Tag Archives: theatre royal dublin

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 Book Festival

Hi there,

I attended a couple of events at the recent Dublin Book Festival in the Smock Alley Theatre and both were well attended and very interesting. The festival, which ran for six days, has been a great success (according to busy staff! ) with writers from home and abroad involved in readings and interviews. The friendly, casual atmosphere was also a great opportunity to speak with authors and get books signed. I managed to speak with John Givens (one of the authors reading his work in ‘A Medley of Stories’) about his story set in Japan and he was very approachable and happy to talk.

Smock1

Bookshelf

The reading was held in the Banquet Hall which is a beautiful space that has been renovated to its former glory. The old building is celebrating its 350th anniversary and the bright, winter sun really brought the tall, stained-glass windows to life. If you are in town then a visit to see Ireland’s first great theatre is a rewarding experience. Put it on your list of ‘things to do’ in Dublin.

For a short story writer like myself, the interview conducted by Eithne Shortall (Chief Arts Writer for the Sunday Times Ireland) with three of its leading exponents was very informative and entertaining. This was held in the main theatre, which with its bench seating (and soft cushions, thankfully!) and fine acoustics, was how I hoped it might be – and it didn’t disappoint. It was a lively discussion with plenty of light moments and I came away with some interesting ideas – food for thought.

The Festival is a great part of the cultural life of the city, and as book festivals go they definitely ‘got it right’ and long may it grow and prosper.

Smock Alley

Definitely in Smock Alley Theatre!

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