Archive for the ‘Dublin History’ Category

Published for the club’s centenary in 1990, Phil Howlin’s history of Bohemian Football Club refers briefly to a carnival held at Dalymount in 1938 and 1940 organised by the wonderfully named “Ways & Means Committee”. Themselves initially formed in 1933 as a mechanism for fund raising, the Committee ran the carnivals in part to benefit the club, but also to provide for the improvement of schools in nearby Cabra. The 1940 iteration of the carnival also contributed a full day’s takings to a benevolent fund organised by veterans of the 1st Battalion, Dublin Brigade IRA.

The first reference in the Irish newspaper archives to the as-named ‘Bohemia Carnival’ however goes back to June 1st, 1910 in the Freeman’s Journal where

The “Bohemia” open-air carnival, which has been organised on behalf of the Bohemian Football Club was continued yesterday at Dalymount Park… The round of sports and amusements was, as on the previous day, one of strong attractiveness.

Entertainment on Thursday June 2nd was provided by “Ireland’s Own Band” alongside an appearance from “the massed bands of the 5th Dragoon Guards, the Rifle Brigade and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.” In addition to the music the military bands provided, there was “a military torchlight tattoo, and a display of fireworks which illustrated the fall of Port Arthur”, concerts, dancing, merry-go-rounds, swing boats and shooting galleries. Saturday June 4th saw a performance from the band of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, as the carnival was concluded for the evening.

Post 1910, there appears no mention in the archives until 1923- no doubt due to those turbulent years in Dublin, where there is a brief reference to the “Now Famous Bohemia Carnival” held in the Kosy Café ballroom on Talbot Street. By the time it re-appears in 1938, the Carnival seems to have morphed into something much larger. Advertisements begin to appear from January 1938 in the Irish Press, the Irish Independent and the Evening Herald promoting a month-long Bohemia Carnival at Dalymount Park, from May 7th to June 12th that year.

By April, Bohemia Carnival events begin to take place around the city, including a Gala Midnight Matinee in the Bohemian Picture Theatre and a Whist Drive in St. Peter’s Hall alongside material promoting “The Greatest Thrill in the World- Stratosphere Girl. Acrobatics 120 Feet in the Air”, fireworks and Barry’s Amusements including the fantastically named Flying Pigs, dodgem cars, chairoplanes, a ghost train and various side shows. 

As well as the amusements, the Carnival was to include two speedways, a Wall of Death display (performed by Cyclone Chris and Dare Devil Ena according to Howlin,) and two large marquees with especially laid floors for a cèilidh and ‘old time waltzes’. According to reports at the time, due to their huge popularity these marquees were extended and became the largest raised dancefloors in the country at the time. The aforementioned fireworks displays by the famous Brock’s Company, a comedy competition and a seven-mile road race also entertained the crowds.

Several cycling races were organized by the C.R.E. to start and finish at Dalymount. The Evening Herald on May 9th said, “It is for the messenger boys- on a scale something similar to the world-famous Paris event of its kind.” The race, over five miles and on carrier bicycles was won by K.V. Duff (Duff Bros., Santry) with J. Burke (Pearse Bros., Marino) in second and K. Bradley (Shiels, Cabra) in third.

Opened by Bohemian’s president, Mr. Archbold said that the club ‘would celebrate its golden jubilee in 1940.’ Members of it, he added, had ‘acquitted themselves honorably in art, culture and battle throughout the world.’ 25,000 people attended the opening night.

The undoubted attraction of the carnival was the so-called Stratosphere Girl, promoted widely (and daily) as the main draw. The Stratosphere Girl was Camilla Mayer, born Lotte Witte in 1918 in Stettin, Germany- today Szczecin, Poland. Part of the famous Camilio Mayer high wire troupe, her act consisted of her performing daring acts such as handstands, headstands, and balancing on one toe on a platform just a couple of inches wide atop a 138-foot-tall pole. She was in fact so galled by one Dublin newspaper promoting the Carnival which claimed the performance would take place at 120 feet as referred to earlier in this piece, that she complained and forced them into a retraction. (See accompanying ‘Apology to a lady’ image.)

According to Phil Howlin, these escapades were performed in Dalymount nightly at 22:00 without the aid of a safety net. Wildly popular, she saw her run at the Carnival extended past her initial two weeks and was granted a tour of Dublin on Friday May 20th, visiting the Irish Press building, the Jacob’s factory, the Guinness Brewery and the Savoy restaurant.

Mayer was certainly a star in her own right, performing at the famous Butlins camp throughout the 1930’s. Subject to what can only be assumed was anti-German sentiment, she was twice victim to sabotage (and indeed attempted murder), as it was discovered in pre-performance inspections that the support cables for her pole had been tampered with.

Her bravado at such great heights would ultimately lead to her death on January 20th, 1940 at the Deutschland Halle in Berlin when a 60-foot-tall pole she was performing atop snapped, causing her to plummet to her death. The name Camilla Mayer was taken by numerous high wire performers after her death in order to honour her memory.

Brock’s vast fireworks displays enthralled the crowds each weekend, as one contemporary news report describes:

The Bohemia Carnival at Dalymount Park attracted huge crowds during the weekend, despite the break in the weather. The fireworks displays which were given on Saturday and Sunday nights were most attractive and entertaining. The ‘House on Fire’ was a most ingenious display. A house was lit up, and then ‘went on fire.’ An illuminated ‘Fire Brigade’ then rushed to the scene. The ‘firemen’ and ‘equipment’ were also illuminated; and sprayed ‘water’ on the conflagration and succeeded in getting the ‘fire’ under control. It was a most spectacular and colorful display, and the performance won rounds of applause from the huge crowd present.

The 1938 Carnival also played host to The Munroe Troupe of High-Wire Artists, billed as the Gothian Four. According to promotional material, one of the four was a boy of twelve years of age, who received special permission from ‘the Ministry of Labour’ to become a high-wire artist at such an early age.

“Gotha, the leader of the troupe, is the heaviest high-wire artist in the world weighing 21 stone. He will cycle across the wire, which is and will offer to carry any lady or man on his back while doing so. He will also carry a stove along the wire and will cook pancakes, which he throws to the crowd beneath him. One of the ladies of the troupe will perform balancing feats with a chair, and the other lady will walk across the wire while enveloped in a sack and blindfolded.”

The 1940 iteration of the Carnival went for a similarly daring act- the Lindberghs. Stan and Tom Lindbergh were a High Dive act, climbing a rickety tower of ‘tremendous height’ and diving into a tank containing just five foot of water, a feat dangerous enough in itself, but even more so that their ‘Sensational Death Dive’ when it was done whilst on flames and blindfolded.

Another tragedy would beset a veteran of the Bohemia Carnival, as Stan would meet his death in an accident years later, misjudging a dive and colliding with the side of his tank. (I struggled to find much written on the Lindbergh’s, but similarly to high wire artists taking the name Mayer, it seems to be a stage name for ‘high fire divers’ with a Don Lindbergh performing at carnivals around the UK up to the ’80s at least- great picture here.)

An interesting happenstance also occurred at the 1940 Carnival. Long before Liam Brady made his debut against the Soviet Union at Dalymount Park in 1974, his brother Ray was winning trophies there. Not in his capacity as a footballer, though he would earn six Irish caps in 1963/1964 while and feature at Dalymount in that spell, but in the 1940 Bohemia Carnival Bonny Baby Competition, beating hundreds of other children to the top spot.

Evening Herald, October 1963

While the carnivals obviously raised much needed funds for the club, it can only be imagined how badly effected the playing surface must have been with the large footfall, racetracks, amusements, death dives, high wires, dancehalls and the rest- and how much work it would take to return this to a playable condition before the start of the following season. Partly for this reason, Howlin explained that

From the funds however it was decided to install an artesian well at a depth of 220 feet, which could yield up to 1,000 gallons of water per hour. The cost was £466. For many years thereafter Dalymount Park’s groundsmen have been blessed with a supply of water and have not had to rely on the vagaries of our summer weather, when the grass was in need of water at short notice before each season.

That well of course, along with the old tramway terrace shall be no more in the coming years.

– Ciaran Murray

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Peter McCarthy, a 20-year-old IRA member, was shot dead in June 1937 on Lower Clanbrassil Street. He was killed by an off-duty Special Branch officer with an unlicensed revolver in dubious circumstances during the arrest of two fellow IRA members. His burial in Mount Jerome Cemetery was attended by 3,000 people including the Chief of the Staff of the IRA, the President of Cuman na mBan and the President of Sinn Féin.

Family Background
Peter McCarthy’s parents were both born in Dublin and grew up in various tenements in the South Inner City around the area of Golden Lane and Bride Street.

His father William McCarthy (b. 18 Dec 1886) came from a working-class Church of Ireland family. In 1901, the eight of them lived in one room in a tenement house at 1.1 Arthur’s Lane, off Golden Lane. Five families (28 people) lived in the house altogether. By 1911, William was living with his widowed mother at 84.1 Bride Street sharing the house with a further two families.

24-year-old William’s occupation was listed as a ‘library porter’ in 1911 which would have been a good job and fairly rare considering there were nearly 32,000 men employed as labourers in the city but only just over 100 working as librarians or library assistants/porters. William McCarthy was also one of only 340 Protestant McCarthy’s in the 32 Counties in 1911 as opposed to nearly 18,000 McCarthy’s who were Catholic.

Peter’s mother Anne Moore (b. 14 Jan 1898) was living with her family at 7.5 Great Longford Street, off Golden Lane, in 1901. Seven families (21 people) lived in the house. The Moore family (parents and two children) occupied one room. By 1911, Anne was living with her mother at 8.1 Upper Digges Street, off Aungier Street. Four families (13 people) occupied the building with Anne, her mother and two siblings sharing a single room.

As the city’s buildings were still smouldering from the destruction of the Easter Rising, William (29) and Anne (18) married on 15 May 1916 at the Catholic Church of Saints Michael and John on Lower Exchange Street. By this time, Anne’s family were living at 27 East Essex Street in Temple Bar. William had been promoted to ‘library assistant’ and was still living with his family on Bride Street.

Peter, their first child, was born on 02 May 1917 in Holles Street Hospital. The couple by this stage had made a home for themselves at Flat 21, Block H, Iveagh Trust Buildings on Bride Street. His father’s occupation was listed as a librarian.

Tragedy struck the family with the death of patriarch William McCarthy (43). The cause of death on 11 Dec 1930 was a chill and lobar pneumonia. The family had moved by this stage to no. 25 in the same block of flats. Peter was only 13 years old when he lost his father who was described as a ‘timekeeper’ on his death certificate. The family suffered another traumatic incident the following year with the death of Peter’s younger sister Annie Christina, aged just 2, who died on 01 July 1931. The cause of death was accidental scalds on the body, toxaemia (blood poisoning) and cardiac failure.

Move to Crumlin
I expect that Peter McCarthy joined the IRA in his late teens. He was a member of B Company, 4 Battalion, Dublin Brigade. This unit in the 1919-23 period comprised of men mostly from the area around Aungier Street, Donore Avenue, South Circular Road, Lower Clanbrassil Street and Patrick Street in the South Inner City area. The son of an IRA member who knew him has told me via email that he Peter often used the Irish version of his first name – Peadar McCarthy.

The Dublin Brigade had an estimated 630 members in 1933 as referenced by Brian Hanley in “The IRA 1926-1936” (page 16). The Brigade O/C in 1937 was Jim Hannigan according to Uinseann MacEoin in “The IRA in the Twilight Years 1923-1948” (page 773).

Barry McLoughlin estimates that 55 Dublin men travelled over with the International Brigades to fight in the Spanish Civil War. It’s quite probable that Peter McCarthy knew some of the IRA men within these ranks. At least one Liam McGregor (1914-1938) was from the same company as Peter. Others like Tony Fox (1914-1936) and Mick May (1916-1936) had served with A Company of the same battalion before travelling to Spain.

Large estates of suburban housing were built by Dublin Corporation from the mid-1920s onwards as part of its programme of slum clearance and re-housing of families from the city centre. These well-planned, outlying estates included Crumlin where construction began in 1934. The McCarthy family were moved out of the inner-city to a new house at 207 Clonard Road in ca.1935-37.

Background to shooting (May 1937)
The events which lead up to Peter’s death begin in May 1937. James Patton, of 20 Kildare Street, owned a motor garage at Denzille Place off Denzille Street (Fenian Street). An Austin saloon car was hired from him by two unidentified men on 13 May and not returned until 2am of the 15th. Patton later gave evidence that the pair “drew revolvers from their pockets”. Presumably, this was to scare James Patton and deter any protest on his part about the late return. Whether under duress or not, Patton stated that he drove one of the men to Harold’s Cross Bridge and the other to Parnell Bridge, Crumlin. Later that day, Patton claimed that this Austin saloon car was stolen on the South Circular Road. The theft was reported to the Gardaí who found the vehicle the following afternoon on Merrion Square. The car was removed to Dublin Castle and photographed for fingerprints. James Patton gave a description of the two men and it appears that the authorities soon had drawn up a list of possible suspects.

Detective-Officer John Brocklebank, of the Special Branch, gave evidence in court that he was detailed to watch the home of one young man named Samuel (Sam) Wheelock (22) who lived with his family at 48 Lower Clonbrassil Street.

Brocklebank stated that he had the house under observation intermittently for a month but had not seen any sign of Wheelock during this time. Another member of the Special Branch, Detective Sergeant Moroney (also given as Mooney), told the inquest that he searched Wheelock’s home on 20 and 29 May 1937 for arms but none were found.

The shooting on Clanbrassil Street (15 June 1937)
On the evening of Tuesday 15 June 1937, Detective-Officer Brocklebank spotted Wheelock enter his house on Lower Clonbrassil Street at around 5 o’clock. Brocklebank was not on duty until 6pm that day and this detail was brought up at the subsequent inquest.

Brocklebank claims that he located a uniformed Garda officer, who was on traffic duty at Leonard’s Corner, and gave him a telephone number on a piece of paper to ring. About five minutes later Detective Sergeant Moroney, and his colleague Detective Sergeant Wilfred Dowd, arrived on the scene in a car. Before going into his home, Wheelock was spotted speaking to three other men on the street. They were Peter McCarthy (20), his comrade and neighbour Henry (Harry) Dale (20) of Clonfert Road, Crumlin, and another young IRA member Eamon Fagan (17) of St. James Walk, Rialto.

Brocklebank said that he took Harry Dale into custody on the stairs of no. 48 after he followed him into the building which was divided up into flats. He then went into Wheelock’s home and found him having his tea. Brocklebank told him that needed to take him into Dublin Castle for questioning but allowed him to finish his meal first. Both Dale and Wheelock were taken outside and put into the back of the police car which was parked on the opposite side of the street from the house. There were now five people in the car – Detective Sergeant Moroney in the driver’s seat, Detective Sergeant Dowd in the passenger seat and Detective-Officer Brocklebank in the back seat with the two young men.

Miss Lily Wheelock, sister of Sam, was looking out of her window at home about 6.10pm when she saw Peter McCarthy standing on the pavement on the opposite side of her house. She later told the court that she saw McCarthy move towards the parked police vehicle. In her mind, she told the court, it looked like McCarthy was leaning in to say something to her brother in the back seat. Miss Wheelock did not indicate at any stage of her testimony that McCarthy was carrying any firearm or acting suspiciously. Two other eyewitnesses, interviewed by the Irish Independent (16 June 1937), also did not make any reference to Peter McCarthy being armed.

The next thing a shot rang out and Lily Wheelock saw McCarthy fall “on his back on the roadway [with] his hands clasping the lapels of his coat”. She rushed out of her home and “.. saw McCarthy lying moaning on the roadway and, as the other young man ran away, I saw a man with a gun. I shouted, “Don’t shoot!”

Lily went to console McCarthy who told her “I am dying – get me a priest”. Maisie Osbourne, who worked in the nearby Greenmount Linen Mill, was on her way home from work when she came across the scene. She told the court that she whispered the Act of Contrition into Peter’s ear. It was later reported in an Irish republican newspaper that Osbourne was the first person to reach McCarthy and “swore” that there was no gun in his hand or beside his body.

The unconscious McCarthy was placed in the front of the police car and driven to the nearby Meath Hospital, Heytesbury Street (less than 1km away). He was admitted at about 6.20pm and died within ten minutes. The subsequent inquest was told that the single bullet passed through his left forearm, into his ribs near his lung and right through his heart. The cause of death was shock and haemorrhage. The Irish Times (16 June 1936) was informed by hospital staff that Peter was shot at close range (3-4 yards) and the bullet “had pierced [his] left forearm as if [he] had raised his arm to attempt to protect himself”.

The killing shocked the residents of the local area and the Irish Press (16 June 1937) reported that “curious throngs crowded Clanbrassil Street discussing the shooting until a late hour”. On a side note, Clanbrassil Street in the 1930s was the heart of Dublin’s Jewish community and had as many as 27 Jewish grocery, bakery and general stores in the period.

Funeral (18 June 1937)
Peter McCarthy celebrated his 20th birthday just a month before his death. His death certificate stated that he was unemployed. The press reported that his mother, a widow with six children, was employed as a cleaner in Government offices while one of his brothers was a soldier in the National Army. The news must have been devastating after already losing her husband and a daughter. “She sat on a chair in the kitchen, on the wall of which is a photograph of the dead boy and herself, and sobbed “my poor boy” while neighbours tried to comfort her” reported The Irish Times (16 June 1937).

On the evening of 17 June, his coffin left the Meath Hospital accompanied by an IRA guard of honour. The press reported that a large number of people lined the streets as the cortege travelled to Our Lady’s Hospice, Harold’s Cross via Clanbrassil Street where it halted for a few minutes at the location of the shooting.

That same evening Éamon de Valera spoke at a Fianna Fáil public election meeting in Dublin where a “group of men” interrupted proceedings with cries of “Who shot Peter McCarthy?” and “Up the Republic!” as reported in the Evening Herald (17 June 1937).

On the following morning, the funeral cortege left Our Lady’s Hospice and proceeded to Crumlin. The coffin was draped in the tricolour with an eight-man guard of honour followed by 100 men in formation. They were accompanied by women of Cumann na mBan, Clan na nGaedheal (the girls scouts) and uniformed boy scouts of Na Fianna Éireann. The procession stopped outside the McCarthy family home at 207 Clonard Road for a few minutes. The Irish Times (19 June 1937) remarked that the “route was lined with spectators and all [the] blinds” of shops and homes were drawn as a mark of respect.

The burial at Mount Jerome Cemetery was attended by 3,000 people according to the Irish Press (19 June 1937). The chief mourners were Ann McCarthy (mother), William McCarthy (brother), Emily McCarthy (sister), and numerous uncles, aunts and cousins.

The Republican movement was represented by a large number of well-known figures including Mrs Margaret Buckley (née Goulding) (President of Sinn Féin); Mrs Eithne O’Donnell (née Coyle) (President of Cumann na mBan); Mrs Sean MacBride (Catalina Bulfin); Madame Maud Gonne MacBride; Mrs Cathal Brugha (née Caitlín Kingston); Miss Fiona Plunkett (Cumann na mBan); Miss May Laverty (Cumann na mBan); Mrs Tom Barry (Leslie Price); Miss Sheila McInerney; Miss Maeve Gleeson and others.

The funeral was further attended by solicitor Con Lehane (IRA); J Clarke [Joe Clarke] (Sinn Féin); Sean Keating; Sean Brady; Mick Fitzpatrick (IRA Chief of Staff); P Kearney (Cork); Sean Derrington; J Stapleton; P. O Aodgháin; Dr J Hannigan and Mr McIvor, Mr Cairns and Mr Power (Unemployed Workers Rights Association). Mick Fitzpatrick had replaced Sean MacBride as the IRA’s Chief of Staff in “mid-1937” according to Uinseann MacEoin in “The IRA in the Twilight Years 1923-1948” (page 17).

Leading IRA member Peadar O’Flaherty delivered the oration at Mount Jerome and told the large crowd that Peter “laid down his life for the Irish Republic”. The Last Post was sounded and a group of young men fired three volleys into the air over the grave with revolvers. The police made no attempt to interfere.

Peter McCarthy is buried in grave number A21-506 alongside his sister and his mother (who died in 1965). The inscription is as follows:

In Loving Memory
Of My Dear Son
Peter McCarthy
207 Clonard Road, Crumlin
B Company, 4 Battalion, Dublin Brigade, IRA
Who Gave His Life For The Republic of Ireland
On The 15th June 1937, Aged 20
Do chum Glóire Dé agus Ónóra na hÉireann [For the Glory of God and the Honour of Ireland]
Also My daughter Anne Died 1st July 1931
Also Their Beloved Mother
Annie McCarthy
Died 4th Dec. 1965

Court (1937) and Inquest (1938)
The day after the funeral, the police charged Sam Wheelock (22) and Harry Dale (20) with illegal possession of firearms at James Patton’s motor garage at Denzille Place, on 14 May, and stealing one of his motorcars on 15 May.

Eamon Fagan (17) was charged with conspiring with McCarthy, and another unnamed man who was not apprehended, to rescue Wheelock and Dale from lawful custody after they had been arrested. The Irish Press (17 June 1937) reported that as the trio were being taken from the Bridewell station in a police van, they shouted: “Up the Republic!”.

Regarding the events on 15 June, Brocklebank testified that as his colleague Dowd was closing the passenger door, Peter McCarthy approached the car with a revolver in his right hand, grabbed the left arm of Detective Sergeant Dowd and told him to “Stick it up”. Brockleback alleged that he removed a revolver from his pocket, put a bullet into the breach and opened the car door. Just as he stepped out, he claims that Peter McCarthy turned in his direction and Brockleback fired the fatal shot which killed him.

Brocklebank in court on 24 June 1937 claimed that he “took the gun from the deceased man who was on the ground in a huddled position” before chasing after Eamon Fagan who had ran from the scene after the shooting. He called on Fagan to halt near Leonard’s Corner which he did and brought him back to the police car.

It was claimed that the gun taken from McCarthy was a short Webley revolver, an old RIC pattern. It contained two live rounds, one opposite the barrel. The trigger would have to be pulled four times before the gun would fire and there was no evidence that the gun had been discharged recently.

It emerged in the Dublin District Court on 14 June 1937 that Brocklebank shot McCarthy with a Browning semi-automatic pistol (containing six live rounds of ammunition) which not the official Garda .45 revolver issued to Special Branch officers. This was a personal weapon that he evidently carried on his person while off-duty and which the court was told was against police regulations.

The police also claimed that they found Eamon Fagan’s fingerprints on the stolen car. The solicitor for the McCarthy family, Con Lehane, alleged that Fagan was manhandled while in custody with a view to intimidate him regarding the evidence he would give. The authorities refuted this and insisted that Fagan “objected to his fingerprints being taken and it was necessary to use reasonable force” (Evening Herald, 29 June 1937). The family’s solicitor Con Lehane had joined the IRA in 1929, served 18 months in Arbour Hill in 1935-36 and was described as the Dublin Brigade’s intelligence officer in 1937.

On 22 July 1937, Harry Dale and Sam Wheelock’s case was dismissed and they were discharged from the court. Fagan was returned for trial on bail at a later date but was also acquitted.

It took over a year for the inquest on the death of Peter McCarthy to take place. Lawyer Sean MacBride, who had served as IRA Chief of the Staff from mid-1936 to early 1937, told the jury:

“It was beyond dispute that McCarthy had been shot by a policeman. The police are empowered to carry arms for special purposes only. I think that in these days of dictatorships a grave responsibility rests on the jury to see that the police force of this country are going to kept under control and not be allowed to abuse the powers which they have”. (Cork Examiner, 23 July 1938)

The jury, after three days of evidence, concluded on 23 July 1938, that Peter McCarthy died from gunshot wounds but they could not agree on the points that:
1) Peter McCarthy was armed
2) that Detective-Officer Brocklebank could not have inflicted the wounds from the position in which McCarthy was standing

In view of this verdict and the evidence, AE Wood, Senior Counsel for McCarthy’s family, asked Dr DA McErlean, City Coroner, to charge Detective Brocklebank and his two colleagues with manslaughter. This was refused. Wood believed that the evidence presented showed that “McCarthy was not armed, and from that from the positions of McCarthy and Detective Brocklebank at the time it would have been impossible for McCarthy to be shot through the left forearm”.

John Brocklebank served in the same battalion as Peter McCarthy in the 1919-23 period. His membership of C Company, 4 Battalion, Dublin Brigade is confirmed in the Nominal Rolls (page 35). His Company Captain was Denis O’Brien who also joined the Special Branch in the early 1930s and was killed by the IRA in 1942.

The only evidence of a response from party politics was from Cumann Poblachta na hÉireann, the IRA’s short-lived political party. Two of its Dublin branches, the Central Branch and the John Mitchel Branch, passed votes of sympathy to the McCarthy family in the days after his death.

Mary MacSwiney, a sister of Terence MacSwiney who died on hunger-strike, criticised Fianna Fáil in a letter to the Cork Examiner (20 July 1937). She said that since taking power they had “restored and enforced coercion; imprisoned men for no other crime than that of being soldiers of the Republic” and now “have the deaths of Sean Glynn and Peter McCarthy on their charge”. [Sean Glynn was found hanging in his cell in Arbour Hill on 13 Sep 1936, the cause of his death was disputed with his family believing it was murder.]

The Irish Democrat (11 Dec 1937) reported on a Kevin Barry Commemoration meeting held in the Carlton Hall, London on 30 Nov during which the speaker TF Long, from Tipperary, referred to the recent deaths of “Sean Glynn and Peter McCarthy, and to the [unjust] imprisonment of Michael Conway”.

Messages of condolences came from some surprising quarters. The Wolfe Tone Weekly (13 Nov 1937) reported that members of the Rathfarnham Dramatic Society “paid glowing tributes to the courage and unselfish devotion” of Volunteer Peter McCarthy “who had worked unceasingly for the advancement of everything that was Irish and Republican”.

It appears that Hary Dale was a member of the Rathfarnham Dramatic Society as was Peter himself. Dale was elected chairman in Oct 1937.

Prison Bars, the publication of the Womens’ Prisoners Defence League, reinforced the opinion of the republican movement that there were serious questions about the police officer’s accounts of events. In an early issue (01 Aug 1937), they reviewed the facts of the case in their mind:

“Many people returning from work witnessed the crime. They saw a police car drawn up, they saw a young man speak to the prisoners, they saw a CID man fire, they saw the young man fall, they saw his body bundled into the police car. Two days later many attended McCathy’s funeral to Mount Jerome Cemetery, as a protest against the shooting.”

Following the conclusion of the inquest, the Prison Bars journal was more forthright. Their issue (01 Aug 1938) reported that witness Maisie Osbourne “swore she was the first person to reach [McCarthy] and that he was clutching his chest with his two hands, and that he had no gun and there was no gun lying near him”. They continued: “An inquiry into the powers of the Special Branch is urgent and necessary. Guns, official and unofficial, must be under some sort of control, and men subject to nerves or drink should not be allowed to carry them”.

On 15 June 1938, the following message was inserted into the Evening Herald:

McCarthy – In proud and loving memory of our brave comrade, Peter McCarthy, who was shot in Dublin June 15 1937. Do chum glóire Dé agus onóra na hÉireann [To the Glory of God and Honour of Ireland]. Inserted by his comrades Harry, Eamon, Johnny, Sam, Desmond, Danny.

A similar note was inserted in the same newspaper the following year by Peter’s friend and neighbour Harry Daly:

McCarthy – Second Anniversary – In memory of my brave comrade, Peter McCarthy, 207 Clonard Road, Crumlin, shot in Dublin, June 15, 1937 – Harry.

The last press insert, that I can locate, came from 1946 and was by Harry again:

McCarthy (Ninth Anniversary) – In memory of my brave comrade, Volunteer Peter McCarthy, B. Coy., 4th Batt., Dublin Brigade, shot in Dublin, June 15, 1937. Do chum glóire Dé agus onóra na hÉireann [To the Glory of God and Honour of Ireland]Harry.

As far as I’m aware, there was no attempt to mark the location where Peter McCarthy was fatally wounded with a plaque or marker. Clanbrassil Street itself saw a large amount of demolition in the late 1980s to facilitate the construction of a four-lane dual carriageway. It appears that the row of houses at no. 48 Lower Clanbrassil Street were pulled down as early as 1980 for road widening. I can also find no evidence that there were any annual commemorations or memorial services to mark his death. The IRA was at such a low ebb in the early 1940s that this is not entirely surprising.

It is unclear whether Peter McCarthy’s three comrades – Eamon Fagan, Hary Dale and Sam Wheelock – had any further involvement with the IRA or republican politics.

Peter’s mother Annie McCarthy, of 207 Clonard Road, died on 04 Dec 1965 aged 67.

John Brocklebank, who had joined the Special Branch in 1933, retired in the mid-1960s and died in July 1974.

McCarthy was the first IRA Volunteer killed in the capital since 1928 when Tim Coghlan (F Company, 4 Battalion, Dublin Brigade) was shot dead by state agent Sean Harling at Woodpark Lodge, Dartry Road near Rathgar. McCarthy was also the first IRA member killed in Dublin by the Special Branch of the Fianna Fáil government who came into power in 1932.

Many former anti-Treaty IRA men were initially recruited into the Special Branch in the early 1930s to fight Eoin O’Duffy’s fascist ‘Blueshirts’ which comprised of ex National Army soldiers. Historian Donnacha Ó Beacháin in his book ‘Destiny of the Soldiers‘ described Fianna Fáil’s Special Branch (nicknamed the Broy Harriers) as providing many anti-Treaty “Civil War veterans with a gun, a salary and an opportunity to patrol their old adversaries” (p. 134).

From the late 1930s onward, the Special Branch’s focus turned from the Blueshirts to the IRA which comprised of many War of Independence and anti-Treaty veterans along with new, young recruits like Peter McCarthy. Historian J Bowler Bell claims in ‘Secret Army’ (page 171) that McCarthy’s death in 1937 shattered any latent ties that might have still existed between the IRA and some of their “old comrades” in the ‘Broy Harriers’.

A number of major events pushed the IRA and the authorities into serious and open conflict by the early 1940s including the IRA’s raid on the Irish Army’s reserve ammunition store in the Phoenix Park’s Magazine Fort (1939); their bombing campaign in England which led to the deaths of several civilians (1939-40) and the development of contacts between the IRA and Nazi German military intelligence. This prompted the Fianna Fáil government to enact the Emergency Powers Bill to reinstate internment and the death penalty for IRA members during ‘The Emergency’ (Second World War).

Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid in her biography of Sean MacBride succinctly notes that Peter’s death was “an ugly portent of the explosive violence that would become a recurrent feature of IRA-Gardaí relations during the war years”. At least nine people died in Dublin between 1940 and 1943:

– IRA Volunteers Tony D’Arcy and Sean McNeela died on hunger-strike in Mountjoy Prison (April 1940)
– Detective Sergeant Patrick McKeown and Detective Richard Hyland were shot dead by IRA members during a raid on a house at 98a Rathgar Road (16 Aug 1940)
– IRA Volunteers Patrick MacGrath and Thomas Harte were executed by firing squad in Mountjoy Prison (06 Sep 1940)
– Detective Sergeant O’Brien was gunned down by an IRA unit outside his home on the Ballyboden Road, Rathfarnham (09 Sep 1942)
– Garda George Mordaunt was shot dead during a raid on an IRA safe house at 14 Holly Road, Donneycarney (24 Oct 1942)
– IRA Volunteer Maurice O’Neill was executed in Mountjoy Prison (12 Nov 1942)
– IRA Volunteer Jackie Griffith was shot dead by the Special Branch at the junction of Merrion Square and Holles Street (04 July 1943).

If anyone has any further information on the life, death or funeral of Peter McCarthy, please email me at matchgrams(at)gmail.com. I would love to speak to any of the descendants of Peter and his comrades Sam Wheelock, Harry Dale and Eamon Fagan.

The Irish Independent (16 June 1937, 22/23 July 1938); The Irish Times (16/17/18/19/24/30 June, 01/08/15/22 July 1937); The Irish Press (16/17/19/24/30 June, 01/08/15/22 July 1937, 21 July 1938); The Evening Herald (17 June, 07 July 1937); The Cork Examiner (18/24 June 1937); The Belfast Newsletter (19 June 1937); L’Derry Sentinel (22 July 1937)
Find My Past; 1901/1911 Census; IrishGeneology.ie

Thanks to
Matt Doyle (National Graves Association); Frank McGarry (Mount Jerome Cemetery); Damien Farrell (Housing and Community activist, Dublin South Central); Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Sinn Féin TD, Dublin South Central); Aaron Ó Maonaigh (Historian); Brian Hanley (Historian)

Map of Dublin addresses associated with Peter McCarthy

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George Lucas (born George Quirke) (1926–2014) was an English civil servant who documented his gay social life in a series of detailed personal diaries from the 1950s until the 1990s. Lucas befriended journalist Hugo Greenhalgh in the mid-1990s and he was one of only three people to attend Lucas’ funeral in 2014 alongside a fellow co-executor of his will and a neighbour. Before his death, Lucas agreed to donate his extensive diaries to Greenhalgh. For the last three years, Greenhalgh has been patiently transcribing and posting entries from the diaries onto Facebook. He has started in the year 1968 when Lucas was aged about 42.

Mr Lucas in 1967. Credit – https://boyz.co.uk/

Lucas’ mother was Irish and it also comes through in many diary entries that he had a particular soft spot for Irish men (mainly prostitutes) in London. In September 1968, Lucas spent two days in Dublin. (The original transcript of the diary entry is available here). Lucas also included four lovely photographs of Dublin from that trip.

The main reason for his visit was to try to locate his mother’s birth certificate in the registry office. It is clear that this was not Lucas’ first visit to Dublin as he knew the gay geography of the city very well. He also mentions an unsavoury incident in 1966 when he was physically assaulted in Dublin in a homophobic attack/robbery. I hope Greenhalgh can transcribe and post this particular diary entry in due course.

View of Liberty Hall from Busaras, Store Street. Credit: George Lucas/Hugo Greenhalgh

Lucas visits two of the main cruising spots in the city centre, the public toilets at Burgh Quay and St. Stephen’s Green. He spots a couple of lads who had a “villainous cut-throat look” on Burgh Quay beside O’Connell Street Bridge and “various middle-aged and elderly men” at hanging around the toilet in St. Stephen’s Green.

The writer had a drink in the city’s three main gay-friendly bars – Rice’s, Bartley Dunne’s and Davy Byrne’s. Drinking a lager in Rice’s, he was happy to see that the “rather unwelcoming barman of 2 years ago” was gone. At Davy Byrne’s, he enjoyed two “whiskies and water and a good cup of coffee”. Bartley Dunne’s was “crowded” but he only recognised “little tubby Bert the head barman and Mr Bartley Dunne’s own somewhat spectral figure”. On his second visit to Bartley Dunne’s the following night, he was warmly greeted by the “sturdy friendly barman” Brian who told him that George (“that attractive if somewhat pretentious barman”) had left Bartley Dunne’s to manage a hotel bar in Dún Laoghaire.

I have a particular interest in Rice’s and Bartley Dunne’s and published a long piece on their history in 2013 which I continue to add material whenever I can.

Here is the edited diary extract of George Lucas’ visit to Dublin, enjoy. It’s an amazing slice of social history.

September 10, 1968 (Tuesday):

“I had dinner at Moran’s Hotel – 6s 6d for egg and sausages of more diminutive size than I have seen since my last visit. It is as well there is an abundance of bread and butter to eke out the meal. I was nervous this clear sunny evening, and to my fearful fancy a couple of lads hanging round the Burgh Quay lavatory had a villainous cut-throat look. I noticed a tall youngish man in a pink shirt in talk with a man – not a visitor.

To Rice’s bar and sat awhile over a lager, noticing that the rather unwelcoming barman of 2 years ago is gone; and then to Davy Byrne’s, striking up courage with 2 whiskies and water and a good cup of coffee, served by the sandy haired apprentice I heard called Paddy. Like every apprentice barman in Davy Byrne’s, he looked out of spirits.

View of O’Connell Street Bridge from Burgh Quay. Credit: George Lucas/Hugo Greenhalgh

Bartley Dunne’s was crowded as I remembered it… but I saw only little tubby Bert the head barman and Mr Bartley Dunne’s own somewhat spectral figure that I recognised. Back at 11.15, a little tipsy – dilutior might be a better word – and not lingering by the green urinoir in Eden Quay. My room – no. 18 – is on the front of the hotel, overlooking Talbot Street, and I woke at 3 o’clock and 6 o’clock, though I don’t think it was street noises that disturbed me.

September 11, 1968 (Wednesday):

A fine clear day till near 8 o’clock when dark clouds from the south-east brought a short shower. I was busy today, taking photographs, buying the Austin Gaffney record that Byrne stole in 1965 and I’ve been trying to replace, a spoon with a Dublin crest, and so on, and spending 18/- in fees at the Register Office.

Though food is dear in Dublin, goods are notably cheaper – I paid 2s 8d for a tube of shaving cream, and I see almost all of the luxury sort of goods are priced well below the level to which purchase tax raises them in London.
Dublin’s charm is indefinable, but real; in part it comes from its being a metropolitan city on the right scale. 18th-century London was similar. The hills to the south, that can be seen from the principal streets, seem to close the city in, to make it compact, humanly scaled. Walking is easier, too, with the pavements less thronged than London’s… and the abundance of good-looking young Dublin men is a continual joy to the eye. (The aggressively nasty coffee-bars and snackeries that disfigure O’Connell Street have an abundance of slovenly and unlovely Dublin girls.) I wore my light raincoat this evening, the same coat I brought home bloodstained from Dublin two years ago. It is better and more elegant than the one I have bought since, and like everything that suits me is no longer made.

View from Grattan Bridge (Capel St Bridge) of the Four Courts. Credit: George Lucas/Hugo Greenhalgh

To the St Stephen’s Green lavatory several times, and saw various middle-aged and elderly men, but my assailant of two years ago was not to be seen.
In Bartley Dunne’s, Brian the sturdy friendly barman was serving tonight, and after a moment’s hesitation recognised and greeted me. He remarked that “there have been changes here” and told me that George, that attractive if somewhat pretentious barman I remembered, is now manager of a hotel bar at Dun Laoire (sic)… which is his métier, I think.

I noticed the pink-shirted young man in this bar, and at Burgh Quay there were three or four lounging about. One, a thin youth with spectacles, approached me for a cigarette. Were I bolder, I might do well here; more likely I’d be robbed and knocked unconscious. To bed again before midnight, and slept tolerably well.”

View of Christchurch and Wood Quay from Ordmond Quay. Credit: George Lucas/Hugo Greenhalgh

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The Military Service Pensions Collection is a publicly accessible online archive of material relating to the 1916-23 period. For successful applicants, material and correspondence on their file can continue for decades up until the time of their death. A goldmine for first-hand accounts of the revolutionary period, an individual’s application can also occasionally throw up an interesting item which is historic in its own right.

John Adamson (1901-68) served with the Cyclists Company, 3 Battalion, Dublin Brigade, IRA during the War of Independence. He claims to have taken part in arms-raids on private homes and two ambushes of British forces in Portobello, Dublin 8. Taking the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War (June 1922 – May 1923), Adamson served with the same unit and stated that he took part in IRA attacks on the Four Courts Hotel; the home of Lord Glenavy, Milltown; the Grand Central Cinema, O’Connell Street; Portobello Barracks and on National Army troops on the Rathgar Road.

Handwritten reference from James J Ardiff in support of John Adamson dated 07 Sep. 1942 (MSP34REF3861)

Adamson was awarded 3 and 1/6 years service for pension purposes in 1942 at Rank E (Private). He lived for many years at 3 Darley’s Cottages, Vevay Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow and died on 13 Dec. 1968. Following his death, his widow contacted local county councillor Seamus Costello to make representations on her behalf. Buried in the payment file of John Adamson is a one-page hand-written letter from Seamus Costello of Roseville House, Dublin Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow dated 08 March 1968 to the Department of Defence.  The year previously Costello had won a seat on Wicklow county council (and Bray urban district council). In the same month that he wrote the below letter, he had secured over 2,000 first-preference votes in a Dáil by-election.

Representations from Seamus Costello dated 08 May 1968 for the widow of John Adamson. File 34E7936.

Costello, a veteran of the IRA’s Border Campaign, was a leading member of the Official IRA and later the IRSP/INLA in the 1970s. He was shot dead in a feud between the two groups in Fairview in North Dublin in Oct. 1977. A concise biography of Seamus Costello is available at the Dictionary of Irish Biography.

The file of John Adamson and nearly 10,000 others (to date) are available on the MSPC website here.

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(Regarding crime and Dublin, the blog has previously looked at 18th century gang violence; joy-riding in Dublin from 1918-39; War of Independence bank-robberies; the 1920s ‘Sons of Dawn‘ who were rounded up by the IRA; the life of career criminal Henchico who died in 1968; ‘Animal Gang’ violence in 1942; vigilante violence in Dublin (1970 – 1984); the Bugsy Malone gangs of the 1970s and Triad gang violence in 1979)

Note: All of the following information was gleaned from online archives of the Irish Press, the Irish Independent, the Sunday Independent, the Evening Herald, the Sunday Tribune, the Irish Examiner and (rarely) the Sunday World. I also utilised ‘Smack’ (1985) by Sean Flynn and Padraig Yeates and ‘Badfellas’ (2011) by Paul McWilliams.

This is the second article looking at gangland murders in Dublin that occurred in the decades leading up to the killing of crime boss Martin Cahill (‘The General’) in Aug. 1994 by the Provisional IRA. The last piece looked at 13 deaths related to organised crime and Dublin’s underworld in the 1979-89 period. Now we explore seven killings that took place from 1990 up until the summer of 1994. It’s worth noting of course that the number of gangland killings in Ireland increased heavily from the early 1990s onwards from 3 in 1993, to 10 in 1999, 20 in 2003 and then peaking at 22 in 2009. There were 10 last year in 2019.

Of the seven murders in the 1990-94 period, the attacks occurred in the South Inner City (The Coombe), the North Inner City (Stoneybatter) and suburbs in the west (Blanchardstown) and north (Finglas, Marino, Darndale). One took place during a football match in the Phoenix Park. The youngest victim was 20 and the oldest was 54. What is striking is the average age was 39 – much older than the targets in today’s gangland feuds.

The death of Sonny Mooney was the only case that didn’t involve firearms. It was not strictly a gangland feud hit as he died of injuries received in a personal revenge attack but the media emphasised the tragedy that four young Finglas men – Brian Chaney (Sep. 1988), Thomas Boulger (March 1990), Willie Christie (Sep. 1990) and Sonny Mooney (Oct. 1990) – died violently in a very short time period.

Brian Chaney was the only individual who did not seem to have a criminal record or have connections to organised crime, it appears that he was gunned down for being a suspected child molester. The hit was professional and organised crime was linked.

As I said in the first piece, these articles do not seek to eulogise anyone but instead explore Dublin’s criminal underworld of 30-40 years ago. It maps stories of old Dublin – flat complexes that have been torn down, pubs that have been redeveloped and the names of many young men all but forgotten except for family and close friends. But it sadly also illustrates that many of the same impoverished working-class areas affected by gun violence in the 1970s and 1980s are still some of the same neighbourhoods hit hardest today.

The list does not include:

  • police officers, security guards or civilians killed by criminals during robberies or other incidents
  • victims of internal feuds or suspected informers killed by Republican paramilitaries

As always, if there’s any corrections or cases I’ve missed – please email me or leave a comment.

8 Sep. 1990 – William Christie (Willie Christie) (27)

Father of two William Christie (27), of 12 Barry Drive, Finglas, was described in the press as a small-time criminal and cannabis dealer. He led a “small gang” that robbed “factories and post offices” according to sources quoted in the Sunday Tribune (21. Oct. 1990).

William Christie. Sunday World, 06 Sep. 1992.

Christie had been arrested and charged with the murder of Brian Chaney (see part one) but was released – after four months in custody – when the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) dropped the charge due to a lack of evidence.

On 8 Sep. 1990, Christie was playing in goal for Dublin United F.C. in a football game against Park View Celtic in the Leinster Junior League. The match took place at a pitch in the Fifteen Acres, near St. Mary’s Hospital, in the Phoenix Park. Christie was substituted at half-time and was watching the second half of the match when, at 4.30pm, two men approached from behind. The hitman, who was wearing a balaclava, shot Christie four times in the back of the head with a .38 handgun. He passed the weapon to his accomplice who packed it away into a sports bag. Both men jogged in the direction of the Chapelizod entrance to the park where the police believed they had parked their getaway vehicle.

One of the football spectators owned a mobile phone (relatively rare at the time) and rushed to his car to ring the Gardaí and who were on the scene within minutes. Christie was taken to Blanchardstown Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 5.15pm.

Murder scene at Phoenix Park. The Sunday Tribune, 21 Oct. 1990.

It was originally suggested in the media that the killing was in revenge for the murder of Brian Chaney two years previously but this was quickly discounted by both the authorities and the Chaney family including Brian’s brother Tom Chaney who spoke to the Sunday Tribune (15 Sep. 1990).

Two theories about the killing emerged. The first, as reported in the Sunday Tribune (21 Oct. 1990), was that Christie had been shot dead by the Provisional IRA after he had publicly threatened a local member of the Republican movement in Finglas. However it was mentioned in the same article that a possible suspect, a Finglas man with Republican connections, had denied any involvement and claimed that Christie actually had Republican sympathies. Speculation remained about the Provisional IRA’s possible involvement and it was repeated in the Irish Independent (20 Aug. 1992) who said that Christie had become “tangled” into a dispute with “associates of the IRA” in Finglas and so had “been earmarked as a target”.

The second theory is that Christie was killed by a criminal gang. The Sunday World (30 Dec. 1990) suggested that Christie was killed under orders of a “major crime boss” who hired a professional hitman, possibly from England, to carry out the job. The Sunday Tribune (13 Oct. 1991) later proposed that a “senior IPLO figure” and hitman with links to criminality was paid by a Dublin gang to kill Christie. The Irish Press (18 Jan. 1993) referred to the suspected involvement of a “Dublin heroin dealer” in the attack. Nobody was ever charged or convicted.

In July 1991, William’s brother Peter Christie (26) was sentenced to two years imprisonment for his involvement in a house robbery in Ashbourne. On 8 Nov. 1993, as reported in the press, he was abducted from his girlfriend’s house in Valeview Crescent, Finglas by eight men and found severely beaten behind a Ballymun tower block.

8 Oct. 1990 – Sonny Mooney (20)

Sonny Mooney was born in 1970 to a black father and a white Irish mother. His mother married John Mooney in 1973 and the family moved to Kippure Park, Finglas in 1975 where Sonny was raised by John as one of his own children. A friend, who knew Mooney from growing up, remembered him as the “only black kid in Finglas South” and that he “hung around with us when we were young” rude boys (ska/reggae fans) for a time. A “likeable fella” but he “fell in with the wrong crowd”.

Mooney’s parents told the Sunday Tribune (19 May. 1991) that their son had been a “target of racial abuse” from a young age which had turned him into a “tough” kid and a capable street fighter by his late teens. He was described by police as a petty criminal with convictions for stealing cars and being drunk and disorderly.

On 3 March 1990, his sister’s boyfriend Thomas Boulger (‘Bullit’) (20) got into an altercation with Richard Groves (17) at a local disco. Groves kept a horse on waste ground and blamed Boulger for mistreating the animal. On the night of the incident, Groves stated that he was headbutted by Boulger and then was attacked by him again on his way home. He returned to the scene with a knife and clashed again with Boulger who armed himself with a pole. Boulger was stabbed five times and died of his injuries. Groves was convicted of manslaughter and received a five year suspended sentence.

In Sep. 1990 or thereabouts, Sonny Mooney got into a serious brawl outside a Finglas pub with a man named Stephen Kennedy. Mooney came out on top and won the fight. Another local Finglas man Seamus Duffy, whose sister was in a relationship with Kennedy, vowed to get ‘even’ with Mooney. Duffy worked as a bouncer in the city centre for a number of different nightclubs and fast food restaurants. He enlisted the help of five other bouncers he knew from this line of work for the revenge attack.

On 8 Oct. 1990 at 10pm, six masked men forced their way into the home of Sonny Mooney (20) in Kippure Park, Finglas. They beat him with pick-axe handles in front of his family and bundled him into a blue Hiace van which was later found burnt out. The gang transferred him into a different vehicle and drove towards the Southside. They left the badly wounded Mooney at Ballymount Lane at the junction of Ballymount Road and Greenhills Road near Tallaght. One of the group made an anonymous phone call to the police around 11.30pm and Mooney was found unresponsive by Gardaí. He had died from his injuries. The culprits later claimed that they hadn’t meant to kill Mooney.

Six men were arrested, charged with manslaughter and convicted of the killing:

  • Seamus Duffy (24), Donomore Crescent, Killarnden, Tallaght – six years imprisonment
  • Derek B. (23), Lower Oriel Street, D1 – four years imprisonment
  • David G. (20), Bracken Drive, Portmarnock – four years imprisonment
  • William D. (22), St. Mark’s Grove, Clondalkin – four years imprisonment
  • Emmet R. (19), Ballycurris Road, Ballymun – four years imprisonment
  • David M. (24), Foyle Road, Fairview – 30 months imprisonment (false imprisonment)

The death caused further tension and it was reported in the Sunday Tribune (19 May. 1991) that one of those convicted, David B., was attacked in Mountjoy Prison by an inmate who was friends with Sonny Mooney.

20 Dec. 1991 – Patrick McDonald (‘Teasy-Weasy’) (41)

Patrick McDonald, of Newry, Co. Down, was a member of the INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) in the mid 1970s. He was sentenced to four years imprisonment for an armed robbery but whether he served the time is unclear as the Irish Independent (21 Dec. 1991) stated that he went on the run in 1975.

Patrick McDonald. Sunday Tribune, 22 Dec. 1991

A hairdresser by trade, he was called ‘Teasy Weasyafter the 1950s London hairdressing icon Raymond Bessone.

In the early 1980s, McDonald ran a hair salon in Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan and lived in a house on Muckno Street with another INLA man Daniel Hamill (Danny Hamill) (‘The Rabbit’) from Portadown. In 1980, McDonald was charged with demanding £67,000 by menace from Neil Halpin, Monasterboice, Co. Louth and for assaulting Thomas Rooney, Haggardstown, Co. Louth over two separate days in early Jan. of that year. The state dropped the charges and McDonald avoided conviction.

On 13 July 1981, a cattle dealer named Maurice Wilson was driving from Co. Monaghan to his home in Co. Armagh when he came across a border post on fire near Carna, Co. Armagh. He was flagged down by two armed men – Patrick McDonald and Daniel Hamill – who hijacked his car and drove back to Castleblayney where they released Wilson unharmed. The pair were arrested and at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin, McDonald was sentenced to ten years imprisonment for kidnapping, car hijacking and possession of a firearm. Daniel Hamill received eight years for firearm charges.

McDonald was released from Portaloise Prison in Aug. 1989 after serving eight of his ten year sentence. He moved to Dublin and set up a small unisex hair salon above a bookie’s office at 2 St. Aidan’s Park Road, Marino. McDonald rented a basement flat in Castle Avenue, Clontarf and was described as a “snappy dresser who enjoyed the company of women” by the Irish Independent (21 Dec. 1991). He was separated and had a 17-year-old daughter. Police said upon release he became active with the IPLO (Irish People’s Liberation Organisation) which had been formed in 1986 by disaffected and expelled members of the INLA.

The Evening Herald (31 Dec. 1991) stated that in July 1991 three armed men went to St. Joseph’s Mansions flat complex, Killarney Street near the Five Lamps in the North Inner City. After failing to find a specific individual they were looking for, one of the frustrated gang members fired his shotgun at a group of women in the flats. The four, including a 13 year old girl, were hit by shotgun pellets. Police linked this incident to Patrick McDonald, the IPLO and a feud with a North Inner City criminal gang.

On 20 Dec. 1991 at about 5.15pm, McDonald (41) was cutting the hair of a female customer when a lone, masked gunman entered his premises in Marino and shot him six times in the neck and back. He was killed instantly. The customer and a female shop assistant were badly shook up but not injured in the attack.

Scene of Patrick McDonald’s murder. The Irish Press, 21 Dec. 1991.

McDonald received a IPLO guard of honour and this photograph shows IPLO members firing a volley of shots at his funeral in the Derrybeg housing estate, Newry, Co. Down.

IPLO firing a volley of shots at the funeral of Patrick McDonald. Uploaded onto Facebook in 2018 by ‘Exploding Cat’.

The Provisional IRA released a statement denying any involvement in McDonald’s murder while the IPLO said to the press that they would enact revenge for the killing. Four men and two women from the North Inner City were quizzed about the murder but released. The Sunday Tribune (02 July 1995) and many other newspapers linked McDonald’s death to a North Inner City criminal gang and their associates in Swords who had previously been involved with the INLA.

As a side note, McDonald’s former partner-in-crime Danny Hamill was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment in 2008 for a bank robbery in Crumlin in 2006.

12 July 1992 – Michael Travers (Mick Travers) (48)

Mick Travers, originally from the North Inner City, was an imposing man. He was over six feet tall, weighed over 16 stone (101kg) and had been a black belt in karate since at least the late 1970s. Travers was linked to a criminal network that ran protection rackets in the areas around North King Street, Mary Street, Capel Street, Parnell Street and Moore Street. It was often said that Travers lived up to his ‘hard man’ image. Some of the well-known stories included the time he was shot in a leg by a police officer in a pub altercation and walked himself to the hospital and in another incident he physically defended himself from a murder attempt and jumped out of a two-storey window to escape his attackers.

Michalel Travers. Sunday Tribune, 19 July 1992.

In the early 1970s and early 1980s, he lived with his family in Marigold Court, Darndale. On 18 Dec. 1978, Travers got into a verbal and physical argument with publican Kevin Rafferty and barman Nicholas Bennett at Raf’s Lounge (since demolished), 177 North King Street at the corner of North Anne Street in Dublin 7. The Evening Herald (08 Dec. 1981) reported that Special Branch officer Michael Hughes had gone to the assistance of the two men and in the ensuing melee shot Travers in the leg with his .38 revolver. The Irish Independent (13 July 1992) claimed that Travers had threatened the officer with a broken bottle during the incident. It was rumoured that the wounded Travers refused the offer of an ambulance and instead walked the 1km or thereabouts to Jervis Street Hospital for treatment. Travers was charged with assault at the Central Criminal Court but was acquitted by a jury in 1981.

In Sep. 1981, Travers was alleged to have assaulted Garda Anthony Gannon and pub manager Mr. Kelly in the Black Sheep pub in the Northside Shopping Centre. As reported in the Irish Independent (22 July 1982), a Circuit Criminal Court judge threw out the case and dismissed the jury because he felt that State’s evidence had “blackened” the accused in the eye of the jurors.

The Irish Independent, 13 July 1992.

On 11 March 1982, Travers escaped a murder attempt at his Kenpo karate club in Wolfe Tone Street when a three man gang burst into the premises. His 16 year-old-daughter managed to shout a warning and the Irish Independent (14 July 1992) recalled how “the club manager grabbed a brush and struck one of the three men while Mr Travers grabbed a chair and hit one gunman as he fired a shot (and) kicked out at one gunman who also opened fire”. Another long-standing rumour is that Travers jumped “from a two-storey window” and ran away from the scene “with two badly injured ankles” as retold by the Irish Press (13 July 1992).

In the 1980s, the father of three lived on Clanmahon Road, Donnycarney. The Irish Press (20 Dec. 1988) announced that Travers and his associate Terence Brazil (30) of St. Mary’s Road, East Wall, had been charged with extorting money from an auctioneer named Mrs. Shirley Nolan. However this key witness “withdrew her allegations just as the Gardaí were preparing to forward a file to the DPP”, according to the Irish Press (13 July 1992), and was believed to have moved to England in fear of her life. This was the only time that authorities came close to a convection for the widespread protection rackets he was believed to have been involved in.

Travers had a number of business interests including a karate club and newsagent in Smithfield until about 1991. He also co-owned a grocery and vegetable shop with Paddy McNeill in Darndale.

Mick Traver’s karate studio in Smithfield, D7. The Irish Independent, 13 July 1992.

On the morning of 12 July 1992, Mick Travers (48) was standing behind the counter of McNeills grocery shop, Ring Road, Darndale when two gunmen entered wearing helmets and visors. They shouted at the shop assistant Willie Darcy and a local milkman to get down on the ground. The hitman shot Travers in the chest at close range and fired at least three more times into his body when he fell to the ground. The two men jumped on a motorbike and escaped from the scene through neighbouring housing estates.

Ann O’Loughlin summed things up in the Sunday Independent (19 July 1992) when she described it as a “another professional, cold-blooded and ruthless slaying – the result of an increasingly intense and lethal rivalry within the capital’s criminal underworld”.

Sunday Tribune, 19 July 1992.

Gardai began to investigate whether a “major pub row” that had “wrecked” The Barry pub in Finglas was connected to the killing. The incident which left “several men injured” occurred about a year previous to the murder and was linked to a protection racket involving Travers according to the Evening Herald (18 July 92). Apparently the IRA-connected pub told Travers that they no longer required his security men on the premises. The resulting melee was vicious and the Sunday World (06 Sep. 1992) reported that one member of the bar staff was stabbed by Travers. This person received “horrific facial injuries” and needed 140 stitches. When Travers apparently refused twice to pay compensation for this incident, he became the target of Provisional IRA according to senior Gardaí.

Other newspaper speculated that Travers fell out with another criminal gang and was killed as a result. The Irish Press (18 July 1993) said that detectives believed the same ‘hitman’ was the prime suspect in the gangland executions of Gerard Hourigan (1983), Danny McOwen (1983) and Patrick McDonald (1991).

Nobody was ever charged or convicted for the murder.


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(Regarding crime and Dublin, the blog has previously looked at 18th century gang violence; joy-riding in Dublin from 1918-39; War of Independence bank-robberies; the 1920s ‘Sons of Dawn‘ who were rounded up by the IRA; the life of career criminal Henchico who died in 1968; Animal Gang violence in 1942; vigilante violence in Dublin (1970 – 1984); the Bugsy Malone gangs of the 1970s and Triad gang violence in 1979)

Note: I added the murders of Christy Shannon (1979), Patrick Garland (1986) and Barney Murray (1986) after I had published the first version of this article. All of the following information was gleaned from online archives of the Irish Press, the Irish Independent, the Sunday Independent, the Evening Herald, the Sunday Tribune, the Irish Examiner and (rarely) the Sunday World. I also utilised ‘Smack’ (1985) by Sean Flynn and Padraig Yeates and ‘Badfellas’ (2011) by Paul McWilliams.

Recent gangland feuds in Dublin and other Irish cites have made newspaper headlines worldwide. The Hutch-Kinahan conflict has resulted in the deaths of 20 people alone since 2015. Many see the starting point of modern gangland carnage as the shooting dead of crime boss Martin Cahill (‘The General’) by the Provisional IRA in 1994 and the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin by criminals two years later. The early 1990s did certainly mark the start of a new bloody chapter. Over the four years between 1991-94, there was 11 gangland murders altogether in Ireland but the first six months of 1995 saw seven killings alone. The numbers rose exponentially in the 2000s and 2010s as criminals became more ruthless and more liable to murder rivals in tit-for-tat killings.

This article is the first in a series on gangland killings that occurred in Dublin pre-1994. It does not seek to eulogise anyone but instead explore Dublin’s criminal underworld of 30-40 years ago. It maps stories of old Dublin – flat complexes that have been torn down, pubs that have been redeveloped and the names of many young men all but forgotten except for family and close friends. But it sadly also illustrates that many of the same impoverished working-class areas affected by gun violence in the 1970s and 1980s are still some of the same neighbourhoods hit hardest today.

There were certainly cases of criminal gangs in Dublin using guns to injure and maim rivals in the 1960s and 1970s but the first murders that I can identify occurred in the late 1970s. The list does not include:

  • police officers, security guards or civilians killed by criminals during robberies or other incidents
  • victims of internal feuds or suspected informers killed by Republican paramilitaries

It includes only individuals who were killed by criminals or suspected criminals. They were for the most parts premeditated ‘hits’ and firearms were used in all but one of the murders. If you aware of any other cases, please email me or leave a comment.

I have identified 13 such murders in Dublin the 1978-89 period. The youngest victim was 15 and the oldest 47. The attacks took place on both sides of the River Liffey in the inner city and Dublin suburbs in the south (Crumlin), west (Blanchardstown) and north (Ballymun, Killester, Cabra).

19 March 1978 – Christopher McAuley (Christy McAuley)

Christy McAuley, of 38 Millbrook Road, Kilbarrack, was arrested in 1976 and charged with conspiring with another person to import arms but he was not convicted of the offence. The following year he was fined for possession of cannabis and cocaine. Police also linked him to a number of armed robberies in the city.

On the night of 19 March 1978, Christy McAuley (25) met another criminal Eamon Saurin (36) in the Celebrity Club night spot on Upper Abbey Street. McAuley gave Saurin and his friend Laurence Maguire (Clicky) a lift home. At the junction of Craigford Avenue and Killester Avenue, Saurin asked that the car be pulled over. He drew a small .32 automatic pistol and shot McAuley twice in the head. McAuley somehow managed to open the door and stagger out onto the road. Saurin followed and fired two more shots. The paranoid Saurin had mistakenly thought that McAuley (who was actually gay) had slept with his girlfriend while he had been on the run. The authorities caught up with Saurin in July 1981 and he was charged with the murder of McAuley. The chief prosecution witness Laurence Maguire (Clicky) refused to give evidence and was imprisoned for a month for contempt. Saurin’s trial was rescheduled but Maguire failed to turn up and the case subsequently collapsed.

Christy McCauley. The Irish Press, 21 March 1978.

Saurin was described in the book ‘Smack’ (1985) by Sean Flynn and Padraig Yeates as a “well-known robber” originally from Liberty House off Sean MacDermott Street. The family moved out to 8 Glencorp Road, Whitehall and the teenage Saurin picked up his first conviction in 1964. He was based at 25 Clanree Road, Donnycarney in the mid 1970s. Saurin was described in ‘Badfellas’ (2011) by Paul McWilliams as “one of the first criminals credited with smuggling commercial shipments of cannabis and heroin from Amsterdam into Ireland in the late 1970s”. While he got away with the McAuley murder, Saurin was immediately extradited to England where he was jailed for life in 1983 for the murder of his former neighbour Kenneth Adams (32) in Birmingham on 6 Nov. 1972.

In Sep. 1981, Christy McAuley’s brother Anthony was injured in a shooting in O’Neill’s pub, Summerhill Parade. On 19 Sep, two masked gunmen – armed with a .32 automatic pistol and a sawn-off shotgun- entered the premises looking for one or two specific people. In the incident, a total of four men were wounded – Anthony McAuley, Andrew Corbally, Nicholas Wynne and Kevin Brennan. It’s unclear as to who the original targets were but police told the Irish Press (18 Sep. 1981) that it was linked to a gangland feud.

25 April 1979 – Basil English

Basil English, of 95 Harmonstown Road, Artane had a long criminal rap-sheet history going back to 1964. On the night of 25 April 1979, he was shot through the head at point blank range inside the doorway of an eight-story flat in a Ballymun tower block addressed 184 Sillogue Road. English (33) was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival. The Evening Herald (26 April 1979) described it a “gangland slaying” and reported that the police believed the murder was connected to an “internal gangland feud”.

Basil English. The Irish Press, 27 April 1979.

The main suspect, Thomas Tyrell (21) (aka Tommy Tyrell), of 47 Ribh Road, Artane, barricaded himself into a Ballymun flat for five days and threatened to kill himself before he eventually surrendered to the Gardaí. It transpired that Tyrell was dating English’s ex. girlfriend so there might have been a jealousy/personal aspect to the killing. Both men were supposed to have been heavily intoxicated on the night in question. Tyrell was sentenced to three years imprisonment for possession of a .32 revolver and ammunition but the manslaughter charge sentencing was postponed to July 1980 following psychiatric treatment and evaluation.

Thomas Tyrell following the five day siege. The Irish Independent, 16 Oct. 1979.

Tyrell was released on 13 Jan. 1982 after serving two years for the manslaughter of Basil English. He was involved in another shooting incident just weeks after he was let out of prison. On 25 Feb. 1982, Tyrell shot and wounded Edward Charles McGuinness with a double-barreled shotgun at the doorway of McGuinness’ flat at 324 Sillogue Road, Ballymun. Tyrell, who had 25 previous convictions, pleaded guilty to the charge of malicious wounding and was sentenced to four years imprisonment.

18 Oct. 1979 – Christopher Shannon (Christy Shannon)

Christy Shannon was originally from Lower Dorset Street in the North Inner City. In the 1970s, he lived with his wife Breda and seven children at 3 Shangan Gardens, Ballymun.

In Sep. 1977, Mrs. Breda Shannon (38) went missing and the strange case was covered in the national press. The Irish Independent (27 Sep. 1977) stated that she had “not been seen since she discharged” herself from the Cuan Mhuire rehabilitation centre for recovering alcoholics in Athy, Co. Kildare on 9 Sep. In the Evening Herald (20 Sep. 1977), her husband Christy Shannon “appealed” to his wife to “return home and look after the children”. Nothing further was reported in the press over the next two years.

On 18 Oct. 1979, the body of Christy Shannon (43) was found by police in a stolen Ford Granada car in a laneway behind the Nally Stand, Croke Park. He had been shot twice in the face and neck at point blank range with a shotgun by somebody in the driver’s seat. Shannon had previous convictions for burglary and larceny. The Evening Herald (22 Oct. 1979) noted that the police were searching the homes and haunts of known Dublin criminals” to question about the murder.

Death notice for Christopher Shannon. The Evening Herald, 22. Oct. 1979.

The Irish Independent (03 Nov. 1979) published a photograph of Mrs. Breda Shannon under the heading: “‘Come home’ plea to Croke Park murder wife”. The piece claimed that Mrs. Shannon “disappeared from her home” in Ballymun and “has not been seen since”. The Cuan Mhuire rehabilitation centre was not mentioned. The police believed that she “may still be in the country but it is thought she may be unaware that her husband is dead”. The Irish Press (04 Nov. 1979) claimed that the police believed that she “might have gone to England”.

But then the Evening Herald (12 Dec. 1979) included a one line buried in a larger piece about the murder indicating that “Mrs Shannon’s wife was contacted in London, but she was not able to shed any light on her husband’s activities or associates”. So it appears that Breda Shannon left her husband and children in Dublin in 1977 and was found by police in London two years later but there doesn’t seem to be any other evidence besides that one short mention.

It was reported in the Irish Examiner (27 Jan. 1981) that the Gardaí had interviewed between 400 and 500 people in relation to the Christy Shannon murder case and had considered up to 30 people as possible subjects. The police arrested Laurence Cummins (Larry Cummins) (32) of Summerhill Parade and charged him with the murder. Cummins had multiple convictions going back to 1961. The police found a set of keys in Cummins’ home which belonged to the Ford Granada car in which Christy Shannon’s body had been found.

In court, Cummins denied that he was responsible but admitted that he had lent his shotgun and a car to a criminal associate named Frank Hughes. The Irish Independent (20 July 1982) stated:

The accused said that his friend Frank Hughes remarked that Shannon was dangerous and there was only one way to finish him and “to finish him right”. Cummins said that on the day Christy Shannon was killed he was in the pub about 9.30pm when Frank Hughes came in (and) said he had done the message, and the accused knew Christy Shannon had been killed.

The Irish Independent (22 July 1982) reported that Cummins had told police that Christy Shannon had been charged for breaking up a taxi owned by the father of Frank Hughes. The jury “failed to reach a verdict” in the first trial in Jan. 1981 and Cummins was found ‘not guilty’ and acquitted of the murder in a second trial in July 1982. It is unclear whether Frank Hughes was arrested.

Cummins served many prison sentences in the 1980s and 1990s and had convictions for drug dealing, armed robbery, possession of firearms, assault and receiving stolen goods. He was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in July 2006 for his role in the robbery and shooting of the publican Charlie Chawke at the Goat Grill pub in Goatstown in 2003. Cummins died after a long illness in 2009 while serving his sentence in Mountjoy Prison.

17 Sep. 1980John Kelly (Jackie Kelly)

Jackie Kelly, of 9 St Andrew’s Court off Fenian Street in Dublin’s South Inner City, was married and had a two-year-old son. He had worked for about eight years as a postman in the Donnybrook area. He started a position as a telephone operator for the Irish Taxi Owners Co-Op in the summer of 1980. On the night of 17 Sep. 1980, Kelly (24) was watching a UEFA cup match between Polish club Widzew Łódź and Manchester United on the television in Grace’s pub at the corner of Townsend Street and Shaw Street near Pearse Street. There were about 15 other customers in the bar. At around 10.50pm, a man in a motorcycle helmet walked into the premises and fired a number of shots at Kelly who was sitting with two friends at a lounge window. The gunman left the bar but immediately returned and shot Kelly again.

Scene outside Grace’s pub on Townsend St. where Jackie Kelly was murdered. The Evening Herald, 18 Sep 1980.

The assassin’s mask, motorcycle helmet, jacket and a sawn-off shotgun (not used in the attack) was found in a rubbish chute in nearby Markievicz House. The .32 pistol used in the murder was later discovered in a county council dump in Ballyogan near Dundrum.

Kelly, who was shot a total of five times, was interviewed by police in his hospital bed but died of his injuries ten days later on 27 Sep. 1980 in St. Vincent’s Hospital.

Kelly’s widow described her husband as a “quiet family man” who “played football” but “devoted most of his spare time to his family”. He had no known connections to organised crime and Gardaí were unable to find an apparent motive for the killing.

Grace’s pub was destroyed in a suspicious fire in Nov. 1983. Another pub on the street, The Countess, had burnt to the ground earlier that same year. A local criminal gang engaged in protection rackets were suspected.

The Irish Press (18 April 1993) described the Kelly murder as an “underworld killing” and stated that the police were “convinced a notorious south city gang leader personally carried out the killing as a favour for a friend”. Nobody was ever convicted of the murder.

26 May 1982 – Gerard Morgan

Gerard Morgan (15) was shot dead as he came to the front door of his family home at 22 Lismore Road, Crumlin on 26 May 1982. It is believed that his older brother Alan Morgan (17) was the intended target. Alan had allegedly fallen out with a criminal gang over the missing proceeds of a bank robbery in Drumcondra in Feb. 1982. There had been a previous gun attack on the Morgan home on 9 March 1982 when five shots were fired.

Patrick Conroy was sentenced in 1983 to seven years in jail for being an accessory to murder by providing shelter to the killer. Michael McDonnell, of 6 Dermot O’Dwyer House, Hardwicke Street, was arrested for the murder but the state dropped the charge and he was not convicted.

Front page story regarding Gerard Morgan’s murder. The Evening Herald, 26 May 1982.


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The Royal British Legion (RBL) is a charity, founded in 1921, to provide financial and social support to members and veterans of the British Armed Forces. It’s best known for its annual red poppy fund-raising drive in the run up to Remembrance Sunday (11 November).

During the 20th century, the Legion operated a number of social halls throughout the island of Ireland. The organisation peaked in the late 1920s with a membership of just over 4,200.

Many Legion Halls were targeted by the IRA during the 1930s with premises being burnt down in Killaloe, Co. Clare (June 1933); Boyle, Co. Roscommon (Jan 1934) and Killarney, Co. Kerry (March 1934). A raid also took place on a Legion Hall in Park Street, Dundalk, Co. Louth in Nov 1935.

This is an attempt to list and map the halls which were based in the counties of Dublin and Wicklow. If you have any further information, please leave a comment or email me.

I have divided the list into:

  1. Dublin City
  2. Dublin North
  3. Dublin South
  4. Wicklow
  5. Other

1. D U B L I N – C I T Y

The Legion operated a social hall at 61 Mountjoy Square in the 1920s and early 1930s. The club was fined £40 in 1931 for selling liquor after hours.

Evening Herald, 14 March 1930

The British Legion’s main administration office during this period was based at 28 Harcourt Street (1930s/1940s) and later 44 Upper Mount Street (1940s/1950s).

Irish National War Memorial Committee. Correspondence between Major J.J. Tynan, Area Secretary, British Legion in Ireland and [Miss H.G. Wilson], Secretary, Irish National War Memorial Committee, 1937. Source: DRI

From the mid 1930s and into the early 1960s, the Legion operated a hall at 19 Bachelor’s Walk near O’Connell Bridge:

Dublin Evening Mail, 07 Oct 1950

From the mid 1960s onwards, the Dublin Central Branch ran a social club at 4 Sir John Rogerson’s Quay. The premises had previously been in possession of the Catholic Seamen’s Institute.

On 24 February 1966, attempts were made to burn down the Legion Club by Irish republicans. On 1 March, petrol bombs were thrown at the home of Brigadier RN Thicknesse, British Military Attache, at 71 Eglinton Road, Donnybrook. The kitchen of the house was badly damaged in the incident. The same individuals were linked to the bomb attack on Nelson’s Pillar a week later. It is suspected that those responsible were instrumental in the forming of Saor Eire in 1967.

The Legion Club on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay’s quietly operated behind the scenes during the conflict in the North and was open until about 2001.

2. D U B L I N – N O R T H


There is a short reference online to a Legion Hall in Skerries Street, Balbriggan.

Skerries Street, Balbriggan in c. 1897-1913. Source: OSI Map.

Killester (Free standing structure at green space at Abbeyfield)

Between 1918-1922, over 240 houses were built in the emerging suburb of Killester for ex-British servicemen and their families. Historian Jason Robert Myers attractively described the scheme as possessing “a rural serenity, replete with gently winding roads, cozy cul-de-sacs, individual yards in the front and back of each property, several community gathering places, and plenty of trees.” This video shows hundreds of ex British army soldiers marking Remembrance Day in November 1923 in Killester:

A community hall was built by the Legion for local men and their families. It was targeted by the IRA in an arson attack in April 1928. In August 1932, the Lord Mayor of Dublin Alfred Byrne officially opened a newly built hall in front of a “large gathering of ex Servicemen and friends”. It was described by The Irish Times (29 Aug 1932) as a “commodious building, handsomely finished and equipped in every suitable way”. General Sir William Hickie told the crowd that the British Legion would remain “non political and non sectarian”.

Notice of politician Peadar Cowan speaking at the Legion Hall, Killester. Ref: Dublin Evening Mail, 13 June 1955

This undated photograph shows the Legion Hall in Killester which is situated in a green area at Middle Third and Abbeyfield.

Legion Hall, Killester. nd. Source – https://wfadublin.webs.com/

The hall was sold by the British Legion around 1982 according to information online 
but it continued to be used by local people for sport and community events. Known locally as Judo Hall, the building was put up for sale in 2014 for €50,000. After a local campaign, the hall was saved from destruction but remains unused.

There are references to Legion Halls in Donabate and Swords including in this newspaper notice from Sean Dunne TD in 1962. I cannot find any more information online. Could these have been Legion of Mary halls?

Drogheda Independent, 10 March 1962.

3. D U B L I N – S O U T H

Dún Laoghaire (3 Crosthwaite Terrace off Clarinda Park West)

The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) owned this impressive house from about 1914 until 1930 when it was then taken over by the British Legion Club (Kingstown Branch). In the mid 20th century, the Legion built a flat roofed, single storey, clubhouse at the rear of the building. It played host to fencing championships and the annual Clarinda Fair throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

The club was quietly active over the next decades. It’s one foray in the spotlight occurred in 2003 when a case was brought before the Dublin District Court by the club’s neighbours who complained of “stomping, whooping, handclaps and amplified music” at weekly line dancing (Tuesdays) and jazz (Friday) nights held in the venue. Judge Terence Finn told the Legion that they risked having their licence revoked if they did not deal with the noise complaints.

The Legion sold the building in 2005 and the new owners applied to to demolish the clubhouse in 2009. The house was put up for sale in 2013 for €995,000.

Interior of the British Legion Hall, Dún Laoghaire. Source – http://planning.dlrcoco.ie/

Harold’s Cross

There is a brief mention of a Legion hut on Clareville Road, Harold’s Cross in 1951 but I can’t find anymore information.

Inchicore  (Free standing structure at Granite Terrace)

On 5 November 1927, a Legion Hall was opened on a green area beside Granite Terrace in Inchicore for the use of members of the Legion’s Great Southern Railways Branch. The building was completely destroyed five days later in an arson attack by Irish republicans causing £1000 damage.

Burning of Legion Hall, Inchicore. Belfast Telegraph, 10 Nov 1927

The hall was rebuilt circa 1929 and it was was targeted again by the IRA elements in November of that year:

Attack on Legion Hall, Inchicore. Donegal News, 16 Nov 1929

The hall was repaired and became a popular spot for dancing in the early 1930s:

Evening Herald, 29 Nov 1933.

Today it is home to the CIE Boxing Club and is where Bernard Dunne started his boxing career at the age of five in the mid 1980s.

CIE Boxing Club, Granite Terrace, Inchicore. Source: Google Street View, 2009


A small wooden hut, used by the Legion on Whitechurch Road, Rathfarnham, was burnt down in the early morning of Remembrance Sunday, 11 November 1934. Compensation of £140 was later granted to the Club Secretary Joseph Bently in the Dublin Circuit Court.

Legion Hall, Rathfarnham. Source: 12 Nov 1934, Irish Independent.


The Shankill & Ballybrack branch of British Legion opened a hall on the New Road, Shankill around 1930. In 1936, John Dunstane Wallis of Dorney Court, Shankill applied for a public dancing license for the hall. No further information is available.

Legion Hall, Shankill. 19 Aug 1936, Irish Independent

4. W I C K L OW


The Bray Branch of the Legion opened its headquarters in the basement of 12 Goldsmith Terrace, Quinsboro Road in late 1929. The Irish Times (18 Oct 1929) noted that their premises had a billiard and card room, a room for “women’s work” and offices. There was no bar. In the 1930s, the Bray Branch moved their headquarters nearby to Galtrim House where it held events until the 1950s at least. A 2012 Sunday Independent article states that coach Johnny Maloney started a boxing club in Bray in the 1960s in the “British Legion Hall”. Was this Galtrim House? The building was gutted by a fire in 1984.

Legion Hall, Bray. Wicklow People, 13 Nov 1937


The Enniskerry Branch of the Legion opened a social hall on the Old Bray Road in August 1931. It was a popular spot for dances in the decades ahead. The building is still standing today and is used as a community centre.

Legion Hall, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow. Source: Google Street View, 2019

5. Other

There is a ‘Somme Room’ (dedicated to Irishmen who took part in the Battle of the Somme) in the City of Dublin Working Men’s Club, 33 Little Strand Street off Capel Street and there is also British army memorabilia on the walls of the Dublin Conservative Club, 20 Camden Row, Dublin 8.  See my previous article on Private Bars and Social Clubs.

The RAF Association operated a bar at 23 Earlsfort Terrace near St. Stephen’s Green. A petrol bomb was thrown at the building in September 1967 causing no significance damage. Following the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry in January 1972, the Club was attacked again with molotov cocktails and its windows were smashed. It appears that the club closed its Earlsfort Terrace bar around this period and moved operations to the British Legion’s club in Dún Laoghaire.

The Rathfarnham War Memorial Hall was opened in 1923 to commemorate local residents who were killed in the First World War. It is connected to the Rathfarnham anglican church which is situated about 1km away from the building.

Rathfarnham War Memorial Hall. Source: http://www.irishwarmemorials.ie/



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Edit: This is my final post on CHTM. Thanks for your readership of my posts over the last decade! Stay in touch! My new podcast, Three Castles Burning, is available on all podcast platforms.


CHTM was established in the winter of 2009. It is difficult to believe that a decade has passed. In signing off for the year personally, this post seeks to give a sense of some of what we published in 2019. While less busy than in previous years content wise, the quality was high! We thank readers for their continued support, their comments (which often really add to pieces) and their engagement with the blog across its various platforms.

Revolutionary period:

Much of our 2019 content focused on the revolutionary period. These posts included Surrey House, Rathmines (home of Constance Markievicz), food distribution during the revolution and the day the Volunteers stole pigs set for export, May Day during the War of Independence, the Munitions Strike (the centenary of which is fast approaching) and the Bachelors Walk massacre.


Some of the most interesting comments this year came on a piece exploring multiracial bands in Irish musical history, while other musical pieces focused on anniversaries, including the centenary of An Fear Ceoil, Seamus Ennis. Original Pirate Material explored the bootleg tapes of O’Connell Bridge, while there was also the great Earl Gill. There was the return of legendary Dublin band The Atrix to celebrate, too.


1928 coverage of the Liffey Swim, Irish Independent.

Architecture and Built Heritage:

Architecture was more prominent this year than before on the blog. Posts examined the George’s Street Arcade, Deirdre Kelly who fought so bravely for Dublin, the unlikely meeting place of the Dublin United Tramways Company and ALDI and the emergence of Lord Edward Street. Monuments remained a feature of the site, including Big Jim.

Public Houses, Social History and Gach Rud Éile.

A popular post from the start of the year concerned early houses (fewer, but still in existence), while there was also the curious tale of The Zodiac. It was goodbye to Hector Grey’s, a century of the Liffey Swim, and we remembered the Pike Theatre, a lost (and tiny) Dublin institution. We had migration, white horses and censorship in there too.

Thanks to all who engaged with the blog in 2019. Be sure to check out Three Castles Burning, a new Podcast I hope captures some of the spirit of CHTM, and remember CHTM books Volume 1 and 2 are available in all good bookshops now, and would look fantastic under any Christmas tree!

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buildingsofireland.ie image of Crow Street

Crow Street is one of my favourite streets in Dublin. You could easily miss it, but if you venture down Dame Street and turn into it, you’ll find one of the most colourful streets in the capital in terms of the diversity of independent businesses there. All City Records, Classic Ink Tattoos and other long-established businesses are there. While within the Temple Bar area, it has avoided the crassness of much of the district.

The street has an interesting history,going back to the Crow Street Theatre of the eighteenth century, and it was the home of the Charitable Musical Society, centrally important to the visit of Handel to Dublin. That’s not why we’re here today though.

In revolutionary times, the street was fundamentally important to the intelligence war. At 3 Crow Street, what appeared to the public to be only a legtimate printing company was the headquarters of the Irish Republican Army’s intelligence campaign.J .F Fowler’s printers had long been in the printing business, its name appearing in 1850s Dublin editions of books, but there was other business apace in different parts of the building. Republican Frank Thornton recounted that:

The first office opened by G.H.Q. Intelligence in the city was over Fowler’s in Crow Street, Off Dame Street, which was right bang up against Dublin Castle. Here, Liam Tobin, Tom Cullen, myself, together with Frank Saurin,Charlie Dalton, Charlie Byrne, Joe Guilfoyle, started off our Operations.

The Crow Street operation was in business from the summer of 1919. By this time, things were heating up in Dublin, with IRA assassination teams (broadly remembered in Irish history as ‘The Squad’) striking against intelligence police targets on the streets. Republican Charlie Dalton, in his memoir of the period, recounted how:

…one of the Squad called on me and asked me to accompany him. ‘The assistant director of intelligence wants to interview me’, he told me. He brought me into the city and through a number of side streets to Crow Street, an alleyway off Dame Street, quite close to Dublin Castle – the stronghold of the enemy. When we came to a small printer’s shop he beckoned me up the stairs, and on the second floor he knocked on the door….After a little delay, a door was opened and we were admitted. There were three or four other Volunteers inside, some of whom I knew slightly, I noticed there were stacks of newspapers lying around.

Newspapers were the least of the material in 3 Crow Street. Intelligence workers were figuring out how to crack the codes of Crown Forces, while as Dalton (who accepted a position) remembered, “we compile a list of friendly persons in the public services, railways, mailboats and hotels. I was sent constantly to interview stewards, reporters, waiters and hotel porters to verify our reports of the movement of enemy agents.”

Race meetings, fashionable hotels like the Shelbourne Hotel, and restaurants like Kidd’s Buffet were all known to be popular spots for members of the British forces and crown services to gather. Still, the most significant job for 3 Crow Street was to get an idea of just what was happening inside Dublin Castle.

In this regard, Lily Mernin was key. Born in Dublin in 1888, but raised primarily in Waterford, Lily worked as a shorthand typist inside Dublin Castle. In 1919, she made contact with the republican movement, leading to Michael Collins meeting her at her home, where she agreed to become an intelligence agent. As Dominic Price has noted, this was an incredible coup:

Situated in the same building as Mernin was the British Army’s intelligence department. This gave her access to officially classified information such as official reports, troop strengths, British army raids and information on the identity and addresses of British secret service personnel. She also picked up a great deal of information on physical descriptions, social habits and activities of British and RIC personnel through friendships and gerneral ‘loose talk’ among Castle employees.


Lily Mernin, photographed with Piaras Beaslai. (Image: National Library of Ireland)

Mernin, codenamed ‘The Little Gentleman’, got down to work. Quickly she solved one mystery, as key republicans were being sent death threats on official Dáil Éireann notepaper. Not only did Merin discover where in the Castle they were coming from, she found the very typewriter. Bravely, she attended social functions as a means of gathering information.

Striking against British intelligence operatives, and the Dublin Metropolitan Police ‘G Division’ in particular, was of paramount importance.The much-feared ‘G Men’ had been centrally important to identifying ringleaders of the Rising, and their ‘Movement of Extremist’ files demonstrate just how much the British state knew about republican radicals. As far as the republican movement were concerned, these men either had to turn or be elimated. Collins later justified this by explaining the key difference between an intelligence officer – or a spy – and a regular soldier:

Without her spies England was helpless… Spies are not so ready to step into the shoes of their departed confederates as are soldiers to fill up the front line in honourable battle. And, even when the new spy stepped into the shoes of the old one, he could not step into the old one’s knowledge… We struck at individuals, and by doing so we cut their lines of communication, and we shook their morale.

Operations at 3 Crow Street were overseen by a team that included Liam Tobin, who had served at the Four Courts during the Rising, Tom Cullen and Frank Thornton. Collins, though in almost constant contact with this team, did not frequent the premises.

Intelligence gathering was a two way street of course. Secret republican munitions factories, Dáil ministry offices and more besides were constantly being raided throughout the period. In time, the Crow Street operation folded, moving to Great Brunswick Street, where the sign “O’Donoghue & Smith, Manufacturing Agents” was over the door.

Fowler’s business survived the revolutionary period. There is nothing marking the building today as a site of such importance in the Irish revolution, but that is true of so much of the city centre core, where revolution was plotted behind quiet doors.

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The last days of O’Devaney Gardens (Image Copyright: Peter O’Doherty)

This year, there was considerable political debate in the capital on housing, much of it centered around O’Devaney Gardens and the question of private and public land. A new photobook explores the final years of the flats, through the lens of photographer Peter O’Doherty, and is an important piece of social history in its own right.

O’Devaney Gardens dated from the 1950s, named in honour of Bishop Conor O’Devaney, martyred in 1612. Media reports on the opening of the flats were more concerned with the historic tales of Bishop O’Devaney than the state of the new housing schemes. Many of those moved into the new scheme came from Dominick Street in the inner-city.

Screenshot 2019-12-18 at 6.45.57 PM

Irish Independent, 1955.

Dominick Street, readers of the Sunday Independent were informed, was now “the street that died.” “As the people moved out, Corporation workmen moved in. Doors and windows were bricked up and the old Georgian houses made ready for the demolition squads. When will life return to Dominick Street?” In time, the decline of O’Devaney Gardens was the subject of much media comment.

Last year, Peter O’Doherty published the brilliant ‘Voices From The Flats: O’Devaney Gardens’. It is a fine piece of oral history work, interviewing those for whom the ‘Long Balconies’ were home. Importantly, O’Doherty’s work does not dwell on the negative – and there were things that went wrong – but also captures much of community.

Some of O’Doherty’s documentary photography of the site is now captured within the self-published O’Devaney Gardens, available from The Library Project in Temple Bar and other stockists. It is a moment in time, brilliantly captured, and deserves a wide audience.


O’Devaney Gardens (Image Copyright: Peter O’Doherty)

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This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the passing of Dominic Behan. Playwright, novelist and songwriter, his remarkable career was every bit as prolific as that of his brother Brendan, with whom he shared radical political tendencies and many characteristics. In Dominic’s honour, a night will be held in Liberty Hall on the 30th of this month with singers including Phelim Drew and historians. A new edition of his memoir has been published too (photo below, apologies for making a haims of this post first time!)

Born in Dublin’s north inner-city, Dominic Behan spent the formative years of his life in Crumlin, where the Behans were moved to from Russell Street. He would joke about the “jungle” of Crumlin in his memoir Teems of Times and Happy Returns, still one of the great Dublin memoirs, capturing both the stories of the inner-city streets and the new suburban experience.

A plaque on the Kildare Road house honours Brendan, but in truth it was a house of writers, singers and debate. It is difficult for us now to imagine how transformative Crumlin, Kimmage and schemes like them were in the hungry 1930s, and not just for those moving into them. Brendan would quip that there was “no such thing as suburbia, only Siberia.” Crumlin native Fiona Watchorn remembered how “we had never seen so many houses – all of the same shape and size, and wondered how the new kids could find their own.”

Dominic remembered Russell Street fondly, recalling that “the native industries of Russell Street were drink and cleanliness, represented respectively by the Mountjoy Brewery and the Phoenix Laundry.” It was far from the worst of tenement Dublin, with Dominic recalling how “Russell Street was the extreme tip of a jungle of north city tenements: Georgian, red-bricked, strait-laced, and, at this time, complete with closed hall-doors and mahogany railed staircases. Even a few of the windows were still intact.”

The atmosphere in which the Behan children were raised was fundamentally radical. Stephen Behan, Dominic’s father, was a veteran of the War of Independence, and took the Republican side in the Civil War which followed. By trade, Stephen worked as a signwriter, a trade Brendan would briefly follow him into. Stephen married Kathleen in July 1922, as the country was in the midst of Civil War. Her brother was Peadar Kearney, author of The Soldier’s Song, the national anthem. Not long after his wedding, Stephen was himself imprisoned. Family lore had it that Brendan Behan would first see his father through the railings of prison.

Dominic, born in 1928, arrived too late for the excitement of the revolution, but he found his heroes in that tradition. To him, “Jim Larkin gave a new meaning to Christianity when he decided to fight his cleric critics with their own cannons – a Bible and a plea for a true brotherhood of man.” He brought his politics into much of what he did; working on a number of building sites with his brother Brendan in the 1940s, with one foreman complaining to their father that they were “the greatest bastards I’ve ever come across.One wants the men to strike for an incentive bonus so that the other one can bring them down to the pub to drink it.’ His political activism would land him in trouble in the early 1950s, with his role in agitation for the movement against unemployment seeing him imprisoned.

Dominic’s lyrical output was unprecedented. He was quick-witted, and able to get songs into the public domain quickly as events unfolded. Arkle, his tribute to the greatest racehorse Ireland has ever produced (known simply as ‘Himself’) honoured a brilliant victory for the Irish Thoroughbred racehorse over hotly tipped English opposition:

They’re at the last and over, Pat Taffe has more in hand
He’s passing England’s Mill House, the finest in the land
My God he has us beaten! What can we English say?
The ground was wrong? The distance long? Too early early in the day?


Marble Arch Records cover of Arkle

Some songs were sweet, like Liverpool Lou, which became a top 10 hit for Liverpool group The Scaffold, and which Yoko Ono would select as one of her Desert Island Discs, noting that John Lennon had sung it to their child as a lullaby. Still, it is undoubtedly the republican songs that Dominic is best remembered for, Come Out, Ye Black and Tans and The Patriot Game among them. Behan would accuse Bob Dylan of plagiarising his song for his own With God On Our Side, leading to legendary tensions. In a scene in Don’t Look Back, the documentary of Bob Dylan on the road, Dylan retorts quickly that “I don’t hear nobody like Dominic Behan, man!” when his name is mentioned. Music industry legend has it that when Dylan suggested “my lawyers can speak with your lawyers”, Behan replied, “I’ve got two lawyers, and they’re on the end of my wrists.”

As a broadcaster, singer and playwright Dominic would spend his life between these islands. In Britain, he was fundamentally important to opening doors for emerging Irish acts, including The Dubliners, and was part of a golden age of Irish folk and traditional performers on the UK circuit, which could include talent as diverse as Seamus Ennis, Margaret Barry (honoured at this years RTÉ Folk Awards) and a young Luke Kelly. In an interview with this writer, Christy Moore (for whom Dominic produced the album Paddy On The Road) recounted that time fondly, but while acknowledging a profoundly important truth: “Dominic was pure Dublin to his very core. He mesmerized me with an enormous repertoire of songs, reflections and poetry. Himself and his wife Josephine were very kind to me. Like myself back then,he seldom put the cork back into the bottle. The sessions went on ’til the bitter end.”

At the time of his passing in August 1989, Dominic Behan was just sixty years of age. His ashes were scattered on the Royal Canal in Dublin, and an oration delivered by his friend Seán Garland, President of The Workers Party. He would be remembered in the pages of The Irish Times as “a funny man, garrulous, brilliant, infuriating, angry,lovable but never boring.”

Up Russell Street!, a night in honour of Dominic Behan marking 30 years since his passing, takes place at Liberty Hall on 30 November. Tickets available now from eventbrite.


2019 edition of Teems of Times and Happy Returns.

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Designed by Paul Guinan (www.paulguinan.com)

At long last, I finally got the podcast over the line!

Three Castles Burning is available now on a host of podcast providers, including Apple iTunes (Spotify will follow) and Podbean. For those of you who are old fashioned,you can stream it, and all future episodes, here.

Episode one is the Bachelor’s Walk Massacre, and features guest Lorcan Collins. We stood at the site of the atrocity and got into it, the Howth gun running, and questions of commemoration.

The Bachelors Walk Massacre of 1914 was a turning point event in the Irish revolution, shocking Dubliners and packing the ranks of the Irish Volunteers. Yet today the event is largely forgotten, without so much as a plaque honouring the victims. Guest: Lorcan Collins, Historian and Author.

The editing will improve, this is a brand new project for me but I hope you subscribe and stick with it. If you want to help us out, please give it a play and a rating on Apple iTunes which will move it up the chart. Future episodes already underway include 1930s suburbia, the Animal Gangs, Grogans public house, Dominic Behan and Dalymount Park.

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