Archive for July, 2012

We do not want contraception, abortion, divorce, homosexuality, secular schools or any of the trappings of an uninspiring secular Ireland.

So summed up the politics of Úna Bean Mhic Mhathúna in a letter to The Irish Times on 4 May 1976.

Una pictured in The Irish Independent, June 10 1986.

Una*, along with her friend and fellow campaigner Mena Cribben, is another colourful character in the world of reactionary Irish politics. She has been a dominant figure for over forty years as a founding member of Mna na hEireann (c. 1972 – late 1970s) and the Irish Housewives Union (c. 1980 – early 1990s). She has also been active with the Council for Family Rights (1980s), the Anti-Abortion Campaign (1983), the No Divorce Campaign (1996/97), Friends of Youth Defence (1990s) and Cóir (2000s).

Una grew up in Gurranabraher on the north side of Cork city. Her brother Larry White, a leading local activist with Saorise Éire (offshoot of Saor Éire), was shot dead by the Official IRA in 1975.

Una’s mother Mrs. Mary White was also a devout Catholic as this 2001 obituary illustrates:

Solas (Youth Defence magazine). July 2001.

Una married Seamus, a renowned folk singer from West Clare who has worked with Conradh na Gaeilge and Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, in the late 1960s.

Along with Áine Ní Mhurchú,  Una formed Mná na hÉireann (‘Women of Ireland’) in 1972 to fight against “the legalisation of contraception, abortion and divorce.” In an interview with Irish Times journalist Mary Leland the following year, Una proclaimed that:

a handful of women in Dublin … claim to be speaking for the majority of women in Ireland we believe that it’s not a majority opinion at all. The same number of women are always involved, and some of them, the most vociferous are foreigners.

Una also spoke fondly of “when Ireland was truly Ireland when we had our own language, culture and religion (and when) we were a moral nation”. She told the journalist that “abortion and contraception, as far we’re concerned, are one and the same” and went on to say:

We don’t believe that anyone makes the conscious decision to to use artificial contraception; they do it under the pressure from propaganda. If they were to make a conscious decision they would have to know all the aspects of whatever method they were using and therefore they would be making a conscious decision to kill a child. And that’s murder.

Letter to the Irish Times. 25 Oct 1973.

In April 1974, Mná na hÉireann distributed leaflets outside Catholic Churches in Cork which proclaimed that “Ireland could easily support 40 million people and that the Billings method of Birth Control was 100% sure and safe”. It transpired that some local parish priests had given the group permission to distribute the leaflets and put up posters.

A description of the group in The Irish Times, 31 Dec 1975.



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Thursday sees Hannover 96 come to Dublin to take on Saint Patrick’s Athletic in Tallaght Stadium. It’s almost surreal, with Hannover boasting a stadium with a capacity of almost 50,000, and Saint Patrick’s Athletic’s Richmond Park home, which is hidden behind a row of terraced houses in Inchicore, not being deemed up to scratch for this level of European football. Classic underdog stuff. If Pats have shown anything in Europe in recent years, it’s that they quite like that label, underdog.

Ticket information is in the poster above, and they go on sale tomorrow. I’d encourage League of Ireland fans to get along, as well as those with just a passing interest in the beautiful game. Magic European nights do happen on occasion, who knows?

(Currently putting the finishing touches on a thesis, so my posts are a bit sporadic and shorter than is the norm. Normality returns for me on Wednesday)

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Tolka Park. (Image: Paul Reynolds)

In his classic Dublin Made Me, the War of Independence and Civil War veteran C.S Andrews remembered the day of his Holy Confirmation by writing:

Anyway, on the great day, my mind was more preoccupied with football than with religion because my father had promised to take me to a cup match that afternoon between Bohemians and Shelbourne at Dalymount Park and I was afraid that the ceremony would not finish on time!

While all Dublin clubs are working class institutions, some stretch back into the nineteenth century with Bohemians founded in 1890 and Shelbourne in 1895. All clubs in Dublin seem to have club historians who as a labour of love dig deep and share their findings in club programmes and the like, but what every club could do with is a oral history collection. Dublin city Library and Archives have recorded a fantastic series of interviews with Shels officials, fans and players which will appeal to all League of Ireland fans.

I enjoyed all of the interviews, which come with a blurb detailing some of what is recalled in the conversation. Below is an example.

Track 8 – Sands, Chris: Born in 1937, Chris Sands is a life-long supporter of Shels. He talks about the early history of Shels from its foundation in 1895 as a “Dockers team”, club rivalry with Shamrock Rovers in the 1940s, the failure to purchase Shelbourne Park, and attending the Olympic Dancehall after matches. He also talks about his involvement with Shelbourne Supporters Development Group in recent years and his views on Ollie Byrne.

It’s likely most Shels fans are familiar with these interviews being online, but that other LOI supporters haven’t stumbled across them. Hopefully, Dublin City Library and Archives will roll this project out to other clubs in their area.

By interviewing both fans and players, the oral history aims to extend the history of Shelbourne FC beyond the traditional perspective of events on the pitch and to show the inter-relationship between sport, culture and everyday life in Dublin. The oral history records the impressions and emotions attached to the activity of playing for and supporting Shelbourne FC, as well as details of the playing pitches, players, managers, and traditions of a by-gone era. These memories will be preserved at Dublin City Library and Archive, and made accessible to historians and future generations to come.

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There is some debate over which was the first Chinese restaurant to open in Dublin.

Máirtín Mac Con Iomaire in his fantastic study ‘The Emergence, Development and Influence of French Haute Cuisine on Public Dining in Dublin Restaurants 1900-2000: An Oral History‘ suggests that The Luna (11 Uppr. O’Connell St.) was “Dublin’s first Chinese restaurant” having been set up in the “early 1950s”. This information was provided by Mary Lee, a daughter of one of the four Hong Kong restaurateurs who were behind the original venture.

However contemporary newspaper articles suggest that the ‘Asia Chinese Restaurant’, 71 Lower Leeson Street, was the first of its kind to open in the city.

Margaret King pictured in The Irish Times  (Jan 4, 1957)

Patrick Campbell, journalist who used the pseudonym Quidnunc in The Irish Times, wrote on January 5th 1957:

“(of being) invited to the opening of Dublin’s first Chinese restaurant and found it in a house in Leeson Street. From the hall, it wasn’t too clear where the restaurant was situated in the house, so we opened the first door we saw, to find ourselves looking into the kitchen…”

It was noted in October 1957 that Dublin had ‘three oriental restaurants’ – the Asia Chinese, the Cathay at 19 Kildare St and the Golden Orient at 27 Lower Leeson St which Mac Con Iomaire has described as actually providing “Indian food …with Kenyan influence”. The three restaurants pulled together that month to help feed the fifty strong cast of the Chinese Classical Theatre which was in town.

Advertisement in The Irish Times (10 May, 1957) [Thanks to Shane MacThomais]

The Asia China Restaurant was subsequently described in December 1960 as “the first Chinese eatery opened in this town”. The article also mentioned that “Dubliners have of late shown quite an increasing preference for the delicately-cooked and served Chinese dishes, and the number of Chinese restaurants has now increased from one to three.”

I believe the other two were The Cathay and the Luna.

The former was opened in Kildare Street in September 1957 by a 30 year old Chinese businessman by the name of ‘Casey’ Chang from Malaya. After having lived in London for three years, he came to Dublin on a holiday and loved it so much that he decided to relocate here with his family. He brought over a chef and two assistants from Hong Kong and a Chinese stove, saucepans and food from London to start up the restaurant.

The lads in The Cathay pictured in The Irish Times (Sep 9, 1958.)

In another article in January 1958, it was reported that Dublin had oriental two restaurants, that being, the Asia Chinese and the Cathay. So, it would be possible to calculate that the Luna was opened sometime between January 1958 and December 1960.

Ed-meister, whose paternal grandfather helped open The Luna, has written online:

“It was established by my paternal grandfather with his business partners in the late 50s/early 60s on Dublin’s premier location, O’Connell Street. During that time, my grandfather was one of the handful of the first Chinese immigrants to Ireland.  It was the first time Dubliners could savour Chinese food, and whereas nowadays it is normal fare, back then it was considered extremely exotic. Favourites included curry and ‘sweet & sour’ dishes. My grandfather told me how long queues would form outside as Irish people were tempted to try a new, exotic foreign cuisine.”

Contrasting The Luna (early 1960s) and the Penang (2011) on O’Connell St. Credit – Ed-meister (flickr user)


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There was a time when transport by tram around Dublin wasn’t restricted to two bizarrely unconnected routes, when tramlines extended miles in every direction, spreading from O’Connell Street outwards like arteries from a heart to Dublin’s rapidly expanding suburbs.

Three companies operated the trams initially, the Dublin Tramways Company, the North Dublin Street Tramways Company,  and Dublin Central Tramways. These companies united in 1880, forming the Dublin United Tramways Company, with 137 trams running routes which totaled over 32 miles. The last horse tram ran in January 1901,  by which time Dublin had completely electrified it’s system, now with 66 miles of track, of which nearly 50 were owned by the DUTC.

As well as numbers, the trams also had colourful route indicators. Uploaded by JadedIsle

The first tram came into service in February 1872, and ran from College Green to Rathgar. The trams generally operated within the City Centre or stretching to the more affluent South Dublin suburbs. Traveling on the trams, in the early days at least, was a luxury only Dublin’s white collar workers could afford. The majority of trams started at, or stopped nearby Nelson’s Pillar, and their terminus’  stretched to the likes of Sandymount, Blackrock, Dun Laoghaire, Dalkey and Terenure, as can be seen on the route identifier above. As well as featuring in a high percentage of photo’s of Dublin streets at the turn of the last century, they played parts in the Easter Rising, being toppled and bombed and their wreckage used for barricades, and feature in Joyce’s Ulysses.

Uploaded by Cracker on dublin.ie

What must have been the 21 tram to Inchicore

For over twenty years after the introduction of electric trams here, Dublin was a pioneer in tram building, the works in Inchicore churning out carriages whose design would be copied worldwide. But the introduction of the car to Irish roads, the growth in their use in the twenties,  and the newly designed four wheeled “bogey,” or basically a precursor to the bus saw the abandonment of many trams. The last tram in Dublin City ran on on 9th July 1949,  with the Howth Head line lasting another ten years before it too succumbed to progress. Some of their lines can still be found around the city, relics of a time past.

Removing the tracks at Lord Edward Street

A copy of the Dublin United Tramways Company from 2010 has been uploaded by the National Archives of Ireland and can be found here. The image of workers removing the tracks from Cork Street is from the Dublin City Council’s Photographic Collection.

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Rabble Nua

The latest issue of Rabble magazine should be on the streets by the end of this week, and Rabble are seeking distributors for issue 4.It’s hard to believe this IS issue 4, so well done to all responsible for moving this from an idea to a reality. As ever, it’s the same mix of social commentary, cultural content, a little bit of history and some humour. The mag continues to provide a home to some of my favourite Dublin illustrators too, and the cover, depicting Youth Defence, is truly fantastic.

We’ve some little bits and pieces inside, with hxci reflecting on a visit to Poznan while myself and de brudder have produced a brief look at the cheeky gurriers of old, the Dublin newsboys. In particular, I’m looking forward to reading Tonie Walsh’s interview on Flikkers club on Fownes St in ’79.

It’s editoral gives real food for thought:

There are zero specific supports out there for voluntary publications like this. Locking ourselves away spewing out grant applications that shoehorn us into whatever limited arts funding exists is a rat race for pennies. Numerous things could be done to open up space for publications of our ilk. Among the underground press, we could have mutual aid agreements around distribution to encourage audience growth.

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In January 2011, we featured a post here on the site about Joseph Edelstein, who was a one time leading businessman in the Jewish community in Dublin who fell on hard times. Edelstein had been an active Home Rule campaigner, active with the Judaeo-Irish Home Rule Association, and was the author of the hugely controversial text ‘The Moneylender’ in 1908. That text proved divisive among Dublin’s Jewish community, with some feeling it reinforced negative stereotypes.

Below is the books cover, as on display today in the Jewish Museum here in the capital.

Image I took in Dublin’s Jewish Museum in 2011.

Philip Blake was the artist responsible for the cover of this book, though precious little is known about him. The Irish Comic News blog are appealing for information on Blake, and have an interesting post on him on their site at present. It’s a fantastic read, and details some of Blake’s work for the Freeman’s Journal newspaper.

Anyway, Blake seems like an interesting character, but I haven’t been able to find out much about him. In the 1901 census he was 32 and living alone in a flat at Leeson Street Lower, Mansion House, Dublin, his occupation is given as “artist, cartoonist, newspaper illustrator, black and white” and his birthplace as Co. Meath. The Mormon genealogy site has a Philip John Blake, born in Castletown, Meath, on 19 January 1869, son of Philip Blake and Elizabeth Martha Cogan, as well as an older brother, Richard Thomas Blake; I’ve found the family in the 1901 and 1911 census, and Phil’s not at home either time, but Richard Thomas is there in 1901, so this looks like the correct identification.

However, There’s no sign of Phil in the 1911 census. I’ve tried the England and Wales census and the Scotland census, but no luck there either. He’s either died or gone somewhere else. And I’ve found, formerly advertised on AbeBooks, an edition of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem The Cloud, published in Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia, about 1915, illustrated with photographs and “illuminated by Phil Blake & Co. Artists”. The chin of the female figure on the cover, below, suggests that this is our man.

An example of Blake’s work for the Freeman’s Journal as featued on Irish Comic News.

One of my favourite books in recent times was the collection of cartoons from the late Ernest Kavanagh, whose work appeared in The Irish Worker during the revolutionary period before his death on the steps of Liberty Hall during the Rising. While certain cartoons from our political past have become well-known, the artists themselves haven’t. If you know anything about Philip Blake, pop over to Irish Comic News and let them know.

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