These years were, to quote a famous statesman, "Mount Merrion's finest hour." With cars off the road altogether and the buses off at 9.00 pm the community got to know one another as they would never have done in any other circumstances. The lawyer and the civil servants, the bank manager and the company director, the butcher the baker and the candlestick maker took to bus or bicycle to arrive at their place of work. The well worn engine of the single decker 46A bus carried well known names such as Garrett Fitzgerald and his future wife Joan. Sean, brother of Michael Collins and his nephew, Mick, and Stephen O'Flaherty, the first importer of Volkswagen cars into Ireland after the war. He bought the last consignment of new German Adler cars brought into this country as the factory was flattened during the second World War. The bus fare from Mount Merrion Avenue to Leeson Street Bridge was three old pennies and one and a half old pence for children.


The fastest bus to the city was the Red and White Wicklow which would reluctantly stop when signalled. The local picture house was The Regent, Blackrock although many other social activities took place in what was know as the Ballroom. This was an upstairs room of the original school for the children living on the domain which was attached to the livery stables. This is now the site of the Guides and Scouts Hall. One of the first functions in aid of church funds was a Dress Dance in the Ballroom. In 1935 this dance was requested by Father Blake P.P. who asked the late Jack Doyle to make a new floor for the occasion. The young parishioner set to work on the rough floor which he planed by hand and waxed. At this time the same parishioner was picketing on the building site for which he received one half crown, the equivalent of twenty two and a half new pence today. On the strength of this, he and his friends would adjourn to Bolands of Stillorgan and buy themselves four pints each. After that the young parishioner was in great form for constructing the dance floor. On the night of the dance, Trainers of Goatstown erected a tent on the lawn where St. Therese's Church now stands, and supplied the beer. There was no water supply to the ballroom so two men were provided by Mr. Kenny to keep the tanks filled in the attic. At one stage, I believe, due to the strength of Trainers beer, one of the men dropped a bucket of water into the ballroom.


In the War years, as said above, Mount Merrion became a very close knit community with voluntary emergency services laid on. There was the Local Defense Force (L.D.F.) and Air Raid Precaution (A.R.P.), the Red Cross, the Junior Red Cross, St. John Ambulance Brigade, also a Rescue and Demolition Squad which was considered to be the finest in Ireland. This consisted of fourteen building workers with a Mr. Hollinshead the engineer in charge of the South Squad and Mr. Louis Goor head of the North Squad. At one stage, the powers that be called a meeting in the ballroom to form their own demolition squad to cover a wider area, the Mount Merrion Squad were to integrate with them. The Mount Merrion Squad declined the offer and had no option but to disband and sell all the equipment.


A Fire Fighting Unit was also formed in Mount Merrion by the local residents during the Emergency. The only equipment supplied by the Nation was a dark blue uniform with red piping and a cap to match, also a leather belt. Mr. Jack Timmons was the top man in this section, who taught the fire fighting crew quite a few helpful tricks. One of these was to be able to jump from a first storey window without injuring yourself. They were also taught how to deal with an incendiary bomb and one day Mr. Timmons demonstrated this by lighting one which produced a violet colour intense flame. It was quenched by the Unit with sand. On another occasion the unit went to Cabinteely to show the County Manager how efficient they were. A large fire was started but on the way from Mount Merrion to Cabinteely, it started to rain and the fire went out on its own accord.



In the early 40's two local youths went into the bowels of the old stone house which was attached to the now converted Chapel of Ease. They brought their torches with them and went down towards the old kitchen quarters where they came across a very narrow wine vault nicely laid out to hold the bottles. Further down they came upon three large tunnel entrances which were blocked off and believed to be escape tunnels which were about 5ft. high. In 1945, the football club had two rooms at the top of this old building to play cards etc. In winter a turf fire was lit and on one occasion the ashes of the previous night were put into a cardboard box and placed out on the landing. Two hours later the ashes had burnt through the floor but as luck had it, members of the football club were also fire fighters and made sure that the 1711 building did not go up in flames.


Sporting activities were very important during the 1940's. Hurling and gaelic were played, also rugby and cricket. A member of the American Attaché presented the club with a real baseball bat and Softball. His name was Andrew Allen Rackie and he was staying in a house in Sycamore Crescent. On Christmas morning he surprised all his neighbours by presenting them with a box of 200 Camel cigarettes. The locals were all invited over to his house to taste a new drink called Coca Cola and punch topped with whipped cream which was quite potent. Andrew Allen Rackie played some victory discs, or V discs as they were called. These were vinyl seventy eight revolutions per minute discs. The American staff headquarters wanted to send their troops the music of their favourite artists so all the big bands and big names were recorded. The result was that the discs were far superior recordings than the commercial versions of the same years. In some of the recordings one can first hear the band leader addressing the soldiers wishing them courage and a speedy return home.

In 1947 "a syndicate" was formed to purchase a championship billiard and snooker table from Athlone. This table was assembled, first of all in the old kitchen of the house and later on in the stone flagged room under the "Ballroom."

In 1944, Mount Merrion Soccer Team entered the Athletic Union League with very little success, but great enthusiasm. In the following year the team reached the sixth round of the Shield, the third round of the Leinster League Cup, and won the Athletic Union League Division 3 South Sunday. This was achieved with the loan of a "Home" ground in Ballybrack on Sunday mornings at 12 noon.

There was also a Mount Merrion Amateur Boxing Club with a Mr. Shevlin as trainer. The President was Reverend Hugh C. Dunne; Vice President General E. O'Duffy who lived on the estate; Captain was Patrick Mulcahy; Vice Captain, Francis Cahill who later had a big connection with Rehab in Sandymount; Secretary, Kevin Ring; Treasurer, Patrick Doris; and Honorary Vice President, J. Fitzgerald.

After the war or "Emergency" the very energetic Church Committee held very large fetes, with marquee dances also first class horsejumping and riding competitions to aid the building of a new church. One of the largest of these fetes was officially opened by the then Minister for Justice, General Sean MacEoin T,D. The admission was, adults four old pence and children two pence. Amusements were by Tofts. Dances were held in the marquee for sixteen consecutive nights, with the admission set at two shillings and six pence and five shillings at weekends. Some of the bands were, The Pembroke Orpheus, Jim Bacon and the late Peggy Dell, Johnny Keyes, a very nice singer was one of the special guests.

In 1952 there were entries in the Committee Treasurer's Report that dances were held practically every fortnight in the "Ballroom" in aid of St. Therese Church funds. On the 12th of October 1952, the gross takings for that night's dance was thirteen pounds and eleven shillings. The net profit was nine pounds and eleven shillings. Usually the band was made up of local talent, piano, double bass, tenor saxophone and drums; all these were at no cost to the Committee. Polish for the floor, which was scented wax crystals, cost ten old shillings. Later on in October a dance was held in Mills Hall on St. Stephens Green. The hall cost five pounds and five shillings and the band, six pounds, refreshments for the band, eight shillings and five pence. The profit was one pound seven shillings and five pence. "No comment" was written in the Treasurer's Report. Other famous dance band names hired by the Dance Committee were Jack Murtagh, Alan Beale, Joe Coughlan, B. Birkett, Johnny Butler, Jimmy Gavin and The Nevanna Swing.



During the Emergency, and after, great use was made of local talent. Variety shows were held very often in the Ballroom, which had a small stage. The late Kevin Hilton was one of the great stars of the shows. He was a marvellous compere and a wonderful comedian and song and dance man. He was ably assisted by a great friend of his, the late Reggie Cant, on the piano. These shows were usually held in aid of Kilmacud and Mount Merrion, New Church and School Fund.


The Late Kevin Hilton and Reggie Cant

Making Music in 1940s Mount Merrion.

During the 1940s Mount Merrion was quite a small suburb of Dublin. In fact it was away out in the sticks. The only houses were the “Kenny” built homes together with St. Thomas Rd, Roebuck Ave, patches of Foster Ave and two or three houses on Deerpark road. “The Great War” raged from 1939 until 1945 so there were shortages of almost all materials and foodstuffs. With the result people became very inventive and adventurous. This little story is a very good example of what talented young people did at that time. Immediately after the war in 1946 there were a number of young musicians in the Mount Merrion area. Whenever possible they would meet up and play the latest popular tunes either from sheet music or by ear. Freddie Henry was a drummer who lived on Sycamore Road; Gerry O’Kelly played a mean piano.


Gerry Lynn was also a drummer and at 16 was the youngest member of the Irish Federation of Musicians in County Dublin. Terry Tighe was talented in numerous ways. In 1946 he got hold of sheets of marine ply and when asked what he intended doing with it he said “I am going to build a double bass”. Although he lived in the Gate Lodge of “Temora”, a large house at the top of Booterstown Ave he was an honorary “Mountie”. It was Terry who suggested forming a “Trio” featuring a piano, drums and double bass. The drummer selected was David Brathman from 79 the Rise, (never too late Fr. Tony). Gerry O’Kelly was the pianist and Terry on the lovely new double bass. Not content with gigging they decided to cut a record . On a fine Saturday morning they loaded the new double bass, a full drum kit and three excited musicians into Gerry’s little Ford 5 cwt. 8hp van, reg. number ZE8340.


Off they went to Pigott’s in Grafton Street, parked outside the door and lugged the drum kit and the double bass up two flights of stairs to the recording studio. The recording studio consisted of a large room with a small glassed off space for the engineer. Terry told yer man that they wished to record six tunes, three fast, three slow. He directed Gerry to a grand piano which was located in the corner well away from the other two lads. It did however have an overhead microphone so all was well. The engineer explained that as soon as the red light went on they were on their own and he would commence cutting the They started with the slow numbers such as “Sunny side of the street” and Ballin the Jack”. As soon as the third number was recorded, in one take, the green light came on and the engineer turned over the resin record. The red light came on and the lads whooped it up with three fast numbers. That was it... they were now recording artists. All over in one hour flat. They bought ten copies at four shillings and six pence each. The idea was to sell them for about seven and six apiece but alas they only ever sold three copies. But fear not, one has been found in perfect working order sixty six years later. It now forms the background music for the Mount Merrion 300 website. Thank you Gerry O’Kelly for the record and for this lovely story.


D.S. July 2010