Diocesan School for Girls
The Diocesan School for Girls, a small secondary school situated at the corner of Earlsfort Terrace and Adelaide Road, decided to purchase the square when High School moved their sports ground to the site of their new school, Danum, Rathgar in 1961. It was not an ideal playing field but it was convenient to the school’s premises on Adelaide Road. Mr Harrison from Guinness’ Brewery, a grounds expert, was asked to look at the square. He was doubtful about making a good hockey pitch there unless the whole Square was dug up, drained and covered with special sods. Miss Scott, the headmistress, and the games teacher, Mrs Blackmore, decided that such expensive treatment, which would prohibit the purchase of Belgrave Square, could be ignored. The important thing was ‘to have grounds near the School and to work gradually to make them as good as possible.‘[i]
This is what finally happened and ‘our proudest moment came in the Summer of 1961 when we had our athletics track marked out and the sun shone on our first-ever Sports Day on the sports grounds belonging to the Diocesan School for Girls.’[ii] The Past Pupils’ Association raised funds for the renovation of the pavilion which ensured that it had good changing rooms and showers and a useful kitchenette. It was officially opened by Mrs G.O. Simms on 16th September 1961 (see photo 3).
Past pupils remember trying to sweep pools of water away and having to come to the square before every match in order to put the markings on the pitch. Despite such hardship, the hockey team flourished and Diocesan Hockey Club exists to this day. The High School boys had played cricket, rugby and tennis but the girls played hockey, tennis and netball. There were originally four tennis courts but they were often unplayable due to bad weather, so in 1964 two of the courts were transformed into a netball court. They also held the School Sports in the square.
They also had to contend with trespassers. The school used the square each week-day during term-time and the Hockey Club used it on Saturday afternoons and some evenings, but ‘on Sunday afternoons and many summer evenings this attractive ground, partly surrounded by trees and in a quiet square, was not used by its owners. It beckoned uninvited guests who abused it; many walked their dogs on it, the boots of dozens of footballers damaged extensively the surface of the hockey pitch, the pavilion was frequently vandalised and property stolen from it.’[iii] The guards and the teachers were often called to evict the unwanted guests.
Belgrave Sports Ground was a most valuable asset for fourteen years but in the early 1970’s Diocesan School for Girls amalgamated with High School where ‘it was a great relief to have grounds and playing fields around the school buildings.’[iv] The square was now surplus to requirements and the school decided to put it up for sale.
During this long period of almost 80 years the Square was private property and closed to the public, including the residents.
[i] Blackmore, Joan in Jagoe, Muriel and Oldham, Enid in Records and Recollections: A History of the Diocesan Secondary School for Girls 1849 – 1974 (Dublin 1986) p 51
[ii]Blackmore, Joan in Jagoe, Muriel and Oldham, Enid in Records and Recollections: A History of the Diocesan Secondary School for Girls 1849 – 1974 (Dublin 1986) p 51
[iii] Jagoe, Muriel and Oldham, Enid in Records and Recollections: A History of the Diocesan Secondary School for Girls 1849 – 1974 (Dublin 1986) pg 55
[iv] ibid pg 56