Archive for June, 2013

More on this man below...

More on this man below…

Availing of the unusually decent weather lately, I walk into the city most days. The route I take brings me over the Blackquiere Bridge in Phibsboro. The brilliant monument to an Irish Volunteer on the bridge demands the attention of those who pass over it, but the very name of the bridge is so unusual and unique it also grabs my attention. A little bit of research revealed that the name of this bridge comes from the Huguenot history of the city, making it just one location in Dublin today where the Huguenot past of the city is reflected in the names of locations.

The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France, who fled the country following religious persecution against them in their native country. As noted on the Irish Ancestors section of The Irish Times site:

Small numbers of refugees from this persecution had come to Ireland, mainly via England, from 1620 to 1641, and again with Cromwell in 1649, but it was in 1685, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which had guaranteed them toleration, that the main body of Huguenots began to arrive, mostly from the countryside around the city of La Rochelle in the modern region of Poitou-Charente.

Huguenots would even play a role in one of the defining moments of Irish history, with some fighting alongside King William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Many Huguenots settled in the Liberties area of Dublin, renowned for their weaving abilities, skills they took with them from their native France. Huguenots became a huge part of the fabric of life in the area in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and in 1745 it was a Huguenot, David Digges La Touche, who financed the building of a new weavers’ hall in the Lower Coombe area.

While many Dubliners are familiar with the Huguenot Cemetery on Merrion Row, at least to pass, they may be surprised to hear how many street names and bridges in Dublin point back to this period in history.

The Merrion Row cemetery, which is sadly closed to the public at most times.

The Merrion Row cemetery, which is sadly closed to the public at most times.

Back to the start then, and what of Blaquiere Bridge? The bridge is named in honour of John Blaquiere ( 1732 – 1812), a distinguished British soldier, diplomat and politician of French Huguenot descent. He served as Chief Secretary for Ireland between 1772 and 1777. Blaquiere had been born in London of Huguenot stock, “being fifth son of Jean de Blaquiere who reached to England in 1685, and his wife Marie Elizabeth.” (Source)

My favourite of the Dublin street names that reflects this migrant presence in Dublin is Fumbally Lane, which is quite near to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. I only recently wandered down this lane for the first time, and there is a real sense of history to it. The area was home to a significant brewing and distilling presence historically, and the initials ‘JB’ and ‘1836’ can be seen within a modern development complex today, as a remnant of John Busby’s distillery opened in this lane in the 1830s. It is thought that the origins of the name of the laneway can be found in a French Huguenot family of skinners by the name of Fombella, who leased lane in the vicinity in the 1720s.

Fumbally Lane shown on a map of Dublin.

Fumbally Lane shown on a map of Dublin.

Maybe the most familiar street with Huguenot connotations is D’Olier Street, in the heart of the city. This street takes its name from Jeremiah D’Olier (1745-1817). A biography of D’Olier from the Royal Dublin Society notes that he was a founder director of the Bank of Ireland and governor of that institution from 1799 to 1801, and a Dublin city sheriff in 1788 and 1790. Dlier served as a commissioner of wide streets, contributing to the laying-out of the city as we know it today. D’Olier Street was named in his honour in 1800, all the more impressive given the fact he lived for 17 years afterwards.

Digges Lane is yet another place-name in Dublin which emerges from this tradition. Home of Marconi House, which houses Newstalk and Today FM among other radio stations, the name Digges Lane shows a connection to the hugely influential La Touche family, influential in the early days of Irish banking history, establishing the La Touche Bank and later central to the very foundation of the Bank of Ireland. A brief history of this family is available to read here, and notes that:

Our story opens with David Digues La Touche des Rompieres, who was born in 1671 near Blois in the Loire Valley, and whose family had embraced the Protestant faith. Following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 some La Touche family members fled to Holland in search of religious freedom. David soon joined them, and his uncle obtained for him a commission in General Caillemotte’s Regiment, in the army of William of Orange. In 1690 David fought in the Battle of the Boyne, but, as General Caillemotte was killed at this battle, the Regiment was disbanded and David served in the Princess Ann of Denmark’s army and in the Liverpool Regiment. He left the army in Galway, where he was billeted on a weaver who sent him to Dublin to buy worsteds.



Read Full Post »

Raiding the Defiance.

Following the Easter Rising of 1916, a significant challenge for the republican movement was sourcing weapons and ammunition to rearm itself. One particular incident on the Dublin docks in 1918 saw the Irish Citizen Army secure a huge windfall of ammunition from an American transport vessel, the Defiance, which had served as a cargo ship in the United States Navy during the late stages of the Great War. Having first sailed from San Francisco in September 1914, she delivered cargo to Dundirk in France, and at the end of the war she briefly spent some time in Dublin, for the purpose of shipping back army huts and stores which belonged to the United States Expeditionary Force.

While in Dublin the ship fell victim to a well-planned raid carried out by the Irish Citizen Army, the small but militant workers militia that emerged first from the Lockout of 1913, and which fought in the Easter Rising. A brilliant and colourful account of the raiding of the ship is contained in R.M Fox’s 1944 work The History of the Irish Citizen Army, and here we have republished some of the account of this raid from that long out of print work. It shows the role Dublin dockers played in the revolutionary period, and gives an idea of ICA activity in the years after rebellion.

The Defiance in 1918 (Wiki)

The Defiance in 1918 (Wiki)

In his study, Fox notes that the vessel attracted the attention of dockers, and that:

Dublin dockers at work loading up the boat wondered at the extraordinary precautions taken. By each gangway was an armed guard of United States Marines. Other guards were placed in position by the deck and the hold. No man could get off the ship without a permit, and he had to run the gauntlet of the guards. The dockers looked round and discovered the hold contained piled up cases of revolvers, rifles and ammunition that were being shipped from England back to America. The Citizen Army was instantly on the alert. Seamus McGowan, the arms expert, was smuggled in as a docker, to arrange about getting some of this stuff ashore.

The cases had to be broken open in the hold by dockers without being observed by the guards. Then all the stuff had to be concealed to get it across the gangway. No parcels were allowed. In spite of all the difficulties the booty was too valuable to lose, and relays of Citizen Army men were down on the quays for eight hours a day, taking the revolvers and ammunition from those who succeeded in getting the necessary shore permits. The little tin lavatories on the quays made excellent transfer stations. Soon the bag consisted of 56 .45 revolvers, 2,000 rounds of revolver ammunition, 5,000 rounds of Springfield ammunition in canvas bandoliers and an assortment of Verey lights and pistols. Arrangements were also made with a member of the crew to deliver 34 .45 automatics, which had been served out to the crew. He lowered these over the side in a canvas bucket to a boat which crept out in the darkness. Captain Poole was in charge of the boat operation.

The Red Hand emblem of the Irish Citizen Army, worn by members as a cap badge.

The Red Hand emblem of the Irish Citizen Army, worn by members as a cap badge.

Unfortunately the Springfield rifles proved too cumbersome to get ashore. It was easy enough to break the cases in the hold. But no one could hope to get along the gangway holding a rifle. They were left very reluctantly. Attempts were made to unscrew the butts and so reduce the length, but this proved impossible. If it hadn’t been for the length of the rifles, America would have played a still bigger part in arming Ireland in her fight for freedom!

For several days ammunition and revolvers were landed without difficulty. Then one morning the captain and his mate descended to the hold in a state of great agitation. The captain walked straight across to a dark corner which had been screened by a number of big cases. Here he saw rows of boxes, broken open and empty. The arms and ammunition had vanished. All the dockers were immediately ordered ashore under armed guard. They were taken into a shed – the same shed which had been used to receive the stores from the foodships in 1913. There they were told they were going to be searched. Indignant objections were raised, but all knew they had taken their last load. They were paid off on the spot, and the Defiance raising anchor departed without waiting for any more cargo. Suspicions had been aroused by an imprudent Irish Volunteer asking the mate if they had any guns for sale. He went back and told the captain, and they started investigations at once. Much of the stores and the equipment that they left behind was auctioned on the quays. Liberty Hall secured furniture at this auction to make up for the devastation of 1916.

From R.M Fox ‘The History of the Irish Citizen Army’ (Dublin, 1944)

Read Full Post »

Trinity College Dublin (Robert French collection, NLI.)

Trinity College Dublin (Robert French collection, NLI.)

The antics of Trinity College Dublin students have made it into the national media on many occasions, but recently I stumbled on a particularly boisterous day out in 1914, when students went on a rampage in the city, attacking both the Mansion House and the offices of the Women's Social and Political Union among other places. A wild day out ended with ten students arrested, the Civic flag of the Mansion House ripped to pieces and Countess Markievicz, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington and others on the wrong side of student pranksters.

Trinity Monday was a traditional June day of debauchery in Dublin. On that day, scholarships were traditionally awarded to leading students through a formal ceremony that occurred on the steps of the Examinations Hall in the front square of the college. In 1914, crowds gathered here to hear the Vice Provost announce the newest Fellows, but the Irish Independent reported that "after the announcements had been made signs of some excitement became noticeable." The students made a rush for the gates of the college and towards the city, but were turned back by college authorities. Previous years had seen Trinity Monday descend into pranks and games on the streets of the city, and the college was hell-bent on preventing a repeat. It was reported however in the newspapers that there was a rush of hundreds of students for the Lincoln Place gates, with some emerging from over the railings of the university. From here, their day would take some amazing turns.

Shortly after midday, there were unexpected visitors at the offices of the Women's Social and Political Union on Clare Street. The Irish Independent reported that “a large number of the students arrived here” and that “a number of them bundled papers and banners together and threw them out of the window to a cheering crowd outside.” Not content with this, a political flag belonging to the movement was stolen, which was later carried triumphantly from the building.

Media coverage of the ‘escapades’ of the Trinity students (Irish Independent)

The real headline grabber of the day out was yet to come. Still clutching the stolen flag of the female political activists, the students made for the Mansion House, and rushed the building as a delivery was taking place.The day had taken a rather sinister turn just prior to this, with the students assault a cabman who refused to drive them to the Mansion House free of charge from outside the Kildare Street Club, and he later required hospitalisation. At the Mansion House, bizarre scenes followed.

The Irish Times reported that:

On a landing they found the municipal flag, which owing to the absence of the Lord Mayor from the city was not hoisted on the pole on the house-top. The students tore up the flag, and hoisted the ‘Suffragette’ flag upon the flagpole. For an hour this floated over the Mansion House.

Loud cheering and laughter was reported outside from the assembled students and curious Dubliners, but this was not to be the last of the days antics.

The students marched in the direction of Grafton Street, where the next victim was a bellman working at an auctioneers premises. It was noted that “his bell was commandeered and the man himself, despite his protests, was taken on the shoulders of a number of the students and a solemn procession, with the bell leading the way, was formed down to College Green.” The bellman was carried as far as the Theatre Royal Winter Gardens, where he was substituted for a large advertisement hoarding, of the music hall singer George Lashwood. The celebrated singer was performing at the theatre at the time, but for the students, the huge hoarding was destined for the River Liffey. The Irish Times reported that this huge hoarding was so heavy it took twelve students to carry it to O’Connell Bridge.

Above: A performance by George Lashwood.

The suffrage activists hadn’t had their final run-in with the students however. At Nelson’s Pillar, one student gave a sarcastic speech in which he said “Gentlemen, we are all in favour of votes for women, and we shall now proceed to the offices of the Suffragettes.” The second political offices of the day to be targeted was on Westmoreland Street, where among others Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington and the Countess Markievicz were present. These offices were also ransacked, but the students were confronted and attacked by “a male sympathiser of the Suffragettes.” Most of the mob made for Amiens Street Train Station to welcome the Trinity Athletic team into the city, but the day was about to come to an abrupt end for the partying students, as the cabman who had been assaulted earlier in the day and a number of Suffragette activists arrived to identify the ringleaders of the gang under police protection. Ten students in total were arrested, and fines were handed out for the damage done to the Mansion House flag and the Suffragette offices. The college also took action against the students, with expulsions handed out to the participants.

An unprecedented and bizarre protest followed this, with Trinity students staging a mock ‘funeral’ the following week through Dublin, with the Irish Independent estimating that between 400 and 500 students from the college marched in Dublin in costume, and that “vigorous cheering” was indulged in at the Suffragette offices on Westmoreland Street. Escorting all this were donkey ‘cavalry’ riders, dressed in the costumes of clowns. The newspaper reported that “the whole parade was characterised by fun and merriment, and provided unlimited amusement to the spectators.” Yet I wonder just how amusing the female activists who had their offices trashed by these same students a week earlier found it.

Read Full Post »

On 13 October 1970 Saor Eire member Liam Walsh, a welder and fitter by trade and father of four, was killed in a premature explosion when himself and another member Martin Casey were planting a device at a railway line at the rear of McKee army base off Blackhorse Avenue in Dublin.

Joining the Republican Movement in 1953, Walsh had been the commanding officer of the south Dublin unit of the IRA during the late 1950s and was interned for a time in the Curragh. He lived at 50 Tyrone Place, Inchicore and, at the time of his death, was awaiting trail on charge of taking part in an armed bank raid at Baltinglass in August 1969.

Liam Walsh in IRA uniform. Photograph belonged to the late Paddy Browne.

Liam Walsh in IRA uniform. Photograph belonged to the late Paddy Browne.

We have been passed on some photographs of his funeral by Barbara O’Reilly. The photographs belonged to the late Paddy Browne who can be seen in the third picture with beard carrying a flag at the front of the colour party .

The funeral took place on 17 October 1970 and was attended by over 3,000 people.

The cortege left from Inchicore, was diverted down O’Connell Street and marched all the way to Mount Jerome cemetery in Harold’s Cross.

Funeral of Liam Walsh (Saor Eire), 1970. Photos were in possession of the late Paddy Browne

Here is the cortege as it made its way down O’Connell Street. Note the two hands with revolvers.

The Irish Times (20 October 1970) described how after a piper played a lament:

Two men, dressed in black berets and anoraks, fired four rounds of ammunition into the air as a tribute to the dead man.

An estimated 50 gardai and a dozen special branch accompanied the cortege but no action was taken.


Funeral of Liam Walsh (Saor Eire), O’Connell St, 1970. Photos were in possession of the late Paddy Browne

Here is the colour party as it entered the cemetery. The Irish Times (19 October 1970) reported that an elderly man shouted ‘So long soldier!” as his coffin was being lowered.

Funeral of Liam Walsh (Saor Eire), 1970.

Funeral of Liam Walsh (Saor Eire) arriving at Mount Jerome Cemetery, 1970. Photos were in possession of the late Paddy Browne

Read Full Post »


Recently, I bought an old second-hand copy of And Nelson on his Pillar, a retrospective history of the Pillar that was published a decade on from the explosion in 1966.

From buying second-hand books over the years, I know that anything and everything can fall out of them. Old currency, bus passes, mass cards, match tickets and you name it. Still, I was surprised when I opened this book to see a picture of three kids on top of the monument, looking down over Dublin from the viewing platform! Not alone this, but the youngsters were named as Robert, Stephen and Russell. Taken in 1959, it’s highly likely they are still among us today, but they could be anywhere in the world.I’ve a hunch the kids might be English, owing to the fact that they refer to Nelson’s Column and not Nelson’s Pillar.

Click to expand and get a better view. Do us a favour and share this one around!

'Robert, Stephen and Russell on top of Nelson's Column, June 1959."

‘Robert, Stephen and Russell on top of Nelson’s Column, June 1959.”

Read Full Post »

With potential names for the new bridge across the River Liffey at Marlborough Street whittled from seventeen candidates down to ten recently, only two women’s names remain in the running- Rosie Hackett and Kay Mills.

Now it’s not as if Dublin is awash with bridges or in fact any landmarks named after women of historical importance. When you look at our abundance of waterways; the Liffey, the Grand Canal, the Royal Canal, the Dodder, the Tolka and the Camac, (and they’re only the ones that haven’t been forced underground,) you’d expect more than one name to pop up. I’m not going to include Victoria Bridge or the Anna Livia Bridge for obvious reasons, and Sally’s Bridge (an alternative name for Parnell Bridge) doesn’t exactly count either. So even at an approximate guess of the fifty or so bridges in Dublin City named after historical figures, and I’m open to correction, there is currently only one named after a woman, and that’s not even a decade old. The Anne Devlin Bridge was opened in 2004 to facilitate the crossing of the canal by the LUAS at it’s Suir Road stop. And even at that, they spelled her name wrong on the plaque.


“Ann” Devlin Bridge. Photo by hXci.

Anne Devlin was born into a family of nationalist stock near Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow in 1780; amongst others, she was cousin to famed Irish rebels Michael Dwyer and Hugh Byrne on her mother’s side. At the age of 17, and just a year before the rising of 1798, Anne moved to Inchicore where she became a servant of the Hempenstall family. Brought back to her homestead by her father in early ’98 she, along with the rest of the Devlin’s and Dwyer’s suffered at the hands of the British authories and watched as her father Bryan was thrown into jail without being charged of a crime where he was to stay for two years before a suprising aqcuittal on retrial. Two uncles and two cousins of Anne suffered the same fate and Hugh Byrne was executed having escaped and consequently recaptured.

Persecution drove the family to move to Rathfarnham, where they became neighbours of  “Mr. Ellis,” an assumed name of none other than Robert Emmet, who had taken residence there with the intention of preparing for his rising of 1803. Anne, along with Rosie Hope (wife of Jemmy Hope) took on the roles of housekeeper’s at Emmet’s house at Butterfield Lane, although in reality, they were much more than that. Anne was to become an advisor, messenger and confidante between Emmet and his partner, Sarah Curran. The failure of the rising, where numbers failed to materialise, and having lost control of his men in the Thomas Street area, who having spotted the Chief Justice, Lord Kilwarden in his carriage, pulled him from it and stabbed him to death with their pikes, caused Emmet to go into hiding.

The house at Butterfield Lane was searched, and finding Anne there, soldiers submitted her to questioning. Her repeated replies of “I have nothing to tell; I’ll tell nothing,” led to Anne being surrounded and advanced upon with fixed bayonnets. The piercing of her skin head to toe still didn’t break her, and she was taken outside where they half- hanged her from a tilted cart.  She still would not speak and was later arrested and taken to Kilmainham Jail where she was again questioned by Henry Charles Sirr. Sirr offered her £500 for the where-abouts of Emmet’s hiding places and co-conspirators to no avail and she was thrown in jail. Her entire family was imprisoned in an effort to wear her down, leading to the death of her  8 year old brother, and Emmet himself before his execution begged her to speak, knowing himself to be a dead man either way. She refused, saying she did not want to go down in history as an informer. She was eventually released in 1806 under an amnesty upon the change of British administration in Ireland.  

AD2 copy

Anne Devlin portrait, by Maser. Photo by hXci.

After her release, Anne found employment under Elizabeth Hammond at 84 Sir John Rogersons Quay, where she spent four years. She married a man named Campbell and had two children, a boy and a girl and made a living washing and cleaning. Campbell died in 1845 and Anne, whose children lived away from her, was left alone in a squalid residence at 2 Little Elbow Lane in Dublin’s Liberties. An appeal was made for assistance for Anne in the Liberty Newspaper in 1947, and while there was some response, it was far from adequate. She died in obsecurity on September 16 1851 and was buried in a paupers plot in Glasnevin before her body was exhumed by Dr. R. R. Madden, the chief historian of the United Irishmen, and re-buried in the plot she lies in today.

One from fifty is not enough. Sign the petition to have the new Liffey bridge named in honour of Rosie Hackett here:

And check out the Facebook here:

Read Full Post »

This Sunday, I’m happy to be taking part in a discussion at the History Festival of Ireland. This is the second year of the event, and it is taking place “amidst the ruins and walled gardens of Ducketts Grove in Co. Carlow.” There is a great line up of events for the weekend, with Saturday and Sunday both seeing discussions on everything from the Bronze Age to the 1913 Lockout. The full programme is available to read here.


The discussion I’m taking part in is on history in the 21st century, and I’m sharing the panel with people who I think are doing very interesting things as far as bringing history to a mainstream audience is concerned.

Sunday – 1.15pm A Future for Our Past: History in the 21st Century – Roisin Higgins (chair & author of ‘Transforming 1916′), Donal Fallon (co-founder of the Come Here to Me blog), Tommy Graham (founder of History Ireland magazine) and Neil Jackman (founder of Abarta Audioguides) on the way in which our understanding of history is being honed by technology.

The event is being organised by Turtle Bunbury, who also runs the brilliant Wistorical page on Facebook. It has posted a few Dublin gems in recent times, including a brilliant little tidbit on the 1911 Census Form of 1916 leader Seán Mac Diarmada.

Seán enjoyed filling out the census form in April 1911. Under “Marriage”, the 26-year-old remarked “Single, but not for long” and under “Disabilities” he wrote “heart-broken from being single”.

Under “Religion”, he entered “Náisiuntacht na h-Eireann”, meaning “The Nationhood of Ireland”. This was helpfully, but erroneously, translated by the enumerator as “Church of Ireland”.

At the time Seán was living at 15 Russell Place, Dublin…

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: