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Archive for the ‘Dublin History’ Category

In San Francisco in 1973, gay activist Harvey Milk successfully petitioned gay bars in the Castro District to stop selling Coors beer. This was in response to an appeal from the Teamsters union who called for a boycott of Coors as the company refused to sign a Union contract. The gay community were themselves hostile to the company as Coors implemented a strict employment discrimination policy and refused to hire gay workers. With the help of a coalition of Arab and Chinese grocers the Teamsters had also recruited, the boycott was successful. In return, the Union hired more gay men to drive Teamsters beer trucks. It was a splendid example of solidarity.

A year later in Dublin, a very minor but compelling event brought together trade unionists and gay activists. Even if was just for fifteen minutes!

On Saturday 27th June 1974, ten lesbians and gay men protested in Dublin in what was the first ever public demonstration of LGBT Pride on the island of Ireland. The group included Northern Irish gay political activist Jeff Dudgeon and the then Trinity Lecturer David Norris.

Gay activist outside the Department of Justice, 27 June 1974. Credit - declancashin.com

Gay activist outside the Department of Justice, 27 June 1974. Photo – Gareth Miller. Credit – Irish Queer Archive (Facebook)

The protestors first picketed the British Embassy in Ballsbridge where one of the group organisers, the Sexual Liberation Movement (SLM) handed in a letter to the British Embassy in protest against the existing anti-gay legislation in Northern Ireland.

The group then marched to the Department of Justice on St. Stephen’s Green holding signs such as ‘Homosexuals are Revolting’ and ‘Lesbian Pride’. The small group of brave men and women literally stopped traffic as bus drivers and bicycle messengers slowed down or came to a screeching halt while trying to get a better look.

Gay activist outside the Department of Justice. Credit - Irish Queer Archive (Facebook). David Norris Collection.

Gay activist outside the Department of Justice, 27 June 1974. Credit – Irish Queer Archive (Facebook). David Norris Collection.

David Norris, in his autobiography, recalls an incredible incident when a lorry pulled up outside the Department during the picket:

A large roll of carpet was flung out the back of the lorry and a burly man descended. He took one look at us and shouted back to his colleague in the driving seat, ‘Jesus, Mick, they’re fuckin’ queers!’

A head appeared at the window and took in the situation. Then a deep bass voice shouted back, ‘Whorrabowra sure I don’t give a bollicks, a picket’s a fucking picket mate’ and with that an even larger and more muscular lorry driver jumped out of the cab and joined our picket for a quarter of an hour, leaving the minister’s carpet stranded on the pavement.

A splendid example of worker solidarity.

For more photographs and memories, check out the Irish Queer Archive on Facebook.

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Benjamin Franklin as he appears in the wallets of Americans (Wiki Commons)

Benjamin Franklin as he appears in the wallets of Americans (Wiki Commons)

In  September 1771, Benjamin Franklin arrived in the city of Dublin, in the company of colonial agent Richard Jackson.  One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Franklin is a signatory of the United States Declaration of Independence of 1776, though five years earlier he was based in London, attempting to negotiate on behalf of the American Colonies. Franklin detailed his views of Dublin and Ireland in a letter to Thomas Cushing, a lawyer and statesman from Boston, Massachusetts.  Franklin had a keen interest in Irish affairs, writing in a letter two years prior to visiting the country that “all Ireland is strongly in favor of the American cause. They have reason to sympathize with us.”

While in Ireland, Franklin was struck by the contrast between the grandeur of Dublin city itself and the intense poverty of those beyond its core. He commented to Cushing that:

Ireland is itself a poor country, and Dublin a magnificent city; but the appearances of general extreme poverty among the lower people are amazing. They live in wretched hovels of mud and straw, are clothed in rags, and subsist chiefly on potatoes. Our New England farmers, of the poorest sort, in regard to the enjoyment of all the comforts of life,  are princes when compared to them.

Franklin visited the Irish parliament at College Green, and was granted the honour of sitting in the chamber of the parliament alongside the elected Irish parliamentarians.  To Franklin, this was “a mark of respect for our country.”  It should be noted that the Irish parliament of the time was off-limits to the Catholic majority in Ireland, and was an entirely Anglican assembly, something later parliamentarians would seek unsuccessfully to reform. Franklin wrote of the parliament on College Green, telling Cushing:

Before I left Ireland I must mention that being desirous of seeing the principal Patriots there, I stayed till the Opening of their Parliament. I found them disposed to be friends of America, in which disposition I endeavored to confirm them, with the expectation that our growing weight might in time be thrown into their scale, and, by joining our interest with theirs, might be obtained for them as well as for us, a more equitable treatment from this Nation. There are many brave spirits among them, the gentry are a very sensible, polite and friendly people. Their Parliament makes a most respectable figure, with a number of very good speakers in both parties, and able men of businesses.

Parliament on College Green, which Benjamin Franklin visited. (NLI)

Parliament on College Green, which Benjamin Franklin visited. (NLI)

 

While in Ireland, Franklin spent three days at Hillsborough, County Down. He was a guest to Lord Hillsborough, the Colonial Secretary and a political opponent (frequently described as a nemesis) who he had encountered in Dublin. Walter Isaacson in his biography of Franklin writes that this was an “astonishingly friendly visit”, with Franklin writing to Cushing that he believed Hillsborough was not genuine in his friendliness but rather “he apprehended an approaching storm and was desirous of lessening beforehand the number of enemies he had so imprudently created.”

Franklin traveled on from Ireland to Scotland, where he was again shocked by an intensely poor peasantry. Following his trip to Scotland and Ireland he returned to London,  though he returned to the United States in March 1775. The rest, as they say, is history.

In 1977, the American Ambassador presented a bust of Benjamin Franklin to the Bank of Ireland to commemorate the visit. Speaking at the unveiling of the bust, the Ambassador (Walter J.P Curley) noted that

Franklin’s friendship for Ireland was no fleeting whim.  He had said “You have ever been friendly to the rights of mankind and we acknowledge with pleasure and gratitude that your nation has produced patriots who have nobly distinguished themselves in the cause of humanity and America.”

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In 1987, RTÉ broadcast three half-an-hour specials of the music show ‘Visual Eyes’.

Slotted between a behind-the-scenes look at U2 playing Modena, Italy and an extended one-on-one interview with David Bowie in London, there was an RTÉ prime time special on the career and songwriting talents of Dublin legend Paul Cleary.

Paul Cleary, 1980s. Uploaded by Mark Sherlock.

Paul Cleary, 1980s. Uploaded by Mark Sherlock.

With only a few weeks until The Blades much anticipated gig at the sold out Electric Picnic festival, it’s perfect timing that this 30mins Paul Cleary special has been uploaded onto YouTube.

Presented by Dave Fanning and produced/directed by Billy Magra (aka McGrath), this is the first time the programme has been available in 27 years.

Intertwined with interviews of Paul Cleary at locations on Sandymount Strand and RTE, the show contains footage of:

- ‘The Reunion’ on Anything Goes (1980)
– ‘Ghost of a Chance’ on The Late Late Show (1981)
– ‘The Bride Wore White’ on Anything Goes (1981)
– ‘Revelations of Heartbreak’ on Non Stop Pop (1982)
– ‘Downmarket’ music video (1983)
– Footage from the 1983 Hot Press Music Awards
– ‘Those Were The Days’ on TV GA GA (1985)
– Recording of the Concern charity record written by Paul Cleary (1985)
– ‘Too Late’ by Paul Cleary with Ray Lynam on TV GA GA (1987)
– ‘Badlands’ (198?)
– ‘Some People Smile’ by Paul Cleary on The Late Late Show (1983)

The show’s graphic designer Billy Morley (ex-guitarist with Revolver / The Radiators / The Defenders) sadly passed away earlier this year. Producer Billy recalled on The Blades Facebook fan group:

Normally quiet & unassuming, he passed me in the RTE corridor after the 3 specials (U2, Paul and Bowie) aired and without breaking stride threw an aside as he passed – ‘the Cleary fella wrote the better songs’. Indeed.

Previous blog piece on the The Blades:

A conversation with Paul Cleary
Lyrics from the two Blades LPS
Still sounding sharp, looking back at The Blades
Revelations (Of 45s)
The Blades Are Sharp
Building A Wasteland
os Blades?
The Blades singles
Emm Gryner’s version of Downmarket

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Gang violence has featured on Come Here To Me before; with the Pinking Dindies, the Liberty Boys and the Ormond Boys of the 18th century, through the various fracas’ of the Animal Gangs and on to the Black Catholics in the 1970’s and 80’s and onwards all making an appearance. Dublin has always had its fair share of troublesome groups and there’s always plenty to write about them.

One event we haven’t yet covered that jumped out at me recently while reading John Edward Walsh’s “Rakes and Ruffians,” was a three day riot involving both the Liberty Boys and the Ormond Boys which brought Dublin to a standstill in mid- May, 1790. Accounts of Dublin from the late 18th/ early 19th century are rarely without mention of the two groups whose infamy is still regarded to this day. Injuries, maimings and deaths are all purported to have taken place in this encounter, making it one of their bloodiest.

According to J.D Herbert’s Irish Varieties, for the Last Fifty Years: Written from Recollections, the Ormond Boys were the “assistants and carriers from slaughter-houses, joined by cattle drivers from Smithfield, stable-boys, helpers, porters, and idle drunken vagabonds in the neighbourhood of Ormond Quay,” whilst the Liberty Boys were, “a set of lawless desperadoes, residing in the opposite side of the town, called the Liberty. Those were of a different breed, being chiefly unfortunate weavers without employment, some were habitual and wilful idlers, slow to labour, but quick at riot and uproar.”

Weaver’s Square, home of the Liberty Boys, from John Roque’s map of 1754. Taken from http://irishhistoricaltextiles.files.wordpress.com

The Liberty Boys notoriety spread further than Dublin, and references to them can be found in several newspaper articles from across the water, including one in the Leeds Mercury from January 1867 which refers to them as French Huguenots who have “degenerated physically.” “They are the Liberty Boys of Dublin, the dwellers in ‘The Coombe,’ or hollow sloping down to the river, famous for their lawlessness, their strikes, and their manufactures of poplin and tabbinet. They do not seem at all favourable specimens of humanity as you watch them leaning out of windows in the tall, gaunt, filthy, tumble down houses around and beyond St. Patrick’s.”

The hostility between the two gangs often led to full scale riots between upwards of 1, 000 men and these occurred several times a year, but especially in the run up to the Mayday festival. The city would be brought to a standstill, with businesses closing, the watchmen looking on in terror, as battles raged for the possession of the bridges over the Liffey. Walsh’s book reports the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alderman Emerson as saying “it was as much as his life was worth to go among them” regarding such riots.

Essex Bridge and Ormond Quay, where the main battles took place.

The battle this piece refers to though began on May 11th 1790 and lasted several days. The riot coincided with an election in the city, although an opinion piece in the Freeman’s Journal on the Thursday of that week described the violence as wanton, saying:

“The situation of the capital on Wednesday night was dreadful in the extreme; it was shocking to civilisation, for outrage was openly and without disguise directed against the civil protection of the city. On other occasions, grievance, from sickness of trade, from injury by exportation of foreign commodities, from the high price of provision and the low rate of labour, grievances from the want of employ and a variety of other causes were usually alleged for the risings of the people, but on the present occasion, no grievance exists, and the fomenters of disorder are without such a pretension. “Down with the police” is the cry and demolish the protection of the city is the pursuit.”

“In different parts of the town, prodigious mobs of people were assembled and the avowed purpose of their tumultuous rising was declared in the vehemence of their execrations against the police. “Down with the police, five pounds for a police man’s head.” They were the shouts which filled the streets.”

“In Mary Street, no passenger could escape the shower of brick bats and paving stones intended for the police. In St. Andrew’s Street, the scene was if possible more dreadful, for the mob not content in driving the Police watchman before them proceeded to pull down the watch house in which he took refuge. .. (The Men) were obliged to fire and three of the rioters fell.”

The riot only came to a conclusion on the Thursday due to military intervention, when a “party of men on horse dispersed the rioters and stood guard for the remainder of the night which prevented more bloodshed and massacre…. The blood of the unfortunate wretches who met their unhappy fate rests at the door of those few incendiaries who stimulated by their playful insignias unthinking persons to destruction.” And people think Love Ulster was bad!

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The Stoneybatter and Smithfield People’s History Project are doing wonderful work in Dublin 7 promoting both the history of the area and broader Dublin history.  After many months of planning and fundraising, they have now announced their ‘Street Stories Festival’ for September. The Facebook page is here.

 

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Running over a full weekend, there will be talks, gigs, walking tours and more from September 26 to 28. The Friday night event,  with the photographer David Jazay,  should appeal to many. His great pictures of Dublin in the 1980s and 90s include many shots of Dublin 7, an area which has changed greatly in recent times:

 

The event will kick off on Friday night with a talk by David Jazay on his photographic story of inner city Dublin in the 1980s and ’90shttp://davidjazay.com/?page_id=2. This will be followed by a music session in the Cobblestone.

On Saturday we have talks throughout the day on a wide range of subjects from the Mother and Baby homes, to Dublin in World War I, from Life in Medieval Smithfield to the Massacre in North King Street during the 1916 Rising and lots more.

Saturday night will see Dublin’s favourite ska/reggae band The Bionic Rats rocking the Back Room of the Cobblestone, after which we will keep the dancing going with some guest DJs.

Sunday will be a relaxed day of walking tours and film showings.

 

On Good Friday I did a fundraising walking tour of Smithfield and the area around it for this festival. There have since been other walking tours examining women’s history in revolutionary Ireland and the 1798 connections of Dublin 7 and its environs. John Gibney of History Ireland, and author of an excellent biography of 1916 leader Sean Heuston, will be giving a walking tour on  August 9th for this good cause:

 

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(Apologies for the lack of updates of late, these are busy times!)

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Plaque at Glasnevin Cemetery.

Plaque at Glasnevin Cemetery.

A new plaque to Shane MacThomais was unveiled yesterday at Glasnevin Cemetery. Shane was the resident historian of the cemetery for many years, and the author of an excellent history of the important site,  Glasnevin: Ireland’s Necropolis.   A  documentary about the cemetery, entitled One Million Dubliners , recently won the Best Irish Feature Documentary at the Galway Film Fleadh, and thankfully it will be airing in a number of Dublin cinemas later in the year. The plaque will be placed just inside the main entrance to the Cemetery opposite the museum.

This recent video captures Glasnevin  using a drone camera, giving some beautiful views over the historic site and should be all tne encouragement any reader who hasn’t yet visited the cemetery will need to make the trip:

 

One thing the  new documentary explores is the manner in which certain graves attract huge attention, in particular the final resting place of Michael Collins. Some others are almost hidden away.  Shane once remarked to my father that Ernie O’Malley’s grave was one that fell into the later category, rarely attracting the attention  of visitors. O’Malley’s huge contribution to the revolutionary period in Ireland is like something from a Hollywood blockbuster at times, and his fantastic memoirs of the period, in particular On Another Man’s Wound, played no small part in developing my love of Ireland’s history. We thought that perhaps the best tribute to Shane would be to leave flowers on Ernie’s grave yesterday.

 

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Article on 'Grille' from Trinity News (31 October 1968)

Article on ‘Grille’ from Trinity News (31 October 1968)

On the 27th of August 1968, a group of left-wing Christians were attacked and harassed by local parishioners in St. Andrew’s Church, Westland Row after they attempted to hold a public prayer meeting.

The meeting, organised by the Irish Christian Socialist magazine ‘Grille’, was attended by around forty-five people including my uncle Michael and my granny. The first issue of this magazine was launched the previous month and had sold 1,000 copies. It was produced by a nine member editorial board made up of John Feeney (Secretary), John Byrne (Co-Ordinator), William Ledwich, Aoife Kearney, Erwin Struntz and four others.

Grille pray in  (Indo, 26 Aug 1968. 3jpeg

A parishioner questions activists from ‘Grille’ while they read from the Bible. Credit – Irish Independent, 26 August 1968

The meeting was held to draw attention to the fact that ‘much publicity’ had been given ‘to the advice of right-wing Catholics on the birth control issue.’ The Christian Socialists hoped to add their voice to the debate and help correct ‘the imbalance of this situation.’

They were not granted permission to use the church nor did they ask for it as they felt all practising Catholics were already part owners of all churches.

After gathering in a side alcove, a member of the group opened the proceeding with The Lords Prayer and then read from the Gospel According to St. Matthew. At this point, a man jostled him and knocked the bible out of his hand. A woman, who later transpired to be the aggressors wife, tried to calm the situation telling her husband ‘You’re making a show of yourself. Let them go on with it. It’ll all fizzle out’.

Grille pray in (Aug 26, 1968 IT)

Two middle-aged parishioners look menacingly at one Bible-reading ‘Grille’ radical. Credit – The Irish Times, 26 August 1968

Meanwhile a group of ten men, moved in on the ‘Grille’ group pushing them about, throwing punches and pulling women’s headscarves off their heads. Activist John Byrne was punched in the mouth as he was singing a hymn.

The mob bombarded the young Christian radicals with questions: ‘Are you Irish? Are you Catholic? Are you from this parish? Are you a communist?’

A certain Francis Mayer from Ringsend told an Irish Times journalist:

If this happened in our parish, we’d get them by the scruff of the neck and throw them out. Look at their faces; they’re not Irishmen at all. They’re a pack of foreigners

Grille pray in  (Indo, 26 Aug 1968

Scuffles break out at the ‘Grille’ pray-in. Credit – The Irish Independent, 26 August 1968

(more…)

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