(IRISH INDEPENDENT, November 27th, 2015)


The distinctive triangular railed Sandymount Green park is at the heart of the prosperous Dublin city village of Sandymount

James Joyce, as we know, was a man of many parts. Of Dublin that is. Both in terms of the many places the peripatetic Joyce family lived in during the author’s formative years and those places associated with his great works of fiction. Like the southside suburban village of Sandymount.

At the opening of the third chapter of Ulysses we encounter Joyce’s literary alter ego Stephen Dedalus mid-thought and mid-stride on Sandymount Strand.  And later in the book Leopold Bloom finds himself sitting on rocks overlooking the strand observing a young woman, Gertie McDowell, and, let us say,  fantasises about her.

Continue reading


(IRISH INDEPENDENT, November 20th, 2015)


The famous Clock Tower monument in the centre of Enniskerry village

Christmas is coming and the goose is getting endomorphically challenged. Even down Wicklow way.

If have a penny, or a euro or two will do, the quaint old schoolhouse opposite the famous Clock Tower monument in the centre of Enniskerry will be hosting the village’s two-day annual Christmas Art Exhibition, starting on  November 27th.

There will be the usual wonky reupholstered armchairs, stain glass mirrors and scented candles, but you can actually hang one of your own paintings there for just €50 – and there is no commission if it is sold!

It would be as good a reason as any to visit this charming village just 24km south of Dublin city, set in the panoramic Glencree valley in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains. And overlooked by the distinctive Sugar Loaf mountain.

The Powerscourt Arms Hotel nearby will also be hosting some events and you can pop into the Parting Glass wine shop’s annual Festival Wine Fayre on the Friday in the Parochial Hall. Continue reading


(IRISH INDEPENDENT, September 18th, 2015)


In Norman times Wicklow Town was centred along Main Street which runs parallel to the natural harbour

Wicklow Town has a gaol and they know how to reuse it.

Reputed to be the most haunted in Ireland, Wicklow Gaol was a stone-walled hellhole from when it opened in 1704 to when the cell doors clanged shut for the last time in 1924. Captured rebels from the 1798 Rebellion were locked up here and if they didn’t die from the beatings or the awful food, they were transported on as convicts. If walls could talk … and some believe they do.

The sane and the insane, men and women, were thrown together in the most brutal conditions and their ghosts are said to still clank along its corridors at night. So, who you gonna call?

Well tomorrow night (*September 19th), the people who now run Wicklow Town goal as a heritage centre and host tours and even birthday parties there, with actors playing the roles of nasty warders and tormented inmates, have called in the real-life husband and wife ghosthunting team of Angie and Keith Freeland, and anyone willing to fork out €50 can stay here between 9pm and 3am. If there’s something weird and it don’t look good, it will be all in a paranormal night’s entertainment …

Continue reading

Let’s Move To TRIM

(IRISH INDEPENDENT, April 24th, 2015)

Trim castle

The 12th century Trim Castle is Europe’s largest Anglo-Norman castle

Okay, it would be hard to imagine Jonathan Swift, the Duke of Wellington and former All-Ireland medal-winning Meath full back Darren Fay in the same room – and even harder to imagine what they might talk about. Now Arthur Wellesley, the acknowledged military genius behind the defeat of Napoleon’s forces at Waterloo, could still learn a thing or two about defensive tactics from Fay, and maybe Swift could tap the towering defender for one of old manager Sean Boylan’s herbal remedies to tackle the chronic Mernieres disease that afflicted him.

But if the three ever did hook up, they would actually have common ground, in the shape of Trim.

Continue reading


(IRISH INDEPENDENT, June 5th, 2015)


Thomastown Mill on the banks of the River Nore

The old meitheal tradition (the old co-operative labour system in Ireland where groups of neighbours helpe each other in turn with farming work) whereby people in rural communities would band together for a common purpose is alive and very well in the lively market town of Thomastown in Co Kilkenny. And there are some interesting projects right now in this historic town 17km southeast of Kilkenny city and snuggled into a scenic stretch of the River Nore.

Thomastown (population 2,273, according to the 2011 census) is the kind of place where you will find secondary pupils from Grennan College’s craft school, and students from the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland’s Ceramic Skills and Design course, both located in the  town’s beautiful Island Mill, hauling stones and painting walls alongside local tidy towns volunteers for the massive Thomastown Weir restoration project.

Continue reading


(IRISH INDEPENDENT, June 12th, 2015)

Liberties College

Liberties College on Bull Alley Street

They get  knocked down but they always seem to get up again. The indomitable denizens of Dublin’s Liberties, deep in the heart of the inner city – whose famous wit is set in the very DNA of the metropolis itself – have been through their fair share of ups and downs over the generations.

Not least of the downs was a 1980s wrecking ball fest that saw the Liberties lose many of its buildings to a city access route, and more to the decrepitude that preceded it as business owners refused to invest amidst the confusion. Mass demolitions tore through Clanbrassil and Cork Streets and the area is still reeling from it.

History rich and vivid runs through this characterful place of ancient origin, which has lived through interesting times. The non blow-ins have known genuine hardship, which might explain the salt and sarcastic put-downs that permeate Dublin wit and legend.

Continue reading

Let’s Move To SWORDS

(IRISH INDEPENDENT,  August 28th, 2015)


Swords castle was built in the 12th century as a summer palace for John Comyn, the first Anglo-Norman archbishop of Dublin


For prospective home owners, it’s fair to say Swords, in north county Dublin, is the kind of place one ends up in rather than aspires to. But it’s also a place you will most likely come to love.

Yes, the traffic can be a drag and parking in the Pavilions shopping centre at the weekend is a killer, but it still feels like a town. It’s got a partly-restored castle looking out over the main street; the infrastructure is good; employment is high; and the positive community spirit is often remarked on.

It also has a very young demographic, reflected in a buzzing night life and it being a hot bed of young soccer talent, especially.

Continue reading