Seapoint, the Soundtrack of Home

The sea poured sound into my ears from the age of five when we moved to Seapoint but I didn’t like it up close and personal disliked the salt, hated the cold and, when it got up past my shoulders, found it terrifying. I loved the sea when I wasn’t in it. We climbed the rocks, slipped on seaweed, filled buckets with water and stones while the cormorants sat unheeding on the highest rock, their wings spread wide to dry. That bit of shoreline was one big front garden for us children who lived on the road.
More bathing place than beach, Seapoint could be as crowded as the Costa del Sol on the odd sunny weekend. Most of the year it was just us and the regulars people who met every day according to the tides and swam in the grey heave regardless of weather. For changing, they used the shelter built against the side of the Martello Tower, Seapoint’s landmark. It’s one of a string of stone forts built around Dublin bay in the early 1800s. I remember the tower opening its huge door on sporadic summer weekends to sell ice cream, long before I knew soldiers had watched from its narrow windows for the invasion by Napoleon’s forces which never happened.
Storms can change Seapoint into an inaccessible place, when the sea spills over, reclaiming the man-made structures with a roaring force. My father would bring my sister and I as close as we could go, until the spray was blowing into our faces. Every wave hit the concrete, shot up like a geyser, wafting thousands of droplets towards us, then slapped its weight back down on the drenched stretch of concrete where we’d usually walk. It was like watching a water dragon breathing in and out.
One of the worst shipwrecks in Dublin bay happened at Seapoint on the stormy night of 19th November 1807. Last year I did a tour of the tower and, for the first time, stood on its roof where our guide told us about the tragedy. The Rochdale was one of several ships which had left Dublin port that day but were blown back into the bay. It had been taking soldiers to fight in the Napoleonic War. Some of their families were also on board. Heavy snow obliterated visibility and, although the ship managed to drop anchor, the easterly storm snapped the chains. The crew may not have realised how close they were to the shore. The ship hit the rocks below the tower. All 265 people on board lost their lives, including 42 women and 29 children.
It’s difficult to picture the awful scene local people found the next morning. The bodies had been pounded by sea and rocks. The weather was very cold. It was a grim day. A second ship, the Prince of Wales had come aground less than a mile away at Blackrock with another 120 lives lost. Many of the Rochdale victims are buried in a small cemetery in nearby Monkstown. The horror of almost 400 people dying that night increased pressure for a harbour to be built at Dun Laoghaire. Work started on it ten years later.
This year, Seapoint was wrapped in steel barriers and isolated for weeks because of an invisible invasion Covid-19. I only realised when we were allowed back how much I’d missed it, the sea like food for my ears. It’s the sound of home.