Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

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From 'Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyageby Turtle Bunbury (MPG, 2008).


Not unlike East Wall on Dublin’s northside, Ringsend has a long history of independent thinking. Its’ origins as part of the extensive FitzWilliam family estate are still evident from the older street-names of Thorncastle, Thomas and Pembroke, while Cambridge Road and York Road recall a subsequent allegiance to the Crown. Cromwell’s army established an army base here in 1649. Ringsend’s golden age was the 18th century when all packet-ships from England began to anchor at the Pigeonhouse, despatching considerable business through the village en route to Dublin City. The village developed into one of the largest working class Protestant communities in Ireland, and prospered through a herring fishery, salt-works, iron-works, glass-factory and various ship-building and rope-making enterprises. It even had its own suburb, the largely Catholic enclave of Irishtown.

However, when the packet-ships were transferred to Howth in the early 19th century, the once fashionable seaside resort went into decline. The last vestiges of the Protestant age are to be found in the names of the charming red-bricked terraced streets of South Lotts – Gordon, Hastings, Ormeau, Hope and Joy. In 1898, the nationalists secured control of the Pembroke Urban District and began to redevelop the area, with terraces and avenues named for Saints, Popes and the centenary of Catholic Emancipation. Many houses and groves were later named for Republican heroes who perished in the fight for independence – Ennis, O’Rahilly, Whelan. The roads off Sean Moore Road recall the various ships and colliers sunk by the Germany Navy in World War Two.

Today the village where James Joyce was ‘made a man’ by Nora Barnacle is on the cusp of a new dawn. The ambitious plans for Poolbeg will see the entire peninsula converted into a nature and waterside parkland with a backbone of mixed development. Ringsend will inevitably play a major role in this evolution but is sure to retain its old world charm. In the land of Ruairi Quinn, the residents are extremely proud of their past, with its curious mix of Protestantism, docker ethics and football. Both Shelbourne FC and Shamrock Rovers were founded here while the Poolbeg Yacht & Boat Club has just completed a 100-berth marina. The Dodder remains surprisingly dangerous and is prone to flash-flooding, such as that experienced during Hurricane Charlie in 1986 and again in 2002. At low tide, the mud flats are exposed along the banks so that gulls and the occasional oystercatcher can be seen foraging through the brown seaweed.



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