“Small is Beautiful” would be an apt description of this delightful new book. An in-depth study of the Dublin city coat of arms does not sound like a very promising subject for a monograph, but Michael English has created a remarkable and comprehensive volume – small, yet packed with beautiful photographs, it is also informative and exquisitely produced.
‘The Three Castles of Dublin’, as the book is titled, is published by Dublin City Council and as the subtitle says is an eclectic history of the city as seen through its famous coat of arms. This small, but hefty little volume, has a striking cover featuring the City of Dublin seal of 1230, and the author has tracked down images of the emblem in places so diverse as the Fire Brigade, trams and lamp posts, rendered in cast iron, stone, print, and the brass of buttons! Each section or page is devoted to the story of the particular organization or business which once incorporated the three castles into its arms or logo. As we might expect there are a number of transport companies, like the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, several railway companies like the Great Northern Railway, the railway stations themselves, not to mention the decorated emblems on the Lord Mayor’s coach, which dates to 1791. Hospitals, public buildings of all sorts, from sewage works to fruit markets – all bear the enigmatic three castles burning, which it is said represent the city under attack and the willingness of the citizens to defend it. The city motto reads Obedientia Civium Urbis Felicitas , which means: obedient citizens produce a happy city, an apt slogan that could apply to deviant motorists, errant cyclists, and wandering pedestrians alike!
Peter Pearson is an artist and conservationist committed to the protection of Ireland’s architectural heritage.