(IRISH INDEPENDENT, April 10th, 2015)
They say Rathmines never sleeps and anyone who has ever spent time in Dublin has a late teens/early 20s Rathmines story from that freewheeling segment of their lives. Usually involving an early morning shamble home in yesterday’s clothes after a mellow evening of chat and catch-up in Slatterys pub had somehow melted into a night of carousing and kebabs that – if you were lucky – included a bleary-eyed snog amid the half drank cans at some stranger’s bedsit ‘party’.
But, as you traipsed homewards along Rathmines Road, you raised bleary eyes in the morning light to take in some of the sights that make Rathmines such an interesting, sometimes even an arresting place; the three-storey Carnegie Library on the corner of Leinster Road, built in 1913; Sir Thomas Drew’s imperious red Dumfries sandstone and brick town hall (now Rathmines College); its landmark four-faced clock tower.
Within walking distance of Dublin City Centre, Rathmines stretches south to the Grand Canal at Portobello, across to Ranelagh in the east, with Harold’s Cross to the west and Rathgar to the north. The backdrop of the Dublin mountains frames it all.
St Louis infants and primary school is there, with its popular sports and leisure complex, incorporating a modern swimming pool. Up the way is St Mary’s junior and senior boys’ school, where Jonathan Sexton and Tony Ward before him kicked endless conversions through the posts of the front field with the renowned school rugby team.
Then, just discernible, is Cathal Brugha Barracks, a modern day fort in a place which derives its name from the Irish Rath Maonais, meaning ring fort of de Meones, the Norman lord who built a fort there in the 13th century.
Across the road is the prominent green copper dome of, to give it its full title, the Mary Immaculate, Refuge of Sinners, Catholic Church with its Russian Orthodox dome, built in Glasgow, destined for Russia and mothballed in 1917 after Lenin’s lot made God obsolete.
It was acquired by the parish at a knockdown price after the original Rathmines church roof was destroyed in a fire.
Rathmines has history in buckets, taking in the usual Civil War and War of Independence scraps and skirmishes. Why, there was even a Battle of Rathmines, in 1649, between Cromwell’s Parliamentarians, who held the city, and the Royalists, camped in Rathmines, who planned to take it back. The battle, in which 5,000 perished, gave its name to the Bleeding Horse bar just over the canal on the way into town – an injured horse from the battle is said to have wandered into a tavern there for a drink.
The past is always present in Rathmines, but your modern odyssey will also take in shops offering vintage clothes and antiques, like the eclectic must see 3rd Policeman or the Irish Cancer Shop, both on Lower Rathmines Road.
Rathmines is what you make it, or what it has made you. It’s where you found yourself living when you came to Dublin to join the Civil Service or any of the low to mid-ranking professions, and never left.
Or, it’s where you spent your college years drinking and thinking; or it’s where you grew up, went to school, you had your first pint in the Concorde or Streets, now Rody Bolands, a late 19th century pub transported lock, stock and porter barrel from Nenagh, Co Tipperary.
There’s a McDonald’s and a Cafe Kylemore, but there’s also an array of Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian and eastern European restaurants to chose from.
Rathmines has a real main street, with its own shopping centre, The Swan, which also houses an Omniplex cinema, a fine 1930s style post office and public library, schools for all ages and a college of further education (Rathmines College).
And it’s got soul – where else would you find the likes of Abner Browns, a barber shop that doubles as a gig venue, and recently welcomed REM lead man Michael Stipe, who dropped in on a tourism visit?
In the last 10 years or so, the housing landscape has changed in Rathmines, with a large number of the red-brick houses converted back from the bedsits and flats we all remember to the splendid piles they originally were.
So it’s been gentrified, but only in a random, Rathmines kind of way. It’s still trendy, tatty, occasionally beautiful, but never boring.
As well as the many pubs, restaurants and eateries, there are many of the clubs and societies that give Rathmines its genuine community feel, including a musical society, a writers’ group, a local history group and many others. The MART multi platform arts group has taken over the old fire station building and operates a range of cultural events.
There are vibrant, active retirement groups and a Rathmines Older People’s Network. The Rathmines Pembroke Community Partnership offers a range of services to the less-advantaged, and there are active community groups including Gateway Mental Health Project.
Shopping: There is an Aldi and a Lidl, of course, and the Swan Centre has the usual pharmacy, furniture, food shops and newsagents, but it also has health food emporiums and The House of Tea, where you can choose from 120 varieties.
Clegg’s cobblers on Rathmines Road goes back several generations in the family. The 3rd Policeman is a trendy olde worlde curios shop with a stylish edge, which sources many items from French flea marts.
The Beechwood stop on the Green Luas line is the nearest stop for most amenities in Rathmines. Dublin Bus routes 14, 14A, 15, 15A, 15B, 15E, 15F, 18, 65, 65B, 74, 74A, 83, 140 and 142 connect Rathmines with the city centre. It is also served by Nitelink 15N and 49N.
St Mary’s College (C.S.Sp,), the all-boys primary and secondary schools; St Louis Primary School; Kildare Place National School, on the grounds of the Church of Ireland College of Education, is a Church of Ireland sponsored primary school.
Rathmines College offers courses in Business, Journalism, Office Administration, Accountancy, IT, Liberal Arts, English Language and more.
Essentially, it’s high end and then there’s apartments; there’s no real in between, says Ronan O’Malley of Sherry FitzGerald.
While there are many red-brick terraces in the back lanes, these also tend to have higher end prices. There’s a wealth of fine red-brick mansions in places like Palmerstown Road and Park, Temple Villas, Cowper Road and Ormond Road.
Many old bedsits have been reconverted into large houses, and it’s not unusual to go over the €1m mark. O’Malley has a property on Belgrave Square going on the market for €1.4m. Buildings formerly in flats are also going to auction at cheaper guides. A period home with five units at 104 Leinster Road is scheduled for this month’s Allsop auction with a reserve of €475,000.
Apartments are plentiful, confirms Darragh O’Connor, of REA Grimes, and these would be much more affordable for the first-time buyer.