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Every year, we try and mark Easter Week in some way on the site. This year we’re looking at an interesting set of artifacts in honour of one often overlooked participant in the 1916 Rising that have only recently come to light. This post wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Las Fallon, whose book ‘Dublin Fire Brigade and the Irish Revolution is available here.

Members of the Irish Citizen Army, an armed trade union force, on the roof of Liberty Hall.

Members of the Irish Citizen Army, an armed trade union force, on the roof of Liberty Hall.

What became of people after the revolutionary period in Ireland? For many veterans of conflict in Ireland, a life in politics followed, with some becoming Ministers and voices inside the Dáil and the establishment, while others remained very much in opposition to the state that was born in 1922 and remained politically active. Many others went on to live a wide range of lives – actors, authors, nurses, cinema managers and more besides emerged from the ranks of those who risked everything between 1916 and 1923.

One character I’ve always found particularly interesting is Joseph Connolly. He continued doing what he was doing during the revolutionary years : fighting fires. Joe was an active member of the Dublin Fire Brigade for some time before the 1916 Rising and had even walked out of Tara Street Fire Station on Easter Monday to fight in the uprising! He continued to work in the Dublin Fire Brigade for many years after independence, and this post looks at a beautiful set of commemorative fire buckets presented to him by his comrades in the Irish Citizen Army at the time of his retirement from the Brigade in 1938. The buckets have a nice connection to Thomas Kain and Rosie Hackett, two members of the Irish Citizen Army. The new Luas bridge spanning the River Liffey has of course recently been named in honour of Rosie Hackett, the first female awarded such an honour.

Captain Joe Connolly, Chief Officer Dublin Fire Brigade,presenting the brigade with the new 'electric shockproof' helmets to replace the brass helmet worn since the 1860s. (Thanks to Las Fallon)

Captain Joe Connolly, Chief Officer Dublin Fire Brigade,presenting the brigade with the new ‘electric shockproof’ helmets to replace the brass helmet worn since the 1860s. (Thanks to Las Fallon)

Joseph Connolly was born in 1893, the son of a swing bridge operator on the docks of Dublin and the grandson of a family evicted from their small farm near Straffan in Kildare during the days of the Land War in Ireland. Joseph, listed in the 1911 census as a messenger, would join the Dublin Fire Brigade in 1915. All of his siblings also developed radical republican politics, and all of his four brothers and his sister Kathleen joined the Irish Citizen Army. His brother Sean was the first Citizen Army member and the first republican volunteer to die during the 1916, when he was shot at City Hall, while his sister Katie is visible in the famous photograph below of the Irish Citizen Army at Croydon Park. She stands between the two flag bearers at the front of the group. The names of many of the siblings appear on a monument at City Hall in honour of the garrison there during the rebellion which they participated in, while Joseph Connolly himself fought at Stephen’s Green and the Royal College of Surgeons. Connolly left the fire station he worked in to fight in the insurrection, commandeering a car and using it to carry weapons from Liberty Hall to the General Post Office, before joining his ICA comrades in the Green.

The Irish Citizen Army at Croydon Park.

The Irish Citizen Army at Croydon Park.

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All you punks and all you teds
National Front and Natti dreds
Mods, rockers, hippies and skinheads
Keep on fighting ’till you’re dead

Talking to Come Here To Me!, Garry O’Neill (editor of Dublin street fashion photography book Where Were You?) summed up the violent mood that he felt growing up in Dublin in the mid 1970s:

To me, at that time, Dublin seemed a violent place. It was a social problem that existed before the punk explosion and the skinhead/mod revivals of the late 70s. Growing up in the city centre in the mid 70s there seemed to be a very tribal and territorial element to the violence that occurred. The city’s cold and grey complexion compounded the fear of walking through certain areas where you might be visiting a new girlfriend or friend, meaning that unless you took a bus, you had to safely navigate a way out of said area and through one or two more before finally reaching your home patch, thus avoiding some of the bootboy gangs and odd individuals that seemed to exist purely to take exception to the fact that “You’re not from around here” before meeting out a well placed box or boot to send you on your way.

In regard to its Punk and local live music scene, artist Garret Phelan has signaled out Dublin as being different to other cities in the South of Ireland:

It was bonkers (in Dublin). I would be shitting my pants going to some of these gigs. I was talking to a mate of mine who grew up very much within the music scene in Cork, and he never experienced the fear factor that you would experience in going to gigs here. Going to gigs here, you took your life into your hands.

At Ireland’s first punk festival (25 June 1977) in the canteen on UCD’s Belfield campus, a young fan from Cabra was stabbed twice after a short fracas broke during the gig involving eight or nine people. He later died of his injuries in hospital in the early hours of the morning. Gavin Friday, lead singer with The Virgin Prunes, believes that it could have been ‘the first murder at a rock gig in the British Isles’.

Garry O’Neill, whose eldest brother was at the gig, recalled:

It was the first time I’d heard of violence at a gig. The only other incident I knew about was the Bay City Rollers gig at the Star Cinema in Crumlin in 1974. When into the gig went gangs of girls from all over the city, leaving their gangs of boyfriends outside to run amok amongst themselves.

As the punk scene in Dublin grew in popularity and began to attract fans from all over the city, incidents of faction fighting and recreational violence grew. Some noticeable violence occurred at the following gigs:

- 12 November 1977: The Stranglers (who didn’t show up), The Radio Stars and The Vipers in the Tivoli Theatre, Francis Street.  Original guitarist for The Vipers Ray Ellis recalled:

There was a riot going on when we arrived -  seats being ripped up (and) general mayhem. We got into it and the place went wild. While I was playing, a guy in the crowd pointed at my shoe and my lace was open … I gave him a nod and put my foot over to have him tie my lace. He grabbed my foot (and) started to pull me off the stage. The bouncers at the side curtain saw me disappearing but could not see why and thought … it was part of the act till they saw my face so they grabbed my head. There was a tug of was between them and the crowd. Happily they won and I was kept on stage and finished the set.

Ticket stub for The Stranglers gig who didn't turn up. Credit - U2earlydayz.com

Ticket stub for The Stranglers gig who didn’t turn up. Credit – U2earlydayz.com

- 12 October 1978: The Virgin Prunes were bottled off stage while supporting The Clash at the Top Hat, Dun Laoghaire. It was their second gig. Gavin Friday remembers:

We came on (with) Guggi wearing a tiny skirt and I had a plastic suit made out of raincoats, no jocks underneath, and pair of Docs. We’d only played two little gigs before that. Steve Averill from The Radiators From Space played synthesizer with us. The crowd just went apeshit. They thought Guggi was a chick. The adrenaline of all these people pogoing kicked in and I started jumping around, the next thing this plastic suit that me ma had made me split completely. I was standing there totally bollock naked, except for a pair of Doc Martins. I turned around and Guggi’s skirt had come off and you could see that he was a bloke. All hell broke loose, there were bottles flying, they were setting the curtains on fire. We were reefed off the stage by The Clash’s tour manager and fucked out the door. We had no money and had to walk with all out gear, back from Dun Laoghaire to Ballymun.

- 20 October 1978: Violence again at The Top Hat with The Jam.

- May 1979:  Black Catholics trouble at a U2 gig (supporting Patrick Fitzgerald) in the Project Arts Centre. The late great Bill Graham of Hot Press wrote at the time:

Last weekend at the Project, U2, who were supporting Patrick Fitzgerald were targets of an unprovoked assault. As our man on the move Ross Fitzsimons reports a group arrived down & began taunting the band but the verbal displeasure escalated to direct and seemingly drunken action as critics jumped on stage, threw cider about & in one instance kicked U2 bassist Adam Clayton. After two numbers, the band quit the stage & the situation became so unruly that two Gardai had to called to escort the disruptors from the premises. That was Friday night but the following evening, the vendetta continued. One troublesome patron was speedily ejected by U2 manager Paul McGuinness but after McGuinness returned to the auditorium, a bruising skirmish ensued in the foyer & outside.

Black Catholics and friends. Advance Records by Stephen's Green. Credit - Patrick Brockleband via Eamon Delaney's blog

Black Catholics and friends. Advance Records by Stephen’s Green. Credit – Patrick Brockleband via Eamon Delaney’s blog

- 17 November 1979: Trouble at the Squeeze gig in Belfield, UCD.

- 1979: Brawls at a fundraiser gig for the UCD Student Union with DC Nein and The Threat at the Student Bar in Belfield. Maurice Foley, guitarist and lead vocalist of The Threat, remembers:

I remember one time we played with DC Nien in Belfield… and there was a bit of trouble there… Whatever it was, someone from Hot Press came out to ask me about something… we had this old van that kept running out of water and all the lads were waiting to get in the back after the gig and then this car came in really close beside us and it nearly knocked a few of the lads over, they had to jump out of the way… and it pulled up outside the Students Union Bar… then they got out and they were all loud, they’d had a few drinks and the car could have been stolen ‘cos they were driving all over the grass and stuff… so our lads thought they’d go down and have a word with them in the car… so they ended up smashing all the windows in the car… some chains came out and that… so they drove off and went into the students bar and the students all came out with them and they started attacking… there wasn’t a large crowd of us either… so everybody crowded into the back of the van and we started the van to get it going, but it wouldn’t start… they all came close and started firing rocks, and the lads had to get out to chase them off again.

- December 1979: Fighting at The Members gig supported by Stiff Little Fingers in the Olympic Ballroom, Pleasant Street.

- 2 March 1980: 49 people were injured in the crowd trouble at The Boomtown Rats and The Atrix concert at Leixlip Castle.

The Boomtown Rats at Leixlip Castle. Hot Press - X 1980. Credit - Where Were You? Facebook page

The Boomtown Rats at Leixlip Castle. Hot Press – March 1980. Credit – Where Were You? Facebook page

- May 1980: Aggro at The Rezillos, The Tourists and The Epidemix gig in Liberty Hall.

- 27 July 1980: Bottle throwing at The Police gig at Leixlip Castle.

- 6 October 1980: A hammer attack at a 4″ Be 2″‘s gig in Trinity College. The band featured John Lydon’s younger brother Jimmy. Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) was arrested that evening for assault after a melee in the Horse & Tram pub in Dublin, he was sentenced to three months in jail for disorderly conduct but was eventually acquitted on appeal.

- 8 October 1980: Four people were stabbed after The Ramones gig at Grand Cinema, Quarry Road, Cabra.

- 15 January 1981: Hectic scenes at The Specials and The Beat concert at The Stardust, Artane. Gang violence between the Edenmore Dragons from Raheny and the Coolock Boot Boys marred the legendary gig.. Edna on Brand New Retro described it as a ‘ bloodbath of a gig’ while Festeron on the TheSpecials2.com forum recalled ‘The gig .. was ruined by fighting between 2 rival Dublin gangs … They used the dance floor as a battleground that night despite Terrys best efforts to make peace. “‘

- 1981: The Outcasts gig in McGonagles saw the bar being raided by punters and fighting occurring inside and outside the gig.
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When we think of the years of misery that we now know as ‘The Great Hunger’ from 1845 onwards, it is not necessarily Dublin we think of instantly but rather the impoverished and miserable west of the country, where death and emigration were both at their highest levels. Dublin has its own famine stories to tell however, and one of few places on the island of Ireland where the population increased, as the starving masses flocked into urban areas in search of employment and food.

One of the most interesting little stories involving Dublin and the famine is that of ‘Soyer’s soup kitchen’, a temporary structure erected at Croppies Acre for the purpose of feeding the starving masses of the city. My interest in this story was sparked by an Illustrated London News illustration from April 1847, showing a showpiece soup kitchen that was opened in Dublin by a famed French chef, in an attempt at providing much-needed relief to the suffering Irish people.

The Illustrated London News, 17 April 1847. (Digitised by http://multitext.ucc.ie/)

The Illustrated London News, 17 April 1847. (Digitised by http://multitext.ucc.ie/)

Alexis Soyer, born in 1809, was a high-profile French chef, indeed it has been argued he was among the first ‘celebrity chefs’. In The Great Famine and the Irish Diaspora in America, Jillian Strang and Joyce Toomre note that “was an “affable and eccentric chef with a strong sense of showmanship and a flair for publicity. Soyer loved to dazzle, and to do the seeming impossible.” As chef of the Reform Club in London from 1837, Soyer’s food would have been enjoyed by members of the political class in Britain, though he was greatly moved by the reported suffering of the Irish starving workers and peasantry, and was approached by authorities with the aim of establishing a model soup kitchen in Dublin. Soyer had written to the press in England on the question of the misery in Ireland and what response should be taken to it. Soyer sent recipes to the press which he believed were sufficient to provide nutritional value for those in dire need. Below is one recipe which was published in The Times:

A recipe sent by Soyer to The Times newspaper in 1847.

A recipe sent by Soyer to The Times newspaper in 1847.

Soyer was capable of making up to 100 gallons of soup for under £1, a remarkable achievement, though the soup itself was often derided in the press, with some contemporary commentators noting it was not so much soup for the poor man as it was just poor soup.Regardless, Soyer was warmly welcomed in the Dublin of 1847,and within weeks a temporary structure was erected in front of the Royal Barracks for the task of feeding the masses. A wooden structure, described in contemporary reports as being about forty feet in length, and thirty feet in breadth, the spoons within the structure were bound by chains to the bowls and tables, to provide them from being stolen. Frank Hopkins has noted that:

The poor were admitted to the hall in shifts of 100 at a time by the ringing of a bell. When they had finished the soup, they were handed a piece of bread and left by the second door. The bowls were then cleaned and the next batch of people were summoned, again by bell.

The Lord Mayor and the Lord Lieutenant were among those to attend the opening of the soup kitchen, though a hugely controversial feature of the site was manner in which the elite of Dublin were charged to observe the spectacle, with historian Mike Cronin noting that one contemporary newspaper found this so ethically dubious they compared it with a day out at Dublin Zoo. The Freeman’s Journal had little good to say of the event, noting that “of all the impudent and insulting humbugs that ever were perpetrated against a suffering people, we hold the exhibition of yesterday, at the Royal Barracks, to have been the most outrageous.” The newspapers condemnation of Soyer’s experiment was straight to the point:

Five shillings each to see paupers feed!—five shillings each to watch the burning blush of shame chasing pallidness from poverty’s wan cheek!—five shillings each! when the animals at the Zoological Gardens may be inspected at feeding time for sixpence! We hope that, as these “five shillings each” were to be given in charity, the poor unfortunates who earned them with scalding tears and bitter humiliation and galling shame were not forgotten; and that on this occasion they were presented, when the performance was over, with something more than a “fine cake”!

A contemporary illustration of Soyer.

A contemporary illustration of Soyer.

The kitchen served thousands of people on a daily basis during its short existence in 1847, with most accounts suggesting as many as 5,000 people a day were fed. While the health benefits of the soup was questioned, it remains one of the most interesting chapters in the very dark story of Ireland’s famine years. One nineteenth century source gives an interesting account of the reception Soyer received on returning home, though in retrospect perhaps a lavish gentleman’s dinner was not the most fitting of tributes in the context of the times. “On Soyer’s return from Dublin, another public dinner was given to him at the London Tavern, to commemorate his philanthropic….efforts for the relief of the starving Irish. More than 150 gentlemen sat down….It was a most fitting ovation to the unbought talents of the chef.”

Soyer died in 1858, and the Frenchman was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery in London. You can learn more about him here.

One of the most destructive fires in the history of the city occurred on 18 June 1875, when a disastrous fire in the Liberties area of the city saw burning whiskey flow through the streets of the area like lava. A malt house and a bonded warehouse went up in flames, leaving the burning liquid to flow down Ardee Street and Mill Street. The fire began just after 8pm, and contemporary news reports give an idea of just how much burning booze was involved, with the Illustrated London News reporting:

The fire was at Reid’s malt-house and Malone’s bonded warehouse, in the Liberties. The former had above £2000 worth of malt in it, and the latter, which immediately adjoins it, had 1800 puncheons of whisky, the property of various distillers, and worth £54,000.

The Illustrated London News reports the blaze. (Image digitised by South Dublin County Libraries, http://source.southdublinlibraries.ie/handle/10599/11048)

The Illustrated London News reports the blaze. (Image digitised by South Dublin County Libraries, http://source.southdublinlibraries.ie/handle/10599/11048)

The lava proved devastating to all in its path, at one point seeming to endanger both the Coombe Maternity Hospital and the Carmelite convent in Ormond Street. The wind blew the flames in the opposite direction from the convent, which was hailed by some as a miracle, though the fact many tenement homes were destroyed instead leaves any ‘miracle’ in doubt! In their history of firefighting in Dublin, Tom Geraghty and Trevor Whitehead recounted that the fire wreaked particular havoc on Chamber Street, with a pubic house disappearing in flames, while at another home on the street a wake was in progress, and “the occupants were forced to flee with the corpse to mourn elsewhere, while the home of the bereaved and their belongings were totally destroyed.”

A particular problem in this area of working class Dublin was the presence of quite a lot of animals. At the time animals were frequently to be found kept at the rear of tenement buildings, while horses were still utilised as a widespread form of transport in the city. The presence of confused animals running up and down the streets of the Liberties only added to the pandemonium of the situation, and when a tannery went up in flames the smoke and smell must have been overbearing. Luckily, the Watkins Brewery at Ardee Street somehow avoided both the flames and the flowing lava, though it goes without saying a brewery going up would have compounded an awful situation.

The Dublin Fire Brigade did arrive on the scene, under the stewardship of James Robert Ingram, the first Chief Officer of the brigade. We’ve featured Ingram on the site before. Amazingly given his contribution to public service in Dublin, and the fact the Fire Brigade he established is now over 150 years old, he is buried in an unmarked grave in Mount Jerome Cemetery. Ingram was something of a maverick – a Dubliner by birth, he had learned his trade in the New York Fire Department, and modeled his fledgling Dublin fire service on that of Manhattan, initially christening it the Dublin Fire Department and decking his men out in red shirted uniforms. On one occasion he dealt with a ship drifting into Dublin Port ablaze by ordering the Royal Navy to open fire on it and sink it into the bay, so it’s far to say Ingram was never bound by the restraints of conventional firefighting!
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Front cover of Look Left, Issue 18.

Front cover of Look Left, Issue 18.

Issue 18 of Look Left is available now for €2 in Easons and other newsagents. I genuinely think this is the best issue in the last while.

Highlights:

The interview with Des O’Hagan, founding member of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and the Workers Party, was fascinating. Involved in politics for over six decades, he talked about his family’s links to James Connolly, his spell in Crumlin Road Jail in the 1950s and the time he was told by the American consultate in Belfast that “No matter how long you live, no matter what changes take place in the United States, you will never get into America. You’re a communist”.

Historian Brian Hanley’s four-page piece on the the politics and commemoration of World War 1 hits the nail on the head on and is a welcome addition to current articles on the topic. Luke Fallon’s distressing illustration of the trenches helps to bring the piece to life.

The fascinating story of English footballer Robin Friday is told to Look Left’s Barry Healy by music journalist Paolo Hewitt. Friday, who only played top flight played professional football for three years, was known for his heavy smoking, drinking, womanising and drug-taking but scored goals for Reading that “are still considered amongst the best in English football”.

Yours truly has another piece looking at music and politics, this issue focuses on Paul Heaton of The Housemartins and The Beautiful South fame.

Folk musician Andy Irvine is interviewed and talks about his time in London in the late 1950s, travels to Eastern Europe in 1968 and his current work with the Musicians Union of Ireland.

[Andy Irvine's ballad about the 'Sydney Twelve' - members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in Australia who were arrested and charged with treason for their active opposition to conscription during the First World War. Jim Larkin's brother Peter and Thomas Glynn from Galway were two of those involved. The group were released after spending four years in jail.]

Last but not least Kevin Brannigan investigates the current threat to Dalymount Park in Phibsboro (“Dublin’s most historic football ground”) and how legislation in England and Wales has helped to save significant football stadiums from the developer’s wrecking ball.

Other pieces include:

Who Watches the Watchmen: The Gardai, drugs and the working class by Francis Devine
A Tribute to RMT leader Bob Crow by Sean Garland
Where is progressive unionism? by Rev. Chris Hudson
Short impressionistic view of a recent trip to Cuba by Vivian Cullen

Issues 2 - 18 of LookLeft. Credit - Sam (CHTM!).

Issues 2 – 18 of LookLeft. Credit – Sam (CHTM!).

This month marks the centenary of Cumann na mBán being founded in Dublin, and there has been much talk about the role of women in Irish political history. While Cumann na mBán was a nationalist organisation focused on providing practical support to the male Irish Volunteers, many other women were also active in politics a century ago, ranging from trade unionism to suffrage campaigns seeking the vote. This brief post looks at some examples of militant opposition to suffragists on the streets of the capital, and while it’s not a subject I’ve a great familiarity with I found all of these little stories interesting and worth sharing.

Francis Sheehy Skeffington, who refereed to the Catholic Ancient Order of Hibernians as the "Anicent Order of Hooligans".

Francis Sheehy Skeffington, who refereed to the Catholic Ancient Order of Hibernians as the “Anicent Order of Hooligans”.

The ‘Ancient Order of Hooligans’ in the Phoenix Park, August 1912.

In early August 1912, a huge crowd assembled in the Phoenix Park to hear a number of male and female speakers discuss the need for votes for Irish women. The Irish Times commented that “uproar and considerable interruption were a leading feature” of the event, with the paper noting that “several attempts were made to rush the platform”.

Vigorous hissing, booing and groaning greeted the speakers at almost every stage of the proceedings, which were opened by the police taking the precaution of forming a wide space between the mob and the position taken up by the suffragists.

One of those to speak was Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, a prominent figure in Dublin at the time, “who was accorded a very hostile reception, which he appeared to regard with considerable satisfaction.” Skeffington caused pandemonium by addressing the crowd as “Ladies, Gentlemen and members of the Ancient Order of Hooligans”, a reference to the conservative Catholic Ancient Order of Hibernians. Despite the fact missiles were thrown at the stage on this particular occasion, the speakers succeeded in leaving the park in safety, vowing to return at a later date.

The Phoenix Park was a regular spot for political demonstrations at this period in Irish history. Only weeks after the above rally was disrupted, another pro-suffrage rally in the park encountered similar hostility. On that occasion, prominent Dublin Jew Joe Edelstein spoke of his belief in the right of women to vote, asking the crowd “whether they were the people who gave to Ireland Wolfe Tone, Robert Emmet, Michael Davitt etc, who were now going to condemn their own sisters, their mothers and their daughters.” Edelstein’s appeals to the crowd, much like Skeffington’s, went down like a lead balloon. Edelstein appears in the newspapers the following month at a suffrage meeting once more, though on that occasion openly hostile to the movement! At a meeting in September 1912, Edelstein drew loud boos from women by asking if “the Irish people should subjugate the great important question of Home Rule to a petty movement like theirs.”

The Women’s Anti-Suffrage League.

Not all women who involved themselves in suffrage politics were seeking the vote. Some were quite opposed to the very idea. One such organisation was the Women’s Anti-Suffrage League, who attracted considerable attention in the media. Detailed reports of the Annual General Meeting of this body appeared in the Irish media in March 1912, where the following motion was carried:

That we, as women, appeal to the women of Ireland to express their profound disapproval of the late exhibition of lawlessness by militant suffragists, and to condemn such action as fatally injurious to the best interests of their sex.

One woman noted that it was with feelings of “indignation, mortification and shame” that many of them had read of the actions of militant female activists. The first references to this body being established in Dublin appeared in the media in February 1909, and the League seem to have brought a number of figures from the anti-suffrage movement in Britain to Dublin on public speaking engagements. Elizabeth Crawford has noted that in the years prior to the First World War the chairperson of the Anti Suffrage League in Dublin was a Mrs. Bernard, who was also the wife of the Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

A poster from the League for Opposing Woman Suffrage (UK)

A poster from the League for Opposing Woman Suffrage (UK)

Chased down the street and onto a tram, August 1912.

On 8 August 1912, the following brief report appeared in The Irish Times:

When passing through Henry Street yesterday afternoon…a young woman, whom the crowd regarded as a suffragist was attacked, and a noisy scene followed. She was pursued in the direction of Nelson Pillar, where the police intervened, and saved her from the mob by getting her into a tramcar which was going in the direction of Dalkey. A good deal of excitement was caused, and as the tramcar moved off, a large section of the crowd gave chase…giving vent to their feelings as they ran along.

Trinity College Dublin students goading suffragists, 1914.

Previously on the blog, we’ve looked at the phenomenon of Trinity Monday in the early twentieth century, a day when new Scholars were announced on-campus and Trinity students tended to run amuck around Dublin. Shortly after midday on Trinity Monday in 1914,there were unexpected visitors at the offices of the Women’s Social and Political Union on Clare Street. The Irish Independent reported that “a large number of students arrived here” and that “a number of them bundled papers and banners together and threw them out of the window to a cheering crowd outside.” Not content with this, a political flag belonging to the movement was stolen, which was later carried triumphantly from the building. The students made for the Mansion House, and rushed the building as a delivery was taking place. The Irish Times reported that:

On a landing they found the municipal flag, which owing to the absence of the Lord Mayor from the city was not hoisted on the pole on the house-top. The students tore up the flag, and hoisted the ‘Suffragette’ flag upon the flagpole. For an hour this floated over the Mansion House.

Only last week I attended a very interesting meeting in The Cobblestone pub, organised by the Stoneybatter and Smithfield People’s History Project. The historian Liz Gillis spoke about the bombardment of the Four Courts in June 1922, when Free State forces shelled the historic building in an attempt to defeat republican forces who had occupied it. The entire event remains incredibly controversial, as the Public Records Office went up in smoke, damaging priceless Irish historic archival materials.

An iconic image of the Four Courts ablaze.

An iconic image of the Four Courts ablaze.

In the aftermath of the destruction, it was noticed that it wasn’t only archival historical material that had gone missing in the fight. The ceremonial Lord Chancellor’s Mace vanished from the premises, but was recovered within a fortnight, buried under the floorboards of a nearby tenement!

The mace photographed in The Irish Times.

The mace photographed in The Irish Times.

On 12 July 1922, the Freeman’s Journal reported:

A remarkable story of the disappearance of the Lord Chancellor’s mace from the Four Courts was told at the North City Parish Court yesterday, where William Holland, of 8 Arran Quay, was charged with having stolen the article on June 30. The value of the mace was given as £500 on the chargesheet, and it was described as the property of Saorstat na hÉireann.

The paper note that “by some mysterious means” the mace had found its way not only to 8 Arran Quay, but to below the floorboards of 8 Arran Quay! Holland alleged that”he received the mace from an officer of the National Army, who asked him to take care of it until such time as the trouble would have ended, and that after a couple of days the officer along with others returned and told the prisoner he mght keep the article as a souvenir.” The media noted that according to a leading member of the legal profession, the mace “was made in the city about 1773.” Evidence was provided in court that two members of the Free State forces had brought the mace with them while dining in the Four Courts Restaurant, over which Holland lived, and that the mace had not been seen since that time. It was alleged by several members of the Free State forces in court that Holland had stolen the mace, rather than being given it as any sort of souvenir. One woman who lived in the vicinity, Miss Mary Keating, alleged that Holland had told her he expected there would be a large reward, perhaps £1,000, for the return of the mace, but she did not take his talk seriously at the time.

Curiously, while Holland was charged before the courts, the trail in the mainstream press seems to go cold, and I’m unable to figure out just what punishment was handed down, if he was found guilty. Regardless, the mace has the privilege of being a rare historic item that wasn’t lost to the bombardment of the Four Courts.

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