The granite that forms Dalkey Hill was very close to where large amounts of rock were needed for construction in the early 1800s. The granite itself was located so close to the surface that it be could be quarried easily. And today, these strip-quarried exposures still being described by geology students in annual field trips, something I also did during my undergraduate years. It’s a place within public transport reach of several universities where keen observers can peer into the interior of a granitic pluton.
The mica-sparkly granite was blasted out of the batholith and despatched downhill to be reshaped into the form of blocks. Building blocks for piers, churches and walls. Many structures in the near-distant Dalkey are made from the same granite. There’s a church in far-distant Newfoundland that includes a lot of granite from this quarry. It was the largest church building in North America when completed in 1855. Some say the Irish stone is the reason it was spared from the Great Fire of St Johns in 1892.
Forming and reforming was something several of my forebears did as architects, many of whose more local commissions are still in use a century later.
Today, the workers cottages are gentrified and have been remodelled into the future that is now. The work of the blasters, the labourers, the stonecutters and masons are memorialised all around my pandemic restricted area and beyond. We can’t leave home without passing the walls, churches and castles raised by their efforts. Indeed, our home sits in a slight cleft eroded out of the same batholith by ten thousand years of running water.
I grew up nearby and this disused quarry was my playground. We dug club houses into the soil and roofed them with discarded beams and found sheets of corrugated metal. Those excavated spaces are now treed, pigeon roosts and likely hidden away for generations to come.
We climbed the rock faces, for dare and pride, still aged in single digits, us children scampering like ants. Ignorant of consequences, we were living for the adventure. We sat atop the cliffs, picnicking on bottles of cola and ginger biscuits, after re-enacting the adventures of cartoon wartime heroes, their victory still being celebrated in the British comic-books we circulated among our near feral brigade.
Our childhood exploits were absolutely reckless. But I think recklessness is relative. There were nuclear bombers standing-by on runways around the world as Kennedy and Khrushchev decided whether or not it was time to end the world. One of the waiting pilots was someone I would meet when in my forties. He told me he would have dropped his bomb knowing that without a place to land, he’d become just another casualty of war. They say everyone who was around at the time of Kennedy’s assassination remembers where they were when they heard the news but I recall where I was that October when I was seven.
to be continued …
Quarried: Available now from Bracket Books Ireland at outlets like FabHappy or WalkingCommentary.
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