Archive for the ‘Dublin History’ Category

Roy Fox, the independent and family run greengrocer in Donnybrook, closed its doors just before Christmas for the last time after over eighty years in business. It was known for its extensive selection and colourful display of dried and fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and cheeses.
Exterior, Roy Fox. Irish Times.

The exterior of Roy Fox. Credit – Irish Times.

When it was first opened by Hugh Roy Fox at 49 Main Street, Donnybrook in 1933, a delivery man tipped off two young people in the grocery trade that there might be a chance of a job there. Frank Donnelly and Shelia Harbourne, who then did not know each other, were taken on as assistants.
After only five years in business, a 25-year-old and single Roy Fox died of TB on June 1st 1937. At the time, he was living at 2 Windsor Terrace off Lower Pembroke Street, Dublin 2.
Hugh R. Fox, 1937 Death Registry. Credit - irishgenealogy.ie

Hugh R. Fox, 1937 Death Registry. Credit – irishgenealogy.ie

His assistants Frank and Shelia took over the running of the shop as business partners and later married.
The Irish Times (26 July 2008) described the shop in the 1960s as a:

traditional grocery shop, weighing pounds of sugar into bags, slicing ham and delivering large orders to customers. The domestic fridge was beginning to make its appearance but many women shopped everyday, buying in small amounts in a process known as “getting the messages”.

When Frank died in 1968, their 19 year-old son Des took over the running of the business with his mum Shelia. Initially, he was not too keen on the idea. He told Roz Crowley in the Irish Examiner (15 January 2000) that he wanted to originally go into market gardening like his uncles.

I really didn’t like the grocery business. I wanted to be out of doors, planting fruit and vegetables, enjoying being in the sun … I shocked my mother with a compromise suggestion to turn the grocery shop into a fruit and vegetable shop.

They cancelled their order for bread and sugar and soon started to import what vegetables and fruits they could.

He told the RTE news website in 2007:

A customer today would be astonished to learn how little produce was available in those days.  We would have cabbage, carrots, sprouts, cauliflowers, kale, turnips and potatoes, but these were very seasonal.  Celery finished at Christmas, not to appear again until the following Autumn.  Imported produce was limited to bananas, apples, pears, grapes and melons, and a few other items.  This was before we joined the Common Market as it was then known.  Importing of fresh produce was very difficult, and in lots of cases prohibited.  Joining the Common Market made importation of courgettes, peppers and aubergines possible, along with other foods we see today.

By the 1980s, the shop was selling a large selection of exotic produce. Journalist Marion Foster marvelled in The Irish Times (27 March 1986) that she “saw mangoes from Peru at £1 each, nectarines from Chile for 35p, fresh dates from Israel at £1.50 per pound, Ugli fruit from Jamaica for 65p.” She was also taken by the range of ogen melons, kumquats, bean sprouts, fennel and other delicacies.

Interior, Roy Fox. Daft.ie (Dec 2016)

Interior, Roy Fox. Daft.ie (Dec 2016)

With a growing immigrant population and Irish test buds developing, the shop did well during the Celtic Tiger years of the 1990s and early 2000s. Sadly Des Donnelly passed away in 2008 at the age of only 59 from a heart attack. His daughter Joanne took over the business but decided to sell up in 2016. Their last day of business was 16th December 2016 and the property was put on the market for €400,000.

Irish Times  –  27 Mar 1986; 26 July 2008
Irish Examiner –  15 Jan 2000
RTE Afternoon Show – 14 Nov 2007

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Arnott’s car park entrance, which incorporates the front of the Adelphi Cinema.

I have no memory of the Adelphi Cinema (we are younger than you probably think), but growing up in Dublin I always found the Arnott’s car park entrance a little peculiar, with its appearance giving a hint at some interesting former life. While it has found its place in the folklore of the city for the appearance of The Beatles there in 1963, there is much more to the story of the Adelphi, and a curious reminder of it now sits just across the street.

The birth of the Adelphi:

The doors of the Adelphi opened for the first time on 12 January 1939, with Dublin’s Lord Mayor Alfie Byrne given the honour of cutting the ribbon. The cinema was heralded as embodying “all that is the latest in cinema design and technique. It has a seating capacity for 2,325 people.” The Irish Press proclaimed it a “modern super cinema…designed and equipped in a manner which combines the latest scientific knowledge with the best engineering skill.” In keeping with the ethos of its time,there was great emphasis on the fact that “as far as possible, Irish labour and Irish materials went into its construction and equipment.”

By then, things had certainly come a long way since a certain James Joyce encountered much hostility to the opening of his Volta Cinema nearby in 1909.  While newspapers like the Irish Press still printed the occasional denunciation of the cinema industry (normally made from a pulpit), the enthusiasm of the newspaper and others like them for the cinema captured the public mood. As Jim Keenan’s beautiful pictorial history of Dublin cinemas shows, there was a boom in cinema openings in the 1930s, and sometimes well beyond the city centre. Not long after the Adelphi, the Tower Cinema opened in Clondalkin for example.


Banner advertisement for the Adelphi, January 1939.

From Reagan to The Beatles:

Under the stewardship of Harry Lush, who managed the Adelphi from 1943 until the early 1980s, the Adelphi boomed. Lush remembered of the 1940s that “we did colossal business at the Adelphi…we had ninety-one people working in the cinema…Our queues used to go right down Middle Abbey Street and into O’Connell Street where they would get interwoven with the Metropole’s.” As Keenan notes,  the cinema was visited by some of the leading cinema talent of the day, including Cary Grant, John Wayne, Ingrid Bergman and even Ronald Reagan.

The Adelphi didn’t only screen the popular films of the day, it hosted a restaurant and a wide number of social events. “Crooning contests” were popular in the late 1930s, with prizes including paid trips to the Isle of Man, exotic at the time if not today! The venue also witnessed some remarkable concerts. As Colm Keane has noted, with the closure of the legendary Theatre Royal in 1962, the Adelphi “had taken over as the city’s premier live music venue…It had a ready-made stage and adequate backstage facilitates.” The visit of The Beatles is well-known and documented, others have been somewhat forgotten. The great Louis Armstrong performed there in 1967, supported by “Dubliner Jim Farley with a 16-piece band”. Armstrong’s two concerts in the Adelphi (on the same night) were heralded as “unforgettable” in the press.

Ernest Hemingway once proclaimed of Marlene Dietrich that “if she nothing more than her voice she could break your heart with it”, and in 1966 it seemed half of Dublin fell for her when she took to the Adelphi stage. “Every song was given the haunting Dietirch interpretation. It is this quality to interpret a song that has made Miss Dietrich a legend in her own lifetime”, the Irish Press said. To list every great act that performed there would be an endless post in itself, but it’s enough to say many memories were created within the walls of the Adelphi.


The Adelphi as it appeared in the 1970s. The exterior of the building, beyond the loss of its signage, has changed little.

The Adelphi made it well into the 1990s, only closing in November 1995. For the sake of nostalgia, its final screenings were High Society and Gigi, two classic musicals of decades past. The Art Deco Portland stone facade, at first glance anyway, is all that remains.

Yet an article from August 2016 over on Publin.ie points towards remnants of the Adelphi in some peculiar places. At the Church Bar, parts of the original stage have been incorporated into a walkway, while just across the street from the old cinema, a bar which carries the name ‘Adelphi’ includes seats from the cinema in their smoking area. Sometimes, if the weather is right, they even appear on Middle Abbey Street itself. It’s a nice nod to the car park across the street, which has quite the story to tell.


Photographed earlier this week.

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Red Action was a small, militant, socialist group founded in England in 1981 after several activists were expelled from the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) for continuing to be involved in direct action against neo-Fascists (‘squadism’). The group were known for their commitment to street-level anti-Fascist and Irish Republican politics throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Some key members went onto form the Independent Working Class Association (IWCA) in 1995.

The Dublin branch of Red Action was founded in 1990 and remained active until 1997. During this period, they were heavily involved in a range of community campaigns (anti-Water charges, anti-Bin Tax, anti-Drugs etc.) as well as pro-choice, Irish republican and international solidarity issues. They also formed the backbone of Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) which was established in 1991.

For the first time online, here are issues 3 and 4 of their newsletter both published around 1992.

Red Action (Ireland), newsletter no. 3.

Red Action (Dublin), newsletter no. 3.

Images of Red Action (Ireland), newsletter no. 3.

Images of Red Action (Dublin), newsletter no. 3.

Issue 3 of Red Action Dublin’s newsletter had articles on the following:

– pro-choice activity and the work of the Dublin Abortion Information Campaign (DAIC).

–  the anti-extradition campaign of Belfast republican Angelo Fusco. The Dublin Anti-Extradition Campaign (DAEC), with a postal address at 29 Mountjoy Square, met every Tuesday at 16 North Great George’s Street.

– the rise of the far-right in Europe, the work of AFA and the political failings of the SWP.

– the work of the Irish Nicaragua Support Group of which Red Action members were involved with.

– a short piece on the emergence of militant anti-abortion group Youth Defence (YD)

Link to download : red-action-no-3

Red Action (Ireland), newsletter no. 4.

Red Action (Dublin), newsletter no. 4.

Images of Red Action (Ireland), newsletter no. 4.

Images of Red Action (Dublin), newsletter no. 4.

Issue 4 of Red Action Dublin’s newsletter had articles on the following:

– the results of the 1992 X Case abortion referendum and the work of the Alliance for Choice group.

– how the Left fared in the 1992 General Election with a look at the results of the Workers Party and Sinn Fein.

–  the recent activity of Portobello Unemployed Action Group (PUAG) including pickets of RTE and their relationship with the more mainstream Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU).

– small bits on anti-fascist and Irish skinhead politics.

Link to download : red-action-no-4


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One of my favourite things in the city in recent years has been the Dublin Canvas project, which is funded and supported by Dublin City Council. Since 2013, DCC have experimented with an art programme involving the traffic light control boxes of the city. To date, dozens of boxes have been painted right across the city, bringing a touch of colour to these rather boring features of the urban landscape.

Particular favourites include ‘Bo’ by Áine Macken (fittingly enough right beside Dublin’s historic Cowtown), Sarah Macken’s gorgeous tribute to Oscar Wilde, and Sheila Flaherty’s ‘Art Inspires The World’.

Many of the boxes have touched on local history and folklore, ranging from the United Irishmen of the 1790s to Dublin street characters. I was delighted to stumble on Mr. Screen earlier this week, while making my way along Tara Street:


Until recent times, Mr. Screen stood outside of the Screen Cinema (originally The New Metropole) on the corner of Hawkins Street and Townsend Street. With its focus on independent and foreign films, the Screen certainly built a cult following around itself. Among other films, I watched the Leonard Cohen documentary I’m Your Man there, almost having the entire place to myself (maybe such solitary film screenings were part of the problem!). Like many, I was sad but not surprised when its closure was announced in February of last year. Two years before this, its beautiful neon signage was taken down, and replaced by a considerably less inspiring ‘IMC’ branding. It was the beginning of the end.


Mr. Screen, 2010.

The work of sculptor Vincent Browne, Mr. Screen found his place on the street in 1988, thanks to the Dublin Cinema Group. A uniformed cinema usher (and not a bus conductor as some believed), he pointed his torch towards the cinema. 1988 marked the so-called ‘Dublin Millennium’, and Mr. Screen was joined by Molly Malone in that same year, as well as the two female shoppers who sit on Liffey Street.

Earlier this year, Mr. Screen was relocated across to the Northside of Dublin, where he now directs punters in the foyer of the Savoy, a considerable step-up from the humble Screen Cinema. Thanks to the artist David Flynn, he is now closer to home.



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Anthony Cronin (1928-2016)

The death of Anthony Cronin at 88 sees the passing of a wonderful poet, writer and memoirist. As the author of Dead as Doornails, his classic account of mingling among the celebrated names of Dublin’s post-Emergency literary scene, he gave a vivid account of Brendan Behan, Flann O’Brien and Paddy Kavanagh as people, stripped of much of the cliche and tired repetition that has often surrounded memoirs of the three. It remains my favourite Dublin book.


Anthony Cronin, John Ryan and Patrick Kavanagh at the Martello Tower, Sandycove , marking the first Bloomsday (National Library of Ireland)

While he became synonymous with Dublin life, Cronin was born in Enniscorthy in 1928,  something Brendan Behan took delight in reminding him of. Upon completing his studies in Law in Dublin as a young man, he took on a job in the offices of an association of retail traders, remembering that “the facts were that I earned seven pounds three shillings a week, paid three pounds for digs and drank the rest.” He remembered that because of “whatever amalgam of anarchism and utopian communism I luxuriated in at the time”, a career in Law didn’t feel quite right. As a young would-be poet, Cronin never quite fit in with his college contemporaries, finding little of appeal in the “middle-class dress and supper dances in the Gresham and the Metropole”, instead noting that “what I needed, I obscurely felt, was a Bohemia of some kind,but I did not know where to find one.”

It existed, and Cronin certainly found it. The temple he sought was McDaid’s public house on Harry Street, located just off Grafton Street:

Its strength was always in variety, of talent, class, caste and estate. The divisions between writer and non-writer, bohemian and artist, informer and revolutionary, male and female, were never rigorously enforced; and nearly everybody, gurriers included,was ready for elevation, to Parnassus, the scaffold or wherever.

One of the strengths of McDaid’s was the popularity of its head barman, Paddy O’Brien. Tommy Smith, current proprietor of the ever-popular Grogan’s of South William Street, remembered that “the frequenters of McDaid’s he regarded as his friends rather than as mere customers. McDaid’s was Paddy’s creation, and McDaid’s without him would have been just like any run-of-the-mill pub.”

Cronin became a key part of the McDaid’s set, that included (at different times) American ex-servicemen who had taken shelter in Ireland, IRA men like Eddie Connell and Peter Walsh, writers of all sorts and “the bohemian rentiers, many of them English or very Anglo-Irish, who rejoiced in the general atmosphere.” Sessions in McDaid’s could often spill into sessions in the Catacombs, a series of basements in Fitzwilliam Place, which were established by the rather eccentric but much-loved Dickie Wyman. Paddy O’Brien remembered that Dickie wasn’t a writer, “but he always knocked around with the arty set…He was a misfit in most things but Dickie had a great flair for organising the parties and he started the Catacombs.” In Dublin ‘lore, the Catacombs have been remembered as an unusually  free-spirit environment, popular with gay Dubliners who felt at ease there away from the judgemental eyes of 1950s Dublin society, though Cronin remembered that “most of what went on in the Catacombs was in fact ordinary social boozing. Where there is booze, it will usually prevail over other matters.”


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This article was first published in Rabble magazine. Given the on-going occupation of Apollo House by activists, it seems right to post it here. You can donate to ‘Home Sweet Home’ by clicking here.


Apollo House, 17 December 2016.

Apollo House, an unpopular architectural relic of the 1960s, has been closed for several years now. At the time of its construction, it was just one part of what historian Erika Hanna has called “a matrix of speculative office blocks, which dominated the skyline and reshaped the landscape of the city.”  Both it and the neighbouring Hawkins House have been earmarked for demolition, but in recent days the occupation of the building by housing activists has grabbed national and international attention.

The decade when Apollo House was constructed witnessed very real agitation on the issue of housing in Dublin, with the establishment of the Dublin Housing Action Committee and similar organisations in other Irish cities. Many of the key players involved in this movement were important figures in revolutionary political circles at the time, and the housing campaigns of the 1960s utilised direct action tactics which often succeeded in grabbing the headlines and the attention of authorities. Just today, a letter appeared in  The Irish Times from Márín de Burca of the DHAC, expressing her support to the occupiers:

As a founding member of the old Dublin Housing Action Committee, I applaud the actions of the Home Sweet Home group and others who have taken over Apollo House for the homeless. I am sure that they know quite well, as we did in the 1960s, that this is not a long-term solution but in the short-term it puts a roof over the heads of families. There is absolutely no reason why support is an either-or proposition. It is possible to support the short-term option while fighting fiercely for the basic right of citizens to a permanent secure home. In an era when it seems that only self-interest will bring people out on the streets in protest, it is heartening to see that there are still some who look beyond the cost to themselves and will fight for right and justice for those less privileged.


Masthead of DHAC newsletter (Irish Left Archive, Cedar Lounge Revolution)

.By the early 1960s, despite some substantial suburban construction projects in the decades prior such as those in Cabra and Ballyfermot, a significant number of people in inner-city Dublin were still living in outdated and dangerous tenement accommodation. Two tenements collapsed within weeks of one another in June 1963, with two elderly Dubliners and two schoolchildren losing their lives. Images of a collapsed tenement on Bolton Street shocked the public on June 2nd, and by the end of the month the media were reporting that since the disaster “156 houses have been evacuated because they were in a dangerous condition. This has necessitated the rehousing of 520 families.”

Families were housed in the old living quarters of Dublin Fire Brigade stations or moved temporarily into suburban Dublin, while the city even considered utilising prefabs to deal with the crisis. By no means were such horrors confined to Dublin, and indeed north of the border housing rights and access to a decent standard of accommodation for all was a central motivating issue for the Civil Rights movement there.

In May 1967, the Dublin Housing Action Committee was born, the brainchild of left-republican activists, and as Tara Keenan-Thomson has written in her study of women in Irish street politics historically,  “the main personalities in the group were Máirín de Burca, a young socialist (…) who had returned to Sinn Féin after it had shown signs of contemplating social action, and Prionsias de Rossa, another young republican socialist”. In addition to this left-republican element, the movement also drew in members from a wide spectrum of leftist parties and community groups. Among its key demands were “the repair of dwellings by Dublin Corporation where landlords refuse to do so” and the immediate “declaration of a housing emergency” in the city.


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‘Remembering 1916,Recording 2016’ – Certificate presented to Come Here to Me, 13 December 2016.

Yesterday, we were honoured to be announced as a winner in the National Library of Ireland’s ‘Remembering 1916, Recording 2016’ competition. Ten websites were selected for archiving, with five coming from historically focused websites and five contemporary outlets.

That these websites were chosen by the public is particularly humbling. Since 2009, we have slowly but surely built a readership and an engaged following, with thousands of people connecting with us across various social media outlets and here on the blog itself. We are eternally grateful to those who read the website, buy our books and attend our charity fundraising nights.

In truth, a blog like CHTM could not exist without institutions like the National Library of Ireland. In recent years, we have been lucky to work with the NLI in both personal and collective capacities, and the enthusiasm of their team for public outreach should be noted and commended. They, and other cultural institutions like the National Archives of Ireland and the Dublin City Library and Archive, have continued to do remarkable work in digitisising and sharing their collections, often against a harsh economic climate of cutbacks. We are incredibly fortunate to have resources like the 1901 and 1911 censuses, the Bureau of Military History Witness Statements, and the digitised personal papers of the 1916 signatories available to consult for free online. In many other countries, these materials would no doubt be behind paywalls.

The award certificates were presented by Heather Humphreys, Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. While much good was done at national and local level by government agencies during the centenary year, we feel the most significant contributions to the centenary were made at community level. From Ringsend to Stoneybatter, and from Ballyfermot to Rathmines, it was the people of the city who took the leading role in this centenary, and who likewise refused to dilute the Rising of its radical and egalitarian principles. We also wish to state our continued support for the campaign to Save Moore Street, which has been truly inspiring.

Once again, we thank all readers of the blog.


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