Day trip to Dublin

The first diary I ever kept was in 1966. And on March 27 that year (exactly 42 years ago today), I joined my mother on a trip to Dublin, from our home in County Westmeath. And in the diary I noted:

“1 hour 45 minutes each way. Car parked by man outside Hibernian Hotel. Switzers (boring). Golden Spoon for lunch. Dugdale, terrible. Pineapple sweets on Dawson Street. Home.”

This rather sketchy entry is actually still very meaningful for me, and prompts a lot of memories. The Hibernian Hotel was perhaps the most elegant of the traditional hotels in Dublin. It was located half way up Dawson Street, at the spot where the Royal Hibernian Way shopping mall now is. The hotel was demolished in the 1980s. One of my strongest memories of it is that you passed by a huge mirror as you walked past the entrance lobby. The reference to the man who parked the car is also interesting. As yet back then there were no parking meters or pay-and-display machines; I am not even sure there were yellow lines anywhere to restrict parking. Outside the Hibernian Hotel on every weekday was a man wearing a peaked cap who, for a little money, would take your car as you arrived and would park it somewhere for you (often double parked). On your return he would retrieve it – a kind of unofficial and probably technically illegal valet parking service that always seemed to work.

Switzers was one of the two Grafton Street department stores – the building now occupied by Brown Thomas, which in those days was on the other side of the street where Marks & Spencer is now. My mother was probably shopping for clothes, but in any case the shop was boring to me. The Golden Spoon was a fairly cheap restaurant on Suffolk Street. It was seventh heaven – I always ate a sirloin steak and chips there, and admired their truly wonderful plastic ketchup bottles shaped as tomatoes.

Mr Dugdale was our family dentist. These were the days before local anaesthetics, and a visit there was always likely to turn out to be very painful. In the front garden outside his practice (and I don’t recall where that was) was a huge monkey puzzle tree. Mr Dugdale himself had a set of light brown teeth, which seemed incongruous.

The pineapple sweets were, for me, in themselves a sufficient reason to come to Dublin. They were sold in a shop (whose name I no longer remember) on the corner of Dawson Street and Molesworth Street. They came in huge bars, a mixture of white sugary rock and orange transparent candy. To put it in a state that was more convenient for eating the shopkeeper would take the bar and smash it into smaller pieces with a hammer.

So there it was, Dublin as it appeared to me in March 1966. It was in many ways a quiet town, not the bustling metropolis you find today. I suppose I would visit it five or six times a year back then, and each visit was an adventure.

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11 Comments on “Day trip to Dublin”

  1. Tatty Franey Says:

    I love this post, it actually made me a bit emotional. In a fit of teenage angst I threw away all my diaries; it makes me truly upset now that all those impressions are gone.

  2. grainne Says:

    Can’t help thinking about the link between the pineapple sweets and the painful visits to Mr Dugdale!

  3. alan sweetman Says:

    Thank you for jogging memories of the past. The guy with the peaked cap outside the Hibernian Hotel his name was Tom. The shop on the corner of Dawson Street and Molesworth Street was called Noblet’s.
    I was a staff member of the R.H.H.

    • ron Says:

      some weeks before the RHH was demolished I and a friend was allowed remove the glass awning that was out the front for a project he was doing on his old house in Sandymount. While doing this outside there were people inside removing old plaster ceilings and staircases. These were to be transported to a house in France I believe.
      Many famous names I’m sure travelled under that awning into the hotel.
      I’m now a resident in Sydney and came upon this site by chance.

      slan, Ronan

    • alan Sweetman Says:

      Hey Ron,
      Yes, I met quite a lot of famous people during my time working in the Royal Hibernian Hotel. Peter Finch, Fredrick Forsythe, President Eamon De Valera, Princess Grace, Richard Boone, Richard Harris and his wife , Marty Feldman, Peter O Toole and some others. The Hotel was the Grand Old Lady of Dawson Street.

  4. Ian Baldwin Says:

    The shop on the Corner of Dawson Street and Molesworth Street was mentioned in the Jimmy O’Dea song “The Vamp of Inchicore” :- “She hoved to and signalled me the Noblet’s Corner look Sir”. I’m not sure if this referred to a sweet look or rotten teeth from eating too many sweets !

  5. noeleen Says:

    my father was the man with the cap…he was actualy employed by the hotel and you didnt have to pay him to park your car as this was in fact his job, he was the commisionaire and worked there for 25 years, Tom O’Callaghan was his name, he had been in the RAF as a young man and found it very difficult to get work in Dublin on his return from serving in the far east, my dad loved his job he worked very hard and was up and gone by 6am every morning, he died two years after losing his job I believe he was broken hearted.

    • alan Says:

      Hi Noleen, Yes I remember your Dad very well. He was great for a laugh and loved his job. I worked in the Front Hall of the Royal Hi before I went to work in the Cocktail Bar there.

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