Reminiscing about Grafton Street is easy for a Dubliner. I always think of buskers, Christmas shopping and festive windows, flower stalls, Bewleys coffee, shoppers and tourists.
Grafton Street has been a Dublin constant for centuries. Not merely a right of way, nor a commercial center, it is a social and cultural icon of the city, because here is where people meet to create memories.
In the 1600’s Grafton Street was simply a laneway used to access a square grazing field. The street was first developed in 1708 by the Dawson family. A parallel street bears their name, but Grafton Street was named after a local land owner, Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Grafton, the illegitimate son of Charles II of England. The grazing square is now St. Stephens Green, and Grafton Street is a commercial hub of the city.
Grafton Street is where U2 honed their skills, playing for Dublin crowds. I often wonder if I stopped and listened to them many years ago when I was a teenager.
Who knows which of today’s great Dublin bands will entertain the masses in years to come! Skills learned on Grafton Street will stand them in good stead. Here singers and musicians learn to entertain, to grow acutely aware of the crowd’s applauding feedback, and to fine tune their rhythms and lyrics. If you gain approval from Dublin’s afternoon shoppers, the world might soon follow.
The great Phil Lynott listens to the chorus of voices from a side street. I’m sorry to report this statue was vandalized a few days after I took this shot. Hopefully it will be repaired quickly and soon be back on Harry Street.
A sand dog basked in the sunshine, guarding a precious tennis ball.
Watching an artist quickly form a canine replica was fascinating.
And some dogs just slept as the world passed by.
Brown Thomas is the anchor shop of the street. Their friendly greeter doesn’t merely wave as you enter. Hand shakes are often followed by a friendly chat. Walmart eat your heart out – this is greeting Dublin style.
Dublin Saunter, is a song by Leo Maguire, a native Dubliner. He deemed Grafton Street a wonderland. I remember rolling my eyes to heaven as a youngster when my parents listened to tunes like this, but now that I’m a few years older and wiser I have grown to appreciate the sentiments of these lyrical oldies.
For Dublin can be heaven
With coffee at eleven,
And a stroll in Stephen’s Green
There’s no need to hurry
There’s no need to worry
You’re a king and the lady’s a queen
Grafton Street’s a wonderland
There’s magic in the air
There’s diamonds in the lady’s eyes
And gold dust in her hair
And if you don’t believe me
Come and meet me there
In Dublin on a sunny summer morning.”
These mime artists always amaze me. Such control, not even a flicker, until their chosen moment. Then the slightest move of hand can shock the world.
Patrick Kavanagh speaks of the allures of Grafton Street in his poem On Raglan Road.
“On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge
Of the deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion’s pledge,
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts and I not making hay –
O I loved too much and by such and such is happiness thrown away.“
Mickey Mouse may wear his obligatory green camouflage, but for me, he still seems out of place on the street of my happy childhood.
And no stroll down Grafton Street would ever be complete without meeting some happy Hare Krishna dancers. I remember their distinctive chant since I was a little girl.
Grafton Street is part of my Dublin memories. Even the great American singer/songwriter, Nanci Griffith, has written about this thoroughfare. In her song, aptly called On Grafton Street, she claims …
“On Grafton Street at Christmas time
The elbows push you ’round.
This is not my place of memories -
I’m a stranger in this town.
The faces seem familiar,
And I know those songs they’re playing.
But I close my eyes and find myself
Five thousand miles away……
……On Grafton Street at Christmas time
The elbows push you ’round.
All I carry now are memories -
I’m a stranger to this town.”
Although I now live five thousand miles away from Grafton Street, I hope I will never be a stranger to this town.
Slán agus beannacht leat!
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom