Have you ever browsed in a book store, found a book that was interesting, purchased the book and when reading it discovered that it was more than interesting; that it was in fact a real treasure? I recently had such an experience.
I am a Dublin man. I was born on Dublin’s north side, lived at 57 Arbour Hill, Stoneybatter until 1960 when my family moved to 18 Manor Street. The move was prompted by the death of my Grandmother, Helen Brady and my mothers desire to look after my Grandfather. I lived at 18 Manor Street until I got married in early 1976. So, Stoneybatter and Manor Street are deep within my bones, as was the case for my father’s family, the Lennon’s, who had lived in Arbour Place, Stoneybatter during his childhood before later moving to Annamoe Park in nearby Cabra.
Stoneybatter is perhaps the most historic place in Dublin City with recorded history going back 1700 years. The alignment for the original Royal Road to Tara (Place of the High Kings of Ireland) ran from the Liffey, where it crossed at the Ford of the Hurdles, and continued upward through Stoneybatter, Prussia Street and along the then Cabragh Lane. In my time there, Stoneybatter was a unique Urban Village with a special character and indeed special characters all of its own.
Last Monday evening, I was in Read’s Book Store on Nassau Street. Whenever I am there I seem to be drawn to the Irish History shelves. I went straight to those shelves and started to scan the books, picked up one or two works fanned through them and moved on. I caught a glimpse of the word: Stoneybatter on the spine of a book. I pulled it out and noted its title: Stoneybatter Dublin’s Inner Urban Village authored by one: Kevin.C.Kearns. A quick fan through the pages was enough. Familiar faces, store fronts, houses, cottages; I was hooked. I purchased the book and could not wait to read it.
From the moment I got reading, I was enraptured. I was back in the Stoneybatter I had known and loved as a youth. The people, the alleyways, the sweet shops, old play areas were all brought back to life. As was the route, which as children we had rambled, through the Artisan Dwelling houses known as the buildings and up to the North Circular Road which always led us to the grand prize, our beloved garden – Dublin’s Phoenix Park.
For me, the books greatest treasure was to be revealed on page 101, when a lovely old lady named: Maisie Daly was recounting her fond memories of Stoneybatter and mentioned my paternal Grandfather. I am sure the Kevin Kearns will not mind my quoting the following short passage from what Maisie had to say:
“Stoneybatter was lovely; like a little country village. At the top of Chicken Lane were beautiful cottages and chickens and pigs and an old-fashioned dairy. I thought I was in the country. Mr.O’Tool used to deliver the milk with a lovely horse and churns all shining and gleaming. Mr.Lennon, a famous old Dublin cabbie, had a horse drawn cab and we used to love to have a nice little jaunt (scutting) as far as we could till he’d crack the whip and we’d get off and run away. “
My late father told us many a story about his childhood spent in Stoneybatter. A true Dublin man, he was born in the Rotunda Hospital, lived early life in Stoneybatter, moved to Cabra with his family in the 1920’s, back to Arbour Hill when he married in 1947 and up the road to Manor Street in 1960.
My father told how he had witnessed a British Army Tank trundle up from the keys to Stoneybatter and tried to turn right into Brunswick Street. The Tank tore a huge chunk out of the corner of the premises on the left hand side. My recollection of buildings in that location was O’Sullivan’s Shoe Store and in more recent times an EBS Building Society Office (sadly both now gone).
He told us of the local headquarters of the Black and Tans which was located at the top of Manor Street in the building which today stands above the Tiny Toes Crèche at No: 42. He told us also of an incident involving the Tans which took place at a house adjacent to where Kane’s Flower Shop used to be. Rapping on a hall door in the dead of night brought an innocent man to see what was going on. He opened the door to Black and Tans and was shot dead; mistaken for someone else. It was one of those unimaginable terrifying moments which ordinary Dublin folk had to endure, night after night and especially during regular curfews.
If you believe in angels or spirit guides then, on that day in Read’s Book Store, maybe there was a guiding hand on my shoulder destined to lead me to Kevin Kearns book about Stoneybatter, first published in 1989. Who knows? For my part, I would not have missed it for the world.
Are you a Stoneybatter/Manor Street person? Do you have any local Stoneybatter/Manor Street history which you might like to share?
Did you find this post interesting/entertaining? If so please click the Like button at the bottom of the page. Thank you.