Monthly Archives: August 2015

Elizabeth Bowen – A woman of Importance

15 Herbert Place

15 Herbert Place

Elizabeth Bowen was born on 7th June 1899 at 15 Herbert Place, Dublin and baptised in nearby St Stephen’s Church, Upper Mount Street (‘The Pepper Canister’) shortly afterwards. The family owned a big house, Bowen’s Court, in Faraghy, near Kildorrey, Co Cork where she spent her early summers. However, when her father, Henry Cole Bowen, suffered a mental illness in 1907, she and her mother moved to Hythe, Kent. Years later Bowen would return here before her death on 22nd February 1973.

Her mother Florence died when Bowen was only twelve and she was brought by various aunts in Ireland and England. This ‘rootlessness’ gave her a feeling of not belonging and sharpened her observations on life. These themes pervade her writings, as do life in the ‘big house’ during the turbulent times following the creation of the Irish Free State. Many such houses were burnt to the ground but Bowen’s Court survived and she inherited the property in 1930. She often visited the ‘Court’ and spent a lot of money maintaining it, but in 1959 she was forced to sell it.

In London she knew members of the Bloomsbury Group and one of them assisted in getting Bowen’s first book, Encounters, published in 1923. She wrote ten novels, thirteen collections of short stories and numerous works of non-fiction. The Last September is the book that she felt closest to and deals with the tensions of the early 1920s for the Anglo-Irish community. As a member she wrote with an insider’s view, giving the story ‘a reality’.

BowenX

Later, during WWII she worked for the Ministry of Information and her book The Heat of the Day (1948) is considered by many commentators to be one of the most evocative observations of life during the Blitz. And in the same year her literary work was recognised when she was awarded a CBE. After she died in London her body was brought back and she was buried in Faraghy churchyard, close to her beloved Bowen’s Court.

Elizabeth Bowen

Elizabeth Bowen

 

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Dun Laoghaire’s Piers – Walk This Way!

East Pier

East Pier

Generations of people have been taking a ‘walk on the pier’ and it is something that I have always enjoyed. Whether the day is warm and a gentle breeze blowing or you are wrapped up against a bracing wind, ‘taking the air’ is a real pleasure. The sharp, salty air never fails to clear a stuffy head, and the long walk is a favourite for thousands.

West Pier with Twin Towers

West Pier & Poolbeg’s Twin Towers

The waters in Dublin Bay often silted up making it difficult for ships to land and they would have to stay moored off-shore for days. A small pier was opened in 1767 (Coal Harbour Pier) but it soon became useless. After two disasters in November 1807 when the HMS Prince of Wales and The Rochdale sank with the loss of 400 people there was an outcry for ‘something to be done.’ In 1815 an Act of Parliament was passed for the construction of ‘a harbour for ships to the eastward of Dunleary’, and the foundation stone (East Pier) was laid in May 1817 by Earl Whitworth, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The granite was quarried in Dalkey and transported by a funicular railway that later became the Atmospheric Railway. By 1820 the original plan was amended by engineer John Rennie to add a second pier, and the West Pier was completed in 1827.

Early evening

Early evening

The East Pier (red for port) is 2.6 K (out & back) while the West Pier (green for starboard) is slightly longer at 3.01 K. They enclose a 250 acre harbour and the gap between them is 232 metres. The East Pier is the more popular with walkers and has a bandstand (built 1890s) where, weather permitting, music concerts take place. There is also a memorial to Captain Boyd and his crew who drowned in 1861 during a rescue. And you can see a plaque in honour of Samuel Beckett who also liked to ‘walk the pier’ – Happy Days!

A picturesque Dun Laoghaire Harbour

A picturesque Dun Laoghaire Harbour

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