Dundrum started out as a small village in south County Dublin, between the city and the mountains. Around the middle of the 20th Century, the city of Dublin grew outwards to meet it and Dundrum has been a suburb of Dublin ever since.
The name Dundrum comes from the Irish 'Dún Droma', the fortress on the ridge. The original fortress was Dundrum Castle, which is now in ruins and stands just south of the roundabout on Ballinteer Road, looking down on the bypass. This castle was built by the Normans in the 13th Century, just after they invaded Ireland, as part of their outer defensive ring around Dublin. It is likely that the village was formed to house the workers in the castle, although the original village was probably in a slightly different position to the present one.
The village has existed in its present location since at least the 19th Century. The original tiny church, St Nahi's, was only the second Protestant church to be built in Ireland, after the Reformation, but the cemetery around it served both the Catholic and Protestant communities. In the 19th Century, new bigger churches were built: Holy Cross Church on the Main Street (Catholic) and the imposing Christ Church, Taney (Church of Ireland) on the hill above the village.
There were originally two main crossroads in Dundrum, one at the north end and one at the south end of the village. The southern crossroads is unchanged but the northern one has been much altered by road changes over the years. Its location was in front of the 'Usher House' office block beside the tram station.
The railway arrived in Dundrum in about 1854. The Dublin to Bray line starting at Harcourt Street was never very successful, since it ran very close to the other Dublin to Bray line (which started at Westland Row) along its entire length. The construction of the railway meant that an embankment had to be built just north of the northern crossroads, with a bridge over the Dublin road. The road travelling east from this crossroads was blocked by the railway and reduced to a pedestrian passageway under the railway line. The main road was moved and Taney Road was constructed to take the eastern traffic.
With railway transport to Dublin, Dundrum became a popular village for the moneyed classes to own a house: such commanding residences as those on Sydmonton Terrace date from this time. Elizabeth and Lily Yeats, sisters of the poet WB Yeats and artist JB Yeats, set up a printing press in Dundrum in 1902 in the house of a friend, Evelyn Gleeson. Initially called the Dun Emer Press, it was renamed the Cuala press in 1908 and operated under this name until 1940, publishing works of poetry and fine literature. The house, originally known as Runnymede, has since been demolished. James Joyce mentions this in his magnum opus Ulysses in a sarcastic and insulting way:
Five lines of text and ten pages of notes about the folk and the fish gods of Dundrum. Printed by the weird sisters in the year of the big wind.
Elsewhere in Ulysses, he is more complimentary to Dundrum, naming it as somewhere that Leopold Bloom would have liked to retire to:
... situate at a given point not less than one statute mile from the periphery of the metropolis, within a time limit of not more than 15 minutes from tram or train line (eg, Dundrum, south, or Sutton, north, both localities equally reported by trial to resemble the terrestrial poles in being favourable climates for phthisical1 subjects)
The railway was closed down in 1959 because it was found to be unprofitable. Thinking has changed since then - it is recognised that public transport is always unprofitable, but that doesn't make it undesirable. In a bid to prevent the railway from being opened again, the tracks were quickly removed, but the land occupied by the railway line was never sold and eventually in the 21st Century the line was reopened as an electric tramway - the Luas. Once again, residences of Dundrum are 'not more than 15 minutes from tram or train line'.
Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish entrepreneur who moved to America in the 19th Century and made his fortune, eventually owning 90% of the entire steel industry in America. In his old age, he became a philanthropist, giving money to many good causes. He funded many libraries throughout the British Isles, and a Carnegie Library was built in Dundrum in 1910. This was taken over by Dublin County Council as Dundrum Library in the early 1970s. The imposing building has been cut off from the rest of the village by the new bypass in 2003. The plans are to move to the new shopping centre, which opened in 2005, and to give the library building to the Garda Síochána2, so that it can become a new Garda station. The Guards are very restricted in their present building.
The Usher Monument
Dr Isaac Usher was a popular resident of Dundrum at the beginning of the 20th Century. He did a lot for the town. He was killed in one of the first accidents involving a motor car in Ireland, when a car struck him while reversing near the station in 1917. The residents decided to build a monument to honour him. The monument was a stone obelisk with a source of water and a trough to provide drinking water for passing horses. There were also brass cups on chains which could be used for drinking by humans. The monument was placed right in the middle of the northern crossroads.
Many years later, with the increase in traffic, the monument was considered to be blocking the road, so it was moved to one side, to its present location in front of Usher House. With the disappearance of horse-drawn traffic, the trough was converted into a seat.
The monument was covered up for protection during the building of the Usher House office block and was forgotten about behind a fence for a few years, but with the opening of the office block, the monument is on display again.
The First Shopping Centre - Downtown Dundrum
In the 1970s, the Glenville farm fields along the west side of the north end of Main Street became the site for a new Shopping Centre, only the second to be built in Ireland. Suddenly, Dundrum became a town, rather than a village, with a supermarket, clothes shops, a coffee shop and a record shop. For the first time, people from surrounding areas would think of going to Dundrum to do their shopping, rather than into Dublin.
The shopping centre was badly designed from the start. In the shape of a long L with the supermarket on the short end of the L, it was too spaced-out for comfort, and the car park in front of the centre was far too small, meaning that people had a long walk from the bigger car park at the north end. There were no lifts or escalators to the upstairs section, making them unsuitable for wheelchairs or for parents with children in prams or buggies. The inhabitants of the coffee-shop were spaced-out too; the smell of marijuana used to be overpowering.
Nevertheless, the centre continued to survive up to 2005, due to its prime location, although both the record shop and the marijuana smokers moved on. The shopping centre is now scheduled to be demolished and rebuilt as phase two of the Dundrum Town Centre, which is discussed later in this entry.
Joe Daly, Stephen Roche and the Tour de France
Joe Daly had a bicycle shop in Dundrum for many years. His original shop was just north of the railway bridge. In the 1970s, the bridge was torn down and Churchtown Road was extended to make a crossroads. This meant demolishing Joe's shop, so a new bigger shop was built on a site beside the original. Joe's new shop allowed him to expand his business and the name of Joe Daly became synonymous with bicycles in South Dublin. Joe encouraged people to take up cycling as a hobby, and many a youngster started out his cycling career by getting a bike in Joe's shop.
One such youngster was Stephen Roche who won the Tour de France, the world's premier cycle event, in 1987. Stephen singled out Joe Daly for thanks in his speech when he accepted the award as the world's greatest cyclist.
The people of Dundrum were so impressed with Stephen's achievement that they erected a monument to him in the Main Street. The Stephen Roche monument is on the west side of Main Street; a combination of granite and bronze, it symbolises the wheels of Stephen's bicycle set against the background of the stone quarries of South Dublin.
In 1998, it was decided that to honour Stephen Roche, the Tour de France champion, and Sean Kelly, the Irishman who has competed in the event for years without ever winning it, the initial time trials and first three stages of the Tour de France should take place in Ireland. The first stage started in Dundrum at the Stephen Roche monument. It was a great day for Dundrum, although the cyclists passed through the village so quickly that the whole event only took about 40 seconds!
Joe Daly's shop was once more scheduled for demolition when the new Dundrum bypass was planned, so Joe had to move again. His new business was a brand-new futuristic-looking building beside the original site.
Joe died in his 80s in February 2010.
The Bypass and the Luas
The 2000s saw two major developments relating to transport which affected Dundrum greatly. Firstly, a road bypass was built behind the west side of the village, taking most of the traffic away from the main street. Secondly, the old railway line has been converted to a tram line, running the new Luas tram system. Since the railway embankment was cleared away in the 1970s to make room for a major road junction at the north end of the village, the tramway designers now had the problem of getting the trams across a very wide crossing without any place for supporting pillars.
The solution was innovative: a suspension bridge. The William Dargan Bridge is one of the wonders of Dublin. Going from north-west to south-east, it is a 'cable stay bridge'. Two enormous pillars rise from the ground on the northwest end of the bridge, one on either side of the track. These fuse together above to make a single pillar. The bridge itself is completely flat and is suspended by a series of giant cables from the pillar. The other side of the pillar is attached by a similar number of cables to a giant counterweight. This bare description does not do justice to the elegance of the bridge.
The Luas tram system opened on 30 June, 2004. It travels from Sandyford Industrial Estate as far as St Stephen's Green, and stops at the old Dundrum railway station. The trip from Dundrum to Dublin is about 15 minutes.
Airfield is a large house on Upper Kilmacud Road, with large gardens and a small farm. The property belonged to Letitia and Naomi Overend, two rich unmarried sisters. When they died, they left Airfield to the people of Dundrum, to be used for recreation and education. It is now managed by the Airfield Trust, and provides many educational workshops to local schools, from art camps to looking after animals.
Within Airfield House itself, you will find the Overend Restaurant, where light refreshments are served, and the Library, a large room which is used as a concert venue. There is also a small gift shop selling knick-knacks and local farm produce.
A small admission fee will get you into the rest of the estate, where you will find the gardens, the farm and the car museum. The 1927 vintage Rolls Royce driven by Letitia Overend is kept here, along with her sister's 1936 Austin Tickford and their mother's 1923 Peugeot.
The easiest way to reach Airfield is from the Balally Luas station. Turn right as you leave the station and keep walking. The estate is about a five-minute walk and is on the right-hand side.
The New Shopping Centre
Just south of Dundrum lay an industrial complex. Originally fed by the water of the Slang stream, cotton mills were set up in the 18th and 19th Century. In the 20th Century, these became an electronics factory owned by the company Pye, making radios and gramophones. The company went bust and the buildings were used for many things including a giant supermarket, a children's play centre and a bowling alley.
In the 1990s, it was decided to build an enormous shopping centre on the site - begun in about 1999, this opened on 3 March, 2005. It is supposedly the biggest shopping centre in Europe, and calls itself Dundrum Town Centre. With a 10-screen cinema, it is rapidly becoming the new hub of Dundrum.
Where to Eat and Drink in Dundrum
Dundrum has a few restaurants:
- Sohag Tandoori - Indian food; in the Main Street;
- The Carp - a tiny Chinese restaurant tucked away off Ballinteer Road, this will be facing the Fashion Avenue section of the new Shopping Centre when it is finished;
- Buona Sera - a tiny Italian restaurant beside the crossroads, on Upper Kilmacud Rd;
- Café Mao - varied 'Asian' menu; at the Town Square, Dundrum Town Centre.
- Dunne & Crescendi - Italian food; at the Town Square, Dundrum Town Centre.
Light meals, take-aways and snacks are available from:
- Capecafé - in an alley off the Main Street;
- O'Brien's - freshly made sandwiches in the Main Street;
- Macari - a traditional fish and chip shop in the Main Street;
- McDonalds - at the Town Square;
- Café Paul Rankin, Brambles Café, Butlers Chocolate Café and Frangos World Cuisine in the Dundrum Town Centre.
There are two pubs at the crossroads: Ryan's Dundrum House and The Eagle.
Future Plans for the Village
The new shopping centre should change the look of the village considerably. As well as the new library, as previously mentioned, it will include a small theatre, a hotel and some restaurants. The old shopping centre will be demolished and another new centre will be built in its place, connected by some sort of covered way to the southern centre.
Dundrum has changed much over the years. With the new shopping centre and easy access by tram, it is likely that the village will be a popular place to live and to visit for many years to come.