by Oona Roycroft – November 2021
The November Skerries Historical Society talk, ‘A Skerries Holiday’, was my antidote to the darkening evenings warning us that winter is coming. I’d had no thought of researching a talk like this until a couple of years ago when a holiday brochure from 1922 came my way (many thanks to George Hand) which fascinated me. I pored over the offers of accommodation, the descriptions of entertainments to be had and the advertisements for shops and merchants. Every aspect of a holiday in Skerries was covered.
Scouring through the archive, I discovered brochures from 1898 and 1928. I photographed every page of all three brochures, returned them to the safety of their acid free boxes, and gloated over my discoveries. At the time I could do nothing with them as we were working manically on publishing Time and Tide 12. We’ve come full circle and are now working manically on Time and Tide 13!
Between publications, I got a chance to begin my research. Did you think that Skerries only became a holiday Mecca in the 1950s with the arrival of Eamonn Quinn’s Red Island Holiday Camp? Think again. The transformation from quiet fishing village to top summer resort for Dublin middle classes began a century earlier with the opening of the Dublin and Drogheda Railway in 1844. Most people came by train but one landlady proudly asserted that her establishment offered private garages for visitors’ motor cars.
There was so much to do in Skerries. If you got tired of the beach, there was a carousel to entertain you. There were golf competitions, fishing competitions, photographic competitions, yachting trips and boat trips to the islands, walks around Skerries and out to Loughshinny. You could join an excursion to Lusk to see the round tower, to Mellifont and Monasterboice to see the mediaeval ruins and high crosses, to Gormanston and to Drogheda.
When the evening came, the fun didn’t stop. You could take in a ‘living picture’ in the Sea Water Baths and Recreation Hall – perhaps a Charlie Chaplin or a Mary Pickford film. Aside from the movies, the Recreation Hall offered dancing but by the early 1920s you could also try out the Tower Ball Rooms on Red Island. Why not get involved in an amateurs’ concert? Or go to see professional actors like Anew McMaster whose company would put on up to seven different Shakespeare plays in a week. Surely one of them would be to your taste? Why would anyone want to travel further? Everything you could possibly need for a wonderful holiday was right here, in Skerries.