Saturday 29 April 2017

10 hidden historical facts about Dublin - how many do you know?

Capital quirks

O'Connell Street, Dublin. Photo: Deposit
O'Connell Street, Dublin. Photo: Deposit
Christchurch Cathedral Credit: Church of Ireland
The Long Room in Trinity College. Photo: Deposit/Jelle van der Wolf
George's Street Arcade, Dublin. Photo: Deposit / Matthias Oesterle
The Irish Constitution was drafted on the first floor of the Shelbourne.
St Valentine's relics are contained within a casket at the Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

As we rush around Dublin City, it's easy to miss the histories hidden in its architecture. A new book puts that to right.

'Dublin Strolls' (Collins Press; €12.99), compiled by Gregory and Audrey Bracken, takes the form of a surprising series of illustrated city trails.

From Temple Bar to the Georgian Southside, Capel Street to St. James's Gate, the 10 walks uncover some fascinating - and forgotten - histories.

The Brackens are brother and sister, and they've previously compiled guides to London, New York and Singapore, among other cities, but this is the first time the pair have turned their hand to the capital - and aptly, in its 1916 centenary year.

Here are ten little-known facts from its pages.

1. A mysterious motto

Do you know the motto under Dublin’s coat of arms - ‘Obedientia civium urbis felicitas' - is Latin for ‘Obedient citizens; happy city’? We're not sure that applied in 1916, and we're not sure it applies a century later, either!

2. A hidden Hitler


Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel dates from 1824, and it's history is a storied one. Less well-known is the fact that a staff member in the early 1900s was Alois Hitler, half-brother of the more notorious Adolf. Who knew?

3. Iveagh league pronunciation

‘Iveagh’ is pronounced ‘eye-va’. Most Dubliners simply say ‘ivy’, as the Brackens point out, before raining on their collective parade. Our dalliances in the Iveagh Gardens will never be the same - 'Eye-va Gardens' just doesn't have the same ring to it.

4. The book that's not a book


The Book of Kells is not actually a book, but a collection of manuscripts that would originally have been kept in what was known as a cumdach or book shrine. This type of manuscript casing unique to Ireland and would have been decorated with gold and precious stones.

5. Life, the Liberties, and the pursuit of happiness

Dublin's Liberties were once fiefdoms with their own courts of law, power to administer fines, organise fairs and even regulate weights and measures. "Dublin Corporation brought them under control by about 1840," the Brackens say.

6. By George!


At 118.2m long (390 feet), the George's Street Arcade boasts one of the longest façades in Dublin - only 1.5m (5 feet) shorter than the Custom House.

7. Madams of Monto

Montgomery (now Foley) Street was once Dublin’s red-light district. It was thought to be the largest in the British Empire in the Victorian era; legend has it that the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) lost his virginity here.

8. St. Valentine's final resting place

Whitefriar Street Church, Dublin.jpg  

Did you know St. Valentine's relics are contained in Dublin? As in, the relics of the actual, third-century Roman saint? Received as a gift from Pope Gregory XVI, they're kept under lock and key beneath a shrine in the Whitefriar Street Church.

9. Fair play!

The royalties from the musical My Fair Lady (based on George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion) were bequeathed to the National Gallery and have helped keep it going since his death in 1950. Shaw called it "the cherished asylum of my childhood".

10. Church and state

Dublin has two cathedrals, and they’re both Protestant. St Patrick’s originally stood outside the city walls and is now the national cathedral; Christ Church is the city’s main Protestant cathedral (with St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral for Catholics).

Details: For more, see Dublin Strolls - Exploring Dublin's Architectural Treasures (Collins Press, €12.99) and

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