Memory Lane: O'Connell Street Limerick

For this next instalment of our popular Memory Lanes series, we have hopped on a train at Heuston Street, changed at Limerick Junction to arrive in the city of Limerick. It has the moniker of being known as “The Treaty City”, after the truce signed by William of Orange and Patrick Sarsfield 1st Earl of Lucan. 

Colbert Station

Upon alighting from Colbert Station and walking the three minutes to today’s thoroughfare – O’Connell Street. The train station itself, like many others across Ireland, is named after one of the key figures of the 1916 Rising, Con Colbert. Colbert was born in Glenagower in rural Limerick in 1888. He was the son of a farmer and was one of five siblings. His early life involved working in Dublin, Limerick and South Africa before coming back home and getting involved in the Irish Republican Brotherhood and other Pro-Independence organisations. He was executed by firing Squad in Dublin’s Kilmainham Jail on the 8th of May 1916 because of his role in the 1916 Rising. Like many train stations in the republic of Ireland, find out more about the historic 1916 connection to Waterford’s Plunkett station here.

Peoples Park

peoples-park-limerick.jpgWe then take the scenic route to O’ Connell Street, taking in the beautiful ‘People’s Park’ on the way. On September 1st 1877, the park was officially opened by the Mayor of Limerick and was built in memory of the late Richard Russell. He was a key member of the family firm and merchants of John Morris Russell and Sons. The land that became the park, was donated by the Earl of Limerick, who thought it was important that improvements be made to the overall town (now City).

This beautiful park is reminiscent of St. Stephen’s Green or Merrion Square Park in Dublin, with beautiful tree lined pathways that are a delight to stroll along throughout the Summer. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the city and within this urban oasis of calm includes a prominent feature; the towering statue (A Greek Doric Column to be exact) in memory of Thomas Spring Rice. Mr Rice, as well as holding the title of ‘1st Baron Monteagle of Brandon’ was an MP for Limerick from 1820-1832 and also attainted the position of “Chancellor of the Exchequer” from 1835 to 1839.
With over 800 parks on GeoFindIT, make sure to download our free app on your next trip to Limerick if you’re looking to spend a day relaxing at People’s Park.

O’Connell Street

o-connell-street-limerick.jpgPassing through Barrington Street we then turn onto ‘The Crescent’, a short thoroughfare that leads onto O’ Connell Street. We stroll past a prominent looking statue which forms part of a Traffic Island and is of the Great liberator, Daniel O’ Connell. Unveiled in 1865, a full 8 years before his compatriot in Dublin got its first outing; it was the first statue in the country to be erected to the man who fought for Catholic emancipation. Walking down O’Connell Street is similar to walking down Fitzwilliam Street in Dublin as you pass the charming Georgian buildings, with their ornate doorways and a grand set of steps leading up to them. Walking around here, one can only imagine a bygone era of horse-drawn carriages and ladies in pretty petticoats and hats, passing by.
We are now outside a building which for many decades played a key role in the operations of the Roman Catholic Church in the city. This building was the Head Office of the Diocese of Limerick for many years, before it was sold in 2006.  The church then bought back the building in an auction of distressed properties in 2020. Crossing the junction at Mallow Street, we are now facing an impressive building on the corner. We can see that it has “Provincial Bank of Ireland” etched into the walls. This banking entity was one of three previously individual banks who joined together to form what we now know as “Allied Irish Banks”. It now houses the “Bank Bar and Restaurant”.

Limerick Sport

limerick-sport-rugby.jpgOutside this building is a statue of a hurler and a rugby player to signify the two great sporting passions of the city. The Limerick hurling team have so far won the prestigious All-Ireland trophy nine times in total, the most recent victory on December 13th 2020. The county has had many notable exponents of the game, from Pat Hartigan and Eamonn Cregan of the 1973 All-Ireland winning team to Gearoid Hegarty and Declan Hannon from the current winners of the Liam McCarthy Cup.

As for their cherished rugby team, Munster – many regard it as the very embodiment of the beating heart of the city, and it was bursting with joy on the two occasions the club have won the European Champions Cup. Exceptional talents such as Paul O’Connell and Ronan O’Gara graced the hallowed turf of the home of Munster Rugby - Thomond Park. This statue was created by the renowned sculptor, Robin Buick, of Ballymena Co. Antrim.

Limerick Leader

We then pass another building of some note; the office of the “Limerick Leader” Newspaper. The first edition of the Limerick Leader was publicised on August 9th 1889 and it cost the buyer a penny. The paper was setup by the Dublin born Accountant Jeremiah Buckley, who was once jailed for writing an article in defence of Tenant’s rights, so strong was his belief that journalists should have the right to Free Speech. The newspaper remained in the family’s hands for over a century before it was sold to the Leader Newspaper Group in 2002 for a reputed €20M.

Things to see and do in Limerick

Passing by an array of shops and fast food joints, we come across a church, Saint Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church. This house of prayer, first opened in 1942, has a Hiberno-Romanesque frontage and contains beautiful stained glass windows created by the famous Irish artist, Harry Clarke. He is the celebrated glass maker who also created the famous windows that adorn Bewleys CafĂ© on Grafton Street.

If you are a bit of a shopaholic, or merely want to pick up a gift your loved one will treasure, then a trip to the Brown Thomas Department Store is a must. It was originally opened in 1874 and was known as Todd’s, after one of the two owners William Todd. It was regarded as the premier shopping outlet in the city. The building, which had previously housed the Warehouse of Messrs Slattery and O’ Neill, was burnt down by fire on the 25th of August 1959. A new fabulous Department Store rose from the ashes in 1962, with the Todd’s name once again appearing prominently on the front, before being renamed as Brown Thomas in 2002. If you're interested in learning more about the history behind Brown Thomas, check out our Memory Lane edition of Grafton Street, Dublin here.

hunt-musuem-limerick.jpgAt the end of this famous road we come across the world famous Hunt Museum. It is named after the antiquarian and collector John Hunt, who in old age wished for the collection of important artefacts he had amassed (over 2,000 items) to remain intact and to be available for the public to view. Among the important displays were items from Greek, Roman and Egyptian civilisations. Initially the University of Limerick agreed to host part of the collection at its campus in 1974. In 1997, then Taoiseach John Bruton was on hand to cut the ribbon on the brand new Hunt Museum where his collection is now housed. Hunt also played a role in what was eventually to be the restoration of Bunratty Castle, as well as the construction of the Craugganowen and Lough Gur Visitor Centres.

It is here that our trip down the main thoroughfare of Limerick City ends. Might you wish to watch the world go by on a bench in People’s Park? Or perhaps spend hours gazing at the historic collections on display at Hunt Museum? Either way, there is no denying that a trip to the Treaty City should be top of your to-do list post lockdown. Make sure to download our free award-winning app GeoFindIT to help you get on your way and find all the aforementioned amenities and attractions while your there.
If you liked this blog, click here to take a trip down the Memory Lane of Westport.

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Posted: 31/03/2021 11:38:38

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