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Martin O’Driscoll
Feb 2012


Nelsons Pillar DublinNelsons Pillar Dublin

I was ‘born and bred’ in Dublin more years ago than I care to remember. It’s a city that will always be part of my soul. Although I don’t live there any longer, I thought it might be nice to share some of my memories as well as the various monthly events that go on in Dublin throughout the year.


That’s an expression which could only have come from Dublin. The title comes from a song written by PETE ST JOHN in the 1970s for a well known Dublin ballad singing group, The Dublin City Ramblers. The song tells of the changes that had occurred in Dublin between the 1960s and the 70’s. Its legacy still lives on to this day and its message is timeless.

“Ring a ring a rosie, as the light declines,

I remember Dublin city in the rare oul' times”.

metropole hotelmetropole hotel“Ring a ring a rosie” is Dublin slang for a nursery rhyme (Mother Goose Rhymes’ in the USA) and was first published in 1881 in print. The song itself is all about “progress” and what that does to communities.

“By trade I was a cooper, lost out to redundancy.

Like my house that fell to progress, my trade's a memory”.

That’s what life was like in Dublin in the early sixties; a city changing its face, its appearance and some people questioned, was it also changing its soul!

Into this cauldron I walked as a young teenager. At first, I was unaware of how isolated we in Ireland were as an inward looking nation. As the years “tipped” on in the sixties one single event occurred which would change my generation and Ireland forever. We heard MUSIC from outside the country. We also started to see non Irish people on the streets for the first time and in honesty we were all utterly amazed.

Some people reading this will think that I am joking or being racist. I am neither. As a country situated at the very boundaries of Europe with sea all around us our history/legacy was emigration. Not immigration. So Pete St. John captured this in his song:

Royal_Hotel_1950Royal_Hotel_1950“And I courted Peggy Diugnan, as pretty as you please,

A rogue and a child of Mary, from the rebel Liberties

I lost her to a student chap, with skin as black as coal.

When he took her off to Birmingham, he stole away my soul.”

This was the start of Dublin changing. Yet it caused older people to say:

'Cause Dublin keeps on changing, and nothing seems the same”.

But to a young boy of 13 or 14, these were exciting times! All of us wanted to ‘break the rules ‘. We had no idea of where we were heading but those transistor radios kept telling us of new and exciting things such as TV, pop music, different styles of clothing, even wearing long hair. We felt like liberation was just a stones throw away. If only we could grab it!  And grab it we did with every breath and every step.

To the older generation things were not that simple.

Dublin 1960sDublin 1960s“The pillar and the Met. have gone, the Royal long since pulled down,

As the gray unyielding concrete, makes a city of my town.”

These lines in PETE ST JOHN’s song talk about the fact that Nelsons Pillar (a landmark figure in Dublin’s, O’Connell Street) was gone. The Metropolitan and Royal, both beloved theaters were also a thing of the past.  This meant that for some older people, the heart of Dublin was being destroyed.

Dublin was changing, a good thing or a necessary evil [the jury is still out on that one]! Years of isolation and politics had brought nothing but poverty and squalor to many parts of the city. We were still living ‘de Valera’s dream’ where the most rigorous censorship laws in Western Europe were still commonplace. His vision of “EIRE” (Irish for Ireland) meant that up until the sixties Ireland was largely a devout catholic, conservative and rural country.  In essence this was inward looking and had to change.

Next week I will tell you about those changes and how they affected me as a young man.

Dublin Diary

OK, fast forward to February2012.  What’s happening in the capitol this month?

- Dublin's Valentine's Day!

From 12 noon until 12 midnight on February 14th, cultural organisations across the city will be lit up with love, offering an adventure to the cultural heart of the city. Temple Bar Cultural Trust and their cultural partners have arranged a programme of affordable and free events that promise discovery, beauty, fun and great value.

- Jameson Dublin International Film Festival from 16th February 2012 – 26th February 2012

120 films from the four corners of the globe will be shown, some are Irish premieres, and for many more shown, the festival represents the only public screening that will take place in Ireland.

- The Human Body Exhibition from 2nd February 2012 – 31st May 2012

This is an all new exhibition featuring more than 200 full and partial real human body specimens, and it’s making its world debut at The Ambassador Theatre.



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