The people, places and things that make Dublin special

All interesting Dublin landmarks tend to polarise. For every champion of The Spire, you’ll find someone who still thinks that it should never have been erected. And so too with the Poolbeg Generating Station. Even the more ardent of its champions would be hard pressed to describe it as beautiful; its two distinctive red and white chimneys, built in 1969 and 1977 and standing at over 207 metres, poking the city’s skyline, cannot even be described as useful – they were decommissioned in 2010.

Its detractors would claim that (a) the chimneys’ industrial ugliness and (b) the fact that they’re obsolete relics means they have no place in a modern capital city. These arguments prove weak, however, when held up against Poolbeg’s undeniably iconic status. Many people nearly lost their reason when it was reported in 2014 that the ESB were thinking of demolishing the chimneys, which, according to the company, were taking up far too many resources to maintain. Following a significant public outcry, last year the decision was reversed – the chimneys would stay. “The chimneys are a well known landmark in the Dublin skyline, distinguished by their height, as Dublin does not have significant high rise development,” an ESB spokesman commented, as the chimneys’ champions breathed a little easier. This particular Dublin icon will remain intact.

Chimneys aside, Poolbeg is of course a fully operational power station. While it’s known locally as Pigeon House, the current station is actually adjacent to the original Pigeon House site, previously a military barracks before becoming a power station where electricity was first generated in 1903. It was eventually decommissioned in 1976, with the modern day station built in phases over the Sixties and early Seventies. As has become apparent, it’s all about form over functionality when it comes to Poolbeg, especially in the creative and artistic communities who may or may not know (or care) that the station’s total installed capacity is 1020 megawatts.

U2 - Pride (In The Name Of Love)

U2 used the chimneys as a backdrop in their video Pride

Most famously, U2 used the chimneys as a backdrop, featuring it in their Pride (In the Name of Love) video. An early press shot of Elvis Costello also sees him posing on a misty Dublin day, with the twin towers behind him, and the chimneys continue to inspire.

At Jam Art Factory, they sell Fiona Snow’s nifty acrylic model of the power station, and Fergus O’Neill, the acclaimed graphic designer behind the ‘Feck it, Sure it’s Grand’ project, is also a big fan. His ‘Pigeon House’ print features an illustration of the chimneys, with a list of noteworthy Dublin townlands printed at the bottom, from Artane to Whitehall. “Some cities are lucky enough to have a defining icon. Paris has the Eiffel Tower. London, Big Ben. New York, the State of Liberty,” Fergus says. “In Dublin we have the Poolbeg Chimneys, a perfect symbol for the dirty old town, and as a Dubliner the chimneys mean something more to me than just an abstracted symbol or icon. When I see them I know I’m home.” We couldn’t agree more.

Claire is a Dublin-based journalist who contributes to a wide range of publications including The Irish Independent and Image magazine. She occasionally reviews restaurants, and loves a good crime novel.

You might also like...


Dublin Treasures – The Casino at Marino

James Caulfeild, the 1st Earl of Charlemont, was a man who did things with style, and then some. His townhouse on Parnell St, which now houses the Hugh Lane Art Gallery, reflected his elegant, artistic nature, and was initially designed as an adornment to the city, where paintings by Rembrandt and Titian hung. When he embarked upon his Grand Tour - the 18th century equivalent of a gap year - he spent a rather impressive 9 years taking in the delights of Italy, Turkey, Greece and Egypt and became close friends with the future King of Sardinia. As you do.

Lambert Puppet Theatre

Dublin Treasures – Lambert Puppet Theatre

Most 4-year-olds are almost as digital savvy as their parents, and there's a high probability that your average toddler knows his or her way around an iPhone better than you do. It's still something of a surprise, then, to discover that the touchscreen generation can be as enthralled by a visit to the Lambert Puppet Theatre as their parents ever were.