Tag Archives: Constitution Hill

Granny had a ‘coal hole’ that wasn’t.

My wonderful Granny lived in three different houses during her lifetime before spending the final 2 years in a nursing home.

Her third house is the only one I knew from the inside, since she moved there the year I was born. It was a three bedroom red brick mid terrace house. For some reason it seemed rather dark compares to our family home, where granny was a frequent visitor. There was a bus stop just round the corner from Granny’s house with a bus that travelled across the city to the very avenue we lived on and stopped practically at our door.

We as young children loved to go and stay with granny. She found fun in everything she did. Even folding a bed sheet became a game, when little arms and fingers had finally managed to find the corners… the sheet would be given a little tug and fly and flap upward until it finally came to rest on the little helper’s head. All the while, granny would be laughing her head off.

Without the laughter, it was a very quiet house – no gangly long legged noisy brothers running about and it was the days before TV and the radio was kept in the kitchen, where most of the activity occurred. The dining and living rooms were separate with no ‘folding doors’ between them.

Evenings were spent in the living room which was brightened by the setting sun. At times the only noises were the rustle of granny’s newspaper or the loud ticking of the clock on the mantelpiece.

I remember as a very small child, staying at my grandmother’s house in summertime.  I was in bed before darkness in the room above the living room and through the open bay windows hidden by billowing curtains with plate sized pink cabbage roses on a pale blue background, came the sound of a returning procession of dray horses plodding slowly home to St. James’s Gate Guinness Brewery with their empty stout barrels on huge carts with steel rimmed wheels.  The roads were cobbled and the rhythmic clop, clop, clop of the horses was as regular as a Town hall clock or church bell.

Without the heavy load the horses seemed to dance along with the extra chorus of their tackle clanging with each footfall, perhaps it was the thought of home, food and a bed of fresh hay that put the extra spring in their steps.

A modern tanker emblazoned with the company logo, does not play the same music for me somehow.

To the rear of the house was an enclosed walled yard with a large brick built shed in one corner. The half ton of coal was carried through the house each autumn and deposited in the back corner to fuel the winter fires. The mangle with a tin bucket was closer to the door and daylight, there was no electric light in there. Granny called it the ‘coal hole’.

It always puzzled me that a shed with a full size door and plenty of space could be called a coal hole. There was no hole in the door or in any of the walls. I know. Yes I do, because I searched every inch of them!

It was many years later that I learned that granny grew up in an impressive mid-terrace, two storey over basement period property dating from c.1850. It was on Constitution Hill, off the Phibsboro Road in Dublin. With the city centre just 1.8km away and within a short walk was/is the 1750 acres of The Phoenix Park.

The basement comprised three large storage rooms. One was actually out under the public footpath and had a circular metal access cover that was removed to allow the coalman to drop down the order of fuel from his cart, directly into the basement. A coal hole was where the coal was kept, although Granny did not take the basement area with her when she moved, the name stuck with her and in the post war house I visited, the shed became a Coal Hole!