Tag Archives: northsiders & southsiders

Des Res, Not Overlooked

For many years we have known that a large Viking settlement existed in the Wood Quay area of Dublin, on the south bank of the River Liffey, during the 11th century. This week archaeologists have announced that, for the first time, a Viking house has been found on the Northside.

Just the one, though …

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There was great celebration in the offices of Myhut.ie (the “dot ie” didn’t mean anything, it just somehow made the name look cooler) on the day that they finally managed to shift what had become known as the “Farside house”.

The boom years of 1002 to 1008, known as the Celtic Mammoth years, had seen an explosion in property development in the Dublin area. Every Viking who had ever held a stone-headed axe now saw himself as a builder and bribed persuaded a tribal elder to vote to allow development over an ever-expanding area. Prices soared, moneylenders became rich, and housing soon covered the entire Wood Quay region right up to the banks of the river (“desirable waterside residences, throw your poo straight out your window into the Liffey”).

That was when an overambitious builder ventured over to the hitherto unexplored north bank, built a showhouse, and asked Myhut.ie to sell it. This proved to be extremely difficult. Vikings feared to venture to the Northside, believing it to be populated by wolves, bears, and drunks begging at Luas stops (in fairness, this last part was true. The Luas tram network would not come along for another thousand years, but the drunks have been there forever). Furthermore, the only building north of this showhouse was Valhalla itself, and since Norse Gods are known mainly for quaffing, making thunder, and deflowering young maidens while disguised as a swan, being the first house on their likely route was not considered a sensible option for anyone seeking a quiet life.

For months the house remained unsold, until a bright young spark in the estate agents stopped advertising it as being “north of the river”, and referred to it instead as being “in Wood Quay North”. And so it was that Hjønle Raidersson, who didn’t read the small print (for the very good reason that he couldn’t read at all), bought the house and was handed the keys to, literally, another world.

(As an interesting footnote, the area where the house was situated is still known to this day as Fib’s Borough, in honour of the white lie told in order to make the sale).

Being the only person on one side of a river with no bridges was a hard life, as poor Hjønle soon discovered. He soon grew tired of having to get out his shortboat (it was part of the equipment on his longboat, kind-of like one of the Enterprise‘s shuttlecraft) every time he need to go to the store to stock up on boar-steaks, mead and wingéd helmets. This was necessary because the store had no delivery service. In other words (wait for it), Viking Direct didn’t exist yet (sorry).

He also grew weary of having to ferry himself to and from his old local alehouse on the southside, particularly as he was now the butt of the pub jokers, who referred to him as Hjønle the Ljønely.

He had sometimes noticed a small cabin in the woods near his new home with a sign outside. The sign read “Probably the Best Lager in the World, Will One Day be on Draught here, but Until it’s Invented, Come in and Drink the Swill We Sell Now”.  One evening he ventured inside, and for the first time came face to face with the native Irish population.

They were awestruck by his Nordic fairness, he was enchanted by their ginger  flame-haired freckleness, and in time he became accepted in the pub, though still regarded as a blow-in. Thus he became the chief source of reference for both Viking and Celt alike. He told his new friends about the slagging he got from his former neighbours, and spoke in the southside store about the occasional axe-fight in his new local pub. He meant these tales affectionately, and thought he was spreading understanding between the two tribes, but in fact his tales filled each with horror about the other. The Southsiders took to referring the Northsiders as Skangørs, from the Norse word for ruffians, while the Northsiders called the Southsiders Tossers, from the Irish word for tossers. 

In time the Celtic Mammoth became the Celtic Sloth, the economy collapsed, and the southside Vikings headed off back to Sweden, which even then had a really good welfare system. To the surprise of his pubmates, Hjønle went home too, as he was fed up with the dark, depressing climate of Ireland (and remember, this guy came from a country that has six-month night-times). Native Irish folk moved into the Wood Quay area, and in time the Vikings were forgotten, and life went on as if they’d never been here.

And yet, deep in our souls, something remains …. people from all over Dublin traipse unquestioningly each weekend to Ikea, the Valhalla for the 21st century. Dubliners love Abba so much that they flock to see bands who just sing their songs and dress like them. And Southside women have an urge that they can’t explain to pretend to be blonde and to go skiing in the winter. 

And North and Southsiders still don’t like each other very much.