Subscribe for Unlimited Access to Turtle’s History Quarter.

Includes content from Vanishing Ireland, Easter Dawn, Dublin Docklands, The Irish Pub, Maxol and many more, as well as Waterways Ireland, the Past Tracks project and hundreds of historical articles on Irish families, houses, companies and events.

Notes on Portmarnock, County Dublin

Illustration: Derry Dillon.

The Pirate Station

 

Sunshine Radio, the most successful super-pirate radio station in Irish history, operated from Tamango’s nightclub at the Sands Hotel in Portmarnock from 1980 until 1988. With 24 hour music, its ratings were the highest any Dublin station has ever achieved, not least with ‘Bee Bop Gold’, an enormously popular golden oldies show presented by Nails Mahoney.  Fronted by several staff from the famous Radio Caroline, the station was initially funded by Phil Solomon, the Belfast-born son of a record retailer. His wife Dorothy was one of the most highly regarded agents in the music business. The Solomons made their mark in the 1950s handling publicity for touring musicians like Mario Lanza, Acker Bilk and Ruby Murray. In 1966 Solomon founded his own record label, Major Minor Records, signing up The Dubliners and Them (with a young Van Morrison). [Some vibes from https://pirate.ie/archive/tags/sunshine-radio/ here]

 

 

Peter Pan’s Muse

 

While on the run during the War of Independence, Michael Collins stayed in a safe-house in Portmarnock.[1] The house had been rented by Moya Llewelyn Davies, a Gaelic scholar, whose father was a former treasurer of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. As a child, Moya survived an appalling calamity when her mother and four sisters died after eating poisonous mussels. In 1910, she married London solicitor Crompton Llewelyn Davies, who helped draft the Irish Free State constitution. He was an uncle of the Llewelyn Davies boys who inspired J.M. Barrie’s stories of Peter Pan, a character Michael Collins admired. Moya later ghost-wrote a collection of Michael Collins articles entitled ‘The Path to Freedom’, published in 1922.

 

Aviation Aces

 

Portmarnock Strand has been the launchpad of two incredible aviation milestones. In 1930, a vast crowd lined two miles of sand hills to watch a monoplane by name of Southern Cross take off from the strand with Australian aviator Charles Kingsford Smith and his crew on board.[2] The plane circled round Ireland’s Eye and Howth and returned to give a final farewell, before completing the second ever westbound transatlantic flight to Newfoundland. It went on to complete a circumnavigation of the world. In 1932, Jim Mollison, a Scottish aviator, set off from the strand in The Heart’s Content, a single-seater de Havilland Puss Moth, and became the first solo pilot to complete an east-to-west trans-Atlantic flight, reaching Halifax, Nova Scotia, in a record-breaking 24 hours and 10 minutes. These aviation feats are recalled in a seafront sculpture, Eccentric Orbit.[3]

 

Eamonn Andrews – This Is Your Life

 

The Quarry in Portmarnock was home to Eamonn Andrews, the host of almost every single episode of the hit TV show ‘This Is Your Life’ filmed between 1955 and his premature death in 1987. Each week, a guest (celebrities and non-celebrities alike) would be surprised when Andrews suddenly appeared before them with a ‘big red book.’ They were then whisked off to a studio packed with family and friends to go through their life story.  The son of a carpenter from Synge Street, Dublin, Andrews was an amateur boxer in his youth and won the Irish junior middleweight title in 1944. He then became a boxing commentator, while working as a clerk in an insurance office, before his TV career kicked off. His funeral in Portmarnock was one of the biggest in the town’s history, while a special memorial mass was held for him in Westminster Cathedral.

 

Máire MacNeill – The Folklorist

 

Born at Hazelbrook, Portmarnock, in 1904, Máire MacNeill was a former journalist who became one of Ireland’s leading folklorists. Having mastered how to record folklore at a university in Sweden in the 1930s, she became office manager of the Irish Folklore Commission in Dublin. Her pioneering study of 195 sites associated with the Lughnasa festival showed how such gatherings, dancing and berry-picking were ancient, pagan customs that had been merged into more recent Christian practices. When she died in 1987, she left 14 paintings to the National Gallery of Ireland, including works by Picasso and Jack B. Yeats.

 

 

Richard Maunsell – The Landowner’s Agent

 

Richard Maunsell (1862-1929) of Shielmartin was secretary of the Irish Landowner’s Convention during a time of much anxiety to Irish landowners. A well-known land agent, he was educated at St Columba’s College and Trinity College Dublin. He joined the Dublin firm, Stewart & Kincaird and became agent for a number of leading Irish estates His parents were the Rev. Richard Dixie Maunsell of Whitehall, Co. Dublin, Rector of Innistonnagh, Co Tipperary, and Alicia Laing, the daughter of an emigrant from the Orkney Islands who had settled in Jamaica. In 1929, Richard and his wife Lucie set off for London to see their son, who had just returned from several years in Egypt, except Richard had a heart attack and died on the way. For more on the Maunsell family, see here.

 

F. E. Bell – The Historian

 

Francis Elrington Ball was Dublin’s No. 1 historian a hundred years ago. Born at Merton,  Portmarnock, in 1863, he was the younger son of a solicitor who became Ireland’s Lord Chancellor in the 1870s. After a failed political career, Francis turned to history. As well as ‘A History of the County Dublin,’ which took him 20 years to complete, he became an expert on Irish judges, Jonathan Swift and the story behind every street name in the city. His own forebears, for example, gave their name to the Dublin suburb of Ballsbridge.

 

The Maxol Golfer

 

Shielmartin is a fine house set upon the white quartzite rocks of Portmarnock. Between 1933 and 1940, it was home to William ‘Boss’ MucMullan, the co-founder of McMullan Brothers, now Maxol. His eldest son Clifford was an Irish international golfer who played out of Portmarnock. A semi-finalist in both the Irish Amateur Open (at Royal Dublin) and the Irish Amateur Close (at Royal Portrush) in 1932, Clifford reached the semi-final of the Addington Foursomes in 1933 (with William Nolan) and played on Portmarnock’s winning Senior Cup team in 1937.  For more, see the Maxol book here.

 

Further Notes

 

  • Portmarnock was one of 11 granges are listed as part of St Mary’s
  • Portmarnock was Peter Bunbury’s home area.
  • Drumnigh House at Portmarnock was home to the Dillon family. Miles Dillon, the son of the nationalist leader John Dillon, was a great Celtic and Sanskrit scholar. His eldest son John Dillon was professor of Greek in Trinity College Dublin, while his second son Robert Peter was better known as Fr Christopher, Order of St Benedict, sometime abbot of Glenstal. After Professor Dillon relocated to Howth, the name Drumnigh was adopted for the Drumnigh House housing estate.

 

 

People of Portmarnock

 

  • Fred O’Donovan, theatrical impresario, theatre and radio producer
  • Brian McFadden, musician and former Westlife singer, lived in Portmarnock until 2004, when he emigrated to the UK with his Australian then-fiancée Delta Goodrem.
  • International footballer Stephen Ward grew up in Portmarnock.
  • Marty Whelan, radio and television personality, lived with his family in Portmarnock for twenty-five years before relocating to nearby Malahide.
  • Ian Machado Garry, Mixed martial artist and former Cage Warriors welterweight champion, was born and grew up in Portmarnock.
  • Oisín Fagan, (born 1973) nicknamed “Gael Force”, former professional boxer based in Oklahoma City, U.S., who fought in the light welterweight and lightweight divisions
  • Laurence O’Neill, Lord Mayor of Dublin, Senator and TD
  • John Cecil Kelly Rogers (1905–81), aviation pioneer,
  • Fergus and Elizabeth Kelly loved moved from Raheny  to Portmarnock at the end of 1963.

 

End-Notes

 

[1] Patrick Moylett’s Witness Statement, BMH WS 767.

[2] Sir Charles Edward Kingsford “Smithy” Smith’s took a year to complete his round the world circumnavigation flight. For his flight to Newfoundland, his navigator was Captain Jonathan Patrick “Paddy” Saul, a pioneer aviator. They flew in a Fokker Trimotor three-engined monoplane named the Southern Cross. It took off from Portmarnock Strand – heading to Harbour Grace, Newfoundland – on Tuesday 24 June 1930. Thousands of spectators, who had kept an all-night vigil, watched at 4:25 am when the giant plane took to the air within two minutes after a run of 1,500 yards. When the plane had started on her run she had been followed by two fast military Red Cross ambulances, but she outpaced them at once. The plane wheeled to the left over Ballydoyle and faced out to the sea. Flying high, she circled round Ireland’s Eye and Howth, and then came back and gave a final good-bye to the immense crowd which had lined the sand hills for a full two miles.

During the flight, Paddy Saul experienced discomfort and danger as he fought to repair a damaged compass in freezing, fog-bound conditions. In spite of conflicting compass bearings on board, which caused the flight to lose time and waste fuel, he eventually spotted land and the Southern Cross arrived safely. Thus he had participated in a stage of the first aerial circumnavigation of the globe and the aircraft was the first to make the east–west crossing and be able to continue its journey afterwards. Upon reaching New York, Paddy and his fellow crew members were each presented with the scroll of honour from Mayor James John “Jimmy” Walker, son of an Irishman.

 

[3] The sculpture Eccentric Orbit (by Rachel Joynt and Remco de Fouw, erected 2002) on the seafront is of limestone, bronze and stainless steel. The needle points to the North Star, an age-old navigation point.

Donough McGillycuddy suggests that Amy Johnson and Jim Mollison were often so lavishly entertained by Doris Kennedy that they should not have been flying afterwards. “The 106 acre Covert field across the small river and Slang below the house lent itself to aviation. The single plank bridge from the Slang into the field was known as Mollisons’ bridge for Jim laid a tree across the wall-faced drainage ditch. Unfortunately, drainage ridges and the outlines of former fields rendered the field unsafe for a fully laden aircraft to take off at speed so the Avro was instead flown to Portmarnock strand for its final preparation. After a frustrating attempt on Portmarnock strand, when the tide turned in too quickly, they moved again to Speke, Liverpool, from where it eventually took off on that epic voyage. Bob Kennedy, then in his 20s, remembered the dismantled aircraft being wheeled along the Sutton Road to Dublin with an Irish Free State army contingent carrying the wings.”