Dublin in the Rare Aul Times: A look at O’Connell Street

by Lina Jans

In the first part of a new series, our intern Lina explores Dublin and its history through new eyes, as a visitor to our fair city.

With Winter on the way, and restrictions in place, it may feel like there isn’t much to do in the city. However, in strange times like this, it’s nice to think back and reflect on old times.

As a young, foreign intern, I am discovering Dublin old and new. I took a journey through the city centre, seeing Dublin as it is now, before learning myself about “Dublin in The Rare Auld Times”.

Carlton Cinema

I began my journey at O’Connell Upper Luas Stop, and walked down O’Connell Street to the Carlton Theatre. Can you imagine 2000 people standing in front of it, waiting to see the European premiere of the legendary Rock Around the Clock? This is the kind of event the theatre site was home to.

In my research, I found out that Carlton Cinema used to show a lot of horror movies and therefore was also often referred to as the “Horror House”.

Opened in 1938, Carlton Cinema was also used as a concert hall, welcoming famous composers, pianists and artists. Some of the names included Johnny Cash, Duke Ellington, Cleo Lane, Fats Domino, Marlene Dietrich and Don McLean. The facade of Carlton Cinema will be renovated in the coming years, and will turn into a retail centre, while the cinema is being relocated to Moore Lane.

Nelson’s Pillar

I continued my trip walking towards the Spire. I’ve already been to the Spire a few times, but before doing some research on it, I had never known there was another statue at its place.

Built in 1808/1809, Nelson’s Pillar was a statue with British admiral Horatio Nelson on top. It was blown up in 1966, with the individuals behind the destruction still a mystery to this day. Although you could hear the explosion of the tower all over the city, they only managed to blow up the top of it.

In 2003, the Spire was built at its place, costing four million euro. Officially named Monument of Light, or An Túr Solais in Irish, as the 121-meter-high figure is illuminated by night, the Spire has many nicknames, from the ‘stiffy by the liffey’ to ‘the needle’.

Under Clerys Clock

Right across from the Spire, I tried to look out for the famous Clery’s clock, but only found a construction site at its place. Built in 1853, Clerys used to be a department store on O’Connell Street before it closed in 2012, though the famous clock remains. I’ve heard “Under the Clerys Clock” used to be a rendezvous spot, providing good luck to those embarking on first dates.

The former department store is now being renovated as the ‘Clerys Quarter’, with office buildings, retail, a rooftop bar, food and beverage units and a four-star hotel.

I’m definitely looking forward to learning more about the old Dublin.

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