“which was defrayed by a levy of sixpence in the pound out of the pay of every soldier and officer on the military establishment of Ireland”
It stayed as a hospital for two and a half centuries when the residents began to compete with the stresses and strains of the new Irish Free State. The building was used as storage for the Museum and also was used by the Garda – who still maintain a presence on the grounds. In 1947, after the Republic had been formed, a home for a large statue of Queen Victoria which stood outside Leicester House had to be found. The powers at the time felt that her majesty would be more at home (and out of the way) in the 48 acres in the Hospital rather than ‘overseeing’ proceedings in the Leinster House vicinity. The grounds are magnificent and in the front of the main building there is a formal 17c garden laid out in a very structured style.
At the end of the main avenue stands a Tudor style Richmond Tower. The original entrance was on the banks of the Liffey but had to be moved to its current position as it began to contribute to traffic congestion after the Heuston Station opened (at least it was spared the wrecking ball like so many Dublin’s’ historic buildings). On the way down to the Tower is one of the hidden gems of the area – Bully’s Acre. This is one of the oldest graveyards in the City and has been the resting place (living and otherwise) of some of the city’s finest. In the graveyard is the centre column of a 10th c Celtic cross thought to have been the Cross from in front of an abbey founded in the 6th c. On the eve of the Battle of Clontarf Brian Boru camped in the Acre before directing his troops in the famous battle. Robert Emmet stayed remarkably close to the area in his final hours. He was interred across the way in Kilmanham Jail. From there he was taken to Thomas Street to be hung drawn and quartered in 1803. When the hanging was complete and he was beheaded his remains were secretly buried. Prior to his final secret resting place, he was temporally buried in the Acre. Dan Donnelly, the famous Dublin heavyweight boxer, is buried here. Dan was a legendary bare-knuckle and the pride of the capital. After becoming heavyweight champion he bought a succession of pubs, the only one still standing is Fallons. But, amongst a list of supposed vices, Dan was particularly found of his own stock. So much so that he died in one of his bars aged only 32 and was buried in Bully’s Acre in 1820. However, professional grave robbing was rife in the capital at the time and Dan’s corpse became yet another statistic of that trade. In short, after public outcry the body was eventually returned, but without an arm. The limb, some 150 years later, found a resting place in glass case in ‘The Hideout’ bar in Kildare, only a few hundred yards to one of his most famous fights in ‘Donnellys Hollow’. Read more