Within sight of O’Connell Street, a plaque adorns the wall of an innocuous red brick house that reads: ‘A tribute to the champion boxers and the people of the Sean McDermott Lr. Gardiner Street area 1930-1940.’ The house sits on the corner of the aptly named ‘Champions Avenue,’ the street taking its name from the several boxing champions the area produced throughout the thirties and forties. Gardiner Street and Sean McDermott Street spawned a good many talented fighters- Paddy Hughes, Peter Glennon, Mickey Gifford and Mylie Doyle among them. But arguably the most famous was John ‘Spike’ McCormack.
Though Spike would become synonymous with the north inner city, he was born in Listowel, Co. Kerry in 1919. The McCormack family moved to Dublin when he was eight and Spike would take up boxing soon after, fighting amateur by the early thirties. In 1939 along with Peter Glennon and Mickey Gifford he went to America with the Irish amateur boxing team to fight against the Chicago ‘Golden Gloves’ (amateur champions) in Soldiers’ Field, Chicago. The trio returned home as victors with the Irish team matching their hosts, gaining five victories apiece.
Either side of his trip to the US Spike enlisted in the British Army, his strength and physical fitness leading him to become a Commando. It was his sense of adventure that led him to join the British Army rather than the Irish one, his son Young Spike remembering him saying ‘Hitler took Poland by storm and Ireland by telephone.’ Initially stationed in Scotland, he boxed over there and was highly thought of, even receiving an offer from a promoter to buy him out of his service. Once, while there according to Frank Hopkins ‘the night before St. Patricks Day in Kilmarnock, he painted a statue of King Billy green to aggravate the town’s Orangemen.’
In 1943 during his second spell with the army, an expeditionary raid down the French coast ended in a short but brutal clash and Spike sustained an injury to his thigh from a grenade blast. He returned to Ireland and whilst recuperating in the Mater Hospital was approached to fight Jimmy Ingle in what was to be the latter’s last amateur fight but not the last fight between the two men who had a competitive rivalry throughout their careers. Feeling the exertions with the injuryhe was carrying he went down in the third round, exhausted. According to his son ‘Young Spike’ in Kevin Kearns’ Dublin Voices
They took off his shorts and saw this big hole in his side and they said ‘Jesus Christ, he shouldn’t have been able to stand. So Jimmy Ingle turned professional but my father said ‘I’ll get him back when I’m good.’ So my father turned professional- just to get back at Jimmy Ingle.
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In Dublin, the town Joyce claimed was impossible to traverse without passing a pub (only to be disproved with the aid of Google Maps a century later,) it can still be hard to find somewhere that suits your situation no matter the mood.
Somewhere that we’ve taken to recently is the Sackville Lounge, not spitting distance from O’Connell Street on Sackville Place. It’s that perfect mix of archaic and well, non archaic- a one room, no nonsense bar with a great pint, and with sound staff and customers alike. The horse racing on the telly, a bookies next door and the hum of ham and cheese toasties in the air; always made to feel welcome, and always a chat forthcoming whether in company or on your own.
In a city racing to be London-lite but with our dazzling city lights emanating from Spars, Starbucks, exuberant donut shops and expensive ‘brunch spots’ (I’ve grown to hate those words,) places like the Sackville are rapidly becoming a dying breed. People will claim Kehoe’s, Neary’s, Mulligans and their ilk to be the best ‘old man pubs’ in the city. To me, none is a patch on the Sackville.
The Sackville during RTÉ’s ‘Road to the Rising.’ Image From the Sackville’s Twitter account
We spent a Saturday there last year in what I can only describe was a session of Canterbury Tales proportions. Dozens of people stuck their heads in throughout various parts of the day and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much in my life, or walked away from another pub in Dublin with the same “that was a good day” feeling than I did then. We spent another Saturday there watching Bulmer Hobson sip whiskey and mull over James Connolly’s pre-Rising disappearance as part of Anu Productions excellent “Glorious Madness.” We saw a British army soldier duke it out with his sister’s ICA partner outside in another Anu piece during RTÉ’s ‘Road to the Rising.’ And I’d like to say I cheered home many a winner there but I think the place was a jinx on me but that matters not, we’ll be there this weekend to say farewell.
For here comes the hammer blow- from a cryptic message board post the other day we gleaned that the Sackville is due to close its doors. Confirmed by the staff and by a quick Google revealing a ‘mutual lease break’ date on the ‘Spire Portfolio’ (which contains the Sackville Lounge amongst other properties) of 8/2/17, it looks to be true. No doubt the recently granted planning permission for Clery’s across the lane and for the construction of a new hotel on Sackville Place will have an effect on the future use of the premises as Dublin looks set to lose yet another of the institutions that made it what its known worldwide for. Sadly, as they say, another one bites the dust.
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Posted in Dublin History, Photography, Street Art, tagged Bohemian FC, Bohs, dalymount park, dublin, Dublin Graffiti, dublin street art, Graffiti on March 10, 2014|
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Dalymount Park, fresh from getting a pre-season lick of paint in the bars and corridors, got a lick of paint outside this weekend too as it played host to a selection of Dublin’s graffiti artists. Two-Headed Dog, Kevin Bohan, Marca Mix, Debut, Iljin, Tommy Rash, Kin Mx, Panda & Elroy and CJ Macken amongst others were involved in Dalymount’s first ever Spray Jam, with paint provided by http://www.vinnybyrne.com/ . Most are pictured below, a couple didn’t come out right, but I’ll get them again on Friday when Bohs play their first home game of the season.
The front gate and the side of the Jodi are the stand-outs in my opinion, but that’s not to take away from the other superb pieces. A long time patron of Dalymount said of the below, and I can’t but agree: “It’s the first thing a foreign or domestic visitor will see as they enter the Mecca… It’s what we’re all about, it’s a statement of intent and something to be proud about.” I’m not sure who owns what, so I’ll just put them up as I took them. Gratuitous dog shot at the end.
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