Thanks to Neil Moxham for sending us this fantastic image, which we had to share here.
In a recent article on legendary Dublin prankster The Bird Flanagan, his supposed escapades at the 1907 International Exhibition in Herbert Park were discussed. It was said that The Bird stole a child from an exhibition, with Flann O’Brien later recounting that “The Bird stole the baby of the wild man of Borneo from the latters straw house or tent and smuggled it into the snug of a pub in Ballsbridge”, while Ulick O’Connor claimed he “returned it to the French pavilion, as a gesture against the decline in the French birth-rate.”
In reality, it was a Somalian Village at the International Exhibition. The International Exhibition was an incredible spectacle, which ssentially brought the world to Dublin, with tents and exhibitions from all over the world. In his book The Biggest Show in Town: Record Of The International Exhibition, Dublin 1907, Ken Finlay dug deep on the exhibition using primary sources from the time. One of those sources tells us of the Somali village, described thus:
A party of Somalis has been imported from British Somaliland, which is situated in the north-east of Africa. This village has been erected to represent the huts in which the natives live in their country. A schoolroom has also been built in which Somali children will be thought their lessons. Somalis are a nomadic race, and live chiefly by the rearing of herds and goats and sheep. They are Mohammedians by religion.
John Cavendish has written about this peculiar spectacle, noting that:
This stand proved to be of huge interest to the 2,751,113 visitors in all during the six months that the exhibition lasted. So much so, that it became the most profitable stand, earning £9,601 in sales of its pottery and other native goods.
You can only imagine how distressing the situation must have been for younger members of the community who were essentially put on exhibition for Dubliners to gawk at. This newspaper report from 14 May 1907 shows that rumours of ill-health existed during the period of the International Exhibition for example: