Donnybrook Then & Now

Images of the book and its launch and, below, Dr Beatrice Doran. Images supplied by Beatrice Doran.

Images of the book and its launch and, below, Dr Beatrice Doran.
Images supplied by Beatrice Doran.

A new book detailing one of Dublin 4’s most famous districts was launched on Thursday 18th December. Over a hundred people arrived at Elm Park Golf Club on Nutley Lane to witness the unveiling of Donnybrook Then & Now, written and compiled by Dr Beatrice Doran with colour photography by Vincent Clarke.

Donnybrook Then & Now is the sequel to Dr Doran’s previous book on the area, entitled Donnybrook: A History, which was launched in November of 2013.

Dr Beatrice Doran is a resident of Donnybrook and has worked in a number of academic and university libraries in Ireland. Her past occupations include her role as former director of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Library and past president of the Library Association of Ireland. She is also a member of numerous Dublin-based historical societies, including the Donnybrook & Sandymount Historical Society and the Royal Dublin Society.

“It is a book for the people of Donnybrook,” Dr Doran told NewsFour, “and to show the old and the new side of Donnybrook.”

The book explores the district’s diverse past by contrasting 45 archive images with the modern photography of Vincent Clarke, a career photographer who worked for the RTÉ Lighting Department from the late 1970’s until his retirement in 2012.

Each page vibrates with the pulsating history of the area, and covers all range of interests from landmarks, business, architecture and all of the colourful characters who made the whole story possible. The images are taken from some of Beatrice Doran’s previously unused collection, as well as being culled from such sources as the National Library, Dublin City Library and the Irish Architectural Archive.

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The book is steeped in many engaging facts, some of which will be familiar to those with a disposition to local history, such as the famous Donnybrook Fair, which operated in the area for over 700 years, stretching from what is now the Bective and Old Wesley Rugby Club, to the current location of the Donnybrook Lawn Tennis Club. However, there is something for everyone in this book, and plenty that will have previously been unknown to many.

The book reveals that Donnybrook was a thriving village for centuries, littered with cotton mills, calico mills and quarries. The corresponding image shows how modernity has stripped away the reality of the past, with most of the old shops of Main Street being demolished in the 1960s to make way for premises like the AIB and Ulster Banks and the present day fire station.

One of the area’s most recognizable sites is the Donnybrook Bus Garage, although many people are still unaware that the structure itself was built on the site of an old quarry. As quoted in Donnybrook Then & Now, the garage was ‘the first building in the world to have a concrete shell roof lit by natural light from one end to the other.’ The building was also used in 1955 for an international boxing match between Derryman Billy Kelly and Ray Famechon of France, with the Irishman suffering defeat.
The location of Beaver Row is of particular interest in the book. Beaver Row has been in existence since the early 1800s. The row is named after the beaver hat factory operated by the Wright brothers who built cottages, a Wesleyan Methodist Church, a school, a hall and a wooden bridge over the Dodder for their grateful employees to take advantage of.

Two dairy farms existed on Beaver Row until the 1970s and have since been replaced by David Lloyd’s Riverview, a modern sports complex. Keogh’s Dairy Farm was a well-known site in the Donnybrook area, with Mr Keogh often selling milk directly from the back of his cart! The contrasting images featured in Dr Doran’s work show fascinating similarities coupled with a few minor modern discrepancies.

It would be wrong to give too much away but there are a few other examples in the book that need underlining. A special mention must be made for O’ Shea’s public house, open from 1952 to 1970, and currently the site of O’Connell’s restaurant. This local treasure was a hotspot for much of the Irish literati in their heyday, including such intellectual giants as Brendan Behan and Patrick Kavanagh.

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The history of Donnybrook’s architectural achievements is also laid out. The Crampton-built houses of the area, built between 1909 and 1929, still stand the test of time. There is a beautiful image of Laburnum Cottage, one of Donnybrook’s oldest houses, dating back to around 1710, and once home to escaped White Russian princess Lydia Prescott. Another excellent image among many is that of the Morrison obelisk at the junction of Anglesea and Ailesbury Road, erected in honour of Arthur Morrison, Lord Mayor of Dublin from 1835-36.

Donnybrook Then & Now is a fascinating insight into the neighbourhood’s vibrant past, and will be of interest to locals and people from the surrounding precincts. The work was compiled by Dr Beatrice Doran over the course of a year and contains images and information that will educate as well as intrigue.

The book is published by The History Press Ireland and copies can be obtained on their website at

By Craig Kinsella