Every now and then I will invite a special guest to write about their five favourite streets (or places) in their own city and or somewhere around the world that they have managed to travel to. Today, I am honoured to have David Lawlor as my special guest. I must confess, David is someone whom I admire and have gained plenty advice from over the past few years. I am especially excited today by his choice to focus on his hometown. It is truly a city close to his heart. Without further ado I will let David take you on his tour of his favourite streets/places in Dublin, Ireland.
This is one of the five ancient roads to Tara, the home of Ireland’s ancient High Kings. It also happens to be the working-class neighbourhood in which I grew up. Being from the inner city and on the northside of the river carried with it a certain stigma in those days. Now, the old pubs compete with trendy coffee shops, where bearded hipsters sip on macchiatos not Guinness. The older I’ve got, the more this street’s secrets have been revealed to me – it was the site of an IRA ambush during the War of Independence, as well as being the scene of a brutal murder by Black and Tan soldiers. In the eighteenth century, an invalid beggar by the name of ‘Billy In The Bowl’ is said to have lured people into its alleys and strangled them. Sometimes, as on this street, history really is right on your doorstep.
North Great George’s Street
This beautiful piece of Georgian Dublin sits quietly and unobtrusively in the heart of the city. For many it’s something of a backwater, but it’s a jewel hidden in plain sight, in a rather depressing urban landscape. When you pass by the five-storey facades of its Georgian mansions, you can almost hear the roll of carriage wheels on cobble and imagine liveried footmen aiding ladies swathed in hoop-lined dresses as they disembark from ornate coaches.
Customs House Quay
I get shivers whenever I pass by the Customs House, a beautiful 18th century edifice staring out across the river Liffey in the heart of Dublin. In 1921, it was attacked by about one hundred IRA volunteers (my then-nineteen-year-old grandfather among them) in what proved to be a disastrous raid. Several volunteers were killed in the subsequent shoot-out with British forces. The scars of that attack are visible on the building to this day. I have a fair idea where my grandad was positioned during the attack, and I still study the pock-marked walls when I pass by, wondering what exactly he did, and how I would have fared in his shoes.
Trinity College and the old Houses of Parliament rub shoulders at this ancient city centre junction. There’s much to admire within the hallowed walls of Trinity, not least of which is that historic religious text, the Book of Kells. Down through the years, the Parliament building opposite, majestic in its sweeping grandeur, has witnessed the great and the good. In Norse times, the area was known as Hoggen Green, and was a place of assembly. In 2011, Barrack Obama addressed a crowd of thousands from the steps of the old Parliament, continuing the tradition of assembly at this wonderful crossroads.
There’s a seedy undercurrent to this street full of market stalls selling fruit, veg and flowers. But there’s also the pungent aroma of aging fish, hanging in the air like a sour incense of the sea. This isn’t a pretty place, but there’s an energy to the hawkers and a vitality to the various nationalities who shop here, which makes your pulse race that bit faster. And there’s history, too, because this is where the rebels of 1916 had their last hold-out and where Patrick Pearse formally surrendered to British troops after a week of fighting and brutal destruction. The past, the present and ‘the other’ sit cheek by jowl in this raucous side street.
David Lawlor has been a journalist for over two decades. He is an author of six novels and writes about history on his blog historywithatwist. With his wealth of experience David also offers an editing service for writers. More recently, David brings family history to life with HistoriesInTheMaking. He will help you research, write and design your own family history that you can treasure for forever. You can also see what David is up to by following him on tweeter @LawlorDavid
Photo Credits: All images are used under various creative commons licenses. The Stoneybatter, North Great George’s Street and College Green images are by flickr user William Murphy and are all used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license. The Custom House Quay image is used under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. The Moore Street market image is used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 license.