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Archive for the ‘Dublin History’ Category

Every youth culture has sparked something of a moral panic in the press, and if it hasn’t, then it wasn’t much of a culture to begin with.

In the late 1960s, the Irish media struggled to get their heads around the hippy movement. When a visiting philosophy lecturer warned of “an outcrop of bearded, long-haired, unwashed, strangely clad, guitar-playing, drug-taking, promiscuous young people”, more than one Irish newspaper reported on his warnings. According to Cyril Barrett:

These young people, a small but conspicuous minority, were not simply rebelling against the older generation as they predecessors did. They regarded themselves almost as a race apart and would have nothing to do with what they called ‘The Other Generation.’

By 1969, the fear that English hippies were going to establish a commune on Saint Patrick’s Island was preoccupying locals and journalists. The island, described as “the most distant of three low-lying uninhabited islets off the headland of Skerries”, caught the eye of London hippies who required a new home following the high-profile eviction of their Picadilly squat. It was, according to the Irish Press, “suggested that if 1,000 hippies raised £20,000 they could buy the island.” Sid Rawle, described in the Irish media as “the leader of the London commune”, was said to be considering moving to the desolate island, and taking his friends with him.

According to the hippies, the island could be home to a “new a society aimed at love, trust and respect”, where “violent people would not be allowed on the island. Drugs of some types would be permitted if they did not cause friction with the Irish Government or people.”

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Irish Independent, 30 September 1969.

The London-based hippies enjoyed the support of a number of prominent figures, including the iconic Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg and Swami Vishnudevananda, an internationally known peace activist and yoga instructor. Despite their impressive international supporters, the hippies faced competition; it was reported that Butty Sugrue, a man who adored a good gimmick, intended to buy the island and place “a 150-foot statue of Saint Patrick” upon it.  Butty Sugrue, a “circus strongman, entrepreneur and boxing promoter” among other things, spent most of the 1960s in the newspapers. Instrumental in bringing Muhammed Ali to Dublin, he had also attempted to purchase the head of the Admiral Nelson monument that stood on O’Connell Street for his Kilburn pub.

When Sid Rawle and other hippies arrived in Dublin late in September 1969, the reception was frosty. The weather wasn’t great either. A local boat owner reportedly “did not want to take the hippies to the island. ‘I am not too keen on them at all’ he said, before being persuaded to take them on the hour-long trip.”

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Sid Rawle visits the island, September 1969.

Some locals saw the funny side of it all; one Skerries man joked that “a friend of mine brought sheep out there some time ago and they all swam back to the mainland…they’re welcome to the island, sure you couldn’t even get a rat to stay on it.” Not to be outdone, Butty arrived on the island shortly afterwards, claiming he had out-maneuvered the hippies and the island was his.

To make matters even more bizarre, by December rumours abounded that Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger was going to buy the island. Jagger shot the claims down, insisting “I am not in the island-buying business.”

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Irish Examiner, December 1969.

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Reading Gregory and Audrey Bracken’s Dublin Strolls recently was a reminder to always look up. Divided into eleven seperate walks, the book shines a light on some of the lesser-known architectural gems in the city, alongside the well-known and important works that in some cases have become much more than just buildings, like Francis Johnston’s General Post Office.

One building mentioned in the work is 52 Grafton Street. Depending who you ask, it’s known as Noblett’s Corner (Noblett’s sweet shop was once located here), Gaiety Corner or just ‘the old Gael Linn building’. Whatever one calls it, it’s a beautiful Art Deco building in the heart of the city, and one I’m kind of embarrassed I missed for so long, with its very distinctive corner tower certainly standing out from the pack.

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Robinson and Keefe Architects transformed this corner building in the early 1930s, and it is just one example of their work that can still be found in the city today. The popular Gas Company premises on D’Olier Street, the Carlton Cinema on O’Connell Street and the DIT building on Cathal Brugha Street are just some of their surviving works.

Architectural historian Patricia Bayer has described the firm as being “probably the foremost Irish exponent of the Art Deco style.” John Robinson, the senior partner in the firm, championed a new architectural style and approach, and had little time for a nostalgic longing for the past. In his survey history of the capital, David Dickson quotes him as stating that “the Georgian era is over, and there is little sense in seeking to perpetuate it.”

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An image of 52 Grafton Street (late 1920s/early 1930s) from the Eason Photographic Collection, National Library of Ireland.

Robinson and Keefe managed to incorporate much of the existing building into something new. The excellent More than concrete blocks: Dublin city’s twentieth century buildings and their stories notes how:

The architects retained and reworked the existing fabric to create an Art-Deco-style building. The extensive reconstruction involved incorporating a new steel and reinforced-concrete structural framework, raising the parapet level to enclose the attic story, reconfiguring and replacing windows throughout and re-cladding the exterior. The work also included the construction of a new shopfront and corner tower.

The building was warmly praised at the time; The Irish Times noted that it “has been designed in the modern manner, and relies for appearance on its clean cut lines and proportions”.

The Grafton Street Noblett’s shouldn’t be confused with the O’Connell Street sweet shop of the same name, emptied by the “denizens of the slums” (to quote one Volunteer) on the first day of the Easter Rising. Beyond sweet shops, the building was also home to Gael Linn for many years, whose distinctive branding once graced it.

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The tower of the building, viewed from South King Street.

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Fink and Dublin 8.

For more than fifteen years, Fink has been painting walls. In an interview with Dublin Inquirer last year, he talked about his influences and his history in the field of street art. It seems Dublin 8 is something of a stomping ground, and walking around the area last weekend three bits of his work caught my eye.

Firstly, behind the Vicar Street venue, is this great little tribute to Mr.James Kearney, the Saint Stephen’s Green park keeper who famously fed the ducks of the park during the Easter Rising.Kearney left his lodge twice daily during the insurrection, and made his way to the artificial lake. He thankfully survived the week, though six of his beloved ducks were not as fortunate.

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On Synge Street, this piece pays tribute to George Bernard Shaw, who was born just across the street at No.33. Sadly, since 2012, the museum that occupied the birthplace of the Nobel Prize winner has been closed to the public, but the plaque on the building, along with Fink’s mural, is a reminder of a local genius.

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While the first two pieces of work are very Irish in subject, the last piece is something different entirely. The Barley Mow pub, on a corner of Francis Street, has been closed for some years now (here it is in the 1990s). Fink has been painting on it for a few years now, including a 1916 centenary piece last year, but this is a very fine tribute to the late Carrie Fisher, and her iconic depiction of Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise.

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This Saturday sees a historical public meeting on the life of Dublin-born Trotskyist and Saor Éire activist Peter Graham. He was tortured and shot dead in a flat off Stephen’s Green on 25 October 1971 aged 26. A cloud of mystery, silence and betrayal still hangs over the incident to this day.

The talk will be chaired by Alan MacSimoin (Stoneybatter & Smithfield People’s History Project) and the main speaker will be historian Rayner O’Connor Lysaght who was a close friend of Graham’s. It takes place at 4.30pm in The Cobblestone pub, Dublin 7.

Peter Graham pictured in The Irish Times (05 Dec 1968)

Peter Graham pictured in The Irish Times (05 Dec 1968)

Growing up in the Liberties at 46 Reginald Street, Graham attended Bolton St. College of Technology and later worked as an electrician within Córas Iompair Éireann (CIÉ) where he was a shop-steward for the Electrical Trade Union.

A founding member of the Young Socialists, he helped organise a picket of the French Embassy in June 1968 in solidarity with the student and workers revolt and a picket of the Department of Labour in opposition to proposed anti-Trade Union legalisation in October 1968.

He was later involved with Saor Éire and the International Marxist Group in London. On his return to Dublin, he became active with the Revolutionary Marxist Group and helped established the Irish Section of the Fourth International.

On 27th October 1971, he was brutally beaten with a hammer and shot in the in the flat he shared with his comrade O’Connor Lysaght at 110, St. Stephen’s Green.

Photographs showing the flat where Peter was killed and the pub in which he drank in that evening. The Sunday Independent, 31 October 1971

Photographs showing the flat where Peter was killed and the pub in which he drank in that evening. The Sunday Independent, 31 October 1971

Bob Purdie (1940-2014) wrote that Graham was “falsely suspected of diverting money from a bank robbery” by rogue elements of Saor Eire who “tortured him in an attempt to make him confess.”  Liam O’Ruairc in a 2005 piece went further and said that he “had been assassinated by two of his own comrades from Cork (including Larry White, himself later killed by the Official IRA in Cork in 1975) in a dispute over money.”

No-one was ever arrested or charged with his murder.

Death notice of Peter Graham. The Iris Times, 28 Oct 1971.

Death notice of Peter Graham. The Iris Times, 28 Oct 1971.

His funeral was attended by hundreds of people including Bernadette Devlin MP, Eamonn McCann and Michael Farrell. The oration was given by Tariq Ali who was pictured beside Charlie Bird (former member of the Young Socialists) giving the clenched salute.

Charlie Bird and Tariq Ali at the funeral of Peter Graham. Credit - irishrepublicanmarxisthistoryproject.wordpress.com

Charlie Bird and Tariq Ali at the funeral of Peter Graham. Credit – irishrepublicanmarxisthistoryproject.wordpress.com

Leading Saor Eire member Mairin Keegan died of cancer in January 1972 and another activist within the organisation, Liam Daltun, took his own life in London the following month.

In December 1972, three members of the League for a Workers’ Republic (Basil Miller, Carol Coulter and Paddy Healy) wrote a letter to the Irish Press denouncing a recent tabloid article in the British Press which slandered the three Saor Éire activists who died in the 1971-72 period .

The Irish Press, 18 Dec 1972)

The Irish Press, 18 Dec 1972)

In May 1973, eight imprisoned members of Saor Éire released a statement severing their connections with the organisations due to the activity of “undesirable elements” within the movement. They particularly made reference to the “cloud of mystery” which still hung over the murder of “sincere and dedicated revolutionary” Peter Graham.

The Irish Times, 21 May 1973.

The Irish Times, 21 May 1973.

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Dublin Rule O.K (Image Credit: Dublin City Public Libraries/DCC)

Our friends at The Little Museum of Dublin are gearing up for a new exhibition that will explore the glory days of Dublin GAA in the 1970s and 80s, and the loyal band of supporters known as ‘Heffo’s Army’. It’s an important bit of Dublin social history, and something we’ve looked at briefly on the site before.

‘Heffo’s Army’ made their presence felt everywhere they went. One journalist who watched Dublin away in Longford in 1977 wrote that:

It was like being in the Kop or at Old Trafford. “Give me a D, give me a U, give me a B,give me an L, give me an I, give me an N!” roared the conductor perched high up in the steel girders on the roof of the stand and the sound reverberated all around the ground. ‘Molly Malone’, ‘The Likes of Heffo’s Army’ and ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ were followed by ‘Go home ye bums, go home.’ And then there was provocative chants about the Dubs being the only football team in the land, and “The rest are no fucking good.”

As Museum Curator Simon O’Connor notes, this forthcoming exhibition isn’t just intended to be a look at the team and their successes, but the effect they had on the life of the city and the GAA in Dublin. While there are plenty of items which tell the story of the success of the team on the pitch, what is missing are

…fan mementos, home-made supporter material like flags, buttons, even small fanzines supporters may have made at the time. I wonder if any of your blog’s readers might have anything like that? The story of the time is as interesting in terms of fans as it is in terms of the games and teams themselves.

We’d be looking for items on loan, for a three month period, and would take them in the coming weeks – all items loaned would be insured and returned by mid June, with lenders acknowledged in the credits section of the exhibition.

Drop Simon an email at simon(at)littlemuseum(dot)ie if you think you can help.

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(Image Credit: Evening Herald)

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There were many happy hours spent in the Sackville Lounge. Late last month, we noted the imminent closure of the pub, and in the two weekends that followed we managed to sneak in a few (!) final pints before last orders meant last orders.

Last Saturday I visited with my friend Brian Teeling, a talented photographer among other things. I asked him to bring along his film camera and to try and snap a few photographs which would capture the place as it was. Despite the immense challenge of lighting, Brian duly set about the task at hand. You can see more of Brian’s work in the latest Totally Dublin.

There is little to add from Ciarán’s earlier post, but thanks to all at the Sackville for memorable days and nights. I remember the days more clearly.

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Like many people, I was sorry to hear recently of the death of Elinor O’ Brien Wiltshire through the National Library of Ireland. Born in Limerick in 1918, she and her husband Reginald Wiltshire (d.1968) took many remarkable photographs of Irish life throughout the 1950s and 60s, which are thankfully maintained today by the NLI. The collection is as vast as it is important, containing some  1,000 negatives and 300 prints.

The collection includes some famous faces,for example capturing Anthony Cronin and Patrick Kavanagh as they celebrated the first Bloomsday together. We have often drawn on the Wiltshire collection to illustrate articles on the blog, and the images are often particularly useful to social historians, as Wiltshire captured wonderful images of ordinary working class life in the city. Some of the finest images in the collection show street traders on Moore Street for example.

In the programme for an exhibition of her photos that was hosted in the National Photographic Archive, her style was described thus:

Over a period of about fifteen years, using a Rolleiflex camera which she acquired in 1955, Elinor Wiltshire captured images of a changing city and its people. The Rolleiflex camera was held at waist level and the scenes or images to be captured were viewed through a 6x6cm ground-glass screen. As a result, many of those featured in the portraits in the exhibition were completely unaware that a camera was trained on them – hence the natural and uninhibited manner in which they are depicted.

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Crowds at St. Columcille’s Well, Ballycullen (Wiltshire Collection, NLI)

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Inner-city Dublin, 1969 (Wiltshire Collection)

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Ballymun, 1969 (Wiltshire Collection)

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