Wednesday 17 July 2019

'World famous' in the Liberties, now locals want a plaque to honour Brendan Grace

 

Brendan Grace
Brendan Grace
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

An RTÉ documentary in 1976 focused on Brendan Grace's roots in the Dublin Liberties and his 'reminiscences'. He was just 25 years of age - and already a national legend.

By that stage, the Liberties he fondly remembered had not changed all that much.

Still there in 1976 was Lockhart's butchers - run by the father of Jim Lockhart of the Horslips.

Also there was Molloy's shop - the old-fashioned grocer where Brendan Grace's mother once ran up a bill so beyond her that Brendan took a job there to bring it down.

Now, a laundrette stands where Lockhart's once was and a modern convenience store straddles across not only the former Molloy's but also the fishmongers that was once next door.

But Grace's name remains lovingly on the lips of the tightly knit community of the Liberties because he remained an Echlin Street boy to the last, reared in the Echlin Street buildings, overlooking St James's Church and the Parochial Hall.

In the flat where the Grace family were reared now lives Stephen Flitton, who revealed that Brendan Grace came for a look around his old home six years ago.

Familiar

Nostalgic visit: Stephen Flitton lives in Brendan's childhood home
Nostalgic visit: Stephen Flitton lives in Brendan's childhood home

"The story was I came home one day to a note through the letterbox that was from a woman called Christine who asked to come up and see the apartment where she was brought up," said Stephen.

"She asked if she could bring her brother and when I met them, I thought there was something familiar about him."

He eventually put two and two together and Grace gave him the gift of his book and a bottle of wine as a thank you for allowing him to visit.

These were the first purpose-built apartments in Dublin, explained Stephen, though it had only an outdoors 'privy' in Grace's time.

"He was there for around an hour and was nostalgic rather than emotional," said Stephen, adding that he had a look around and took some photographs.

"He also talked about how he used to chase the milkman."

Stephen said he had joked with Grace that they would have to put a historical blue plaque outside the door to mark his origins.

"He just laughed," he said.

But now, the residents of the Echlin Street Buildings are talking in all seriousness about getting one of the plaques erected in honour of their famous one-time neighbour who had remembered his time there so fondly.

At Harkin's Bar further up the street, barman Paul Harkin said Grace used to often come back to visit Paul's father, Gerry.

"Dad was always glad to see him again - he had great time for him," said Paul, adding that Grace's parents used to drink there with Brendan Behan.

Local man Paul Cashin said everyone was proud of him in the Liberties.

"I've seen him a few times on-stage - he was a very funny man. Only two weeks ago I was watching one of his old TV shows and it was still funny," he said.

Waiting at a bus stop, Margaret O'Rourke, who used to work at the Guinness factory, said that he was "world famous" in the Liberties for his comedy routines.

"But I always thought he was a better singer," she said.

"It's a sad day."

Around the corner from Echlin Street at Allen's Garage, Robert Millist said Grace would sometimes work as a messenger boy for his father and then his mother would call him in for his dinner, he laughed.

Irish Independent

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