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    • #707472

      How predictable I know – but just watching the archive footage yesterday of the inaugurations through the years, I see that the Áras wasn’t always painted white! This is hardly a revelation to most people, but I always thought that it was rendered and smothered in paint in the mid to late 19th century to tart the place up & turn it into a typically Victorian seasidey retreat for one of Victoria’s visits.

      But in the footage yesterday, as late as 1938 for the inauguration of Douglas Hyde, it would appear from the black and white footage that the main body of the house is of the same grey limestone as the portico, and the white sash windows clearly stand out from the dull walls. I’ve seen the odd pic of the house from the olden days but they’re always wide shots and difficult to make out the colouring.
      If this is the case, why was it painted – a direct attempt to emulate the White House?
      Not that it doesn’t look great now – with those matching gleaming white chimneys it’s one of the most beautiful sights in this country. At the same time I wouldn’t advocate tackling Russborough today with a bucket of Dulux Weathershield 😀
      I’ll try and get a still from the footage – unless someone else has a pic?

    • #748368

      Here’s the pic of the apparently unpainted house – it’s just interesting how recently it was so drastically altered:

    • #748369

      And the house today (original facade):

    • #748370

      Thats a very interesting topic, i always presumed it was rendered but now that i think about it, of course it wasn’t. I don’t suppose its a painted lime render that was applied? Under the current legislation on Protected Structures there would be no mission of this treatment being approved today, but it just goes to show you that, something deemed to materially alter the character of the building may still look well?!

    • #748371

      How do you rate it as a building Graham? Strikes me as being a bit of a hospital from some angles. The portico is impressive

    • #748372

      That’s an interesting point you make Sinead – indeed there is an attitude today regarding alterations that, ah sure if it was done before 1960 there’s value in it regardless 🙂

      I see what you mean about it looking like a hospital Sue – suppose the severe architecture of the mid-18th century doesn’t best lend itself to being rendered considering how important the materials and relief etc is on such buildings.
      Still think it looks amazing though, there’s just something about everything being white, esp when contrasted with the deadpan grey portico on the garden front.
      I was looking through the list of projects carried out by the OPW over the years, and the Áras was ‘altered’ and redecorated between circa 1944-1960, naturally with the infamous Raymond McGrath overseeing the project, so presumably it was around this time that the paint and/or render arrived.
      I wonder when the garden front was extended in 1802 and again in the 1850s if it was extended in the red brick the house was built of, or if everything was rendered at the time, or clad in stone.

      It’s just the inauguration that raised this issue, which I had the pleasure of partially attending on a lovely morning off last Thursday – I was going along directly opposite the Four Courts listening to the proceedings in the Castle on the radio just as the 21 gun salute to the President went off at Collins Barracks. It was a great moment with the guns resounding around the city & the Four Courts, hearing the applause of the Hall, and watching the white plumes of smoke rising over Arran Quay…as the golden autumnal canopies of the trees draped over the rustic granite walls… 😀
      And for once not even the traffic noise drowned it out.

      I decided to see if I could get into the Castle – needless to say Castle St was barricaded up, but the Palace St entrance was still open, just swarming with military people. They didn’t bat an eyelid though so I got in. All the Revenue suits were standing around outside smirking at the proceedings, not least at the Lower Castle Yard which was transformed into a Mercedes car plant – never seen anything like it.
      There was a great atmosphere in the Upper Yard, the perfect foil for the occasion, but there were only about 10 members of the public watching from the cross-block archway, which was as far as you could get. You could still easily have got a pot shot at her if you wanted…

      The army made a mess of marching in time once they got into the Lower Yard out of sight of the cameras; they struggled to say the least trying to get down the hill in a dignified fashion 🙂
      It’s interesting that the inauguration takes place literally on the very spot where the gilded thrones of the Viceroy & consort once stood for balls in St Patrick’s Hall – wonder what they would have thought if you told them that 200 years ago, and oh – the President will be living in your house as well, thank you very much 🙂

    • #748373


      Anyone ever hear of this before?!:


      “[Arás an Uactaráin] remained the residence of the Governor-General of the Irish Free State until 1932, when the new Governor-General, Domhnall Ua Buachalla, was installed in a specially hired private mansion in the southside of Dublin.

      The house was left empty for some years, until the office of President of Ireland was created in 1937. In 1938, the first President, Douglas Hyde lived there temporarily while plans were made to build a new presidential palace on the grounds. The outbreak of World War II saved the building, which had been renamed Áras an Uachtaráin…from demolition, as plans for its demolition [!] and the design of a new residence were put on hold. By 1945 it had become too closely identified with the presidency of Ireland to be demolished, though its poor condition did mean that extensive demolition and rebuilding of parts of the building were necessary, notably the kitchens, servants’ quarters and chapel.

      What sort of building was proposed or do people imagine would have been built? A modernist pile perhaps, or a severe modern neoclassical building?

    • #748374
      Paul Clerkin

      Never heard mention of this at all….

      bear in mind that its easy as hell to subvert wikipedia

    • #748375

      That goes without saying 🙂

      Certainly the idea of demolishing the building seems to be a bit far-fetched, esp as efforts were already underway to secure Duiblin Castle and other key state ceremonial assets.

    • #748376

      I think the last two Presidents have really made an effort to clean up the ‘Aras’ I have to say i was very proud the day of succession for the new member states. The building looked magnificant. The interior has been given a good refurbishment too!

      That must be what they mean about ‘women around the place’!! (only kidding.) They have been two great ambassadors for the island of Ireland

    • #748377

      The garden is also to undergo a restroation to an 1830’s design faithfully re-drafted by the OPW architects

    • #748378

      Good news. Often laughed at vast tree standing in one of the grassed quadrants to the garden front of the building – looks quite bizarre on its own, disrupting the ordered scheme. Presumably the quadrants are a modern innovation….

      Agreed about what the last two Presidents have done for the place – as far as I know the place was falling part when Mary Robinson moved in, despite the earlier restorations. It was viewed as a musty old nursing home for old men beforehand – the ‘send him out to the Park’ phrase being very much so part of that :).

      Mary Robinson actually living in the residence itself rather than the 20s wing tacked on the side that Mary McAleese is living in made all the difference no doubt. If I was her I’d pack all the kids off to boarding school so I could move back in to the House proper 😀

      The garden front is really magnificent, especially with Johnston’s beautifully proportioned dead grey portico standing out from the gleaming white walls, and the proud chimneys lending it an air of distinguished austerity 🙂
      In contrast to the original front which as Sue says unfortunately looks rather like a hospital…

    • #748379
      Michael J. OBrien

      Graham you obviously have not been on the tour of the house yet as the OPW guides tell an interesting story about the trees at the front of the house. Orginally there were two trees planted by Prince Albert & Queen Victoria. I believe that Prince Albert’s died over a period of time. The second tree was planted by none other that the Pope John Paul II during his visit to Ireland.

      The orginal Clement house was a Red brick house I believe. At the back of the house (the current front door) there was orginally no porch but a very interesting fanlight door which has been retained as part of the inner hall along with a barrel ceiling.

      From the Áras website
      There was major resistance to the use of Vice Regal Lodge as the official residence of the President. The power of the old associations still resonated throughout Irish society. Various houses were considered but found wanting. Particular attention was devoted to St. Anne’s in Clontarf, the former residence of Lady Ardilaun then occupied by Bishop Plunkett but when it was found that Dublin Corporation were negotiating with him for the acquisition of its gardens as a public park, the search continued elsewhere “Ashton” in Castleknock was considered and “South Hill” at Milltown but there was always some difficulty.

      Finally, and with enormous reluctance, it was decided that Vice Regal Lodge would have to be used probably on a temporary basis. Its name was changed to Aras as Uachtarain and, in 1939, President Hyde planted a tree in the grounds, a symbolic act that initiated the new era that the house was about to experience as it became the permanent official residence of the Presidents of Ireland.

      I for one am delighted that the Presidency remained in the Aras, alohough alas St Anne’s in clontaf met its own Waterloo. I think all that you have to do is visit nearby Ashtown Castle where they started to knock the third major house in the Park (20th century Papel Nunico’s house) only to discover a castle in the middle of it. Does anyone have a picture of this house?

      I think it is a pity that there isn’t further promotion of the buildings within the Phoenix park as now there is almost an archectitural trail with the Aras, Ashtown & Farmleigh. Hoping some day the OPW will eventually restore the Magazine Fort buildings in the Park too. There are also some wonderful lodges throughout the park which I always think would make wonderful tea rooms.

      One final interesting fact about the Irish Presidency that is not well published. DeValera apparently approached, the O’Brien, Lord Inchiquin, the apparent direct dessendant of Brian Boru, the last High King of Ireland to become the honorary leader of the Free State in the 1930s. Apparently he politely declined.

    • #748380


      How very interesting, thanks for all that.

      Yes the original red brick house was a very handsome mid-Georgian building – think I have a picture somewhere of it.

      It’s a pity that while the garden front benefited greatly it would seem from the alterations and additions made, the original house facade did not – including as you say Johnston’s portico, which looks a bit strange now smothered in white, and how it covers the fanlight etc.

      Great story about the Victoria and Albert trees – how ironic Albert died off 😀
      Is it the single tree centered off the garden portico at the far end of the formal gardens that is the surviving Victoria tree?

      Agreed about the Viceregal being chosen as the residence in the end, it’s great to have so much history attached to it. Surprising in a way that there was opposition to it being used for the Presidency considering there seems to have been great satisfaction in taking over Dublin Castle and other traditionally Bristish strongholds – one would have assumed the taking of the Lodge would have been executed with great relish :).

      Just on Clements, I remember watching a programme on the BBC about a year ago, and the Phoenix Park and the Viceregal Lodge were mentioned for some reason – it really stood out as you don’t hear places like that being mentioned very often on British telly – but at the end, the very final credit for the executive producer was for a man none other than Nathaniel Clements!

      (I hope to visit the Áras during the summer as you mention it :))

    • #748381

      Interesting idea about the architectural trail of buildings in the Phoenix Park.. I always think the park in general is bursting with potential that’s absolutely abysmally exploited. Dublinspirations had some interesting ideas for the place (including a beach!) I think it’s a great location for the Aras.

    • #748382
      Paul Clerkin
    • #748383

      Yes some really lovely stuff in there, including Gandon’s most forgotton building – perhaps with good reason 🙂

      An architectural trail is an interesting idea – does the Ashtown Centre cover this area at all, or is it primarily reserved for nature etc? Perhaps it could be done as part of the centre’s remit of explaining the park and its history.

    • #748384

      Forgot this – from the official site:

      “The President must reside in or near Dublin”

      So the President doesn’t necessarily have to live in the Áras!

      And if you can be bothered to look up the Consitiution, it confims this – stating:

      “The President shall have an official residence in or near the City of Dublin.”

      However, ‘near’ is not defined…

      Despite what one may think of the President living in such a stately pile, when you see the amount of tiring hand-shaking ‘engagements’ he/she has to endure weekly, it is clear that an appropriate ‘base’ is needed, that if nothing else is simply large and adaptable enough to cater for the varied nature and amount of guests being recieved.

      Having foreign dignitaries being recieved in a 3-bed semi sitting room in Blanchardstown is hardly an option 🙂
      Interesting though that the President can choose to live elsewhere, even if they’d have to commute like everyone else to the Áras two or three days a week.

      Also just of interest from the Constitution:
      2. The President shall receive such emoluments and allowances as may be determined by law.
      3. The emoluments and allowances of the President shall not be diminished during his term of office.

    • #748385

      Actually it is 100% correct. In 1937 and 1938 plans were made to demolish the Aras and base the President either in a house in Castleknock, St Anne’s in Raheny or in the American Ambassador’s residence in the Park. The files on the planned demolition exist – I have read them. But the ‘alternatives’ fell through for various reasons. (The ambassador’s residence was condemned as old fashioned and needing extensive demolition work. The Castleknock one had no electricity, and a bishop refused to vacate St Anne’s to let the president move in.) With weeks to go the Lodge was made the ‘temporary’ Aras. It was so temporary large parts of it, including the ballroom, were locked away out of bounds for the President.

      But the Minister for Finance wasn’t enthusiastic about the cost of building a new presidential bungalow in the Aras grounds and landscaping the location of the old Aras. He only gave I think £10 in the 1939 estimates. Then Hitler invaded Poland and the demolition plans were put on hold for the Emergency. By 1945 the building was in such a bad state that it was almost falling down anyway: the reason why presidents until Robinson was living in the wings was because, when they surveyed the house in 1942 to see how it would cope with bombing they judged it so unsafe they had to tell Hyde to move out of the main building that day (while wheeling his wheelchair very slowly in case a sudden movement brought the place down!) lest it fall down on him. In 1945 it was decided to renovate the building and abandon the plans for a presidential bungalow. But Michael McDunphy, the arrogant and difficult Secretary to the President, threw a tantrum (something he was famous for!) and demanded the Aras be knocked. He was annoyed as he had begun to collect art works for the new Aras and hated the old one, thinking it too old-fashioned and too British. But the building was in such a bad state in 1945 the oratory, the kitchens and large chunks of the place had to be knocked.

      So Wikipedia is 100% right on that one.

      BTW re the idea that the state in the 1930s was sensitive to Irish architecture – not so. I’ve read files where they made plans to demolish all the houses around Merrion Square!!! And they considered converting the GPO into a Catholic Cathedral. As late as the early 1960s Irish ministers were still advocating the demolition of all georgian buildings in Dublin while road engineers drew up plans for a motorway along the quays, with a flyover curving around the outside if the Four Courts!!! 😮

    • #748386

      BTW the residential wing presidents Hyde to Hillery and now McAleese live in was built in 1911, not the 1920s, for the visit of King George V and Queen Mary. Presidents like it because it is private and the rooms quite small and on a human scale. Robinson however didn’t like the rooms and in any case the west wing badly needed repair. So she moved back to the old Viceregal Suite that had not been lived in since Hyde had to be hurriedly removed in 1942. The OPW then repaired the wing. McAleese moved back there because she thought it was a better family home for her family and in-laws (who live with her also) than the more formal Viceregal suite.

      The building is also supposed to have a ghost of a child, allegedly Winston Churchill, who spent the happiest days of his life there, as a young boy living with his grandfather, the Duke of Marlborough, who was Lord Lieutenant. 😮

      Final bit of info – when President Hyde moved in there in 1938, there was hardly a stick of furniture, in fact hardly anything except a bizarre set of portraits of King George III. When Sean T. O’Ceallaigh moved in there in 1945 there were not enough dinner plates, all the cups were chipped and there was barely enough bedclothes for the President’s family. And the kitchen was so dangerous it could not be entered. When Mrs O’Ceallaigh decided to host a garden party her staff panicked. “We don’t have a working kitchen, tableclothes, plates, cutlery, anything. How are we going to host a garden party?” one noted in a file. “We can’t even make coffee. There is nothing to make it in.” :rolleyes:

    • #748387

      Brilliant stuff! – thanks for that Seamus.

      Fascinating info (and funny :)) about Hyde & the O’Ceallaighs.

      There’s very few decent images of the 1911 wing available – I’ve often found that the old Hyde £50 note has one of the best views of it in the distance:

      Did George and Mary live in the wing when they visited do you know, because it’s hardly the most regal of edifices, or was it for staff? 1911 would seem more appropriate for the style of architecture all right, bit of an Arts and Crafts influence in there as I remember from another pic.
      Sure George must have had a grand old time in Dublin – a new wing for the Áras, a vast dining hall for Dublin Castle – anything else?!

      Any idea as to the design of the ‘Presidential Bungalow’ (!) Seamus? Thanks.

    • #748388

      I don’t think they actually stayed in the Wing itself. I suspect it was built to accommodate their staff (that’s just a hunch I have.)

      As to that bungalow, well that is a story. 😀 One of the reasons for the delay in building it (a delay that ultimately saved the old Aras) was that the Minister for Finance and the Taoiseach had a blazing row over whether the President should have a separate Council of State room or whether Council meetings should take place in his office (all twenty members squashed around his desk presumably. You can just hear it – ‘will ya move up a bit, W.T. I’ve long legs and need more space’ sez deV. ‘I can’t’ sez W.T. Cosgrave. ‘McDunphy’s knees are in the way.’ ‘I can’t move’ sez McDunphy, with his infamous scowl, ‘otherwise I’ll be kicking the President’s wheelchair’. ‘Gentlemen! Gentleman’ Can we get on with discussing the Bill?’ sez Hyde. ‘Where is the Bill, by the way?’ ‘Its under de Valera’s chair. I can’t move to pick it up.’ says W.T. etc etc.)

      DeV and the Finance Minister were also squabbling over how many bedrooms and toilets there should be. 😡

      Preliminary plans were drawn up. All I have seen show a strange square box located to the north-east of the old Aras, which itself was shown simply as an empty space with the odd tree. When the Estimates in 1939 only provided £10 for the new Áras everyone knew the game was up, except McDunphy, who blindly continued writing about the need for the new building, and how he was collecting art to decorate it with. :rolleyes:

      Until 1942 or 1943, maps of the interior of the Áras showed the ‘Chancellory’ (the offices of the secretariat), the President’s office, the Drawing Room , and the small dining room cum snooker room cum council of state room. The ballroom and the large dining room on further were shown just as dotted outlines as if they didn’t actually exist! Everytime Hyde wanted to bring guests to either room he had to beg to get a key off the security people to get in to the rooms. About the only thing the Aras had was tons of portraits of George III all over the place. No-one knows why. Maybe a past viceroy or someone in the OPW had liked buying portraits of that particular king. The Princess Royal, who visited the then Lodge in the late 1920s while on holiday in Ireland (amazing, that. The civil war was 5 years over, yet a member of the Royal Family could holiday in Ireland and was warmly welcomed whereever she went, including the Gaeltacht, where her husband had relatives!) burst out laughing at all the pictures of George III. All the royal portraits were finally removed in 1943. Then there was a mad scramble to find new pictures to hide all the damp patches on the walls! 😮

      One final quirky fact. While the Lord Lieutenant’s old state ceremonial, including state carriages, were all abolished abruptly in 1922, leaving all the stables empty, some of it made a short-lived return in 1945 when President O’Ceallaigh travelled to and from the inauguration in Queen Alexandra the Queen Mother’s old state landau, complete with liveried attendants. The ceremony was a spectacular success (pictures of it I have seen are incredible with 70 blue hussars on horseback accompanying the landau up O’Connell Street, amid cheering crowds. The Irish Times took a famous picture of the scene from the top of the Pillar). However the following year an accident at the RDS (Sean T insisted he go there by carriage. The horses hadn’t been fully trained yet. When the crowds cheered the horses took fright and the coach jacknifed :eek:) led de Valera to axe the horses and replace the newly made President’s state carriage with a car, the car now used to transport presidents to inaugurations. (DeV and Sean T had been rowing over ‘carriage or car’ for two years. DeV wouldn’t buy a new car, and spent a year having exiled royalty button-holed to see if one of them would sell him a state car cheaply. They refused, so eventually, we had to buy a new one.) 🙁

    • #748389
      Michael J. OBrien

      Does anyone have pictures of the upstairs rooms in the main house or the inside of the west wing.

      Also does anyone have a floor plan of either section of the house?

    • #748390

      Very suspicious requests Michael 😉
      But yes, what does the upstairs interior look like, esp the Viceregal Suite – does it have the same layout and similar decor to pre-independence?
      The upstairs of many of these big houses are just rabbit warrens of unremarkable rooms, and the official site says that they’re mostly used for Presidential archives etc – but even so, surely the Suite must be of significance?
      (listen to me trying to pawn off plain noseyness as architectural interest :D)

      As for the interior of the ‘West Wing’ :), it’s pretty standard as far as I know. The twee oak kitchen featured in Seán O’Rourke’s recent documentary ties in well with the date Seamus gives for the refurbishment of the wing anyway…

      Where is the ‘newly made’ Presidential carriage now do you know Seamus?
      Otherwise, here’s Dev’s car 🙂

      Also what happened to all of the George III paintings?!

      Another point to add to the list of facts is that the Lodge was furnished/partly furnished by Butler’s of Dublin for the visit of Edward & Alexandra in 1903 – and much of it is still in use, not least because a relative of mine has restored much of it :). Also a beautiful table by Hicks from the same period, now used for offical functions.

      Don’t know if the OPW are still ‘collecting’ for the house – certainly up till recently they were acquiring the odd 18th century Irish piece.

      Here’s another wide of the original north front of the Lodge:

      You can just make out the fanlight peeping over the top of the porch addition. Also the balls and urns are all thankfully still in place.

    • #748391
      Paul Clerkin


      What is the Irish State Coach and what does it look like?

      Kept in the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace, the Irish State Coach is the carriage usually used by The Queen for the State Opening of Parliament. It is known as the Irish State Coach because it was built in 1851 by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Mr Hutton, who was also a coachbuilder.

      The coach which exists today is a copy of the original, which was destroyed by fire in 1911. In 1988-9 a complete restoration of the coach was carried out, during which it was stripped to the bare wood and some twenty coats of paint, including gilding and varnishing, were applied to the exterior. The interior was re-covered in blue damask and the ceiling was covered in blue silk in a starburst design. The restoration was carried out by the Royal Mews carriage restorers.

      The coach is normally driven from the box seat, using four horses; however, it may also be drawn by postilion-ridden horses.


      Irish State Coach
      The Irish State Coach is currently stored at Irish Rail’s Inchicore works in Dublin. It is not open to the public for viewing. This vehicle was built in 1902 by the Great Southern and Western Railway at Inchicore Works, Dublin, for the State Visit of King Edward VII to Ireland in 1903. It contained several internal saloons finished in different styles to a very high standard. The vehicle would be available for charter under the terms and conditions acceptable both to the Society and Irish Rail. For further details, contact: Charles McDonnell RPSI Operations Ballinaclose, Kilmainhamwood, Kells Co.Meath.

    • #748392
      Paul Clerkin

      The Blue Hussars


      In 1947, however, following a carriage accident at the Dublin Horse Show at the Royal Dublin Society the government of Eamon de Valera decided to abandon the use of carriages for Irish presidents. The following year the First Inter-Party Government decided to disband the Mounted Escort also, even though between 1938 and 1945 the Escort has escorted presidents as they travelled by car. The Irish Minister for Defence argued that Japanese motorcycles would be “more impressive” than Irish horses.

    • #748393


      Well they have a certain appeal – though most people would probably prefer horses today.

      Were the Blue Hussars part of the Free State Army?

      Fascinating about Edward’s train carriage – you learn something new every minute here!
      But what about the ‘new’ Presidential carriage Seamus refers to that O’Ceallaigh used, where is it now – or was this one of the old regime’s carriages too?

      Well it’s inevitable that Jacqueline O’Brien’s hackneyed picture of the fantastically vulgar State Drawing Room will turn up sooner or later so might as well post it now 😀

      What’s interesting is that the chandelier that hangs here originally came from the Castle according to the Áras website. I’d often wondered this considering that the four corner specimens in the Throme Room disappeared over the years, presumably after the 1941 fire.

      The one in the Drawing Room must be one of them. Wonder where the others ended up – anyone know?

      Just as an aside, here’s the Throne Room’s central chandelier today in all its splendour. It’s been tweaked a bit over the years if you compare the two pics. According to the site again, they commemorate the Act of Union.

    • #748394

      @PVC King wrote:

      The garden is also to undergo a restroation to an 1830’s design faithfully re-drafted by the OPW architects

      Was this ever completed?

      If not I wonder when it will be completed?

    • #748395

      I suppose we can take it that A. an Ú is an F-rating insulation-wise ?

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