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I noticed a Facebook post getting quite a few shares this morning on my timeline, in relation to Varahagiri Venkata Giri, the fourth President of India. The Sinn Féin 1916 National Commemorations page, which has been posting some great little historical nuggets, posted an image of Giri, along with a brief history stating:

The fourth President of India Varahagiri Venkata Giri was a member of Sinn Féin and an Irish Volunteer in 1916 whilst studying law at U.C.D. and was expelled for his activity.

At the time Giri came to power in India in 1969, the Irish Independent wrote that he was “a founder of the Indian Labour Movement, and is known to many as the Jim Larkin of India.” Giri, the paper noted, was a student at University College Dublin during the Irish revolutionary period, “taking his LLB and becoming a barrister, before being deported by the British.”

'Jim Larkin of India' - a 1969 edition of the Irish Independent.

‘Jim Larkin of India’ – a 1969 edition of the Irish Independent.

Giri’s name appeared in the Freeman’s Journal in June 1916, in the aftermath of the insurrection, where it was noted that he was called to a bar, described as the “oldest son of Varahagiri Venkata Jagiah, of Berhampore, Madras Presidency, India.” He was one of several Indians reported to have been called to the bar in that edition of the newspaper. To Giri, it would have meant little – he had already received an order from the authorities to leave the UK by July 1st!

Of his time in Ireland, we can learn much from his memoir My Life and Times, which was published in 1976, and which Colm Kenna drew on for an interesting An Irishman’s Diary column in 2008. In it, he recalled being lectured by Thomas MacDonagh, who would later be executed for his role in the insurrection that was to come. Giri recalled that “his classes were very popular and his cottage at the foot of the Dublin mountains was a centre of literary and revolutionary thought.” Trade union leader James Connolly made a particular impression on Giri, who recalled meeting him on “several occasions”, remembering that “the plight of workers in Ireland at that time was miserable. I saw grinding poverty and squalor in the areas of Dublin inhabited by the working class.”

In Dublin, Giri was active within the Dublin India Society, which drew support from the dozens of Indian students in the Irish capital. In the aftermath of the struggle of Indians in South Africa for equal rights in 1914,  his society in Dublin prepared a pamphlet entitled The South African Horrors, which was well received. The cause of the Indian people received sympathetic coverage in Irish nationalist newspapers, including Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Féin, as well as The Irish Volunteer.

Engagements between Irish nationalists and Indian nationalists can be found in the Bureau of Military History statements, which recorded the memoirs of participants in the 1913-21 period. A particularly intriguing story of international espionage and plotting is contained in the witness statement of Robert Brennan, a senior figure in the Sinn Féin Press Bureau during the War of Independence. He recalled being introduced to two Indian men here, who presented him with a most interesting proposal:

The first was a very big and prosperous gentleman, (Mr. A.) who told me he belonged to the constitutional wing of the Indian Nationalists. He owned a lot of chain stores in India. He assured me he was willing to fall in with any  plan the second Indian, whose was Bomanji, and I agreed to. He did not know what Mr. Bomanji had in mind and he did not want to know. – The less he knew the better. He then withdrew and Mr. Bomanji came in. He was a small, quick, intelligent gentleman and he told me at once that he belonged to the militant group in India. His plan was twofold. Firstly, the Indian Moslem League and the All Indian Congress Party were, for the first time – holding their annual conventions in the same town and on the same date. It had been agreed between the leaders that at a pre-arranged signal, a motion could be put forward simultaneously, in both conventions that the rival sects would join hands for the purpose of ending the British occupation. They were then to meet jointly and set up a Provisional Government for India and, thereafter, carry  on on Sinn Fein lines. Our part was to send one or two advisers who would, behind the scenes, guide the movement.

It was necessary that these advisers should get to India as soon as possible before the day set for the Conventions. The other plan of Bomanji’s was to prepare for a guerilla war against the British. For this purpose, he needed a number of Irish guerilla leaders, twenty or thirty to start off with. They would ostensibly be employed in the chain stores owned by Mr. A. but their real work would be to train companies of selected men in the science of guerilla warfare.

In subsequent decades, there remained strong sympathy for India in Irish nationalist circles, which was reflected in the pages of newspapers like An Phoblacht in the 1930s. Indian speakers were common at republican events in Ireland, and Brian Hanley has written in his history of the IRA in this period that “during 1931 the organisation even attempted to bring Mahatma Gandhi to Ireland for a speaking tour.The presence of Indian speakers was thought by the IRA to have been useful when promoting the ‘Boycott British’ campaign during 1932.” The following advertisement frequently appeared in An Phoblacht during the period, encouraging people to support the Indian Store on Dame Street:

An Phoblacht.

An Phoblacht.

3 September 2015, The Sugar Club.

3 September 2015, The Sugar Club.

We’re very happy to present the poster for the second Dublin Songs & Stories night we’re hosting. Once again, the night is an eclectic mix covering all from traditional Irish music to the history of forgotten youth cultures and movements. We’re again grateful to our buddy Johnny Moy in The Sugar Club for helping to pull it all together. There are legends here and there are up and comers we’re very excisted by.

The first night was a sell out, raising funds for Pieta House in the process. This time, we’re supporting the Rape Crisis Centre.  Tickets are available here, and all help in promoting this night (via blogs, the press or anything else) is very much appreciated.

The poster had been produced by practice&Theory, and nicely compliments the poster for the first night which is below. The last poster drew on the work of Jim Fitzpatrick and Maser, two participants in that line-up. This time, it’s a nod to ADW – who recently reinvented Dublin’s rather ill-fitting city motto and coat of arms!

Dublin Songs and Stories (Part I), way back when!

Dublin Songs and Stories (Part I), way back when!

I recently picked up this postcard, which was sent from Dublin to Clones in Co. Monaghan during the War of Independence. Congratulating “my dear Harry” on the occasion of “your magnificent victory”, I can’t help but think and ponder what Aunt Mary might have been referencing!

I love little historical artifacts like this, as they give great insight into life at the time. That someone could buy a postcard showing a Volunteer in front of a tricolour with the words “the spirit still lives on in the men of today” and post it without interference is interesting in and of itself.

Stamped '17 January 1920' on reverse.

Stamped ’17 January 1920′ on reverse.

Political postcards were common in the Ireland of the early twentieth century, in fact within weeks of the 1916 Rising postcards depicting the destruction of the “Sinn Féin Rebellion” as they incorrectly christened it were in hot demand.

In Ulster, some of the more colourful postcards depicted what life would be like under Home Rule, often with grass growing over the streets and the place in tatters. A particular favourite comes from the enjoyable Fadó Fadó blog, showing a Unionist nightmare of Carrickfergus. Notice the graffiti on the wall proclaiming “Major McBride’s Irish Militia”, in reference to John MacBride who had fought against Britain in the Boer War. John Redmond takes a kicking too, with the statue pedestal telling us that “Redmond Rex Hibernie.”

Anti Home Rule Posrtcard (http://irishmemory.blogspot.ie/)

Anti Home Rule Posrtcard (http://irishmemory.blogspot.ie/)

Dublin Songs and Stories, an event we organised back in June in conjunction with Johnny Moy and all at The Sugar Club, was a roaring success. As well as being a great night of talk and music, featuring everyone from street artist MASER to the unrivaled Barry Gleeson, we raised almost two thousand euro for Pieta House in the process.

There was a belief on the night that we should do it again, and we have decided we will try and carry the night into the future. This time, we’re hoping to donate any takings to the Rape Crisis Centre, a hugely important service in the city that deserves financial support and which has seen its funding ravaged in recent times. Once again, we’re getting together a mix of musicians, historians, story tellers and people we think are worth hearing.

Tickets in advance are recommended, the last night was near a sellout. You can get them here. It kicks off at 8pm in The Sugar Club once again. The event page is up now too, be sure to click attending if you’re coming along.

BP Fallon, by Maser.

BP Fallon, by Maser.

BP Fallon has certainly lived a colourful life, and has more than a few stories to tell. I’m always amazed by where he shows up! He has managed Johnny Thunders, and photographed everyone from Jerry Lee Lewis to Public Enemy, Emmylou Harris to Iggy Pop. From DJing on the radio as a teenager to becoming publicist to acts like Led Zepplin and T Rex, he’s even rubbed shoulders with The Beatles along the way. Steeped in the Dublin music scene and now immortalised by Maser in Temple Bar (see above), he’s a perfect addition to this kind of night.

ADW - A Deadly Weapon

ADW

We’re long term fans of ADW, posting a lot of his work on the site over the years, from his ‘tribute’ to Bertie Ah€rn above to his recent new take on our rather ill-fitting city motto and coat of arms, declaring that “Obedientia Civium Urbis Felicitas.” He has used the city as a canvas over the years, and his work is thought-provoking and humorous, just how we like it.

Steve Averill

Steve Averill

At our first Dublin Songs & Stories night, we were very fortunate to have Pete Holidai from The Radiators From Space join us. The Rads are a band that have long fascinated us, and in 2012 Sam had the pleasure of interviewing the late and great Philip Chevron. As well as keeping the spirit and passion of the Rads alive through the Trouble Pilgrims in recent times, Steve Averill is a graphic artist responsible for producing all of U2’s album covers, which have become truly iconic.

Skippers Alley album cover

Skippers Alley album cover

We recently had the good fortune of catching John Flynn of Skippers Alley in the very same venue we’re taking over, opening for folk miscreants Lynched at what was a night of fantastic music. John is a part of Skipper’s Alley, a young band bring a great energy to traditional and folk music in this city at present. When I heard him perform As I Roved Out that night I made it my mission to rope him into our next night! Thankfully, he agreed. I’m very excited about this one.

Ailbhe Smyth

Ailbhe Smyth

Ailbhe Smyth has been active in some of the social movements we have written about on this blog for decades, campaigning in a wide range of feminist and LGBT campaigns for change in Irish society, witnessing some landmark moments along the way. In light of the recent referendum, for which she served as an advisor to the Yes Equality campaign, we want to sit down with Ailbhe and ask what’s changed and what hasn’t, and to talk about radical movements in Dublin in recent decades.

Mick Pyro, the front man of Dublin band Republic of Loose, is someone I’ve had the good fortune to see perform before. His unique vocals, and the bands feelgood sounds, earned them a cult following, and the admiration of many in the Irish music scene and press, including Sinead O’Connor. Like ourselves, he likes a bit of Adidas.

“There was one club in the city, as far as I was concerned, and it was Sides.”

As An Talamh tells the story of the rave scene in Dublin historically, taking in venues and nights like Sides and the now legendary raves in the Mansion House. It is the story of Power FM, the Banana Boys, bedroom promoters and those who kept a vibrant rave scene alive in a changing city, among other things.We’re going to chat to James Redmond about this project, and show a few clips to give a taster.

The Cricket Bat That Died For Ireland.

The Cricket Bat That Died For Ireland.

Think of trying to tell the history of the Easter Rising in a few objects, what would you pick? A copy of the 1916 Proclamation? The flag that flew from the GPO? These, of course, are hugely important historical artifacts. The Cricket Bat That Died for Ireland, the blog of Brenda Malone, however is concerned with the more overlooked items in the collection of the National Museum of Ireland. Take the bat itself, shot in Elvery’s during the Rising, he has the bullet to tell the tale. Other items highlighted by the fascinating blog include the last letter (or so he thought) or Eamon de Valera, who believed he would be executed for his role in the insurrection.

We have always had a great interest in the history of Dublin on the big screen on this blog. Some of my favourite posts to write and research were on the theme of Ireland and the cinema, for example this post looking at Ireland, A Nation, a 1914 nationalist film that fell victim to British censorship, or the time they built a Berlin Wall in Smithfield (and its unusual connection to Saint Patrick’s Athletic!). That’s not to mention Fu Manchu, Educating Rita or political attacks on Dublin cinemas in decades past.

A new exhibition at the Little Museum of Dublin looks at an unusual aspect of the story of Irish cinema – costumes. Some of my favourite films, including Intermission, The Wind that Shakes The Barley and Jimmy’s Hall feature. The exhibition covers 1987 onwards, and has been brilliantly curated by Eimer Ni Mhaoldomnaigh and costume historian Veerle Dehaene.

Intermission, from 2003, remains one of the finest (and funniest) films set in Dublin, with Colin Farrell playing a blinder as petty criminal Lehiff. In the run-up to the release of the film, many journalists were sent bottles of brown sauce, and no doubt thousands were convinced to pour HP sauce into their cups of tea having seen the film! This is just one of several dodgy Colin Farrell jumpers in the exhibition:

Intermission.

Intermission.

The last exhibition in this space drew from the Christy Brown collection recently acquired by the Little Museum of Dublin and the National Library of Ireland, so there is some continuity with the inclusion of some costumes from the classic My Left Foot.

My Left Foot

My Left Foot

The uniform of The Big Fella, or Liam Neeson, makes an appearance. Not to be considered Treatyite by nature, the exhibition also includes a costume from . Damien O’Donovan, Anti-Treaty volunteer in Ken Loach classic The Wind That Shakes The Barley!

Michael Collins.

Michael Collins.

A more recent addition comes from Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank, featuring Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Michael Fassbender. The head was of course inspired by Frank Sidebottom, the comic persona of Chris Sievey. Frank left the world such classic songs as ‘Guess Who’s Been on Match of the Day’ and ‘Christmas is Really Fantastic’.

Frank

Frank

There’s a lot more, including Good Vibrations and The Commitments. Get in for a look.

O'Donovan Rossa, taken from his book 'Irish Rebels in English Prisons: A Record of Prison Life.'

O’Donovan Rossa, taken from his book ‘Irish Rebels in English Prisons: A Record of Prison Life.’

Deliberately here we avow ourselves, as he avowed himself in the dock, Irishmen of one allegiance only. We of the Irish Volunteers, and you others who are associated with us in to-day’s task and duty, are bound together and must stand together henceforth in brotherly union for the achievement of the freedom of Ireland. And we know only one definition of freedom: it is Tone’s definition, it is Mitchel’s definition, it is Rossa’s definition. Let no man blaspheme the cause that the dead generations of Ireland served by giving it any other name and definition than their name and their definition.

The above words are taken from the oration delivered by Patrick Pearse a century ago at the graveside of veteran Fenian Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa in Glasnevin Cemetery. Architect of the Fenian dynamite campaign, which brought havoc to the streets of London in the 1880s, O’Donovan Rossa was a fiercely controversial figure in his lifetime, and embodied of the physical force tradition of Fenianism. Indeed, even yesterday the Irish press pondered with the question of whether or not O’Donovan Rossa could be classified as a terrorist.

The death of ‘Dynamite’ O’Donovan Rossa, as he was known to sections of the press at the height of his infamy, created a perfect moment for a nationalist spectacle. Thomas J. Clarke later remarked to his wife that “If Rossa had planned to die at the most opportune time for serving his country, he could not have done better.”

The graveside oration was delivered by the school teacher Pearse, an emerging figure in the radical separatist movement, and following it came a volley of shots. Sean T. O’Kelly,later President of Ireland, remembered feeling an immense pride and that he was part of an historic occasion as the salute was fired:

This must have been one of the first if not the very first occasion on which this military demonstration took place in our lifetime and this too in its way made a deep impression not alone on all who were present but on all who read the report afterwards. The I.R.B. and the Irish Volunteers were very proud of having been able to accomplish this military demonstration despite the orders of the British against the carrying of arms.

In the run-up to the funeral, Dublin Metropolitan Police intelligence commented on the planning of the event, noting in internal correspondence that “delegates from America will be in attendance, and nothing is being left undone to make the affair as impressive as possible. Those concerned are anxious that the greatest harmony will prevail.” The funeral saw the Irish Citizen Army, the armed wing of the labour movement, marching alongside the Irish Volunteers and even members of the National Volunteers,  the name bestowed upon those who had followed the nationalist leader John Redmond in his call for Irishmen to support the British war effort. The GAA, the Gaelic League, Sinn Féin, the Hibernian Rifles and others also joined the long march to the cemetery.

Yesterday, the centenary of the funeral of O’Donovan Rossa was marked by a variety of groups, with a state commemoration held in the morning at Glasnevin Cemetery and the unveiling of new plaques on the O’Donovan Rossa Bridge by the National Graves Association. Without a doubt however the highlight of the day was the large-scale reenactment of the funeral itself, organised by Sinn Féin and with the support of O’Donovan Rossa’s family. Thousands took to the streets, marching from City Hall to Glasnevin, but particular credit is due to those who got properly into the spirit (unlike this writer who showed up in a Patagonia raincoat) and dressed in the style of 1915.

The following images were taken by our friend Paul Reynolds of Rabble, and we thank him for permission to publish them here.

Image: Paul Reynolds.

Image: Paul Reynolds.

Image: Paul Reynolds.

Image: Paul Reynolds.

Image: Paul Reynolds.

Image: Paul Reynolds.

Continue Reading »

Following up on Sam’s post drawing attention to the fact a huge archive of rare archival video footage has just been uploaded onto YouTube, I was particularly struck by the wonderful madness of one clip in particular, entitled ‘Publicans Take To Water’.

The clip shows huge crowds gathering along the Liffey to watch the ‘Pub Tub Derby’, a curious event in the city in the 1960s which aimed to raise funds for the construction of new swimming pools in the city.

As Cyril J Smyth has noted:

The sponsors of the race comprised eleven well-known Dublin publicans. The tubs used for the event were formerly Guinness stout barrels and bore the names of the respective pubs on them. The course was between Capel Street Bridge (Grattan Bridge) and O’Connell Bridge. The winning pub received the Guinness Perpetual Trophy, presented by Arthur Guinness & Sons (Dublin) Ltd. Individual prizes were awarded to the ‘pilots’ of the first four tubs past the finish line.

Music on the liffey:  A screenshot from the clip.

Music on the liffey: A screenshot from the clip.

While many of the pubs who participated in the Pub Tub Derby on the years it ran are no longer with us, Madigans of Earl Street and the Lord Edward are still going strong today. A great comment about the event on YouTube from Liam Tuohy is worth sharing too. Posted below a video of Sean Dunphy’s ‘If I Could Choose’ (one of Ireland’s best ever Eurovision entries, even if defeated by Sandie Shaw!), he noted:

Years ago I had the great pleasure of sharing the bill with Sean for “The Pub Tub Derby” while we both stood rocking in a small boat on the Liffey under Dublin’s O’Connell Bridge. It was then, and still is, one of my most enjoyable and funniest memories while working as DJ Lee all thanks to Sean and his enormous personality

News coverage of the Pub Tub Derby, 1966.

News coverage of the Pub Tub Derby, 1966.

While jumping into the Liffey remains popular today, especially among the kids who gather at the docks, swimming up it in discarded Guinness barrels has been relegated to history. These kind of little tidbit videos make a great addition to YouTube.

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