Mapping Dalymount

Dr Margarita Cappock

In a world where a digital archive of images can be assembled with ease, allowing for the retention and dissemination of a proliferation of images from the past and present what role can the artist have in drawing, recording and mapping on the exploration and valuing of place? This is a fundamental question for the artist Dorothy Smith whose practice is rooted in the medium of drawing. Working mainly in pencil, pen and ink on paper, the artist is primarily concerned with how we experience and interact with urban public space and the implicit complexities therein.  For the past two decades, Smith has lived and worked in Phibsborough, north Dublin. Describing herself as interested in ordinary, everyday life and the kind of encounters and experiences one has with the built environment, Smith’s drawings are the result of looking closely at and engaging with her surroundings. In the past, Smith sought out and travelled to different geographical locations for artistic inspiration. Gradually, she began to focus more on the context of her own surroundings as a place with a direct relevance to her – the locality with which she engaged on a daily basis either on foot or bicycle.  Consequently, more or less everything that she has drawn, in recent times, is within a relatively tight radius of Phibsborough.   She notes, “Slowly I got more interested in our built environment and how it works and how it affects us, and how it makes a difference to everyday life. When you walk out the door, what is the experience like, what are the routes you have to take, the ordinary routes and routines.” This self-imposed concentration on her immediate locale has not been a constraint – far from it. Smith’s practice demonstrates how the seemingly mundane, almost invisible aspects of urban life can be documented, enlivened and a discourse started around their function and meaning. The subject-matter of earlier paintings were windows of houses in the area. This began as an exploration of the public presentation of a private space. Smith then expanded her field of interest to encompass the public realm of the area and began to work primarily in the medium of drawing.  

Those unfamiliar with Smith’s oeuvre might argue that in the digital age, to draw aspects of the city is an anachronistic activity but it has served Smith well.  Smith describes drawing as a labour-intensive, laborious and time-consuming activity. She notes that despite the slow nature of her work, she gets to see the rate of change of an urban environment and the act of making these drawings has transformed how she sees that urban environment. She remarks, “There is a kind of sense that the city is a static thing with a few things changing occasionally, whereas, it is this madly, moving, non-stop whirl of decay and building and change and use; so it is absolutely constantly evolving.”[1] Similarly, there is nothing static or sterile about the precision of the drawings that Smith produces such as those exhibited in her “Land Marks” exhibition at the RHA in 2018. Rather they prompt the viewer to simultaneously question the functionality of urban architecture and design in an ever changing city. In the process, they make visible the invisible or overlooked aspects of urban life. 

Notwithstanding the fact that the artist does not profess to know much about football, given that Smith’s focus has been on her immediate surroundings for the past decade, perhaps it was inevitable that she would become interested in Dalymount Park, the home of Bohemian Football Club since 1901. Accessed through a tight, narrow lane, the stadium is flanked on three sides by Victorian residential houses, a school and a 1960s concrete Brutalist shopping centre that at 31 metres in height, looms over the grounds. The floodlights are the only indication that a football stadium lies within – an anomaly of sorts.  The idea of[MC1]  mapping Dalymount has been germinating with Smith since working on Dalymount – Mapping a Unique Architectural space in 2018 with Jackie Bourke, a lecturer in Urban Geography at Trinity College, Dublin.  Prompted by a growing awareness of the full extent of the materiality and attachment to place the stadium engenders,  Dalymount has gone on to provide Smith with a rich source of material for the past three years.  It has culminated in the production of a map of the stadium and a series of beautiful drawings of the haphazard conglomeration of buildings, architectural features and other ephemera within the space.  Smith notes, “There is a common misconception that everything has been mapped. The authority of over 200 years of the ordnance survey and the technology of digital mapping is persuasive.”[2]   


For thousands of years, maps have always played a central role in human knowledge and our understanding of the world around us.  One associates a map with factual information – ordnance survey, military maps, an A to Z of a city – a way to orient and locate oneself.  Although one thinks of maps as objective views, they are subjective views and are constantly in flux as borders change or as cities evolve.  The links between art and cartography are evident – after all, what were the first maps only a visual language for conveying space and place.  Since the 1960s and 70s onwards, artists have increasingly been drawn to cartography and many artists have used the visual trope of the map to convey a diverse range of stories about territorial ownership, conflict, migration, identity, political and social issues. To name but a few, artists such as Joseph Beuys, Aligheiro e Boetti, Jasper Johns, Richard Long, Ellsworth Kelly, Laurie Anderson, Mona Hatoum and many more have used map imagery. 

Smith’s cites a combination of maps and topographical drawings of Dublin as points of departure for her work. She references old maps such as Charles Brooking’s map of the City and Suburbs of Dublin with its vignettes of Dublin buildings from 1728 and John Rocque’s maps of the City and Suburbs of Dublin from 1756, 1757 and 1760.  She also cites the work of the British artist Francis Place (1647-1728) as an influence on her work. Place travelled to Ireland in 1698-1699 and produced a series of drawings of Dublin and other locations on the east coast.  The National Gallery of Ireland has over twenty drawings by Place and Smith has visited the Drawings Department to view these works, which she describes as topographical drawings in the vein of non-emotive surveying work.  The appeal of this work for Smith is that it deals directly with what is in front of the artist and is very straightforward in its function and execution.   

Smith cites the work of fellow Irish artist, Kathy Prendergast, as an influence too. From 1983, Prendergast has used the aesthetic of maps in her Body Map series but it is specifically, Prendergast’s City Drawings that have influenced Smith. From 1992, Prendergast has produced drawings, in pencil on paper, based on maps of the world’s capital cities. Using these real places as points of departure, Prendergast describes these works as rooted in reality but also about the imagination. She also observes that “all maps are subjective”, which no doubt resonates with Smith.  Rather than offering a narrative, the City Drawings, although roouted in reality, are a departure into the imagination and in a clear departure from cartographical conventions, there are no words or textual signs to locate the viewer.  By contrast, Smith does use words and textual signs to locate the viewer but these are also in part subjective rather than descriptive and serve to reinforce the significance of parts of the history of Dalymount Park. 

Both the football club and stadium are steeped in history. Bohemian Football Club was originally founded in 1890 and finally found its home in Dalymount in 1901 at “the Pisser Dignam’s” field, a vegetable patch in Phibsborough. As an interesting aside, Frank McNally of The Irish Times ponders whether this particular Dignam is the “poor Paddy Dignam” whose funeral at Glasnevin cemetery is a key event in Ulysses by James Joyce. Given the encyclopaedic detail of Dublin in 1904 contained within, it does seem plausible considering that Joyce lived beside Dalymount for a time, at St Peter’s Terrace from 1902 to 1903. Furthermore, Joyce’s friend Oliver St John Gogarty (aka Buck Mulligan) played for Bohs in the 1890s.[3] Certainly, the manner in which Smith has recorded Dalymount with loving precision including all its advertising hoardings and other quirks, has a Joycean undertone to it.  

From 1901 to the present day, Dalymount has had three major redevelopments in 1908, 1928 and 1999. Dalymount has been constructed, dismantled, altered and adapted until it evolved into the conglomeration of structures that it is today.  In 1931, the Scottish stadium architect, Archibald Leitch, designed a new section (Section A) that extended the stand that was built in 1927/28; there is no evidence that he designed the 1927/28 stand.[4]  Between 1899 and his death on 25 April 1939, the Scottish architect built stands for Rangers, Chelsea, Fulham, Spurs, Liverpool, Everton, Manchester United, Arsenal, Aston Villa and many more.  Priestley notes, “Dalymount was a modest example of the classic British stadium design of this era in which social ethology was incorporated into the layout of the ground; it featured banks of open terraces to accommodate the working classes while directors and middle-class spectators were annexed in the expensive seats.”[5] Leitch’s large wooden stand stood until 1999 where the Jodi stand is now and Dalymount has become the conglomeration of structures that are depicted in Smith’s map.  As Smith says, “everywhere you look traces of its earlier incarnations are evident.”[6]  


Smith has fully immersed herself in the space in order to absorb and translate visually what Dalymount is and what it means. This involved exploring and sketching in situ and she describes her drawings as part of a process of figuring out where things are in relation to each other. She has spent many hours on the ground, walking around to get a sense of the layout and configuration of the entire place.  This intelligence-gathering also involved speaking directly to local people, to those with long and close associations with the club because this is part of the stadium’s very fabric from the shipping containers that have specific functions – be it the Bohs Foundation, the First Aid Room or the Manager’s Office. Smith has used photographs too and looked at Ordnance Survey maps for establishing the actual layout and shape of the boundary of this place, shoe-horned into a busy urban and residential community.  She also consulted Google Earth to look at the larger architectural features such as the stands, the Jodi Stand, Des Kelly Carpet Stand, Connaught Street Stand and Tramway End in terms of their dimensions. 

The map orients one in the space giving the viewer an aerial view of the central plan and layout of the stadium with the stands, one of which was demolished to make way for a car park.   Using the language of cartography and the style and lettering associated with it, there are 28 numbered locations and the map legend provides one with the patterns and textures of the place from its concrete terraces to the rough, overgrown ground. The numbered specific locations on the map and the key are written in a combination of the vernacular and the formal – one does not expect to see the word “Vomitorium” – a passageway or corridor in an amphitheatre or stadium through which the audience can easily enter and exit – in the same grouping as “Condiment Table”, “Portaloos” or indeed “Hold me Now”.  These may well be the significant parts of the stadium but each listing has a deeper meaning beyond its factual description. The use of colloquialisms to describe areas of the stadium demonstrate the affection in which the grounds are held by many. Smith emphasises that she was conscious of recording the uses and functions of the many seemingly anonymous structures dotted around the stadium.  These buildings and the names by which they are known have become part of the fabric of Dalymount’s history because they originated with the users of the stadium.

Surrounding this aerial view are a series of drawing elevations of specific structures – the ‘School End’ featuring ‘Des Kelly Carpets Stand’ with its advertising hoardings,[7], the ‘Tramway End’ showing the tower of Phibsborough Shopping Centre, terraces and floodlights, the TV gantry, terrace railing, tiered concrete stands, the more than 30 ticket stalls with the cast-iron “rush preventive” Ellison turnstiles, the Kit Room and Jimmy’s Office and the iconic floodlights.  There are also drawings of the ephemera in the stadium, such as the holy water bottle in the changing room and the murals and graffiti. The key to the map, appropriately with the iconic Bohemians metal entrance sign that dates from the 1920s over it, lists all the numbered features.   Smith argues that whilst drawing a map of the stadium could be seen as dressing up material from an existing source, the information for this map has been compiled from many different sources. She observes that “The knowledge in this map did not have a prior existence in one place. It is timely that this will have been achieved before demolition.”[8]

Smith’s drawing of the Ellison ‘rush preventive’ turnstile is exquisitely rendered. Isolated from its surroundings, it is meticulously drawn with fine lines and although it was a functional item, it takes on a sculptural appearance as an artwork. Indeed, these turnstiles have become museum objects.   The cast iron ‘rush preventive turnstile’ was patented by W T Ellison and J Unsworth in Salford in 1893. The turnstiles, so much part of the material culture of football, were installed at all major sporting grounds to prevent anyone entering without paying for their ticket.  Prior to this, football clubs relied on gatemen to collect the money with the grounds remaining somewhat porous.  Some view the installation of turnstiles as the genesis of the increased emphasis in football on match attendance and the maximisation of ticket revenue. One cannot but look at the drawing without it evoking a sense of reminiscence – all the bodies that have travelled through that iron cage and their palpable anticipation on entering the grounds. It served almost as a portal to another world and cultural experience.  

The social historian, David Toms notes that there is something “oddly magical in going through a turnstile” and cites examples from the literary world where in his book Played in Manchester, Simon Inglis writes that turnstiles provide a powerful cultural experience; a rite of passage marking the transition from the real world into the ‘fantasy realm’ of sport.[9]  Toms observes that JB Priestley wrote in his novel from 1929, The Good Companions, it is only when “having pushed your way through a turnstile into another and altogether more splendid kind of life, hurtling with Conflict and yet passionate and beautiful in its Art…”.   Priesteley continues that this is where “you escaped from the clanking machinery of this lesser life, from work, wages, rent, doles, sick pay, insurance cards, nagging wives, ailing children, bad bosses, idle workmen, but you had escaped with most of your neighbours, with half the town, and there you were cheering together, thumping one another on the shoulders, swopping judgements like lords of the earth…”.  This author had the opportunity to visit Jimmy’s office and to step inside and see the cornucopia of memorabilia. It radiates a warmth and passion that is a far cry from the commercialised, globalised retail and commodification that are associated with the modern game of football.  Supporters came every Saturday to purchase tickets from the office for a weekly lotto draw which is a fundraiser for Bohemians, reflecting that this is a way of life. It is worthy of visual documentation.

The drawings of floodlights seen from below and the small plaque for their manufacturers, Miller & Stables of Edinburgh capture another aspect of the history of the grounds. Also known as drenchlights, they stand over 125 feet in height and are almost sixty years old now.  Apparently they originally featured three banks of ten lights on each pylon and a special transformer station had to be constructed to meet with the power supply demands.[10]  A fundraising committee was set up in 1960 and after a visit to Hampden Park in Glasgow to view their new floodlights in 1961, the supplier was selected. The new lights took three months to manufacture, transport and install.   The inaugural match for the new lights was between Bohemians and Arsenal (apparently not the first choice!)[11] in March 1962.  The floodlights tower above the north city and one thinks of all the famous footballers and performers – from Pele to Bob Marley – as they stood sentry for the past sixty years.  The affection with which they are held even in 2021 has meant that the  the silhouette of the famous lights passes through the red stripes of the latest jersey, and the Miller & Stables plaque from the floodlight control room adorns the bottom of the embroidery.

Over the years, the graffiti both outside and inside Dalymount have become part of its fabric and tell their own stories.  The inclusion of drawings by Smith of this graffiti again adds another layer to this map.  The 1890 flag sign painted on the wall near the entrance gives the appearance of fluttering proudly like a medieval pennant.  The lovely drawing of “Hold me Now” refers to Johnny Logan’s song which apparently randomly became an anthem for Bohemians’ fans during a European game in Norway in 2003 after one of the fans sang it in the pub the night before. Logan has performed the song in a Bohemians jersey at the Park in 2008.[12]


In the process of this Dalymount project, Smith has challenged and questioned her motivation for doing so asking questions of herself such as why spend time recording and annotating a place that will be demolished; does one think this is a value and how can drawing – a seemingly traditional or old-fashioned activity – interact with the contemporary world.  In her introduction to the book, Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing, the author Emma Dexter highlights two main areas for drawing to exist today “First is the conceptual, theoretical discourse of drawing…then there is the other elaborately cultured aspect of drawing, not based upon a theoretical or philosophical understanding of what drawing is per se, but on the areas of human experience that drawing has come to be associated with…immediacy…memory…narrative….Drawing is a feeling.”[13]This resonates particularly with Smith’s work, the immediacy of the artist’s experience of the stadium, the memories of those who have engaged with the space and the narratives that surround the stadium.  

Smith’s hand-drawn map of Dalymount is a way of capturing the space and atmosphere of this unique place not simply its configuration but its intimacy, soul and character, replete with its layered history and resonances of a one hundred and twenty year past. The result is a wonderful combination of accuracy and lived experience of a space. This is not just a representation of a place it is a representation of an identity.  What Smith has selected for inclusion and emphasis through the prism of her artistic eye, demonstrates how a hand-drawn map can deepen our understanding of the place of community within the city.  Whilst we live in a world where extraordinary levels of detail about our surroundings are at one’s fingertips, there is an objectivity that has its limitations. They cannot convey how we inhabit space, how we feel about a particular locale or place and how an emotional attachment to a particular place grows incrementally. To encounter a hand-drawn map by an artist, showing her way of looking at the world around her, adds immensely to our perception and feeling about a place and how that place is shaped and evolved. 

The quest for a sense of place and a sense of belonging is intrinsic to the human experience.   The character of a place and the lived experience of those who have visited Dalymount whether as a fan, for a concert, is encapsulated in this map. It is seemingly at odds with what one considers the function of a map.  One doesn’t expect a map to chart the emotional attachment, the layers of history and character of a place.  This map tells the story of the social, cultural significance of this football stadium and its story at a particular place in time as it is on the cusp of changing forever.  Smith records the imprints of the history of Dalymount from its ramshackle collection of buildings to the extensive graffiti.  The human engagement with the place is brought to the fore.  Whilst photographs are mediated through a machine, the creative act of drawing is a conversation between the interior world of the artist and the exterior world he or she encounters. The beauty of this map and drawings are that this stadium is seen through the filter of the artist’s eye and this lens enables one to see things that might otherwise remain unseen.  Smith has recorded them in a unique way for posterity. 

[1] Interview with Dorothy Smith and the author on 3 February 2021. 

[2] Ibid.

[3] Frank McNally, The Pisser Dignam’s Field An Irishman’s Diary on Bohemian FC’s holy ground at Dalymount Park, The Irish Times, Friday, Jul 10, 2015. 

[4] I am grateful to Stephen Burke for this information supplied on 5 May 2020. 

[5] Ciaran Priestley, Dalymount Days: Identity Crises in the Home of Irish Football 1914-1939,

[6] Interview with Dorothy Smith and the author on 3 February 2021. 

[7] Details of the advertising hoardings on the School End for Pieman, Frame FX, Des Kelly, O’Neills, Community will provide a record in the future that might otherwise be lost.

[8] Interview with Dorothy Smith and the author on 3 February 2021.

[9] David Toms, Football Objects: The Turnstile, October 9, 2014. 

[10] A Bohemian Sporting Life, WordPress, Author – Gerrytastic. 

[11] This is according to Gerard Farrell in his piece “Shedding some Light on Dalymount”, March 26, 2020 on www.bohemiansfc.comHowever, according to Stephen Burke Bohemians had an excellent relationship with Arsenal since 1948; he contends that they had always proved popular visitors and were the obvious club to invite.

[12], May 9, 2017 Football, By Michael McCarthy

[13] Emma Dexter, Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing, London, Phaidon, 2005, p. 6-7