Monday, 20 July 2015

Berlin #4: Smithfield's 'Checkpoint Charlie'

Back in 1965, Smithfield Square and other parts of the northside of Dublin were transformed into Berlin, to much excitement and hoopla.

Richard Burton was in town - with Liz Taylor in tow - to film The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.

The replica Checkpoint Charlie in Smithfield Square was constructed directly outside what is now The Generator hostel, next to the old Jameson Distillery and the Smithfield chimney.

Almost nothing remains of that scene today of course. The elaborate set was pulled down soon after the shoot. It was bought by a local businessman and taken away to god knows where.

Above: the film set under construction. Please drop me a line at if you know the name of the photographer

After encountering the "real" Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin in all its touristy tackiness, I still prefer the Smithfield one. On a dark wet winter's night you can squint across the shining cobblestones and imagine the famous border crossing. Even if it were just a movie set.

The Cobblestone pub at the top (north) end of Smithfield Square sometimes features in my "Moss Reid" series - such as the traditional music session in chapter 26 of Ghost Flight.

Look closely at the first-floor window of the Cobblestone today and you'll see a "Checkpoint Charlie" sign. It's for a beer of the same name, brewed in honour of the square's movie-town connection. It's a Weiss Bier by the way.

Smithfield today, looking south from the Cobblestone's end of the square
The Cobblestone pub on North King Street
The sign in the window, including a silhouetted man in hat with briefcase and umbrella