HARRY WARREN reflects on the events of August 12, 1821, the day King George IV visited Dublin, on the occasion of his 59th birthday.
It’s nice strolling around Howth harbour on the northside of Dublin Bay, passing by the fishing fleet with its attendant circling gulls. Watch out for the harbour seals gently lolling in the water hoping a passer-by will throw them some fish.
You may even be rewarded on the odd occasion with the site of a seal breaking the surface of the water with a fresh fish it just caught. The view of the island of Ireland’s Eye, just north of the harbour, is splendid and the island may be visited by regular tourist boats from the harbour’s West Pier.
Howth has many stories to tell and here is one of them.
The recent history of the harbour goes back over 200 years. Construction of the east pier began in 1807, but being poorly designed it suffered a partial collapse. The noted Scottish civil engineer, John Rennie, took charge giving Howth the fine harbour it has today.
Stone was supplied from the nearby quarry at Kilrock and granite from Dalkey quarry was shipped in by boat. Dalkey quarry also supplied granite for the construction of its great rival Dún Laoghaire harbour. The lighthouse at the end of the East Pier in Howth was built in 1817 and the adjacent lighthouse keeper’s house in 1821.
If you walk along the West Pier, towards the end of the pier if you bear right, watch out for a plaque mounted on a pole, easy to ignore as it looks like a traffic notice, it provides some information directing you along the granite steps to of all things an engraving of footprints.
They commemorate the location and occasion when King George IV, on his 59th birthday, stepped ashore.
Considering that the Catholic Association was formed in the early 1820s to secure, through non-violent means, changes that would end the overt repression of Ireland’s Catholic population by the Penal Laws, the British monarch was very well received on his visit to Ireland.
Contemporary reports of the time noted, the king “was received with the utmost enthusiasm by the inhabitants of Dublin.” He arrived in Howth on August 12th, 1821, a few weeks after his coronation on July 19th, 1821, when he had been crowned ‘King of Great Britain and Ireland and Hanover’.
Amusingly, the upper classes and aristocracy of Dublin, along with an estimated crowd of 200,000, had been impatiently waiting at Dún Laoghaire on the south side of Dublin for the arrival of King George IV. Instead, his steam packet ship, Lightning, moored in Howth harbour on Dublin’s north side, where a small crowd of onlookers, farmers and fishermen, witnessed the Kings arrival as he stepped unsteadily ashore unaccompanied by a single guardsman.