The Swastika Laundry operated from the Shelbourne Road in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 for 75 years.
It was founded by John W. Brittain (1872 – 1937) from Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim who was one of the “pioneers of the laundry business in Ireland” having founded the Metropolitian and White Heather Laundries in 1899. He was also the owner of a famous horse called Swastika Rose which was well known “to frequenters of the Royal Dublin’s Society’s Shows“. (The Irish Times, March 27, 1937)
The fact that people still talk about the laundry today is, for the most part, based on the fact that a swastika was used for their logo. As you can see from the title and picture above, the laundry was founded in 1912, eight years before the German Nazi party decided to formally adopt the symbol. (This important detail was promoted by the company at the outbreak of WWII when they changed the company’s name to The Swastika Laundry (1912) to distance themselves from the NSDAP)
In his travel memoir Irisches Tagebuch (Irish Diary) (1957) the future Nobel Laureate, Heinrich Böll had an unpleasant run in with a Swasika Laundry van. He notes that he
was almost run over by a bright-red panel truck whose sole decoration was a big swastika. Had someone sold Völkischer Beobachter delivery trucks here, or did the Völkischer Beobachter still have a branch office here? This one looked exactly like those I remembered; but the driver crossed himself as he smilingly signalled to me to proceed, and on closer inspection I saw what had happened. It was simply the “Swastika Laundry”, which had painted the year of its founding, 1912, clearly beneath the swastika; but the mere possibility that it might have been one of those others was enough to take my breath away.
The vans used by the Swastika Laundry didn’t operate on diesel or petrol, they were electric, quite ahead of their time.
The Spring Grove Laundry bought the company out in 1987 and sold the land for redevelopment in the early 2000s. The only reminder of the Swastika Laundry at the site today, now known as The Oval, is the huge chimney, now a protected structure, which was emblazoned with a huge swastika until the late 1980s.