Tag Archives: Mansion House

A man who left a few marks

The 'royal feet' in Howth

The ‘royal feet’ in Howth

It is often the case during a presidential or royal visit for the person to leave a mark, be it by planting a tree or unveiling a plaque, but George IV took this to a new level when he came to Dublin. He arrived in Howth, according to contemporary reports, the worse for wear on 12th August 1821, his 59th birthday, having eaten too much goose pie and washing it down with plenty of Irish whiskey. He stumbled onto the quay and was assisted as a stonemason marked out his feet on the large granite block. Later, Robert Campbell cut out the exact marks, and you can still see the ‘royal feet’ at the end of the West Pier.

Sloping roof of the Round Room

Sloping roof of the Round Room

Large crowds turned out to see and cheer the King along his journey into the city centre, at the head of two hundred carriages. It was the most popular royal visit as he took great pleasure in meeting local dignitaries and entertaining them and making many drinking toasts. It was the biggest occasion Dublin had seen since the Act of Union in 1800 which closed the Irish Parliament, leading to an exodus of many politicians and wealthy businessmen and landowners. Ahead of the visit a request was sent from London for those who wished to see the King should be dressed in clothes made in Dublin. This was a boon to local tailors and milliners who were suddenly busier than they been in years. And due to the number of people who were invited to meet the King the Round Room was constructed as an adjunct to The Mansion House because there was no room in the city big enough to cater for the crowd that attended.

King's Bridge (Sean Heuston) today

King’s Bridge (Sean Heuston) today

Part of the reason for his popularity in Dublin was because he had previously married, illegally, Maria Fitzherbert, an Irishwoman and that he was close to the Dublin playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Daniel O’Connell, who was pushing for Catholic Emancipation welcomed the King, and after the visit organised a campaign to raise funds for a memorial. The money was subsequently used to construct a bridge across the Liffey near the Phoenix Park that came to be known as King’s Bridge (Sean Heuston Bridge), as was the neighbourhood.

Dun Laoghaire obelisk

Dun Laoghaire obelisk

He stayed in the Vice Regal Lodge (Aras an Uachtarain) in the Phoenix Park from where he attended races at The Curragh, a show at the Theatre Royal (now Hawkins House) and visited his mistress Elizabeth, Marchioness Conyngham, at her home in Slane Castle. He left from Dun Laoghaire on 3rd September, and a memorial in the form of an obelisk was subsequently erected opposite the point of his ship’s departure. Not long afterwards the town changed its name to Kingstown in his honour, and this remained until 1920 when it was changed to Dun Laoghaire.

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Dublin’s Culture Night – what fun!

Pearse Museum

Pearse Museum

It was busy in town with crowds visiting the many houses, galleries, houses, museums that took part in Culture Night. The pleasant, dry weather certainly helped matters, and everywhere there was excited talk as visitors moved from venue to venue. All in all it was a great event, and what I enjoyed most was the good nature and the genuine interest shown by Culture Vultures, both young and old!

The event has become one of the Dublin’s main attractions, for locals and tourists alike, and a real ‘must-see’. It offers unique opportunities to visit places that are often closed to the public and, as such, is engaging like no other event and growing year-on-year. And with venues from all corners of the city taking part; from Dunsink Observatory in the west to Windmill Lane Studios in the east and Malahide Castle in the north to the Pearse Museum in the south, there was something for everybody to see and enjoy. And, for those wishing to move quickly between venues there was a Free Culture Night Bus service. Yes, everyone was involved!

Dunsink Observatory

Dunsink Observatory

There is so much to see that you have to have a plan, something that is usually gets forgotten about after visiting a few venues. But that is part of the fun and it adds to the sense of discovery that is so important. That’s what happened to mine, anyway, but I was more than happy with I saw, and heard. For music is a big part of the event and there was so much on offer. There were formal shows in Dublin Castle and Smithfield Square and any number of impromptu performances in small venues and in the open air. Outside the National Gallery I saw four young trumpet players, in dress suits, playing Classical Music that got a loud round of applause. It was different, something that is very much the theme of the event.

Thomas Moore's harp

Thomas Moore’s harp

I enjoyed a guided tour of the recently, and beautifully revamped, National Gallery that was abuzz with excitement. Then it was along a noisy Nassau Street and into the beautiful Royal Irish Academy on Dawson Street. This is a veritable treasure house of Irish history where you may indeed spend more time that you might have planned. You can see Ireland’s oldest manuscript that dates from the sixth century, and the collected works of the great singer and writer Thomas Moore, along with his harp. In the Meeting Room there are chandeliers and benches from the House of Lords that was abolished under the Act of Union of 1800.

Then it was into the Mansion House where the guide gave our group a very swift and informative tour of the building that has been the Mayoral Home since 1715, the oldest in the British Isles. The famous Rotunda was added in 1821 for the visit of King George IV, and ironically it was where the First Dáil assembled on 21st January 1919 and proclaimed the Declaration of Independence.

It was a great night and I just wish that I had the time to visit other wonderful places and meet more enthusiastic visitors. Maybe the organizers might consider extending the event to a two-night affair, but I am very happy to see it thrive and grow and continue to bring so much fun and excitement to so many.

The Mansion House

The Mansion House

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Mansion House – at the centre of city life

Nighttime view

Nighttime view

In a few short years the Open House Weekend has become something of a favourite with Dubliners and tourists alike. The fact that we can gain access to buildings, houses and offices that are normally off-limits to the general public, is a great reason to get out and about and enjoy the ‘search’. Everywhere I went people studied maps, pointed this way and that and happily queued, cameras at the ready to snap a piece of history. There was, inevitably, lots of talk and much advice on offer as to which places to visit.

Sumptous interior

Sumptuous interior

The Mansion House is a place that I always wanted to see having,  like so many other Dubliners, passed it on countless occasions. It is, of course, the residence of Dublin’s  first citizen, the Lord Mayor, and it is one of the city’s most loved buildings with stunningly beautiful rooms. It is, in fact, the oldest free-standing house in Dublin and the only Mayoral residence in Ireland which is still used for its original purpose. And, it is the oldest Mayoral residence in Ireland or Britain as it provided an official residence  for its mayor fifteen years before London did! It was surprising to find out that in the 1930s and 1940s there were plans to demolish the place and other buildings on the block, but thankfully they were abandoned.

The guide, a former Lord Mayor, really knew the history of the building and made the whole experience memorable. It was built by Joshua Dawson (who built many of the buildings on Dawson Street & Nassau Street) in 1705 as his city residence. However, he seldom lived there and sold it to Dublin Corporation in 1715 for £3,500, and an annual rent of 40 shillings and an agreement to provide a loaf of double-refined sugar weighing 6 pounds, at Christmas!  He agreed to add a formal reception room which we now call the Oak Room. In here are the crests of all the previous Lord Mayors with Daniel O’Connell’s (1841) being the first. The distinctive metal portico over the front door was erected for the visit of Queen Victoria in 1900. And the Rotunda, or ‘Round Room’, was added for the visit of George IV in 1821, as there was no room in the city grand enough for him. Ironically, it was in this same space that the First Dáil assembled on 21st January 1919 and proclaimed the Declaration of Independence.

The Mansion House has been at the centre of the city’s history for 299 years, and next year will be a special one even for this historic building.

Mansion House in the sunshine

Mansion House in the sunshine

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Column One!

Well, the day finally arrived and the new Dublin City Gazette was launched in the Mansion House. The place was packed as the Lord Mayor welcomed everybody and wished the newspaper all the best. There were quite a few celebrities in the house, and all in all it was a memorable night.

For myself, the first outing of my column Don’s Dublin was great to see, and chatting with former World Snooker Champion was a treat. He was heading off to play in two ranking tournaments in China a few days later, a place  where the game is growing rapidly and the quality of opposition increasing year on year.

Wishing everyone at DCG all the best – and long may it run! 

Gazette1

DC, Ken Doherty, Frances Fitzgerald, Kenny Egan, Michael McGovern

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