O’Connell Street: The history and life of Dublin’s most iconic street
The rich history of O’Connell Street, encompassing the 1916 Rising and periods of time when it was lined with affluent hotels and department stores, is explored in a new book by author Nicola Pierce.
‘O’Connell Street: The History and Life of Dublin’s Most Iconic Street’ is out now on O’Brien Press and is the latest historical book released by Nicola, who grew up in New Bawn Park in Tallaght and attended the Presentation Secondary School in Terenure.
Most of Nicola’s work centres on historical fiction and non-fiction aimed at younger readers, covering topics like the Titanic and World War II, but her book on the capital’s main thoroughfare is her second release for adult readers.
Shortly after the book was released last month, Nicola told The Echo about her memories of growing up in Tallaght, how her childhood dream of being a writer has come true, and what she finds most fulfilling about her work.
What are your fondest memories of growing up in New Bawn Park?
New Bawn Park was a great road. Even as a child, I knew it was a lovely road to grow up on. I spent years and years out on the road with the other kids there, and we’d all play together.
I also loved being near the mountains, and I loved the fact that we lived beside the Dodder.
We used to fish there for tadpoles. Then they built the tennis courts in the park, which we all loved because of Wimbledon. A lot of dramatic tennis matches were played there!
What was your favourite children’s book when you were growing up?
One of the books that will always be one of my all-time favourites is ‘Little Women’ by Louisa May Alcott. I first read it when I was nine.
I loved reading about the four sisters – I was the eldest of four girls – and I loved that one of the sisters wanted to be a writer.
She was an inspiration to me. It’s set during the American Civil War in the 1860s, so it got me interested in history, and helped me to discover the amazing job of being a writer.
When did you realise you wanted to be a writer?
I would’ve always wanted to write. Mam and Dad weren’t big into books, but they always made sure we had books.
I remember when my mam brought me and my sister to join Tallaght Library, it was in a green prefab near the Priory, and it became my favourite place in Tallaght.
I loved books, I loved reading, I loved writing, so for me they were all part of the same circle.
You started your writing career as a ghost writer. What was that experience like?
It was a strange thing. It was for a publishing company in Dunshaughlin called Maverick House.
One of my friends told me that someone in a publishing company was looking for someone to help with a book, I thought it might’ve been editing.
So I nervously emailed them, and then they said they actually wanted me to write the book and they needed it in six weeks.
It was about the last state executioner in Thailand.
It was like an apprenticeship, and doing that brought me closer and closer to writing a book with my own name.
I did two books for them, and after that I did my first book for O’Brien Press.
What do you find most fulfilling about writing history books for children?
I think the books I’ve written are about big, big stories, like the Titanic, World War II, and the Battle of the Boyne.
I love finding my way into a story and making it personal. I love when a child says they don’t really like reading, but they liked my Titanic book.
You’re hoping to hook them into the book and into the characters.
You’re hoping that you’re creating an atmosphere where you can bring the reader along with you.
Why did you decide to write a book about the history of O’Connell Street?
I’d brought out a book for adults about the Titanic in 2018, and I really enjoyed the experience of writing a history book for adults.
I was just in bed one night, and I thought, ‘I’ve never seen a book about the history of O’Connell Street’.
If you look at O’Connell Street, you can see the entire history of Ireland – the Civil War, the GPO, the Gresham Hotel, and the Rotunda, which is the oldest maternity hospital in the world.
Who was the most interesting historical character you found out about during your research for the book?
One of my favourites was Bartholomew Mosse. He established the Rotunda after a lot of hard work and changed the way we think about midwifery and maternity care.
I’d say he saved thousands of lives. He died in 1759, aged 47, and his death was barely mentioned at meetings of the hospital board afterwards.
His headstone became overgrown and was lost, but it’s since been found and looked after.
It’s like a superpower of somebody who writes, you can take forgotten historical figures and write about them so people can remember them again.
‘O’Connell Street: The History and Life of Dublin’s Most Iconic Street’ is out now in bookshops and online at obrien.ie.
For more information on Nicola Pierce, visit nicolapiercewriter.com