Archive for March, 2012

The 1947 funeral of ‘Nazi master spy’ Hermann Goertz at Deansgrange Cemetery, Dublin has been discussed quite a bit recently. The Irish Times as part of their ‘From the archives’ column reprinted the paper’s original article on the funeral back in May and the incident was also included in Shane MacThomas’ new book Dead Interesting which features stories from Dublin’s graveyards.

A scene from the funeral. Published first in The Irish Independent, Oct 22 1961.

Much has been made of the major role that women played at the funeral. The Irish Times reported that it was women who wore “most” of the Swastika badges in the crowd, that it was a woman who placed a large swastika flag on the coffin and it was also a woman who whispered ‘Heil, Hitler’ and gave a Nazi salute just after the burial. The paper also noted cards on wreaths announced they were from “Maisie”, “Mary” and “My dearest friend – from Bridie”.

A woman makes the Nazi salute at the funeral. The Irish Times, May 27 1947.

There can be no doubt that the “Mary” and “Bridie” were the Farrell Sisters from Glenegeary whom Goertz lived with up to his suicide.

Spinster sisters Mary and Bride (aka Brigid or Bridie) Farrell (sometimes misspelled as O’Farrell) lived at 7 Spencer Villas in Glenageary, South Dublin. It was this address that Goertz gave when he was in the High Court in April 1947 fighting his deportation order.

Like the other women, such as Caitlín Brugha, Iseult Gonne, Mary Coffey, Helena Molony, Maise O’Mahony (another name on a wreath), who helped Goertz it can be accepted that the Farrell sisters held anti-British and pro-Irish Republican sympathies.

Letter from Bride Farrell to The Irish Press. June 17, 1947.

Bride, who was the youngest daughter of Sylvester and Maria Farrell, died on May 11 1966 at St Michael’s Hospital. It is not known when her only sister Mary passed away.

In 1974, under the cover of darkness, a group of German ex-army officers exhumed Goertz’s remians and re-interned them in the German War Cemetery in Glencree, Co. Wicklow where they remain to this day.

German Military Cemetery, Glencree, Co. Wicklow.


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Some great footage of Dublin here, and the sounds come from LLCR ‘Rock Box’ back in the 1980s, playing a mix of hip hop and electro. Well done to YouTuber deejaymek getting it up. Some of the shout outs are quality. “All the breakers meeting at the Central Bank tomorrow at 3!”

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Below are some photos taken on a stroll through the city, little things that caught my eye and seemed perfect for Come Here To Me.

Back in November 2010, a Union of Students in Ireland demo saw students occupy the Department of Finance on Merrion Row, with the building getting pelted with eggs in the process. Passing it yesterday, I noticed that it looks almost like it happened yesterday.

I like little nods to the history of Dublin, like this one on Harcourt Street, advertising a market in the location where in 1900 The Wicklow, which was carrying cattle, ended up suspended over Hatch Street having smashed through the outer train station wall.

The Irish Times reported at the time:

All went well with the train until it was approaching Harcourt Street Station, at half-past four o’clock, when Hyland, it is believed , found he could not get his brakes to act, owing to the slippery nature of the wheels and rails combined with the fact that the train was very heavy. Speed could not be slackened, and the engine with its heavy load dashed through the station to the great alarm of the people on the platform, who saw that an accident of a serious nature must result, nor were they mistaken.

The tents are gone, but I’m starting to think the ‘Tree of Gold’ might be slightly more embarrassing if the worlds media descend on Dame Street. Like the spire symbolising Ireland’s rise to economic prosperity, the Tree of Gold hasn’t aged well.

Dublin is still sticker city in my eyes, and for the most part it seems the Council are happy enough to leave them be. This strange Irish Union Jack sticker has me baffled.


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Stein Opticians

The Irish-Jewish family, Stein, have run an optician’s in Dublin for nearly seventy years. They are perhaps best known for their 1983 David vs Goliath battle, where they fought bitterly to save their practice on Harcourt Road from the developer’s bulldozer.

Dublin born Mendel Stein (1915 – 2000) grew up in Victoria Street in the heart of Portobello, then known as ‘Little Jerusalem’. Studying to become an ophthalmic optician, he set up his practice at 36 Harcourt Road in 1944.

Advertisement for Stein's. The Irish Independent, Mar 05, 1946.

For the next forty-one years, he remained one of the most popular opticians in the city and his practice, known as ‘The Eye’, became “a place for encounter, conversation and spirited views on the life of Harcourt Road and the universe beyond” [1]. Mendel became a close friends with Michael MacLiammoir, Hilton Edwards, Harry Kernoff and others at the heart of Dublin’s art and theatre scenes.

But then in 1983 the Clancourt Group announced that they wanted to build a seven-storey office block which would involve demolishing the terrace to make way for the new Harcourt Centre.

While other property owners and lessees of buildings due for demolition accepted the substantial compensation, Mendel decided that he wasn’t going to give in so easily. He said that he would not leave until they gave him a new shop in the immediate vicinity and a guarantee that his (beautiful) shopfront would be preserved.

The Irish Press. Oct 12, 1983.

This window of the shopfront was “in the shape of an eye, whose pupil is reflected in a circular mirror on a facing wall inside”. Frank McDonald of The Irish Times described it at the time as “a masterpiece of its period (which) arguably should have been officially listed for preservation”. [2]

By the end of it, his single-story shop was the “only surviving remnant” of Harcourt Road despite the fact that the tiny building was perched on the edge of a ‘cliff’ while the new block was under construction. The late Brendan Glacken later recalled a story that during this time a young quick-witted Dubliner shouted into Mendel “Hey mister, your extension is coming on great!”.

"Stein's Opticians at Harcourt Road with the new office block behind it". The Irish Times, May 31, 1983. Photographer - Peter Thursfield.

Spurred on by local support, Mendel held out and eventually received a guarantee that the shop would be taken down intact and re-erected at a new location in nearby Grantham Street off Camden Street.

Joined at this stage in the practice by his daughter Ameila, Mendel worked at his new Grantham Street address until he reached his 80s. He passed away in June 2000.

Amelia, an award-winning photographer who has worked with Irish artists such as The Hothouse Flowers, Aslan, The Cranberries, still runs the family optician business  today from 4 Camden Market, Grantham Street.

Stein Opticians, Grantham St.(Google street view)

[1] The Irish Times. Dec 7, 2000.
[2] The Irish Times. May 31, 1983.

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Architects drawing for fire station (L Fallon Collection)

Above is the original architects drawing for Tara Street Fire Station. In the mind of many Dubliners the building is on Pearse Street, but owing to its postbox being on Tara Street it is ‘Tara Street Fire Station’. This image has not appeared online before.

The station was opened in 1907, by the then Lord Mayor Joseph Nanetti. Nanetti was not only Dublin’s only Lord Mayor to come from the Italian community, he was also the first Lord Mayor to come from the Labour movement.

The site of the fire station holds a special place in the history of the Italian community in Dublin, because as Vinnie Caprani noted in A View From The Dart (1984), the Lord Mayor of Dublin “…found himself opening a fire station on the exact spot where Giuseppe Cervi had set up Dublin’s first mobile chipper, “thus giving Dubliners the ‘wan-and-wan’, a meal which quickly became as popular on the working-class menu as the more traditional coddle or tripe-and-onions.”

Looking at the architects drawing and the building today, it’s clear the final tower design was different from that envisioned by the architect at first. It is said the tower of the fire station was used by British forces in 1916 to attack rebel outposts, and Liberty Hall which it was believed at first was the rebel headquarters. Shane MacThomáis noted in his day by day account of the Rising that:

From Wednesday onwards rifle and machine-gun fire on the GPO and its outposts, particularly those at the junction of O’Connell Street with the Quays, became heavy and ceaseless. Much of it came from Trinity College and the tower of Tara Street Fire Station across the river.

In this image below, showing members of the Irish Citizen Army on the roof of Liberty Hall, the tower can clearly be seen in the distance.

This postcard below comes from the time of the opening and shows the building more or less as it is today. It is difficult to understand today just what a presence this building would have had on the capitals skyline. The purpose of the tower was to serve as a lookout post, and also to allow for full lengths of the canvas hose used at the time to be hung up to dry.

Ironically, Liberty Hall is a considerably taller building than it today.

"The new fire brigade station, Gt. Brunswick Street Dublin." (L.Fallon collection)

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More info here.

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