Over the years I’ve dipped into some amazing items in my fathers collection for the blog. A serving firefighter with the Dublin Fire Brigade, he’s built up an impressive collection of items relevant to the history of firefighting in Dublin historically. He has also completed a book which is forthcoming on the Brigade entitled ‘Dublin Fire Brigade and the Irish Revolution.’ It will be launched in early September. The Dublin Fire Brigade were the first unionised fire service in Europe, and interestingly his research has uncovered that many men within the job were active in republican and trade union politics during the Irish revolutionary period, with the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army and later the Irish Republican Army.
To coincide with the book, which is published by South Dublin County Council, an exhibition on the history of firefighting in Dublin will be hosted in the County Library in Tallaght. It’s a Heritage Week project with the South Dublin County Council, and in conjunction with the Fire Service Trust.
The exhibition will offer new insight to a lot of people on issues like the early days of firefighting in Dublin. One thing we’ve looked at in the past on the site here for example is the days of the old ‘Parish Pump’, , like when in 1711 the Lord Mayor of Dublin ordered that each Parish within Dublin hold two water fire engines, for the purpose of combating fires which broke out in the city.
In 1862, Dublin got its municipal fire service, with the remarkable Captain James Robert Ingram at its head. Ingram was a veteran of the New York Fire Department, not to mention a Freemason and a man who applied some unusual methods to the job of firefighting. He once 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, for example!
By the early twentieth century, in a time of revolution, some members of the Dublin Fire Brigade drifted towards republican and socialist politics following the Lockout and the events of Easter Week. Into the days of the Civil War, this republican presence continued to exist within the Dublin Fire Brigade. Their role in that period has never properly been examined and hopefully the upcoming book will correct that.
One of the greatest moments in the Brigades history undoubtedly came in an hour of crisis, when men from Dublin rushed north during World War II when Belfast fell victim to fascist bombings. Southern Irish engines hurried across the border, risking life and limb, to help the innocent people of Belfast in an hour of crisis. It was an act of humanity never forgotten in the city.
The exhibition will run all through the month of September, and should be a great glimpse into an often overlooked part of the history of Dublin’s working class and organised labour in the city.