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Earlscliffe - articles in books

Over the past twenty -five years, the Robinson Garden at Earlscliffe has been featured or mentioned in a number of books.

Books that feature the Earlscliffe garden or plants

Title and Author Cover Description Publisher

Chilean Trees Around the World by Rodrigo Fernández Carbó

A magnificent and weighty volume covering Chilean trees in various countries around the world.

Ireland and the UK are included, with two chapters on Earlscliffe; El Bosque del Milenio (The Millennium Wood) which shows the 100 Chilean Myrtles (Luma apiculata) planted by David Robinson, and La Palma Única de los Robinson (The Lone Palm of the Robinsons) which describes the Chonta Palm (Juania australis) at Earlscliffe.

In his garden of Earlscliffe, in the Howth peninsula, sixteen kilometres from Dublin, [David Robinson] was determined to leave a legacy for the second millennium. In 1999 he finished planting one hundred Chilean Myrtles (Luma apiculata) to celebrate the arrival of the year 2000.

Rodrigo Fernández Carbó
ISBN 9563688309

Designing and Creating a Mediterranean Garden by Freda Cox

Designing and Creating a Mediterranean Garden

A book on garden design that mentions the Earlscliffe garden by name.

In the Irish Republic, Earlscliffe has amazing collections of plants from Australia, Chile and South Africa as well as the Mediterranean.

The Crowood Press Ltd 2005
ISBN 1861267827

Gardening On The Edge by Philip McMillan Browse

Ten respected and practicing gardeners, and one of the world's foremost evolutionary biologists write on their experiences of 'gardening on the edge' - at the edge of knowledge, and at the edge of the land. Earlscliffe, and in particular the Juania australis is discussed in the chapter on palms.

...perhaps the best example [of Juania Australis] I have seen is in the garden at Earlscliffe, Dublin - home of the Irish horticulturalist, David Robinson.

Alison Hodge
ISBN 0906720338

RHS Garden Finder (2003-2004) by Charles Quest-Ritson

With more than 1,000 gardens listed, this book aimed to be a guide for all plant lovers.

The Earlscliffe Garden is included in the Republic of Ireland section

ISBN 0751364339

Gardens of Ireland by Terence Reeves-Smyth

In 2001 the Robinson Garden at Earlscliffe was included in a book detailing 100 of the best gardens of Ireland. In it Terence Reeves-Smyth describes the variations in gardens, especially around Dublin. He discusses Earlscliffe, and says that the temperature never falls below -6° C (21° F) , and compares it to the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin (a few miles away) were it regularly falls to -10° C(14° F), with a low of -18.5° C (-1° F) in 1982.

Benefiting from a microclimate that is exceptionally mild for the latitude (53° 3" N) and almost as favourable as Tresco in Cornwall, Earlscliffe boasts a range of plants that is unique in Ireland.

Mitchell Beazley
ISBN 1-84000-338-3

Good Gardens Guide Edited by Peter King

The Robinson Garden at Earlscliffe was included in the Good Gardens Guide (Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.) initially in 1997 and in subsequent years. The entry in the 1999 Edition reads as follows: -

‘Few gardens can match Earlscliffe for variety or advantage. Perched on the cliffs overlooking Dublin Bay (a view to rival the Bay of Naples) on the southern side of the Hill of Howth, a peninsula almost encircled by the sea, severe frosts are rare. There is an almost constant breeze, just what the most tender plants need. So the collection of plants is astonishing and is not easily summarised. A forest of Echium pininana, the spire shaped, blue-blossomed bugloss from the Canary Islands is memorable; this species is naturalised at Earlscliffe (it is impolite to suggest that this four-and-a-half metre tall herb could be a weed, but frequently it is). An octopus-like weeping cedar groping a thicket of the Chatham Island daisy bushes (Olearia ‘Henry Travers’), a grove of bananas that flower and fruit, and waxy yellow blossomed heathers from South Africa, greet the visitor. These are hors-d’oeuvre, while Juania australis, Daphniphyllum macorpodum, Araucaria bidwillii, Cordyline bauerii - one could go on and on - are veritable sights for sore eyes. Many Eucalyptus species thrive in this garden, not to mention Callitris rhomboidea or the giant Hebe ‘Lavender Queen’. Dr David Robinson’s gardening philosophy may disturb the ecologically-minded because, with impunity, he uses chemicals (principally simazine and glyphosate) to control weeds (Echium pininana is not one) in this six-acre plantsman’s paradise. You may not agree with him, but you will certainly leave astonished by his plants and his audacity. Anyway when did you last see a bunya-bunya pine growing outdoors at a latitude of 53 degrees North?’
Bloomsbury Pub Ltd
ISBN 1-84000-338-3

Burke's Backyard Overseas - Travels with Don Burke by Don Burke

In 1995 the garden was filmed as part of Don Burke's Australian documentary programme "Burke's Backyard Overseas".

Following the filming, Don Burke published an item on Earlscliffe in his book ‘Burke’s Backyard Overseas – Travels with Don Burke’.

In this book he lists "David Robinson’s garden" as one of eight places of interest to visit in Ireland.

This might look like a common enough site - it could be a coastal garden anywhere in Australia, but in fact it's in Howth, County Dublin, in southern Ireland. As a result of a high, south-facing aspect and proximity to the warm Atlantic currents, Irish plantsman David Robinson has been able to create something very unusual: an Irish garden with an immense variety of sub-tropical plants.

Overlooking Dublin Bay, Dr David Robinson's garden is something of a curiosity. Dr Robinson planted 104 species of Australian eucalypts about twenty years ago and, despite the unfavourable climate, fifty of them have survived to maturity.

CTC Productions
ISBN 0646339796

In an Irish Garden Edited by Sybil Connolly and Helen Dillon

In and Irish Garden

A book describing 27 gardens in Ireland including Lakemount in Cork, Kilgobbin in Limerick, Ardsallagh in Tipperary and Shiel in Howth.

Shiel is the house next to Earlscliffe and was built by Olive and Kit Stanley-Clarke from a corner of the land of Earlscliffe.. The Stanley-Clarkes had owned Earlscliffe in 1950. However, a scarcity of money led them to eventually sell Earlscliffe. So they cut a one and half acre corner of the Earlscliffe land off to build themselves a cottage which they named Shiel. Olive used stones from Earlscliffe to build steps down from the cottage to the lawns of Shiel and planted flowering cherries (dug up from Earlscliffe before they had sold the place).

Three years after the end of the Second World War we bought Earlscliff, a large ugly house nine miles from Dublin, looking over Killiney Bay. The garden was neglected* and quite overrun with Aubrietia and a hideous mauve Gladiolus. I imagine we must have lived rather above our station in this large house, with two maids and a so-called gardener, and suddenly there was no money.

* By the time that the Stanley-Clarkes bought Earlscliffe in May 1950, the house and garden had been unoccupied for over a year.

Weidenfeld and Nicolson
ISBN 0297795848

Large Gardens and Parks by Tom Wright

In 1982 the Robinson Garden at Earlscliffe made its way into the book "Large Gardens and Parks" by Tom Wright alongside Versailles and some of the more celebrated English gardens.

The gardens were discussed as one of a series of case studies.

The garden until 1969 was a complex design of formal and informal areas based on Edwardian and later 1920s and 1930s intricacies with many small lawns, high hedges for enclosure and wind protection (the sea is less than 200 m (219 yd) away), herbaceous borders, rock gardens, rose beds, annual borders, bulbs. shrubs, and fruit and vegetable gardens. Three gardeners were originally employed to keep it all in shape.

When the garden was taken over in 1969 by the present owner, a drastic revision of the design and maintenance methods was essential, to enable the whole area to be maintained by Dr Robinson with some part-time family help.


HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
ISBN 0246114029

The Lichens of Ireland by Matilda Cullen Knowles

Matilda Cullen Knowles is considered the founder of modern studies of Irish lichens. Her major work was The Lichens of Ireland, which added over 100 species of Lichen to the Irish List and recorded the distribution of the eight hundred species identified in Ireland. Included were twenty lichens that has previously not been identified as Irish. A number of these lichens were found at Earlscliffe, which is mentioned by name.

Matilda was aided in her studies by a number of people, including Rachel Mahaffy who had previously lived at Earlscliffe with her father, John Pentland Mahaffy.

Hodges, Figgis & Co. Ltd Dublin
A Monograph of the Genus Acarospora by Adolf Hugo Magnusson

Adolf Hugo Magnusson was a Swedish naturalist who specialised in lichenology. He was a school teacher in Gothenburg from 1909 to 1948, but spent his spare time on the study of lichens.

In this book he talks about various rare species of lichen and some that he only found at Earlscliffe!

Almqvist & Wiksells boktryckeri-a.-b.,
A Monograph of the British Lichens: A Descriptive Catalogue of the Species in the Department of Botany, British Museum, Part 1, by Annie Lorrain Smith

Annie Lorrain Smith was a British lichenologist whose work would become essential textbooks for several decades.

In this book, Smith included examples from Earlscliffe, no doubt provided to her by Rachel Mahaffy who had previously lived at Earlscliffe with her father, John Pentland Mahaffy.

British Museum / Longmans, Green & Co., London
Flora of the County Dublin by Nathaniel Colgan

A book for botanical enthusiasts only. It mentions flora that is naturally found around Earlscliffe and mentions Earlscliffe by name.

Many of the Earlscliffe references were made by Rachel Mahaffy who lived at Earlscliffe at the time. As an example:

Bryonia dioica Jacq. White Bryony - One large plant on a rocky slope below Earlscliff, Howth, where it has grown for some years. It does not grow in any garden in the neighbourhood (Miss R. Mahaffy)
Hodges, Figgis & Co. Ltd Dublin
ISBN 0343254077

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Other books that mention Earlscliffe

Title and Author Cover Description Publisher
Death on Ireland's Eye: The Victorian Murder Trial that Scandalised a Nation by Dean Ruxton Death on Ireland's Eye: The Victorian Murder Trial that Scandalised a Nation by [Dean Ruxton] Dean Ruxton is a great story teller. In his work for The Irish Times he is known for looking at historical crime in Ireland. This book is his dramatisation of the story of a murder trial that took place 170 years ago. The death of Maria Kirwan on Ireland's Eye was a big news story at the time and a lot of the events take place in Howth. One of the characters in the novel is Alderman Cornelius Egan who lives at Earlscliffe, and the house is mentioned a number of times in the book. ‎Gill Books
ISBN 9780717188925

Howth Through the Eyes of the Artist by Vincent McBrierty

Howth Through The Eye of the Artist

Professor McBrierty excellent book tells the story of Howth through the eyes of the artists that lived there or, as visitors, were influencers there, including Jonathan Swift, Sir Samuel Ferguson, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Mahaffy, W.B. Yeats and Sir William Orpen.

In the book McBrierty mentions that Mahaffy bought and lived in Earlscliffe (though he gets the date wrong. Mahaffy bought it in 1901, not 1904).

Apart from that, McBrierty tells a wide and varied tale of Howth history.

Trinity College Dublin Press
ISBN 1871408407

The Wilde Legacy edited by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

The Wilde Legacy

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Oscar Wilde, Trinity College's School of English held a conference on the Wilde family. This book is the proceedings of the conference.

In the chapter on Oscar Wilde and the Wildes of Merrion Square, the author, in footnote 41, states the following:

The house was named Sealawn when Wilde stayed there and not Earlscliff as stated in all Wilde biographies to date. At some time after Mahaffy's occupancy the house was renamed Earlscliff and is known by this name today.

This is incorrect on all accounts. Earlscliffe house was never renamed; Sealawn is a separate house. Plus Wilde never stayed at Earlscliffe as his comments were made in 1876, a full 25 years before Mahaffy bought Earlscliffe.  [1]

Four Courts Press Ltd
ISBN 1851826548

The New Neighbourhood of Dublin by Joseph Hone, Maurice Craig and Michael Fewer

This book describes the buildings and places of city and county Dublin and how they have changed in fifty years, bringing together the previously unpublished Hone and Craig text with Michael Fewer’s parallel notes describing the subsequent changes.

On the section around Howth they mention Earlscliffe but initially get the name wrong:

The Baily Post Office is gone, but the nearby Eastcliff [sic], Earlscliffe on the nineteenth-century maps, is still there.
A. & A. Farmar
ISBN 1899047786

Dublin's Famous People: And Where They Lived by John Cowell

Dublins Famous people

A guide to more than 200 famous inhabitants of Dublin, with biographical sketches and the addresses in the city at which they lived.

Again, it mentions Mahaffy's house, Earlscliffe.

Later he purchased Earlscliff , Howth , which a wag suggested might better be called Dukescliff .

The O'Brien Press
ISBN 0862784689

A literary guide to Dublin by Vivien Igoe

Literaryguide to Dublin

This travel and reference book is a guide to the city that has been home to some of the most famous writers in the history of literature and drama, as well as the birthplace of three Nobel Prize winners for literature: Shaw, Yeats and Beckett.

It is also another one that that incorrectly references Mahaffy's house, Earlscliffe, as being one that Oscar Wilde and Mahaffy spent some time together.

ISBN 0413691209

Oscar Wilde, the Importance of Being Irish by Davis Coakley Literaryguide to Dublin

This biography of Oscar Wilde explores how his Irish background had a major impact on his life and writings.

Yet another book that that incorrectly references Mahaffy's house, Earlscliffe, as being one that Oscar Wilde and Mahaffy spent some time together.

During August 1876 Wilde was busy correcting the proofs of Mahaffy's book Rambles and Studies in Greece at the professor's home, Earlscliff, in Howth.

However, Mahaffy only bought Earlscliffe in 1901.  [1]

Town House
ISBN 0948524979
The Age of the Electric Train: Electric Trains in Britain Since 1883 by John C. Gillham Literaryguide to Dublin

A detailed history of the invention and evolution of the motive power, rolling stock and infrastructure of the electric railways of Britain.

Although the title states it is about Britain, it includes details of the electric trams that ran in Dublin, specifically the Howth Tram system. In this section there is a picture of a tram with the caption:

...showing one of the 10 double-deck tramcars on the railway type track and private right of way, between Earls Cliff and Howth Summit on 13 June 1953 .
Ian Allan Ltd.,
ISBN 0711013926

The Homes of Irish Writers by Caroline Walsh

The Homes of Irish Writers

This book looks at the links between some of Ireland's best known writers and the homes and the surroundings in which they lived.

In the chapter on Oscar Wilde, Caroline quotes Wilde's words on Howth from the summer of 1876:

"I am with that dear old Mahaffy every day. He has a charming house by the sea here, on a place called the Hill of Howth, one of the crescent horns that shuts in the Bay of Dublin, the only place near town with fields of yellow gorse and stretches of wild myrtle, red heather and ferns...

She mistakenly attributes this to John Pentland Mahaffy's house, Earlscliffe. However, Mahaffy only bought Earlscliffe in 1901. Before that he lived in a house called Sealawn in Sutton. [1]

Anvil Books
ISBN 090006871X

The Howth Peninsula: Its History, Lore and Legend edited by Vincent J McBrierty

The Howth Peninsula: Its History, Lore and Legends

A local history of Howth covering events, people, the harbour, churches and schools, famous visitors and events, shipwrecks, and transport. Also covered are sport and recreation, geology, natural history and local legends and folklore.

Earlscliffe is mentioned as the home of John Pentland Mahaffy, provost of Trinity.

North Dublin Round Table
ISBN 0950755311

John Pentland Mahaffy: Biography of an Anglo-Irishman by W B Stanford and R B McDowell

John Pentland Mahaffy: Biography of an Anglo-Irishman by W B Stanford and R B McDowell

The definitive book on Mahaffy. The sleeve notes to the book describes him as follows:

Historian and philosopher, man of letters and musician, conversationalist and controversialist, sportsman, publicist, diner out and don (Wilde's tutor) - even among so versatile race as the Irish, and in an epoch so favourable to versatility as the Victorian, John Pentland Mahaffy was outstanding. Mahaffy became, long before his death, a legendary figure, the subject of many anecdotes, believable and unbelievable, and this book explores the contradictory and often extravagant legend.

Mahaffy was a man much admired and much disliked; descriptions by friends and enemies range from near idolatry to sheer venom, and the authors show how these widely divergent opinions can be explained by conflicting elements in Mahaffy's own character and career.

Mahaffy's second home, Earlscliffe, is mentioned a number of times throughout the book.

For example, the story was that Mahaffy's wife, Frances, bought Earlscliffe for Mahaffy from spare cash saved from her housekeeping money.

His wife [Frances] was kind, highly intelligent, interested in literature, and a good housekeeper - tradition says that taking advantage of a fall in prices towards the close of the century she steadily saved from her housekeeping money until she was able to present her unobservant husband with a seaside house [Earlscliffe].

Finally, in the book, according to a friend of Mahaffy, John Gordon Swift MacNeil, Mahaffy believed in ghosts and claimed he saw them on more than one occasion. The historian, Sheelagh Harbison, later stated that 

Mahaffy's ghost was reputed to haunt Earlscliff

Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd
ISBN 0 7100 6880 8

Scandinavian Elements of Finnegans Wake by Dounia Buins Christiani

Scandinavian Elements of Finnegans Wake

In Scandinavian Elements of "Finnegans Wake", Dounia Bunis Christiani looks at the Dano-Norwegian text in James Joyce's masterwork, trying to explain the literary, linguistic, historical, and biographical materials to which the Scandinavian fragments allude.

In Book IV, there is a line "Les go dutc to Danegreven, nos?" (page 622, line 20). Christiani says that this is:

"Perhaps an allusion to Danesfort and Earlscliffe on Howth peninsula, perhaps only a pun on 'going dutch' and French duc, duke, Danish greven, the count."

Others have translated this line to be alluding to Dungriffin, the promontory on Howth with the Baily lighthouse, and the Dublin United Tramways Company (DUTC) that ran the tram to Howth Summit, past Earlscliffe.[2]

Northwestern University Press
ISBN 0810138247

A History of the County Dublin: Howth by Frances Elrington Ball A History of the County Dublin: Francis Elrington Ball wrote a multi-volume selection of books entitled "A History Of The County Dublin" in the early 1900s, covering a complete history of the Dublin region from the very earliest times until the late 18th century. In the fifth part "Howth and its owners", chapter 9 "As A Packet Station and After", Earlscliffe is mentioned as the home of Mahaffy. The University Press
ISBN 123580397X

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Disclaimer. Parts of the data found in these history pages are derived from sources currently available on the internet. In researching the previous owners of Earlscliffe, certain assumptions have been made as to the validity of this internet data. If you believe that some of this data is inaccurate, please contact  .


This page was last updated on 27-Jul-2023 .