12 January 2013

Castles, abbeys and the desolation of Priory Hall

Broadmeadow Water and the bay of Malahide Estuary in front of the Gourmet Food Parlour this week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Patrick Comerford

As a busy week was about to merge into a busy weekend, I took Friday morning off and four of us went to lunch in the MU Gourmet Food Parlour about a half mile outside Malahide on the coastal path to Portmarnock.

The restaurant is beside the Malahide United Gym building on an elevated spot looking out over Broadmeadow Water and the bay of Malahide Estuary across towards Portrane. Although we could not see as far as Skerries on a hazy, foggy, rainy day, this was a truly beautiful backdrop for our lunch.

We are also looking out to Robswalls Castle is in the townland of Robswalls overlooking the Broadmeadow Water, also known as Malahide Estuary and only a few short minutes from the coast road footpath from Malahide to Portmarnock.

Robswalls Castle … a private house with a monastic and mediaeval history (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

The castle stands on the side of a main road between Malahide an ordinary house with a square tower attached. But the two-storey house has a stone staircase that gives access to the watch tower and battlements.

The original tower was built over four floors, probably in the 15th century by the de Bermingham family.

The castle walls hang above the Coast Road from Malahide to Portmarnock (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

The castle is said to stand on a site once owned by the Cistercian Monks of Saint Mary’s Abbey in Dublin. At the dissolution of the monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII in 1540, Robswalls Castle was granted to Patrick Barnwall of Turvey, Solicitor General for Ireland.

At one time, the castle had its own small harbour hewn out of the rocks underneath and had a three-storied circular staircase.

I walked briefly along the shoreline before returning to work in the afternoon.

Father Collins Park stands on land once owned by Grange Abbey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

But earlier in the day, I had a walk in the rain around Father Collins Park beside Donaghmede and Clongriffin. The park is on lands that were part of the original and extensive Grange of Baldoyle belonging to the Priory of All Saints, which stood on the site of Trinity College Dublin. The ruins of the chapel of Grange Abbey stand near the park.

At the dissolution of the monasteries, Grange Abbey also changed hands and was given to the Corporation of Dublin City.

Five 50 kW wind turbines provide power for the waterfalls and fountains in Father Collins Park (Photograph : Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Father Collins Park, which is administered by Dublin City Council, is named after a popular local parish priest, Father Joe Collins and was opened in 2009.

This is Ireland’s first wind powered and self-sustainable public park, and was designed by Argentinian architects Abelleyro and Romero. The park has won a number of awards for sustainability, public space, public parks and environmentally friendly initiatives.

The park’s five 50 kW wind turbines provide power for the waterfalls and fountains, draining the lake, public lighting, depots and sports facilities. Its 26 ha includes natural woodland, sports fields, a running and cycling track, a promenade, a concert amphitheatre and picnic areas.

The open lands of Father Collins Park host migrating birds during the seasons of migration. The undisturbed lands in park remain an important refuge and hub for Arctic and European migratory birds.

Right turn only … but Priory Hall is still blocked off (Photograph: Patrick Cmerford, 2013)

Outside the park, the road heading south towards Clare Hall has a junction where the lights are primed for a right turn only. But that right turn only leads into the blocked-off entrance to Priory Hall, an estate that is still fenced off while the people who bought homes there are left homeless.

How many children missed a Christmas at home in Priory Hall? How long is their agony and suffering going to continue?

Priory Hall … how many children were missed out on Christmas at home? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

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