Baggot Street was given its name in 1773, derived from Robert Bagod, a 13th century chief justice who built Baggotrath Castle in the area, considered at the time one of Dublin’s most fortified strongholds. Today the only protection you will need when walking the wide and pleasantly tree-lined thoroughfare is from the legion of fee-seeking professionals who pound its pavements. For many years it was known as the “Baggot Street Shuffle” as this area was a dense concentration of accountants, solicitors and bankers. Walking down Baggot Street on a busy weekday was the closest thing you could get in Dublin to rush-hour on the Avenue of the Americas. Today, most of the professions have migrated to the glistening towers that have sprung up along the city quays, but Baggot Street still deserves a merry stroll, heading down from St. Stephen's Green all the way to the Grand Canal, and then back up on the opposite side if the mood so takes you. It is home to some of Dublin’s most hallowed halls of refreshment (Doheny & Nesbitt’s, Toner’s, O’Donoghue’s) and given its proximity to Dáil Éireann, many’s the political dilemma of the day changing the direction and fortunes of the country have been decided in their snugs. Baggot Street was also the birthplace in 1909 of the painter Francis Bacon and a plaque commemorating him at #63 was unveiled back in 1999. Bacon left Dublin when he was 16 and apparently never returned. The popular perception has always been that Bacon had little attachment to his native city, but at the unveiling of the plaque in 1999 his friend Garech Browne (see entry on Claddagh Records) insisted this was not the case. Also present at the unveiling was Bacon’s companion and heir, John Edwards, who later that year oversaw the donation of Bacon’s London studio to the Hugh Lane Gallery. As you keep walking along the left hand side of the street acute observers will also note at #73 a small plaque with a bird on it. This is known as the Turnstone building. The bird, with its long beak can be seen along the Irish coastline turning over stones to see what is underneath, and so the Turnstone was chosen to symbolise the work undertaken by the Medico Social Research Board, who had its offices there (and is now part of the Health Research Board). When you get to the canal, take a break and maybe if you are seeking company pause for a while on the bronze bench sculpture of the poet Patrick Kavanagh and sit beside him in the aura of his eternal musings. The Monaghan man was a great admirer of this part of Dublin and spent many of his days around Baggot Street and the Canal. It is one of the most mellow places in the city, particularly in the summertime when the weather is fine and the tree leaves overhang the water like a giant green canopy.
Birthplace of Francis Bacon, 73 Baggot Street, Dublin 2. Patrick Kavanagh bench, at the Wilton Terrace intersection.