Ringsend and Irishtown, where Hope and History rhyme with our Present

Shay Connolly

‘Steeped in history’ is an old cliche perhaps but in the case of Ringsend and Irishtown we are drowning in it. Multiple centuries of it!! And before some of it submerged into the sea altogether we decided to set up a local Historical Society. And already some gems of history are unfolding to our naked eyes and ears. The various different landmarks, the reclaimed land, the origin of the name Irishtown and how it came about, the spot where Cromwell landed here, the huge activity of Revolutionaries during the War of Independence, culminating with the death at Stella Gardens of Margaret Keogh, the last person to die in that War, the old industries of Boat and Ship Building, Glass-making, fishing, rope-making and many other maritime professions, our deep connection to the sea and reflected in the present healthy recreation of our Rowing Clubs, the incredible history of our Sporting achievements from Isles of the Sea winning the All-Ireland for Dublin in 1901 to the formation of great League of Ireland rivals, Shamrock Rovers and Shelbourne, the amount of natives who donned the Green jersey in umpteen different disciplines, the influx from different English towns of people who came here for employment and eventually settled here. On early inspection there is no escaping the realisation that our history very much makes us who we are as a Community today and while history denotes a reference to the past, it is evident in our case just how much that past carries on into the present day with maritime activity a prime example of this connection.

Our first big project is the upcoming Bloomsday Ringsend Festival on the 16th June. There is an incredible, yet unannounced connection between James Joyce and Nora Barnacle with Ringsend. Ulysses, arguably one of the most studied books in the world, is all based around one day, that being the 16th of June. This was the date chosen by Joyce to centre his Novel around. And the highlight of June 16th for Joyce in his own life was his first date with his future wife Nora Barnacle in Ringsend, the significance of that encounter with her, and how it influenced his later life and writings. In the numerous letters exchanged between them over a long life together Joyce makes reference to that first date in Ringsend and Ringsend Park in many of them.

The 15-spot Historical Walking Tour with guest appearances from Leopold Bloom and Molly Bloom along the way will assemble at 2.15 at Grand Canal Dock (Red Poles). The 15 venues (chosen by online poll) and their history will be narrated by Cormac Lowth.

For Pensioners and disabled a bus will be provided for the tour and will leave from Ringsend and Irishtown Community Centre on Thorncastle Street. The bus will return to St Matthews Church in Irishtown where an official guide of the Graveyard there will be undertaken. Everybody is welcome to all the events and we also invite people to wear any bit of that Joycean era clothing if at all possible. It promises to be a great Community Day for Ringsend and Irishtown. It is as if Joyce himself, on the centenary of the publication of Ulysses, has called upon us to celebrate the place where he met his one true love who influenced him to write his most famous book. May I speak through the ghosts of James Joyce and Nora Barnacle to say….”Thank You Ringsend”