Thursday, May 01, 2014


Brendan Teeling
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The occasion was the launching of the book Dublin - The Making of a Capital City by David Dickson, Professor of Modern History at TCD. The book is a magnum opus and draws heavily on the work of those who went before. It covers a thousand years of the Capital's history, from the Viking era to the Spire, of which more later.

The master of ceremonies was Deputy City Librarian, Brendan Teeling, last seen on my website at Raheny library's fortieth anniversary celebration.

He teed it up nicely for Dermot Lacey who was launching the book on behalf of the Lord Mayor.

Dermot Lacey

Dermot is a member of Dublin City Council and a himself former Lord Mayor. Not only does he have a great love for Dublin city, but, unlike many another launcher, he had actually read the book he was launching, all 700 pages of it.

In the course of an erudite and humorous speech, he called on the Bank of Ireland to return its building on College Green to the State for use as a museum of Dublin. It is now bailout call in time. Not only was Dublin, until today, lacking this sort of overview survey history, it still lacks a proper museum of Dublin. It was made clear that this was not meant as any reflection on the wonderful Little Museum of Dublin on St. Stephen's Green.

Dermot also confessed to having mixed feelings about the Spire. He said that when asked what he thought of it he would throw the question back at the questioner. If they didn't like it he would tell them he voted against it at the time. If they did like it he would tell them that, as Lord Mayor, he inaugurated it.

Mary Daly

Mary Daly, Professor of History at UCD and currently the first woman president of the Royal Irish Academy in its 229 year history, paid tribute to the book, the first to cover such a period in the Capital's history in such a scholarly and readable manner. She felt that only David Dickson could have produced such a work.

David Dickson

David Dickson made the point that the book could not have been produced without the access to sources provided by the digital age, and without the work that went before him on which he drew massively.

I note that he remarks, on page 562, regarding the Spire, that "Certainly its scale served to diminish the verticality of O'Connell Street". That gave me great encouragement as it is a point I have been making about both the Spire and its predecessor, the Pillar, for many a year. I can still remember being amazed at how majestic a building the GPO was revealed as in the immediate aftermath of the demolition of Nelson's Pillar in 1966, and how much wider O'Connell Street looked in its absence. It might have been a fitting gesture, in this 1916 centenary year, to have demolished the Spire, a monument to Celtic Tiger hubris and an insult to the leaders of the Rising, and to have restored the GPO to its rightful prominence. Those last bits are me talking and I have no idea whether they might be shared by David Dickson. Must ask him sometime.

The launch took place, appropriately enough, in the Dublin City Library and Archive in Pearse St. This venue has been developed over the years and is not only a research library, but it houses much of the City's archive and, in recent years, has acquired a fine lecture hall and exhibition space.

Needless to say, the speakers paid a handsome and well deserved tribute to what Dermot called "the two Marys", Máire Kennedy in charge on the library side and Mary Clarke on the archives. There's hardly a work of note relating to the city of Dublin, including the present book, which does not figure one or both of these generous scholars in the acknowledgements section.

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