Published August 17th, 1988 Photograph by Matt Kavanagh
If looking backwards in time is what this feature is all about, today’s image is a kind of double-take two-step. It was taken at the opening, at Bewley’s Restaurant, of an exhibition on the historical development of Grafton Street. “The old and the new,” is how the caption puts it.
Established in 1708 by one of Dublin’s wealthiest families, the Dawsons, the street was named after Henry Fitzroy, first Duke of Grafton. Three hundred years later it would be named as the fifth most expensive shopping street in the world, just behind New York’s Fifth Avenue and Causeway Bay in Hong Kong.
The three people pictured on Bewley’s balcony are – from left to right – Phil Sherlock, then manager of Brown Thomas, Bill Kelly of Arnott’s, then chairman of the Dublin City Centre Business Association, and the vice-chairman of the association, Richard Clarke.
The first two are smiling happily at the camera. Phil Sherlock’s hair, freshly feathered, is a tribute to 1980s blowdrying expertise. Mr Clarke, however – despite his own impressively-waved coiffure – is somewhere else altogether. Anxious? Dizzy? Momentarily diverted by something, or somebody, down on the street? We’ll never know.
The street itself, in any case, is the real star of the show. It’s thronged with people, wandering freely all over the shop – as it were – thanks to the pedestrianisation which had been introduced just a few years before the picture was taken. It’s probably lunchtime, if the number of besuited pedestrians at large is anything to go by; and considering that it’s August, there aren’t many people out and about in their summery finest.
The picture within the picture presents another Grafton Street altogether. A couple of cars – were cars really more elegant in those days, and shinier? – and a cyclist sail blithely along as if on the unruffled surface of a river. Despite this mild amount of traffic and the presence of a parked car, the “old” street somehow looks more serene than its more recent counterpart. You’d have to be out pretty early – or pretty late at night – to find Grafton Street so deserted nowadays.