An Entertaining Stroll Down Grafton Street

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.

Buskers On Grafton Street

The proliferation of street entertainers on Grafton Street is appreciated by some, tolerated by others, and detested by a few. Crowds can accumulate around a really good band in no time at all, blocking the street.
For me this little inconvenience is a small price to pay for an afternoon of wonderful entertainment.

Lunchtime for a Dublin Busker

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.

Dublin Buskers Tuning Their Instruments

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.

Statue Of Phil Lynott On Harry Street

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.

Sand dog on Grafton Street, Dublin

A sand dog basked in the sunshine, guarding a precious tennis ball.

Sand dog on Grafton Street, Dublin

Watching an artist quickly form a canine replica was fascinating.

Sand dog on Grafton Street, Dublin

And some dogs just slept as the world passed by.

  Brown Thomas Greeter

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.

 Leprechan On Grafton Street, DublinIf you get a notion you can always leprechaun yourself and pay to have this friendly fellow take your photo.

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.”

 

Mime artists on Grafton Street, Dublin

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.

Mime artists on Grafton Street, Dublin

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 On Grafton Street, Dublin

Mickey Mouse may wear his obligatory green camouflage, but for me, he still seems out of place on the street of my happy childhood.

  Hare Krishna Dancers In Dublin

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

 

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Comments

  1. Deirdre says:

    You should put disclaimers about being homesick before you read and view this post. Love it– and at the tender age of 16 I took a photo of the Hot House Flowers busking on Grafton although they were very good I thought one of the guys was good looking and wanted his pic!! It still makes me smile when I think about it ;)
    Deirdre Mc –fellow Northsider.

    • Deirdre – I’d say you weren’t the only teenage girl taking photos of the Hot House Flower hottie on that day on Grafton Street. What a great band to see! If you look at the picture of the band I took, the girls outnumber the boys surrounding them. The lead singer was the main attraction.
      I agree, this post is a little nostalgic for us Northside Dubliners. Wasn’t it lovely to spend Saturday in town, enjoying the entertainment? Glad to bring back good memories – even if it did make you a little homesick.
      Best wishes,
      Mairéad

  2. Chris B says:

    I was there in March and early April and missed this grand show in Dublin! Though we walked many streets from our hotel, we saw many students and not even many tourists. If I went back I would definitely go to enjoy these experiences!

    • Chris – Saturday is the big day for buskers and street entertainers around Grafton Street. I was lucky, since the weather was lovely that day in May for my little stroll through Dublin. I hope you make it back to Dublin again some day.
      All the best,
      Mairéad

  3. This place looks like so much fun! I would love all the street performers. Bet it’s wonderful during the Christmas season. Thanks for sharing, Mairead!

  4. Mariana says:

    I loved this post. Grafton Streets looks lovely and so picturesque. Thank you for sharing your pics with us

  5. Hey Mairead, Buskers in all Ireland are my favorite, but the best seem to make it to Grafton st. ( the worst too come to think of it) there is something alive in the hustle and bustle of that lively avenue.
    Cheers,
    Brian.

    • Hi Brian – There is something fearless about the gusty singing of Irish buskers, both good and bad. We’ve both probably heard and seen every level of performer throughout our times spent in Ireland. They truly add an energy to Irish cities and towns, that has to be experienced to understand.
      Take care,
      Mairéad

  6. Such a wonderfully accurate snapshot of Grafton St. Thank you Mairead. Mx

  7. Grammy says:

    Mairead, I felt the same fascination with the street entertainers surrounding Pike’s Market in Seattle, the quickly forming crowds certainly did block the streets and I know the motorists must have been thoroughly miffed but as a foot pedestrian I enjoyed the various bands!

    • Grammy – My husband goes to Seattle for work quite a bit and he loves Pike’s Market. He says there is a wonderful atmosphere there. Adding Seattle to my “must visit” list.
      All the best,
      Mairéad

  8. Aimee says:

    What a fun thought, having listened to U2 before they were famous! Thanks for sharing and making Ireland come alive for those of us who have yet to make it there!

    • Aimee – I probably bumped into all of them before they were famous because I grew up in the same part of Dublin. I actually went to school with Bono’s cousins. One funny story though. When I was a student I had a summer job at Dublin Airport. I checked Adam Clayton in for a flight one day, at a time when U2 were pretty famous. I chatted to him for about 10 minutes, and never recognized him. Not even when he asked me to save a seat beside him for his friend Larry Mullen, did I realize who I was talking to. I bet he kept chatting just to see if the penny would ever drop with me. It didn’t. When he left, my co-workers asked me if I knew who I was talking to. They all wished he had come to their desk.
      All the best,
      Mairéad

  9. Vince says:

    Grafton St and now the Dundrum Center are the mothership for 50% of the Irish population. Your side. My side, the male side, deem those places along with O’Connell St to be the new tenth circle of hell that Dante missed. Designed specifically for men as a punishment for the joy of having a wife and daughters.
    Men who undergo this torture have either blotted their book reeeeeeeeely badly or are stacking points for the time that they will.
    In the mental map that Irishmen have of their environment even if we wanted to get to Harcourt St or Lesson St we would go via Dawson St rather than venture up or down Grafton St.

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