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Notes on Sutton, County Dublin

 

The Land-Bridge

 

Ptolemy’s Map. Illustration: Derry Dillon

When the ancient Egyptian cartographer Ptolemy sketched his map of the known world some 1900 years ago, he sketched the Howth Head peninsula as an island. In the ensuing centuries, the island was connected to the mainland by a land-bridge of sand deposits upon which this station was later built. [5]

The terrain now embraces gentle heather-clad hills and dramatic cliffs, as well as 570 acres of conserved land, much of it bog and yellow gorse. This is where Leopold Bloom proposed to Molly in James Joyce’s Ulysses.

 

Rabbit Warren

 

Burrow Beach, east of this station, is named for the rabbits that once abounded along this mile long sandy stretch. It was part of an artificial rabbit warren developed amid the sand dunes by monks during the medieval period. Rabbits were prized for their meat and pelts (fur), but perhaps their greatest legacy was to graze the heath grasslands along the nearby shore.

Since the arrival of the devastating myxomatosis disease in the early 1990s, the rabbit population has vanished. Sticking with the rabbit theme, St Fintan’s High School was built on the site of Warren House, see here. McDowell the jeweller of The Happy Ring House in O’Connell Street, Dublin, who owned the Grand National winner Caughoo lived at nearby Warren Lodge

 

Fintan’s Cell

 

Sutton’s Irish name ‘Cill Fhionntain’ recalls Saint Fintan, for whom Sutton’s Roman Catholic church and numerous local streets are also named. He is a man of mystery. Some hold that he was the austere vegan who founded a monastic school at Clonenagh, Mountrath, Co. Laois, in the 6th century. If so, his students included St Colmgall of Clontarf, founder of the school at Bangor where Columbanus trained before bringing Christian monasticism into Europe. Local lore holds that Fintan’s remains were transferred to Sutton in the 12th century.

However, others say Fintan was an ‘unknown’ local saint (rather than the Clonenagh man) and still more believe the name derives from Finn McCool, known as Fionntain, or ‘old Finn. [1]

 

Edmond Lauder, Photographer

 

Lauder’s Lane, just east of Sutton railway station, is named after the photographer Edmond Stanley Lauder Jnr (1859-1895) who lived in the Burrow, Sutton. His father, a former Master of the Birr Workhouse, opened a pioneering daguerreotype studio in Dublin in 1853, producing ‘carte-de-visites’ during an era when the well-to-do were constantly handing portrait photographs of themselves to their friends and family. By 1892, the family had three studios in the city. Edmond’s older brother James used the pseudonym Jacques Lafayette to establish himself as society’s most fashionable portrait photographer. His sitters included Queen Victoria and numerous Irish revolutionaries. Edmond was developing houses along Burrow Road when he died aged 35. He was buried in St Fintan’s Cemetery.[2]

The houses he developed on Burrow Road consisted of two sets of terraces (including Rhoda Villas) and two semi-detached houses.[3] As of 2024, one of the latter is occupied by John Cassidy, the travel agent. The other was formerly home to Dr James Austin Harbison and his wife Sheelagh Harbison (1914–2012), the medieval historian. They were the parents of John Harbison (1935-2020), the state pathologist, and Peter Harbison (1929-2023), the archaeologist).

 

Rhoda Lauder

 

One of the Sutton terraces developed by Edmond Lauder was named Rhoda Villas, after his daughter, Rhoda, a renowned golfer. Edwina Mountbatten once declared that she would have traded her precious pearls for Rhoda’s golf swing. In 1911, Rhoda and Georgina Lauder were the first sisters to be picked for the Senior Irish Ladies golf team. Their golf prowess came from their mother, a pioneer of female golfing.

Rhoda’s private life was less successful. A prominent socialite in the 1920s, she was married in the Church of Ireland church in Howth to Frederick Lester McIntyre, an Australian who turned out to be already married, on the run and heavily in debt. After living it up between Sutton (Arundel, just east of Sutton station), Deauville and Monte Carlo, McIntyre vanished again in 1931. Uncertain as to whether she was a widow or not, Rhoda married again – which may have made her a bigamist. She was buried in her parents’ grave at St Fintan’s

The author Peter Cunningham, her descendant, wrote an essay about McIntyre’s bigamy. He penned his first novel, ‘Noble Lord’, a thriller, under the pseudonym, Peter Lauder.

Pic of Rhoda – https://www.suttongolfclub.org/club/club-history/

 

The Secret Life of a Thespian

 

St Fintan’s Cemetery is the resting place of Micheál Mac Liammóir (1899-1978), one of Ireland’s most colourful 20th century figures. Born in London, he was christened Alfred Lee Willmore and had no known Irish connections. He appears to have relocated to Howth to avoid being called up to fight in the First World War. He then changed his name and reinvented himself as a native of Cork. Armed with a fictional Irish ancestry, he successfully maintained this facade until his death. A successful actor, designer, dramatist, writer, and impresario, his most lasting legacy was to co-found the Gate Theatre in Dublin with his partner Hilton Edwards, who lies beside him in St Fintan’s.

 

Artistic Retreat

 

Sutton has been home to many fine artists over the years. The landscape and still life painter Harriet Kirkwood (1880–1953) was born in Sutton House, home of her father Andrew Jameson, chairman of the Jameson Distillery. One of Harriet’s close friends was Mainie Jellett (1897–1944), a gentle, shy pioneer of abstract art in Ireland whose early Cubist works were panned by The Irish Times as ‘an insoluble puzzle.’ Strand Road was home to Muriel Brandt (1909–81), who exhibited 145 paintings at the Royal Hibernian Academy. Since the 1970s, Burrow Road has been home to Jim Fitzpatrick, best known for his iconic black-on-red silkscreen image of the Marxist revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara.[4]

 

On the Run

 

In 1794, Archibald Hamilton Rowan, a leading light in the United Irishmen, was arrested for sedition and imprisoned at Newgate in Dublin. Having bribed his jailer, he escaped to the Sutton home of his friend Robert Sweetman, a member of a prominent Dublin brewing family.[4a] Sweetman arranged for the lanky legged fugitive to board an open boat manned by three fishermen from Portrane, namely James Murray and the Sheridan brothers. [4b] The fishermen resisted the temptation of a £1,000 reward for Rowan’s capture and brought him all the way to the Bay of Biscay in France. He was soon hob-nobbing with French revolutionary Robespierre, the philosopher Thomas Payne and future US president James Monroe.

 

Sutton Creek Oyster Beds, Freeman’s Journal, 4 December 1833

Of Oysters Beds and Epsom Salts

 

19th century Sutton was famous for its oysters and mussels. In 1878, some 248,000 large oysters and 245,000 small oysters were harvested from the ‘Sutton Creek Oyster Beds.’ Owned by Lord Howth, the beds were situated near the Greenfield Road, south-east of this station, and stocked with American, French, Portuguese and native Irish oysters. The beds vanished amid mounting concern over contamination and the silting of the area with the gradual creation of North Bull Island. [4c]

A bed of dolomite rock near here was also quarried and exported to England where it was converted into a magnesium sulphate from which Epsom bath salts was made.

 

The Gun Runner

 

Sutton House was designed for the Jameson whiskey distilling family. It later became home to Albert Luykx (1917-1978), a Belgian businessman who arrived in Ireland in 1948. He became embroiled in the Arms Crisis of 1970 when cabinet ministers Charles Haughey (a future Taoiseach) and Neil Blaney were dismissed for their alleged role in a conspiracy to smuggle arms to the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland. Luykx was also put on trial for sourcing the weapons. While he was subsequently acquitted, it emerged that he had been a member of the Black Brigade of the populist VNV (Flemish National Union) during the Second World War, escaping to Ireland with the assistance of Trappist monks.

Image of Luykx: https://prezi.com/yuwvcphajboz/the-history-of-sutton-house/

 

Waterford News, 5 December 1947.

Easter Rising Payback

 

In 1949, Maud Gonne and Margaret Mary Pearse (sister of Pádraig) acquired a house near here named ‘Crioch Mughdhorn’. They presented it to Bob Montieth, a former British Army officer, who had commanded a pro-German Irish Brigade in the First World War. Montieth, a close ally of Roger Casement, had been involved in an unsuccessful attempt to land German arms on Banna Strand in County Kerry on the eve of the Easter Rising. Casement was captured (and executed) but Monteith escaped to the USA where he served 20 years as foreman in the Ford Motor Company plant in Detroit. In 1947, he and his wife Mollie returned to Ireland, after which they were given the house in Sutton. They renamed it ‘Banna Strand’. Bob Monteith died in Detroit in 1956.

 

William Stokes (1804-1878)

Follow Me Up to Sutton

Sutton was the last home of the ballad writer PJ McCall (1861-1919). Born in Patrick Street in Dublin’s Liberties, he was the son of John McCall, a publican, grocer and writer from Clonmore, Hacketstown, Co Carlow. He spent his summer holidays in Rathangan, on the south coast of Wexford, hometown of his mother, Eliza Newport.

His most famous ballad, Follow Me up to Carlow, celebrates the victory of Fiach MacHugh O’Byrne over the English at the Battle of Glenmalure in 1580. He also had much success with two of his ‘1798’ ballads, Boolavogue and Kelly the Boy from Killanne. When he retired, he and his wife lived in Sutton. He died at the age of 58 and is buried in Glasnevin. See Brian Maye’s account for The Irish Times here.

 

Dr Stokes

 

Dr William Stokes (1804–1878), who was buried at St Fintan’s, Sutton, was Regius Professor of Physic at Trinity College Dublin.

Having graduated from the University of Edinburgh Medical School with an MD in 1825, he established his  practice at Dublin’s Meath Hospital.

He went on to create two important works on cardiac and pulmonary diseases – A Treatise on the Diagnosis and Treatment of Diseases of the Chest (1837) and The Diseases of the Heart and Aorta (1854) – as well as one of the first treatises on the use of the stethoscope. He emphasised the importance of clinical examination in forming diagnoses, and of ward-based learning for students of medicine.

One of the Stokes family has a fantastic Celtic cross in Sutton adorning his grave – one of the best of its genre. Given that Margaret, daughter of William, was a great Celtic scholar and pioneer of the study of early Irish art, it seems likely she had a hand in it.

 

 

Acknowledgments

With thanks to Douglas Appleyard and Lucinda MacMahon.

Further Notes

 

The Sutton area is covered here, but tumbles into Bayside, and includes the townlands of Sutton South and Sutton North.

Sutton Station was the terminus of the famous Howth trams. The tram shed is long since gone but the electrics building survives in glorious red and yellow brick, GNR style, having been converted into houses or apartments. A large octagonal building nearby – in the same style and seen by everyone arriving at Sutton station – is sometimes mistaken for a mosque, but is in fact a sewage works.

Dr JB Carr, the first Irish golfer to be inducted to the World Golf Hall of Fame, lived on Burrow Road.

In 1800, 25-year-old George Halpin became Inspector of the Corporation for Preserving and Improving the Port of Dublin (known as the Ballast Office). His role was to oversee the design, construction and maintenance of all civil and mechanical works within Dublin Port, from Sutton on the north side of Dublin Bay to Bullock Harbour on the south.

The McClintock Bunbury family were connected to Earlscliff in the 1870s. Its location was described as Sutton, although the house is on the southern shore of Howth itself.[6]

A crescent near the Santa Sabina Dominican College is nicknamed Toblerone Crescent on account of its emphatic gabled facades. The name is reminiscent of the Tesco Extra store at Northern cross on the Malahide Road, known locally as the Coolock Opera House.

Somali Village on the northern side of Carrickbrack Road was built in Sutton in 1907. It derives its name from the International Exhibition held in Dublin’s Herbert Park that same year. The term was still used among residents until recent times. I have seen a note suggesting that it was briefly renamed Drumnigh and re-designed by architect Michael Scott in or around the 1950’s but I would need to investigate this further.

In 1964, Joe Ward was appointed operations manager of McMullan Brothers, now Maxol, and placed in charge of transport and distribution, as well as the mechanics, painters and central heating boiler servicemen at East Wall. Also known as Commandant Patrick Joseph Ward, he served in the Irish Army Transport Corps as a full time soldier. He lived on Howth Road, Bayside, Sutton.

St. Fintan’s Cemetery is located on the south side of Carrickbrack Road.  Its older part comprises a ruined keeper’s cottage with the remnants of the church. The newer part, actively used, is lower down the hill. Just beyond the older portion is St Fintan’s Holy Well; drainage works in the area have caused the well to dry up. The oldest burials date from 1850. Among those buried here are:

 

 

Acknowledgment

 

  • Mark Clinton of An Taisce
  • Roger Stalley
  • Maria O’Brien
  • Sean Magee

 

Further Reading

 

F.E. Ball, ‘Howth And It’s Owners’ (1917)

 

End Notes

 

[1] Born circa 526, St Fintan of Clonenagh was educated by St Colum of Terryglass, Co Tipperary, who so influenced Fintan that his own foundation also acquired a reputation for intense austerity. His feast day is on 17 February. Other contenders are St Fintan of Taghmon, Co. Wexford and St. Fintan, a descendant of Mured Manderig, King of Ulster, who settled in Doon, Co. Limerick.

[2] When he died in 1895, Edmond’s address was given as Carramore, Sutton.  When Edmond’s youngest daughter Constance married David Madill of Garvagh, County Derry, his widow’s address was given as St Edmunds, The Burrow, Sutton, County Dublin. Northern Whig – Saturday 30 March 1918

Edmond’s oldest sister Lizzie Rhoda Stanley was married in Mauritius in 1877 to the Rev Dr Robert Griffith Poole of Port Maddock, Wales.

His father Edmond / Edmund, a pioneering and successful photographer, was Master of Birr Workhouse prior to moving the family to Dublin after his marriage to Sarah Harding Stack in 1850 where he opened Lauder Brothers, a daguerreotype studio (early photographs produced on a silver or a silver-covered copper plate)

From 1860 a further photographic revolution occurred with the introduction of a relatively inexpensive photograph on paper called the ‘carte-de-visite’ (photograph mounted on a piece of card the size of a formal visiting card—hence the name).

Lauder Brothers eventually had three photographic studios in Dublin, at 45 Sackville Street lower, and 22 and 32 Westmoreland Street, all located on what was known as the ‘photographic mile’, from Sackville Street through Westmoreland Street to Grafton Street, where the best photographic studios were to be found.

In May 1892, Dublin-born Edmond Jnr, along with his elder brother and business partner, James Stack Lauder aka Jacques Lafayette – who founded multiple gold medal-winning Lafayette in 1880 and had built a huge reputation as a portrait photographer among the landed and governing classes and was a photographer to Queen Victoria – applied for a patent for ‘A new or improved photographic accessory for portrait photography’

This new process may have been the forerunner to the glass shot: background scenery painted on glass that is positioned in front of the camera and filmed so that it appears to be part of the scene.

It’s possible that this particular patented process was the one referenced in the 1929 $2m law suit taken by Pierre Artigue, veteran cartoonist and comic strip artist who was one of the first to experiment with animated cartoons, against every major motion picture company claiming he was the inventor of the glass shot.

The Lafayette studio has one of the oldest histories of any photographic business in the world. During its peak years, the studio photographed a succession of Irish revolutionaries, Royals from all around Europe, luminaries of the stage, great figures in the Church, debutantes, society ladies, Military men, prize racehorses, and even the odd building, such as Sandringham House and Glamis Castle.

Substantial holdings of Lafayette glass negatives are in the Victoria and Albert Museum and in the National Portrait Gallery, London; Lafayette photographs are also in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle.

[3] One resident of Rhoda Villas, aka RS, advised that the houses were rather cheap and used such a poor wood that the window frames rotted within a few years.

[4] Jim is a grandson of the political cartoonist Thomas Fitzpatrick (1860 –1912), pen name Fitz, who contributed to many satirical magazines of the time and in 1905 launched his own, The Lepracaun, to which James Joyce contributed short pieces and cartoon ideas. Details of how Jim created the piece are here.

Created in 1968, his Che Guevara work was based on a photo by Alberto Korda. Jim also designed album covers for Thin Lizzy and Sinead O’Connor, amongst others. Since the 1970s, he had lived in a converted schoolmasters’ house on Burrow Road, a building remarkable for its elaborately detailed work inspired by the Irish Celtic artistic tradition. The house, near (or part of) Rhoda’s Terrace, has now been largely rebuilt.

In 2017, An Post released a stamp featuring Jim Fitzpatrick’s image of Guevara to mark 50 years since its publication.

As a member of the board of trustees on the Herstory.ie project, Jim has given the rights for all of his work to be used in the project’s efforts to tell stories of historic, contemporary and mythical women.

[4a] Details of the Sweetman connection can be found in Richard Robert Madden, ‘The United Irishmen, their lives and times’ here. See also Sean Magee, ‘Sweetman Breweries in 18th century Dublin’ (Dublin Historical Record, 2015). There is a report in TCD Ms dept. Ref. 873/47, by Anne Sweetman, concerning Rowan escape to the continent with the assistance of Robert Sweetman, her late husband.

[4b] William John Fitz-Patrick, ‘The Sham Squire;” and the Informers of 1798’, p. 155; Dawson, T. “The Road to Howth.” Dublin Historical Record, vol. 29, no. 4, 1976, pp. 122–32. Rowan himself wrote of: ‘the generous, disinterested conduct of the two brothers Sheridan, farmers and boatmen and another named Murphy, of Baldoyle, who upon being introduced to me by Mr. Sweetman, of Sutton, and in the possession of the proclamation offering £3,000 for my capture, and in knowing me only by name, not only concealed me while sheltering at Mr Sweetman’s house, but consented to carry me in their small half-decked fishing boat across the Channel to the coast of France.’

Joe Simpson commented on Wistorical’s blog: “In ‘The Desire To Please”, Harold Nicolson’s biography of his ancestor, the northern Protestant United Irishman Archibald Hamilton Rowan (1751-1834) of Killyleagh, Co. Down, there is an account of how AHR, long before escaping in 1794 from prison in Dublin and landing in revolutionary France, encountered Queen Marie Antoinette on his first visit there as a young man in the early 1770s. He had brought over a little Thames wherry for himself, and in it joined a procession of boats accompanying the French Queen to Fontainbleu. He saw the Queen pointing at his boat, with the large figure of its owner towering over it, and later learned that she had remarked to a courtier, something to the effect that it was perhaps something for an English gentleman’s amusement! The Queen, according to Nicolson, later sent AHR a ring in token of the moment, which at the time of writing (c. 1943) apparently remained in the possession of the family. For all I know, it may still reside at Killyleagh Castle, privately owned by the family to this day, although the men generally are named Rowan Hamilton, AHR having for some reason reversed the two names for himself. His son Gawen was a heroic British naval commander assisting refugees and the like in the Aegean during the Greek War of Independence against the Ottomans, but that is quite another tale…

[4.c] Went, A. E. J. “Oyster Fisheries.” Dublin Historical Record, vol. 18, no. 2, 1963, pp. 56–63; Glasgow Herald, 30 June 1879, p. 3.

[5] Frank Mitchell established the island’s original coastline after discovering a Mesolithic shell midden.

[6] The Dublin Daily Express announces sale of Earlscliff, former home of Tom’s late mother, Pauline McClintock Bunbury. The notice reads:

‘EARLSCLIFF. SUTTON.
THIS charming Residence will be Sold, subject to the nominal ground rent of £2 4s 6d per annum. It stands detached with handsome pleasure grounds and garden, commanding particularly grand and extensive views of sea and mountain scenery. The salubrity of the locality is too well known to need comment.
For terms and tickets of admission apply to Messrs. BATTERSBY and Co. Agents, 6, WESTMORELAND STREET.’

However, they were unable to sell the property at that time and took it off the market to conduct extensive renovations, as well as adding a servants/ gardeners annex and a coachhouse. Tom put it back on the market on 10 May 1877 for around £2,000 with the following description:

“EARLSCLIFF, SUTTON, HOWTH.
The Interest in the Lease of this charming Residence, with ornamental grounds and garden, the whole comprising 4a.3r.29p., held for a long terms of years at the nominal rent of £19 4s 6d. per annum. The present proprietor has expended a considerable sum in valuable and judicious improvements, and the place is now in perfect condition. As a seaside villa, the situation is unrivalled, commanding a prospect of sea and mountain scenery of cast extent and peculiar beauty, with the advantage of a climate the salubrity of which is well known. The house contains three reception rooms and five bedrooms, with servants’ apartments, coachhouse and stable attached.”

It eventually sold in 1878, but Tom  had to drop the price to £1,500 (a bargain) and sold it to Dawson Thomas Knox who moved in with his step mother and four of his brothers . Richard Whelan was apparently the caretaker / gardener at Earlscliffe at the time the Captain’s wife, Pauline lived there. He left in 1877, which fits in with Pauline’s death and the sale of Earlscliffe.