Rathmines and Beyond: A Literary Heritage

Rathmines Library, front facadeDublin’s status as a literary city was recognised in 2010 by its designation as a UNESCO City of Literature. Rathmines and its surrounding areas could make a convincing argument for being the most literary quarter of our literary city. Birthplace of James Joyce, born at a time when Rathmines’ image was solid, bourgeois and red-brick, the township changed over time, so that by the early 20th century it had become a positive hotbed of political activists and creative types. As the century progressed, its large houses were divided into separate units - "flatland" came into being, and Rathmines became the first stop for many young people moving from the countryside into Dublin. This trend was discontinued in the early 21st century, but throughout all these changes, the area remained home to a wide range of journalists and novelists, poets and playwrights, writers’ groups and reading clubs, with its fine library very much at the heart of this literary activity.

Right: The facade of Rathmines Public Library, opened on the 24th October, 1913.
(Architectural and other information about the building).  

 

The map below indicates the approximate locations where these literary figures lived or hailed from. Select a place marker and be presented with some brief information about a relevant literary figure; then follow the hyperlink to more detailed information. Alternatively, select from the list below the map.


View Rathmines Writers in a larger map

Annie M. P. Smithson

Nora Connor by Annie M.P. Smithson1873 – 1948

12 Richmond Hill

Born in Dublin, Annie M.P. Smithson trained as a nurse in Britain and worked in Down before returning to Dublin where she became a fervent Nationalist and a member of Cumann na mBan. After the Treaty she was arrested for nursing Republicans and she was also heavily involved in the Irish Nurses Organisation. Smithson published journal articles but is best known for her romantic novels which have a strong Nationalist tone. Her first novel was published in 1917 and she kept writing up until the time of her death. In all she published 16 novels and an autobiography.

 

Browse a list of Annie M.P. Smithson titles in the library catalogue.

Anthony Cronin and Anne Haverty

The Life of Riley by Anthony CroninAnthony Cronin (1928 - )

Ranelagh

Anthony Cronin was born in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, but has spent much of his life in Dublin. He is a poet, a novelist and a critic and was artistic advisor to the governments during the 1980s. During this period he also became a founding member of Aosdana, established to honour those artists whose work has made an outstanding contribution to the arts in Ireland, and to encourage and assist members in devoting their energies fully to their art. His early comic semi-autobiographical novel, The Life of Riley is set against the background of the literary world of Dublin in mid-20th century, while his later memoir Dead as Doornails,re-visits the same period in a more serious vein. He is married to the writer Anne Haverty.

Browse a list of Anthony Cronin titles in the library catalogue.

The Free and Easy by Anne Havertty

Anne Haverty (1959 - )

Anne Haverty is a novelist, script writer, reviewer and poet. Born in Tipperary, her first novel One Day as a Tiger won the Rooney Prize for literature. She is also the author of a biography of Constance Markievicz and a collection of poetry, The Beauty of the Moon. Her most recent novel is The Free and Easy, which takes a satiric look at the Ireland of the Celtic Tiger and was published in 2006.

She lives in Ranelagh with her husband, the writer Anthony Cronin.

 

Browse a list of Anne Haverty titles in the library catalogue.

Conor Cruise O'Brien

 My Life and Times. Conor Cruise O'Brien1917 – 2008

Politican and journalist, Conor Cruise O’Brien is as much remembered for his iconoclastic views as for his writings. He was born in Rathmines but spent much of his later life out of Ireland. An MEP for Ireland in 1973, he became Minister for Posts and Telegraphs in the later 1970s. His views, always trenchantly expressed, moved from the Left to the Right during his later years, and he was an out-spoken critic of militant Republicanism during the period of the Troubles. He was author of Section 21 of the Broadcasting Act, which banned interviews with members of Sinn Fein or the IRA. He had left politics by the late 1970s and between 1979 and 1981 he was Editor-in-Chief of the Observer newspaper. His many publications include works on Parnell, Camus, Edmund Burke and Thomas Jefferson.

Browse a list of titles by Conor Cruise O'Brien in the library catalogue.
 

Darrell Figgis

Darrell Figgis1882 – 1925

Palmerstown Park

A prolific propagandist on behalf of his Nationalist ideals, Darrell Figgis was born in Palmerstown Park in Rathmines in 1882, the son of a tea merchant, who shortly afterwards moved the family to Ceylon. Figgis began his career in the family business but left this work after the publication of his first volume of poetry in 1909. In addition to poetry, Figgis published plays, novels and critical studies, but in later life his work became highly politicised and from 1914 he was actively involved in Republican military activity. Between 1916 and 1919 he spent much time in jail, but after the Treaty he was heavily involved in the drafting of the 1922 Constitution. He stood for election in 1922 and 1923. Figgis died in tragic circumstances in 1925, committing suicide in rooms he had rented in London.

 

Browse a list of titles by Darrell Figgis in the library catalogue.
 

David Marcus

Buried Memories by David Marcus1924 – 2009

Rathgar

Born in Cork in 1924, David Marcus is best known as one of the most influential and sympathetic literary editors of late 20th century Ireland. However, he has also published a number of novels himself, some of them based on the history of the Jews in modern Ireland. He also wrote an autobiographical memoir which explored this heritage. He was married to the novelist Ita Daly and lived in Rathgar for most of his later life. During his career he produced a large number of short story anthologies, notably the series of Phoenix Irish Short Stories which were published on an annual basis between the years 1996 and 2003 and was also the editor of New Irish Writing Page in The Irish Press for many years.

Browse a list of titles by David Marcus in the library catalogue.

 

Dora Sigerson Shorter

Dora Sigerson1866 – 1918

17 Richmond Hill.

Dora Sigerson was the daughter of the scientist and Gaelic scholar George Sigerson and spent the first years of her childhood at 17 Richmond Hill. She wrote a number of volumes of poetry and is especially well known for her ballads, particularly the poem written in commemoration of executed leaders of the 1916 Rising, Sixteen Dead Men. She was also the designer of the 1916 memorial in Glasnevin cemetery. After her marriage to Clement K. Shorter she moved to London, where she died in 1918.

 

View titles by Dora Sigerson in the library catalogue.
 

Eamonn Mac Thomáis

The Labour and the Royal. Eamonn Mac Thomáis 1927 – 2007

Fire Station, Rathmines Road.

A writer more closely associated with the Liberties area of Dublin, Eamonn Mac Thomáis was in fact born above Rathmines Fire Station, where his father was a Fire Brigade Officer. His father died when he was five and the family moved to Goldenbridge. A Republican activist, he was also a best-selling author with his series of books of Dublin reminiscences, which recorded the sayings, stories, customs and characters of the inner city.

Browse a list of titles by Eamonn Mac Thomáis in the library catalogue.
 

Edward and Christine Pakenham

Yahoo: A tragedy in three Acts by the Earl of LongfordEdward Pakenham (1902 – 1961)

Christine Pakenham (1900 – 1980)

Leinster Road

Both writers and both staunch supporters of theatre in Ireland, the Longfords kept a house in Leinster Road in addition to the ancestral estate in Co. Westmeath. Their early involvement with the Gate Theatre ended in acrimony and the creation of The Longford Players, which produced many plays written by both husband and wife. Christine Pakenham's best known play is Tankardstown and Lord Longford's is Yahoo, a play based on the life of Jonathan Swift. Edward Pakenham also wrote poetry and Christine wrote several novels and a number of non-fiction works.

Browse a list of titles by Edward Pakenham in the library catalogue.


 

Ella Young

Portrait of Ella Young by Rose McMahon1867-1956

Grosvenor Square

Born in Co. Antrim, Ella Young moved to Dublin at a young age and initially lived in Rathmines in Grosvenor Square.  Her first book was Celtic Wonder Tales and she wrote a number of books for children as well as poetry in the Celtic Revival mode. A mystic and a Nationalist, Young spent terms of imprisonment in Mountjoy for her Republican sympathies and left Ireland in 1925, disillusioned by the Civil War. She lectured in Berkeley University in California for a number of years and died in California in 1956.

Browse a list of titles by Ella Young in the library catalogue.

 

Evelyn Conlon

A Glassful of Letters by Evelyn ConlonRathmines

Short story writer and novelist Evelyn Conlon was born in Co. Monaghan but has lived in Rathmines for a number of years. She had her first collection of stories published in 1987 and has continued to publish collections on a regular basis. She has also published three novels. She has also worked as an editor and as writer-in–residence in Dublin City Libraries and in a number of other counties in Ireland. She is known as a politically engaged writer and casts a sometimes acerbic eye on female experience in the Ireland of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. 

Browse a list of titles by Evelyn Conlon in the library catalogue.

 

 

 

 

Francis Sheehy Skeffington

Speech from the Dock1878 – 1916

11 Grosvenor Place.

Born in County Cavan, Francis Skeffington was educated in Dublin, where he met his wife to be, Hanna Sheehy, whose surname he adopted on marriage in conformity with his feminist principles. The couple shared other views considered unconventional at the time, including atheism, pacificism and an abhorrence for capital punishment. He and Hanna were co-founders of the Suffragist newspaper The Irish Citizen. His life was cut tragically short when he was arrested in April 1916 and executed under the orders of Captain John Bowen-Colthurst, although as a pacifist he had played absolutely no part in the Easter Rising.

Right: Speech from the Dock (click to view larger image)

View 'F. Sheehy Skeffington's speech from the dock, with a letter from George Bernard Shaw; eloquent defence of the rights of free speech' in the library catalogue.

George Russell

George Russell1867 – 1935

Rathgar Avenue

Born in Armagh, George Russell's family moved to Dublin in 1878 and Russell spent much of his boyhood in Grosvenor Square. He began his working life as a clerk but soon moved on to become the director of the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society.  He was for many years the editor of The Irish Homestead. Russell became better known under his pen –name AE and was a significant force in Irish cultural life from the 1890s right up until the 1930s. A mystic, an artist, a poet and a cultural commentator, AE was perhaps most important in the way he  encouraged young writers, introducing them to useful contacts and acting as nursemaid to the literary renaissance of the time. From 1898, he and his wife Violet held "at homes!" at their house in Mountpleasant Avenue and later at their home at 17 Rathgar Avenue.

Browse a list of titles by George Russell in the library catalogue.

Ita Daly

Ita DalyRathgar

Married to the writer David Marcus, Ita Daly is the author of a number of novels and two collections of short stories. She was born in Leitrim in 1945 and has lived in Dublin for most of her life. While much of Daly's work concentrates on individual female characters, their lives are seen in the context of the pressures of society and history. Her work has been praised for its lively style and careful depiction of its female protagonists, introspective and sometimes troubled, and very often haunted by their individual and family pasts.

Browse a list of titles by Ita Daly in the library catalogue.

 

 

James Joyce

Ulysses by James Joyce1882 – 1941

41 Brighton Square
23 Castlewood Avenue

Arguably Ireland’s greatest literary genius and a leading proponent of modernism in fiction,  James Joyce was born at 41 Brighton Square  and  spent his earliest years there and in Castlewood Avenue. But as the fortunes of the family declined, the Joyces moved to cheaper accommodation and Joyce was never again to live in Rathmines, leaving Ireland with Nora Barnacle in 1904. He was to spend the rest of his life in Italy and France, paying his last visit to Ireland in 1912. Despite this, he obsessively recorded the minute details of Dublin life in his great work Ulysses and the hero of the novel is considered to embody both the “Everyman” of the twentieth century and the archetypal Dubliner.

Browse a list of titles by James Joyce in the library catalogue.

James Plunkett

1920 - 2003Strumpet City by James Plunkett

25 Richmond Hill

The writer James Plunkett spent a number of years in the late 1940s and early 1950s living at 25 Richmond Hill and worked in the Gas Company in its Rathmines offices. He can however be claimed by a number of different Dublin locations, as he was born in Sandymount, lived in his later years in Terenure and ended his life in Co. Wicklow.

A short story writer, dramatist and writer for radio, Plunkett ( whose full name was James Plunkett Kelly) is best known for his novel Strumpet City, based on the Great Lockout of 1913. A book of great feeling, in it Plunkett drew on his Dublin background and the deep sense of indignation he felt at the plight of the working class of the city.

 

Browse a list of James Plunkett titles in the library catalogue.

John Mitchel

John Mitchel1815 – 1875

Ontario Terrace

Perhaps better known as a political activist than a writer, Mitchel's Jail Journal was to become the bible of many young men in the Irish Republican movement. His house at 8 Ontario Terrace was a centre of activity for the Young Ireland movement, and it was here he was arrested in 1848. As the editor of The United Irishman Mitchel was arrested for spreading sedition and the paper was suppressed. After their failed uprising Mitchel was transported to serve a 4 year jail term, initially in Bermuda and afterwards to Tasmania. He escaped from the colony in 1848 and spent much of the rest of his life in the United States. In 1875 he returned to Ireland and died that same year. While Mitchel wrote historical works he is best known for his journalism and his account of his imprisonment in 1848.

Browse a list of titles by John Mitchel in the library catalogue.

Lafcadio Hearn

Lafcadio Hearn1850 -1904

Rathmines

Born of an Irish father and Greek mother, Hearn spent much of his childhood in the home of his aunt Sarah Brenane in various locations around Rathmines. He lived in Leeson Street, Leinster Road and Prince Arthur Terrace before beginning a career marked by long-distance travel and a fascination with other cultures. From the age of 19 he lived in the United States, and wrote widely about New Orleans, but he is best known for the years he spent in Japan. In 1890 he moved to Japan and adopted the Japanes name Koizumi Yakimo. He is credited with introducing many Westerners to the life and culture of the Japanese, including their ghost stories, lyric forms, religion and customs. He is particularly noted with being one of the first Westerners to translate and appreciate the ancient Japanese form of the haiku.

Browse a list of titles by Lafcadio Hearn in the library catalogue.

Lee Dunne

Lee Dunne and Goodbye to the Hill book coverLee Dunne was born in 1934, and after early years working as a stage performer and barman/cabbie in London he had first and most successful novel Goodbye to the Hill published in 1965. A dramatised version was produced in 1978 and Dunne has written many radio scripts during his career. In Ireland, Goodbye to the Hill was a cause celebre of the time because of its explicit sexual content. The novel was also a harsh portrayal of the other side of leafy Rathmines – the squalor and poverty of the tenements of the “Hill” Lee Dunne is still writing and at one stage rejoiced in the title of the most banned author in Ireland, with his “cabbie” novel Midnight Cabbie becoming the last book to be banned by the infamous 1929 censorship act in 1976.

Browse a list of titles by Lee Dunne in the library catalogue.

MacDara Woods and Eilean Ni Chuilleanain

Stopping the Lights in RanelaghSelected Poems by Eiléan Ní ChuilleanáinRanelagh

One of the founders of the poetry magazine Cyphers, Ní Chuilleanáin was awarded the Patrick Kavanagh Award for her first collection of poetry, published in 1973. Her poems are noted for their use of history, mythology and religion in their themes and their sometimes elusive style. She is the daughter of the writer Eilís Dillon and is married to the poet MacDara Woods.

 

Original and international in tone and scope, MacDara Woods has also engaged with the local environment of Dublin streets and scenes. Woods was born in 1942 and has been a presence in the Irish poetry scene since the 1970s. With his wife, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and others, he was one of the founders of the poetry magazine Cyphers. 


Browse a list of titles by MacDara Woods in the library catalogue.

 

Browse a list of titles by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin in the library catalogue.

Maeve Brennan

Maeve Brennan1917 – 1993

Cherryfield Avenue

Born in Great Denmark Street, Brennan's family moved to 48 Cherryfield Avenue in 1921 and the Ranelagh area is the setting of almost half of this author's forty short stories. In 1934 she moved to New York with her family and after a spell of working for Harper’s Bazaar she began the connection with The New Yorker Magazine which continued until her death. During her lifetime she was perhaps best known for her column The Long-Winded Lady, but since her death there has been a new appreciation of her stories and the subtlety and sharpness of her sometimes acerbic powers of observation. Collections of her short stories and a novella, The Visitor were re-issued in the late 1990s.

Browse a list of titles by Maeve Brennan in the library catalogue.

 

Miriam Gallagher

The Gold of Tradaree by Miriam GallagherRanelagh

Born in Waterford, but a long time resident of Ranelagh, Miriam Gallagher is a playwright, novelist and screenwriter. She is the recipient of numerous awards for her work and has been translated into a number of languages and performed internationally. She has also been heavily involved in community and prison theatre and has served on the committee of the Irish section of PEN.

 

Browse a list of titles by Miriam Gallagher in the library catalogue.

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Padraic Colum

Padraic Colum1881 – 1972

Edenvale Avenue

Born in Longford, Colum came to Dublin with his family and quickly became part of the Gaelic Revival. He was initially successful as a playwright, having his first play performed in 1903, though in later life he became best known as a children's author and as a poet. He is the writer of such classic Irish pieces as The Old Woman of the Roads and She Moved through the Fair. His first collection of poems appeared in 1907. In 1914 he and his wife, who collaborated with him on some of his works, such as the 1958 memoir, Our Friend James Joyce, moved to America, where they became teachers of literature at Columbia University New York. He published a number of collections retelling folk-tales, not just Irish but also Scandinavian and Hawaian. In his later years he moved back to Ireland and after the death of his wife he lived with his sister at 11 Edenvale Avenue.

Browse a list of titles by Padraic Colum in the library catalogue.

Padraic Pearse

Padraic Pearse1879 – 1916

Cullenswood House, Ranelagh (St Enda's)

Republican, educationalist and writer, Pearse’s connection with the Rathmines/Ranelagh district was a brief but highly significant one. It was in Cullenswood House that he established the first St Enda's School for boys in 1908. In 1910 the school moved to larger premises in Rathfarnham, and Cullenswood became the location of the short-lived Irish Language Girl's School, St Ita's. It now houses a National School. St Enda's still exists today at its second location in Rathfarnham.  Pearse was a poet and short story writer who wrote in both Irish and English, and also the editor and founder of An Claideamh Soluis. He is now best know for his role as the leader of the 1916 Rising. Pearse was executed in Kilmainham Jail in May 1916.

Check availability of The Collected works of Padraic H Pearse in the library catalogue.

Paul Durcan

Life is a Dream: 40 years reading poetry by Paul DurcanBorn 1944

Dartmouth Square

Raised partly in Ranelagh and partly in Mayo, Paul Durcan published his first collection of poetry in 1975 and has been writing to critical acclaim ever since. He has been awarded both the Patrick Kavanagh Award and the 1990 Whitbread Prize (for his collection Daddy, Daddy). Many of his poems are set in Dublin and engage with current politics and society, sometimes to comic effect. But in addition to being a public poet, commenting on social institutions and mores, Durcan has also written a body of poetry dealing with more personal issues, and is a master of the lyrical as well as the satirical voice. 

 

Browse a list of titles by Paul Durcan in the library catalogue.

 

Rosamund Jacob

Rosamund Jacob: third person singular by Leann Lane1888 – 1960

Belgrave Square and Charleville Road

Born in Waterford, where she lived until 1920, Rosamund Jacob was a life-long activist for suffragist, republican and socialist causes and a writer of fiction. She is little known today. Her first novel was called Callaghan and was published in 1915, but she struggled to make a living from her writing. Her other publications include The Troubled House, based on the experience of Ireland's Civil War,  The Rebel's Wife, which was loosely based on the life of the wife of Henry Joy McCracken, and a children's book, The Raven's Glen, which was published just before her death. She lived in the Rathmines area from at least 1942, firstly in Belgrave Square. From 1950 she shared a house with her friend Lucy Kingston at 17 Charleville Road.  She died in 1960.

Browse a list of titles by Rosamund Jacobs in the library catalogue.

Seamus Deane

Reading in the Dark by Seamus DeaneOakley Road

Now living in the United States, where he is Keough Professor of Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame, Seamas Deane lived in Oakley Road while he taught in University College Dublin.  His novel Reading in the Dark was published 1996 to great acclaim. He is best known however, for his poetry collections and his considerable body of literary criticism, in particular his work as the General Editor of the Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing.

 

Browse a list of titles by Seamus Deane in the library catalogue.

 

Seumas O’Sullivan

The Dublin Magazine, December 19241879 – 1958

Rathmines Road

James Sullivan Starkey was born at 7 Charlston Avenue and the family pharmacy business operated for many years from 30 Rathmines Road. Like many others who embraced the ideals of the Celtic Twilight, Starkey decided to change his name to a more Gaelic-sounding version and took his maternal grandfather’s name, becoming Seumas O’Sullivan.  He also developed a deep dislike of the solid bourgeois values of Dublin 6 and its new red-brick buildings and hated his work in the Medical Hall with a passion. In 1905 his first collection of poetry was published and he continued to publish poetry and essays throughout his life, but he is perhaps best known as the founder and editor of the long-running  Dublin Magazine. In it, he published the early work of such writers as Patrick Kavanagh, Samuel Beckett, Austin Clarke and Mary Lavin. When O'Sullivan married the artist Estella Solomons in 1929 he moved to Rathfarnham and from that time onwards he never lived in Rathmines again.

Browse a list of titles by Seumus O'Sullivan in the library catalogue.

Stephen Gwynn

Stephen Gwynn1864 – 1950

Palmerston Road

Much of Stephen Gwynn's childhood was spent in Donegal, in a rural environment which laid the foundation for his affection for the Gaelic traditions of Ireland. A poet, a teacher and a nationalist he was MP for Raheny in 1904 and Regius Professor of Divinity at Trinity College Dublin. Gwynn had a particular interest in the 18th century and he wrote biographies of Walter Scott, Jonathan Swift and Horace Walpole. He also wrote historical works, books on fishing, travel and wine, and numerous essays. He died in 1950 at his house at 23 Palmerston Road.

 

Browse a list of titles by Stephen Gwynn in the library catalogue.

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Sydney Gifford Czira

The Years Flew By1889 – 1974

8 Temple Villas

Born Sydney Gifford, Sydney Czira was one of the large Gifford family. Her sisters included Grace Gifford Plunkett and Muriel Gifford Mc Donagh, the wives of two of the leaders who were executed after the 1916 Rising. Sydney, like her sisters, became passionately attached to the ideals of the Celtic Revival and romantic Nationalism. She wrote from an early age, publishing much of her work under the pseudonym John Brennan. In 1914 she moved to the USA where she continued her journalistic career and married a Hungarian, Arpad Czira. In 1922 she returned to Ireland and worked as a journalist and later as a broadcaster with the newly formed Irish broadcasting authority. She is best known for her volume of memoirs, The Years Flew By.

Browse a list of titles by Sydney Gifford Czira in the library catalogue.
 

Ulick O’Connor

The Ulick O'Connor Diaries 1970-1981Born 1928

Fairfield, Rathgar

Ulick O’Connor, writer, sportsman and raconteur, was born in the family home in Rathgar, in 1928, and lives there still. He studied Law and spent a period of time working as a barrister before becoming a full-time writer. He has published numerous works in the fields of poetry, biography, literary history and criticism and is also well-known for his skills as a broadcaster and journalist. O’Connor is an acknowledged expert on the period of the Celtic Revival and his book Celtic Dawn, dealing with this period was published to great acclaim in 1984. O’Connor published the first volume of his diaries in 2003, under the sub-title A Cavalier Irishman.

 

Browse a list of titles by Ulick O'Connor in the library catalogue.

William Carleton

William Carleton1794 – 1869

Woodville, Ranelagh

The son of a tenant farmer who received his early education in the hedge schools of Tyrone, Carleton was an unlikely candidate to become a best-selling novelist in Victorian England. In 1819 he came to Dublin with two shillings and sixpence in his pocket in the hope finding fame and fortune. Fame he achieved, writing for numerous literary magazines and publishing his first book, Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry in 1830. His novel of the famine, The Black Prophet is seen by many as the high point of his work, as in later years he sacrificed quality to quantity in an attempt to alleviate his numerous debts. He lived in Marino until 1853 and in 1854 moved to Rathgar Avenue. His last address was 2, Woodville in Ranelagh. Carleton’s work is considered important for his insider knowledge of the peasant life of Ireland, though he has been criticised for playing to the gallery in his sometimes stereotypical stage Irish characters.

Browse a list of titles by William Carleton in the library catalogue.