(IRISH INDEPENDENT, November 13th, 2015)
Glasnevin, just north of the Liffey in Dublin city, is where the living acres of the National Botanic Gardens meet the dead concrete fields of Prospect Cemetery, better known as Glasnevin Cemetery.
With the recent reopening of the gate between the two on the Prospect Square side of the necropolis one can pass once again from the land of a million living plants, shrubs and cultivars into the cultivated avenues and tombs which contain the one million-plus deceased of Dublin … from the feted and the ill-fated to the great uncelebrated.
And learn about many of them in the fascinating museum near the main entrance on Finglas Road or on one of their celebrated guided tours.
They are recruiting tour guides right now, as preparations gather pace for the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. Many of the famous people associated with 1916, and many of the great events in modern Irish history, are buried here, including Patrick Pearse, Eamon de Valera, Michael Collins, Countess Constance Markievicz, and the graveyard’s flounder, Daniel O’Connell.
Now leafy and largely middle-class residential, with fine parklands, good schools and also the seat of Dublin City University, Glasnevin has a long and interesting history.
The name comes from the Irish Glas Naoin, Glas meaning river, in this case the Tolka River which runs through the village, and Naíon, a chieftain who established ownership of the area some time before the arrival of the Normans.
Founded in the sixth century around the monastery of St Mobhi on the northern bank of the Tolka, it was the property of Christ Church Cathedral under Laurence O’Toole, divided and parcelled out by the Normans, and endured the confiscations and deprivations of the 16th and 17th century Plantations.
By the 18th century it had become a fashionable area for the prosperous and the literary. The 19th century brought the establishment of the Botanic Gardens and Ireland’s largest and most famous cemetery. For for the remainder of the century, Glasnevin retained its “pastoral nature” and it was spared the extensive housing that took place over Dublin’s southside.
In 1901, Glasnevin became incorporated in Dublin City and developed into the modern red-brick suburb we know today.
The best known roads would be Griffith Avenue, which runs through to Drumcondra and Marino and is reputed to be the longest tree-lined avenue in the Northern Hemisphere with no retail outlets, and Iona Road, with its beautiful bay-windowed red-brick Alexander Strain build houses.
Glasnevin is bordered to the north by Finglas, to the northeast by Ballymun and Santry; with Whitehall to the east, Phibsboro and Drumcondra to the south and Cabra to the west. One might point out there is no such place as Glasnevin North. This address, as fictitious as the Lypton Village invented by Bono and his friends in their nearby Finglas youth, is of relatively recent provenance, as parts that were once in Finglas, Ballygall, and even Whitehall have mysteriously shifted across to Glasnevin.
Glasnevin residents are lucky to have the gorgeous 7.5 acre Griffith Park, off Millmount Avenue. This gem is divided by the Tolka, where usually there are hungry ducks to feed, and toddlers eager to feed them. The excellent playground, in the middle of the park, is quite big and well-equipped.
Another Glasnevin landmark is the distinctive flattened pyramid-shaped Met Eireann office, built in 1975. The pyramid theme is continued in the nearby Our Lady of Dolores Catholic Church.
Food and drink
Glasnevin has some really nice eateries and pubs.
Andersons Food Hall & Cafe, on The Rise, off Griffith Avenue, is a popular continental style cafe/wine bar, encompassing a gourmet food store and wine shop. The coffee is great and it is a great place to meet over a nice plate of charcuterie or homemade desserts and pastries. They also host regular gigs, usually jazz.
The Washerwoman, on Glasnevin Hill, where local women would congregate with their mangles and tubs to wash their clothes in the Tolka, and dish the dirt on their neighbours, no doubt, is the suburban sister of restaurateur Elaine Murphy’s Winding Stair and Woollen Mills restaurants. Here you will get real, proper, aged steak (from Pat McLoughlin’s, the craft butchers).
The Dall’Italiano, on Hart’s Corner, does a mean beef cannelloni and great coffee. It is an informal trattoria-style restaurant.
One off Dublin city’s most famous pubs is John Kavanagh’s, known to all as the Gravediggers, beside the old Glasnevin Cemetery entrance on Prospect Square, which has been run by eight generations of the Kavanagh family. The 19th-century charm of this pub has been maintained by the banning of televisions, radio and piped music.
The pub’s nickname derives from the gravediggers in the cemetery next door tapping on the side wall of the bar for a pint of plain on a break from their labours.
McMahons, on Botanic Avenue does decent sandwiches, and daily specials might include things like beef short-rib with homemade horseradish creme.
The Tolka House, on Glasnevin Hill, is another institution and the Tolka Sunday Sessions are always popular.
The Brian Boru, on Prospect Road, is a great spot for a quiet drink or a bit of food, while
Matt Weldon’s, aka The Slipper, on Ballymun Road, is always quite busy during the week with a mix of DCU students and locals.
On the sporting plane, most notable are those powerhouses of Dublin GAA football, Na Fianna, on Mobhi Road, and the Dublin soccer institution that is Home Farm, who play their matches at Albert College and St Mobhi Road.
Botanic Hockey Club is a women-only hockey club, which uses the fine astro pitch belonging to the St Mary’s Holy Faith school, on Clare Road.
DCU is expanding rapidly. By 2016 it will fully incorporate St Patrick’s College, Mater Dei Institute of Education and Church of Ireland College of Education and will have three campuses on the northside of Dublin. Student life is vibrant, with more than 190 clubs and societies. DCU is also home to the Helix theatre, which hosts a variety of music and theatre events, along with The Voice of Ireland.
Primary schools serving Glasnevin include the all-girls Catholic St Brigid’s, on the Old Finglas Road; Glasnevin Educate Together, on Church Avenue; and the Church of Ireland mixed Glasnevin National School, on Botanic Avenue, which Bono attended.
Scoil Mobhí, on Mobhi Road is a gael scoil, and it feeds the adjoining Scoil Chaitriona secondary school
Other notable secondary school include St Mary’s Holy Faith, on the Old Finglas Road, and St Vincent’s , also on the Finglas Road.
According to Fiona McGowan, of Mason Estates, the market has definitely slowed around Glasnevin, as a result of the Central Bank caps, especially in the mid-range €300,000 to €500,000 bracket and she predicts a 2% fall in house prices from this time last year.
At the higher end, large properties on Iona Road would fetch over €800,000, while on the newer but still solid Cremore Road, or Cremore Drive, it would not be unusual to go over the million euro mark. Closer to Finglas, and areas bordering Glasnevin to the north, prices fall dramatically, and in the likes of Addison Park, a three-bed semi would go for around €300,000, depending. There is not much available below that, McGowan says.
Lisney is looking for €325,000 for the two-bedroomed terraced 47 Tolka Estate; MoveHome.ie has the five-bedroomed semi detached114 Sycamore Road at €575,000; and Mason Estates has priced the 5-bedroomed property at 62 Iona Road at €925,000
- Proximity to city centre
- Good schools, parks and amenities
- Attractive leafy roads
- Houses prices, either buying or renting
- Glasnevin North wannabes
- Guff about 1916 celebrations only warming up
— Enda Sheppard