‘I love Dublin. I have everything I want here’
Where the heart is: Louise Walsh on living in Drumcondra, in the house she shares with her husband Derek Maher and their two children
Louise Walsh and Derek Maher with their sons, Thomas and Matthew. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan
When Waterford-born Louise Walsh looks out of her sun-room to see the early morning sun rise every day, the Dublin-based mother of two no longer turns her gaze towards her southeast roots.
“The room faces east, so in the morning, if I’m being very good and I get up before everybody else, it’s just a lovely spot to do a few stretches and look out to see the sun coming up. We lose it a couple of hours later because we’re in a built-up area, but at that time of the day we get sun.”
Louise lives with her husband, Derek Maher, and their sons, Thomas, nine, and Mathew, seven. Their home is off the Clonliffe Road, in the shadow of Croke Park in Dublin’s north inner city. They’ve been living there for 16 years.
“We’re in the eye of the storm. Normally we watch the All Irelands on TV, but we keep the doors open so we can hear the build up. Sound checks are going on throughout the day, and when the match starts this is a good place to be if you don’t have tickets. You can hear the roars. It would give you goosebumps. There’s a slight delay on TV, so sometimes when you hear the roar it’s a bit of a giveaway: you know there’s been a score.
“Even if you weren’t remotely interested in sport, you couldn’t help but get into the atmosphere. The crowds are warm, family-friendly, very jovial. There’s never any edginess.”
While the excitement of the annual all-Ireland days is something Louise and family look forward to; on a day to day basis, this part of Dublin is, says Walsh, a special place to live.
“Everything’s on our doorstep here. I like the thought that if something happened in the middle of the night I could go across the street and knock on somebody’s door. I’m from Waterford, but in the countryside now I think I’d feel isolated.”
Both of Louise and Derek’s sons go to school in Drumcondra. Most of the boys’ activities go on between there and Marino.
“Everything they do is nearby. The only thing they can’t do is walk out the door and play on the street. There’s no green to kick a ball on. They’re active and not indoors very much. Maybe they’re a little bit overscheduled in terms of all the activities, but it’s important to be spontaneous too. Where we are, we can jump on a bike and be past Fairview park in five minutes.”
Best of both worlds
Walsh says Dublin gives her the best of both worlds. She likes being in an urban environment, but along the nearby cycle path north of Bull Island, it doesn’t feel like being in a city.
“There’s so much on the doorstep. We’re a stone’s throw from the city centre. I work in the arts, with Music Network. Derek is a self-employed tree surgeon. We love the country, but even if you didn’t have much time you could take the dog for a walk in the grounds of Clonliffe College. The Tolka River flows through there. We’ve seen kingfishers, moor hens, egrets, herons. That river flows through the centre of Dublin, but it’s as vibrant as any I’ve seen anywhere else. You can be surprised in the city, if you’re willing to get out and look around.”
Space and home and making a comfortable and workable place to live, are important to Louise and Derek. When they moved into their house, in 2002, they were the youngest family on the street. Their neighbours were and still are, says Walsh, very welcoming.
“We were away this weekend. When we got back to Dublin our bins had been taken out for collection and all of our pots in the front of the house had been watered.”
When the couple bought their 1920s end-of-terrace house, it needed a lot of work.
“It was in bits. We had to rebuild it from the inside out. We’ve managed to make it our own. Parts of it are very new, other parts very old. We’ve built on. There was a galley kitchen that literally had space for only one person. It’s just big enough for us now.”
While a lot of the garden space was taken over with extensions, it’s still an important space to them that they intend working on in time.
“We didn’t want to do it up when the boys are still small. They like to kick balls there. Mathew loves to dig holes and he sees fairies in the garden and he leaves things for them. We want them to explore. They need the freedom.”
So, is this their forever home? Does she miss her native Waterford?
At a point in life there’s a change in how you view home. In some sense, Waterford will always be home, but home is where you’re at
“We go down there very regularly. Every time we leave, one of the boys starts crying and saying they want to live there. They love the freedom of it. Waterford is a great place and, ultimately, in years to come I would see myself moving back in that direction. I’d like to have a foot in each corner though, a place in Dublin, but maybe a little place in Waterford as well.
“My parents and family live in Waterford. My mother would still ask me when I’m moving home. There’s an expectation that I’ll move back. Derek’s from Dublin, but he’d move in a heartbeat. At the moment his mum is here though. She’s on her own. If that wasn’t the case we’d probably be having a discussion.”
In recent times, Walsh has noticed that she’s started giving a new answer to the question: Where are you from?
“I always would have said I’m from Waterford. But I notice recently, and it’s something that I’ve done unconsciously, without even realising it, I’ve started to say: ‘Well, I’m originally from Waterford, but now I live in Dublin.’ I’ve caught myself saying that and I’ve thought, wow, that’s a shift.
“My life is here. At a point in life there’s a change in how you view home. In some sense, Waterford will always be home, but home is where you’re at, I think. I love Dublin. I have everything I want here.”