Archive for the ‘Dublin History’ Category

Jackie Carey, Liam Whelan, Johnny Giles, Tony Dunne, Paul McGrath.

What binds all of these men? They are all great Irish footballers who played for Manchester United, yes, but they were also all spotted by Billy Behan. As the primary talent scout for United in Ireland over several decades, Behan made no small contribution to the success of the Mancunian football giants, and no small contribution to youth football in Dublin. From a family steeped in association football, remarkably little has been written about a man who perhaps knew the game better than anyone else in the Irish capital.


Billy Behan as goalkeeper, Evening Herald.

Born in Dublin in 1911, Billy Behan was the son of William Behan, a founding member of Shamrock Rovers. Unsurprisingly, he and his siblings developed a love of the beautiful game, with Billy playing as goalkeeper for Westland Rovers, Shamrock Rovers and Shelbourne during his career in the domestic game. At 22 years of age, he signed for Manchester United in 1933, beginning an affiliation with the club which would last several decades.

A young Behan spent only one season at Manchester as a goalkeeper, though he met his wife Vera in the northern English city,  remembering that “although my star in Manchester was a brief one, it fashioned my future.” Returning to the familiar green and white hoops of Shamrock Rovers, Behan maintained strong contacts with United, and began informing the club scouts of players in the domestic Irish game he believed warranted a chance. When United scout Louis Rocca agreed to accompany Behan to watch St. James’s Gate and Cork in the Iveagh Grounds, Behan’s worth could not be doubted. Playing that day was a young Jackie Carey, destined to become a famed Manchester United player. There was a degree of luck in it all, as Rocca had actually come to Dublin to see Benny Gaughran, who had been snatched instead by Celtic. Still, Carey dominated the game and caught the eye of the visitor, and Behan recalled:

Through the co-operation of the Gate Secretary, Mr. Byrne, Louis Rocca was introduced to Jackie Carry that evening and after discussions agreed to join United for what was then regarded as a record fee for a Free State League player. That fee, believe it or not, was only three figures and Carey, who was to make for himself such an illustrious career with United, must be regarded as the greatest bargain of all time to come out of Ireland.


Jackie Carey (Image Credit: Manchester United Archive)

To English footballing fans, Jackie Carey became the great Johnny Carey. He was an integral part of the club from 1936 until 1953, captaining the team from 1946. The first Irishman to captain a winning side in an FA Cup Final and the English First Division, Carey became a household name both in England and at home, coming a long way from the youngster who had lined up in the blue and navy jersey of Dublin’s  Gaelic footballers at minor level. In the words of Eamon Dunphy, “to the Irish soccer community of the forties and fifties, Johnny Carey was more than a sporting hero. He was an iconic figure for reasons that had as much to do with national identity as sport.” During the Second World War, Carey lined-up in Dublin for a League of Ireland XI and made a guest appearance for Shamrock Rovers, drawing huge crowds eager to see the famed Dubliner.

Behan’s great love was junior football, where he nurtured and encouraged talent. In 1946 he managed Saint Patrick’s CYMS, who succeeded in winning the FAI Junior Cup in Dalymount Park, and several players from his side attracted the attention of British sides. Across the sea, things were about to change forever at Manchester United with the appointment of Matt Busby, a manager who, like Behan, believed firmly in the importance of a solid youth system in football. To Behan:

Matt Busby’s inheritance at Old Trafford in 1945 was bleak – the club had a bank overdraft of £15,000, and a crater in the middle of the ground from the Blitz which had also left the stands a shambles, forcing them to play their home games at Maine Road. Yet Matt, from the start, built up a network of contacts, throughout the home countries, which kept him briefed on available talent.

The incredible team that Matt Busby built became the ‘Busby Babes’, a name bestowed upon them by the Manchester Evening News but quickly adopted on the terraces. The team would dominate British football.  Giles Oakley, author of Red Matters: Fifty Years Supporting Manchester United, captures the essence of the Busby philosophy:

Youthful talent was supported, nurtured, trusted and encouraged at Old Trafford in a way that was strikingly unique and distinctive. Over 75 players from the youth ranks got their chance in the first team in the 25 years Sir Matt was manger. Even those who didn’t ultimately make the grade at United often had good careers elsewhere.


Cabra’s Liam Whelan, who perished in the Munich air disaster.



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(In a 2014 article, I looked at more generally Dublin’s historic drinking dens, early houses, kips, shebeens and bona-fide pubs.)

In the 1980s and 1990s, three self-proclaimed Irish republican and socialist political parties operated drinking clubs in Dublin city centre.

Official Sinn Féin (later The Workers Party) operated ‘Club Uí Chadhain’ in the basement of 28 Gardiner Place. Originally set up as a “cultural club” for Irish language enthusiasts, the venue was just a couple doors away from the party headquarters at no. 30.

The club was named after the Irish Language writer and 1940s IRA Volunteer Máirtín Ó Cadhain who died in 1970. The space hosted film-showings, trad music nights and social evenings. It was raided by the police in January 1975 with leading Official SF member Frank Ross (aka Proinsias De Rossa), the occupier of the premises, being fined £50 for keeping unlicensed alcohol for sale.

I’ve been told that it was very popular with non-political GAA fans when it opened on match days at Croke Park. In the early 70s,  they used have a stall outside it on match days selling Irish rebel LP’s and republican badges.

On 18 November 1984, career criminal Eamon Kelly stabbed and almost killed prominent WP member and (future general secretary) Patrick Quearney on the street outside. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail which was later reduced to 3 years following an appeal. Kelly was shot dead by the RIRA in 2012.

As far as I know, the basement club is still owned by the Workers Party but has not been open since around 2006.

Irish Independent, 5 June 1975

Provisional Sinn Féin ran a basement bar at 5 Blessington Street which hosted fundraising and social events. In the early 1970s, it was used to host refugees fleeing violence in the North. At various times, the building housed the Dublin party’s main office, the POW department and advice centre of the-then councillor Christy Burke. The premises was raided by the police in April 1990 resulting in 70 individuals having their names taken and £600 worth of beer and spirits being confiscated.
Sinn Féin put the building on the market in 1998 and it sold at auction for £223,000.

Irish Independent, 13 April 1990

The Communist Party of Ireland’s headquarters at 43 East Essex Street in Temple Bar, which presently houses Connolly Books and the New Theatre, was used as a late-night, after-hours drinking venue ‘Club Sandino’ in the 1980s and 1990s. A raid in September 1992 led to the confiscation of 132 cans of beer, one keg of Guinness and a bottle of whiskey.

Irish Press, 15 April 1993

Any stories, memories or insight? As always, please leave a comment.

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Wendy Wood (1892 -1981) was a remarkable woman. A committed Scottish nationalist and separatist, she was a founding member of the National Party of Scotland in 1928, which later became the Scottish National Party. Fond of a political stunt, she seized upon Bannockburn Day (the celebration of a Scottish military victory) in 1932 to lead a gang of protesting Scottish nationalists into Stirling Castle, tearing down its Union flag and raising a Scottish flag in its place. She later recalled how “I held the wad of red, white and blue in my hand….I thought of Gandhi facing death, of Connolly, of young Pearse, or Burmese driven to wander, of frightened Arabs, or broken faith with Egypt.”

Scottish nationalism, much like its Irish equivalent, produced a wide variety of ideologies. Even the SNP, today a social democratic party, produced a pamphlet in the 1930s which warned of the ‘Green Terror’ of Irish migration. Still, Wood was firmly of the left, and was arrested for protesting against Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirt movement in the 1930s. She remained politically active into subsequent decades, even going on hungerstrike in 1972 to demand Home Rule for Scotland.

(c) National Galleries of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Wendy Wood, by Florence St John Cadell, National Galleries of Scotland.

Not long after her escapades at Stirling Castle, Wood arrived in Dublin, something she details in her autobiography I Like Life. Boarding a ship in Glasgow, she was captivated by Dublin from the very beginning, though she viewed the island through rose-tinted glasses:

The names of the streets, the public notices and the advertisements in Gaelic thrilled me and I never read the bracketed translations any more than I would spoil a visit to France by searching for English. The indefinable feeling of a ‘capital’ centre of direction, the core of a genuine working culture as reflected in Dublin,  made the memory of Edinburgh, even with its beauty, seem insipid in comparison.

On a brief visit to the capital, Wood appears to have visited the Dáil, the St. Enda’s School of Pearse and attended a meeting of Cumann na mBan. The beautiful St. Enda’s school remained as a model to the ideas of Patrick Pearse, though it struggled financially to sustain itself and would not make it to the end of the decade. Wood recounted an encounter with a sister of Pearse, who murmured that “one must try to forgive.” She was struck by the artifacts on display, including “the block on which a patriot had been executed by the Saxon”, this being the block on which Robert Emmet’s head was reputed to have been severed from his body, and at which Michael Collins sold ‘Dáil Bonds’ to prominent republicans during the War of Independence.

Of the Dáil, Wood writes of the body as if it was still the revolutionary gathering of the Mansion House and not the considerably more timid Leinster House assembly. She found it to be “a dignified but simple and business-like gathering which even with its limited powers, made the London House of Commons appear like a mad hatters’ tea party.” She was struck by how “the artistry and skill of the Celt showed in all printed matter, in decoration and in fabrics, and in the patterned carpets in the Dáil.” The monument of Queen Victoria outside the parliament (today sitting outside a shopping centre in Australia) was a surprise,though she joked of how “an Irishman explained that it was such an insult to the Queen that it seemed a pity to blow it up.”


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(In terms of crime and Dublin, we’ve 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; Animal Gang violence in 1942; vigilante violence in Dublin (1970 – 1984)  Bugsy Malone gangs of the 1970s and Triad gang violence in 1979) 


The 1950s and 1960s are interesting decades in relation to crime in Dublin. They are the bridgeway between the Animal Gang street violence and bookmaking rackets of the 1940s and the emergence of modern organised crime from the late 1960s onwards.

One individual who was active through both eras was Charles ‘Charlie’ Ainscough. He was better known by his nickname ‘Henchico’. A relation of his explained to me via email that the name ‘Henchico’ derived “from the mispronunciation of Liberties people of the name Ainscough”. It is pronounced ‘Ainscow’ in its correct form.

His nom-de-guerre ‘Henchicho’ has been variously spelled as ‘Henseco’, ‘Henshcough’ and ‘Hinchito’ in contemporary newspapers. As well as ‘Henchicoe’, ‘Henchekow’, ‘Henchecote’ and ‘Henchcoat’ on different online platforms by reminiscing Dubliners. ‘The Hench’ is another nickname remembered by others on Facebook

Throughout his 25+ year criminal career, Henchico was involved in street-fights, shootings, stabbings, hatchet-attacks, house-robberies, larceny, pimping and various other illegal enterprises. He was in and out of prison his whole life. A feared figure, Henchico’s life of crime only came to end with a sudden fatal heart attack in 1968.

Family Background

The surname Ainscough is of “Old Norse, Scandinavian origin” and is a “locational surname deriving from a now ‘lost’ place in Lancashire, England.”

The ancestors of Henchico moved from England to Dublin in the 1860s to take up employment as coopers in the Guinness Brewery, St. James’s Gate, Dublin 8. At its height, Guinness employed up to 300 coopers who made a thousand new wooden casks a week and repaired thousands more. It took a seven-year apprentice to become a qualified cooper and they were the most highly skilled tradesmen in the brewery.

Cooper in the Guinness brewery, late 19th century. Credit – http://3.bp.blogspot.com/.

Henchico’s father, Charles Ainscough Sr., was born on 29 November 1892 at 3 Wyle’s Cottages to James Ainscough and Mary-Ellen Ainscough (neé Deane). Wylie’s Cottages, later known as Behan’s Cottages, were situated off Lower Basin Street and James Street in the shadows of the Guinness brewery. 

In 1901, the Ainscough family living in Dublin 8 were the only Ainscough family on the whole of the island. The head of the family James Ainscough (38), a London-born Cooper, lived with his Liverpool-born wife Mary-Ellen Ainscough (36) and four sons and four daughters including Charles Sr.

1901 Census Return. Ainscough family, 3 Behan’s Cottages.

James Ainscough died on 1 February 1904 according to the online Guinness archive. The same resource reveals that his son Charles Ainscough Sr. joined Guinness as a ‘Tariff Cooper’ on 16 August 1909 aged 17.

At the time of the 1911 census, the Ainscough family were still living at 3 Behan’s Cottages. Widow Mary-Ellen (46) lived in the home with three daughters, one daughter-in-law and three sons including Charles Sr.

1911 Census Returns. Ainscough family, 3 Behan’s Cottages.

Henchico’s uncle Henry Ainscough was listed as the main inhabitant householder the 1913 Electoral Register:

1913 Electoral Roll. Henry Ainscough, 3 Wylie’s Cottages (aka Behan’s Cottages).

Henchico’s parents Charles Ainscough Sr., of 3 Behan’s Cottages, and Christina Ainscough (neé McCann), of 32 Usher’s Quay, married on 7 November 1915 at St.f Audoen’s Church, Dublin 8.

1915 marriage cert of Henchico’s parents

Their son Henchico (Charles Jr.) was born around September 1925.

Here is a Google Map illustrating the various addresses in the city connected to Henchico throughout his life.

  • Purple – Friends/Family/Hang-out spots
  • Green – Enemies/Rival Gang Members
  • Black – Sites of robberies and incidents


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Space Oddity

In Dublin 12, the John F. Kennedy Industrial Estate street signs remind southsiders of the June 1963 visit of JFK to this island. Across the River Liffey, and a different series of Americans are remembered in Coolock, where street names like Aldrin Walk, Armstrong Walk, Apollo Way and even Tranquility Grove honour (most of) the heroes of the 1969 Moon landing. This was total news to me until today, when I found it mentioned in both the print edition of the Dublin Inquirer and a lovely piece on thejournal.ie, complete with photos of street signs.

Digging into the archives, it’s easy to see how the street names came to be. Dublin, like the rest of the world, was fascinated by the journey of man into space. On the day after the great event, the Irish Press went out onto the streets to get the views of the ‘Plain People of Ireland’. All Patricia of Donnybrook could say was “We didn’t watch it on television because we don’t have a television”, and Susannah “couldn’t see any point in the whole exercise.” Thank God for Ballymun taxi man Gerard, who believed “a person would have to be very dense not to be interested in this fantastic achievement.”

When a tiny fragment of moon rock was put on display in the city in February 1970, more than 4,000 people showed up in just a few hours at the United States embassy building in Ballsbridge for a gawk. The tiny fragment was described by one journalist as being “about an-inch-and-a-half in diameter, or roughly the size of a walnut”. Still, it all had the feel of a great occasion about it, always enough for Dubliners.


When the Moon came to Ballsbridge, Irish Independent.

When Captain Eugene Cernan, Commander of Apollo 17, arrived in Ireland in 1973, he brought with him a fragment of moon rock for President Childers, which he presented in Aras an Uachtarain. As pieces made appearances north and south in universities and at conferences, they continued to draw impressive crowds throughout the 1970s.

The street names in the Woodville Estate of Coolock were controversial from the beginning, leading the Evening Herald in the summer of 1977 to report that some residents at Woodville Estate were “slightly moon-sick”, calling for more “down-to-earth” names like Woodville Way and Woodville Avenue. Armstrong Walk, Aldrin Walk, and Collins Rendezvous honoured the men of the moon landing, while there was even a Tranquility Grove, in honour of the Statio Tranquillitatis where Apollo 11 landed.


Voting in a plebiscite on changing the names, residents rejected Collins Rendezvous for Woodville Court, but held onto the others. Thus, one member of the team was destined to be forgotten, in Coolock at least.

We eagerly await a Yuri Gagarin Avenue.


Google Maps showing Apollo Way, Tranquility Grove, Armstrong Walk and Aldrin Walk.

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Irish Independent, 12 February 1958.

This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster which claimed the lives of twenty-three people. On 6 February 1958, British European Airways Flight 609 crashed while attempting to take off in poor conditions at Munich-Riem Airport. Among the dead were eight of the Busby Babes, the remarkable young football side built by manager Matt Busby. It was a team that commentator Eamon Dunphy has recalled as being “proud, young and fearless.” The heartbreak in Manchester led to thousands taking to the streets there when bodies returned, with the Irish Examiner noting how “more than 100,000 people – men, women and children – lined the streets of the route from the airport to the ground in the biggest ever tribute paid by the people of Manchester.” The grief was not restricted to the red side of that city either, as Manchester City legend Frank Swift was also killed in the disaster.

One of the lives lost that day was Liam Whelan, a twenty-two year old from Cabra who had previously played with Home Farm in Whitehall. The return of his body to Ireland and subsequent funeral was a phenomenal spectacle, bringing Dublin’s northside to a halt. Bertie Ahern recalls the event in his autobiography:

Manchester United meant nothing to me as a six-year-old, but we were all brought out on the day of the funeral when it was on its way back in from the Christ the King in Cabra. We’re all very proud round here that he played for Home Farm longer than he played for United. He’s very much a local hero.It was a few years later before Manchester United started to reckon with me. At that stage, I was more interested in Drumcondra in the League of Ireland because they were the local side.

In signing for Manchester United in 1953, Whelan had followed in a long Irish tradition that began with Dubliner Patrick O’Connell in 1914. In a more contemporary sense, he followed the great Johnny Carey, who amassed more than 400 appearances for the club between 1936 and 1953, and whose escapades were closely followed in the Irish press.


Liam Whelan (Image Credit: Manchester United Football Club Archive)

The success of Busby’s United side – and the wonderful football they played – excited many in Ireland. More than forty thousand fans crammed into Dalymount Park in September 1957 to watch the side take on Shamrock Rovers in a competitive European clash. A hopeful sports reporter noted that “though a Dublin man and a Six-County man are in the visiting party, a good display will mean a lot to the prestige of Irish football.” Matt Busby – treating Rovers with a respect some in the English press felt they didn’t deserve – traveled to Dublin the week before the clash to watch the side, telling readers of his Evening Chronicle column in Manchester that “the Shamrock boys played some really grand football – no kick and rush and no unfair tactics. They showed good team work and a confidence born of a long run of success.” In the end, United ran out clear winners, with Whelan scoring twice in a six-nil victory. Rovers player Gerry Mackey remembered that there wasn’t much of a contest in the end, as “we ran ourselves into the ground. They scored three of their goals when we just couldn’t stand up anymore.” Mackey’s fellow Hoop Jimmy McCann recalled:

I can remember the crowds trying to get up the lane at Dalymount to get into the changing rooms. You had to almost beat your way up.

‘The whole country went bananas when Shamrock Rovers were drawn to play Manchester United. They had lots of great players such as David Pegg, Johnny Berry, and, of course, Duncan Edwards and Liam.

There was no shame in the defeat against such a superior side. United’s strikers just couldn’t stop scoring, leading the Sunday Independent to quip that “next to petrol, the most valuable commodity in England today is probably the Manchester United forward line.”


Evening Herald front page following the disaster,


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The Return of Gulliver

This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of Dublin’s Millennium celebrations. The milk bottles remain, and so do the memories.

Among the most enduring images from 1988 are those of the giant Gulliver who was beached on Dollymount Strand, before floating on the River Liffey. An impressive “fibreglass, aluminium and plywood” tribute to the central character of Gulliver’s Travels, Gulliver was the work of Macnas, the much-loved Galway street performance company. It was a fitting tribute to one of Dublin’s finest writers, the great satirist Jonathan Swift, in a year that celebrated all things Dublin.

MS18_Gulliver_1988 (1)

Gulliver on the Liffey (Image Credit: Dublin City Photographic Collection, Dublin City Council)

In January 1988, it was reported that the relatively new Macnas (they were founded two years earlier) intended to “travel to Dublin in March and liaise with different communities to capture volunteers all willing to help build the massive Gulliver model.” In keeping with the spirit of the year, they hoped that “the different parts of his body will be assembled at workshops throughout the city, with the help of 35 young craftspeople on a Fás scheme.”

The primary funding for Gulliver came from the National Lottery, who put an impressive £50,000 towards the project. The giant made his way onto the front of almost every daily newspaper in the country when he finally arrived on Dollymount Strand in July, with journalists getting into the spirit of things. The Evening Herald reported that “chaos broke out on Dollymount Strand this afternoon when a giant was spotted floating in the sea off the north Dublin beach…Experts called to the scene finally revealed that the huge man was in fact Dr. Lemuel Gulliver, direct from Dean Swift’s masterpiece story.”


Evening Herald, 12 July 1988.

This RTÉ report likewise played along, asking the children of Dublin where they felt the giant had come from. One child believed ‘Heaven’ to be the answer, and all were transfixed by the model and the pageantry that surrounded it. The captured Gulliver was freed and given a civic reception by Lord Mayor Ben Briscoe, before being placed in the Liffey between the Ha’penny Bridge and O’Connell Bridge, drawing huge crowds of the bemused and curious for a look.

The episode is recalled in recent literature, thanks to Frankie Gaffney’s novel Dublin Seven:

It only seems like yesterday ye were born, said his ma, getting misty-eyes. 1988…Dublin was a kip back then.But the week you were born, they’d big celebrations on for Dublin’s Millennium. They made these…special 50p pieces, cause Dublin was a thousand years old or somethin’, and when we were bringing ye back from the Rotunda they had a big huge giant floatin in the Liffey! Something to do with yer man Gullible’s travels it was!

Fittingly, Macnas also displayed Gulliver in their home city, where he drew big crowds on Grattan Beach. It was one of the first acts by a street performance company who have been captivating audiences ever since.


Gulliver in Galway (Image Credit: Macnas)

See the forthcoming Dublin Inquirer for an article examining the Millennium in more detail.

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