Rathmines Readers – looking back

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Rathmines Library 1978Rathmines Library has been sent a poem by one of its users – it gives a real sense of the “old days” in the library, which has always had a particular ambience of its own. There will be many of us who remember the old newspaper room and the spiral staircase with great affection.  Here’s an extract from the poem, the work of the writer Berni Dwan, who has kindly given us permission to publish it:

My Saturday pilgrimage to the object of my love, to
the blushing sarcophagus of printed matter, starts early afternoon.
My destination – Rathmines Library, gifted to Dubliners by altruistic Carnegie;
opened in October 1913 in the maelstrom of the Lockout. Its classical
façade a perfect street companion for the Marrakech pink town hall across the road.

In that half-light of a winter sanctuary, tiny wooden drawers,
stuffed with index cards resemble the accoutrements of
a medieval alchemist’s lair for transmuting base metals to
noble ones. Or perhaps a nineteenth century tea emporium, scented
leaves newly arrived in a clipper - from the East.


A library ticket is my visa to
centuries of ruminations, contemplations, meditations; crossing
cultures, religions, nationalities. I am
captivated by the date stamps; this one hasn’t been borrowed
since nineteen sixty-eight. Who was that reader? I decide she was a
stylish, young academic. I picture her in nineteen sixty’s clothes; a
beehive hairdo; mini skirt; white knee high boots; heavy eye makeup.

The Quixotic need to order a book is sometimes necessary. I
feel an emotional link with the last reader I picture a young
man voraciously committing tomes to memory for
discussion later in smoky bars. His eloquence will be earthy.
Wiry little men hover around the cowboy novels; Zane Grey
page turners like Sunset Pass and Robber’s Roost. Care worn women
replenish their supply of Mills and Boon. Secretary Wife and
Cupboard Love will be carried home in string bags with
cabbage and carrots; biscuits and bread.

(C) Berni Dwan

Maeve BrennanRathmines readers from rather further back in time will also be commemorated in 'Surgeons, Starlets and Storytellers', a talk by one of Dublin City’s Historians in Residence, Maeve Casserly.  On the 29th January at 6.30pm she will talk about three famous women  – the writer Maeve Brennan, the Hollywood star Maureen O’Hara and the surgeon, suffragist and founder of St Ultan’s Hospital, Kathleen Lynn.  All three lived fascinating lives and all three have strong connections to the Rathmines/Ranelagh area.

Maeve Brennan, while she spent most of her life in America, in her fiction travelled back constantly to the redbrick streets of Ranelagh, where she was brought up. Maureen O’Hara  was also from Ranelagh, in her case Beechwood Avenue, and Kathleen Lynn, a native of Killala, lived for many years in Rathmines. It may be, of course, that some of these readers used Pembroke rather than Rathmines Library, but we feel we have a case in claiming them as very possibly “Rathmines Readers.”

Maeve recently gave this talk in Pembroke Library to a packed and enthusiastic audience, so if you are interested in attending, be sure to book a place with Rathmines Library by telephoning 4973539 or email rathmineslibrary@dublincity.ie.

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