Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
I think I’ve
mentioned before that I have Irish blood on my mother’s side. I’m proud of my
Celtic heritage and my Irish great-grandmother, Sarah Maria Bagley. Being
one-eighth Irish I often joke that I always celebrate the fact on the eighth
day of the week! That’s true Irishness!
St. Patrick’s Day I’ve turned today’s article into emerald green. Let’s look at
the city in which my great-grandmother was born, Dublin, and discover its lgbt
heritage. I’ve selected ten subjects and tried to make them as varied as
possible while still within walking distance of each other (without being
clumped together). The simplified map below shows present-day Dublin and the
subjects I’ll describe below.
1) Upper Mount Street. This was the home of my great-grandmother’s father Noel. He was
a game-keeper to one of Dublin’s prominent families. My mother always said that
Noel and/or Sarah Maria worked for a Lady Leonette La Touche. I think there
must have been some confusion over the name as I’ve only been able to find a
Lady Annette La Touche in Dublin at the time. It must be the same person. The
La Touches were influential Dubliners and no doubt knew of Oscar Wilde’s family,
if not knew them personally. Speaking of whom, just a short walk away we find…
2) Oscar Wilde’s birthplace, 21 Westland Row. The building is now home
to the Oscar Wilde Centre, a research and educational organisation run by
Trinity College. I don’t want to say more about this today because it seems
like a very good subject for a Heritage Spotlight article in the future.
3) Merrion Square. One of several public parks in Dublin opened in the 1800s.
Oscar Wilde and his family lived in one of the posh houses around the perimeter
until 1879 when his mother sold the house and moved to London. The park
contains a statue of Oscar Wilde, an unusual example of a reclining figure,
which is facing the old family home. The annual Dublin Pride festival has been
held in Merrion Square since 2012, the parade through the city centre ending
4) The George, South Great George’s Street. This is one of Ireland’s
oldest existing gay bars and clubs and celebrates its 40th
anniversary this Easter. Before then it was a traditional Irish pub with a
reputation for having and ageing clientele. In 1985 it was bought by Cyril
O’Brien, an openly gay businessman, who turned it into a brighter, more
vibrant, gay-friendly bar and club. Homosexuality was still illegal in Ireland when
The George opened, but it quickly became the main venue for the lgbt community.
5) Rice’s, South King Street. Before The George there were other gay bars,
including Rice’s, owned by Bobby Rice and opened in 1960. Again, it was
previously a traditional pub but whereas The George’s straight and gay
clientele mingled freely, the gay clientele at Rice’s had a separate bar area
where they could socialise more comfortably. Rice’s closed in 1986 shortly
after The George opened, and was demolished to make way for a shopping centre.
6) The Gate Theatre, North Frederick Street. This small theatre is
housed in a former public function room of an old hospital. In 1928 it became
the home of a new theatre company formed by what has been called Ireland’s most
famous gay couple (despite the fact that both were English-born), Hilton
Edwards and Micheál Mac Liammoir. The Gate Theatre introduced Irish audiences
to many American and European plays for the first time. Edwards and Mac
Liammoir were regulars at Rice’s pub.
7) Alternative Miss Ireland, Olympia Theatre. For 17 consecutive years,
and for one earlier contest, Dublin celebrated diversity and fun together with
the Alternative Miss Ireland contest. For the last half of its long run the
contest finals were held at the Olympia Theatre. The first contest was held in
1987 with Miss Isle as the winner. The contest returned in 1996 and was held
every year on the Sunday nearest St. Patrick’s Day. The last contest in 2012
was filmed by the Irish broadcaster RTE, and was won by Miss Minnie Melange
(real name Sinead Burke)
8) Dublin Pride (several locations on the map). The first Dublin Pride
took place in June 1983. The parade went from St. Stephen’s Green, a notorious gay cruising site, to the front of
the General Post Office on O’Connell
Street. For several years the post-parade festival was held at the city
council’s offices on Wood Quay before relocating to Merrion Square in 2012.
9) “Bunny” Murphy, Queen Street and Grafton Street. These were the home and
business addresses respectively of Bernard “Bunny” Murphy, a society and
celebrity hairdresser. During the 1940s his clientele included stars such as
Maureen O’Hara and Paulette Goddard. In the 1950s he moved to London. After his
partner’s death he moved to Brighton where he met Dominic Dalton. A
relationship developed, despite the age gap – Bunny was 65, Dominic was 29.
Bunny developed Alzheimer’s in the 1990s and Dominic became his carer. The
pressure led to depression and in 2001, in a depressive rage, Dominic strangled
Bunny. He admitted to the killing, and the court found that due to his mental
state at the time the crime was declared manslaughter. Dominic was sentenced to
10) Outhouse, 105 Capel Street. Outhouse is Dublin’s main
lgbt community and resource centre. It was founded in 1996 and moved to its
present location on Capel Street in 2001. It was officially opened by the Irish
President Mary McAlysse.