From the Ends of the Earth
“It’s incredibly together and very uncluttered.”
“He has an absolute eye.”
What did Caroline Walsh writing in 1989 for the Irish Heritage Series have to say about the hotel? “Fiercely proud, Shelbourne staff will vie with one another to tell visitors their memories of favoured guests from the Dalai Lama to the Queen of Tonga for whom they had to make a special bed, and whose entourage included two cooks so that everything she ate was cooked to her satisfaction. They will talk of Laurel and Hardy, Richard Burton, James Cagney, John Wayne and of Peter O’Toole. Most of all they will talk of Princess Grace of Monaco; of her early morning walks in the Green, and of how the press were always after her and of how they were devastated when she died.”
What would the Anglo Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen have to say about this evening’s dinner establishment? Rather a lot. She wrote The Shelbourne in 1951. “The Shelbourne faces south, over Stephen’s Green [skipping a sainthood] – said to be the largest square in Europe. Tall as a cliff, but more genial, the hotel overhangs the ornamental landscape of trees, grass, water; overtopping all other buildings round it. It gains by having this open space in front; row upon row of windows receive sunshine, reflect sky, gaze over towards the Dublin mountains. The red brick façade, just wider than it is high, is horizontally banded with cream stucco; there are cream window mouldings. Ample bays, two floors deep, project each side of the monumental porch – above, all the rest of the way up, the frontage is absolutely flat. Along the top, a light coloured parapet links up the windows of the mansards; from the centre of the roof rises a flagpole.” Accelerate to the last line of her book, “It is any hour you like of a Shelbourne day …” Or night.