25 July 2013

Naming babies and preserving buildings
over coffee in Rathgar and Harold’s Cross

No 201 Harold’s Cross Road ... a part of local history that is in danger of being lost (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Patrick Comerford

A few weeks ago, I was having a quiet coffee on my own outside the Bijou Deli in Rathgar, reading the Guardian and watching the passing traffic – human and motorised.

I’m not one to pry – generally – but as I overheard the conversation at the next table, I reminded myself of how Maeve Binchy said regularly that listening to other people’s conversations on the bus, on the Tube, or in the lift gave her some of her best and most realistic dialogue.

It seemed that the couple at the next table had just started dating each other. The questions were routine, but important for establishing who each other was ... tastes in coffee, best friends, favourite movies and television programmes, best holidays ever, and so on.

I suppose anthropologists would easily identify is all as part of the preening and courting ritual. Inevitably, as they moved on to the next coffee, they started talking about babies’ names.

What would the royal baby be called? ... What names do like? ... What about Alexander? ... Do you like Cameron – not the prime minister, the name?

And then she asked him: “Do you like Irish names?”

“Like what? Like Rory or Seamus?”

“No, real old Irish names.”

“Oh, you mean like Fuinneog? Or Tráthnóna?”

“Yeah, what do you think?”

I had to start reading the paper in earnest to stop myself from laughing out loud.

As I was passing by the Bijou Deli again early this afternoon on my way to a funeral in Harold’s Cross, I was almost tempted to stop there again in the hope of hearing a similar conversation. I imagined a poor baby being brought to me to be baptised as Tráthnóna. Or a disturbed Prince Fuinneog wishing his parents had called him plain George.

I continued on to Harold’s Cross – which I had often thought deserved a decent café, and was delighted today to spot the very place: the Black Apple Café at 206 Harold’s Cross Road.

I only had a double espresso and a biscuit, but they have an imaginative menu that made me wish I had arrived there in time for lunch. They have tables out on the street, a sunny back patio, and friendly, helpful staff.

Last month, the Black Apple Café won the JCI Friendly Business Awards for the Best Eco Business in Dublin – meaning they have clear environmental standards and policies on energy, water, waste, disposables and pollution, and sourcing local ingredients and produce, rather than buying and selling mass-produced food.

It was packed this afternoon, but I am glad I managed to find a table at the window looking out at the main street in Harold’s Cross. The café opened in May last year, and I can only wish them the best of successes in the future.

The former Church of Ireland parish church in Harold’s Cross is now a Russian Orthodox Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Harold’s Cross has changed a lot since my parents lived in the area many years ago. The former Church of Ireland parish church beside Mount Jerome Cemetery is now the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate.

The site of the former Kenilworth Cinema in Harold’s Cross is vacant and desolate (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

The site of the Kenilworth Cinema is desolate, and there are many empty shops. On the other hand, the old Park Inn, which had been closed for many year, has been renamed and has bright wall paintings on the corner with Lower Kimmage Road.

A bright street corner in Harold’s Cross (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Still, Harold’s Cross is the sort of Dublin 6 village that could do with a makeover and some TLC that would put the heart back into it. And the Black Apple Café makes a good start to that … I’m sorry I was engrossed in coffee and the Guardian this afternoon that I forgot to take photographs inside and outside. But I’ll be back soon with my camera ... and for more of that coffee.

Across the street from the Black Apple Café, No 201 Harold’s Cross Road is the house where the Quaker abolitionist Richard Allen (1803–1886) was born. This is a large red brick building dating from 1750, and it appears on Rocque’s maps of 1756 and 1760. Looking at the house from the street, the surviving 18th century features include the blocked front doorcase.

By1870, this was a ‘Female Orphanage’ with a small central path leading to the front door and an extended the north range (now No 199) with a Post Office. In 1936, the main building was still marked on maps as an orphanage. By then the north range was rebuilt, but the shop I remember as Healy’s grocery shop is now closed and derelict.

Many efforts have been made in recent years to have the complete building classified as a Protected Structure, and to ensure the protection of the railings and plinth wall in front.

But, looking at the building today, the windows are boarded up and it looks derelict; the front garden is overgrown, and there is sense that the whole site is being neglected. Are we about to lose another piece of Dublin’s architectural heritage?

Walking the pilgrims’
route with Saint James

A banner of Saint James of Compostella in a side chapel in Saint James’s Church, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today [25 July 2013], Saint James is commemorated in the calendar of the Church of Ireland and in the Book of Common Prayer.

Last year, during the Camino or Pilgrim Walk around the inner city churches in Dublin, marking the International Eucharistic Congress, the fourth church for those following the route to have our “Pilgrim Passports” stamped was Saint James’s Church in Saint James’s Street.

The foundation stone of the church was laid in 1844 by Daniel O’Connell. But the church claims a link with the tradition linking this part of Dublin – Saint James’s Gate – with the Camino de Santiago de Compostella since the 12th century.

In a side chapel, there is a banner of Saint James of Compostella, and Irish pilgrims on the Camino have their Pilgrim Passports stamped here before they set out for Spain.

Across the street, the former Church of Ireland parish church of Saint James, which was designed by Joseph Wellard, has been closed for many years. Until recently, it was a shop and showrooms. Now it is vacant, and it looks sad and forlorn behind padlocked gates.

Saint James’s Church, the former Church of Ireland Parish Church, looks sad and abandoned behind padlocked gates (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)


Lord, God of peace:
Grant that after the example of your servant,
James the brother of our Lord,
your Church may give itself continually to prayer
and to the reconciliation of all
who are caught up in hatred or enmity;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Jeremiah 45: 1-5; Psalm 126; Acts 11: 27 to 12: 2; Matthew 20: 20-28.

Jeremiah 45: 1-5

1 The word that the prophet Jeremiah spoke to Baruch son of Neriah, when he wrote these words in a scroll at the dictation of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah: 2 Thus says theLord, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: 3 You said, ‘Woe is me! TheLord has added sorrow to my pain; I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest.’ 4 Thus you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: I am going to break down what I have built, and pluck up what I have planted – that is, the whole land. 5 And you, do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for I am going to bring disaster upon all flesh, says the Lord; but I will give you your life as a prize of war in every place to which you may go.’

Psalm 126

1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, •
then were we like those who dream.
2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter •
and our tongue with songs of joy.
3 Then said they among the nations, •
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
4 The Lord has indeed done great things for us, •
and therefore we rejoiced.
5 Restore again our fortunes, O Lord, •
as the river beds of the desert.
6 Those who sow in tears •
shall reap with songs of joy.
7 Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed, •
will come back with shouts of joy,
bearing their sheaves with them.

Acts 11: 27 to 12: 2

27 At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. 29 The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; 30 this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

1 About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. 2 He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword.

Matthew 20: 20-28

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favour of him. 21 And he said to her, ‘What do you want?’ She said to him, ‘Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.’ 22 But Jesus answered, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We are able.’ 23 He said to them, ‘You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.’

24 When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 26 It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’

Post Communion Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ,
we thank you that after your resurrection you appeared to James,
and endowed him with gifts of leadership for your Church.
May we, who have known you now in the breaking of bread,
be people of prayer and reconciliation.
We ask it for your love’s sake.