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The trees of Fairview - Edel Leahy

Edel Leahy, the woman who saved the trees of Fairview! If mother nature had a face, to me, it would be Edel. From the minute I met Edel, I was overwhelmed by her wondrous and enigmatic personality. This is a lady who literally lights up the spirits of all around her, just by being herself. I looked forward to her coming in for her ritual coffee every day when I worked in Kennedy’s Food Store. We chatted about this, that and everything under the sun, accompanied by many a giggle in between. My job was to make her smile but she always made me smile as well.

One day, Edel came in rather flustered. She went on to explain that she had just found out that there were plans to take down most of the trees running from the Malahide road, all the way to North Strand. This was to help create a cycle lane along the road. Being a fairly active member of the community, Edel realised that if she didn’t know anything about this until now, then most people wouldn’t! So, not long after that, Edel used the powers of social media to create a petition to ’Save the Trees’ of Fairview. She said to her husband that evening, ‘John, I’d be delighted if this gets 100 signatures.’

She woke up the next morning to see 200 votes. Then by the end of the week, it had over 1000. By that time the radio stations were contacting her to find out more, counsellors were ringing her asking what party she was from and people were reaching out from all over the world praising her for her efforts to save the trees of Fairview.

Being a cyclist herself, Edel didn’t want to go against a new cycle lane, she just didn’t want the trees taken down and felt that there could be an alternative plan made. After numerous radio interviews and newspaper write-ups, the petition had reached a total of 15,000 votes. The council then decided to stop their plans, for the foreseeable future. She had saved the trees of Fairview!!

Edel is proof that one person can make big changes – and they don’t have to be in authority to do so. I believe this is where we can utilise social media in ways that were never really possible before.

Edel and her husband moved into Fairview/Marino just over 20 years ago. At that time they were part of a small group of younger couples that had moved into the area. She has seen how the area has become more and more attractive to young couples over the years and has watched an influx of people recently move in. This has brought a wonderful new energy to the neighbourhood. Yet, there are still over 900 people in Marino over the age of 80 years old and they have helped maintain that ‘village’ atmosphere. Coming from an intellectual and corporate world, Edel decided to change her life and focus on raising her 3 beautiful girls. For many years she ran a small business working from home, minding other people’s babies whilst her girls were at school. She coaches the under 8 and 10s girl’s teams at the GAA club where she is one of many people that take time out of their day to volunteer to help the club. Edel is also an active volunteer in the Fairview Park run that happens every Saturday. She states that to make these organisations work it requires a whole community of people that are happy to volunteer. She is what I would call a Community Angel.

Kennedy’s Food Store

Kennedy’s Food Store will always have a very special place in my heart. From the minute I started working there I knew there was something unique about it. A buzzy, cosey and super friendly establishment with amazing food, what’s not to like?!?

Nobody knows the importance of a warm welcome like Sarah Kennedy does!! When I started at Kennedy’s, I was struck by the fact that Sarah knew pretty much everyone’s name and so did most of the girls. I soon got to know all the regulars and there are many! In fact, Kennedy’s is pretty much all regular trade which in turn makes it such a wonderful place to be.

It was while working there that I decided to do this project. The local people from Fairview and Marino that entered those doors day in and day out overwhelmed me by their kindheartedness and sense of community. I realised that Kennedy’s, along with other catering establishments in Fairview, was supported by a loyal and local community.

Sarah Kennedy spent many years working to perfect her business in Fairview. She always took the time to chat and get to know her customers - a philosophy that the staff at Kennedy’s follow and I for one really enjoyed. There was never a day that a customer didn’t make me laugh or smile. Aneta, who has taken my place at Kennedy’s Food Store, is equally attentive and genuinely cares about the people that come into the store.

Sarah has gone on to open 3 other branches in Raheny, Clontarf and Phibsborough. Her husband Shane is equally involved in the running of the business and together they are the perfect pair! 12 years on, Kennedy’s Food Store in Fairview is still a buzzing little hub of laughter and chats.

Sarah moved from to Fairview from Terenure, for her, it was an easy decision - the village itself was vibrant and full of potential ….there seemed to be a need for a real community cafe. Being close to both the centre of town and the sea was a great plus.

‘I had a vision of a neighbourhood focused & high-quality food-focused cafe. Fairview allowed me to create this and it was embraced & supported by the locals from the day we opened. That support continues today. The sense of community has been the biggest impact of working and living in the area…Fairview has a big heart and an open accepting culture. It’s a city gem.’

What Sarah loves most about Fairview is that you can be who you want in Fairview - it’s an open, laid back, diverse, creative community.

Sarah has an incredible love and passion for her business but most of all she loves the customers and goes to great lengths to make sure they are always looked after. She is a testament to the fact that a girl can have it all!! If you work hard and follow the Universe, good things will follow.

Follow Kennedy’s on Instagram here.

Bill Whelan

Bill Whelan grew up in 289 Richmond Road. His bedroom overlooked the now, Luke Kelly bridge, which goes over the Tolka River. This was his mother’s family home. His aunt used to run Meaghars Pub on Richmond Rd for many years. He speaks of his childhood in Fairview very fondly and the description is not too dissimilar to what we see today. A buzzing community that was close-knit with everyone looking after each other.

When he was six years old, Bill overheard his parents talking in hushed tones about a lioness that had got loose in Fairview and attacked a petrol attendant outside a petrol station on Merville Avenue. The story spread like wildfire. The newspapers ran it for over three years and it developed on a national level too. Little did Bill know that 50 years later, he and his great friend Joe Lee were going to embark on a project that would end up being an award-winning documentary about this very lioness.

Bill Stephens, the lion tamer and his wife lived a few doors down from where Bill Whelan lives now in Marino. The locals in the area tell tales of how Bill used to bring the lions out onto the green and train them to do tricks for upcoming performances at the circus. During one of Bill’s feeding rounds, he opened the lionesses cage and she made a run for it. She escaped out into to Merville Avenue. Unfortunately, the lioness attacked a 16 year old petrol attendant. After a couple of hours, Bill managed to lasso her down, where she was then shot by policemen. Bill and his wife were ordered by the police to leave Fairview with their lions and snakes. They then moved up to Finglas. Two years later, Bill met his fate when one of his lions attacked and killed him at 29 years of age.

Bill Whelan met his old art college friend, Joe Lee, at a local library lecture about Marino. They both felt that the elderly locals of Marino would have a very interesting history to tell of the area and brainstormed on what way they were going to transcribe this story. It was purely by chance that Bill mentioned the story of the lioness to Joe and just like that, the idea flourished to create a documentary not only about the lion and his tamer but about the history of Fairview and the people in it. Fortune’s Wheel ended up bringing two families together who either had never met or had not seen each other for many years and Bill speaks of how emotional the result was.

Bill and Joe have another project on the go at the moment called Waltzing Marino. If you are an old-timer in Fairview and Marino, you will know this is in reference to the famous, John Sheahan of the Dubliners’ tune. In honour of the 100 years of Marino coming up in 2024, they are interviewing as many elderly people who have spent their whole lives in the area as they can. The interviews will be audiovisual and will also be transcribed and stored in the Dublin City Library as well as the local Marino/Fairview Library. This endeavour will be a wonderful source of history for our future generations and I absolutely love it!

In Bill’s words, ‘Fairview/Marino is the most successful estate that The Dublin City Corporation (now City Council) has ever built.’ He believes this is due to its size, the construction of the houses and the immense greenery around the area. Marino is almost a hidden gem behind Fairview and he believes this is what gives it it’s character. He knows the generation of Fairview/Marino before him and has seen a new generation of people come in after him. Some have come back to the area and some are new.

Bill Whelan is a man of many talents. An artist and musician, he has a keen interest in local social history. You can find them playing American Stringband music in The Cobblestone in Smithfield every Saturday evening. Bill has also played for people in homes for the elderly and special needs schools. Through this endeavour, he has seen the true powers that music has; to lift the spirits and soothe the soul. Bill is a true artist, born to create and will die creating.

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