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Ráth Maonais
Rathmines Main Street
Rathmines Main Street
CouncilDublin City Council
Dáil ÉireannDublin Bay South
European ParliamentDublin
31 m (102 ft)

Rathmines (Irish: Ráth Maonais, meaning "ringfort of Maonas") is an inner suburb on the southside of Dublin, about 3 kilometres south of the city centre. It effectively begins at the south side of the Grand Canal and stretches along the Rathmines Road as far as Rathgar to the south, Ranelagh to the east and Harold's Cross to the west. It is situated in the city's Dublin 6 postal district.

Rathmines has thriving commercial and civil activity and is well known across Ireland as part of a traditional "flatland" - providing rented accommodation to newly arrived junior civil servants and third level students coming from outside the city since the 1930s. In more recent times, Rathmines has diversified its housing stock and many houses have been gentrified by the wealthier beneficiaries of Ireland's economic boom of the 1990s. Rathmines, nonetheless, is often said to have a cosmopolitan air, and has a diverse international population and has always been home to groups of new immigrant communities and indigenous ethnic minorities.


Rathmines is an Anglicisation of the Irish Ráth Maonais, meaning "ringfort of Maonas"/"fort of Maonas". The name Maonas is perhaps derived from Maoghnes or the Norman name de Meones, after the de Meones family who settled in Dublin about 1280; Elrington Ball states that the earlier version of the name was Meonesrath, which supports the theory that it was named after the family.[1] Like many of the surrounding areas, it arose from a fortified structure which would have been the centre of civic and commercial activity from the Norman invasion of Ireland in the 12th century. Rathgar, Baggotrath and Rathfarnham are further examples of Dublin placenames deriving from a similar root.



Rathmines c. 1911

Rathmines has a long history stretching back to the 14th century. At this time, Rathmines and surrounding hinterland were part of the ecclesiastical lands called Cuallu or Cuallan, later the vast Parish of Cullenswood, which gave its name to a nearby area. Cuallu is mentioned in local surveys from 1326 as part of the manor of St. Sepulchre (the estate, or rather liberty, of the Archbishop of Dublin, whose seat as a Canon of St. Patrick's Cathedral takes its name from this). There is some evidence of an established settlement around a rath as far back as 1350. Rathmines is part of the Barony of Uppercross, one of the many baronies surrounding the old city of Dublin, bound as it was by walls, some of which are still visible. In more recent times, Rathmines was a popular suburb of Dublin, attracting the wealthy and powerful seeking refuge from the poor living conditions of the city from the middle of the 19th century. A substantial mansion, generally called Rathmines Old Castle, was built in the seventeenth century, probably at present day Palmerstown Park, and rebuilt in the eighteenth; no trace of it survives today.

Rathmines is arguably best known historically for a bloody battle that took place there in 1649, during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, leading to the death of perhaps up to 5,000 people. The Battle of Rathmines took place on 2 August 1649 and led to the routing of Royalist forces in Ireland shortly after this time. Some have compared the Battle of Rathmines - or sometimes Baggotrath - as equal in political importance to England's Battle of Naseby. The battle brought a swift end to the ongoing Royalist Siege of Dublin.

In the early 1790s the Grand Canal was constructed on the northern edge of Rathmines, connecting Rathmines with Portobello via the La Touch Bridge (which through popular usage became better known as Portobello Bridge).

For several hundred years Rathmines was the location of a "spa" - in fact a spring - the water of which was said to have health-giving properties. It attracted people with all manner of ailments to the area. In the 19th century it was called the "Grattan Spa", as it was located on property once belonging to Henry Grattan, close to Portobello Bridge.[2] The "spa" gradually fell into a state of neglect as the century progressed, until disputes arose between those who wished to preserve it and those (mainly developers) who wished to get rid of it altogether. In 1872 a Dr. O'Leary, who held a high estimate of the water quality, reported that the "spa" was in "a most disgraceful state of repair", upon which the developer and alderman Frederick Stokes sent samples to the medical inspector, Dr. Cameron, for analysis. Dr. Cameron, a great lover of authority, reported: "It was, in all probability, merely the drainings of some ancient disused sewer, not a chalybeate spring." Access to the site was blocked up and the once popular "spa" faded from public memory.[3]

The Westminster parliamentary borough of Rathmines had a unionist majority up to independence in 1922. The last Member of Parliament it returned was Maurice Dockrell.

Easter Rising, War of Independence & Civil War[edit]

On 25 April 1916, during the Easter Rising, Captain John Bowen-Colthurst, an officer of the 3rd battalion Royal Irish Rifles, went on a raiding party in Rathmines holding Francis Sheehy-Skeffington as hostage. At Rathmines Road he shot dead 19-year-old James Joseph Coade of 28 Mountpleasant Avenue. Coade had been attending a Sodality meeting at the nearby Catholic Church of Our Lady of Refuge.[4] Sheehy-Skeffington was later shot dead in Portobello Barracks.

Rathmines Church was used as a weapons store during the War of Independence. On 26 January 1920 a fire started at the electrical switchboard in the vestry. There were reports of several members of 'A' Company of the IRA Dublin Brigade entering the church during the fire to retrieve the weapons. The fire caused £30-35,000 worth of damage and completely the destroyed the dome.[5]

During the Irish Civil War, Séamus Dwyer, a pro-treaty Sinn Féin politician, was shot dead in his shop at 5 Rathmines Terrace by an unknown gunman on 20 December 1922. He had been an intelligence officer with the Dublin Brigade of the IRA during the War of Independence.

Also during the Civil War, Thomas O'Leary, a member of the anti-Treaty IRA, was shot dead by the Free State Army. His body was found on the morning of 24 March 1923 "bathed in blood, and apparently riddled with bullets, at the edge of the footpath outside the walls of the Tranquilla Convent" (now Tranquilla Park). A monument was erected in 1933 to mark the spot where his body was found.[6]

Dartry Road in Rathmines was the scene of the still-controversial[7] killing of IRA member Timothy Coughlin by police informer Sean Harling on the evening of 28 January 1928. It happened opposite 'Woodpark Lodge', where Harling lived at the time.

Rathmines Township[edit]

The Rathmines Township was created by Act of Parliament in 1847, and its area was later renamed "Rathmines and Rathgar" and expanded to take in the areas of Rathgar, Ranelagh, Sallymount and Milltown. The township was initially responsible only for sanitation, but its powers were extended over time to cover most functions of local government. It became an urban district under the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898, but was still usually called a "township". Initially the council was made up of local businessmen and other eminent figures; the franchise was extended in 1899 and the membership changed accordingly.

The former Town Hall is still one of Rathmines' most prominent buildings with its clock tower (because the clock is famously inaccurate and has four large apparently unsynchronised clock faces (i.e., they sometimes show different times), it is known locally as the "Four Faced Liar".)[citation needed][8] It was designed by Sir Thomas Drew and completed in 1899. It is now occupied by Rathmines College.

The township was incorporated into the City of Dublin in 1930, and its functions were taken over by Dublin Corporation, now known as Dublin City Council. Rathmines is a local electoral area of Dublin City Council, electing four councillors; the boundaries of the electoral area have varied over the years.

Places of interest[edit]

Church of Mary Immaculate, Refuge of Sinners

Rathmines is well known for the large army barracks which is located there, Cathal Brugha Barracks (known in the past as Portobello Barracks), home to many units of the Irish Army including the 2nd Infantry Battalion.

Rathmines Library was opened on 24 October 1913 following a grant of £8,500[9] from Andrew Carnegie, to a design by architect, Frederick Hicks.[10]

Religion and churches[edit]

Another well known feature is the prominent copper dome of Mary Immaculate, Refuge of Sinners Church. The original dome was destroyed in a fire in 1920 and replaced by the current dome when reopened in 1922. The dome was to be used in St Petersburg but the political and social upheaval in this city caused it to be diverted to Dublin.[11]

The Holy Trinity Church (Church of Ireland) was designed by John Semple (1801–1882) in the Gothic Revival style and consecrated on 1 June 1828. Constructed of Black Calp, a local limestone that turns black in the rain, the Church was one of two in Dublin to be known as the 'Black Church,' (the other also being designed by Semple and in St. Mary's Place); their sinister appearance on dark wet nights resulted in a common children's superstition that were one to walk three times around either church backwards after midnight under a full moon – you'd encounter the devil.[12]

Church of Ireland, Holy Trinity, Rathmines

Rathmines is also the location of Grosvenor Road Baptist Church.[13]


Rathmines is also home to two well-known primary and secondary schools, St Mary's College (C.S.Sp,) and St Louis Primary and secondary school. Kildare Place National School, situated on the grounds of the former Church of Ireland College of Education is also a highly reputable Church of Ireland sponsored primary school on Upper Rathmines Road.


Recently a new multiplex cinema has been added to the local shopping centre which is the first one in Dublin catering for Digital cinema. This has three screens with plans for a fourth, it shows up to date movies and features 3D movies. In October 2017, the Stella Cinema, a vintage cinema popular in the 1980s was refurbished and reopened, offering both classic films and blockbusters in an alternative setting.[14] In late 2017, luxury grocery brand Fallon and Byrne launched a new store as well as a high-end cafe in the Swan Shopping Centre in Rathmines, following a year-long refurbishment plan.[15]

Near the junction of lower Rathmines and upper Rathmines Roads is a bar named Martin B Slattery, well known for its relatively unmodernised interior, usually referred to locally as Martin B's, because the Slattery family at one time ran many pubs.


From the 1850s horse-drawn omnibuses provided transport from Rathmines to the city centre. Portobello Bridge, which had a steep incline, was often a problem for the horses, which led to the fatal accident of 1861.[16]

On 6 October 1871 work was commenced on the Dublin tram system on Rathmines Road, just before Portobello Bridge, and a horse-drawn tram service was in place the following year. The following year also the long-awaited (since the 1861 accident) improvements to Portobello Bridge were carried out, the Tramway Company paying one third of the total cost of £300.

Rathmines and Ranelagh railway station opened on 16 July 1896 and finally closed on 1 January 1959.[17]

Rathmines is served by the Luas light rail system: Ranelagh on the Green Line is the most convenient for access to the main street, while the Charlemont and Beechwood stops are also within walking distance of the area.

Dublin Bus routes 14, 15, 15A, 15B, 18, 65, 65B, 83, 140 and 142 serve Rathmines. The area is also served by the Dublin Bus Nitelink routes 15N and 49N on Friday and Saturday nights and on public holidays.

Notable people associated with Rathmines[edit]

See also[edit]


  • Maitiú, Séamas Ó (2003). Dublin's Suburban Towns 1834–1930. Four Courts Press. ISBN 9781851827237.
  1. ^ Ball, F. Elrington History of Dublin Vol.2 1903 Alexander Thom and Co. p.100
  2. ^ Handcock, William Domville (1899). The History and Antiquities of Tallaght In The County of Dublin. Dublin: 2nd Edition.
  3. ^ Irish Times, Letters to the Editor, July 1872
  4. ^ http://www.awm.gov.au/journal/j39/kildea.asp
  5. ^ http://comeheretome.com/2013/08/05/the-rathmines-church-fire-1920/
  6. ^ http://comeheretome.com/2013/02/15/thomas-oleary-of-armstong-street-harolds-cross/
  7. ^ http://republican-news.org/archive/1998/January29/29hist.html
  8. ^ Kapila, Lois (4 May 2016). "A Struggle to Keep Time". The Dublin Inquirer. Retrieved 6 May 2020. “Going back years ... it’s always been known as the four-faced liar,” said ... vice principal of Rathmines College. “The clocks were never fully coordinated.”
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 November 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ http://dia.ie/works/view/36650/building/CO.+DUBLIN%2C+DUBLIN%2C+RATHMINES+ROAD+LOWER%2C+NO.+167+%28CARNEGIE+FREE+LIBRARY+%26+TECHNICAL+INSTITUTE%29
  11. ^ Rathmines Church Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ http://www.dia.ie/works/view/33808/building/CO.+DUBLIN%2C+DUBLIN%2C+CHURCH+AVENUE+%28RATHMINES%29%2C+CHURCH+OF+HOLY+TRINITY+%28CI%29
  13. ^ Grosvenor Road Baptist Church.
  14. ^ "A sneak preview inside the refurbished Stella cinema in Rathmines". The Irish Times. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  15. ^ "First look: Inside Fallon & Byrne's new food hall in Rathmines". The Irish Times. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  16. ^ Daly, Mary (1998). Dublin's Victorian Houses. Dublin: A and A Farmar. p. 19. ISBN 1-899047-42-5.
  17. ^ "Rathmines and Ranelagh station" (PDF). Railscot - Irish Railways. Retrieved 23 November 2007.
  18. ^ Kavanagh, Ray (2005). Mamie Cadden: Backstreet Abortionist. Mercier Press. p. 29. ISBN 185635-459-8.
  19. ^ Simmins, Geoffrey (1997). Fred Cumberland: Building the Victorian Dream. University of Toronto Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-8020-0679-0.
  20. ^ http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/pages/1911/Dublin/Rathmines___Rathgar_West/Terenure_Road/65277/
  21. ^ http://www.jjon.org/jioyce-s-people/thomas-keohler
  22. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 9 April 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ Robin Skelton J.M.Singe and his world.1971 p. 121
  24. ^ http://www.wynnesofireland.info/genealogy/getperson.php?personID=I416&tree=Tree02

Coordinates: 53°19.5′N 6°15.9′W / 53.3250°N 6.2650°W / 53.3250; -6.2650