Crosthwaite Park: Synge, Bob Geldof and a Wimbledon Champion

Crosthwaite Park is an impressive period terrace on the leafy Glenageary side of Dún Laoghaire. It is named after John Crosthwaite, a local developer and former Chairman of the Kingstown Town Commissioners who built the original Dún Laoghaire baths on Queens Road.

According to a property feature in the Irish Times, Crosthwaite envisaged the development as a square of grand family homes. Built in the mid-1800s, there are still signs of servants’ quarters in the basements and remains of coal chutes.

Two household names resided in Crosthwaite Park over the years; John Millington Synge, architect of the Irish literary revival and author of The Playboy of the Western World, lived at number 31.

Bob Geldof, lead singer of the Boomtown Rats and organiser of Band Aid and Live Aid, grew up in a house on Crosthwaite Park South.

A lesser known name, but thoroughly deserving of wider recognition, is Doctor Joshua Pim, who was born in Bray, bred in Crosthwaite Park, and served as a medical officer in Loughlinstown hospital for 42 years.

Joshua (Josh) Pim was born at 1 & 2, Millward Terrace, Meath Road, Bray on May 20, 1869. Some of England’s oldest association football clubs were established that year, namely Fulham, Doncaster Rovers and Sunderland. Pim would later make his own sporting history.

Pim is one of Ireland’s precious few Wimbledon champions, winning consecutive back-to-back men’s singles titles in 1893 and 1894 after the disappointment of being a defeated finalist in 1891 and 1892. His opponent in each final was a British player, Wilred Baddeley, who became the youngest player to win Wimbledon at only 19 years of age. His record stood until Boris Becker came along in 1985.

In 1890 and 1893, Pim also won the mens doubles tournament alongside his fellow Dubliner, Frank Stoker, the only rugby international to ever win Wimbledon and distant relative of Dracula author Bram Stoker. Incidentally, Stoker was also Pim’s colleague in St. Colmcille’s hospital in Loughlinstown, where he served as chief medical officer.

Pim died in 1942 in Killiney in a house called Secrora, where he was an active member of the golf club and a keen swimmer. He is buried in Deans Grange cemetery, his glittering achievements marked by an austere plaque.

In 1902, Pim came out of retirement from tennis to be the token Irishman in a British Davis Cup team to play America. Unfortunately, he was criticised for carrying excessive weight. He lost both Davis Cup matches and put down his racket for good, a slightly inglorious ending to a highly successful sporting career.

Another lesser known name in modern times is Herbert Brenon, who was born in number 25. His father was a journalist, poet, and politician named Edward St. John Brenon. After a stint as an actor, Brenon became one of the most prominent screenwriters and directors during the silent movie era of in the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s. His credits include Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, Ivanhoe, The Great Gatsby and the first film adaptation of Peter Pan. 

Alongside Clarinda Park and Royal Terrace, Crosthwaite Park is a designated Architecture Conservation Area (ACA) by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. DLR’s conservation office note: “Crosthwaite Park West is probably one of the most majestic of terraces in all of Dún Laoghaire Rathdown. Built on an extravagant scale, with exuberant architectural detailing, which is again not typical in the county.”

Joseph O’Connor is from nearby Glasthule. O’Connor is particularly aware of the area’s literary heritage, and the significance of Crosthwaite Park, basing one of his acclaimed novels, Ghostlight, on Synge. One of its many memorable lines includes: “The Kingstown little tinker who wrote that filthy play. The dirty Protestant smug-monger.”

“It’s a story that’s been with me since I was a child growing up in Dun Laoghaire,” he told the Irish Voice. “My late mother, who died in 1985, was a great lover of books and the Irish inheritance in literature. She used to tell us as we passed the crumbling, slightly decrepit house where Synge has once lived with his mother, ‘That’s the room where he wrote The Playboy of the Western World.’ She told us Synge knew these streets that we were walking down.”

It’s remarkable to think that Synge, Pim, Brenon and ‘Sir’ Bob Geldof – who is probably the most famous Dún Laogahire man of recent decades – all hail from this charming square.

5 Comments

  1. Hi was just wondering if there are two Crosthwaite Park in Dun Laoghaire, because I remember living in one of the houses and remember there was a dr next door!! Mum and Dad had the middle floor, and remember the friends on the next floor down, also kitchen was down on the next floor!! I was one of three girls and mum was pregnant, and because she had a boy, we were lucky enough to be able to move into a new house in Sallynoggin!! I remember pushing the pram up the hill to Sallynoggin..All a long time ago now!! It’s funny though all those memories came flooding back!! Won’t bore you anymore!! Kind regards Frances ( Fiveash)

  2. Hi France. Yes, there is indeed another much smaller Crosthwaite Park West off Clarinda Park. There is also a development called Crosthwaite Grove near the park too, so might be one of those. Many thanks, E

    1. The road mentioned off Clarinda is actually incorrect on Google Maps, it is in fact Crosthwaite Terrace. It pre-dates Crosthwaite Park, I believe. The terrace of 3 homes, the first of which was originally a school, is from the end of the Regency/beginning of Victorian period. Hope this helps.

  3. Hi Eamonn,

    Saw a reference to 18 Crosthwaite Park on this webpage: https://www.theauxiliaries.com/companies/d-coy/the-retreat/the-retreat.html
    It seems the house was raided by auxiliaries during the war of Independence. It’s possible that Patick Moylett lived there: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Moylett

    Check out his Military Witness Statement where he mentions having a house in Dun Laoghaire here: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/bureau-of-military-history-1913-1921/reels/bmh/BMH.WS0767.pdf&ved=2ahUKEwjp3-vztbPvAhVGi1kKHW-mCt0QFjAAegQIBhAC&usg=AOvVaw3lqpXRIkzkoOJvWVUhCgPZ

  4. Hi Eamonn,

    There is an interesting reference to Crostwaite park kn page 18 of this PDF from Dun Laoghaire Chamber: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://dlrchamber.ie/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/dlrChamberHistory-PA7.pdf&ved=2ahUKEwiLiqu6trPvAhUaFFkFHRiwBxE4FBAWMAx6BAgLEAI&usg=AOvVaw0DTv2YSu77wer6j-e4JnFL

    There was a school in Crosthwaite Park called ‘Potter’s School’ started by a guy called Thomas Potter, it seems like an interesting story you can add to your article.

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