grey bearded, wearing black beret and coat, even indoors, was enough to see that he did not belong to the mainstream body of poets. He was proudly nationalistic, a staunch supporter of the left, the small nation, underdog, the oppressed, the worker. His poetry, often centred  on a small detail, would elucidate a huge truth behind it. He drew attention to injustices and inequalities, he had  experienced them directly in Ireland and in his ten year’s living in Franco’s Spain. Even through wearing a beard, he had experienced antagonism and discrimination in a time when beards were associated with certain groups in society.
One of Ireland’s finest poets, he was a  great supporter of, not just the Irish language, but all minority languages. He knew the central position of language to nationhood. He  was much admired by poets and writers from around the world, particularly those who championed the cause of oppressed peoples. His worth has not yet been fully appreciated, but time will mend that.


Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The day Éamonn MacThomáis came home

Éamonn MacThomáis arrived into the Rathmines Town Hall. It was 2002 and he had come, with time to spare, to lead a walk around the locality. The event was part of the inaugural Rathmines Festival and the much loved author, broadcaster and historian was not sure how many would turn up. Though a household name, he had been out of the public eye for a while and had recently been fighting with ill-health.
While waiting for the start of the walk, he sat in the staffroom of Rathmines College and talked about his association with Rathmines. He was born there, in the care-taker’s house attached to what is called the ’council yard’. Fond memories of his first five years; he had, surprisingly, never been back. 
“But, that house is part of the college, we can go there now.” He was awe-struck.
Inside the old house, visibly moved, he recounted his memories. His recollection of the details of the house after 70 years was impressive; it was quite obvious what a great pleasure it was for him to be back in his first living room, bedroom, kitchen.
Some weeks later he wrote a letter to say how much he enjoyed the day and seeing the old house. He died later that year. I don't know if that walk was his last public appearance, but the public had, most definitely, not forgotten him. A huge crowd collected in  the Town Hall for the event and the chance to meet a most likeable, interesting and humble man. 
Éamonn Mac Thomáis in the Liberties:"

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Maureen O'Hara, Jam Jars and Henry Grattan

The only indication that Henry Grattan’s house, ‘Grove House’, once existed in Rathmines is the name Grove Road. As for the Grattan Spa that drew many people to the vicinity, there is none. The spa was on Grattan’s property in the vicinity of today’s Grove Road. It attracted people with various afflictions for many centuries before Grattan, but eventually, deemed unfit for human use, it was covered in. 
It is in the nature of cities to sweep away the past away over and over again. Isn't it amazing how often, when a business closes, you find yourself looking at  the empty building with  absolutely no recollection of the what was there so recently.
How many people now remember the Princess Cinema in Rathmines? It was just a few doors townside of today’s Swan Leisure Centre. Film  actress Maureen O’Hara remembered going there on Saturdays during her school days in Milltown. It cost three pence to sit on a wooden bench watching  the Saturday matinee. During the war, large jam jars were accepted in lieu of 2 pence, part payment of the 4p charge into the matinee. Wallets were big in those days! The Prinner closed in 1960 though the building remained for many years after that.
It is a pity that some information is not placed at sites that have tales to tell.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

2016: Time to Honour Kathleen Lynn

Suffragist, labour activist and nationalist, Kathleen Florence Lynn lived most of her life in Rathmines, and has been shamefully forgotten in a city she served selflessly and tirelessly.
She was born in County Mayo in 1874, daughter of Church of Ireland Rector, Robert Lynn. Some of her education was received at Alexandra College, Dublin; she qualified with degrees in medicine, surgery and obstetrics from the Royal University in 1899. In 1909 she was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.
During the Lock Out of 1913, she became involved in the relief efforts for workers and their families. This commitment to the welfare of Dublin’s poor became a driving force for the rest of her life.
Her activities brought her close to Countess Markievicz and James Connolly. She was appointed Chief Medical Officer with rank of the Captain of the Irish Citizen Army, and served in that position during the Easter Rising. Part of the City Hall Garrison, at the time they surrendered, it was Kathleen who was in command. Imprisoned after the Rising; following her release she became an active member of Sinn Féin. She was elected TD for Dublin County on the anti-treaty side in 1923. After failing to be re-elected in 1927, her involvement in politics diminished; she did remain active with the Rathmines urban district council until 1930.
Lynn lived and ran a practice at 9 Belgrave Road, Rathmines. Her commitment to Dublin’s poor was exemplified by her work at Saint Ultan's Hospital, which she founded, along with Madeleine ffrench-Mullen, in 1919 to care for impoverished mothers and infants. It was a pioneering initiative, the first infant hospital in Ireland.
She died on 13 September 1955, and was buried in Deans Grange Cemetery with full military honours.
Her sympathies with the Republican cause brought her into conflict with her family, her gender mitigated against her in her profession. In spite of all this, she persisted and is one of Ireland's great unsung heroines. Perhaps the new children’s hospital will be named after her; one way or the other, it is now time to honour Kathleen Lynn. 

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Historic Rathmines

It is planned for Rathmines to be included in Dublin City Council’s series of Walking Trail leaflets. There is a lot to see in a walk that would range from Portobello Harbour to Palmerston Park. Here is a selection of locations with notable histories.
Portobello House and Harbour:
The harbour, though not now in its original state was opened in 1801. The nearby La Touche Bridge was built in 1791, and Portobello House, originally, the Grand Canal Hotel in 1807. For many years, it was an important location on the canal, never more so than during the famine when many people were leaving the midlands to emigrate. The Hotel closed in 1835. Later the house was used as an asylum for the blind, and as a hospital; Jack Yeats spent his final years there.
Church of Mary Immaculate, Refuge of Sinners:
Rathmines parish church was completed in 1856, with the magnificent portico added in 1878. In January 1920, a fire in the electrical system engulfed the church and the dome collapsed. It was back in use in July of that year. The current dome built in Glasgow had been destined for an orthodox church in Russia. James Joyce’s parents married ere in 1880. One notable feature of the church is the number 77 which was put into stonework of the external wall on the eastern side of the church by a bricklayer in 1923. It was in protest at the 77 executions authorised by the Government during the Civil War.
Cathal Brugha Barracks:
Originally named Portobello Barracks, it was opened in 1815. The Irish army took over in May 1922, marching in the main gate as the British troops marched out the canal gate. It became the National Army's Headquarters under General Michael Collins. In 2011, a visitor’s centre was opened beside the main entrance in what used to be the guard room. It is dedicated of Francis Sheehy Skeffington, Thomas Dickson and Patrick McIntyre, who were arrested by the British Forces and executed without trial in the adjoining exercise yard on April 26th 1916. Today, it is the home of the 2nd Eastern Brigade, the 2nd Infantry Battalion, the Defence Forces School of Music and the Military Archives.
Observatory Lane:
In the 1860’s the Grubb Telescope Company was built at Observatory lane by Thomas Grubb. World famous, they produced, what was then, the largest refracting telescope in the world for the Imperial and Royal Observatory in Vienna.   Grubb telescopes are still in use around the world, including those also at Armagh and Dunsink Observatories.
Leinster Cricket Club:
Leinster Cricket Club was founded in 1852. Originally located in Grosvenor Square, it moved to its present location in 1865. Among its most historic events are the visit of the famous W.G. Fields and G.F. Fields in 1874, the last time both brothers hit centuries in the same match, also the playing of the Irish rugby union’s first home game took place here in 1875. Today this is home of Leinster Sports Complex, which includes Leinster Cricket Club.
The Chains and the Swan River:
Rathmines village was a group of thatched houses beside the Swan River. It was fenced off by chains on bollards. One bollard on the path a short distance south of the Wynnfield /Rathmines Road Lower junction is all that remains of this.  The cottages were flattened in 1888 and with them went the Irish-speaking community that lived there. Here too, one would have seen the Swan flowing parallel to today’s main street. Further on, it turned eastward to flow through today’s Mount Pleasant Square.
Palmerston Park:
Site of the Battle of Rathmines, which was fought here on August 2nd 1649. Colonel Jones’ Parliamentarian forces defeated the Marquis of Ormand and Lord Inchiquin’s Royalist coalition army. Varying estimates of lives lost range up to 4,000 and 2,500 prisoners were taken. It was this important victory that allowed Cromwell's invasion force to land, unopposed, two weeks later in Dublin. A  notable resident of Palmerston  was the great Irish physicist, George Johnstone Stoney. He originated the concept of a unit of electricity, calculated its size and named it the electron.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Rathmines Public Library

By Rebecca Clancy

Rathmines Public Library

Rathmines public library was built in 1913 with the aid of funds from the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust. Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish/American industrialist who was responsible for allocating the funds. Andrew, who was born on November 25th 1835, was the man behind the expansion of the steel industry in America.

Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland where he lived for some years before emigrating in 1848 to the United States with his parents. Carnegie intentionally started out as a factory worker and landed his first job in a bobbin factory. Eventually he worked his way up and began working for a telegraph company. It was from there that he built Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Steel Company.

Rathmines Library in the early 20th Century
Carnegie, who is often referred to as the second richest man in history, earned most of his fortune in the steel industry. He invested most of his earnings in establishing schools, universities, libraries and museums. The majority of them were located in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland. One of his most famous buildings is Carnegie Hall in New York.

Although the building we know today as Rathmines Public Library was built in 1913, the library originally had two previous locations. It was initially located at number 53 Rathmines road. However it quickly became very popular and more space was needed to accommodate its customers.

Main Entrance
In the year 1899 it moved to 67 Rathmines Road where it stayed for 14 years before moving to the building we know and use today. At the time of construction, a competition was held to design the new library. Frederick Hicks won the competition and the firm of Bachelor and Hicks of Dublin were the architects awarded the design of the new building.

The library was built with the aid of £8,500 from the Carnegie grant and it opened its doors on the 24th October 1913. The overall design of the library was intended to blend in with the design of the Town Hall as much as possible and to act as ‘an ornament to the township’. Although the library and technical school are adjoining and part of the same building they have two separate entrances.

The library, as well as having a lending department where people could visit and borrow books, also had a special room where people could come to read the newspapers each day and a reference library where people could sit and read at their leisure.  Newspapers were expensive items in the early 1900’s and the newspaper room was extremely popular as people could look up the job pages and catch up on the latest news for free.

The beautiful library staircase
The library features a beautiful stained glass window which is located half way up the double staircase and was designed by William Morris, who was a famous English artist and designer. The library is also home to the only surviving plaque from the Princess cinema. The cinema was opened as the Rathmines Picture Palace on March 24th 1913 just several months before the opening of the library.

The library was used by various different community groups and clubs in the area. The Public Health Department held its clinics in the library. The Thomas Davis branch of the Gaelic League also held their meetings in the building as did the Rathmines chess club.