Sandymount’s Past

Pictured Above: A ride on the strand.

Pictured Above: A ride on the strand.

‘Sandymount’ is a new book by local author Hugh Oram which is expected to hit the shelves in late February. This new volume gives a brief resumé of the area’s history, told through old photographs with extended captions.

The book encapsulates all of the main aspects of Sandymount’s development over the past 200 years, and covers issues regarding Sandymount Strand, the various shops and old churches, and many of the famous faces that have graced the area throughout the years.

The book is part of the series ‘Ireland in Old Photographs’ that is being published by The History Press Ireland.

Hugh had many sources at his disposal for this latest chronicle, with old photographs culled from many local figures such as Leo Sheeran, Brian Siggins and Lorna Kelly, many of which have never been viewed by the public before.

The publishers also provided crucial assistance with their archives, and Hugh has commissioned numerous local history books for them before, including one about Ballsbridge and two about Dundrum, and given Hugh’s knowledge of and proximity to the area, Sandymount seemed a logical and natural progression.

“I hope readers will find it inspiring to see how Sandymount has developed over the years, yet has retained much of its atmosphere and will enjoy seeing many aspects of Sandymount that no longer exist, like the old cinema and theatre in Serpentine Avenue, which is now a Sikh temple and cultural centre,” Hugh told NewsFour.

Much of the information in the extended captions came from talking to local people, such as Michael McAuliffe, involved for many years in many community activities, Brian Siggins, the distinguished local historian, and Lorna Kelly of the Sandymount and Merrion Residents Association.

The sports clubs in Sandymount also made their information available. The process took around a year to complete, with much of the subsequent time being spent sourcing the old photographs and allocating the information for the captions.

The Sandymount book has been a follow-on from many other similar books that Hugh has authored in recent years about many different locations, all throughout Ireland, from places as diverse as Achill to Carlingford, Limerick to Drogheda and his other works on South Dublin.

Hugh’s latest book has a far more distinctive style which reflects the wonderful and unique history of Sandymount through its historical evolution while simultaneously retaining its particular “village in a city” atmosphere. Hugh spoke to NewsFour about what he hopes the public will take away from ‘Sandymount’ upon reading it.

“The way that the seafront has been developed over the past 30 years, the way the centre of Sandymount has progressed over a similar period of time, the way that so many old shops have disappeared, the way in which the old Presbyterian church in Sandymount was demolished in 1999, ignoring local wishes,” Hugh said. “And the way in which so many distinguished creative people have been connected with the district. I’ve also highlighted how people like Annie M.P. Smithson, a writer of romances, who was brought up in Claremont Road, have simply disappeared off the radar.

In the 1920s and 1930s, her name and her books were as popular and well-known as, say, the name and works of Maeve Binchy, yet today, Annie M.P. Smithson is completely forgotten. I’m also fascinated by changing social trends; one that really intrigued me is shown in a photograph taken over 50 years ago of the May Day religious procession at the Lakelands convent in Sandymount. Taking part were all the Gardaí from Irishtown. I doubt very much the same sort of thing would happen nowadays!”

There are provisional plans for a book launch of ‘Sandymount’ to take place on February 25th in the Sandymount Hotel on Herbert Road, and the book will be available shortly afterwards.

By Craig Kinsella