Thursday, September 26, 2013

Dalkey, Co. Dublin (1834)

This article was published in the Dublin Penny Journal issue number 85, Volume II, dated February 15th, 1834.

The Island of Dalkey, of which the foregoing is a view taken from Bullock, is divided from the mainland by a channel called Dalkey Sound, in which ships may safely ride at anchor in eight fathoms of water, sheltered by the island from the north-east wind, to which every other part of Dublin Bay lies exposed. This island is said to contain eighteen acres, and, although covered with rocks, is esteemed an excellent pasturage for cattle of all kinds. It is curious to see the people conveying black cattle hither from the mainland. They fasten one end of a rope about the beast's horns, and then tie the other end to the stern of a boat, which is pulled with oars in the direction of the island. By this means they drag the animal into the sea, and force it to swim after the boat across the sound, a distance of about a quarter of a mile. Besides good pasturage, Dalkey island produces some medicinal plants, and there is a ruin on it, said to be that of a church, but (the belfry excepted) no lineament survives that would induce a person to suppose it the remains of a place of worship. I much doubt its having ever been used for one. The side of the structure where some traces of an altar might be sought for, presents no such appearance ; but, on the contrary, a fire-place and chimney are to be seen where the altar should stand, had the building been for ecclesiastical uses. There are also visible in it vestiges of its having been lofted. It is therefore probable that the fabric, which is small and in the form of a parallelogram, was used for domestic or commercial and not for religious purposes.

Tradition informs us, that when the city of Dublin was limited by a plague in former days, some of the citizens retired to this island as an asylum from its desolating effects. It is certain that Primate Usher retired with his family from the same calamity to Lambay, and that he introduced a clause into the leases of that island, that, in case Ireland should again be visited by plague, the Lambay demises should be void, in order to ensure a safe retreat for his family.

There is a battery mounting three twenty-four pounders on the Island of Dalkey, whose highest point is crowned by a martello tower that differs from any I recollect to have seen elsewhere. The entrance to the tower is at the very top of the building, while the doors of most others stand no more than twelve or fourteen feet from the ground. Dalkey Island is uninhabited, save by the military stationed in the batteries. 

The engraving which accompanies this article also exhibits a view of part of Dalkey common, which extends from the village of the same name on the west, and the Government quarries on the south side to the sea. There is a dwelling house of a most extraordinary kind now being completed on a portion of this common. It is seen in our drawing, two stories in height, standing alone, with the front door opening within a few feet of a craggy mountain- precipice, and its rere (sic) wildly hanging over a dreadful rocky steep washed by the boisterous sea. The erection of this extraordinary edifice was a strange vagary of the projector. The first glance of it at once suggests to the imagination, ideas of the amphibious retreats of desperate smugglers, or cruel pirates of bygone times, rather than of the rural summer haunt of a peaceful citizen. The occupier might repose in it as it is said the celebrated Granuaile used to do in Carrickahooly castle, where her shipping was moored to her bedpost, for the purpose of preventing surprise. 

The name of Dalkey common is perpetuated in the convivial song called the Kilruddery Hunt, written in 1774 by Father Fleming, of Adam and Eve Chapel, and of which a copy is said to have been presented by the Earl of Meath to King George the Fourth, when he visited Ireland. The expression, " Dalkey-stone common," in that song, leads me to remark that there was formerly a druidical rocking-stone in the neighbourhood of Bullock or Dalkey. I find mention made of it by some old writera and also by Wright, in the Guide to the County of Wicklow : but although I have devoted several days to searching for it, I am with regret obliged to say, I have not been able to find it. 

The Government quarries on the common are at present worked by the respectable firm of Henry, Mullins, and Mc Mahon, who have contracted for the completion of Kingstown harbour. The largest blocks of granite, raised in the quarries by the force of gunpowder, are lowered (to the long level of the railway where the horses are yoked to the trucks) by a succession of three inclined planes, in the following manner. A large metal wheel with a groove in it, and revolving freely on an upright axis, is fixed at the head of each inclined plane. Over the groove a strong endless chain is passed, and from thence carried down a railway to the bottom of the inclination, where, running over friction-rollers, it returns up another rail road, parallel to the former, back to the wheel first mentioned. When a laden truck has to be lowered, it is brought to the verge of the descent, and there attached to the chain. At the same time, an empty track is fastened at the bottom of the descent to the ascending portion of the same chain. The laden truck is then pushed down the sloping rail-road, and by reason of its weight (from five to seven tons) proceeds rapidly down, drawing at the same time the empty truck up from the bottom of the parallel railway. There are generally three laden and as many unladen carriages moving up or down the steep in this manner at the same moment. Should the motion become too rapid, a man at the top has the power of regulating it by means of a friction-band, which, with the help of a compound lever, he can close upon the grooved metal wheel. The same contrivance serves to stop the descent altogether, the instant the trucks have arrived at their destination. Thus, by the aid of a simple combination of mechanic powers, a single man is enabled to move and controul (sic) the motion of six heavy carriages, bearing an aggregate weight of granite of about twenty tons, a task which it would require twenty-seven horses, with the ordinary modes of conveyance on common roads to accomplish. 
The village of Dalkey stands about seven miles from Dublin, at the northern side of Dalkey hill, on which was formerly a telegraph, now dismantled, and nearly undermined by the quarrymen in the neighbourhood. The village was formerly a place of great importance. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, it was a repository for the goods imported or to be exported by the merchants of Dublin. The ruins of several castles are still remaining here; they were built for the protection of trade against the hordes of land and sea robbers that infested the country at a remote period.