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.

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