Wednesday 13 December 2017

Rural rhyme and reason of Rathmines

The leafy canal in Rathmines
The leafy canal in Rathmines

Fiona O'Connell

I travel to Dublin on a regular basis, as both my parents are poorly. But loath as I am to leave these lovely surroundings, I do enjoy being back in "the big smoke". After all, they say you can take the girl out of the city - but you can't take the city out of the girl.

Maybe it's the same for my country cousins, who move to the city yet feel reluctant to relinquish their rural ties. So if you're up for urban life, but still crave country connections, then the best place to lay your homesick hat is in Rathmines.

I have a soft spot for this south-side suburb, where I lived for several years. In hindsight, this mecca for muckers was the perfect transition for moving to the country. Indeed, perhaps the presence of so many country folk prompted me to take on life beyond the pale.

You shouldn't have any problem finding Rathmines, as the dome of the Mary Immaculate, Refuge of Sinners church is visible for miles. Some say it was intended for St Petersburg, but the revolution of 1917 caused it to be diverted to Dublin.

A revolutionary roof seems appropriate for this countrified quarter. Because unlike neighbouring areas that have been gentrified to within an inch of their lives, Rathmines retains a 'rough around the edges' quality, despite development and the Celtic Tiger years.

It has long been known across Ireland as flat land for newly arrived civil servants and third level students - even being described as an Ellis Island for country people arriving into Dublin.

Certainly, aspects of life here mirror pastoral patterns. Pubs can be quiet at weekends, when many of its rural residents go back home. Its rhythm returns when they do on Sunday, just like in many country towns.

Sadly, it has lost some beloved landmarks, such as The Garda Club on nearby Harrington Street. Which possessed not one but two rural ballrooms of romance, where many a boy in blue wooed a woman in white, as nurses and other country folk in traditional jobs flocked here.

Also long-gone is a pub one bridge down, where the culchie clientele would good-naturedly jeer us jackeens.

The proprietor maintained a nonchalant demeanour, smoking pipe resolutely in mouth, whatever the circumstances might be.

The interior was like a stage set, complete with waltzing country couples.

Thankfully, stalwarts like Slattery's are still going strong. As is Vanilla Hair Salon on a nearby side-street, which enjoys an ever-growing reputation as one of Dublin's hidden gems. Like many Dubliners, owner Brenda Mullen's grandfather came here from the country.

Two generations later, the magical mix of mucker and metropolis is having a fantastically good hair day in its hybrid home.

Sunday Independent

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