DALKEY THE PURITY AND SALUBRITY OF ITS ATMOSPHERE
OPEN AIR FETES.
Taken from Irish Varieties by Gaskins.
The purity of the Dalkey air has, from the most remote times, been esteemed by the citizens of Dublin. When this City was visited and wasted by a most remarkable plague in 1575, the terrified inhabitants with one accord, rushed to Dalkey as to a sanctuary, a sure refuge against the awful visitation. An immense camp was formed on the hills, on the shore on the common, and also on Dalkey Island. On this occasion the grass grew in the streets of the deserted city.
In the years 1704,1705,and 1706, a virulent plague raged within the city, and again the citizens repaired to Dalkey, which preserved its ancient reputation undiminished.
The canvas tents extended in every direction music and amusement was the order of the day and the fearful idea of the prevailing distemper was effectually dispelled
For years Dalkey has been the favourite Summer resort of all the leading medical men of Dublin, many of them having built handsome villas, foremost amongst whom stands Sir Dominic Corrigan Bart the eminent physician, author, and naturalist, who has expended, thousands in the formation of a small boat harbour and fish ponds at his charming residence Inniscorrig. Surgeon Tuffnell has also done much for Sorrento by the improvement he has of late effected at his house in that portion of Dalkey it is also worthy of note, that not a single case of cholera occurred during the last visitation save and except one and that was a young man improperly sent in the last stage, it may be said by his friends out of Kingstown to die in Dalkey. Many people have lived to a great age in Dalkey Dr Parkinson had a few years ago under his charge three persons whose united ages amounted to 320 years. One was a superannuated pilot named Pat age 105, he used to walk up to a few weeks of his death from Bullock to Dalkey every morning to attend his devotions. The second was also an old pilot, well known as Red Bill he was over 100 when he died. The third was a woman called Mud Macklin she lived on Dalkey Hill supported in her old age by an attached and grateful servant who had served his mistress in better days. Mrs.Macklin reached the age of 114 before she died and often told Dr.Parkinson strange stories of 1782, when she entertained a large party of Volunteers at her house, before they marched into Dublin.
And now at this day what is the proud position of Dalkey? Let the value of land for building purpose attest. The Common covered with magnificent villas and stately mansions, the rocks themselves bear witness to the march of improvement and the advancing tide of civilisation, supporting the noble and numerous structures wherein reside the wealthy citizens of our metropolis seeking health and relaxation in the pure air, amid the romantic and unrivalled scenery of the surrounding country.
Nor was it in the fatal and disastrous event of pestilence alone that the citizens of Dublin availed themselves of this healthy and invigorating retreat. In the happy and merry days of the good old times, the rocks and dells of Dalkey commons were on festivals, and even ordinary week-days crowded with numerous pic-nics and sod parties. he fashionable world of Dublin assembled there, and had their rural fetes (al fresco) on a magnificent scale. The last, and perhaps the grandest of these great open air fetes, was given by the Alexanders and the Armitts, and by the late highly esteemed and popular Commander of the Forces in Ireland, Sir Edward Blakeney, then Lieutenant- Colonel of the 18th Royal Irish Fusiliers (at that time quartered in Dublin).
On the morning of as beautiful a day in June as ever beamed, the inhabitants of the leading thoroughfares of the city, and those along the road sides from Dublin to Dunleary, were suprised at the unusual crowds, continual and constant stream of open carriages of all kinds, conveying the youth and beauty of the aristocracy of the City to the chosen scene, and when the fine band of the fusiliers, in their magnificent full-dress uniforms of blue and gold, were seen to pass along the same route, innumerable bodies of the middle classes of the city and eastern suburbs were hastily formed, and followed in their wake. At noon, not only the majority of the original and principal party were assembled in a beautiful and extensive green amphitheatre, surrounded by rockey and lofty cliffs, but these rocky eminences themsleves were covered by a crowd of smaller parties, tributary stars around the more splendid galaxy that occupied the centre of the brilliant scene.
Two splendid marquees had been erected, one for the accommodation of the ladies and the other for the dinner party, beautiful pleasure yachts , which conveyed a portion of the invited guests to the scene, lay at anchor in Dalkey Sound and with their white sails and coloured steamers, contributed their share of life and beauty to the attractive scene.
Imagine what a fair and bright spectacle was presented, when the groups of quadrille dancers, the beauty and gallantry of the city and its vicinity, commenced their graceful movements on the green award, to the exquisite music of one of the finest of military bands. What a delight to the happy multitude of spectators who beheld and admired the grace and tempered gaiety of high life.
The pencil of that accomplished painter, Watteau, in his finest pictures of the fetes champetre of the French, never portrayed a scene so exquisitely beautiful and romantic.
Ere the sum had gone down on this charming tableau many of the company (including some first class amateur vocalists and performers) went abroad the gaily- dressed yachts lying at anchor in Dalkey Sound. The gentlemen sang with grand effect Anacreontic Moore’s fine song. And afterwards the entire company (ladies and gentlemen), sang the pure, the beautiful, and the un-equalled Hark the vesper hymn is stealing, by Moore, his songs and sacred melodies then being fashionable in every class of society. Alas! superseded, in these days of modern refinement, by comic, serio- comic songs, and puerile love ditties!.
Oh! That such scenes of rational and healthful pleasure, of innocent enjoyment, in which the higher, the middle, and the poorer classes mingled together, gaily and merrily, are no more, they belong to the memory of the past.
The mild temperature of the climate of Dalkey is shown by the arbutus, which loves a soft marine exposure, thriving here with astonishing luxuriance. In the garden of Mr J.J. Wilson Eastmount, Dalkey, are growing as fine arbutus trees as any in Killarney. Every gentlemen in Dalkey should encourage its growth, which would form a relief to its numerous granite walls.