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This week, my ‘Hidden Histories’ slot on Newstalk Breakfast looked at the history of the Irish and tattoos. The last item on the show, time was tight but we covered quite a bit and I thought the slot worth sharing here. It was a chance to draw attention to the great research of Damian Shiels on the Irish in the American Civil War,  and I particularly enjoyed digging into the archives to look at some of the coverage of Dublin’s first professional tattooist,  Johnny Eagle, from Irish newspapers in decades long past.

John Larkin (1929-2015) was better known to generations of Dubliners as as Johnny Eagle. Born at the tail end of the 1920s, he opened his first studio at Frenchman’s Lane near Busaras, though in the years that followed he moved around the city (indeed, the name can still be seen at the top of Capel Street). When Michael Vincy of The Irish Times interviewed him in 1962, he wrote that “there are some 200 tattooists in Britain,one in Ulster, and Johnny as far as he knows has the Republic to himself.”  His obituary in the same newspaper last year noted that Larkin’s neighbours once believed he drove a van for a living. Certainly, Dublin today is a more inked city than in the early days of Johnny Eagle.

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1962 feature on visiting Johnny Eagle’s tattoo shop.

 

 

Croppies’ Acre reopens.

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Foundation stone of the Wolfe Tone Memorial, first unveiled at Stephen’s Green in 1898. Now on display at the Croppies’ Acre.

The reopening of the Croppies’ Acre memorial in recent weeks is a great development, returning to the public a space that was much neglected in recent years.

Dublin City Council have taken control of the management of the park, and one of the final acts of the excellent Ardmhéara Críona Ní Dhálaigh was cutting the ribbon. In recent years, the site became totally synonymous with anti-social behaviour, and for that reason it has been largely behind lock and key. Our own Luke Fallon jumped the wall for a look at the state of things in October 2013, and was shocked by the sight of used needles and more besides. In recent weeks, the sight of people in and out of the park has been great to see, as it is only through people using the park that the issues that plagued it in the past will vanish with time.

One feature of the park that can easily be missed is the foundation stone of the Wolfe Tone Memorial, first unveiled at St. Stephen’s Green in 1898 during the centenary commemorations of the United Irish rebellion, and photographed above. On that occasion, the veteran Fenian leader John O’Leary was given the honours, telling the huge crowd that “Tone’s failure is grander than many a success, for he fell gloriously in a great attempt.” Symbolically, the foundation stone came from Cave Hill in Belfast, the birthplace of the United Irish movement. The Fusiliers’ Arch memorial now stands in the location where Tone’s monument was envisioned, though Edward Delaney’s excellent 1964 tribute to Wolfe Tone eventually ensured the revolutionary leader was commemorated nearby.

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The veteran Fenian John O’Leary, who unveiled the Wolfe Tone foundation stone in 1898.

The Croppies’ Acre memorial as is stands today dates largely to the bicentenary of the United Irish uprising in 1998. The memorial includes the beautiful words of Seamus Heaney’s Requiem for the Croppies, as well as words in French, Irish and English that encapsulate the radical vision of the United Irishmen. A movement in the spirit of the storming of the Bastille and the great Tom Paine’s Rights of Man, they were the Irish embodiment of an ‘Age of Revolution’.

This year has witnessed an enormous emphasis on commemoration and places of memory in Dublin, yet we should remember that the Republicanism and radicalism of those who rose in 1916 owed much to the inspiration of earlier generations. Be sure to visit the park, and may it remain open to the public for many years to come.

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(Image credit: Luke Fallon)

 

 

 

Rabble Nua.

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Illustration for Rabble 12 (Thanks to Luke Fallon)

Our friends at Rabble have made it to Issue 12, an enormous achievement for any publication. Given that Rabble remains free, it is all the more impressive. As ever, the latest issue is a mix of culture, politics, acting-the-bollocks and more besides.

Particular highlights include an interview with investigative journalist Gemma O’Doherty, a look at the recent documentary Atlantic,and a feature on how creative spaces have been priced out of Stoneybatter and Smithfield in recent times by the new rental realities.

I am still occupying Page 5 of each issue, named Fallon’s Old Time Fables (that wasn’t my doing). It has provided a find outlet to collaborate with my brother (an illustrator) in recent years. This edition features a look at historic tram strikes in the city, with particular emphasis on 1913, 1935 and the recent Luas dispute.

You can pick Rabble up right across the city in cafes, shops, pubs, bookshops and more besides.

Some previous illustrations from page 5:

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Lord Iveagh from Rabble 10 feature on co-operative housing.

Dear, Dirty Dublin.

Dear, Dirty Dublin is an on-going series on the blog. We’re eternally grateful to Luke Fallon for permission to reproduce some of his images of the city here from time to time. Previous editions of these posts can be seen here, anseo and also here.Dublin always looks good on film!

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The Freedom of the City is an honour that has been bestowed on a wide variety of political, civic and cultural leaders. From Ulysses S. Grant to local lad Johnny Giles, the honour has been granted to only eighty individuals to date.

On occasion, proposals for the honour have sparked protest.During the Second Boer War in South Africa, nationalists in Dublin Corporation attempted to have the Freedom of the City awarded to Paul Kruger, President of the Transvaal who was at war with the Empire. Kruger’s name never made it to the roll, but a quick glance just throw up some unusual outsiders. How many Dubliners have heard of Margaret Sandhurst, the first woman to be awarded the honour in September 1889?

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Lady Sandhurst (1829-1892)

The decision to honour Sandhurst was shaped by outside political affairs.  A suffragist from a middle class Norfolk background, Sandhurst (who had been married to an administrator of the British Raj before his death) was an active member of the Women’s Liberal Federation, and a committed philanthropist in the British society of the late nineteenth century.

In 1889, Sandhurst stood for election to the London County Council, at a time when women were still locked out of the British parliamentary system. Local government elections became a battlefield for suffragists, who believed that victory there could lead to further political reforms.  She was one of a number of Liberal female candidates to stand, and succeeded in taking a seat, defeating two Conservative opponents decisively.

Among the women who campaigned for Sandhurst was Constance Wilde, the wife of Oscar Wilde.Oscar was editor of The Woman’s World from 1887 to 1889, and had printed an address by Sandhurst in January 1889, in which she expressed sympathies for the Home Rule cause in Ireland, asking “have we, from first to last, ever made a persistent effort to govern Ireland for her good? Have we given up anything for her?….Can it be right to tyrannise over any nation committed to our charge?”

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The masthead of The Woman’s World, edited by Oscar Wilde.Source.

Unfortunately, while Sandhurst was elected to the London County Council, her election was challenged by anti-suffragist Beresford Hope, with the Beresford Hope vs Sandhurst cage resulting in the judgement that the defeated male candidate should be given the seat. It was a scandalous decision, which rightly infuriated the women’s movement of the day.

The awarding of the Freedom of the City to Sandhurst received international press attention. It was reported that the honour was presented to her “in token of gratitude for the beneficent influences she has exercised in public life”, and Sandhurst spoke before the Lord Mayor and elected Councillors in Dublin. To loud cheers, she told an audience during her visit that “the women of England, the progressive and enlightened women of England, were with the Irish cause.” Her political sympathies with the Irish cause were perhaps the primary motivation in presenting the honour to her; her name was appearing in the Journal of the Home Rule Union long before her visit to Dublin.

Lady Sandhurst died in London on 7 January 1892.  The city which honoured the suffrage campaigner so publicly in 1889 would later elect the first woman to the British House of Commons, with Countess Markievicz taking a seat for Sinn Féin in the 1918 General Election. Yet, as Una Mullally recently observed in The Irish Times, only  four women have been presented with the Freedom of the City since Sandhurst’s time.

Squash in 1960s Dublin

Squash – like Cricket, Golf, Rowing, Rugby and Tennis – was an avidly middle-class sport in Ireland for most, if not all, of the twentieth century. These sports were reserved almost exclusively for middle-class men who had the leisure time and spare cash to fund such pastimes.

Squash evolved out of an older game called rackets and was first played at the prestigious Harrow School in England around 1830. The world’s first squash courts were built there in 1864. From the outset, the game was  “exclusive to the well-to-do and upper middle classes ; squash players either belonged to an athletic club or had private courts built on their estates” according to historian Robert Crego.

Squash court, c. early 20th century. Credit - GETTY SCIENCE & SOCIETY PICTURE LIBRARY / CONTRIBUTOR.

Squash court, c. early 20th century. Credit – Getty Science

I recently came across an annual report for the year 1969-70 from the Leinster Squash Rackets Association. There were fifteen clubs in the association of which fourteen were based in Dublin. Seven are still active today.

As expected, nearly all of the clubs were located on the Southside and were based around traditional white-collar industries (Aer Lingus, Bankers and Guinness), hospitals (Coombe, Mater and Rotunda), existing exclusive sports clubs (tennis, cricket, rugby) and city’s two universities.

The clubs were:

Aer Lingus, made up of employees of the airline, who used squash courts at Baldonnel Aerodrome. The club is still in existence, is a member of the Leinster association and now plays at the Airport Leisure Social Athletic Association (ALSAA) grounds beside Dublin Airport.

Baldonnel, made up of members of the Irish Air Corps, also used courts at Baldonnel Aerodrome. An Irish Press article (18 January 1961) noted that the Defence Forces “has at its disposal nearly as many squash courts as the Irish Squash Association”. They were Curragh (3), Baldonnel (2), Gormanstown (2), Spike Island (1) and Collins Barracks, Cork (1). Their squash club was founded in 1935  and seemed to have wound down in the mid 2000s.

Bankers, made up of those employed in the banking profession, had their own squash court at the Bankers Club, 92-93 St. Stephen’s Green. The Irish Bank Officials’ Association and their social club were based on Stephen’s Green from 1921 to 2006 when they moved to a modern premises on Upper Stephen’s Street. The Bankers squash club does not seem to be active anymore.

Coombe Hospital, made up of employees in the hospital, had their own courts on the premises. As late as the mid 2000s, Coombe had a team in the Leinster Veterans League.

Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club had their own courts at Wilton Place where they were based from 1880. In 1969 they moved to a four and a half acre site bounded by Winton Road and Appian Way. The club is still active and is a member of the Leinster Squash league.

Squash court, Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Court in 1973. Photographed by John Donat (1933-2004). Credit - architecture.com.

Squash court, Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Court in 1973. Photographed by John Donat (1933-2004). Credit – architecture.com.

Guinness, made up of employees of the Brewery, had their own courts at St. James Gate. Employers built a sports ground in front of the brewery providing a cricket pitch, bowls green, tennis courts and net ball facilities. Employees also had access to a swimming pool and a gym. Their squash club does not seem to be still active.

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“I shall die young and be forgotten.” – The Little Museum of Dublin, July 2016.

This weekend a new exhibition opens at the Little Museum of Dublin, Churchill & The Irishman. It shines a light on a man who managed to live both on the main stage and in the shadows during his lifetime, being both a public figure and a deeply mysterious one.

Brendan Bracken (1901-1958) was a British Conservative Government Minister, an influential journalist and the man responsible for giving us The Financial Times newspaper among many other things. Denying and suppressing all evidence of his Irish roots, he burst onto the British public stage, but quickly became one of Winston Churchill’s most trusted allies Randolph Churchill, son of the Prime Minister, would joke of Bracken as “the fantasist whose fantasies had come true.”

Brendan Bracken was born in Tipperary in 1901, the son of Joseph Kevin Bracken, who was a founding member of the Gaelic Athletic Association and a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood to boot.An article on the excellent Hogan Stand notes that J.K Bracken wasn’t merely a spectator to the early endeavors of the GAA, but a very active participant He was one of five persons proposed by GAA founder Michael Cusack “to fill the vice-presidential positions at the third meeting of the GAA”,  and personally seconded the nomination of the Fenian radical John O’Leary to patron of the new body. Brendan’s father was closely aligned with these two important nationalist organisations, though the passing of his father in 1904 removed any such influence from his youth.

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J.K Bracken’s GAA team in Tipperary carry the name of Brendan Bracken’s father today. (Source)

His mother, widowed in 1904, took the young family to Dublin, and Brendan attended the O’Connell School on North Richmond Street. Named in honour of  Daniel O’Connell, the school would later become synonymous with the 1916 Rising, with over 130 students and graduates in the ranks of the rebel forces. Among others Seán Heuston, Seán T. O’Kelly and the great republican adventurer Ernie O’Malley were educated there. If the Christian Brothers teachers made a profound nationalist impression on their students, there was no risk of such with Bracken. Charles Lysaght, author of a masterful biography of Bracken, notes that:

He mitched from school and organised a gang that vandalised neighbours’ gardens. He once threw another boy into the Royal Canal. When packed off to Mungret, a Jesuit boarding school in Limerick, he absconded.

Departing Ireland in 1916, he had nothing beyond the £14 his mother provided him with to try and settle in Australia. Lysaght writes that”for three years the adolescent Brendan led a peripatetic existence there, moving between Catholic religious communities, doing some teaching and reading incessantly to educate himself.”

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The O’Connell School on Dublin’s North Richmond Street. Graduates include the executed 1916 leaders Seán Heuston and Eamonn Ceannt. Though he didn’t graduate,Bracken was educated here for a period (Image Credit: O’Connell’s)

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