Delfin Blog

A Darker Green

"Next stop: Saint Stephen's Green."

We've heard that countless times as we hop off the Luas just outside one of Dublin's best-known green areas. The green itself is just as familiar, with its leafy paths, flowerbeds and fountains the setting for many a Dubliner's lunch break, or a lazy weekend picnic. But if you dig deeper, the history of the park is somewhat dark. It hasn't always been such a tranquil spot.

These days when it's sunny you might find a group of teenagers flinging a frisbee around, perhaps to the annoyance of that elderly man nearby who hoped to munch his Tayto sandwich in peace. However, he might consider himself fairly fortunate if he knew about the rowdy and raucous football games that used to churn up the earth in the earlier days of the park. It was not uncommon for a kickabout to turn violent. The shouts of "Pass it!" would grow into something angrier and more aggressive, the kicking feet made contact with the opponents' shins as often as with the ball, and a riot broke out!

That frisbee doesn't seem like such a disturbance now, does it? It might knock your sandwich out of your hands but at least it won't take your head off. In the 18th century though, you couldn't be so sure. Until the 1770s, the majority of Dublin's public executions took place in St. Stephen's Green. Nowadays you might find yourself in a crowd enjoying an outdoor concert, but as you admire the guitarist's handwork as he grips the neck of his instrument, make sure you remember that if you had been in the same spot in 1782 you might have been watching, equally fascinated, as the hangman tightened his noose around the doomed neck of Mr. Patrick Dougherty.

Dougherty, who had been sentenced to death for the armed robbery of a wine merchant, was the last person to be executed in St. Stephen's Green. Since then, the park has settled into an idyllic, peaceful place. As long as you don't fall into the duck pond or find yourself the victim of an air strike from a vicious pigeon, you're perfectly safe. Aren't you lucky?

Colm Dawson