Archive for September, 2012

Back in April, we gave you a sneak preview of As An Talamh, an upcoming documentary that will focus on both Dublin’s rich rave history and the underground dance culture of today, talking to the promoters, bedroom producers, DJs, DIY record labels and radio shows who keep the flame alive. Well now, they need your help. With weeks left to finish their doc, they are scrambling for any old fliers or photo’s from the scene any ravers are willing to part with.

There must be hard drives, dusty old boxes and folders full of tracks, photos and video sitting out there that we can use to tell the story of dance in Dublin. We’re not just looking for shots of DJs and producers, what about behind the scenes material? What about photos and videos from the perpective of the clubbers and ravers? Get in touch and tell us what you and how we can use it! It’d be much appreciated.

So, what are ye waiting for?! Get yourselves to www.asantalamh.com and start submitting!


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Hard as it may be to imagine, there were more worrying times for League of Ireland fans than the present. As tough as the declining crowds and folding of clubs appear to a staunch and loyal fan base these days, events at the turn of the millennium really didn’t bode well for our League.

First came Wimbledon’s proposed move to Dublin, one which could well have destroyed the domestic league here. Thankfully, this fell through. Next, came the formation of Dublin City FC, a new team that threatened to usurp those fans that sit on the fence with regard which team they follow in Dublin, but make up the bumper gates on big match days; that didn’t go too well for them either. And thirdly, something which may seem insignificant, but Manchester United’s Superstore and Café on D’Olier Street really could have had a knock on effect as the fate of Ireland as a nation of barstool football fans may well have been sealed.

Clipping from the Irish Independent, August 19th, 2000.

The premises, on the junction of Westmoreland Street didn’t come cheap, but the prime location and massive footfall that came along with that encouraged the club to splash out on a 25 year lease on the building, before investing a reported £1m in fitting out the store which was split over three floors – the ground and first being the store itself and the Red Cafe, a Manchester United themed cafe in which games would be streamed live, in the basement. (Games could be watched whilst munching on a Beckham Burger, with Man. Utd. Ketchup.) The building, then owned by Treasury Holdings would set them back €400, 000 a year. Their previous ventures on these shores, spurred by a pop-up shop opened by the legendary Bobby Charlton in Roche’s Stores on Henry Street were booming, so perhaps it seemed like a license to print money for the club. They were wrong.

The store opened quietly in August 2001, with its official opening not happening until mid October to a huge fanfare, with the bottom of O’Connell Street, D’Olier Street and Westmoreland Street shut off in expectation of crowds of up to 5, 000. The opening reportedly ran three times over budget, a bill footed by Roche’s Stores, who ran the Club’s five stores in the Republic. Roy Keane, Gary Neville and Mark Bosnich were in attendance, along with Sir Alex Ferguson  himself.

Peter Kenyon, then the club’s Chief Executive said of the store:

Manchester United’s historic links with Ireland and the huge support that exists today presents a unique opportunity to bring the heart of the club closer to those supporters.

Sir Alex at the official opening of the store, October 2000. From the Irish Times.

To bring the club closer to the heart of their supporters indeed, and to empty their wallets of their hard earned cash. But despite all the fanfare, the shop never really took off. Extortionate prices, a soul-less store and less than friendly staff saw the place become a ghost town. Row upon row of replica kits, shelf upon shelf of pencil cases, books, quilt covers, key rings, bath towels, teddy bears, quilts and even cricket bats, gradually gathered dust.

A selection of their “competitive” prices. From the Irish Independent, August 29th, 2000.

The store shut, quietly, in February 2002, being in existence less than two years. But the debacle didn’t end there, as their lease still had another twenty two years to go; it still has another twelve or so years to go in fact, as Manchester United Commercial Enterprises (Ireland) Ltd. are still down as the lease holders on the building. The firm tried their hand at damage control, opening Redz Bar, home to the Dublin MUFC Supporters Club. This venture didn’t last long and was supplanted by the notorious Redz Nightclub, now closed. Their debts last year were a mere €200, 000 or so, down €2, 000, 000 from 2010, due in part to the building being sublet by a new group, Lafayette, who seem to be trading steadily. So there you have it. Man Utd, it seems, were signing flops long before Eric Djemba Djemba, and for the League of Ireland, perhaps thankfully so.

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Arthur’s Day made sense two years ago, to mark the 250th anniversary of an institution. Now, I’m not quite buying it. If anything should be celebrated it is the rise of small Irish breweries, as opposed to Diageo’s stranglehold over the Irish market.

Read this history of Dublin breweries historically and weep.

A city that was once host to over 30 breweries was now reduced to one. Guinness was so dominant in Ireland, that when it started its first advertising campaign in England in 1929 it felt it was a complete waste of money to spend anything in Ireland. Consumers either drank its beer or gave up drinking. According to the “History of Guinness Advertising” it spent an average of £10,000 per year on marketing in Ireland between 1929 and 1959. Part of the Guinness strategy was whenever a small brewery closed or was bought out by it, its sales representatives were sent out to buy up all the memorabilia/posters etc. from the pubs that were previously supplied by that brewery. In that way it could remove the history of that company from the popular imagination.

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In December 1945, sixty people attended a meeting in Dublin to form the ‘Irish Soviet Friendship Society’. It is interesting to note that both its president and its honorary secretary were women. Who exactly were they and what ever happened to them?

Well, the president of the society was a Helena Early (1887 – 1977). She made history by becoming Ireland’s first woman solicitor, having taken up law in her brother’s office in the early 1900s. In 1913, she raised money to help the families of the victims of the Church Street tenement disaster.

She became the first woman auditor of the Solictors’ Apprentices’ Debating Society of Ireland (SADSI) in 1922 and the following year she saved the records of the society, storied in the Four Courts, from destruction during the Civil War. At the time, she was a close friend of of Countess Markievicz.

After her degree, she handled district court work and later became the first woman Commissioner of Oaths in Ireland. She was active in the 1930s with the Women’s Social and Progressive League along with Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington and others.

In February 1946, representing the league, she was part of a welcoming committee for the first lady Eleanor Roosevelt who was visiting Ireland. It was quoted in the papers that she asked Roosevelt how she thought ” women could extend their influence”.

She continued to work professionally and with various campaigns in the 1950s and 1960s.

In November 1970, she was interviewed in The Irish Independent where she said “This liberation movement has been taking too long. Women have be far more active than they are. They’ve been underestimating themselves for too long”. Helena passed away in 1977.

The Irish Times, Oct 28, 1970

The first Honorary secretary, Mrs Hilda Verlin, was quoted in Russia Today magazine (1948) as being a “journalist and housewife”. A trawl through the archives shows that she had an irregular column in the The Irish Times. She spoke at a public meeting, organised by the society, with Hewlett Johnson (aka ‘The Red Dean of Canterbury’) in The Mansion House in Dublin in November 1946. This meeting descended into violence. (I plan to write an article focusing on this disturbance in the near future)

She last crops up in the news in 1950 when she writes to The Irish Times from the National Hotel in Moscow. I wonder what happened to her?

Letter from Verlin to The Irish Times. 21 October, 1950

As well as this the society had a female second honorary secretary (Ms Margaret Mac Macken) and treasurer (Ms Ann Peache) but even less is known about them.

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Many of you would have seen a recent post on broadsheet.ie, entitled ‘Everyone’s A Critic’. The topic was the manner in which Dublin City Council were placing art gallery information displays alongside pieces of street art, which were extremely sarcastic in tone.

Image via broadsheet.ie

Image via broadsheet.ie

The irony of this of course is that Wood Quay, and the Dublin Civic Offices, could be one of the greatest acts of vandalism in Dublin’s history. Viking Dublin was literally destroyed in the name of progress in the late 1970’s and early 80’s, in an act of wreckless cultural vandalism.

Thousands marched to save Wood Quay, but it just wasn’t enough.

Some Dubliners haven’t forgotten.

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September 20th.

Robert Emmet delivers his famous speech from the dock in 1803. Image via http://irishcomics.wikia.com

September 20th is an important day in Dublin history. It was on this date in 1803 that Robert Emmet met his death on Thomas Street, and on this same date in 1920 a young medical student from UCD by the name of Kevin Barry was captured during a botched raid across the river on Bolton Street. I thought I’d post two fantastic songs, one relating to each character, for the day which is in it.

Firstly, the late and great Frank Harte singing ‘By Memory Inspired’ is a truly fantastic recording. It deals primarily with the rebellion of 1798, but also Robert Emmet’s rebellion of 1803.

The Ballad of Kevin Berry is one of the best known songs of the revolutionary period. It has been sung by Paul Robeson, Leonard Cohen and others. The below is a rare recording of Leonard Cohen singing it in the National Stadium in 1972.

Paul Robeson learned the song, in very unusual circumstances, from the republican Peadar O’Donnell! The story of how Robeson met O’Donnell, on a roadside in the United States, is well recounted in Donal Ó Drisceoil’s brilliant biography of O’Donnell.

Peadar was stranded at a roadside with a burst tyre when a limousine stopped and offered help. He was invited to sit in the car by the passenger while the driver fixed the puncture.The passenger turned out to be Paul Robeson, who told Peadar that he would like to record an Irish song. O’ Donnell suggested Kevin Barry, the ballad glorifying the young IRA man hanged by the British in 1920, which he said conveyed the spirit of Ieland. He procceded to teach the song to Robeson, who released it on record in the early 1950s.

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In July 1938, two ships of Italian cadets from the training ships Christopher Colombo and the Vespucci visited Dublin. Their presence here brought about significant interest, and there was a warm welcome towards the cadets, but also some rowdy scenes and protest, with the New York Times giving front page coverage to an incident on O’Connell Street where the cadets were confronted by locals. Interestingly, one of the ships which visited Dublin in 1938, the Vespucci, was here only weeks ago as part of the Tall Ships Festival. I was on board it in Dublin, with no clue of its historical connection to this very city!

Opposition to the visit came from the left-wing of Irish politics, with The Workers Republic newspaper proclaiming:

Ireland in recent times is entertaining strange friends. Some time ago a Nazi training ship made its appearance in Dublin Bay. No protest was made notwithstanding the record of the Nazi Government in the persecution of all opposition forces, particularly the Catholic population. On the contrary, a most cordial welcome was conceded to the forces of Hitler.

Now we are to have a visit from Mussolini in the form of cadets in a training ship. The friendship of these two regimes is universally known and the rebut which His Holiness the Pope delivered to this friendship on the occasion of Hitler’s visit to Rome is equally well-known.

That Ireland, which has such a record in the fight for liberty, should permit these visits with equanimity, is altogether surprising.

There had been considerable interest in the visit in the weeks leading up to their arrival in Dublin from the mainstream media too, as evident from coverage like the below.

The Irish Times, July 6 1938.

The two Italian ships arrived in Dublin on 22 July, beginning their five-day stay in the Alexandra Basin. The officer commanding the visiting Italians was Bruno Brivonesi, who would later go on to play a leading role in the Battle of the Duisburg convoy, where the British Royal Navy inflicted heavy losses on the Italian navy, which was attempting to supply Axis troops in North Africa.

When the Italians arrived in Dublin, soon after 8 o’clock in the morning, their ship fired a 21 gun salute and raised an Irish tricolour alongside the flag of Italy. The salute was replied to by a battery of twelve-pounders, fired by the Irish army, at the East Pier of the Dun Laoghaire harbour, where the Italian flag was then raised.

The Irish Times described the two Italian ships in detail, noting that:

Both the vessels are fully rigged, three-masted ships, with auxiliary engines. The Vespucci is 3,535 tons, and carries 24 officers, 190 cadets, 34 petty officers, 247 seamen and 48 civilian workers. The Colombo is slightly smaller, 2,790 tons, and carries 21 officers, 115 cadets, 32 petty officers,260 seamen and 36 civilian workers.

Both ships were equipped with anti-aircraft firepower. Ironically, following the defeat of fascist forces in World War II, the Colombo was handed over to the Soviet Union as part of the war reparations demanded by the Paris Peace Treaty.

The Colombo training ship is seen here. (Wiki)

During their stay in Dublin, the Italian cadets celebrated mass on board the Vespucci ship in the presence of the Nuncio Apostolic, and also attended mass at the Pro Cathedral and Saint Andrews on Westland Row. Newspaper reports noted that they were cheered exiting the Pro Cathedral, and that a crowd of several hundred had gathered to do the same at Westland Row.

It was evident however that not all Dubliners welcomed the Italian cadets. The Irish Times reported that posters had appeared around Dublin which noted there were “Fascist Warships in Dublin Bay”, and which called on Dubliners to “protest against this Fascist propaganda visit.” Posters told of how “for two years, the people of Republican Spain have fought against the combined forces of Mussolini and Hitler.” Public sympathy around the Spanish Civil War had not rested with the left however in Dublin, and five years previously in 1933, Connolly House, home of the Revolutionary Workers Group, had been laid siege to by a religious mob.


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