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Dublin At Your Feet

Paul Clements writes: Many Dublin bibliophiles will have fond memories of Fred Hanna’s bookshop on Nassau Street. New books were displayed on the ground floor, while second hand and antiquarian stock, including a large Irish section, were shelved downstairs. You never knew what rare gems a visit might turn up.

The shop is now a wholefood restaurant operating under the name KC Peaches – the only Hanna trace is the name still embedded in tiles at the entrance door. But there is another Irish book connection to the premises, also on the ground. Walk to the back of the restaurant, look carefully at a large pavement light on the floor, and you will discover the name Hayward Brothers of Union Street, London.

The brothers ran a foundry making manhole covers and pavement lights and were the forebears of Richard Hayward, a celebrated Irish singer, actor and travel writer from the middle decades of the twentieth century whose reputation has gone into abeyance. To this day the Hayward Brothers name can be seen by the gimlet-eyed on numerous pavement lights on the streets of Dublin 2. Along College Green – outside Books Upstairs – and on St Andrew Street, as well as in South Anne Street, off Grafton Street, the name Hayward is found on the pavement.

Between 1938 and 1964 Richard Hayward wrote eleven Irish travel books. They are filled with cultural history, topography, architecture, archaeology, legends and folklore. He was a fluent and intelligent writer whose work was held in high regard by the critics. Maurice Walsh was a champion, who promoted his work in reviews for The Irish Times and contributed forewords to the books.

In 1948 Hayward embarked on a huge project to write topographical books about each of the provinces of Ireland. His first book, Leinster and the City of Dublin, was an immediate success and led to further books on Ulster, Connacht and Munster. The final volume, Munster and the City of Cork was widely acclaimed and was published just six weeks before Hayward’s death in a car crash in October 1964.

For many years Hayward’s books were collectable and some are still sought after by bibliophiles. Fred Hanna’s shop was a happy hunting ground for them in the 1970s and ’80s. Fifty years after his death the legacy of a man who was an Irish pivotal cultural figure has been retrieved by the Lilliput Press which has published his biography. His presence can be channelled by walking the streets of Dublin or visiting the Peaches restaurant to reflect on how the family name has endured as a little noticed part of the city’s street furniture.

Romancing Ireland, Richard Hayward 1892-1964, by Paul Clements, is published by the Lilliput Press and is available from bookshops at €25. It will be reviewed shortly in the Dublin Review of Books.

15/11/2014