Dublin's Hell

In Dublin, there once was a Hell. In Joyce’s Ulysses, Leopold Bloom sees a grim vision of the underworld in his hometown’s winding lanes. But hey, we’re not all as sombre as Bloom. The idea of ‘Hell in Dublin’ isn’t really as bleak as it sounds, really, the whole thing is just another example of that famous rebellious Irish wit.

The idea goes back to around 1780, where a long since gone area was christened in the Devil’s name. You’d think it’d be a slum, a dark corner of Dublin’s dirty underbelly, where the rogues and the reprobates slink between dusty doorways, minds on mischief and malice. Well, we’re afraid you’d be wrong.

An 1832 ‘Dublin Penny Journal’ Article (think an antiquated Dublin Timeout for the well-to-do) harks back to one old gent’s memories of Hell in Dublin.

At any rate, Hell to me, in those days, was a most attractive place, and often did I go hither, for the yard was full of shops where toys, and fireworks, and kites, and all the playthings that engage the youthful fancy, were exposed for sale.

The area, with its gates adorned with a stone Devil, was no true Hell. It was named as such for one reason; that those witty Irishmen, tongue planted firmly in cheek, thought it’d be a real gag to name an area ‘Hell’ located directly next door to Christ Church Cathedral. The joke ran and ran, local papers offering comfortable dwellings for the young professional, one advert suggesting - To be let, furnished apartments in Hell. N.B. They are well suited to a lawyer.’

So, if we were back in the 18th Century, where the area was still alive, we’d tell you not to worry. Just go to Hell and meet the Devil, and pick us up a kite while you’re there.


Library Ireland