Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

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'Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyage is a work in progress, commissioned by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, and due to be completed in the autumn of 2008. The following tale represents research I have undertaken for the project which may or may not be used in the final book.


In 1736, a Huguenot settler named John Villiboise obtained a lease from Lord FitzWilliam on some marsh-land just east of Merrion Square. He built a house and planted a crop of artichokes in his garden. The street beside his house subsequently became known as Artichoke Road and remained so until 1791 when, in honour of the new inland waterway, it was renamed Grand Canal Street. One of the first major buildings here was Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital, a highly regarded medical school that operated from 1815 until its closure in 1986. The Hospital was named for Sir Patrick Dun, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland from 1681 to 1706 who fought alongside William III at the Battle of the Boyne. The concept was simply to enable young medical students to watch more experienced Professors at work and many outstanding surgeons, nurses, anatomists and other medicine men learned their trade here. Countess Markievicz died in one of the hospital’s public wards in 1927. The boardroom doubled for provisional government meeting room in Neil Jordan’s film ‘Michael Collins’. In 1998, Sir Patrick Dun’s became the national centre for civil marriages and today you can see beautiful brides and dashing grooms leaping into stretched limousines parked outside an average of five times a day, six days a week.


Grand Canal Plaza, designed by Burke-Kennedy Doyle, stands the other side of Maquay Bridge from the Treasury Building. Built in 1999, this occupies the site of the old Dublin City and County dog pound, a home for starving cats and ‘other forsaken or mistreated animals’. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals were headquartered here from 1886 to 1992. By chance this author discovered a stray called ‘Horsebear’ on these very same cobbled streets in 2005, now under the care of a diligent nephew. The inner Grand Canal basin alongside which these luckless beasts slept was consequently nicknamed the ‘Cats and Dogs’. The east side of this basin comprised mills and warehouses fronting directly onto the water.


During the 19th and early 20th century, the Boland family ran one of the most popular bakeries in the city. The Bakery itself was located where the Treasury Building stands today at the southern end of the Grand Canal Docks, and became famous as De Valera’s headquarters during the Easter Rebellion of 1916. The flour and grain used to make the bread was kept within three huge industrial Gotham-like silos of reinforced concrete, built in the 1940s, which now tower over the skyline between the water and Barrow Street. On the north side of these silos stands a rather austere six storey cut-stone Victorian storehouse, known as the Adelaide Building, with many of its 250 wooden windows facing across Charlotte Quay. Some of the old wooden hoppers and milling machines remain within. An ancillary kiln and dock mills lie further south along the basin alongside the railway bridge. The Boland's horses were known to carry weighst of up to a ton and a half of flour from the quayside to the bakery. Each horse made an average of sixteen such trips a day. Thank goodness they were then given the next day off. The fact the SPCA were headquartered next door may have helped. In 1984, Boland’s Mills, then in receivership, were acquired by the IAWS Group. It was subsequently sold to developer Sean Kelly of Benton Properties and it is likely to form part of a major development in the near future.


Between 1946-48 Boland's Mills, Dublin's largest flour mills went on strike. The only people who had bread were those who could make it themselves, or the various organisations of the Catholic Church who handed it out in rations to the poor. Such desperate times inspired Dublin author James Plunkett to write his short story, Janey Mary. The inspiration for an award-winning 2007 short film by writer-director Paul Brady, Janey Mary tells the story of a young five year old girl sent out by her mother onto the cold, wet winter streets of 1940's Dublin to beg for food. In the mad scramble for food she is crushed by a mob and left for dead, only to be saved by an Augustinian priest.



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