Posted by: mdmusingsie | June 16, 2014

Square = Park, oh, and New Swans

Dublin has a number of nice parks, or squares as they are called. Parnell and Mountjoy Squares north of the Liffey and Merrion, Fitzwilliam, and the largest St. Stephen’s Green (ok, well the latter’s not technically called a square) to the south. With the exception of Fitzwilliam, they are all public parks and all were holding special events for the public on Saturday, hosted by Dublin Civic Trust.

I’ve been to all of them except Fitzwilliam at one point or another and all have their merits. You would think that the one I had never been to would be the one I ended up visiting on Saturday, but it turned out not to be the case. Instead I chose St. Stephen’s Green – my favorite park and also one of the primary settings in a novel I’m working on about a young girl in the early 1900’s. A stroll around the park a few years ago sparked that particular story and I continue to return for inspiration when I get stuck.

Sir Arthur Guinness, later known as Lord Ardilaun was the driving force behind refurbishing and re-opening the park to the public in the late 1800s; despite objections from the neighboring gentry who would have preferred to keep it private. The common folk were so grateful to him for making this space available to everyone that they collected their sixpences, tuppences, pennies and ha’pennies in order to erect a statue in his honor that still stands today. These people were not the aristocracy and could hardly spare the coins, but having the park meant enough to them to make the sacrifice.

Thankfully for my novel, the layout of the park has changed little over the last 100+ years. I did find out the Fusiliers Arch (a memorial to the Irishmen who died serving in the Second Boer War in Africa) went up in 1907 (helps me more closely pinpoint the year in which the story is set) and that there would have been a statue of King George on a horse in the centre of the park at that time. The statue was blown up (on the second attempt) after the war of independence where many imperialistic monuments met their demise. (Interesting article about the Gardai near miss at the time of the second bombing – truth or fiction? It rings of both). But since the statue would have been there at the time of the story and because my central character is a bit of a tomboy, it will make a re-appearance in the novel (in what form, I’m still pondering).

Naturally, I can’t visit St. Stephen’s green without checking on the swans and was delighted to discover this year’s crop of cygnets. (I forgot to ask where last year’s cygnets were sent.) Whereas there were originally 8, from what I was told, there are now only 6 thanks to Dublin foxes. They appear to be a bit more than a month old and their wings are so small they are only about the size of my thumb from the knuckle down.

Prior to the guided walk I found them snacking on grass (eat your veg, little ones, you can’t survive by the bread of visitors alone – which isn’t that good for you anyway) and napping in the shade of a tree. The weather has been warming of late and is due to hit 25 Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) around mid-week, which is warm for Ireland. At least the swans have the water and the shade of trees in which to nap to keep them cool, as when the sun does put in an appearance this time of year, it is quite intense.

Adding a little roughage to the diet - check out the tiny wings

Adding a little roughage to the diet – check out the tiny wings

(mostly) napping in the shade - there's always one wide awake

(mostly) napping in the shade – there’s always one wide awake

After the talk I found them swimming in the water whilst assorted small children laughed, pointed, and threw bits of bread in their direction, with one approximately two year old becoming brave enough to reach down and touch the fluffy back of one of the cygnets. The proud swan parents flanked the group, chasing away any ducks who thought to try and snatch one of the morsels and even forgoing the offerings themselves so their little ones might eat.

Am I cute or what?

Am I cute or what?

Swan Parents keeping a close eye on their little ones

Swan Parents keeping a close eye on their little ones

Had I more time I would have visited more of the other squares. Most of the talks, however, were at the same time in the morning. It would have been nice to have them spread out so people could go from one to the other and gather the history. There were other events throughout the day including a children’s area in Merrion Square where I spied this organ grinder.


I also discovered they are nearly finished building a permanent children’s playground in Merrion Square just behind the statue of Oscar Wilde – something to look forward to for modern children of Dublin and its visitors.


  1. Sounds like a productive outing, Dawn! You were inspired as you relaxed.

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