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Archive for January, 2013

Glasnevin Museum are currently playing home to a beautiful old tramcar, which is on loan from the National Transport Museum in Howth. With this being the year of the centenary of the 1913 Lockout, which involved Dublin tram workers, there is no more fitting time for Dubliners to see this iconic form of public transport. The tram is at Glasnevin until this Saturday, and was on-site for the anniversary of Jim Larkin’s passing yesterday:

Image via: Glasnevin Museum

Image via: Glasnevin Museum

I couldn’t resist getting a snap with the tram, which is bedecked with slogans of the union movement from the period:

Thanks to Scott Millar

Thanks to Scott Millar

Jer O’Leary, the Dublin actor who performs the role of Jim Larkin with great passion, done the very same. Last year I saw Ger deliver one of Larkin’s speeches to a class of schoolchildren in Ringsend, one of the areas in Dublin which was caught up in the labour dispute. Anyone who hasn’t can see Jer in action here.

Ger O'Leary, photograph by Scott Millar.

Jer O’Leary, photograph by Scott Millar.

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We’ve recently had some posts on the history of football hooliganism in Dublin, which have attracted considerable interest. It’s the tip of the iceberg with a lot more study to be done in the area, but over the course of my research I came across this pretty comical article from the Sunday Independent, of a Benny Hill like operation at Milltown which resulted in a mob attacking a bus in a case of mistaken identity.I’m a bit confused by the report though, as Miltown was the home of Shamrock Rovers at the time. Anyone know more about this one?

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The funeral of Jim Larkin.

The Irish Press reports on the death of Jim Larkin. He is shown here being arrested on Bloody Sunday, 1913.

January 30th marks the anniversary of Jim Larkin, who died in 1947. The Irish Press reported on the day after his passing that it marked the end of an epoch in Irish history, and that “with him to the grave goes the turbulence and tumult of 1913.” Larkin was 72 years old at the time of his passing, and to this day remains a giant of not only trade union history in the city of Dublin but also the collective memory of the capital. On the day following his death, Sean O’Casey paid tribute to ‘Big Jim’ in the pages of the national media, where he was quoted as saying:

It is hard to believe that this great man is dead; that this lion of the Irish Labour movement will roar no more. When it seemed that every man’s hand was against him the time he led workers through the tremendous days of 1913 he wrested tribute of Ireland’s greatest and most prominent men.

O’Casey noted that Larkin was far and away above the orthodox labour leader, “for he combined within himself the imagination of the artist, with the fire and determination of a leader of the downtrodden class.”

To deny that Larkin was an at-times difficult character is to deny the truth, and many biographies of Larkin give insight into what was at times a dangerously sharp tongue and what historian Emmet O’Connor perfectly described in his biography of Jim as a “brash personality.” His clashes with others in the union movement like William O’Brien on occasion quite literally divided the movement, yet he remains the most inspirational figure to arise from the pages of Irish labour history, on par with the Edinburgh born James Connolly.

Larkin’s funeral arrangements, as reported in major newspapers on the day of the funeral.

The funeral of the Liverpool born agitator brought thousands of Dubliners onto the street. The removal alone witnessed thousands coming out to see the body removed to St Mary’s Church, draped in the Plough and the Stars, the flag of the Irish Citizen Army of which Larkin had been a founding member. Prior to this the body had been at Thomas Ashe Hall, and The Irish Times noted that “the guard of honour who kept watch beside the coffin throughout Saturday were drawn from members of the Irish Citizen Army and veterans of the 1913 labour struggle.” Among the messages of sympathy received was one from Archbishop McQuaid, along with others from the international trade union movement. George Bernard Shaw told the media that “we all have to go. He done many a good days work.”

Thousands lined the route of the funeral procession from St Mary’s Church to Glasnevin Cemetery, and the scale of the turnout is obvious from reports, which noted for example that at Liberty Hall 1,200 Dublin dockers formed a guard of honour. The mass itself had been celebrated by John Charles McQuaid, and John Cooney notes in his biography of McQuaid that “while the poor poured out their grief at Larkin’s death, McQuaid thanked God that the man long feared as the anti-Christ had died with Rosary beads wrapped around his hands. Larkin’s pious death was McQuaid’s most treasured conversion.”

At Glasnevin Cemetery the oration was delivered by William Norton, Labour T.D. Norton told the crowd that: “If each of us here would resolve to reunite our movement, to eliminate the bickering, the pettiness and the trivialities which divide and impede us, our success in achieving a united movement is assured.” It was not until 1990 that SIPTU was formed from a merger of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union and the Federated Workers’ Union of Ireland.

Multitext, UCC’s remarkable online project in Irish history, contains fantastic images of Larkin’s removal and funeral. We have reproduced them below. Larkin remains a giant of Dublin history and the story of the Irish working class, and he should be remembered with pride on this year in particular, which marks the centenary of the 1913 dispute.

The funeral cortege of Jim Larkin. Via http://multitext.ucc.ie

The funeral cortege of Jim Larkin. Via http://multitext.ucc.ie

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On Wednesday 23 January, RTE’s Nationwide programme had a special feature on the Jewish community in Dublin. It can be watched, anytime over the next sixteen days, on the RTE Player here.

It includes:

- Elaine Brown and her daughter Melaine taking Mary Kennedy on a tour of Clanbrassil Street and helping to identify Jewish shops from a 1965 RTE documentary.

J. Goldwater shop on Clanbrassil Street. (RTE, documentary 1965)

J. Goldwater shop on Clanbrassil Street. (RTE, documentary 1965)

- A feature on the originally Jewish Bretzel Bakery (estd. 1870) in Portobello which has had its Kosher status re-established since William Despard and Cormac Keenan took over in 2000. Also includes interview with Cantor Shulman whose job is to inspect the bakery and make sure it is following the Kosher rules.

Walworth Road Synagogue pictured in 1965. Now the Irish Jewish Museum (RTE documentary)

Walworth Road Synagogue pictured in 1965. Now the Irish Jewish Museum (RTE documentary)

- Detailed story of Ettie Steinberg, the only Irish born victim of the Holocaust. She grew up on Raymond Terrace off the South Circular Road and was educated in St. Catherine’s School on Donore Avenue. Ettie was murdered with her German husband in Auschwitz. Includes interviews with Dubliner and Irish-Jewish genealogist Stuart Rosenblatt and Yvonne Altman O’Connor of the Irish Jewish Museum

 

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Edward Fitzgerald

Edward Fitzgerald

Lord Edward Fitzgerald is one of the most romantic figures in Irish history, a rebel aristocrat associated with the failed revolution of 1798, known as the ‘Citizen Lord’. He is today buried in Saint Werburgh’s Church near to Dublin Castle, an institution he hoped to overthrow by force. A small plaque on the front of the church marks this fact, and it’s one of the great ironies of the city that Major Henry C. Sirr who captured him is buried in the graveyard at the back of the church.

Plaque on Saint Werburgh's Church, Werburgh Street.

Plaque on Saint Werburgh’s Church, Werburgh Street.

One figure associated with Edward Fitzgerald I’ve been fascinated by for a while now is Tony Small, an escaped slave Fitzgerald encountered in the United States who he later employed as a personal assistant. Small became a frequent sight around Dublin in the 1780s and 1790s, in a city where coloured men were few and far between. Fitzgerald commissioned a portrait of Small in 1786 by the artist Thomas Roberts:

TonySmall

In her brilliant biography of Fitzgerald, Stella Tillyard noted that “If Lord Edward’s mother was his great love, his constant companion was Tony Small, the runaway slave who saved his life in North America in 1781″, and she went on to note that “Tony embodied and brought to life his master’s commitment to freedom and equality for all men.”

Small had witnessed the British and Americans at war firsthand in 1781, as when his owners had fled South Carolina with their possessions and slaves, Tony had escaped and stayed on. On the 8th September 1781, Tony wandered onto a battlefield, and as Tillyard has noted he stumbled across “the blood-soaked uniform of a British officer of the 19th Regiment of Foot. The man was alive but unconscious, overlooked by the search parties of both sides.” The man was Edward Fitzgerald, and when he next awoke he was in the small hut Tony Small knew as his home. Fitzgerald offered Small liberty, and a new life working as his servant, in return for wages. An incredible and unlikely friendship had been born.

Kevin Whelan discusses the friendship between the two in his entry on Lord Edward Fitzgerald for the Dictionary of Irish Biography, noting that “The best-documented Irish example of imaginative sympathy between a white and a black man is the subsequent relationship between Fitzgerald and Small. Until his death in 1798, in a sprawling career that took him across much of Europe, America, and Canada, Fitzgerald never subsequently parted from his ‘faithful Tony’.”

In time, this one-time British soldier and darling of the Ascendancy class was converted towards the ideas of republicanism, the influence of writers such as Thomas Paine and personal observation on the streets of France inspiring this total shift in identity and politics. It was not until 1796 that Fitzgerald joined the United Irishmen, but the seeds had long been planted.

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William Graham was a 23-year-old Dubliner and member of the anti-Treaty IRA when he was shot dead by the Free State Army in November 1922 at Leeson Street Bridge. There is no plaque or monument to mark the spot of his incident.

William was born in 1900 to William Sr. and Mary Graham, both originally from Wexford. The 1901 census shows that the family were living at 5.3 Cornmarket, the road that links High Street (by St. Audoen’s Church) and Thomas Street. William Sr (43) was a Stationery Engine Driver while his wife Mary (39) looked after their four sons and three daughters. All were Roman Catholic. Myles (15) was a messenger at the GPO and Alice (14) was an apprentice in a shirt factory. John (10), Katie (7), James (5) and Bridget (3) were at school while young William (1) was only a baby.

Ten years later the family had moved around the corner to 4.5 Ross Road, part of the Corporation Buildings. This road connects High Street with Winetavern Street.

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 16.28.49

Graham Family, Ross Road. 1911 census.

The 1911 census tells us William Sr. had died sometime during the last decade. He left his widow Mary (50)  along with his children Alice (26), a Cake Packer, John (20), a Van Driver, Cathrine/Katie (17), no occupation listed, and James (15), a Telegraph Messenger. Myles had left the family home by this stage. Bridget (13) and William (11) were both at school. Denis Lennon (54), an illterate single man from Wexford listed as Mary’s brother in law, also lived with the family.

At the time of his death in 1922, William Graham was listed as living at 4 Ross Road which corresponds with the census records. Interestingly, 4 Ross Road is the address given by two insurgents who were arrested after the Easter Rising in 1916. These were Peter Kavanagh, a plumber’s assistant, and Patrick Kavanagh, a fitter’s assistant. The 1911 census shows that there were two Kavanagh families living in the Ross Road Corporation Buildings, however, only one matches the above names.

‘Cristíona Ní Fhearghaill bean Seáin Uí Caomhánaigh’ which translates as ‘Christina Farrell, wife of John Kavanagh’ was living at 2.2 Ross Road in 1911 with her three sons and two daughters -  Máire (22), Peadar (16), Padraig (13), Samuel (10) and Cáitlín (7). Mary were listed as working as a ‘bean fuaghala’ (seamstress) while Peter is down as a ‘buachaill oiffige’ (office boy). Patrick, Samuel and Kathleen were at school.

Irish Volunteer William Christian from Inchicore recorded in his witness statement that:

On Easter Monday I was mobilised by Peter Kavanagh. He was then living in Ross Road and he desired me to pass on the news to any of the other volunteers who might be perhaps living in the neighborhood. I knew of nobody save my pal, James Daly, so I called fro him and both of us proceeded to Earlsfort Terrace…” (BMH WS 646)

IRA officer Seamus Kavanagh from Clanbrassil Street records in his Witness Statement (No. 1053) that Peader Kavanagh was a member of ‘C’ Company who fought in Bolands Bakery. It is not known where Padraig fought.

It is interesting that the two Kavanagh brothers, living at 2 Ross Road in 1911, would give their address as 4 Ross Road after the Rising in 1916. While I can’t find any evidence that the 16 year old William Graham played any role in the Rising, there is no doubt that he would have been politicalised by the event and, in particular, the arrests of his two neighbors. Or perhaps they were actually living with the Graham family in 1916?

Ross Road, c. 1887-1913.

Ross Road, c. 1887-1913.

The only reference that I can find of Graham in the Witness Statements from Stephen Keys who was Section Commander of ‘A’ Company, 3rd Batt. Dublin Brigade IRA from 1918-23. Quite bizarrely, he calls him ‘Kruger Graham’ and I haven’t yet been able to find out why. (Kruger seems to be a name associated with South Africa)

Stephen Keys gives a first hand account of the events, that himself and Graham were involved in during the winter of 1922, leading up to his death:

At the next attempt to blow up Oriel House, my job was to take away the men and cover the retreat … I commandeered a car from Leeson St. I was not able to crank the motor and I always had to leave the engines running. The mine went off with such force that you would be blown off your feet … The lads ran by … The last to come was Kruger Graham … (he) jumped into the back of the car and said, “Drive Steve. They are all out. I am the last”

Oriel House, at the intersection of Westland Row and Fenian Street, was the HQ of the feared and hated Free State Intelligence Department. Today, it is owned by TCD and is the headquarters for CTVR, The Telecommunications Research Centre.

Stephen Keys goes on to say that after the aformentioned attempt on Oriel House, their next engagement was “…sticking up an armed guard at Harcourt St. railway.”. He describes this as “a battalion job (with) mostly ‘A’ Company men” involved. We can come to the conclusion that William Greham was a member of the 3rd Batt. of the IRA and quite possibly ‘A’ Company.

Keys writes:

I had another car on this occasion, an open car. They were to bring down the rifles from the railway and load them into the car. Willie Rower was on this job and he shot someone, which disorganised the plan and spoiled the job. I drove around, thinking I would pick up some men who might be straggling around the place.

The Irish Independent of 28 November 1922 wrote that a Lt. Comdt. of the Free State Army was “on duty in the vicinity of Harcourt St … with 3 whippet cars and a tender (when) shortly after 9pm … he heard shooting.”. This patrol rushed to Harcourt Station and found one of the guards there had been disarmed.

After finding out what had happened, he collected his men and proceeded along Hatch Street to Leeson Street. Here, three men were spotted by the bridge. The Free State soldiers called on them to halt. Searching the trio, they found nothing on the first man but they discovered that Graham had a fully loaded Webley revolver tucked down his trousers.

This is when the story diverges slightly.

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Isolde’s Tower on Exchange Street Lower was discovered in 1993, during work on the renovation of the Temple Bar area. During excavations on the site of five demolished Georgian houses, archaeologists found the base of the Tower, which served as the north-east corner tower of the 13th century city wall of Dublin. Prior to the demolition of the Georgian houses, they had been occupied for a period by a group calling itself the Society against the Destruction of Dublin, joined by Green Party Councillor Ciaran Cuffe. The find below the Georgian homes sparked huge media interest, and it was estimated by historians and archaeologists that the tower had once stood at 30-40ft, prior to being demolished sometime in the 17th century.

The dig was widely reported in the media. This image featured in The Irish Times.

The dig was widely reported in the media. This image featured in The Irish Times.

The firm of architects responsible for demolishing the Georgian houses and building apartment blocks in the location, Gilroy and McMahon, promised to incorporate the archaeologists findings into their project. This fantastic video from the Dublin City Walls App gives some idea of how the incredible tower may have appeared.

True to their word, the remains of the tower were incorporated into the apartment complex of the same name. However one of my pet hates about this part of town is the manner in which they are almost always covered up by bins connected to the complex, as this image shows. It seems a real pity that such a gem of an archaeological find is blocked from view.

Isolde's Tower, almost always blocked from view.

Isolde’s Tower, almost always blocked from view.

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Last Sunday, nine of us made the trek from the car park of Montpelier Hill to the Captain Noel Lemmas memorial deep in the Dublin Mountains. While Ciaran is due to post up some pictures from this memorable journey, I thought it would be no harm to talk a little about Captain Noel Lemass and his isolated monument

Captain Noel Lemass (1897-1923) of the  3rd Battalion, Dublin Brigade IRA fought in the General Post Office (GPO) during the Easter Rising of 1916, took an active part in the War of Independence (1919-1921) and joined the occupation of the Four Courts after taking the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War. His younger brother Sean, who had a similar military career, would go on to become Ireland’s fourth Taoiseach.

After the fall of the Four Courts, Noel was imprisoned but managed to escape and make his way to England. He returned to Ireland during the summer of 1923 when the ceasefire was declared. Returning to work at Dublin Corporation, he asked the town clerk John J. Murphy if he would forward a letter to the authorities that he planned to write “stating that he had no intention of armed resistance to the Government”. (1)

In July 1923, two months after the Civil War ended, Noel was kidnapped in broad daylight by Free State agents outside MacNeils Hardware shop, at the corner of Exchequer and Drury Street.

Notice from Noel's father in The Freeman's Journal (16 July 1923)

Notice from Noel’s father in The Freeman’s Journal (16 July 1923)

Three months later, on 13th October, his mutilated body was found on the Featherbed Mountain twenty yards from the Glencree Road, in an area known locally as ‘The Shoots’. It was likely that he was killed elsewhere and dumped at this spot.

The Leitrim Observer of 20 October 1923 described that Civic Guards found his body:

clothed in a dark tweed suit, light shirt, silk socks, spats and a knitted tie. The pockets contained a Rosary beads, a watch-glass, a rimless glass, a tobacco pouch and an empty cigarette case. The trousers’ pockets were turned inside out, as if they had been rifled. There was what appeared to be an entrance bullet wound on the left temple, and the top of the skull was broken, suggesting an exit wound.

Noel was shot at least three times in the head and his left arm was fractured. His right foot was never found.

Meeting two days later, Dublin Council passed a strongly worded vote of sympathy with his family. Describing their fellow employee as an “esteemed and worthy officer of the Council who had been foully and diabolically murdered”, the Council adjourned for one week as a mark or respect.  (2)

It was believed that many that a Free Stater Captain James Murray was behind the murder.

His funeral was described by The Irish Times on 17 October 1923 as “ranking with some of the largest seen in the city in recent years”. The hearse was preceded by the Connolly Pipers’ Band and followed by members of the Cumann na mBan, Women’s Citizens Army, Sinn Fein Clubs, Prisoners’ Defence League, many recently released prisoners, representatives of various  bodies and numerous well-known Republicans including George Noble Plunkett (father of Joseph Plunkett), Constance Markievicz and Maud Gonne.

Captain Noel Lemass in uniform. Credit - http://irishvolunteers.org

Noel Lemass in uniform. Credit – http://irishvolunteers.org

A year later, a memorial cross was erected at the spot where his body was found.

MJ Freeney, on a hill walking trip, wrote in the Sunday Independent on 24 July 1927:

Our road wound to the right and soon we a met sharp turn on our left. Having negotiated this, we found ourselves on the wild Featherbed Pass. Civilisation had been left far behind. Our only companions were rough mountain sheep and strange wild birds. Truly no lonelier spit could be found. And then a glance to our left. There in the wilderness was a cross. What strange object in such a place. We read the name – Captain Noel Lemass

The Irish Times of 12 September 1932 reported on the “first public commemoration” of the late Captain Noel Lemass which saw:

Omnibuses and motor cars .. (bring) hundreds to the scene, whilst still greater numbers made the journey on foot

The Chairman of the Noel Lemass Cumann of Fianna Fail (Mansion House Ward), George White, laid a wreath at the foot of the cross while The Last Post was sounded by Owen Somers. Joseph O’Connor of the 3rd Battalion delivered the oration:

Noel Lemass… joined the movement in 1916 and was wounded in O’Connell Street in that year, and in 1917 he assisted in reforming the organisation and served in it right up to the time of his death .. He was one of the typical young men in the Republican movement, animated by one great motive – the desire for freedom

In 1932, Sean Leamass (then Minister for Trade and Commerce) led the pilgrimage to the monument. Four years later, several hundred people traveled by bus and motor car to the ‘sequestered spot in the Dublin Mountains’ where the body of Noel Lemass was found.

As far as I can work out, there were annual pilgrimages to the spot in Featherfed mountain from 1932 until at least 1977.

Irish Press, 9 September 1935

Irish Press, 9 September 1935

Every year saw hundreds descend on the remote spot to pay their respects.

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While Dublin is a city of many plaques which mark historic locations, there are still a few missing which would help tell the story of the capital to natives and visitors alike. One of these locations to me is Vaughan’s Hotel on Parnell Square, a premises which had a strong connection to the Irish revolutionary period and Michael Collins in particular. Parnell Square plays a crucial role in Irish republican history. It was there that the decision to stage an uprising was reached prior to 1916, it was there that the occupation of the Rotunda occurred in 1922, it was there that An Phoblacht did (and does) have its headquarters, and it was even there that the Blueshirt movement had their offices in the 1930s.

Google Street View of  the corner of Parnell Square where Vaughan's was found.

Google Street View of the corner of Parnell Square where Vaughan’s was found.

Vaughan’s Hotel was acquired in 1953 by the Workers Union of Ireland, and remains a home of the trade union movement to this day. The sale of the building in 1953 attracted some controversy, owing to the strong connection between the premises and the War of Independence. The Irish Times reported on an auction of the hotels contents in November 1953, writing that:

VaughansHotel

Just how did a Hotel in the centre of the city come to be so closely associated with Michael Collins and the republican movement? Writing in one of his popular Irish Press columns, ‘Down Dublin Streets’, Eamonn MacThomais noted that Vaughan’s had first opened at no.29, at the corner on Granby Row and Lane, next to a premises owned by a surgeon doctor, and next to it was the Civil Service Institute. When Vaughan’s grew, it acquired the premises next to the Civil Service Institute, and both of these premises nestled between the two ends of Vaughan’s gave the cover or the impression of a respectable and law-abiding square! The Hotel had the added advantage of a long back garden running parallel with Granby Lane, and a system was developed whereby a “flowerpot in the back window told Michael Collins and his men to keep away from Vaughan’s Hotel.”

Vaughan's as it appeared at the time

Vaughan’s as it appeared at the time

Many veterans of the revolutionary period discussed Vaughan’s Hotel in their statements to the Bureau of Military History. Frank Henderson told the Bureau how Vaughan’s was just one of a number of premises in the area republicans used, noting that: “As well as Vaughan’s Hotel there were James Kirwan’s publichouse in Parnell Street and Flynn’s in Moore Street, where I sometimes contacted the Director of Organisation and where I used see at the same time Michael Collins, Piaras Beasley and other G.H.Q. officers.”

Piaras Beaslaí wrote an article on the Hotel for the Irish Independent in 1966, writing that:

From the beginning of 1920 until November 21st – “Bloody Sunday”- hardly a night passed when some Directors and officers of the G.H.Q did not meet in the smoke room of Vaughan’s Hotel in Parnell Square, Dublin, partly to transact business, partly to relax and indulge in general conversation, which however, seldom lasted long without bringing in topics concerned with the struggle with which we were engaged.

A now iconic image of Michael Collins, taking at the funeral of Arthur Griffith.

A now iconic image of Michael Collins, taken at the funeral of Arthur Griffith.

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There was a lot of interest in a post earlier this week looking at football hooliganism at Richmond Park in the 1970s and 1980s. Outside the scope and timeframe of that article was the UEFA Cup Clash between Saint Patrick’s Athletic and Heart of Midlothian F.C in Tolka Park in 1988. Clashes at this game were photographed by the media, and this fantastic image was printed in the Irish Press on the day following the fixture:

Irish Press capture violence at Tolka Park, 1988.

The Saints were defeated 2-0 in Tolka Park by their Scottish opponents, but as one match report noted:

The loss of the match will be difficult enough to bear, but the behaviour of some of the estimated 8,000 people who came to watch may cost them dearly. Spectators carrying Glasgow Celtic flags and Irish tricolours inscribed with the letters IRA gathered under the popular stand and in the second half threw missiles onto the pitch causing the referee Harry King from Wales to draw the attention of the officials and the Gardaí to this behaviour.

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On August 7th 1912 four women- Gladys Evans, Mary Leigh, Jennie Baines (under the nom de guerre Lizzie Baker) and Mabel Capper were sentenced at the Green Street Special Criminal Court in Dublin accused of “having committed serious outrages at the time of the visit of the British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith.” The trial lasted several days during which police came under fire for initially refusing to allow admittance to women. Given the nature of the case, this act was met with steady and mounting pressure until the ban was repealed.

The “acts of serious outrage” have been mentioned in passing here before in an article on the Theatre Royal. The visit of Asquith to Dublin in July 1912 was met with defiance from militant suffragettes, some of whom (including the four above) had followed him over from England. On July 19th, a hatchet (around which a text reading “This symbol of the extinction of the Liberal Party for evermore” was wrapped) was thrown at his moving carriage as it passed over O’Connell Bridge. The hatchet missed Asquith but struck John Redmond, who was travelling in the same carriage, on the arm. There was also a failed attempt at setting fire to the Theatre Royal as he was due to talk on Home Rule in the same venue the following day. A burning chair was thrown from a balcony into the orchestra pit and flammable liquid was spread around the cinematograph (projector) box, and an attempt made to set it alight. It caught fire, and exploded once, but was quickly extinguished. The Irish Times, as below, reported the attempt which, in any case was foiled by Sergeant Durban Cooper of the Connaught Rangers who was in attendance:

At this moment Sergeant Cooper saw a young woman standing near. She was lighting matches. Opening the door of the cinematograph box, she threw in a lighted match, and then tried to escape. But she was caught by Sergeant Cooper and held by him. She is stated to have then said: “There will be a few more explosions in the second house. This is only the start of it.” (Irish Times, July 19th 1912)

Taken from "Votes for Women," August 9th, 1912

Taken from “Votes for Women,” August 9th, 1912

The four women mentioned above were accused and charged over both actions. The then Attorney General for Ireland, C.A O’Connor conducted the prosecution, and the case was presided over by Judge Madden. It seems that the authorities were at great pains to quell the burgeoning suffragette movement, and so set out to brand the women as highly dangerous provocateurs. O’Connor spoke of the horrors the fire in the Theatre could have caused, and Judge Madden, upon passing sentence on the women, rendered it his “imperative duty to pronounce a sentence that is calculated to have a deterrent effect.” Large crowds had gathered inside and outside the court for their sentencing upon which, as seen in the Evening Post clipping below, applause rang out around a largely hostile room.

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The Chelsea Hotel in New York has provided a bed to some of the finest minds and talents in human history, serving as an inspiration for Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas and others. From Simone De Beauvoir to Jack Kerouac, some of the most celebrated works of some of the most celebrated writers of the past were composed within its walls, and its beautiful facade and iconic ‘Hotel Chelsea’ sign have become a must see for many tourists to New York.

The Chelsea Hotel, New York. (2010,Wiki)

The Chelsea Hotel, New York. (2010,Wiki)

The front of the hotel has several plaques upon it, in honour of some of the figures closely associated with the premises. One of these plaques marks the connection between the Chelsea Hotel and Leonard Cohen, who has sung of the Hotel in his song named in its honour. Thomas Wolfe and Dylan Thomas are among other writers remembered in bronze. Among these great names is that of a Dubliner, Brendan Behan:

Brendan Behan plaque upon the Chelsea Hotel. Thanks to wheresmybackpack.com

Brendan Behan plaque upon the Chelsea Hotel. Thanks to wheresmybackpack.com

The Behan plaque was photographed for wheresmybackpack.com, who took some beautiful images of the building you can see here.

Behan spent some time in New York, though the period was towards the end of his life. Clifford Irving wrote of Behan in America that “he was a vicious tank of a man rolling relentlessly through the minefield of America, crushing everything in sight until he blew up.” The New York media and art scene were both fascinated by the Dubliner, falling for his charm. Novelist Norman Mailer once asked Brendan if he usually had a police escort at home in Ireland, to which Brendan joked “I do, but I’m usually handcuffed to the bastards!” It was said that when in New York Brendan stuffed $80 in the pockets of Allen Ginsberg, hero of the Beat Generation types.

Brendan’s niece Rosemary visited New York in 2001, and followed in the footsteps of her uncle. Reflecting on that visit she noted:

I wasn’t overly impressed with the Chelsea, either. The hotel, a seedy red-brick Victorian building of more than 100 rooms, trades on its past, on a guest list of literati that included Dylan Thomas, Arthur Miller and William Burroughs. It wouldn’t be my choice as a base in New York. It has too little of the promise that Brendan loved about the United States and which he summed up in a sentence preserved in a plaque at the front door: “To America, my new-found land: the man that hates you hates the human race.”

But there is no doubt that he felt at home at the Chelsea. In a disorganised office, filled with piles of books and papers spread across several desks, Stanley told me: “Brendan would come in just as you did now and stand right there where you are standing. I would be on the phone to my wife and he would grab the phone off me and start singing to her.”
By his own standards, though, he was reasonably well-behaved. “We are interested in helping the artist and he respected that,” said Stanley. “He never abused the hotel or anyone in the hotel.”

Brendan Behan’s New York was published in 1964,though it was a ‘talk book’, far removed from the classic novels and plays the Russell Street native had produced before it. Behan’s best days as a writer had passed him as he succumbed to the drink, his untimely death robbing Dublin of one of its most celebrated voices, and as his brother Brian would recall “greater writers have graced the literary canvas than Brendan in Ireland’s history, but not greater characters- before or since.”

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