The news that Michelle, Malia and Sascha Obama were going to visit Dalkey, the village responsible for my idyllic childhood, in South Co. Dublin hit the media the day before it happened and they ran with it for the next 48 hours. They were not just visiting Dalkey either, they were going to have a bite to eat in my local pub, Finnegans, at 12.30, the papers said. I realised that I’d have to find somewhere else to have lunch.
I arrived at the Dart Station at about 12pm and was greeted by a heavy GardaI presence and a couple of barriers blocking the run from Castle Street (Dalkey’s main thoroughfare) up Railway Road and around to Sorrento Road on whose corner Finnegans sits, this day adorned with “Old Glory” swaying playfully in the Irish breeze.
I knew that I hadn’t missed the First family of the U.S. quite yet so I strolled into the village and soaked up my Dalkey. There was a loose crowd filling and milling about Castle Street as if roads, paths, or cars hadn’t been invented yet, the Gardai seemed at the same time oblivious and attentive. Select Stores served me a cup of black tea (I felt bad as they are a reputable health food shop). I perched myself comfortably and this was my view.
It seemed that the minute I settled down there was a stirring among the Gardai. People were pushed off the road to the pavements and the crowd looked much thicker. I wondered how many plainclothes secret service people were among them. For the next few minutes the only movement was the further thickening of the crowd as classes of local primary schools, families and passers-by stopped to wonder.
Hand held flags fluttered, strangers chatted, and camera phones were at the ready. Some local children had made welcoming signs.
As the time wore on their enthusiasm waned.
Another commotion arrived with a ripple of murmurings and almost synchronised symphony of craned necks swept along the crowded streets, a false alarm as a child-minder armed with a child in a buggy, eager to get across the road, broke ranks and was quickly shepherded to the other side.
Why did she choose Dalkey? I ran through a potted history of my old village as I knew it. It’s history dates back to the 700s. St. Begnet founded a church on the main land and another on the striking Dalkey Island before the Vikings took over and used the natural depths of Dalkey Sound and to their advantage making the village a busy trading hub which resulted in Coliemore Harbour, at one stage, being named as Dublin’s 3rd port. Dalkey Island also holds a Martello tower and the ruins of a fort and is currently inhabited by goats. Jump forward many centuries and Dalkey was the end of the line for the first experimental Atmospheric Railway. George Bernard Shaw was the first writer to take up residence in Dalkey and has been followed to this day by a litany of other writers and celebrities from many fields.
But none of this really explained why Michelle Obama and her children had chosen to lunch in the village. By now the Gardai had been joined by a generous helping of obvious secret service representatives, who were making the crowd even tighter. Another commotion, people surges and flags were on the go once more while murmurings became more animated and suddenly it became a little bit clearer as to why they were here…
Mr. (Bono) & Mrs. Hewson were joining them.
The whole length of Castle Street was flanked with people hoping to catch a glimpse of the Obamas as they made their way from Glendalough. False alarm followed false alarm as my tea’s heat and volume diminished.
They zipped passed…
and were gone as fast as they had arrived.
In the aftermath of the excitement I floated through the crowds happy to see the local businesses profiting from the lofty visitors. Though may people still didn’t actually know what had occurred. I retreated to The Corner Note Café for a late lunch.
My thanks goes to the Obamas for not only visiting but pouring the spotlight of the world on Dalkey for one afternoon, I thank them and even though he seems to garner so much criticism I thank Bono for his part as well.
To find out more about Dalkey here are a few links.
If you use twitter check out my own list of Dalkey related accounts here.