A curious feature of The Irish Times in  the late 1970s was the frequent appearance of advertisements paid for by the North Korean state, detailing Kim Il-Sung’s thoughts and ideological positions on a wide range of issues. The advertisement below, which declared Let Us Smash The Two Koreas Plot and Peacefully Reunify The Country! is a typical example, showing a picture of Kim Il-Sung alongside a message read at “the 30th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”

The Irish Times, 22 February 1979.

The Irish Times, 22 February 1979.

Kim Il-Sung’s face would have been a regular sight for readers of the paper, appearing sometimes on a monthly basis.  The advertisements referred to him by a variety of titles including ‘Great Leader’ and ‘Comrade’. The first reference I found to these advertisements was within The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party. In the book, Sean Garland, a leading figure in the Official Republican movement, talked about visiting North Korea and informing authorities there that “putting full-page ads into The Irish Times of Kim Il-Sung’s thoughts was a waste of money because nobody fucking read them.” Curiously, The Irish Times itself reported in April 1976 that “after spending a fortune on propaganda material extolling its economic achievements in recent years, North Korea is now virtually bankrupt….the propaganda mainly took the form of advertisements, many of them in western papers.”

The Irish Times, 16 February 1978.

The Irish Times, 16 February 1978.

The Irish Press wrote about the advertisements in April 1976 calling them “indescribably boring”, and noting that the advertisements were “carefully camouflaged to resemble the paper’s own editorial matter.” Readers of the Dublin-based newspaper saw only the same official state portraits of Kim Il-Sung. In the North Korean media, it was common practice to reprint these Western advertisements as if they were news reports and not paid content. Certainly, they are some of the most unusual advertisements to ever appear in Irish newspaper history.

An interesting comment followed us posting this piece on Facebook. It was highlighted there that in the 1970s the library of Trinity College Dublin was presented with a series of books on Kim Il-Sung by the “State Central Library of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” Images of the books have been posted to Facebook by DH History, the history society of the university.

A gift to TCD from the DPRK. Via www.facebook.com/duhistory

A gift to TCD from the DPRK. Via http://www.facebook.com/duhistory

Meet me on Misery Hill…..

The area around the Grand Canal Theatre (I refuse to call it anything else, sorry Bord Gáis) is largely speaking unknown territory to me with regards the history of the city. Recently I was taken aback by a street sign informing me I was standing at ‘Misery Hill’, a name that seems totally at odds with the fashionable area around the theatre today. In a time before theatre and cappuccinos the area looked rather different indeed, and one writer in the Freeman’s Journal in 1920 wrote:

How many Dubliners know Misery Hill? The name itself is a stroke of genius,whoever invented it, and the bare thoroughfare, running between grimy walls, over which peer huge gasometers, with in the distance orange plums of acrid smoke drifting from the chimneys of a chemical factory, shows that Dublin, when it sets itself to it, can outrival Wigan!

"Misery Hill Is Closed."  (Image by William Murphy: https://www.flickr.com/photos/infomatique/4446399832 )

Misery Hill Is Closed. (Image by William Murphy: https://www.flickr.com/photos/infomatique/4446399832 )

Paul Clerkin’s wonderful little book Dublin Street Names (Published in 2001 by Gill and Macmillan and right up the street of a lot of CHTM readers I imagine) gives good insight into this bizarre name, noting that “in the early 13th century, there was a leper hospital close to the junction of modern Townsend Street and Hawkins Street. Sufferers who were unable to gain entrance to the hospital would spend the night at Misery Hill, well away from the town and its citizens.”

The inimitable Éamonn Mac Thomáis spoke about Misery Hill in a paper for the Old Dublin Society in the late 1960s,  and like Clerkin points to the historic leper hospital, stating that “it was sometimes referred to as Lazor Hill, Lazy Hill, Lazars Hill and Lepers Hill.” He also states however that another possible meaning for the name comes from the fact that those executed on Gallow’s Hill (“a common place for execution”)   often had their bodies taken here,  where morbidly enough “they were left hanging in chains for a period of six months to a year.” The example Mac Thomáis provided were  two pirates name Gidley and McKinley, whose bodies were hung up here in 1766.

Google Maps showing the location of Misery Hill in Dublin's docklands.

Google Maps showing the location of Misery Hill in Dublin’s docklands.

An interesting short history of  leprosy in Ireland, mentioning Misery Hill, has appeared on the Facebook page Wistorical and can be read here, and it includes a lot of interesting detail on the history of the disease in Dublin.

A historic street sign for Misery Hill pops up briefly in this video of Ronnie Drew performing Ratcliffe Highway, at 00:56. This is a great video I’d not seen before, and my thanks to Shane Fitzgerald for pointing it out to us on Facebook.

A nice little nod to the streetname comes from Dublin band Tujacques, who in December 2013 used the street sign for an EP cover. That the title of a previous EP was Obedientia Civium Urbis Felicitas (the somewhat ironic city motto of Dublin, implying that obedient citizens make for a happy city) makes us think they’ve a soft spot for the history of Dublin too!

(Image from: A history of the County Dublin; the people, parishes and antiquities from the earliest times to the close of the eighteenth century" (1902))

(Image from: A history of the County Dublin; the people, parishes and antiquities from the earliest times to the close of the eighteenth century” (1902))

Recently I found this 1902 illustration of the ruined building that stands on top of Mountpelier Hill in the Dublin mountains, uploaded to Flickr by the Internet Archive book images.  We’ve long been interested in these ruins and wandered up to them in December 2012, something I’d recommend for any readers who haven’t done it.


The history of the ruins is mysterious, and a belief that the site is haunted dates right back to the eighteenth century. Joseph Holt, an important figure in the revolutionary United Irishmen, hid there while on the run in 1798 and wrote about his experiences:

I lay down in the arched room of that remarkable building, on Montpelier Hill. I felt so confident of the protection of the Almighty, that the name of enchantment, and the idle stories which were told of the place had but a slight hold of my mind; I thought there could be nothing worse there than myself, and having returned thanks, and praying for a continuance of God’s blessing and protection, I composed myself, and soon fell into as profound a sleep as if I had been, as formerly, reposing in my own comfortable bed, in quiet times, with my happy family about me.

In his wonderful book ‘Blasphemers and Blackguards: The Irish Hellfire Clubs’, David Ryan noted that it “remains uncertain if there was an actual connection between the club and this building”, he noted that “in the 1820s there were rumours that a murder had been committed there” quoting one contemporary source which stated about the hill “on the crown of this hill is a lodge falling to ruin, not having been inhabited for thirty years: it is called the haunted house, and the hill Bevan’s Hill: local tradition states  that in this house a man, named Bevan, murdered his wife.”

Ryan notes in his book that the lodge was constructed for William Connolly, speaker of the House of Commons, and that “the lodge may have been designed by Edward Lovett Pearce, architect of Connolly’s mansion, Castletown House in County Kildare, and the Parliament House on College Green.” Ryan’s work tells us that by early twentieth century this ruin was very much central to the folklore of the Hellfire Club, and that by the late twentieth century it was even appearing as ‘Hell Fire Club’ on Ordnance Survey maps of the area.While the Hellfire Club may never have utilised the site, other stories in the immediate area of the ruin and the mysterious nature of the site himself ensure it’s still a spooky trip. The wall around the lodge, shown in the 1902 illustration, is no longer there, and this great aerial shot from South Dublin County Libraries collection gives some idea how it has changed:

South Dublin County Libraries aerial view of site. (Credit – source.southdublinlibraries.ie.)

South Dublin County Libraries aerial view of site. (Credit – source.southdublinlibraries.ie.)

Lastly,  when I posted the above illustration on CHTM’s Facebook (Give us a like as we post a lot of content there) the first reply referenced a rave that occurred at the site in the 1990s, one of many. This sparked a wave of coverage in local and national media, and we’d be interested in getting our hands on some of this if anyone has any of it! It’s an interesting part of the history of the ruin. A comment on the CHTM Facebook page remembered a rave in the 1990s.

I remember there was a good crowd up there, and there was strobe lighting emanating from windows of the ruins. At one point during the night at least 3 cop cars arrived at the summit. This resulted in lots of people dancing in the headlights

A great video giving a tour of the ruin can be found on YouTube, uploaded by thebettyfordclinic who have uploaded some excellent videos of abandoned buildings in Dublin.

An 1816 illustration of the Ha'penny Bridge, the year the bridge opened to the public.

An 1816 illustration of the Ha’penny Bridge, the year the bridge opened to the public.

Since May 1816, Dubliners have been walking over what we now popularly know as the Ha’penny Bridge, though the bridge is formally known as the Liffey Bridge. Today, it carries an average of 30,000 of us from one side of the city to the other on a daily basis.  Contemporary sources praised the bridge at the time of its unveiling, with one noting “it has a light and picturesque appearance, and adds much to the convenience and embellishment of the river”. At £3,000, the bridge was a costly replacement for a ferry service operated at the site previously, though costs were recuperated  through the half penny toll, which would give the bridge its popular title. The mooring point for the historic ferry service on the south bank was as Bagnio Slip, with the historian Frank Hopkins noting that “the name bagnio is believed to originate from an early eighteenth-century Temple Bar brothel.”

The bridge in 1929, decorated to mark the centenary of Catholic Emancipation (Image: Dublin Tenement LIFE)

The bridge in 1929, decorated to mark the centenary of Catholic Emancipation (Image: Dublin Tenement LIFE)

The idea for the construction of the bridge came from John C. Beresford, a member of Dublin Corporation, and William Walsh,  the ferry operator. The bridge was  to be christened the Wellington Bridge, in honour of the Duke of Wellington, victor of the Battle of Waterloo only a year previously and a native Dub. The Dublin Evening Post, barely able to contain themselves, reported on the opening of the bridge that:

A testimonial to the Hero of the British Army has at last been erected – a Testimonial at once creditable to the name with which it is to be honoured,greatly ornamented to the City of Dublin, and eminently useful to her inhabitants. We allude to the arch of cast iron thrown over our river, from Crampton Quay to the Bachelor’s Walk, opposite to Liffey Street, and which, we understand, with the express permission of the Illustrious Duke, is to be called Wellington Bridge. This Arch, spanning  the Liffey, is one of the most beautiful in Europe: the excellence of its composition, the architectural correctness of its form,the taste with which it has been executed, and the general airiness of its appearance, renders it an object of unmixed admiration.

Wellington, a son of Dublin, after whom the new bridge was to be named.

Wellington, a son of Dublin, after whom the new bridge was to be named.

Interestingly, for something so associated with Dublin, the bridge itself was cast at Shropshire in England. Some Dubliners refereed to it not as the Wellington Bridge but rather the Triangle Bridge, which Frank Hopkins has noted was bestowed on it owing to the controversial background of John C Beresford, one of the men who had brought the bridge into being. Beresford was a former Tory parliamentarian who had twice sat in Westminster, but controversially was also active in a yeomanry which opposed the United Irish rebellion of 1798. His riding school premises in Dublin became synonymous in the mind of republicans with torture and the practice of flogging rebels upon a triangular scaffold.

The practice of torture was described in one nineteenth century history of Ireland thus:

The triangle was a wooden instrument made in the form of the letter A, about twice the height of a man, to which the person to be punished was tied, hands and feet, and lashed with wire cords knotted. In the midst of this torture, questions about the conspiracy were asked, and if the answers not satisfactory, the punishment was renewed!

In 1861 a letter writer to The Irish Times asked if the “miserable impost” of the fee to cross the bridge would ever be abandoned, insisting that “the general public are often obliged to go out of their way in going from one side of the city to the other to avoid the payment of the toll”

Continue Reading »

In San Francisco in 1973, gay activist Harvey Milk successfully petitioned gay bars in the Castro District to stop selling Coors beer. This was in response to an appeal from the Teamsters union who called for a boycott of Coors as the company refused to sign a Union contract. The gay community were themselves hostile to the company as Coors implemented a strict employment discrimination policy and refused to hire gay workers. With the help of a coalition of Arab and Chinese grocers the Teamsters had also recruited, the boycott was successful. In return, the Union hired more gay men to drive Teamsters beer trucks. It was a splendid example of solidarity.

A year later in Dublin, a very minor but compelling event brought together trade unionists and gay activists. Even if was just for fifteen minutes!

On Saturday 27th June 1974, ten lesbians and gay men protested in Dublin in what was the first ever public demonstration of LGBT Pride on the island of Ireland. The group included Northern Irish gay political activist Jeff Dudgeon and the then Trinity Lecturer David Norris.

Gay activist outside the Department of Justice, 27 June 1974. Credit - declancashin.com

Gay activist outside the Department of Justice, 27 June 1974. Photo – Gareth Miller. Credit – Irish Queer Archive (Facebook)

The protestors first picketed the British Embassy in Ballsbridge where one of the group organisers, the Sexual Liberation Movement (SLM) handed in a letter to the British Embassy in protest against the existing anti-gay legislation in Northern Ireland.

The group then marched to the Department of Justice on St. Stephen’s Green holding signs such as ‘Homosexuals are Revolting’ and ‘Lesbian Pride’. The small group of brave men and women literally stopped traffic as bus drivers and bicycle messengers slowed down or came to a screeching halt while trying to get a better look.

Gay activist outside the Department of Justice. Credit - Irish Queer Archive (Facebook). David Norris Collection.

Gay activist outside the Department of Justice, 27 June 1974. Credit – Irish Queer Archive (Facebook). David Norris Collection.

David Norris, in his autobiography, recalls an incredible incident when a lorry pulled up outside the Department during the picket:

A large roll of carpet was flung out the back of the lorry and a burly man descended. He took one look at us and shouted back to his colleague in the driving seat, ‘Jesus, Mick, they’re fuckin’ queers!’

A head appeared at the window and took in the situation. Then a deep bass voice shouted back, ‘Whorrabowra sure I don’t give a bollicks, a picket’s a fucking picket mate’ and with that an even larger and more muscular lorry driver jumped out of the cab and joined our picket for a quarter of an hour, leaving the minister’s carpet stranded on the pavement.

A splendid example of worker solidarity.

For more photographs and memories, check out the Irish Queer Archive on Facebook.

Benjamin Franklin as he appears in the wallets of Americans (Wiki Commons)

Benjamin Franklin as he appears in the wallets of Americans (Wiki Commons)

In  September 1771, Benjamin Franklin arrived in the city of Dublin, in the company of colonial agent Richard Jackson.  One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Franklin is a signatory of the United States Declaration of Independence of 1776, though five years earlier he was based in London, attempting to negotiate on behalf of the American Colonies. Franklin detailed his views of Dublin and Ireland in a letter to Thomas Cushing, a lawyer and statesman from Boston, Massachusetts.  Franklin had a keen interest in Irish affairs, writing in a letter two years prior to visiting the country that “all Ireland is strongly in favor of the American cause. They have reason to sympathize with us.”

While in Ireland, Franklin was struck by the contrast between the grandeur of Dublin city itself and the intense poverty of those beyond its core. He commented to Cushing that:

Ireland is itself a poor country, and Dublin a magnificent city; but the appearances of general extreme poverty among the lower people are amazing. They live in wretched hovels of mud and straw, are clothed in rags, and subsist chiefly on potatoes. Our New England farmers, of the poorest sort, in regard to the enjoyment of all the comforts of life,  are princes when compared to them.

Franklin visited the Irish parliament at College Green, and was granted the honour of sitting in the chamber of the parliament alongside the elected Irish parliamentarians.  To Franklin, this was “a mark of respect for our country.”  It should be noted that the Irish parliament of the time was off-limits to the Catholic majority in Ireland, and was an entirely Anglican assembly, something later parliamentarians would seek unsuccessfully to reform. Franklin wrote of the parliament on College Green, telling Cushing:

Before I left Ireland I must mention that being desirous of seeing the principal Patriots there, I stayed till the Opening of their Parliament. I found them disposed to be friends of America, in which disposition I endeavored to confirm them, with the expectation that our growing weight might in time be thrown into their scale, and, by joining our interest with theirs, might be obtained for them as well as for us, a more equitable treatment from this Nation. There are many brave spirits among them, the gentry are a very sensible, polite and friendly people. Their Parliament makes a most respectable figure, with a number of very good speakers in both parties, and able men of businesses.

Parliament on College Green, which Benjamin Franklin visited. (NLI)

Parliament on College Green, which Benjamin Franklin visited. (NLI)


While in Ireland, Franklin spent three days at Hillsborough, County Down. He was a guest to Lord Hillsborough, the Colonial Secretary and a political opponent (frequently described as a nemesis) who he had encountered in Dublin. Walter Isaacson in his biography of Franklin writes that this was an “astonishingly friendly visit”, with Franklin writing to Cushing that he believed Hillsborough was not genuine in his friendliness but rather “he apprehended an approaching storm and was desirous of lessening beforehand the number of enemies he had so imprudently created.”

Franklin traveled on from Ireland to Scotland, where he was again shocked by an intensely poor peasantry. Following his trip to Scotland and Ireland he returned to London,  though he returned to the United States in March 1775. The rest, as they say, is history.

In 1977, the American Ambassador presented a bust of Benjamin Franklin to the Bank of Ireland to commemorate the visit. Speaking at the unveiling of the bust, the Ambassador (Walter J.P Curley) noted that

Franklin’s friendship for Ireland was no fleeting whim.  He had said “You have ever been friendly to the rights of mankind and we acknowledge with pleasure and gratitude that your nation has produced patriots who have nobly distinguished themselves in the cause of humanity and America.”

In 1987, RTÉ broadcast three half-an-hour specials of the music show ‘Visual Eyes’.

Slotted between a behind-the-scenes look at U2 playing Modena, Italy and an extended one-on-one interview with David Bowie in London, there was an RTÉ prime time special on the career and songwriting talents of Dublin legend Paul Cleary.

Paul Cleary, 1980s. Uploaded by Mark Sherlock.

Paul Cleary, 1980s. Uploaded by Mark Sherlock.

With only a few weeks until The Blades much anticipated gig at the sold out Electric Picnic festival, it’s perfect timing that this 30mins Paul Cleary special has been uploaded onto YouTube.

Presented by Dave Fanning and produced/directed by Billy Magra (aka McGrath), this is the first time the programme has been available in 27 years.

Intertwined with interviews of Paul Cleary at locations on Sandymount Strand and RTE, the show contains footage of:

- ‘The Reunion’ on Anything Goes (1980)
– ‘Ghost of a Chance’ on The Late Late Show (1981)
– ‘The Bride Wore White’ on Anything Goes (1981)
– ‘Revelations of Heartbreak’ on Non Stop Pop (1982)
– ‘Downmarket’ music video (1983)
– Footage from the 1983 Hot Press Music Awards
– ‘Those Were The Days’ on TV GA GA (1985)
– Recording of the Concern charity record written by Paul Cleary (1985)
– ‘Too Late’ by Paul Cleary with Ray Lynam on TV GA GA (1987)
– ‘Badlands’ (198?)
– ‘Some People Smile’ by Paul Cleary on The Late Late Show (1983)

The show’s graphic designer Billy Morley (ex-guitarist with Revolver / The Radiators / The Defenders) sadly passed away earlier this year. Producer Billy recalled on The Blades Facebook fan group:

Normally quiet & unassuming, he passed me in the RTE corridor after the 3 specials (U2, Paul and Bowie) aired and without breaking stride threw an aside as he passed – ‘the Cleary fella wrote the better songs’. Indeed.

Previous blog piece on the The Blades:

A conversation with Paul Cleary
Lyrics from the two Blades LPS
Still sounding sharp, looking back at The Blades
Revelations (Of 45s)
The Blades Are Sharp
Building A Wasteland
os Blades?
The Blades singles
Emm Gryner’s version of Downmarket


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,439 other followers

%d bloggers like this: