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Dublin Oddities

By Visit Dublin

31st October 2019

Dublin is well known for its vibrant culture and buzzing nightlife, but under the surface you’ll find a host of unique oddities. Check out our favourite quirky finds in Dublin's fairly strange city. How many will you see during your visit?

1. Napoleon Bonaparte's Toothbrush

Yes, you read that right! Dublin is home to a very unusual artifact indeed: Napoleon Bonaparte’s toothbrush. During the French leader’s imprisonment on the island of St. Helena, he was cared for by an Irish physician, Barry Edward O’Meara. The pair struck up a friendship, and Napoleon gifted him with the toothbrush  (as you do), and a pair of personalised snuffboxes. Today you’ll find the brush, which has the letter ‘N’ stamped on its silver gilt handle, at the Royal College of Physicians' Heritage Centre on Kildare Street.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

2. Plaque to Fr. Pat Noise

This next one is certainly stranger than fiction. A commemorative plaque on Dublin’s central O’Connell Bridge mysteriously cropped up one day, and claims to mark the spot where a Father Pat Noise drowned. It states that his carriage plunged into the River Liffey in 1919, under suspicious circumstances. However, as historians scratched their heads over this unlikely tale, it was eventually established that the installation of the plaque (in 2004) was actually a hoax by two Dublin brothers. They claimed it’s a tribute to their dad (Father Pat Noise is not a real person, but an anagram of 'pater noster', Latin for ‘our father’). Dublin City Council had planned to remove the plaque, but when bemused Dubliners started to leave floral tributes on the bridge, it was decided that this humorous hoax could stay. Weird, eh?

3. Camino Starting Point

Free-spirited adventurers from all around the world have embarked on the iconic Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James), a route that stretches across Europe and leads to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, north-west Spain. But did you know the pilgrimage’s first stop is in Dublin? The Camino Society at St. James Church, a voluntary organisation set up by pilgrims who’ve made the trip, issues the Pilgrim Passport. You’ll get your first stamps there, and – interestingly, at the adjacent Guinness Storehouse, a Dublin institute founded by Arthur Guinness in 1759. Well, you may as well sink a pint of the black stuff before heading away on your trip! Look out for the Camino’s symbol – the scallop shell – on the wall of the church.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons


4. The Hungry Tree    

As you enter the King’s Inn grounds at Constitution Hill, you’ll be greeted by this rather unusual sight! The massive tree in question – a London Plane – is a beauty in itself, and is listed as one of the country’s Heritage Trees by the Tree Council of Ireland. But it’s the fact that it’s feasting on a park bench that will more than likely catch your attention. The area is just off the tourist trail if you're heading to the Phoenix Park, so you may have to ask a friendly local for directions. But once you pass through the King's Inn's splendid wrought-iron gates you won’t miss the hungry tree!


5. Mummies at St. Michan's

Do you dare visit our next spine-tingling oddity? Those of you brave enough will find the crypt at St. Michan’s not too far from the Old Jameson Distillery on Church Street. Underneath the church, which dates back to 1095, are five long burial vaults containing the mummified remains of many of Dublin's most influential 17th, 18th and 19th century families. Due to limestone in the walls, this spooky underground space is home to the well-preserved remains of a 400-year-old nun (that’s our nightmares sorted, thanks), the Sheares Brothers - who took part in the 1798 rebellion, as well as various other Irish figures. They’re completely accessible, and though it’s frowned upon, if you dare, you can reach out and touch them!

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

6. St Patrick's Footprint

Legend has it that the unfortunate young Patrick was brought to Ireland by pirates in the 5th century, who left him to tend sheep in the cold mountains. Though he escaped back to Britain, he obviously missed the Emerald Isle, and decided to enter the priesthood and return here to spread his message of Christianity. Tírechán, a 7th-century writer, claims that Red Island off the gorgeous seaside village of Skerries is the first place Patrick set foot when he returned, leaving a pretty impressive footprint in the rock as he did so. It’s believed to be a lucky omen, so be sure to make a wish as you place three fingers into the water in the footprint. This symbolises the shamrock, which Patrick famously used to explain the trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. There’s usually no shortage of the green stuff every year on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17)! 

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons


7. The Lucky Stone at St. Audoen's Church 

In the main porch of the beautiful twelfth-century St. Audoen's Church, you’ll find what's mysteriously known as the 'Lucky Stone'. A slab of granite bearing a Greek cross, it’s thought to be the tombstone of an early Irish saint, and dates back to the 8th or 9th century. But how did it get a reputation for being lucky? Well, back in 1309, the Mayor of Dublin erected a public drinking cistern in the adjacent Cornmarket, and laid the stone against it hoping that as the people touched it, it would guard them from disease and illness. From then on, the stone was said to have magical properties. Indeed, when it was stolen by some opportunistic thieves in 1826, the clever stone apparently grew heavier and heavier as they made their escape, forcing them to abandon it just outside the city. When it finally made its way back to St. Audoen’s, it was given pride of place just inside the door, with visitors invited to touch it for luck. Indeed, pilgrims setting off on the Camino de Santiago (see above) often touch the stone to ensure they have a safe journey.


8. Druid's Judgment Chair

In the hills near the gorgeous seaside village of Killiney on the south coast of Dublin, you can rest in the seat of an ancient druid. Ok, not quite. Although the three slabs that make up this intriguing monument were originally part of a series of Bronze Age cairns (burial chambers), it’s thought that they were made into a chair as part of a Victorian folly years later. Either way, take a load off and take in the lush green surrounds of this tranquil hideaway!

Image credit: Ireland In Ruins

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