Frequently we draw upon the work of historians much longer in the field, and the work of Terry Fagan and the North Inner City Folklore Project has appeared on this site on several occasions. We have had reports from the 2011 (Patrick Heeny) and 2010 (Connolly Siblings and Molly O’Reilly) North Inner City Folklore Project Easter commemorations, and in the past we’ve drawn upon Terry’s research on a range of topics from Monto to women in the republican movement. The beauty of Terry’s work is the fact he is a local, raised in the Corporation Buildings. People are always more willing to talk to their own. Terry is refreshingly dismissive of the nonsense one often hears that “we were poor but we were happy”, and rather the Folklore Project focuses on telling Dublin’s history from a working class perspective, warts and all.
I’d long wanted to sit down with Terry Fagan and talk about the complex history of the north inner city, but not limit ourselves to one specific subject. I met him at the small flat which has become a sort of HQ for the project in the heart of the community in which he grew up, and talk for well over an hour on the history of the local area. When walking through the area with Terry, we constantly passed people who know him and acknowledge him, the area is not only his historical area of expertise but also very dear to him.
If you listen to this interview, which I feel confident in saying will appeal to many of you regardless of whether or not history is the main draw for you to the site, you’ll hear a whole range of topics discussed. The tragic history of prostitution in Dublin’s inner-city (over 1,600 women worked in brothels in the city at one point), the history of youth criminality and gang culture, the forgotten history of women in the area, the role of the Legion of Mary in changing Monto and the revolutionary period were all discussed.
In this interview there are stories as diverse as Maud Gonne and the Countess visiting the north inner-city tenements at the time of the Lockout to stories of the ‘Solemn Blessing of Monto’ by the Catholic Church and Frank Duff. There are stories which show the failures of both church and state in this area historically, but there’s also stories of hope. Stories of how a working class community decided to mark and honour it’s own history. There are huge personalities who shine through in this interview, like Lugs Branigan and Jim Larkin, but there’s also stories of the community as a whole.
I had some technical issues at the very beginning, but this opens with Terry answering my first question, which is what it was like growing up in the Corporation Buildings. He began by talking about those buildings, his school days at the ‘Red Brick Slaughterhouse’ and more besides. The interview below is one hour and twenty minutes long, put the kettle on and enjoy.