The times we lived in
Change of plan Published October 16th, 1963 Photograph by Tommy Collins
The old cars, the single street lamp, those gracious Georgian façades: this shot of Mountjoy Square West, looking towards Dorset Street, could have been taken at any time over a period of a hundred years.
More than anything, it’s the child on the corner to the right-hand side of the frame, wearing short trousers and looking somewhat woebegone, who gives the picture its particular piquancy. His small, solitary figure adds perspective – and human scale – to the streetscape.
What he’s doing there, we’ll never know. Possibly staring at our photographer in disbelief, wondering why anybody would be taking pictures of his neighbourhood – or, indeed, of himself. Mountjoy Square in the early 1960s wasn’t exactly paparazzi territory.
Our photographer Tommy Collins, meanwhile, may have been wondering what he had done to deserve being despatched to Dublin’s north inner city rather than to somewhere more glamorous. Washington DC, say; the front page of The Irish Times for October 16th showed the Taoiseach, Seán Lemass, at the White House for a meeting with President John F Kennedy.
Who had, though no one knew it at the time, just over a month to live.
Inside, under the heading “The Future of Dublin”, the paper carried the first of a series of articles devoted to the implementation of the new Local Government (Planning and Development) Act.
The event – organised and reported on by the peerless Michael Viney – produced some sharp exchanges between architects, engineers and planners of the day.
Merrion Square was declared too big, Fitzwilliam Square too soggy. But Mountjoy Square was praised for its perfect proportions, which is why its streetscape was chosen to illustrate the piece.
The boy in our picture, however, didn’t make it into the paper. Either another, very similar, image was used: or the child on the corner was deemed surplus to requirements and cropped out.
Which, when you think about it, is an eloquent comment – in its own right – on Dublin’s architectural history.
These and other Irish Times images can be purchased from irishtimes.com/photosales/