Re: Re: ‘Dutch Billys’

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On the specifically ‘Dutch’ appearance of the gables on the Clancarty house, assuming that the Tudor print does in fact depict the mansion we suspect was built in the 1670s or early 80s, how does that fit in with certain origins of the ‘Dutch Billy’ theories which may have been put forward? . . . . and what is a Gaelic Catholic family doing building a house whose design seems to consciously evoke Protestant Holland?

Thomas Dineley sketched Trinity, Christchurch and St Patrick’s in 1682, six years before The Glorious Revolution. In each of them he shows what we would describe as Dutch Billys, in the Trinity and St Patrick’s drawings he illustrates curvillinear gables on houses around them. All these landmark buildings are in different parts of the city, so if they are in each picture it’s logical to assume they must have been an established style pretty common and evenly distributed across Dublin by that date.

I hope I am not being pedantic, and I am forgiven for indulging my love of these houses by suggesting that if this architectural style was embraced by William of Orange fans in the city, and seized upon as a pre-existing style of house to represent a love of all things Dutch, would that not reflect in Street names too? S. William St and Boyne St spring to mind but I can’t think of many off the top of my head. Yet if these houses were a widespread loyalist statement, wouldn’t that be reflected in street names? I’d like to know if people were walking around wearing the latest Dutch styles too? The Statue of King Billy on College Green was very unpopular from the get-go and routinely vandalised, reflecting a politically mixed population. Just because these houses experienced their flowering in his period, I don’t think it was necessarily a reflection of the new power in town. It was already an established, vernacular style. I’m not denying that Dutch Billys aren’t associated with him, just that the term, is misleading, as well as being wonderfully evocative and colorful.

Now this is a big ASSUME, but assume the term “Dutch Billy” is contemporary with the period. What if the term “Dutch Billy” originally did not refer to Dutch Billy himself, but came from at least a decade earlier, as the buildings themselves do, predating his arrival on the Irish stage? I suggest this merely as food for thought, but perhaps Dutch Billy, as I mentioned in my previous post, was a colloquial term, phonetically similar to Billy, such as, in the Irish of the period, Bailean; residence, or Baile, place, piece of land, belonging to one family, group or individual. Denoting simply something that looked Dutch, argot for The Dutch House. Fusing an English and an Irish word as in Ringsend.

In Scot’s Gaelic, Baidealach, means abounding in towers and pillars. From Baideal meaning a pillar, fortress, tower or battlement. Consider bailey/billy in the sense of a shape evoking towers. Likely the early examples were set apart from the densley packed houses of a mainly late medieval town, perhaps with a front court evoking the bailey of a castle, fantastical buildings set apart from the shadows and squalor of the narrow medieval streets.

It is appropriate they are associated with William of Orange, they boomed from his time and the association would be foolish to deny, but they were here before him and so, maybe, was the term.

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