Lessons from the past
There are a number of builders who worked in Dublin in the first half of the last century whose reputations live long after them and whose names are synonymous with good, solid, stylish houses.
On the southside of the city you had Kenny, Crampton and Stringer and on the north side there was Alexander Strain. Ruth McManus, who works as a lecturer in the Geography Department at St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra has written about Strain in her book Dublin 1910-1940: shaping the city and suburbs.
When McManus was researching the book, she found that, even 70 years after his death, there was a lot of affection for Strain. “One of the reasons that his name survived was because he had a good reputation. And that was not just about building houses. It was also about being a decent person. He was very committed to the community and he helped people. If a worker was ill and unable to work he would have compassion. If somebody was falling behind on their repayments, he would give them a bit of a dig out. He was also involved in the community through his work in the Presbyterian Church, and he served on the board of Drumcondra hospital.”
“He was a speculative builder, he was in it to make money, but he built to a very high standard. The building materials are top quality.”
Strain, who was known as Alec, was the eldest son of builder Robert Strain, Markethill, Co Armagh and moved to Rathmines in 1893 where he worked as a timber traveller. He moved to Drumcondra in 1902, where he spent the rest of his life, retiring on the Cremore estate.