Book review: Hidden Dublin by Frank Hopkins
For those who know present Dublin's multicultural and multifaceted present, Frank Hopkins' Hidden Dublin provides an engaging and constantly surprising trawl into Dublin's past. Originally based on his weekly newspaper column, Hopkins delved into a variety of sources, including old newspapers, archives and journals, to produce a very readable and fascinating book. Each story or tale is relatively short, yet builds into a comprehensive record of Dublin's colourful people from medieval times to the end of the twentieth century. This book is a mine of information including the origins of the song 'Whiskey in the jar',
Criminal activity is evident in all periods of Dublin's history and Hopkins provides many bizarre accounts. While there is a cast of thousands in these stories, including the good people of Dublin themselves, some categories keep reappearing namely the criminal class, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, the students of Trinity College and the clergy. Virtually all appear as both hero and villains; when the Trinity students were not busy rioting and causing trouble for the citizens of Dublin, they were helping to put out fires in the city! The ingenuity and wit of the criminals of Dublin makes this book worth reading. Dublin characters featured include Zozimus, Copper-faced Jack, Napper Tandy and, of course, Jonathan Swift.
Hopkins’ style is easy to read and the book is handsomely produced with a depiction of the River Liffey and Four Courts on the dust cover, while there is a facsimile of a Victorian Dublin map inside the boards (although there is no reference or source cited for this map which is disappointing).
I have few criticisms and acknowledge that this book is not intended to be a reference book nor an academic record (even though it inadvertently succeeds in being both). While it does have a very useful bibliography, there is no index of names or places which would have been extremely useful. Occasionally Hopkins uses abbreviations which are well known to Dubliners but not to anybody else (for example, DMP being the Dublin Metropolitan Police); a table of abbreviations might have been useful.
This book would make a great present and I wholeheartedly recommend it.
Buy Hidden Dublin at Amazon.co.uk
Peter Scott, 1 December 2007.