Home > The Political Wing, Uncategorized > Exploring 2km from home and some family history

Exploring 2km from home and some family history

On Tuesday 5 May I’ll be released from my #2kmfromhome zone into the #5kmfromhome zone. I’ve been content to stick within the 2km zone since the rules came in, as we all know they are for a very good reason. I’ve enjoyed exploring the good – including some family history – and I suppose the bad of the area I live in during the lockdown as I reflect on the last number of weeks.

I feel lucky living in The Liberties being close to Dublin’s city centre with plenty of history, street art and sunsets over the canal to take photos of during exercise taken all within 2km from my home. It is nice to see neighbours – while social distancing – out chatting as they sit on their stoops or on a kitchen chair at their front door. There are plenty of signs and pictures in the windows supporting the frontline workers.

However, the lack of green space in the city centre has become even more apparent since the restrictions came in and I couldn’t use my usual running route through the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, and beyond 2km to the War Memorial Gardens and on into the Phoenix Park. The closing of the Royal Hospital annoyed me until it was pointed out that the OPW were facilitating the area close to James’ Hospital for a morgue to deal with the covid-19 crisis.

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So my recent running routes a couple of times a week have been north to Grangegorman or along the canal to the south. Running east into the city centre in the evenings hasn’t been too enjoyable due to the bizarre atmosphere on the deserted Dublin Streets. Many shops are boarded up or their stock removed from the premises. Those on the streets are typically Gardai, Deliveroo “staff” and people whose homes are those streets.

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The fact there are so many homeless people isn’t a COVID19 issue, but reflects the Ireland that we live in and how successive governments haven’t managed to solve this issue and the overall housing crisis. The global pandemic has wrought so much grief but has given us things that we should always have had – a single tier health service, proper rent control and finally a contraflow bike lane on Nassau Street. It didn’t need a global pandemic for us to get these things or to reaffirm that Air BnB properties were sucking the life out of the rental market in the city.

My favourite place for an evening run or walk is through the Tenters with its picturesque housing built in in the late 1910s and early 1920s. The houses were built by the Dublin Corporation in response to a housing crisis in the city at the time. Following the collapse of tenement buildings on Church Street – a tragic event which saw seven people killed and hundreds left homeless – the subsequent public inquiry highlighted the horrific housing conditions in Dublin at the time.

There is a stone marking the entrance to the area erected that reflects the history of this part of Dublin where the Huguenots, escaping religious persecution in France, settled in and set up an industrial zone for weaving.

“This area is known as the tenters, because linen cloth was stretched out on tenterhooks to bleach in the sun. When the linen trade failed, the fields were used for market gardens.”

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The fields are long gone, replaced by a lovely mix of houses including some picturesque red brick, two up-two down houses along Danore Road and Hamilton Street. I’ve taken to running down the latter road in particular as it was where my great grandfather lived. Padraig Breathnach worked for Elliots as a weaver in an industry that employed as many as 5,000 people in the early 1800s but when higher taxes were imposed from London the industry declined. By the 1900s there few looms working in the area and my great grandfather became known as last silk weaver in The Liberties working on a loom downstairs in his house on Hamilton street.

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I’m told he used to travel from the area over to Grangegorman to gather the silk from the mulberry bushes for his weaving so it seems I’ve been following in my great grandfather’s footsteps over the last few weeks as I’ve ventured from the Liberties across the Liffey and into Grangegorman and back.

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