Feb 132010

Irish Independent – WALK OF THE WEEK – Christopher Somerville

13 February 2010

46. Pat Liddy’s Dublin

‘A wee d’yeh?’ hoarsely called the paper seller on Essex Quay. ‘A wee d’YEH??’ Jane and I looked enquiringly at our guide and companion Pat Liddy, immaculate in dark overcoat and black fedora – or maybe a trilby, we never quite cleared that up. ‘Evening Herald,’ Pat translated. ‘That’s been shouted on the streets of Dublin ever since I can remember.’

Pat’s the man to walk you through the city. You could fit on a pinhead what he doesn’t know, or can’t spin out of fresh air on the spur of the moment. ‘Now here’s the Brazen Head – do you know there’s been a tavern on this spot for 2,000 years? And speaking of drink, now, we’ll cross Fr Mathew’s Bridge … he was a temperance priest who got 200,000 to sign the pledge … wonder if he’d have any luck nowadays?’

If any one man outdoes Pat Liddy in Dublinociousness, that would have to be Peter Condell, the crypt guide at St Michan’s Church on the Northside. ‘We’ve a journalist here,’ murmured Pat, indicating yours truly. ‘Fetch the garlic!’ snapped Peter. We admired the Baroque musical instruments carved into the case of the venerable organ on whose small keyboard Handel practised in the early 1740s while living in Dublin – no doubt with the tunes from his just-composed Messiah rattling around in his psyche. Then Peter led us outside and into the crypt, making full play of creaking trapdoor, cobwebbed archway and sepulchral commentary, to introduce us to the dusty corpses under St Michan’s which are preserved in their wooden coffins by an arcane conjunction of methane, limestone and dry, cool air.

Along Mary’s Lane the forklifts beeped as they dashed about the handsome and cavernous Fruit and Vegetable Market, charioteered by beefy, bestubbled men in fluorescent jerkins. Fish and fruit sprang immortalised in red sandstone on the external brackets – flounder, cod, beetroots, leeks. In the playground in nearby Halston Street we took a trip to the Dark Side, hearing of the fearsome gaol that once stood there – ‘Newgate Prison,’ expounded Pat, ‘a hanging prison, a place where patriots were kept before being transported.’

The monument in the centre of the little park carried faded medallions with bas-relief likenesses of the Sheares brothers, fiery John and gentle Henry, barristers, Corkmen and United Irishmen of 1798, betrayed, captured, condemned and executed together on this spot, then buried in the vaults under St Michan’s. Just beyond loomed Green Street courthouse, scene of Robert Emmet’s speech from the dock – ‘When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written.’

At the end of Halston Street the Sheriff’s Debtor’s Prison rose stark and chill behind tall sheets of corrugated iron. All sorts and conditions were incarcerated there: gentlefolk, thieves, unlucky men, deserted women, drunks, rogues, rakehells and victims of family scheming. An 1809 police report described a filthy, verminous hell-hole where the sewers didn’t function and the bankrupt inmates had to pay the corrupt keeper for their ‘accommodation’. One story says the Duke of Wellington did time here as a young man in debt, released only through the generosity (and enlightened self-interest) of his bootmaker.
How to finish our Pat Liddy walk in a sweeter frame of mind? Up in the air on a Ferris Wheel in Wolfe Tone Park, contemplating the yarn-spinner’s Dublin, and then down to earth in the 18th-century galleried church of St Mary’s, better known these days as The Church pub, listening to another ‘Wait’ll I tell you’ from the mighty Liddy, black trilby (or fedora) on the table, while regarding him over a creamy pint. Mmmm-mmmm!

MAP: Dublin city centre maps from Dublin Tourism Centre, Suffolk St

TRAVEL: Luas (www.luas.ie) – Jervis St or Abbey St (Red Line), St Stephen’s Green (Green Line); DART (http://www.dublin.ie/transport/dart.htm) – Tara St

WALK DIRECTIONS: From Dublin Tourism Centre, left along Suffolk St – Dame Lane – Dame Street (City Hall). Right down Parliament St; left along Essex Quay (Isolde’s Tower). Fishamble St – Cook St (St Audoen’s Gate, City Walls) – Bridge St (Brazen Head) – Fr Mathew Bridge – Church St (St Michan’s Church). Right along Mary’s Lane (Fruit & Vegetable Market) – Halston St (Newgate Gaol site, Sheare Brothers’ monument, Debtor’s Prison) – Green St (Courthouse). Mary St (The Church pub) – Jervis St – Wolfe Tone Park – Ormond Quay Lower – Wellington Quay – Temple Bar – Anglesea St – College Green – Dublin Tourism Centre.

LENGTH: Allow half a day


• Isolde’s Tower (Exchange St Lower)
• fish and vegetable carvings on Fruit & Veg Market
• The Church pub

REFRESHMENTS: The Church (01-828-0102; www.thechurch.ie) – junction of Mary St and Jervis St

ACCOMMODATION: Pembroke Town House, 90 Pembroke Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 (01-660-0277; www.pembroketownhouse.ie) – plenty of deals; just enquire. Very comfortable, stylish, welcoming.

Pat Liddy’s Walking Tours of Dublin: 087-252-6701 or 085-905-2480; www.walkingtours.ie. Private groups/individuals: enquire about prices. Scheduled tours (6 per day) from €5, 1 May-31 October, from Dublin Tourism Centre, Suffolk St

iWalks (www.visitdublin.com): Download free podcast audio guides, with Pat Liddy’s commentary guiding you round the city

DUBLIN PASS (www.dublinpass.ie): Save on travel, entry, special offers etc. 1-day €35 adult/€19 child, 2-day €55/31, 3-day €65/39

INFORMATION: Walking tour operators, local walks including Discover Ireland’s National Loop Walks, walking festivals throughout Ireland: www.discoverireland.ie/walking; www.coillteoutdoors.ie

INFORMATION: Dublin Tourism Centre, Suffolk St, Dublin 2 (www.visitdublin.com)

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