(IRISH INDEPENDENT, May 29th, 2015)
When Dracula author Bram Stoker was an impressionable lad growing up on Dublin’s northside in the mid 19th century, Fairview Park did not exist. The winter sea would swell right up to Annesley Bridge, and could be heard and smelled from his bedroom window at 15 Marino Crescent in Fairview.
The area along the coast was murky, foggy and downright eerie, especially at night, according to cafe proprietor and part-time amateur historian Jimmy Bowler. It must have played some part in inspiring the dark vampire tales that would make Stoker’s name.
While Dublin City Council would reclaim a tidal mudflat used for landfill in the 1900s and fashion the 20-hectare Fairview Park, Kerry man Bowler is not keen on nearby Clontarf similarly reclaiming Stoker as one of their own. “Reclaim him?” asks Bowler, owner of Bram’s Cafe on St Aidan’s Park Road. “Sure, he never left. He was born in Fairview.”
Fairview (from the Irish “Fionnradharc”), in Dublin 3, is reached on a main road from Dublin city via North Strand. It is served by Clontarf Road DART station. Neighbouring districts include Marino to the north, North Strand and Ballybough to the west, East Wall to the south-west, and Clontarf to the east.
The area has a quirky history and there was much to fire Bram Stoker’s imagination. At the end of Ballybough Road was the Suicide Plot, an unconsecrated graveyard set aside for those who had taken their own lives – considered a great sin in those days. Many believed that, when buried, the corpses were staked through the heart to prevent their tormented souls troubling the locals.
Jimmy Bowler is also keen to publicise a documentary entitled Wheel of Fortune: The Story and Legacy of the Fairview Lion Tamer, which begins a run in the Irish Film Institute next month.
Made by local film-maker Joe Lee, it tells the story of Bill Stephens, the Fairview lion tamer, and of the fateful day in November 1951 when one of his lionesses escaped from its pen and prowled along Merville Avenue, mauling one man, before being shot and killed by a Garda marksman.
Lee believes the subsequent press attention made Stephens more daring. Just two years later, he was dead, killed by another of his lions, Pasha, as he showed his act to a talent scout.
The main commercial areas are Fairview, a busy road alongside Fairview Park, and Fairview Strand, a narrower commercial and residential strip running from Edge’s Corner (said to have inspired the U2 guitarist’s nom du guitar) to Luke Kelly Bridge, in Ballybough.
Fairview Strand was formerly known as Owen Roe Terrace and Philipsburgh Strand. Fairview Park is notable for its colourful seasonal bedding displays, playing fields, skateboard area, children’s playground and tree-lined walks.
The local Fairview Marino Business Association has been heavily involved in the now annual A Lark in the Park, a family day out that has been a great success.
The park also contains the controversial statue of local 1916 veteran and Republican bigwig Sean Russell, which has been unveiled twice since the original ceremony in September 1951 thanks to acts of vandalism, including a beheading in 2005.
Russell has the unique distinction of angering both right-wing anti-communists, because of a trip to Russia in the late 1920s to buy arms, and a left-wing anti-Nazi grouping responsible for him losing the head altogether, because of a similarly-inspired sojourn to Hitler’s Germany.
Another famous former resident is James Joyce, who lived at four different addresses locally between 1896 and 1901.
Notable sites include Ffolliott’s Crescent (later renamed Marino Crescent) – a row of tall Georgian houses directly opposite the beautiful Bram Stoker Park. They were built in a particular style in 1792 by said Ffolliott as a “hate fence” to block landowner Lord Charlemont’s view to the sea from his summer residence at Marino.
Nearby Croke Park ensures hostelries Smyth’s and Dubs’ haunt Gaffney’s, both on Fairview Strand, and Kavanagh’s, on the Malahide Road, are throbbing when Dublin are playing, but they are also good places for a drink anytime.
Kennedy’s Foot Store, on Fairview Strand, is a cafe, deli and catering service, and has been lauded several times by John and Sally McKenna in their good food guide.
It’s great for brunch and their home-made sausage rolls are fab. Jimmy Bowler’s Bram’s Cafe offers, he says, “delicious home-cooked food at value for money prices”. And Javaholics, on Merville Avenue, brews a nice cuppa and is a popular place for a chat.
Clontarf DART station and Dublin Bus bus service to and from centre, including 14, 15, 27/ABNX, 29A/N, 31/B, 32/ABX, 42/N and 130.
The best known is St Joseph’s CBS, on Merville Avenue, which celebrated 125 years open in 2013. It is a hotbed of GAA talent, feeding both the Dublin football team and the famous St Vincent’s club in nearby Marino. Past pupils include Kevin Heffernan and Des and Lar Foley.
Former taoisigh Charlie Haughey and John A Costello also went there. The school educates boys to Leaving Certificate-standard and boys and girls for the Repeat Leaving Certificate.
According to Mark Stafford of DNG, a 10 per cent fall in housing stock and pent-up demand has ensured prices have remained steady.
At the entry level, a two-bed apartment on Richmond Road, would set you back around €200,000. A mid-range three/four bed semi, on, for example, Melrose Road, would range between €300,000 and €400,000. High-end homes would fetch more than €600,000.
Kelly Bradshaw Dalton is seeking €295,000 for 3 Merville Villas, a three-bed mid terrace with bay window, while DNG has opened 26 Annadale Drive, a three-bed end-of-terrace, at €395,000. And Corry Estates is looking after 15 Inverness Road, a two-storey over garden-level period property laid out in three apartments, on offer for €520,000.