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Double Take: The little-noticed laneway called Misery Hill in Dublin

The unlikely association with St James in Dublin’s Docklands.

Image: Zara Hedderman

ADJACENT TO THE Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin’s home to feel-good musicals and heartwarming stage productions, is a narrow road named Misery Hill. 

You would be forgiven for assuming that Misery Hill was either an area associated with plague-related deaths or a particularly poverty-stricken part of The Pale.

So where did the unfortunate place name come from?

Speaking to The, Cathy Scuffil, the resident South Central historian with Dublin City Council, recounted the fascinating story of Misery Hill, dating back to the medieval period.

In the 1200s, Dubliners assembled on James Street, nearby the Guinness Storehouse, approximately forty-five minutes away, on foot, from Dublin’s Docklands.

This location would be the meeting point for those embarking on a pilgrimage to renew their souls on the Camino de Santiago. 

The group passed through Dublin via Trinity College and Hawkins House, hidden behind D’Olier Street, until they reached locations known as hostels or hospitals.

“These sites were built specifically, presumably by monks,” Scuffil suggested, “for the pilgrims to receive basic first aid and medical treatment before they boarded the ship to Spain.”

During this time, there were two locations for these early institutions. One along the quays nearby Hawkins Street, the other at Misery Hill. 

The hospital situated at Misery Hill was for people of lower social classes. Due to the very basic attention to detail given to the building, it was known, at the time as ‘Miserable’, which transformed to ‘Misery’.

The area has held that name for over eight hundred years. 

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Today, these infrastructures have been replaced with modern high rise offices, hotels, restaurants and apartment buildings.

Scuffil says that Misery Hill continues to provide “a link in the chain of Dublin’s long-established connection to the Camino.” 

Saint James – Santiago, in Spanish – has a long-standing presence in Dublin. The logo of St James Hospital features a scallop shell, along with emblems of shamrocks. The scallop shell is, as Scuffil informed The, “a symbol of St James and by wearing a motif of the shell on a chain it marked you as a pilgrim.”

The newly opened place of worship on the site of St James Hospital is called Camino Rest.

More: Double Take: The full-size, 50-feet-tall concrete replica of the Lourdes grotto in Dublin 8>

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