Turtle Bunbury

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


Back in Elizabethan times, the south Liffey shoreline was a rambling marshland that began in Ballsbridge and swept along present-day Grand Canal Street, Sandwith Street and Townsend Street into Temple Bar. Founded in 1592, Trinity College are said to have had their own wharf at the Moss Street – Townsend Street junction. In 1712, shortly before George I brought the House of Hanover to power in the United Kingdom, a parcel of marshland just north of Trinity came under the ownership of John Mercer. In 1713, Mercer began work on a river wall to tame the marsh in an area now bordered by Townsend Street and Poolbeg Street. However, ill-health put paid to his ambitions and he died in 1718.

The City took over the construction of the wall, completed by 1720. George’s Quay, City Quay and Sir John Rogerson’s Quay became known as the ‘South Quays’ and swiftly developed into one of the busiest shipping areas in Ireland over the ensuing century. In 1846 The Illustrated London News produced a panorama of the Liffey which showed the South Quays to be utterly crammed with shipping. However, the accompanying text observed that business had waned considerably since the start of the century. The author placed the blame squarely on the Act of Union for making Dublin a ‘deposed capital’ and hampering ‘all further progress’ of the port’s trade’.


The Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on City Quay was built in 1861 to a design by John Bourke and J.L. Robinson. Specifically aimed at seamen, it serves the small Parish of City Quay, which runs along the quays from Tara Street to Macken Street. Its original purpose was to serve as a chapel of ease to St Andrews Church on Westland Row. In 1908 it became a parish of its own rights, constituted from Westland Row parish. In 1998 its diocesan priests handed the parish over to the Divine Word Missionaries (SVD) who now work alongside 'The Poor Servants of the Mother of God's Sisters'.


City Quay runs from the Talbot Memorial Bridge past Sean O’Casey Bridge to the site of the Samuel Beckett Bridge by Sir John Rogerson’s Quay. Fifty years ago, these were the South Quays, a frenetic waterfront teeming with schooners, trawlers, ships, Brixham smacks, cranes, horses and humanity. In the mornings, thousands of cloth-capped dockers gathered along the quayside on the off-chance that they would be selected for work. Their job could be loading or unloading anything from Brillo Pads to Chrysler cars.

At this time, City Quay was home to the ‘free berths’ used by Clyde Shipping, Bristol Steam and the Bridgewater schooners who unloaded their cargo of earthenware and bricks. One man threw each brick onshore; two men caught them on the quayside.

In 1897, Tedcastles combined with John McCormick to form Tedcastle & McCormick. Their slack ‘nuts’ proved a huge hit across the country, heating houses and driving steam lorries from Limerick to Letterkenny. Tedcastle McCormack was owned by the family who lived at Williamstown House, Kells, County Meath. In January 1913, they sent two of their labourers Thomas Harton [sic] and Mr Maguire to Dublin but they were attacked by a mob who accused them of being scabs and Harton was killed. Maguire was badly wounded by was later killed in the war, one of 59 men fro Kells to die.

The Tedcastle steamers berthed along City Quay and Sir John Rogerson’s Quay. Many of its Republican-minded crew ran guns between 1916 and 1922. When Michael Collins secured de Valera’s escape from Lincoln Gaol in 1919, it was a Tedcastle coalship that escorted him back to Ireland.


From the 1920s onwards, City Quay became synonymous with the Guinness ships and barges that moored here. (See p. XXXX). Heiton’s had their offices and an iron and steel warehouse next to The Happy Brig pub. On summer evenings, the local women gathered along the quayside, clad in starched white aprons, to chatter about days gone by. One of the most visually stimulating aspects of the 20th century was the coming and going of the B&I passenger ferries. The B&I Line had a major depot in the Edwardian redbrick warehouse that stands beside the Ivory Building on City Quay. The sheds alongside which the Liverpool-bound steamers anchored are still there today. So too is the warehouse, with its elegant railing, later leased to the New York merchant firm of Raimey, traders of coffee, tea, sugar, wheat, rubber and silk. Further east along the riverfront, the coal and timber yards ran as far as the Gasworks of the Grand Canal Docks. On Windmill Lane, to the rear, was the Tonge & Taggart ironworks where the men stoked red-hot furnaces and moulded buckets, pipes and manhole covers, like Morgan’s Foundry where Fitz and the boys worked in ‘Strumpet City’,


Today, tourists, couriers, labourers and smart-dressed office workers hurry to and fro along the quayside, slaloming between bicyclists and handsome yellow lime trees. The Irish Merchant Seamen’s National Memorial by Lombard Street commemorates those lost at sea during World War Two. Nearby is a statue of the Venerable Matt Talbot, with his back pointedly turned to the IFSC. Commissioned by the Docklands Authority in 2000, ‘The Linesman’ by Dony MacManus is an enchanting bronze of a docker hauling on a rope along the City Quay campshire. In 2009, work is due to commence on a new work to stand where Lombard Street meets City Quay. The proposed ethereal giant is a 46m (151ft)-high black steel lattice statue of a man by Turner Prize-winning artist Anthony Gormley. ‘I'm trying to make something that is unequivocally of its time’, explained the sculptor. ‘That is, in terms of tools, and techniques, and even in the idea of a virtual being, we're pushing at the limits of what's possible’.


In the early 1880s, Giuseppe Cervi disembarked from an American-bound ship at Cobh and walked to Dublin. The young Italian worked as a labourer until he saved enough to buy a hand-cart and a coal-fired cooker. He began selling chips to hungry Dubliners as they piled out of pubs. By 1900 Giuseppe and his wife Palma had a fish and chip shop on Great Brunswick Street, now Pearse Street. Palma’s English was so poor that she would simply point to the fish and chips, saying ‘uno di questo, uno di quello?’, meaning ‘one of this and one of the other’. This eventually passed into Dublin parlance as ‘a one and a one’. Giuseppe’s grandson Joe was subsequently manager of the Rabbitte family’s wholesale and retail Italian food business, now based at Little Italy on North King Street.

St Mark’s (Church of Ireland)

Better known today as the Family Worship Centre, the origins of St Mark go back to 1707 when the parish of St Mark was separated from that of St Andrew. Construction on this rather modest and provincial church commenced in 1729 but it was not roofed until 1752. Oscar Wilde was baptized here while among those buried in the grounds are Charles Spalding and Ebenezer Watson, the Scotsmen who drowned while experimenting with their Diving Bell in the Bay in 1783.



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