Preserving Georgian Dublin with the MacEoins
The Irish Times warned its readers at Christmas 1959 that it was becoming increasingly clear that, “the days of Dublin’s Georgian heritage are numbered”, but MacEoin and other preservationists and activists fought bravely. There were victories, but more often defeats; in 1964, MacEoin was one of those to sign a letter to the Taoiseach deploring the plans to gut Georgian houses for the Electricity Supply Board premises near Merrion Square. Shortly afterwards, a journalist joked that MacEoin had, “acquired the reputation of being a consistently Angry Young Man”, though at least, “his thunderbolts are aimed in all the right directions.”
Together with his wife Margaret, who shared his passion for preservation, MacEoin took the necessary steps to save whatever they could of Georgian Dublin themselves. Establishing the company Luke Gardiner Ltd., named in honour of the great eighteenth century developer of northside Dublin, they purchased homes on Henrietta Street and Mountjoy Square.
His son Ruadhán recalled, “My parents put what little money they had into buying houses in the north Georgian quarter.” Numbers 5 to 7 Henrietta Street were purchased by MacEoin in the early 1970s, and he wasted no time in renaming one of the homes “James Bryson House”, in honour of an IRA Volunteer who had died on active service a few short years earlier. Today, the plaque remains upon the home.
James Bryson was a high profile IRA Volunteer, who escaped from custody at the Crumlin Road courthouse in Belfast in February 1973, aged just 24. He was shot dead in August. Less than a year later, MacEoin had renamed this Henrietta Street house in his honour, a decision which raised a few eyebrows in Dublin.