Colourful, larger than life politician Frank Sherwin brings to mind characters of times past in Dublin. To meet them we must deny our naturally suspicious natures, soaked as they are in 21st century niceties and prepare to delight in characters who dared to be different. We must travel back in time to a vibrant and teeming city where all human life came together.
Doctor Achmet Borumborad, a man as elaborate as his name, strode the streets of late eighteenth century Dublin boasting a colourful turban and a well tended air of mystery. Children followed in his wake, daring each other to touch his flowing robes, while ladies and gentlemen fell under the spell of his Eastern charms. He had established his most popular hot and cold Turkish baths on Dublin’s north quays, offering immersion in the cold, tidal waters of the River Liffey or more salubrious bathing indoors. He even persuaded parliament to advance him grants and therein lay his demise.
A night of entertainment for his parliamentary friends ended in farce when the inebriated gentlemen accidentally came to be floundering, fully clothed in the cold water baths. Plucked from the water by the intrepid Doctor, they afterwards stole home through the streets of Dublin clad in Turkish regalia. Borumborad lost his reputation and his parliamentary grants, yet found love - but alas the lucky lady was not convinced of the orthodoxy of his long, black beard. Shaving it off, he revealed his true identity to his beloved - he was, he declared, ‘the devil a Turk, no more than yourself’. Thus it was that Mr. Patrick Joyce of Kilkenny married Miss Hartigan, exiting the Dublin stage to live happily ever after just as a new character made his debut in the poorer, meaner, back streets of the city.
Michael Moran, whom illness robbed of his sight when only two weeks old, became Dublin’s favourite itinerant poet. Being fond of reciting the epic tale of St. Mary of Egypt he came to acquire the name of her holy priest, Zozimus. His favourite haunts were the Liffey bridges where, draped in his customary, long, dark cloak with a scalloped edge, wearing his old, soft brown hat and hand resting on a long, blackthorn stick, he regaled passers by with his ballads, essays and poems. If they should stop, as one man did on Essex Bridge (now Grattan Bridge), to demand a rhyme for their sixpence, he would oblige - after a suitably dramatic pause:
‘Ah! Kind Christian, do not grudge,
The sixpence promised on a brudge.’
Zozimus died in 1846 and was laid to rest in the poor ground of Glasnevin cemetery.
The cast list of Dublin characters is long, their stories entertaining and yes, many of their lives were tinged with sadness: Mad Mary, Billy the Bowl, Johnny Forty Coats, Bang Bang and Damn the Weather, to mention just a few. Perhaps you know one too?