Dublin’s thriving cattle market is recalled well into the recent history of the city. In his excellent memoir Another Country: Growing Up in 50’s Ireland, Gene Kerrigan wrote:
The cattle were tended by cowboys on bicycles, men with overcoats and hats, furiously pedaling this way and that, whacking the cattle with their sticks and shouting at them, the bewildered beasts leaving heaps of shit on the road as souvenirs of their passage.
There had been a cattle market in Smithfield since the late seventeenth century, and the sight of cattle being moved through the local streets was a common one, with one nineteenth century publication talking of how “droves of cattle are constantly pushed through the streets to a marketplace called by the somewhat grandiloquent name of Smithfield.”
Work on the development of a new Cattle Market in the Aughrim Street/Prussia Street area commenced in February 1863 and it was officially opened in November of that same year. It became a hive of activity, and from here animals would be driven through the streets of the capital to boats moored along the North Wall. As Joseph V. O’Brien noted, there were moments of “mass excitement and general merriment” on occasions when animals should make a break for it, citing one bull who made it a fine distance, “”reaching Kingsbridge Station and following the railway tracks to Inchicore, stopping only when it charged head on into a train at Ballyfermot bridge, all the while being pursued by mounted constables and sundry citizens.”
Today, two historic plaques in the area mark what was once an enormous local employer. One, affixed to the side of the City Arms public house, appears to be the original marker of the market:
The rise and demise of the market is well documented in Bernard Neary’s recent local history study, Dublin 7, where he notes that “during the 1920s it was the busiest of its kind in Europe; throughput in one year numbered nearly three-quarters of a million animals”. In spite of this, the following decades were difficult:
During the late 1960s business at the markets started to decline as railway cattle-wagons were replaced by road-transport vehicles and provincial markets grew. The prominence enjoyed by the Dublin Cattle Market in the meat industry began to decline and finally in the early 1970s it ceased operations. However, the death-blow that the closure was forecast to bring to the area, known locally as Cowtown, never materialised.
Much of the site of the market is now occupied by the Drumalee housing estate. In addition to the two historic markers, another reminder of the history of the district is the naming of a nearby cafe, the Cowtown Cafe on the corner of Manor Street and Manor Place: