memories of a long lost Dublin

Before there was a D4, Heytesbury Lane was an abandoned meow stretch at the back of Waterloo Road, set in the remains of an apple orchard. When I moved here over 50 years ago, there was no lighting, nothing, a horse and a handful of people. Although it has become, as realtors say, a ‘sought-after address within walking distance of downtown’, new residents go from car to door meowing, rarely setting foot in the driveway, leaving me walk with the ghosts of long-missing neighbors.

I know more ghosts on Heytesbury Lane now than real people. They look like ghosts – wispy, gray, transparent. Rustling like cellophane, they take shape, stand up to walk with me down the alley towards the promise of blue hills at the west end.

Maryalicia Post, left, and singer Rita Connolly at the opening of the Shaun Davey painting exhibition at the Courtyard Gallery, Monkstown, Co Dublin in 1995. Photography: Frank Miller

Richard Kingston, the artist, chats with Peter Cahill, the ship’s captain – and here, walking slowly, is the old man speaking Irish with his wife. Ask him “how are you?” and he will respond “badly, thank God”, signaling his acceptance of “what is”.

There is a light behind the door of the Kearney sisters. They left it ajar for friends. And this is Dr Chapman, on his way home from the Royal City of Dublin Hospital on Baggot Street. Now the ivy closes the beautiful entrance doors to the hospital. The doctor’s meows go up the track. Was there also a small dairy up there? Perhaps the long table in my dining room was theirs. Its metallic tab reads: The Dairy Engineering Company of Ireland, Nos 21 & 22 Bachelor Walk, Dublin.

When I reach the meows that belonged to Vivette before she returned to Jamaica, she’s just coming from the shops. She wears a hat and gloves and is accompanied by her maid. The maid is white and Vivette is black. The maid carries a basket. There is a single chop and a handful of parsley.

Mr. Footy, the panel beater, hurries through. His store is at the top of the alley where an orange light spreads through the gathering gray haze; he keeps a fire in an oil barrel. Paddy Harris lives up there too, sharing his meows with his horse and cart. Step aside for “Mr. Whoopee” slamming on his motorbike. (He shouts “whoopee” as his sidecar trembles on the streaked tarmacadam.) Hear the cries of doomed pigs as they arrive in a truck to wait for tomorrow behind worn, weathered wooden doors.

Initials carved into a stone wall … JP / MH. Jack and mine. Almost invisible inside the ghostly trace of a heart. Enter the meows through the weaving shed. Wesley Burrowes built it for his Swedish wife before moving to Bray in Co Wicklow. I’ll write this in the corner of the kitchen where Wesley created Glenroe. Jack and I watched it every week on our black and white TV. Gone now.

Wesley Burrowes at his home in Bray in 1997. Photograph: Joe St Leger

Wesley Burrowes at his home in Bray in 1997. Photograph: Joe St Leger

Brian Cleeve.  Photography: RTÉ Archive / Stills Collection

Brian Cleeve. Photography: RTÉ Archive / Stills Collection

Further down the dark lane – the lampposts still look new to me – a door closes behind Brian Cleeve. The thick blue bottles he unearthed behind his meows glow in his window. Brian once saw Christ in the “small and dark” alley. Cleeve may be dead – he’s dead – but he’s still here.

Perhaps the same can be said of Christ.

Maryalicia Post is a New York-born poet and travel writer who lives in Dublin. His first long form poem won the Gerard Manley Hopkins International Poetry Competition and was subsequently published in book form, After You, by Souvenir Press.

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