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Archive for the ‘Dublin History’ Category

Every year, we try and mark Easter Week in some way on the site. This year we’re looking at an interesting set of artifacts in honour of one often overlooked participant in the 1916 Rising that have only recently come to light. This post wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Las Fallon, whose book ‘Dublin Fire Brigade and the Irish Revolution is available here.

Members of the Irish Citizen Army, an armed trade union force, on the roof of Liberty Hall.

Members of the Irish Citizen Army, an armed trade union force, on the roof of Liberty Hall.

What became of people after the revolutionary period in Ireland? For many veterans of conflict in Ireland, a life in politics followed, with some becoming Ministers and voices inside the Dáil and the establishment, while others remained very much in opposition to the state that was born in 1922 and remained politically active. Many others went on to live a wide range of lives – actors, authors, nurses, cinema managers and more besides emerged from the ranks of those who risked everything between 1916 and 1923.

One character I’ve always found particularly interesting is Joseph Connolly. He continued doing what he was doing during the revolutionary years : fighting fires. Joe was an active member of the Dublin Fire Brigade for some time before the 1916 Rising and had even walked out of Tara Street Fire Station on Easter Monday to fight in the uprising! He continued to work in the Dublin Fire Brigade for many years after independence, and this post looks at a beautiful set of commemorative fire buckets presented to him by his comrades in the Irish Citizen Army at the time of his retirement from the Brigade in 1938. The buckets have a nice connection to Thomas Kain and Rosie Hackett, two members of the Irish Citizen Army. The new Luas bridge spanning the River Liffey has of course recently been named in honour of Rosie Hackett, the first female awarded such an honour.

Captain Joe Connolly, Chief Officer Dublin Fire Brigade,presenting the brigade with the new 'electric shockproof' helmets to replace the brass helmet worn since the 1860s. (Thanks to Las Fallon)

Captain Joe Connolly, Chief Officer Dublin Fire Brigade,presenting the brigade with the new ‘electric shockproof’ helmets to replace the brass helmet worn since the 1860s. (Thanks to Las Fallon)

Joseph Connolly was born in 1893, the son of a swing bridge operator on the docks of Dublin and the grandson of a family evicted from their small farm near Straffan in Kildare during the days of the Land War in Ireland. Joseph, listed in the 1911 census as a messenger, would join the Dublin Fire Brigade in 1915. All of his siblings also developed radical republican politics, and all of his four brothers and his sister Kathleen joined the Irish Citizen Army. His brother Sean was the first Citizen Army member and the first republican volunteer to die during the 1916, when he was shot at City Hall, while his sister Katie is visible in the famous photograph below of the Irish Citizen Army at Croydon Park. She stands between the two flag bearers at the front of the group. The names of many of the siblings appear on a monument at City Hall in honour of the garrison there during the rebellion which they participated in, while Joseph Connolly himself fought at Stephen’s Green and the Royal College of Surgeons. Connolly left the fire station he worked in to fight in the insurrection, commandeering a car and using it to carry weapons from Liberty Hall to the General Post Office, before joining his ICA comrades in the Green.

The Irish Citizen Army at Croydon Park.

The Irish Citizen Army at Croydon Park.

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All you punks and all you teds
National Front and Natti dreds
Mods, rockers, hippies and skinheads
Keep on fighting ’till you’re dead

Talking to Come Here To Me!, Garry O’Neill (editor of Dublin street fashion photography book Where Were You?) summed up the violent mood that he felt growing up in Dublin in the mid 1970s:

To me, at that time, Dublin seemed a violent place. It was a social problem that existed before the punk explosion and the skinhead/mod revivals of the late 70s. Growing up in the city centre in the mid 70s there seemed to be a very tribal and territorial element to the violence that occurred. The city’s cold and grey complexion compounded the fear of walking through certain areas where you might be visiting a new girlfriend or friend, meaning that unless you took a bus, you had to safely navigate a way out of said area and through one or two more before finally reaching your home patch, thus avoiding some of the bootboy gangs and odd individuals that seemed to exist purely to take exception to the fact that “You’re not from around here” before meeting out a well placed box or boot to send you on your way.

In regard to its Punk and local live music scene, artist Garret Phelan has signaled out Dublin as being different to other cities in the South of Ireland:

It was bonkers (in Dublin). I would be shitting my pants going to some of these gigs. I was talking to a mate of mine who grew up very much within the music scene in Cork, and he never experienced the fear factor that you would experience in going to gigs here. Going to gigs here, you took your life into your hands.

At Ireland’s first punk festival (25 June 1977) in the canteen on UCD’s Belfield campus, a young fan from Cabra was stabbed twice after a short fracas broke during the gig involving eight or nine people. He later died of his injuries in hospital in the early hours of the morning. Gavin Friday, lead singer with The Virgin Prunes, believes that it could have been ‘the first murder at a rock gig in the British Isles’.

Garry O’Neill, whose eldest brother was at the gig, recalled:

It was the first time I’d heard of violence at a gig. The only other incident I knew about was the Bay City Rollers gig at the Star Cinema in Crumlin in 1974. When into the gig went gangs of girls from all over the city, leaving their gangs of boyfriends outside to run amok amongst themselves.

As the punk scene in Dublin grew in popularity and began to attract fans from all over the city, incidents of faction fighting and recreational violence grew. Some noticeable violence occurred at the following gigs:

- 12 November 1977: The Stranglers (who didn’t show up), The Radio Stars and The Vipers in the Tivoli Theatre, Francis Street.  Original guitarist for The Vipers Ray Ellis recalled:

There was a riot going on when we arrived -  seats being ripped up (and) general mayhem. We got into it and the place went wild. While I was playing, a guy in the crowd pointed at my shoe and my lace was open … I gave him a nod and put my foot over to have him tie my lace. He grabbed my foot (and) started to pull me off the stage. The bouncers at the side curtain saw me disappearing but could not see why and thought … it was part of the act till they saw my face so they grabbed my head. There was a tug of was between them and the crowd. Happily they won and I was kept on stage and finished the set.

Ticket stub for The Stranglers gig who didn't turn up. Credit - U2earlydayz.com

Ticket stub for The Stranglers gig who didn’t turn up. Credit – U2earlydayz.com

- 12 October 1978: The Virgin Prunes were bottled off stage while supporting The Clash at the Top Hat, Dun Laoghaire. It was their second gig. Gavin Friday remembers:

We came on (with) Guggi wearing a tiny skirt and I had a plastic suit made out of raincoats, no jocks underneath, and pair of Docs. We’d only played two little gigs before that. Steve Averill from The Radiators From Space played synthesizer with us. The crowd just went apeshit. They thought Guggi was a chick. The adrenaline of all these people pogoing kicked in and I started jumping around, the next thing this plastic suit that me ma had made me split completely. I was standing there totally bollock naked, except for a pair of Doc Martins. I turned around and Guggi’s skirt had come off and you could see that he was a bloke. All hell broke loose, there were bottles flying, they were setting the curtains on fire. We were reefed off the stage by The Clash’s tour manager and fucked out the door. We had no money and had to walk with all out gear, back from Dun Laoghaire to Ballymun.

- 20 October 1978: Violence again at The Top Hat with The Jam.

- May 1979:  Black Catholics trouble at a U2 gig (supporting Patrick Fitzgerald) in the Project Arts Centre. The late great Bill Graham of Hot Press wrote at the time:

Last weekend at the Project, U2, who were supporting Patrick Fitzgerald were targets of an unprovoked assault. As our man on the move Ross Fitzsimons reports a group arrived down & began taunting the band but the verbal displeasure escalated to direct and seemingly drunken action as critics jumped on stage, threw cider about & in one instance kicked U2 bassist Adam Clayton. After two numbers, the band quit the stage & the situation became so unruly that two Gardai had to called to escort the disruptors from the premises. That was Friday night but the following evening, the vendetta continued. One troublesome patron was speedily ejected by U2 manager Paul McGuinness but after McGuinness returned to the auditorium, a bruising skirmish ensued in the foyer & outside.

Black Catholics and friends. Advance Records by Stephen's Green. Credit - Patrick Brockleband via Eamon Delaney's blog

Black Catholics and friends. Advance Records by Stephen’s Green. Credit – Patrick Brockleband via Eamon Delaney’s blog

- 17 November 1979: Trouble at the Squeeze gig in Belfield, UCD.

- 1979: Brawls at a fundraiser gig for the UCD Student Union with DC Nein and The Threat at the Student Bar in Belfield. Maurice Foley, guitarist and lead vocalist of The Threat, remembers:

I remember one time we played with DC Nien in Belfield… and there was a bit of trouble there… Whatever it was, someone from Hot Press came out to ask me about something… we had this old van that kept running out of water and all the lads were waiting to get in the back after the gig and then this car came in really close beside us and it nearly knocked a few of the lads over, they had to jump out of the way… and it pulled up outside the Students Union Bar… then they got out and they were all loud, they’d had a few drinks and the car could have been stolen ‘cos they were driving all over the grass and stuff… so our lads thought they’d go down and have a word with them in the car… so they ended up smashing all the windows in the car… some chains came out and that… so they drove off and went into the students bar and the students all came out with them and they started attacking… there wasn’t a large crowd of us either… so everybody crowded into the back of the van and we started the van to get it going, but it wouldn’t start… they all came close and started firing rocks, and the lads had to get out to chase them off again.

- December 1979: Fighting at The Members gig supported by Stiff Little Fingers in the Olympic Ballroom, Pleasant Street.

- 2 March 1980: 49 people were injured in the crowd trouble at The Boomtown Rats and The Atrix concert at Leixlip Castle.

The Boomtown Rats at Leixlip Castle. Hot Press - X 1980. Credit - Where Were You? Facebook page

The Boomtown Rats at Leixlip Castle. Hot Press – March 1980. Credit – Where Were You? Facebook page

- May 1980: Aggro at The Rezillos, The Tourists and The Epidemix gig in Liberty Hall.

- 27 July 1980: Bottle throwing at The Police gig at Leixlip Castle.

- 6 October 1980: A hammer attack at a 4″ Be 2″‘s gig in Trinity College. The band featured John Lydon’s younger brother Jimmy. Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) was arrested that evening for assault after a melee in the Horse & Tram pub in Dublin, he was sentenced to three months in jail for disorderly conduct but was eventually acquitted on appeal.

- 8 October 1980: Four people were stabbed after The Ramones gig at Grand Cinema, Quarry Road, Cabra.

- 15 January 1981: Hectic scenes at The Specials and The Beat concert at The Stardust, Artane. Gang violence between the Edenmore Dragons from Raheny and the Coolock Boot Boys marred the legendary gig.. Edna on Brand New Retro described it as a ‘ bloodbath of a gig’ while Festeron on the TheSpecials2.com forum recalled ‘The gig .. was ruined by fighting between 2 rival Dublin gangs … They used the dance floor as a battleground that night despite Terrys best efforts to make peace. “‘

- 1981: The Outcasts gig in McGonagles saw the bar being raided by punters and fighting occurring inside and outside the gig.
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When we think of the years of misery that we now know as ‘The Great Hunger’ from 1845 onwards, it is not necessarily Dublin we think of instantly but rather the impoverished and miserable west of the country, where death and emigration were both at their highest levels. Dublin has its own famine stories to tell however, and one of few places on the island of Ireland where the population increased, as the starving masses flocked into urban areas in search of employment and food.

One of the most interesting little stories involving Dublin and the famine is that of ‘Soyer’s soup kitchen’, a temporary structure erected at Croppies Acre for the purpose of feeding the starving masses of the city. My interest in this story was sparked by an Illustrated London News illustration from April 1847, showing a showpiece soup kitchen that was opened in Dublin by a famed French chef, in an attempt at providing much-needed relief to the suffering Irish people.

The Illustrated London News, 17 April 1847. (Digitised by http://multitext.ucc.ie/)

The Illustrated London News, 17 April 1847. (Digitised by http://multitext.ucc.ie/)

Alexis Soyer, born in 1809, was a high-profile French chef, indeed it has been argued he was among the first ‘celebrity chefs’. In The Great Famine and the Irish Diaspora in America, Jillian Strang and Joyce Toomre note that “was an “affable and eccentric chef with a strong sense of showmanship and a flair for publicity. Soyer loved to dazzle, and to do the seeming impossible.” As chef of the Reform Club in London from 1837, Soyer’s food would have been enjoyed by members of the political class in Britain, though he was greatly moved by the reported suffering of the Irish starving workers and peasantry, and was approached by authorities with the aim of establishing a model soup kitchen in Dublin. Soyer had written to the press in England on the question of the misery in Ireland and what response should be taken to it. Soyer sent recipes to the press which he believed were sufficient to provide nutritional value for those in dire need. Below is one recipe which was published in The Times:

A recipe sent by Soyer to The Times newspaper in 1847.

A recipe sent by Soyer to The Times newspaper in 1847.

Soyer was capable of making up to 100 gallons of soup for under £1, a remarkable achievement, though the soup itself was often derided in the press, with some contemporary commentators noting it was not so much soup for the poor man as it was just poor soup.Regardless, Soyer was warmly welcomed in the Dublin of 1847,and within weeks a temporary structure was erected in front of the Royal Barracks for the task of feeding the masses. A wooden structure, described in contemporary reports as being about forty feet in length, and thirty feet in breadth, the spoons within the structure were bound by chains to the bowls and tables, to provide them from being stolen. Frank Hopkins has noted that:

The poor were admitted to the hall in shifts of 100 at a time by the ringing of a bell. When they had finished the soup, they were handed a piece of bread and left by the second door. The bowls were then cleaned and the next batch of people were summoned, again by bell.

The Lord Mayor and the Lord Lieutenant were among those to attend the opening of the soup kitchen, though a hugely controversial feature of the site was manner in which the elite of Dublin were charged to observe the spectacle, with historian Mike Cronin noting that one contemporary newspaper found this so ethically dubious they compared it with a day out at Dublin Zoo. The Freeman’s Journal had little good to say of the event, noting that “of all the impudent and insulting humbugs that ever were perpetrated against a suffering people, we hold the exhibition of yesterday, at the Royal Barracks, to have been the most outrageous.” The newspapers condemnation of Soyer’s experiment was straight to the point:

Five shillings each to see paupers feed!—five shillings each to watch the burning blush of shame chasing pallidness from poverty’s wan cheek!—five shillings each! when the animals at the Zoological Gardens may be inspected at feeding time for sixpence! We hope that, as these “five shillings each” were to be given in charity, the poor unfortunates who earned them with scalding tears and bitter humiliation and galling shame were not forgotten; and that on this occasion they were presented, when the performance was over, with something more than a “fine cake”!

A contemporary illustration of Soyer.

A contemporary illustration of Soyer.

The kitchen served thousands of people on a daily basis during its short existence in 1847, with most accounts suggesting as many as 5,000 people a day were fed. While the health benefits of the soup was questioned, it remains one of the most interesting chapters in the very dark story of Ireland’s famine years. One nineteenth century source gives an interesting account of the reception Soyer received on returning home, though in retrospect perhaps a lavish gentleman’s dinner was not the most fitting of tributes in the context of the times. “On Soyer’s return from Dublin, another public dinner was given to him at the London Tavern, to commemorate his philanthropic….efforts for the relief of the starving Irish. More than 150 gentlemen sat down….It was a most fitting ovation to the unbought talents of the chef.”

Soyer died in 1858, and the Frenchman was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery in London. You can learn more about him here.

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One of the most destructive fires in the history of the city occurred on 18 June 1875, when a disastrous fire in the Liberties area of the city saw burning whiskey flow through the streets of the area like lava. A malt house and a bonded warehouse went up in flames, leaving the burning liquid to flow down Ardee Street and Mill Street. The fire began just after 8pm, and contemporary news reports give an idea of just how much burning booze was involved, with the Illustrated London News reporting:

The fire was at Reid’s malt-house and Malone’s bonded warehouse, in the Liberties. The former had above £2000 worth of malt in it, and the latter, which immediately adjoins it, had 1800 puncheons of whisky, the property of various distillers, and worth £54,000.

The Illustrated London News reports the blaze. (Image digitised by South Dublin County Libraries, http://source.southdublinlibraries.ie/handle/10599/11048)

The Illustrated London News reports the blaze. (Image digitised by South Dublin County Libraries, http://source.southdublinlibraries.ie/handle/10599/11048)

The lava proved devastating to all in its path, at one point seeming to endanger both the Coombe Maternity Hospital and the Carmelite convent in Ormond Street. The wind blew the flames in the opposite direction from the convent, which was hailed by some as a miracle, though the fact many tenement homes were destroyed instead leaves any ‘miracle’ in doubt! In their history of firefighting in Dublin, Tom Geraghty and Trevor Whitehead recounted that the fire wreaked particular havoc on Chamber Street, with a pubic house disappearing in flames, while at another home on the street a wake was in progress, and “the occupants were forced to flee with the corpse to mourn elsewhere, while the home of the bereaved and their belongings were totally destroyed.”

A particular problem in this area of working class Dublin was the presence of quite a lot of animals. At the time animals were frequently to be found kept at the rear of tenement buildings, while horses were still utilised as a widespread form of transport in the city. The presence of confused animals running up and down the streets of the Liberties only added to the pandemonium of the situation, and when a tannery went up in flames the smoke and smell must have been overbearing. Luckily, the Watkins Brewery at Ardee Street somehow avoided both the flames and the flowing lava, though it goes without saying a brewery going up would have compounded an awful situation.

The Dublin Fire Brigade did arrive on the scene, under the stewardship of James Robert Ingram, the first Chief Officer of the brigade. We’ve featured Ingram on the site before. Amazingly given his contribution to public service in Dublin, and the fact the Fire Brigade he established is now over 150 years old, he is buried in an unmarked grave in Mount Jerome Cemetery. Ingram was something of a maverick – a Dubliner by birth, he had learned his trade in the New York Fire Department, and modeled his fledgling Dublin fire service on that of Manhattan, initially christening it the Dublin Fire Department and decking his men out in red shirted uniforms. On one occasion he 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, so it’s far to say Ingram was never bound by the restraints of conventional firefighting!
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Front cover of Look Left, Issue 18.

Front cover of Look Left, Issue 18.

Issue 18 of Look Left is available now for €2 in Easons and other newsagents. I genuinely think this is the best issue in the last while.

Highlights:

The interview with Des O’Hagan, founding member of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and the Workers Party, was fascinating. Involved in politics for over six decades, he talked about his family’s links to James Connolly, his spell in Crumlin Road Jail in the 1950s and the time he was told by the American consultate in Belfast that “No matter how long you live, no matter what changes take place in the United States, you will never get into America. You’re a communist”.

Historian Brian Hanley’s four-page piece on the the politics and commemoration of World War 1 hits the nail on the head on and is a welcome addition to current articles on the topic. Luke Fallon’s distressing illustration of the trenches helps to bring the piece to life.

The fascinating story of English footballer Robin Friday is told to Look Left’s Barry Healy by music journalist Paolo Hewitt. Friday, who only played top flight played professional football for three years, was known for his heavy smoking, drinking, womanising and drug-taking but scored goals for Reading that “are still considered amongst the best in English football”.

Yours truly has another piece looking at music and politics, this issue focuses on Paul Heaton of The Housemartins and The Beautiful South fame.

Folk musician Andy Irvine is interviewed and talks about his time in London in the late 1950s, travels to Eastern Europe in 1968 and his current work with the Musicians Union of Ireland.

[Andy Irvine's ballad about the 'Sydney Twelve' - members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in Australia who were arrested and charged with treason for their active opposition to conscription during the First World War. Jim Larkin's brother Peter and Thomas Glynn from Galway were two of those involved. The group were released after spending four years in jail.]

Last but not least Kevin Brannigan investigates the current threat to Dalymount Park in Phibsboro (“Dublin’s most historic football ground”) and how legislation in England and Wales has helped to save significant football stadiums from the developer’s wrecking ball.

Other pieces include:

Who Watches the Watchmen: The Gardai, drugs and the working class by Francis Devine
A Tribute to RMT leader Bob Crow by Sean Garland
Where is progressive unionism? by Rev. Chris Hudson
Short impressionistic view of a recent trip to Cuba by Vivian Cullen

Issues 2 - 18 of LookLeft. Credit - Sam (CHTM!).

Issues 2 – 18 of LookLeft. Credit – Sam (CHTM!).

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This month marks the centenary of Cumann na mBán being founded in Dublin, and there has been much talk about the role of women in Irish political history. While Cumann na mBán was a nationalist organisation focused on providing practical support to the male Irish Volunteers, many other women were also active in politics a century ago, ranging from trade unionism to suffrage campaigns seeking the vote. This brief post looks at some examples of militant opposition to suffragists on the streets of the capital, and while it’s not a subject I’ve a great familiarity with I found all of these little stories interesting and worth sharing.

Francis Sheehy Skeffington, who refereed to the Catholic Ancient Order of Hibernians as the "Anicent Order of Hooligans".

Francis Sheehy Skeffington, who refereed to the Catholic Ancient Order of Hibernians as the “Anicent Order of Hooligans”.

The ‘Ancient Order of Hooligans’ in the Phoenix Park, August 1912.

In early August 1912, a huge crowd assembled in the Phoenix Park to hear a number of male and female speakers discuss the need for votes for Irish women. The Irish Times commented that “uproar and considerable interruption were a leading feature” of the event, with the paper noting that “several attempts were made to rush the platform”.

Vigorous hissing, booing and groaning greeted the speakers at almost every stage of the proceedings, which were opened by the police taking the precaution of forming a wide space between the mob and the position taken up by the suffragists.

One of those to speak was Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, a prominent figure in Dublin at the time, “who was accorded a very hostile reception, which he appeared to regard with considerable satisfaction.” Skeffington caused pandemonium by addressing the crowd as “Ladies, Gentlemen and members of the Ancient Order of Hooligans”, a reference to the conservative Catholic Ancient Order of Hibernians. Despite the fact missiles were thrown at the stage on this particular occasion, the speakers succeeded in leaving the park in safety, vowing to return at a later date.

The Phoenix Park was a regular spot for political demonstrations at this period in Irish history. Only weeks after the above rally was disrupted, another pro-suffrage rally in the park encountered similar hostility. On that occasion, prominent Dublin Jew Joe Edelstein spoke of his belief in the right of women to vote, asking the crowd “whether they were the people who gave to Ireland Wolfe Tone, Robert Emmet, Michael Davitt etc, who were now going to condemn their own sisters, their mothers and their daughters.” Edelstein’s appeals to the crowd, much like Skeffington’s, went down like a lead balloon. Edelstein appears in the newspapers the following month at a suffrage meeting once more, though on that occasion openly hostile to the movement! At a meeting in September 1912, Edelstein drew loud boos from women by asking if “the Irish people should subjugate the great important question of Home Rule to a petty movement like theirs.”

The Women’s Anti-Suffrage League.

Not all women who involved themselves in suffrage politics were seeking the vote. Some were quite opposed to the very idea. One such organisation was the Women’s Anti-Suffrage League, who attracted considerable attention in the media. Detailed reports of the Annual General Meeting of this body appeared in the Irish media in March 1912, where the following motion was carried:

That we, as women, appeal to the women of Ireland to express their profound disapproval of the late exhibition of lawlessness by militant suffragists, and to condemn such action as fatally injurious to the best interests of their sex.

One woman noted that it was with feelings of “indignation, mortification and shame” that many of them had read of the actions of militant female activists. The first references to this body being established in Dublin appeared in the media in February 1909, and the League seem to have brought a number of figures from the anti-suffrage movement in Britain to Dublin on public speaking engagements. Elizabeth Crawford has noted that in the years prior to the First World War the chairperson of the Anti Suffrage League in Dublin was a Mrs. Bernard, who was also the wife of the Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

A poster from the League for Opposing Woman Suffrage (UK)

A poster from the League for Opposing Woman Suffrage (UK)

Chased down the street and onto a tram, August 1912.

On 8 August 1912, the following brief report appeared in The Irish Times:

When passing through Henry Street yesterday afternoon…a young woman, whom the crowd regarded as a suffragist was attacked, and a noisy scene followed. She was pursued in the direction of Nelson Pillar, where the police intervened, and saved her from the mob by getting her into a tramcar which was going in the direction of Dalkey. A good deal of excitement was caused, and as the tramcar moved off, a large section of the crowd gave chase…giving vent to their feelings as they ran along.

Trinity College Dublin students goading suffragists, 1914.

Previously on the blog, we’ve looked at the phenomenon of Trinity Monday in the early twentieth century, a day when new Scholars were announced on-campus and Trinity students tended to run amuck around Dublin. Shortly after midday on Trinity Monday in 1914,there were unexpected visitors at the offices of the Women’s Social and Political Union on Clare Street. The Irish Independent reported that “a large number of students arrived here” and that “a number of them bundled papers and banners together and threw them out of the window to a cheering crowd outside.” Not content with this, a political flag belonging to the movement was stolen, which was later carried triumphantly from the building. The students made for the Mansion House, and rushed the building as a delivery was taking place. The Irish Times reported that:

On a landing they found the municipal flag, which owing to the absence of the Lord Mayor from the city was not hoisted on the pole on the house-top. The students tore up the flag, and hoisted the ‘Suffragette’ flag upon the flagpole. For an hour this floated over the Mansion House.

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Only last week I attended a very interesting meeting in The Cobblestone pub, organised by the Stoneybatter and Smithfield People’s History Project. The historian Liz Gillis spoke about the bombardment of the Four Courts in June 1922, when Free State forces shelled the historic building in an attempt to defeat republican forces who had occupied it. The entire event remains incredibly controversial, as the Public Records Office went up in smoke, damaging priceless Irish historic archival materials.

An iconic image of the Four Courts ablaze.

An iconic image of the Four Courts ablaze.

In the aftermath of the destruction, it was noticed that it wasn’t only archival historical material that had gone missing in the fight. The ceremonial Lord Chancellor’s Mace vanished from the premises, but was recovered within a fortnight, buried under the floorboards of a nearby tenement!

The mace photographed in The Irish Times.

The mace photographed in The Irish Times.

On 12 July 1922, the Freeman’s Journal reported:

A remarkable story of the disappearance of the Lord Chancellor’s mace from the Four Courts was told at the North City Parish Court yesterday, where William Holland, of 8 Arran Quay, was charged with having stolen the article on June 30. The value of the mace was given as £500 on the chargesheet, and it was described as the property of Saorstat na hÉireann.

The paper note that “by some mysterious means” the mace had found its way not only to 8 Arran Quay, but to below the floorboards of 8 Arran Quay! Holland alleged that”he received the mace from an officer of the National Army, who asked him to take care of it until such time as the trouble would have ended, and that after a couple of days the officer along with others returned and told the prisoner he mght keep the article as a souvenir.” The media noted that according to a leading member of the legal profession, the mace “was made in the city about 1773.” Evidence was provided in court that two members of the Free State forces had brought the mace with them while dining in the Four Courts Restaurant, over which Holland lived, and that the mace had not been seen since that time. It was alleged by several members of the Free State forces in court that Holland had stolen the mace, rather than being given it as any sort of souvenir. One woman who lived in the vicinity, Miss Mary Keating, alleged that Holland had told her he expected there would be a large reward, perhaps £1,000, for the return of the mace, but she did not take his talk seriously at the time.

Curiously, while Holland was charged before the courts, the trail in the mainstream press seems to go cold, and I’m unable to figure out just what punishment was handed down, if he was found guilty. Regardless, the mace has the privilege of being a rare historic item that wasn’t lost to the bombardment of the Four Courts.

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Firstly, my apologies for being quite inactive on here of late. There’s quite a lot going on at the moment, some of which I’ll say more about here in future, but all exciting none the less.

50_anit_nuc

Starting tomorrow, I will be doing a weekly tour of St. Stephen’s Green. The park, and not the shopping centre. The tours run every Saturday and Sunday at 11.30am from The Little Museum of Dublin, and I will be delivering the Saturday tour each week. It’s incredible to think it’s taken so long for a tour specific to the Green to emerge in Dublin, and this is the brainchild of the Little Museum of Dublin, the museum of twentieth century Dublin that sits right alongside the park.

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The Sunday tours will be conducted at the same time by Ronan Sheehan, who produced one of our favourite books about the city, ‘The Heart of the City’, which we’ve featured on the site before here.

The admission cost to the Museum covers the tour, so that’s €7 for adults but less for students and U18′s. My tours will cover, among other things, the history of ownership of the park, the various monuments within it, the relationship between the park and local residents through the ages and the revolutionary history of the Green. I look forward to meeting some of you over the coming weeks and months.

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Over the weekend I was asked by thejournal.ie to pen a piece on the passing Shane MacThomais. I’m reposting it here as all references to Shane’s passing from Come Here To Me have been made elsewhere, on our Facebook page. For the historical record I wish to mark his passing here on the actual website. The three of us at Come Here To Me extend our deepest sympathies to Shane’s family and many friends.


Bohemian F.C and Shamrock Rovers players join in a minutes applause for Shane MacThomais, a regular at Dalymount Park (Image: Paul Reynolds)

Bohemian F.C and Shamrock Rovers players join in a minutes applause for Shane MacThomais, a regular at Dalymount Park (Image: Paul Reynolds)


FEW FINAL RESTING places in Ireland command the respect of the round tower tomb of Daniel O’Connell. Forever immortalised in Irish school books as ‘The Liberator’, O’Connell is just one of the one-and-a-half million people whose mortal remains rest in what is officially known as Prospect Cemetery. The story of Ireland can be told by walking the grounds of this amazing place.

There is the tragic young Sean Healy, a 15-year-old rebel who perished in the rebellion of 1916, gunned down on a Phibsboro street corner. There are ‘characters’ of centuries past like Michael J Moran, or Zozimus as he was known, the blind bard of nineteenth century Dublin who captivated Dubliners with song. There are shocking reminders of the wrongs of Irish society in recent times too, with many victims of the Magdalene Laundry system to be found within the cemetery. Shane MacThomais understood that each and every human being buried within the walls of the cemetery he loved so passionately had a story, and his ultimate ambition was to tell as many of those stories as he could.

I had the good fortune of encountering this ambition of Shane MacThomais first-hand. My great-grandfather was one of the tens of thousands of Irishmen who would die as a result of the First World War, though lacking a heroic ‘over the front’ battlefield death and the Commonwealth Graves headstone that might come with it, rather dying months later in the Richmond Hospital in Dublin. A working class statistic of the most horrific war in human history, MacThomais was able to help my family locate the paupers’ grave in which he now rests. It may have been far from a round tower, but to my mother it was a spot to stand and pay homage to a man she had heard so much about, and an emotional experience. This was only one part of Shane MacThomais’ job, but all who knew him knew it was an important part to him.

In all the time I was fortunate to know Shane, he was a tireless champion of the underdog in Irish history. Only last year he passionately argued for Dublin’s newest bridge to be named after a woman, Rosie Hackett, arguing that “all too often the role of Irish women is forgotten in our history books.” There has often been much else missing in our history books in Ireland, such as the victims of tragedies like tenement collapses and tuberculosis outbreaks.

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Thomas ‘Tommy’ Wood (1919-1936), aged just seventeen, was the youngest Irish volunteer to fight and die with the International Brigades. A Dubliner from a staunch Republican family, he left for Spain with Frank Ryan on 11th December 1936 and was mortally wounded just eighteen days later at the Battle of Cordoba.

Wood (often misspelt as Woods) joined Na Fianna Eireann at the age of seven and was later active with B Coy, 2nd Battalion, Dublin Brigade IRA. Before leaving, he wrote a letter to his mother:

I am very sorry for not telling you where I was going. I am going to Spain to fight with the International Column. Please forgive me for not letting you know. I got my wages in the Gas. Co. alright. I left a message to be delivered on Sunday. We are going out to fight for the working class. It is not a religious war, that is all propaganda. God Bless you.

He lived with his parents John C. Wood and Sarah Ann Wood (nee Doyle)  at 16 Buckingham Place just off Amiens Street with siblings Sean (who died in a workplace accident in 1938), Patrick, Donald, Seamus, Ellis, Kathleen and Frances.

Wedding photo of Sarah Doyle and John Woods, 1915. Credit - ailishm49

Wedding photo of Tommy’s parents Sarah Doyle and John Woods, 1915. Credit – ailishm49

During intense fighting at the Battle of Cordoba, which saw eight Irish anti-Fascists killed, Wood was shot in the knee and then in the head. Frank Ryan wrote to his parents:

He was wounded on the Cordoba Front on December 29 last. I was talking to two comrades who brought him to the dressing station. He was hit above the left knee and then as they were bringing him in, he and one of his comrades was hit again. This time the bullet hit Tommy in the head, but the two lads with him thought it was only a graze as he was conscious all the time. He was brought to Andujar Hospital and the first report from there was very favourable, then we could get no more news of him. It is only now that we have found out why.

Ryan went onto say that name of Woods was confused originally with that of Wools, a Dutch comrade who was also in the hospital. His letter continued:

His comrades here wish to be associated in rendering you their sympathy. Tommy was universally liked during the time he was with us here. I want to emphasise that his life was given in a great cause. He did not come looking for adventures nor for reward. He believed in the cause for which the people of Spain, helped by men such as himself, are fighting. He has given his life not only for the freedom of the people of Spain, but of the whole human race and he will be remembered and honoured equally with those who gave their lives for freedom in Ireland.

On 13th January 1937, the Irish Independent reported:

News has reached Dublin that natives of Dublin serving with the Reds at Albacete – T. Woods (aged 17 years), of Buckingham Place, is suffering from shell shock, and C. Gough, of Cabra, is in hospital with a neck wound. Both casualties were sustained in an air raid on Albacete.

Buried in Corboda, Tommy’s name is inscriped on the grave of his parents Sarah and John Wood and brother Sean in Glasnevin Cemetery:

Wood family grave. Credit - ailishm49.

Wood family grave. Credit – ailishm49.

The Irish Press (29 Oct 1941) reported on the death of Sarah Woods (nee Doyle):

Sarah Woods - Irish Press (29 Oct 1941)

Sarah Wood – Irish Press (29 Oct 1941)

Tommy was immortalised in Christy Moore’s ‘Viva La Quinte Brigada’:

Tommy Wood age seventeen died in Cordoba
With Na Fianna he learned to hold his gun
From Dublin to the Villa del Rio
He fought and died beneath the Spanish sun.

Two of Tommy Wood’s uncles were killed during the War of Independence.

Patrick ‘Paddy’ Doyle (29), of 1 St. Mary’s Place, a carpenter married with four children was hanged in Mountjoy Jail on 14th March 1921. Active with ‘F’ Company, 1st Battalion, Dublin Brigade IRA, he was arrested and charged with high treason and levying war against the King for his part in an attempted ambush at Drumcondra on 21st January.

Letter from Patrick Doyle to his sisters a few days before his execution. Credit - ailishm49.

Letter from Patrick Doyle to his sisters a few days before his execution. Credit – ailishm49.

Six weeks after his execution, his brother Seán ‘Jimmy’ Doyle was killed during the IRA’s attack on the Custom House on 25th May 1921. During an attempt to escape, he was cut down by a British Army machine gun and died of his wounds in the Mater Hospital. Doyle had been active with Michael Collin’s squad. Oscar Traynor (BMH WS 340) wrote of his last hours:

As he lay on his deathbed (the nuns) said his one worry was, “Are the boys beaten?”, and that night as the sound of nearby explosions shook the air, Sean’s face, wreathed in smiles, turned to the Nun who was attending him, and he feeble whispered, “Thank God, Sister, the fight goes on”.

If anyone has a photograph or any further information on Tommy Wood, please get in touch.

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A ticket for Christy Moore in Ballyfermot once upon a time, a find which sparked my interest in interviewing Christy about his recollections on Dublin.

A ticket for Christy Moore in Ballyfermot once upon a time, a find which sparked my interest in interviewing Christy about his recollections on Dublin.

One of the joys of Come Here To Me to date has been interviewing people who we feel have made a real contribution to this city and its culture. We had the honour of publishing an interview with the late Philip Chevron of The Pogues and the Radiators of Space, and we’ve also discussed the city with people as diverse as the street artist Maser and inner-city historian Terry Fagan.

For us, these interviews are a means of collecting important social history from people who have proactively engaged with Dublin and who have stories to tell about the city and its people. For a long time now, I have wanted to interview Christy Moore, someone who has been a constant presence on the music circuit of the capital since releasing his first album under the stewardship of Dominic Behan in 1969. A veteran of iconic acts Planxty and Moving Hearts, Christy has also been an active campaigner in Irish political life for decades, standing beside and a wide range of causes in Irish life, ranging from the anti-nuclear movement of the 1970s to the anti-drugs movement that emerged in working class Dublin thirty years ago.

Christy agreed to answer a wide variety of questions on his relationship with this city through the ages, ranging from the great venues of Dublin’s past to his encounters with people such as Seamus Ennis and Liam Weldon who are institutions in the traditional music heritage of Dublin. I hope readers enjoy it. I’ve followed the format of previous interviews here, with question in bold.

Before you we’ve spoken to Philip Chevron from Santry and Paul Cleary from Ringsend about their memories of Dublin in the decades that have passed, as a young lad from Kildare did you have much engagement with Dublin city growing up?

My earliest memories of coming to Dublin are back to the early 50s. Then I spent a lot of time with my grandparents Jack and Ellie Power who lived at Back-Weston near Lucan. Jack loved the old cowboy movies. We would go to The Carlton,The Savoy,The Metropole or to any of the fine cinemas that festooned the city centre. Back then cars could be parked on O’Connell St right outside a cinema. I recall the picture house queues, the excitement. I remember one singing busker who moved down the queue. Also a street photographer who was always snapping near The Pillar.I remember going to the Theatre Royal in Hawkins St, hearing the magic organ and seeing the Royalettes high kicking before the big picture. We always stopped on the way home at Pacitti’s Ice Cream parlour on Parkgate Street .There I had a young boy’s blushful crush on one of Mr Pacitti’s daughters. Later Jack would pull into the Ball Alley House in Lucan or The Dead-Man-Murrays in Palmerstown for a few swift pints.

My first visit to Croke Park was around this time too. The excitement of that is still palpable. The paper hats and rosettes, the Artane Boys Band, The Hawkers ( “anyone for the last few choc ices”). My grandfather was a proud Meath man. If The Royal County were playing The Dubs the pressure would mount. I remember seeing Snitchy Ferguson, Kevin Heffernan and Ollie Freaney playing for Dublin. Croke Park was an awesome spectacle for a young country lad. We always went there on Patrick’s Day to see The Railway Cup Finals. Back then those Inter-Provincial games were second only to All-Ireland Finals in terms of importance and crowd numbers.

Before he died in 1956 my father took me once to Lansdowne Road to a Rugby International. I remember seeing Gordon Woods and Tony O’Reilly play for Ireland against Wales when I was 10 years old. The atmosphere was quite different at Lansdowne Rd.You’d not find too many hip flasks nor rugs in The Cusack Stand.

Recently a box in our family attic unearthed a ticket for a Christy Moore gig in Ballyfermot from the early 80s, organised by the local folk society. Does Ballyfermot bring back any memories? I know you played there a bit, and the brilliant talent that was Liam Weldon was from there, while one of the most powerful images in your book One Voice comes from that suburb, from the day Bobby Sands passed away.

I recall a number of gigs in Ballyer. The one you mention and another one run by my sister Eilish in the Community Centre, I also recall one in The Cinema but my recall is a bit hazy on these. I well remember visiting The Keenan Family when we played together for a TV programme in The Abbey Tavern, Howth circa 1979. I also visited the home of Liam and Nellie Weldon to swap songs with Liam. Back in the early days of Ballyfermot Rock School I did a workshop and small gig there. One of the students that day was Damien Dempsey. I can still see the lovely wild head on that young fella.

A candid shot of a member of the Special Branch stopping Christy Moore in Ballyfermot, which recently picked up huge traction online, with thousands of likes on a variety of Facebook pages. The image was published in 'One Voice: My Life In Song'

A candid shot of a member of the Special Branch stopping Christy Moore in Ballyfermot. This image recently picked up huge traction and interest online. The image was published in ‘One Voice: My Life In Song’

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War can bring out the worst in people, and not only those on the front-lines of battle. In 1914 there were a number of attacks in Dublin carried out against businesses owned by German nationals, with particular attention being paid to pork butchers in the city. Much of this violence occurred on a single night, with a number of premises attacked in Dublin on 15 August 1914.

The violence was detailed in contemporary newspaper reports, with the Irish Independent reporting that “German pork shops on the south side of Dublin city had a rough time on Saturday night. Between 11 and 11.30 Lang’s shop in Wexford Street was wrecked. A jeering crowd of youths, it appears, had become aggressive towards the manager.” According to the newspaper, “everything breakable in the place was smashed, and the shop left a wreck.” The paper condemned the violence, stating that “the mob, never a wise arbitrator” had no authority to carry out such actions. The poet Padraic Colum asked, in a letter to the Irish Independent, “what have these defenceless traders done to the citizens of Dublin that their means and substance should be destroyed? What has Germany done to Ireland that she should be insulted by mean attacks?”

A popular recruitment poster from WWI asking Irishmen if their home was worth fighting for, and showing German soldiers entering a home.

A popular recruitment poster from WWI asking Irishmen if their home was worth fighting for, and showing German soldiers entering a home.

While there was considerable damage done to Lang’s premises, it was not the only one to be greatly damaged in the heat of the moment. Newspapers noted that George Retz’ butchers on the South Circular Road and Morton’s tobacconist on the same road were also attacked. It was reported that a sum of £20 was taken from the till of Reitz’ premises, while £14 was taken from the till of Lang’s premises.

In October it was reported that Lang was seeking compensation via a sitting of the City Sessions for the damage done to his premises, which was estimated to be just over £117. It was noted that he had lived in the country for twenty-three years, had married an Irish woman and had children here, yet amazingly it was argued on behalf of the Corporation that “the applicant was an alien enemy, and therefore not entitled to sue in their courts while a state of war existed between Great Britain and Germany.” Reitz also sought compensation from the authorities, to the sum of £223, and detailed that he had lived in Britain for the past twenty-six years and was not eligible for German military service. The Independent report noted that “his Lordship during the discussion said very few Englishmen had been allowed to do business in Germany. If these claimants had any right to sue, it was suspended during the war.”

Manus O’Riordan has noted that that among those to condemn the outrage outright was The Irish Worker newspaper, which accused the mob of “German baiting” and the authorities of turning a blind eye, noting that the DMP had arrested Reitz himself. The paper claimed that it was the “sport” of Redmondites, and also made it clear that if the homes and businesses of Germans were to be attacked again, “an appeal to the men of the Transport Union and the Citizen Army to act as a guard for their houses would not fail to produce good results.”

Highlighting the moronic and politically clueless nature of the attack on Lang’s premises was a report in newspapers on 20 October of that same year, detailing the fact his son Frederick Lang, aged 16, had died in the war effort in the service of British forces. His other son, Augustine, also served in the war effort with the Royal Marines at Antwerp.

Report detailing the death of Lang's son.

Report detailing the death of Lang’s son.

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