This anthology of essays and images proposes to do exactly what the title says: within its pages are 32 essays on the history and environment of the famed Dublin 4 neighbourhoods named in the title.
A collaborative project, published in 1993, A Social and Natural History of Sandymount Irishtown and Ringsend embodies one of the pleasures of an anthology format: you can dip in and out as interest dictates, without ploughing through page upon page of material that simply doesn’t appeal. Curious about the stories behind place names in Ringsend? There’s an essay or two here for you. Ever wonder what that building was before it was the Guru Nanak Darbur (the Sikh Temple on Serpentine Avenue)? Its many guises throughout the years are in this volume.
Of the two topics addressed in the title, social history is covered most extensively, with 23 essays covering subjects like the founding of the townships, the once-extensive bottle-making industry situated in Ringsend, James Joyce’s Sandymount and the history of Beggars Bush. Although locals will inevitably be aware of much of this local lore, there are always gaps to be filled between what’s anecdotal and what has been thoroughly researched.
The latter part of the book is dedicated to a natural history of the area and is rich with detail concerning the flora and fauna of the Dodder and parks such as the Irishtown Nature Park and of course Herbert Park. One stand-out is Philip Doherty’s Birth of a Naturalist, an unpretentious memoir of the author’s youthful enthusiasm for nature. Philip is also notable for having provided the extensive illustrations of animals, wildflowers and well-known landmarks which feature throughout the book. There are also a generous number of maps and old photographs to supplement the social history section. If you’re a history geek or just want local curiosities made clear, this book is worth a look
A Social and Natural History of Sandymount, Irishtown and Ringsend is available from the NewsFour offices, Books on the Green, Sandymount and ebay.ie
Reviewed by Rúairí Conneely