Inside Georgian Dublin


Over the past few months I have been somewhat of an English language teaching journeyman. I have navigated my way up and down much trodden streets of old in search of language schools of varying acronymic titles. Often starting with an I or and E, and somewhere else having an E or an I inside them, their meaning is often wrapped within some other flurry of adjectives represented by consonants. But despite this conundrum what I’ve enjoyed most of all is that many of the schools are housed in old Georgian houses.

Georgian Dublin represents a golden age for the city in terms of development. More so that any other period in Dublin’s history, the Georgian period has single handedly defined much of the modern shape, character, and charm of the inner city. This period stretched from the early 18th to the early 19th century, and the prosperity witnessed by the city at the time had a lot to do with the sitting of the Irish Houses of Parliament at College Green (now the Bank of Ireland), whose parliamentarians needed townhouses. The attention of the rest of the wealthy Irish was not lost and it become the norm to own a red-bricked terraced house, hundreds of which are still standing in Dublin today. Today post cards of Georgian Dublin doors and houses can be found around town. Equally, buildings like the Four Courts, Customs House, and the Bank of Ireland are some of the most monumental.

Powerscourt House, South William Street.

These red-bricked houses were designed within the constraints of a public body set up to ensure that the city was redeveloped to a habitable standard. Much of the city was still medieval in shape, and vast tracts of farmland and marsh still lay within walking distance of the pillars of power. The Wide Streets Commission when established saw about ensuring uniformity, order, and perhaps most significantly, fire precautions.

Unfortunately, during the 19th century many of these houses were converted into tenements to house Dublin’s poor, and with this so many fell into disrepair and eventually ruin. Even in areas as picturesque and typically Georgian such as St Stephen’s green, we are only left with remnants of great houses. The story is more stark on once fashionable Gardiner Street and Dominick Street on the north side of the city where some of the poorest slums where to be located. Many houses were torn down, and many now hold offices, flats, or are empty. Now they are tall and hovering over the footpaths, so far removed from the original uses.

Fitzwilliam Street Upper

All is not lost however. These buildings are finding new uses as office space, and several are used as English language schools. For whatever reasons, perhaps their size or number of rooms, but I suppose what is also important is that they are all in city centre locations. There might be other factors at play but I don’t really think that is of any significance, what matters here is that I actually finally got to walk into some of these buildings and have a look around.

I recall first finding out about this part of Dublin while I was doing my Leaving Certificate back in 2000. I studied art, which meant I had to do history of art. There was a particular part of the course which discussed the Georgian period of Dublin. I don’t remember if we had a choice on particular aspects of Irish art, but I do know that I took an instant liking to it. Maybe because it was something that we could see any time we went into town, and it had so much history too, not only in its construction but also in its faded glory and the destitute state it had come to exist in.

I’ve always been interested in these aspects of history. It could be part of my more crude nature, or perhaps some kind of romantic notion which sees the character only in that which has experienced more than others. I’ve always found old photographs interesting, but mostly I prefer photographs or images which show us how far we have come along from when the photograph was taken.

It was probably this interest in seeing how things have and do exist now that drew me towards these buildings so much more than I felt others were being drawn. I couldn’t help walking around the streets which chop through Baggot Street, up towards Herbert Road and around Fitzwilliam Square and Pembroke Street. I have driven up and down here countless times but I had never really earned the chance to simply explore.

Baggot Street

Fitzwilliam Square

I took particular pleasure when given the chance to explore around Parnell Square and Dominick Street. I had thought that all of Dominick Street’s Georgian houses had been demolished and replaced by flats, which themselves were later demolished, the scrub remaining being left for some other fate.

This particular area is where Dublin’s oldest Georgian houses sit. The top of Dominick Street has some fine examples, one of which I will talk about more shortly. But just across the street is a short street which runs up to the King’s Inns. This is Henrietta Street. When I visited, the street was quiet with the morning and damp with the condensation of the night’s clouds. The houses were bold and broad. Some had been restored to offices, but others looked they had been boarded up for a long time. They were scarred with the ignominy of rejection, but they stood with a little bit of humble pride showing that despite many years of neglect they still owned their place in Dublin’s history.

Henrietta Street, all in faded grace, removed from all its glory.

Henrietta Street; so many stories from only one doorway.

Inside many of these buildings all over Dublin is a secret treat, their interiors. The ceilings are high, like really high. The walls are thick, so thick I don’t think you needed to insulate them, and the steps and floors all creak with age. I could be wrong in saying that I would be surprised if many still had the same floors from when they were first built. Indeed, many buildings still maintain the artistic features of their original design.

In some respects there is not much to see in these big houses. The walls as I said are tall, and the floors a bit creaky and old. Because they’re old buildings it is hard to have light fittings and plugs and stuff to make them more modern. Adding to this is that in each ceiling you can’t really drill a hole into the beautifully crafted stucco work which is typical of every house. Of yeah, I forgot to mention that, didn’t I?

At the centre of each room where perhaps a candle chandelier would have hung the most beautiful stucco work is the norm in many of these houses. Even in smaller, clearly less influential homes, having a elaborate floral motif emanating from the ceiling was common practice. Often there are fantastic animal or floral patterns addornig other parts of the ceiling, but the main focus is at the very centre. The level of detail and size depends on the owners wealth, and I suppose also on the owners taste.

Inside a house on Fitzwilliam Street Upper

Inside a house on Fitzwilliam Street Upper

While I was mesmerised by actually being inside just a few fairly standard Georgian houses, I was lucky to have to teach in an overflow classroom for a week in one of Georgian Dublin’s most prized possessions. These overflow classrooms are often temporary solutions to busy periods. This particular acronymic school based on Dominick Street was in need of some room, and the Youth Work Ireland building nearby was in the position to offer space.

I had little idea of what to expect as I stepped in, but I instantly recognised the work on the walls from my Leaving Cert history of art classes. The owner of this house originally was a man named Robert West, and he was known as one of the foremost stuccodores in Dublin at the time. This particular interior is so elaborate that it is near impossible to describe with enough words, and I for one can merely leave some photographs of the beautiful walls and ceilings.

Inside 20 Dominick Street Lower

Inside 20 Dominick Street Lower

Inside 20 Dominick Street Lower

Inside 20 Dominick Street Lower

Inside 20 Dominick Street Lower

Inside 20 Dominick Street Lower

Inside 20 Dominick Lower

In time I hope that I can again visit some of these properties, although not as a journeyman, more as an enthusiast for the magnificent tribute left to a time when Dublin was finally becoming a city of Europe, one with its own shape and its own character. I think Georgian Dublin is something which many of us take for granted, although it is not so serious that we do take it seriously, but we should offer it the respect it deserves. I think that Dublin will grow always around these magnificent monuments, but at the same time I hope that they do not allow for a stagnation of the progress which they themselves were the product of some two hundred years before.

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Do you have a particular building or era from historical Dublin which you like or have an interest in?

Should we seek to restore all these buildings to their original state, or should we allow progress to change these for the better?

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I took all these photos with my camera phone (HTC One M8 if you’re asking). For some reason I never had the sense to bring my Nikon in with me.

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The Robert West house is 20 Lower Dominick Street, Dublin 1. You can read a little more about the building and its history and the restoration project which was carried out on it here.

If you are interested in Georgian Dublin take a look at the Irish Georgian Society’s website.

Here is a detailed post on the history of Lower Dominick Street in Dublin.

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Dublin, It’s a Jungle


Dublin is a jungle, or it is something akin in its animalism. A hive. No not a hive, that implies benevolence towards fellow citizenry, and cooperation, and selflessness, order, prosperity, among other things. No, I think I was right, this city is certainly some class of a food chain populated by a variety of wild, flesh devouring species. The only thing is if you put a deer or lion on College Green at about 8.25 on a Tuesday morning, a WTF face would be produced and the poor misfortunate beast would probably lie down and curl up in a fit of uncontrollable tears. But you’ll allow me in this instance to describe lovely Dublin’s streets as a jungle, despite the whole cliché thing.

Now the buildings are all lovely, and with the exception of the LUAS works decorating the odd street, the roads are quite civilised looking also. They have black shiny tar-macadam which remains in place after the rain, and lines to distinguish the limits of the side of the road one must be traveling on. There are fancy traffic lights too, which for the most part are in working order.

The whole food chain thing comes from the traffic. If you look at it we have the big herbivores which traipse around minding their own business doing their best to finish the day so that they can go home and have their tea. They don’t usually pick a fight or cause much bother except when someone decides to do so with them, and I suppose with their size they are always going to be an easy target, but they can hold their own. No one enjoys really being too close to them but much like any ecosystem if you didn’t have them we’d be plagued with hitch hikers. I mean other vermin.

Buses are what I’m talking about, of course, and they lie somewhere important in the food chain of the commute. Like elephants, but without the grace and wonder of the mighty tusked beasts native to Africa and India, buses lurch around corners and busy themselves through traffic without too many concerns in the world it would seem. They harbour parasites, namely pedestrians, a necessary evil but one we are familiar with. Begrudge the bus for such ignominy if you wish, but it’s not as if the pedestrians really want to be there. Everyone knows that there is no such thing as a happy face on a bus. Except for weirdos, and stoners – the UCD routes are a good spot for these.

Next you have cars. This can be divided into three types, the out of towner, the regularly in towner, and taxis. Taxi’s are the Allosaurus of the Dublin urban scene. A large and formidable predator capable of taking on most competitors as prey. It’s no T Rex but you’d think twice about messing with him.

The regular in towner type are in many respects a nicer version of the Allosaurus. Imagine an Allosaurus that doesn’t need to fend for itself in the wild, one who has a salary, supplies its sustenance from the local Tesco, takes the weekend off, and in the evening instead of hunting for weaklings to prey upon it sits in and watches detective drama reruns on Alibi. Well able to scrap if it wants to, but all in all a nice enough top-tier predator.

The out of towner is still an Allosaurus but this kind of Allosaurus is a bit like that deer or lion which we met on College Green earlier. A fearsome beast in its own environment of narrow Kilkenny by-roads, but betwixt the labyrinthine one way conundrum of Dublin’s south inner city this Allosaurus has had his private parts removed and a large memory reducing sedative placed in its morning cupán tae. As such, to everybody else in this little jungle of ours, there are few more annoying alpha predators.

There are probably other beasts which flurry about from time to time. There is the rare articulated lorry which is like a bus but more aggressive and stubborn but is chained by shackles of regulation and distaste and distrust by the constabulary. Or indeed the mighty serpentine LUAS, cut in half by some class of an urban planner much reduced in the gift or foresight. At allt times these beastly automobiles are restrained by the barriers and regulations of the tar-macadam and the watchful eye of the ever hovering birds of prey, the Garda Síochana.

What I want to talk about next is a unique case relevant to our days, and one which has seen a surge in recent years, be it because of nicer weather, or tax breaks, or because Irish people are just cheap and don’t want to pay for the bus or their car. This particular beast of the street is one which proudly rises above other patrons of the jungle’s streets. Not only is this particular species one which holds the esteem of a low-carbon footprint, it is also frustratingly one which allows its facilitator to boast that they are indeed exercising whilst in their commute. Regardless of the weather, this hi-vis attired biped will forever stand aloof of its fellow city bound workers as one which has not spent at least half of the journey time stopped in neutral, or worse so have had to sit (or stand) in the shared vitriolic breath of one hundred others whilst carefully massaging in mesmerism the homely glow of their smartphone’s screen. Such a species sees no rules such as those encumbered on those other registered wheels of the city, and no need for safety, as all will stop before them as they change lanes and whisp between gridlocked bumpers. Not only this, but all who do not share their unique outlook on commuting should kneel before such nimble gazelles of the city.

This brings me finally to the bottom feeders. The scrubbers. The forgotten. The grubs which populate the undergrowth and for which the remainder of the city is left for them to scurry through in the hope a more elite beast will not swallow them up. Yes, I’m talking about the noble pedestrian. He or she who is eternally caught in the rain. Yes, it’s true we have all done it, but let’s be honest; no pedestrian ever wished for this. Are we not all just walking because our employer will not pay for us to park, and are we not walking because there are already too many more fortunate than us who have decided to say ‘enough is enough, I can take no more of the shared breath of the bus, I shall sit in the warmth of my own car and listen to music I like out loud and fart as loud if not more in comforting privacy’. But the pedestrians are the rebels, as it is they who say no to the conformity of yellow lines and red lights, pay no heed to one way signs and raise two fingers to the frustrating grimace of an Allosaurus who they have walked out in front of in a panic to buy coffee and walk the remaining ten minutes to the office in an attempt to pretend to cyclists that they also choose to exercise, and that indeed footing it is a lifestyle choice.

Yes, this is the city we dwell within. We lunch on each others throats each morning and evening in a fury of competition. We nibble on the scraps of gaps in the traffic and hope that the light won’t change to quickly or that the person in the car will realise that you should have your car in gear when you see the lights change so that you are ready to move when the car in front has and you’re not delaying the person in a frenzied rush directly behind you, not the contrary as is the case more often than not. Yes, I’m talking about you.

This jungle will spit you out one of these days. It won’t even chew you, the taste will be so bad. But don’t worry the jungle won’t miss you, there’ll be another bottom feeder ready to jump in and take your place, salivating at the opportunity of a glorious October morning along the quays…

People have the their own problems to worry about. You don’t need to hear about mine.


That’s a very moody sounding title for a blog post, isn’t it?

I’ll try to be brief. It’s pushing four months since I returned to Ireland after the long jaunt in Korea. There’s probably a lot to say about it but I’ve felt kind of pent up and not comfortable saying to much lately. I’m going to blame my circumstances in private but pretend everything is rosy on the outside. Despite this things are kind of rosy, as it is good to be back in Ireland, and while some things could be better there are plenty of people in this country suffering a lot more than I.

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Maybe I’m just battling against the former cushy lifestyle that I had in Korea, and the familiarity of living in the same home for over three years – something myself and Herself hadn’t done since we left our family homes some years before. Living in Ireland is very different of course, and the costs are always one of the first places you feel this. Learning to adapt to deal with these costs is its own challenge.

 

 

All three photos taken looking east from Capel Street Bridge, Dublin

Before we lived off credit cards essentially, where they would function as bank cards most of the time, but now we live off hard cash. So if there’s no cash in the bank, or indeed the pocket, there is no longer the long finger to rely on. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage, but you’re likely to be an adult so you can work out the problems yourself. I can feel the restrictions but I’m kind of glad there we’re no longer juggling bank balances.

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One of the biggest differences is where we live. Of course you’ll be familiar with the view from the twentieth floor, that spot from where our apartment looked out over Suwon and caught the sun reclining over haze and high-rise on so many evenings. The apartment wasn’t tiny by Korean standards but it certainly wasn’t large.

Compare it to where we live now. Our kitchen is almost as big, and certainly longer than our apartment, there are three bedrooms which are all much bigger. We have a separate sitting room, and a dining room a family could be comfortable residing in. But the real coup de grace is the garden, which is not only equipped with mature growth, a green house, walnut and fig trees, but it’s also massive. Of course I can’t be entirely happy – maintaining this space is a full time job in itself, or so it feels.

New skyline view from the garden

I should add that we were very fortunate to have this situation. The house is definitely not mine, it was my grandfather’s and after he passed away last year the house became vacant. Part of the reason we came back to Ireland so hurriedly – I suppose – was because we knew that we had this place to move into. Myself and Herself are grateful for the support of both our family’s, without whom this move would have been impossible. It is still a work in progress but at least there is some progress being made somewhere.

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Some time back I decided to focus my career fully on education, or at least education related. This decision came after a lot of thought and frustration, but one penny that did drop told me that I had been working quite enjoyably in education since 2005, so why stop now? There are a number of reasons why I would stop, namely a lack of jobs and generally lower salaries, but a reason I’ll continue is that I’m kind of good at what I do I think, and I kind of love learning myself.

This focus has made the transition to Ireland easier I suppose, in that I don’t mind teaching English for a living and when we came back in the summer there was no shortage of quality teaching opportunities. This is less the case now, but if anything the lack of work is a strong impetuous to get me up of my arse and find a proper job. There’s plenty out there, but I suppose it’s just a question of finally connecting the hammer with the nail, a skill I have a tendency to lack I believe.

Regardless of that, having to work in the city centre has been something I’ve missed. I am espcecially fond of those pre-work walks across the river, through Temple Bar and from there beyond. There are tiny features and so many sounds that even if you listened you would miss the majority.There is bustle and a hush on seemingly always rain damp streets no more than a minute apart. I feel I almost recognise every face. Town is a remedy in itself where I can daydream my way through the streets and imagine something.

Dublin city streets of an early morning

All that being said, if you’d like to offer me a job I’m more than willing to hear you out.

I had planned this post to be one where I wouldn’t rant on about my circumstances. I had imagined a later post in my life that would divy out the entire insipid unemployment fueled rant, but it seems that a genuine desire just to write something has countered any major veins of negativity. I’ve tried here to at least be honest while at the same time not bore you with melodramatics of a new life in my home country, as it has certainly been far from that. We’ve been enjoying it here, but it’s not without it’s occasional speed-bump. But we knew this was going to be the case so it’s hardly news.

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I’m keen to get back blogging regularly. I miss the attention, the fun of finishing a draft, the nervous wait for the view count the rise, and the sudden vibration and tinkle on my phone as a comment or like comes through. But I’ve been a bit at a loss for things to say, which is a poor excuse for someone as loquacious as I.

If there’s anything you’d like to hear my waffle on about or if you’d like a topic analysed as only I can, or even photographs of a particular place or theme from Dublin please drop a comment in below.

From the top of Google HQ in Dublin

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The photographs in this post were all taken over the past couple of months in Dublin. These days I’ve ditched my old iPhone 4 and and am now touting a HTC One M8, which is very lovely indeed (maybe there’s an idea for a new blog post…)

#citygram


You won’t be surprised to hear that I’m still Instagramming away. The topic has changed, of course, and as has my user ID. Seeing as I’m no longer in Korea being Conzie in Korea just didn’t seem right, so after a night of brainstorming and the convening of a focus group I decided that the best name for my Instragram efforts was…

*drum roll*

*cymbal*

conzieinireland

*applause*

Pretty clever, right? Don’t all rush to praise me at once.

I also have a new phone with a better camera, but that’s nowhere near as important.

I’m still sticking with the black and white theme, because I like it. Some have called for colour but I’m holding out on that for the time being. Monochrome is my gimmick, and it seems to suit Dublin well, which is what my theme seems to be mostly made of.

Most shots are taken on the walk to or from work, and I suppose if you know this city you can trace which way I take.

Here are a few of my favourites over the past month.

Dublin sky
First shot back.
From Capel Street Bridge.

When I get to the bottom I go back to the top
When I get to the bottom I go back to top.
From Temple Bar.

All but half past two in the Dublin afternoon.
All but half past two in the Dublin afternoon
From Henry Street.

Dublin Gothica
Dublin Gothica
From Dame Street

People watchers place
People Watchers Place
From South William Street

Coppinger Row 8am
Coppinger Row 8AM
From South William Street

Parliament Street
Parliament Street
From Capel Street Bridge

Laneway lines
Laneway Lines
From somewhere in Temple Bar

Life is better on the outside.
Life is better on the outside
From the Little Museum of Dublin, St. Stephen’s Green.

City life
City Life
From Dame Lane

Please follow the links to the photos, give them a like if you think they’re worth it, and sure you could also give me a follow if you really thought I was worth it.

Let me know which ones you like in the comments, and don’t forget to share your own IG ID too!

 

A Love Letter to Dublin


I’ve been getting inspiration for posts from other bloggers these days. This post’s inspiration comes from Brian Fishbone, a community builder and professional whom I know from his time here in Korea. Brian is now based in Philadelphia, where I also have family, and he has chosen to make this city his home for over a decade. Much of what Brian writes about is reaching out and “Becoming” yourself by becoming part of your community and becoming something for other people (I think that’s a fair way of putting it).

As Brian said at the start of his original post,  “I believe a big part of “becoming you” is finding a place you can call home”, and I couldn’t agree more than him. This is something I’ve been asking myself a lot through my posts here, and while I seem to always look to Ireland, I know that there’s a pretty good chance that I won’t find my final home there. But still, Dubllin is my city, and this is my love letter to that city.

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