Passing St.Andrew’s Church recently, which today is home to the Dublin Tourism Centre, a statue in the car park grabbed my eye. Going in for a look, a badly weathered statue stood in the very corner of the church car park, forgotten by time. I took a few photographs and decided I’d investigate it at a later date.
The badly weathered statue is of Saint Andrew himself, and is all the remains of an older version of the church. Saint Andrew’s has a long and interesting history, once serving as the parish church for the Irish Parliament, an institution so rotten it succeeded in abolishing itself in very dubious circumstances in 1800. Since 1996, the building has been home to the Dublin Tourism Centre.
Next to the Irish Parliament on College Green, Daly’s Club thrived in the eighteenth century. Daly’s was a private members club with a notorious reputation which had first been housed at numbers 1-3 Dame Street, before making the move to 3 College Green in the 1790s. It was said to be named after Denis Daly, a Galway politician, wealthy landowner and friend of Henry Grattan.
An 1815 text, The Travellers New Guide Through Ireland, contains an entry on the club and notes that:
On the northside of College Green stands Daly’s Club House, a very neat building, constructed of hewn mountain stone. It is appropriated for the accommodation and entertainment of noblemen and gentlemen, composing this fashionable and expensive club.
The connection between Daly’s and the neighbouring Parliament was firm. As Christine Casey has noted, it was even reputed that Parliaments division bells would ring in the club house. J.T Gilbert described the club in good detail in his A History of the City of Dublin, noting that:
the new edifice, designed by Francis Johnston, extending from the corner of Anglesey-Street to Foster Place, was opened, for the first time, with a grand dinner, on the 16th of February 1791.The house was furnished in a superb manner, with grand lustres, inlaid tables, and marble chimney-pieces; the chairs and sofas were white and gold, covered by the richest “Aurora silk”.
Gilbert went on to note that the club was not alone the “chief resort of the aristocracy and Members of Parliament”, but was indeed connected to Parliament, via a footpath across Foster Place which led from “the Western Portico of the Parliament House to a door, since converted into a window, on the eastern side of the Club-house.”
The proximity of the eastern side of the club at Foster Place to the Irish Parliament is clear from this fantastic image in the National Library of Ireland collection.
So, what connects this one time Buswell’s Hotel (I couldn’t resist!) to the statue of Saint Andrew? A Dublin legend, which could be fact or fiction, has it that the statue was used for target practice by members of the infamous establishment. Frank Hopkins in his classic Hidden Dublin recounts how “there were even tales of club members using the statue of St. Andrew in St. Andrew’s Church for target practice”, while the tourism centre themselves make a similar claim,noting in their history of the church that “now eroded due to the ravages of time, and as a result of its use as a pistol practice target by the members of Daly’s Social Club”.
How much of the legend of Saint Andrew being fired upon by the drinking, gambling politicians of Daly’s Club is fact and how much is fiction? It’s a great Dublin story regardless, and the badly weathered statue on the edge of the car park is something worth taking the time to check out if you’re in that part of town.