Five stories, some you know and some you may not know, about our beautiful St. Stephens Green and the surrounding area.
1. Public executions
Up until the 1770s, most public hangings and executions took place in St. Stephens Green. Prisoners would be moved to the gallows, on a cart, from the old Newgate prison near Cornmarket.
On October 24 1773, a Mrs Herring was “burnt alive” in the Green after she was convicted of murdering her husband.
The method of execution of was as as follows:
She was placed on a stool something more than two feet high, and, a chain being placed under her arms, the rope round her neck was made fast to two spikes, which, being driven through a post against which she stood, when her devotions were ended, the stool was taken from under her, and she was soon strangled. When she had hung about fifteen minutes, the rope was burnt, and she sunk till the chain supported her, forcing her hands up to a level with her face, and the flame being furious, she was soon consumed. The crowd was so immensely great that it was a long time before the faggots could be placed for the execution  Sylvanus Urban, The gentleman’s magazine, and historical chronicle, Volume 43 (London, 1773), 461
Infamous brothel keeper and serial killer Darkey Kelly was said to have been publicly burnt in the green in 1761. (Others suggest her execution actually occurred on Baggot Street).
2. The Ghostly Cross
For years, every Holy Thursday, large crowds of Dubliners would gather at 80 Stephens Green, Iveagh House to see if a cross would appear on one pain of glass on an upstairs windows. Some thought it had to do with the legend that the house stood where the Archbishop of Cashel, Dr. Hurley was killed in 1583 while others thought it had to do with a dying servant girl whose rosary beads were taken off her and thrown out the window (see below). A carpenter wrote to a Dublin newspaper suggesting it had something to do with reflections and the way the house was built!
3. Garden for the Blind
In the central area of the park, there’s a ‘Garden for the Blind’ which has scented plants labelled in Braille. Opened in 1972, the garden also contains a seat commemorating two Protestant feminist trade unionists, Louise Bennett (1870 – 1956) and Helen Chenevix (1890 – 1963).
4. Anti-Semitic murder
The steps of No. 95 Stephens Green was the scene of the murder of Manchester Jew and father of four, Bernard Golderg (42) on October 31, 1923. On November 14, Emmanuel Kahn (24), another Jew, was gunned down on Stamer Street in the heart of what was Little Jerusalem. In 2007, it was revealed that two Free State officers who were the main suspects fled to Mexico and the United States after the shootings.
Right up until the nineteenth century, it was able to shoot snipe (“a wading bird of marshes and wet meadows”) in the middle of the Green. Walter Harris noted in his History and Antiquities of the City of Dublin (published posthumously in 1766) that “an incredible number of snipe attracted by the swampiness of the Green in that season, and to avoid their enemies, the sportsmen – an agreeable and most uncommon circumstance, not to be met with in any city in the world”.