Local historian’s latest book examines the Liberties during the rare old times

Maurice Curtis at the launch of his new book, The Liberties. Credit: Chris Synott

“That’s why I’ve written this book on the Liberties, so that people will remember that it is an amazing place. To me, it is probably Dublin’s most unique neighbourhood, for its heritage, its history and everything it has given us and continues to give us,” Maurice Curtis told a crowd at the launch of his new book The Liberties at Arnotts.

 The new book, filled with archive pictures of the area from the past, brings the reader on an educational, historic and insightful tour of Dublin’s oldest neighbourhood, immortalising the Liberties now in this time of rapid change through gentrification.

 Curtis brings the people on a mental tour of the area during his speech at the launch.“If you’re standing outside St. John’s lane church for instance, across the road from it you have City Saw Mills, beside that you have Vicar Street with Gay Byrnes’ motorbike in the window, across the road from that you have the National College of Art and Design that is the former distillery, and then you have St. John’s church with its lovely Harry Clark windows and everything else.

“This crazy mixture in the Liberties makes it an amazing place. I love the buzz, the atmosphere, the ambiance and the attitude of the people who will speak their minds.”

 Dubliner Maurice Curtis is an Irish and local historian who has penned many books about different districts in Dublin, but this latest work is his second on the Liberties. The book opens with a history of the area and some of the people who were born in the Liberties such as Irish author Jonathan Swift, the Republic’s first Taoiseach W.T. Cosgrave and Kevin Barry the first Irish republican to be executed after the leaders of the Easter Rising.

Curtis then leads the reader on a trip of the Liberties streets, some of the oldest streets in Dublin, which he complements with carefully selected photographs that showcase how the area has changed over time through industry, immigration and modernisation. His commentary provides a fascinating glimpse into Dublin during the rare old times.

 James Madigan, CEO of the Liberties Cultural Association also spoke at the book launch encouraging people to protect the communities culture and to not let it be lost completely to the new era: “Keep shopping on Meath Street, let’s keep it alive.”

 According to The Liberties, when Charles Dickens visited the area in the 1850s he described it as, “an almost indescribable aspect of dirt and confusion, semi-continental picturesqueness, shabbiness – less the shabbiness of dirt than that of untidiness – over-population, and frowsiness generally, perfectly original and peculiarly its own.”


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