Dublin Can Be Heaven (even now, and even for cy­clists)

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - NEWS REVIEW - Frank McNally

An age-old prob­lem in Dublin is the re­luc­tance of its many ru­ral mi­grants, no mat­ter how long they live in it, to trans­fer their loy­al­ties to the city. Hav­ing lived here all my adult life, I have no such re­luc­tance. I am happy to con­sider my­self a Dubliner (ex­cept in GAA mat­ters – up Mon­aghan!), tak­ing pride in the city’s achieve­ments and tak­ing per­son­ally its fail­ures.

As a res­i­dent of Kil­main­ham’s in­ner fringe, I may even have be­come what used to be called a “city slicker”. I rarely visit sub­ur­ban shop­ping cen­tres, or drive to any­where within the M50. If I can’t walk, or get the bus or Luas, my main mode of trans­port is the Dublin Bikes scheme.

Cy­cling is by far the best way to get around the city cen­tre, es­pe­cially if you don’t mind risk­ing your life. That must be why, when I sat down to re­write the Dublin Saunter, aka “Dublin Can Be Heaven” – Leo Maguire’s mu­si­cal trib­ute to the city, circa 1950, made fa­mous by the ac­tor Noel Pur­cell – my ver­sion turned out to be bi­cy­cle-based, and a bit less re­laxed than the orig­i­nal.

I’ve been north and I’ve been

south, I’ve been east and west, I’ve been like a rolling stone, Yet there’s one place on the earth, Where I’m a per­ma­nent guest, And even have the nerve to call my

own. Dublin can be heaven In the bus lane af­ter seven On a roll to­wards Stephen’s Green. No need to worry ’Cept for that lorry To whose driver you may be

un­seen. James’s Street’s a won­der­land There’s magic in the air And ex­ple­tives from that taxi man You held up just back there. But if you don’t be­lieve me Try cy­cling if you dare In Dublin on an av­er­age week­day


I’ve been there and I’ve been here I’ve sought the rain­bow’s end But no crock of gold I’ve found Nor in­deed my stolen bikes. And let me tell you, friend Those thieves have left me well off,

browned. Still, Dublin can be heaven On Streets like Cuffe or Kevin And yes – on Col­lege Green. Just mind that gully Con­cen­trate fully Or your wheel will slip in be­tween Nas­sau Street’s like Fun­der­land There’s scream­ing in the air Those damn Vik­ing Splash tours

again I nearly hit the kerb. And if you too are fear­less, Try cy­cling here and there In Dublin on an av­er­age week­day


I’ve been south and I’ve been north I’ve even braved the quays I’ve gone where Red and Mad

Cows roam Yet there’s one place in the town I’ve al­ways been at ease, The only spot that cy­clists feel at

home Phoenix Park is heaven (And in Dublin 8, not 7!) For a roll ’mid all things green. The glens are furry It’s scenic – vurry And the air is re­mark­ably clean. All the paths are won­der­ful There are cy­cle lanes to spare (They’re full of bloody walk­ers,

mind With whom you have to share). So if you’re new to cy­cling You should prob­a­bly prac­tise there Not in Dublin on an av­er­age

week­day morn­ing.

Be­low: Ac­tor Noel Pur­cell pop­u­larised the ‘Dublin Saunter’ song writ­ten by Leo Maguire. It de­scribed a re­laxed, post-sec­ond World War Dublin few would recog­nise to­day. PHO­TO­GRAPH: KEVIN MCMA­HON, THE IR­ISH TIMES

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