Saturday, 25 July 2009

Walking and waiting on the seashore at Malahide

The Marina at Malahide (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I’m still waiting for the results of the biopsy last week, when tissue samples were taken from above my lung, and for confirmation of the diagnosis of Sarcoidosis.

My legs – especially my knees – are still feeling shaky, I’m still short of breath, finding it difficult to fill my lungs with air, my neck is uncomfortable, and the dry cough remains. But for the last few days I have been less conscious of the sensation of “pins-and needles” or a tingling burning under my toes and feet.

There was no test cricket to provide an excuse to lie on the couch this afternoon watching television. And, although I may have spent too long standing on my feet last night at Paul Gillespie’s retirement party, this has been one of the sunniest days in Dublin for weeks, and I was determined to go for another walk by the seashore.

From this house, it’s easy to get to Malahide. It’s at the end of the M50 and only half an hour’s drive away. It lies on the coast, 16 km north of Dublin city centre, between Swords, Kinsealy and Portmarnock, on the opposite side of the Broadmeadow estuary from Portrane, where my grandparents were married and are buried.

As children, we loved playing on the beaches of Portrane, Portmarnock and Malahide. Even the name Malahide shows the connection between these Fingal villages: the Irish form of the name, Mullach Íde, dates from the 12th century as Mullach h-Íde, and may mean the sandhills of the Hydes, referring to the Norman family of Delahydes, who owned lands in Donabate, Portrane and Loughshinny, where I strolled along the seashore last Saturday.

The Vikings first landed in Malahide at the end of the eighth century, using Malahide Estuary and Baldoyle to the south as convenient bases. After the arrival of the Anglo-Normans, the last Viking King of Dublin retired to the area in 1171. From the 1180s, the history of the area is tied to the story of the Talbot family of Malahide Castle, who were granted extensive lands in the area.

In the centuries that followed, the Talbot family developed their estate and the small harbour settlement at Malahide. The area grew in popularity in the Georgian era as a seaside resort, and there are still some elegant Georgian houses in the town and along the seafront.

Despite the extensive growth of housing estates around Malahide in the last five decades, the village core has remained in tact. A fine new addition to life in Malahide is the Marina. The village is lively but intimate and friendly, with plenty of shops, pubs and restaurants without losing the traditional shop-fronts and cobble-lock side streets that give the village an intimate and cosy feeling.

Malahide Castle and demesne were once the estate of the Talbot family, who held the title of Baron Talbot of Malahide, and date back to the 12th century. The estate began in 1185, when Richard Talbot, a knight who accompanied Henry II to Ireland in 1174, was granted the “lands and harbour of Malahide.” The castle was home to the Talbot family for 791 years, from 1185 until 1976, apart from the Cromwellian interlude of 1649-1660.

The estate survived such losses as the Battle of the Boyne, when 14 members of the Talbot family sat down to breakfast in the Great Hall, and all were dead by evening, and the Penal Laws, although the family remained Roman Catholic until 1774. In the 1920s, the private papers of James Boswell were discovered in the castle, and sold to an American collector by Boswell’s great-great-grandson, Lord Talbot of Malahide.

On the death of the seventh Lord Talbot in 1973, Malahide Castle and Demesne passed to his sister, Rose, who sold the castle to the state two years later so she could pay her inheritance taxes. Malahide Castle is now run as a tourist attraction by Dublin Tourism and Fingal County Council. The attractions include the Fry Model Railway and the Talbot Botanic Gardens, with many plants from the southern hemisphere, including Chile and Australia.

The title of Baron Talbot of Malahide, in the County of Dublin, was created for the family in 1831. Since the reign of Edward IV, the head of the family has also held the title of Hereditary Lord Admiral of Malahide and the Adjacent Seas, a title that could have come straight out of a Gilbert and Sullivan opera.

Looking out across Malahide estuary and the adjacent seas this afternoon, it was possible to view Portrane to the north, with its round tower and clock tower, and Ireland’s Eye at Howth to the south. Perhaps summer hasn’t come at all, because there were few families playing on the beach or walking their dogs, although a few people looked happy sailing from the marina and the estuary out into the open sea.

After walking along the beach, and back again past the tennis club, the choice of restaurants for a very late lunch was enviable. There were places like Ciao on Marine Court, Cruzo at the Marina, the Greedy Goose, Giovanni’s and That’s Amore in Townyard Lane, each with equally attractive, inviting and enticing menus.

Eventually, I had to admit to feeling a little homesick for Greece, and opted for the late afternoon menu in Cape Greko, upstairs in New Street. This is the first Greek Cypriot restaurant on this side of Dublin, and we were well fed on saganaki, meletsanes, halloumi, and cod.

After a journey back along the coast, through Portmarnock, Baldoyle, Sutton, Bayside, Dollymount and Clontarf, I’m now on the couch at home, watching the Proms on BBC2 and listening to Sir Charles Mackerras conducting music by those very English composers, Elgar, Delius and Holst, who each died 75 years ago in 1934.

And I’m looking forward to celebrating the Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral at 11 a.m. tomorrow morning, to a visit to Somerset and Wiltshire next week, and to being back for the Great Portrane Sale next week, run by Mary Lynders to support projects in Albania and Romania.

They’ll probably tell me next week that I have Sarcoidosis. But if I have Sarcoidosis, Sarcoidosis will never have me.