Tailors Hall, Back Lane (Image: Paul Reynolds)

Tailors Hall, Back Lane (Image: Paul Reynolds)

Tailors Hall at Back Lane in the Liberties is an often overlooked building of great importance in the heart of the city. For over 300 years it has served as an important place for meetings and assemblies in the city. It was constructed between 1703 and 1709 by the builder Richard Mills, and Robin Usher has written that “a bust of George III was placed over the external doorcase in 1771.”

In  the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries a variety of such guild halls could be found in the city, for example not far from Tailors Hall was the Weavers Hall in the Coombe. Tailors Hall became known as the ‘Back Lane Parliament’ in the 1790s when those seeking improved rights for the Catholic majority in Ireland met here in 1792. It would also become a popular meeting spot for the Society of United Irishmen in the city. Despite its important history, the building was allowed fall into disrepair, as was sadly too often the case in Dublin. In a 1983 article in The Irish Times,  campaigners stated that:

For well over a year now, Tailors Hall has stood empty, cold, damp and open to the elements, the windows open, doors broken and with many break ins. It is a sitting target for anyone who wished to burn it down and for those who wish to vandalise it.

Today, it is home to An Taisce, and the guild hall is open to the public.

Tailors Hall in the 1970s, image from An Taisce (www.antaisce.org)

Tailors Hall in the 1970s, image from An Taisce (www.antaisce.org)

A brilliant account of attending a meeting of the United Irishmen at Back Lane was published in the book Sketches of Ireland Sixty Years Ago, from 1847. In it a student of Trinity College Dublin talked about watching a meeting of the society at first hand, and below we have republished the account. His descriptions of some of the people present are brilliantly colourful.

Image Credit:  James Napper Tandy, from National Portrait Gallery http://www.npg.org.uk/

Image Credit: James Napper Tandy, from National Portrait Gallery http://www.npg.org.uk/

I entered college in the year 1791, a year rendered memorable by the institution of the society of the United Irishmen. They held their meetings in an obscure passage called Back Lane, leading from Corn Market to Nicholas Street. The very aspect of the place seemed to render it adapted for cherishing a conspiracy. It was in the locality where the tailors, skinners, and curriers held their guilds, and was the region of the operative democracy.

I one evening proceeded from college, and found out Back Lane, and having inquired for the place of meeting, a house was pointed out to me, that had been the hall in which the corporation of tailors held their assemblies. I walked in without hesitation, no one forbidding me, and found the society in full debate, the Hon. Simon Butler in the chair. I saw there, for the first time, the men with the three names, which were now become so familiar to the people of Dublin: Theobald Wolfe Tone, James Napper Tandy, and Archibald Hamilton Rowan.

The first was a slight, effeminate-looking man, with a hatchet face, a long aquiline nose, rather handsome and genteel-looking, with lank, straight hair combed down on his sickly red cheek, exhibiting a face the most insignificant and mindless that could be imagined. His mode of speaking was in correspondence with his face and person. It was polite and gentlemanly, but totally devoid of any thing like energy or vigour. I set him down as a worthy, good-natured, flimsy man, in whom there was no harm, and as the least likely person in the world to do mischief to the state.

Tandy was the very opposite looking character. He was the ugliest man I ever gazed on. He had a dark, yellow, truculent-looking countenance, a long drooping nose, rather sharpened at the point, and the muscles of his face formed two cords at each side of it. He had a remarkable hanging-down look, and an occasional twitching or conclusive motion of his nose and mouth, as if he was snapping at something on the side of him while he was speaking.

Not so Hamilton Rowan. I thought him not only the most handsome, but the largest man I had ever seen. Tone and Tandy looked like pigmies beside him.His ample and capacious forehead seemed the seat of thought and energy; while with such an external to make him feared, he had a courtesy of manner that excited love and confidence. He held in his hand a large stick, and was accompanied by a large dog.

I had not been long standing on the floor, looking at and absorbed in the persons about me, when I was perceived, and a whisper ran round the room. Some one went up to the president, then turned round, and pointed to me. The president immediately rose, and called out that there was a stranger in the room. Two members advanced, and taking me under the arm, led me up to the president’s chair, and there I stood to await the penalty of my unauthorized intrusion. I underwent an examination ; and it was evident, from the questions, that my entrance was not accredited, but that I was suspected as a government spy. The ” battalion of testimony,” as it was called, was already formed, and I was supposed to be one of the corps. I, however, gave a full and true account of myself, which was fortunately confirmed by a member who knew something about me, and was ultimately pronounced a harmless ” gib” and admitted to the honour of the sitting.

One of the beauties of taking pictures with a film camera is not knowing what you’ll end up with when you go to collect the roll. My thanks to Luke Fallon for these images of Lansdowne Road on Cup Final day.






The Face of Fu Manchu.

When you think of Kilmainham Gaol and the big screen, it is undoubtedly the classic 1969 film The Italian Job that comes to mind. Four years before the release of that film however, audiences would have caught a glimpse of the prison in The Face of Fu Manchu, a 1965 film staring Christopher Lee in the role of Chinese villain Fu Manchu. The film is set in London, and the plot involves the evil mastermind working from a secret base underneath the River Thames. While Kilmainham was transformed for the role, the stonebreakers yard where the leaders of the 1916 rebellion were executed is clearly visible in the trailer above.

The Irish Times photo from the Kilmainham set.

The Irish Times photo from the Kilmainham set.

In his history of film producer Harry Alan Towers, Dave Mann wrote that the use of Kilmainham caused considerable controversy at the time, as Towers “caused commotion when he stabled horses in the courtyard where IRA martyrs had been executed.” A reporter from The Irish Times visited the set of the film and noted that “time goes by very slowly. When a scene has been shot four times, there is a call for lunch. For the monks sandwiches and tea are served in the main hall of the prison among the grim tiers of cells and the metal staircases.”

The prison courtyard is also visible in the below 1965 poster advertising the release of the film, which is available to purchase here.

Upon the films release, the Sunday Independent complained that “the Thames is easily identified as the Liffey- I could see the Pigeon House in the background. Rush is the Essex village exterminated by Fu Manchu’s deadly gas. I don’t complain about that. But it is asking too much to expect anyone to believe that the Wicklow Hills are the Himalayas!”

An application has been submitted to Dublin City Council to build a 400-bed student residence on an empty 2.5 acre site in Mill Street (formerly Tanner’s Alley) in the historic South Inner city area of The Liberties, Dublin 8.

The €41m scheme will provide new retail, restaurant and office space for local businesses, an extensive landscaping to Mill Street and Warrenmount Lane and the opening up of a section of the mainly underground Poddle stream for public access.

Map of area. Credit - Irish Independent (03/10/2014)

Map of area. Credit – Irish Independent (03/10/2014)

Historians, conservators and Dubliners alike will be pleased to hear that the planned project will also see the complete refurbishment of a dilapidated 18th century townhouse at no. 10 Mill Street.

Shaffrey Architects in a 2005 report titled ‘St. Luke’s Conservation Plan‘ for Dublin City Council (DCC) described no. 10 as “perhaps the sole survivor in the area of the gable-fronted house type” while the DCC noted in a 2009 report that it “appears to be the last extant double gabled Dutch Billy” in the city.

The same report pulled no punches:

Number 10 Mill Street is extremely important to the entire city both architecturally and historically and it is a failure on the part of the City’s PSR system and on the part of the public authority who owned the building for so many years that it has been allowed to deteriorate to such an extent.

The location and entrance to the house is marked by the letter ‘A’ in ‘QUAY’ in this late 19th century map.

Map of the area in the 1890s.

Map of the area in the 1890s.

Area history

Following Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in the mid-sixteenth century, the area’s lands were acquired by William Brabazon, ancestor of the Earls of Meath, and became known as the ‘Meath Liberties’. French Huguenots, fleeing religious persecution,  settled in the Newmarket and Weavers’ Square area from the late seventeenth century, where they contributed substantially to the development of the textile industry. Around 1700 there were seven Hugenot families living in Mill Street including one called Disney, ancestors of the American cartoonist Walt Disney.

The immediate area known as the Blackpitts, the name of which probably derives from the large black vats used for curing hides by the tanners and skinners, became the hub of the tannery and leather trade in the city. Tanning, for those who don’t know, was the act of converting animal skin into leather by soaking in a liquid containing tannic acid.

No. 10, sometimes referred to as Mill Street House, was built in the 1720s by the Brabazon family, Earls of Meath.

An etching of 10 Mill Street, published in The Irish Builder (1871). Credit - Clanbrassil Street 2, Sean-Lynch.

An etching of 10 Mill Street published in The Irish Builder (1871). Credit – Clanbrassil Street 2, Sean Lynch.

Christine Casey, senior lecturer in architectural history in Trinity College, has described the house as:

Tall and relatively narrow, of 5 bays and 3 rendered storeys over basement, with a gabled brick porch and brick top floor with a gabled centrepiece. Originally it had a pair of curvilinear  [curved line] gables, flush sash windows and an attenuated [thin] Corinthian doorcase crowned by a vigorous swan-necked pediment … The rooms were wainscoted [lined with wooden paneling] and the stair had three fluted and twisted balusters [decorative pillar] per thread, Corinthian newels [central supporting pillar of a spiral staircase] and a richly carved apron to the landing.

An old image of no. 10 Mill Street. Credit - Archiseek

An old image of no. 10 Mill Street. Credit – Archiseek

After nearly a hundred years in the possession of the Earls of Meath, the house was procured by the Christian Brothers who opened a school there catering for 500 boys in 1818. This was the second school that the Brothers opened.

In the 1850s, the building began a new life as the Mill Street Ragged School which was founded by Daniel Molloy. Ragged Schools were charitable organisations dedicated to the free education of destitute children.

Mill St, nd. Photographer - Patrick Healy

10 Mill St, nd. Credit – Patrick Healy Collection (South Dublin Libraries)

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A 53 Year Wait Ends.

' A Few Men Faithful And A Deathless Dream' - Saint Patrick's Athletic fans in Lansdowne Road yesterday.

‘ A Few Men Faithful And A Deathless Dream’ – Saint Patrick’s Athletic fans in Lansdowne Road yesterday.

This blog is a good space to share our love of Dublin’s history, but there’s one piece of the sporting history of the city I’ve never felt any fondness for. The last time Saint Patrick’s Athletic won the FAI Cup, Nelson’s Pillar on O’Connell Street was still standing, Éamon de Valera was President and Telefís Éireann was yet to go live on air. The 1961 Cup Final was an all-Dublin affair, the first such final since ’54, and it was hotly tipped to be a cracker in the press. W.P Murphy, football correspondent with the Irish Independent, noted that:

I expect this 1961 final to be a hard-hitting affair, for there are men on either side who can make the going very tough should occasion demand, and with its all-Dublin atmosphere and the tension natural at this stage of the competition, I expect plenty of excitement.

A successful Pats side of the late 1950s, including many players who would feature in the 1959 and '61 finals, such as goalkeeper Dinny Lowry, Tommy 'Longo' White and Paddy 'Ginger' O' Rourke (Image: http://www.dublinpeople.com/article.php?id=3259)

A successful Pats side of the late 1950s, including many players who would feature in the 1959 and ’61 finals, such as goalkeeper Dinny Lowry and Paddy ‘Ginger’ O’ Rourke (Image: http://www.dublinpeople.com/article.php?id=3259)

22,000 people watched Saint Patrick’s claim a 2-1 victory in Dalymount Park on that occasion. Was it the brilliant match anticipated? No, but they all count don’t they? The FAI Cup was handed to Pats captain Tommy Dunne by Oscar Traynor, a veteran of the 1916 Rising who was juggling being Minister for Defence with being President of the Football Association of Ireland. The front page of the Irish Press the day after the final reported that Patrick’s fans had paraded through the city following victory, with red and white scarves and hats to be seen everywhere.

Oscar Traynor presents the FAI Cup to Saint Patrick's Athletic in 1961.

Oscar Traynor presents the FAI Cup to Saint Patrick’s Athletic in 1961.

Since that day of success in 1961, Saint Patrick’s had lost an impressive seven FAI Cup finals. At 17,038, the crowd yesterday was significantly smaller than that which saw Patrick’s lift the cup in ’61, but there were plenty of people who stood in both crowds. To mark the occasion, here is a brilliantly edited video capturing the rollercoaster that was yesterday for me and many other Saint Patrick’s Athletic fans, shot by Peter O’Doherty. While I don’t fancy another half-century, I’m happy enough not to deal with the trauma of an FAI Cup Final for a while at least!

Somewhere between John Gilroy and Diageo, a wise marketing man in Guinness decided that ‘Good Things Come To Those Who Wait’. For Pat’s, the wait is finally over.

FAI Cup Final 2014 – Short from Peter O’Doherty on Vimeo.

Google Maps view of Londis on the corner of O'Connell Street and Parnell Street.

Google Maps view of Londis on the corner of O’Connell Street and Parnell Street.

On the corner of O’Connell Street and Parnell Street today stands a Londis shop/Subway premises, which isn’t the only combination of newsagents and Subway restaurants on O’Connell Street, with a new one popping up every ten minutes it seems. The location of this shop was one of two newsagents and tobacco shops owned by the veteran Fenian Tom Clarke in the early twentieth century. At the time of its operation as a newsagents by Clarke, the street was known as Great Britain Street.

Born in the Isle of Wight in 1858, but spending much of his formative years in Dungannon, County Tyrone, Clarke was active in the radical Fenian movement from a young age. This was somewhat unusual, giving that his own father had been a bombardier in the Royal Artillery of the British armed forces. Having emigrated to the United States in the early 1880s, he involved himself in Clan n Gael, and was sent to Britain in 1883 on a dynamiting mission. Shane Kenna, author of an entertaining and informative history of the Fenian bombing campaign of Britain in this period, has written that “Clarke was lucky to survive the journey – the ship on which he was traveling hit an iceberg and sank in the Atlantic.” Arrested and sentenced for his role in the attempted bombing, Clarke would later recall being “driven away at a furious pace through the howling mobs that thronged the streets from the Courthouse to Milbank Prison. London was panic stricken.”

Thomas Clarke, Keogh Photographic Collection (National Library of Ireland)

Thomas Clarke, Keogh Photographic Collection (National Library of Ireland)

Clarke would spent fifteen years in British prisons for his actions,becoming one of the last Fenian prisoners in British institutions.  One of those who visited him in prison, to see the conditions in which he was being held, was  the prominent constitutional nationalist John Redmond. Redmond would comment that “. I have seen day after day how his brave spirit was keeping him alive … I have seen year after year the fading away of his physical strength.” Following his eventual release he returned to the United States, where he married Kathleen Daly, before returning to Ireland in 1907.

In Dublin, Clarke would open two tobacco shops and newsagents. One at Amiens Street, the other on Great Britain Street. It is not surprising given his history that these shops were closely monitored by the authorities. The shop sold Irish nationalist and radical newspapers, and advertisements for papers such as Irish Freedom were often to be found outside the shop.

Thomas Clarke's Tobacco shop and newsagents, notice the Irish language signage.

Thomas Clarke’s Tobacco shop and newsagents, notice the Irish language signage.

Sidney Czira, a republican activist in Dublin who later became secretary of Cumann na mBán in New York, remembered dropping into this shop to buy Irish nationalist newspapers:

I knew Tom Clarke very well and often called at his shop for a chat. The first time I saw him was when I went in to his shop to buy one of the nationalist papers that were advertised on a billboard outside his shop.I tried to involve him in a conversation by making some remark about national affairs, but he shut up and assumed a real business manner. He obviously thought that I was probably sent by Dublin Castle to extract some information from him.

The presence of nationalistic posters and advertisements outside the shop could, at times, provoke authorities. In her biography of Clarke for the Sixteen Lives series of books, Helen Litton has noted that in 1911 a huge reception was held in the Phoenix Park to coincide with the visit of King George V to Ireland. Litton has noted that  “as a group of British soldiers and sailors returned from the Phoenix Park through Sackville Street, they were confronted by a huge Irish Freedom poster outside the Clarke shop which read: ‘Your concessions be damned. England!!! We want out country.’ A large and angry crowd collected, and the poster was taken down and thrown into the shop.” Kathleen Clarke, Tom’s wife and later Lord Mayor of Dublin, simply hung the poster up again!

An advertisement for the shop that appeared in a Sinn Féin Christmas special in 1910  listed the shop under the name Thomas S. Ó Cléirigh,  and noted that it was a  “Tobacconist: All makes of Irish tobacco stocked” it went on to describe the shop as the “Agent for Irish Freedom and The Gaelic American.”

As much as it was a shop, the premises became a sort of social space for republicans in the city, who would drop in. Countess Markievicz recalled that the shop was “handy”, given its central location, remembering years later that  ” His advice was always so well thought out and so sound, and the little shop at the corner of Parnell Street so handy, that one could always find a moment to run in and hear what he had to say on any trouble or complication that might arise.”

Members of the British forces pose with the captured 'Irish Republic' flag at the Parnell statue, opposite Thomas Clarke's shop.

Members of the British forces pose with the captured ‘Irish Republic’ flag at the Parnell statue, opposite Thomas Clarke’s shop.

Clarke not alone took part in the Easter Rising of 1916, but he put his name to the rebel proclamation, which would ensure his execution. Following the collapse of the Easter Rising, Clarke was among the rebels who were gathered in the grounds of the Rotunda Hospital, not far from where the decision to surrender had been made at Moore Street. One rebel who was there was Joe Sweeney, who remembered a humiliating ordeal for Thomas Clarke:

Anybody who put his foot out of line got a whack of a rifle butt. We were kept there all night and a British officer amused himself by taking out some of the leaders. He took out poor old Tom Clarke and, with the nurses looking out of the windows of the hospital, he stripped him to the buff and made all sorts of disparaging remarks about him. ‘This old bastard had been at it before. He has a shop across the street there. He’s an old Fenian,’ and so on, and he took several others out too. That officer’s name was Lee Wilson and I remember a few years later I happened to be in the bar of the Wicklow Hotel and Mick Collins in his usual way stomped in and said to me, ‘We got the bugger, Joe.’ I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ He said, ‘Do you remember that first night outside the Rotunda? Lee Wilson?’ ‘I do remember,’ I said, ‘I’ll never forget it.’ ‘Well we got him today in Gorey.’

The shop is today marked by two plaques. One of the plaques, dating from the fiftieth anniversary of the Rising, is far too high to read on the Parnell Street side of the shop. Below it, and closer to the ground, is a newer plaque from the National Graves Association.

1966 plaque (Wikicommons)

1966 plaque (Wikicommons)

The New Versions: Bibby, Moylett, Kiang & Byrne in 1978. Credit - Irishrock.org

The New Versions: Bibby, Moylett, Kiang & Byrne in 1978. Credit – Irishrock.org

Thirty-three years after its release, a rare and essential Dublin New Wave single has finally made it online. The New Version’s ‘Like Gordon of Khartoum’ was released by Mulligan Records in 1981. It has somehow evaded a digital airing until now. Thanks to the uploader.


The New Versions (1978-82) were:

- Ingmar Kiang (aka Iggy Kiang) on Vocals and Guitar
- Johnny Byrne (1956-97) on Bass
- Regine Moylett on Keyboards
- Paul Bibby on Drums

Ingmar Kiang, son of Chinese-born Irish astronomer Professor Tao Kiang, was a Trinity College student when he co-launched “Dublin’s first mobile Punk Rock disco” in early 1978 with his pal Mark Ryan who worked in a “Grafton Street hamburger restaurant”. Presumably the recently enough opened McDonalds or Captain Americas?

Ryan & Kiang. Credit - The Sunday Independent (8 January 1979)

Ryan & Kiang. Credit – The Sunday Independent (8 January 1978)

Fed up with 70s disco music, the pair launched a DJ night called Snots in TCD’s New Library offering Punk/New Wave and 1950s Rock n Roll. They told the Sunday Independent (8 January 1978):

We’re in it for the fun, we don’t charge in … We toyed first with calling our disco Scabies until a girl friend of mine came up with Snots. [Our posters say] ‘Snots will be appearing under your nose’.

Regine Moylett with her sister Susan launched their ‘New Romance’ punk/new wave clothing store in the Dandelion Market in July 1978. Their brother John (aka Johnny Fingers) found fame as keyboard player with The Boomtown Rats while another brother Pat was the original drummer with Berlin and later became their manager.


Originally a trio called Sordid Details, playing their first gig supporting U2 and Revolver on 17th March 1978 in the Project Arts Centre, the band added Moylett on keyboards and changed their name to the New Versions in the summer of ’78.

During their four year careers, the band played all the main live music venues in Dublin, supported a number of touring bands and were part of one of the first New Wave tours of Ireland with fellow Dublin band Berlin.

They appeared on the definitive Irish Punk/New Wave sampler ‘Just For Kicks‘ released in 1979 with ‘Tango of Nerves’.

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