East is East, and West is West, Dun Laoghaire’s magic piers. Part 1.

Another in the current orgy, of seaside-related posts.  I can not help it.  It is summer after all.  And it was A Spectacular day today, blazing with sunshine.  Very un-Irish, although we appreciate it more than anyone else in the world, and the town and country alike always look their beautiful best.

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Yes, sunshine.  Was bathing in the stuff, literally, in my little city-centre garden.   Nursing the effects on too much Saturday night hospitality, at Stinging Fly’s nice birthday bash the previous night in the Clarence Hotel, during Dublin’s Writers Festival.  (Music by Larry Beau and other contemporary greats)    I was happy enough in my garden, until the call of family came, and a Sunday walk with my mother beckoned,  down Dun Laoghaire’s piers.

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I put away the sun lounger and the FT, and hopped in the trusty steed.

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We met here, at this rather excellent garden centre, cramped with beautiful well tended plants and flowers and herbs, and all maner of delicious garden accessories.    Oh all right, My innate sense of personal probity dictates I’dhad better declare an interest here.  Admittedly it is owned by two of my very closest and dearest friends.   But dammit, I make no apologies for saying it’s still surely the best garden centre in the city.

From there we went down the West pier, popular with walkers, but often not as crowded as the East pier.

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Look at the masonry, built to last a thousand years.   And those wonderful rings of concentric circles that surround the sturdy little light house.    It is supposed to be practical, nautical and hardy.  Did they have to make it so beautiful I wonder, or is that just an irresistible human urge?

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The door of the lighthouse has always been green, for Starboard of course,  as opposed to Red = Port.  You can see the red (port) light house on the East pier, in the distance here below.  We shall be walking this pier too soon, in our next post.

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I love every bit of cut stone in this place. Dun Laoghaire is the town I grew up in.  These great, giant granite piers formed the view from my teenaged bedroom.  We had a large, rather ramshackle but lovely old house, set on the gentle hill that rises up from the sea, high above the town centre.  We were exceptionally lucky, in that there was a large football pitch across the road from the house, so it enjoyed uninterrupted views,  down across the town and far out to sea, not just over Dun Laoghaire harbour, but on clear days, out as far as Sandycove on one side,  to the East and South;  and Howth Head the other direction, to the NW.    Well, I say lucky, I’m sure that was the reason my mother bought the place. But we were lucky nonetheless of course.

I don’t think I ever had curtains or blinds,  so the light from at least 5 or 6 different light houses and light markers used to sweep and rake across the walls of the room at night, light from the two at the end of our local piers, to the far more distant Bailey on Howth Head, the Burford bank more directly out East, and the even more remote but powerful Kish light. It has been many years since my mother sold the place, and I hadn’t thought about those nightly beams of light, until very recently.  Life is full and rushing forward, and one always tries look forward anyway, not back.   But I am sure such things leave their own form of imprint.

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map of main Dublin Bat light houses, courtesy of the Sailing in Your Footsteps website.

My cousin Donald Henderson, who just died some weeks ago, worked for the Irish Lights Commission all his life, manning the ships that serviced the light houses.  He was decorated once, for aiding a man who was cut down on deck during a vicious storm, risking his life to save he man.   Rest in Peace Donald.   His father, my great Uncle David Henderson, was a captain in the Irish merchant marine.  He was torpedoed twice in one night once, escorting convoys across the Atlantic during the Second World War.  When i was a nipper my parents used to sail, Fireballs mostly,  out of the SC in Greystones, then later the National, in Dun Laoghaire, as i later did myself in dinghies like Mirrors and Optimists.  After a long absence, I’m doing a bit more sailing again these days.  (Mike, if you are reading this, can we get White Morning down the Med, please?)   Either way, it’s safe to say i like the sea.

Anyway, excuse the rambling digressions.   (That’s probably too much sun for you, and this nice glass of Powers here )   On to the East Pier, more popular, but no less lovely for it.

Even the walk from West to East pier is a pleasure, below we see the Town Hall; and lower, the rather awkward but well-meaning plaza (ghastly word) outside the new ferry terminal.

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This terminal by the way, is currently hosting an exhibition called Endurance, about the famous ship of that name, captained by the great Edwardian-era Ernest Shackleton, which set out just before WWI, an event the crew, stranded at the extreme end of the world, were blissfully unaware of !    Most Irish people know a good bit about this trip.   Tom Creen, the west Kerry man is a re-discovered hero, and  Shakleton was a Kildare man.  Sure, wasn’t his brother suspected –  (rightly or wrongly, I can never remember)  of stealing the Crown Jewels out of Dublin Castle?

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Anyway, the expedition E.S.  led to Antartica, the so-called Trans-Polar expedition, which was meant to transverse the South Pole by foot, sled and dog, but they got trapped, with the ship crushed in the ice and never got anywhere near the Pole.   Yet they turned so-called failure into epic triumph, Shakleton getting all his men back alive after God knows how many years and months and hardships.   I know the story well enough, but mean to go to this exhibition soon before it closes.  For one thing, if the photographs are what I think they are,  they will be amazing, The most famous images of this legendary  1914-1916 voyage  were taken by the expedition photographer,  the brilliant New Zealander,  Frank Hurley.

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Frank Hurley Endurance photos, courtesy Wikipedia.

Anyway, I digress again.  In fact to hell with it, I am going to digress once more, to pay a little visit to this sea-side memorial, commemorating the visit of some vapid royal, in pre-Independence times.  But it is nice.   Look at this…

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Gets even better up close.   Look, for example, at this prancing horse, erm.. motif..

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It even has owls.   Yes, owls.   I could tell you a story about those owls, but I won’t.   But is this memorial a thing of beauty, or unforgivable kitch?    Perhaps we should leave a full and frank discussion of all that, and indeed part II of our tour of the piers, for another day.

In next post’s exciting installment, we shall walk the East pier, home of bandstands, weather stations, Beckett memoria, and much, much more.  (I should have been an advertising copywriter, no?)

In the meanwhile, I leave you with this, almost Byzantine image.   Good night.

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11 thoughts on “East is East, and West is West, Dun Laoghaire’s magic piers. Part 1.

  1. I, for one, will never tire of seaside posts and pictures — love the sea!…There’s something magical about a sea / ocean view, especially in brilliant sunshine. I’m a huge Shakleton fan as well — it’s a pity I’ll miss the Endurance exhibition. The photos must be amazing.

    1. Many thanks. Yes, I haven’t been yet myself to that exhibitions, (worried i’m going to miss it, life is very full at present) but if the photos are prints of those originals by Frank Hurley, and if the quality of printing is any good, they will be stunning. He had a real eye for a sense of the dramatic, the epic, and the heroic, and he worked very hard, in incredibly difficult & harsh conditions of course, to get all that across. His pictures obviously, are forever, indelibly, associated with the whole voyage, and indeed are what give it (& Creen, and Shackleton etc) a face. If history is really narrative, then I suppose Hurley was and is, a history-maker, no less.

  2. Shackleton… Frank Hurley also made a movie(Documentary)* relating to the voyage it is called South and was released in 1919… Well worth a look
    *The word documentary did not exist in 1919

    1. Thank you, I shall have a look out for that, sounds amazing, he was incredibly talented as we know. South, eh? Where did you manage to find it? I also like the fact the word “documentary” didn’t exist in 1919. I wonder who was the first to use it, and what they called them before they had the word.

  3. I didn’t realize you grew up in Dun Laoghaire. No wonder you’re so fond of the sea. I envy the view you must have had from your bedroom window. And RIP to your cousin Donald.

    1. Hi M. Weebles, delighted to see you. Yes, I am a Dun Laoghaire lad. Sounds like you’ve been, it’s nice isn’t it?

      And you’re right, I was spoilt-rotten with that view, across the whole of Dublin bay. The light from each lighthouse was a different, distinctive type and brightness, some bluer, some warmer, and of course, they all had a different rhythm too. I remember lying in bed at night, trying to predict which light would through the window and sweep across the walls next.

      But, you know, with 5 or 6 variables, it was more or less impossible, effectively a chaotic system; you’d need to be some sort of computer genius (and able to write a sort of algorithm or something.) Was slightly maddening, I seem to recall.

      Nonetheless, when our mum sold the house, my sister & I were needless to say, inconsolable! It was a wonderful old place. She has style, my mum, I’ll give her that. 🙂

  4. Reminded me of the times I spent during summer holidays with my aunt in Tivoli terrace east. In the 50s. Saw all those emigrants leaving, some never to return. SAD.

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