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CivilWarDub

The bombardment of the Four Courts, 1922 (Image Credit: Dublin City Public Libraries, Birth of the Republic Collection)

Over the following weeks, I’ll be giving a series of lectures in libraries in Dublin North West exploring the Irish revolution in three parts. Firstly, we will be looking at 1917 and the reorganisation of the revolutionary forces. The second lecture will focus on the War of Independence, while the final lecture will explore the road to the Civil War. This is an initiative of Dublin City Council, who  are putting historians into different districts of the city to engage with the public and to build on the momentum of the 1916 centenary.

For me, the series kick off tonight in Ballymun (apologies for short notice, I’ve been away!) and tomorrow in Cabra. People are more than welcome to attend, and if you live in other parts of the city here is the complete programme.

Ballymun Library on Tuesday 27 June and 4 and 11 July at 6.30pm

Cabra Library on Wednesday 28 June, 5 July and 12 July at 6.30pm

 

 

A building you could easily pass by without noticing properly, the New Ireland Assurance building on Dawson Street is quite an impressive piece of work when you step back to take a look at it, and loaded with Gaelic symbolism. The work of the O’Brien, Morris and McCullough firm, the building dates from 1964. The provincial coats of arms, Gaelic design and its exclusively Irish language unveiling marker all make this very much a building of its time, which was both strikingly modern and tied to something very old indeed.

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10-12 Dawson Street.

The New Ireland Assurance Company, born in January 1918, was bound to the nationalist movement of the day strongly.  At the unveiling of their new headquarters in 1964, the company chairman Dennis McCullough (himself a veteran of the revolutionary period), noted that its first meeting was attended by men that included Michael J. Staines, Éamon de Valera, Liam Tobin and Frank Thornton, all 1916 men. To him, “all its major decisions in the years since its foundation have been influenced by the spirit of 1916, which inspired its founders.”

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10-12 Dawson Street.

The building has been described by Christine Casey as “modernism tempered by a classical sensibility”, and defended by Archiseek as one of the better such office buildings of the 1960s. They note that:

With its strong modern lines, gold coloured window frames, and celtic-inspired decoration, New Ireland Assurance was attempting to demonstrate a new Ireland, looking forward, the results of Taoiseach Seán Lemass’s push for modernity in the country.

Only a year before he officially opened this building, Taoiseach Seán Lemass had appeared on the front of Time, in a feature that captured Lemass’s belief in a very Gaelic kind of capitalism, far removed from earlier economic protectionism. The magazine proclaimed there was now “a new spirit in the Ould Sod”, and championed Lemass for his move towards encouraging foreign direct investment and opening up Ireland’s economy.  Readers were told that Lemass was something new indeed:

The nation’s new mood is that of Sean Lemass, who four years ago succeeded Eamon de Valera as Taoiseach. Though Lemass has been De Valera’s protégé and heir apparent for three decades, the two men could not be more dissimilar. “Dev,” the aloof, magnetic revolutionary with a martyr’s face and mystic’s mind, was the sort of leader whom the Irish have adored in every age. Sean Lemass, a reticent, pragmatic planner called “The Quiet Man,” is by temperament and ancestry more Gallic than Gaelic, and represents a wholly new species of leadership for Ireland.

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10-12 Dawson Street.

This building captures a particular moment in time, when the state was still clinging to the idea of a Gaelic Ireland in many ways, but when the economy of the state was shifting and evolving. With much construction work and change around it, it is easy to pass by this reminder of Lemass era Ireland.

Enough time has passed to ponder on the 1916 centenary, though some would say we had enough of it all to last a lifetime.

Luke Fallon, photographer and regular contributor to CHTM, took literally hundreds of pictures over the course of the year, capturing life in Dublin during the centenary. Some are humorous (Connolly doesn’t look quite at home in the windows of BT), some captured excellent civic and community commemorations (I loved the proclamation on Wood Quay and some of the other DCC banners across Dublin) and others captured moments of protest and controversy. Here is a small selection of a much,much larger collection which will be available to view soon.

All images are copyright to Luke Fallon.

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Brown Thomas, Grafton Street.

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Postbox, Grafton Street.

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Screen above Club Lapello, Dame Street.

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Civic Offices, Wood Quay.

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Hibernian Magazine, May 1782.

Reading Joe O’Shea’s excellent study Murder, Mutiny & Mayhem – The Blackest Hearted Villains From Irish History recently introduced me to Captain Luke Ryan, a character who is largely unheard of today, but whose story is entangled with that of Benjamin Franklin and the time of the struggle of the American Colonies for independence from Britain. A real, living, breathing pirate, Captain Ryan from Rusk was a Dubliner who risked life and limb harassing British ships and capturing their crews, first for commercial gain and then in the paid service of the Americans.

Born in Rush on 14 February 1750, Luke Ryan came to prominence for his involvement with the Black Prince, essentially an American privateer during the war with Britain which caused mayhem along the coasts of England and Ireland, and whose crew were denounced in the Irish press as little more than “renegade pirates”. Ryan’s life at sea had begun earlier, when the Black Prince sailed under the name Friendship, which smuggled “French brandy, Dutch tea, arms and other assorted materials between Dunkirk and Dublin.”  The Friendship was once described in the Freeman’s Journal as sitting proudly along Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, “ready to sail, being completely armed and manned, carrying 14 carriage guns and 60 as brave hands as any in Europe”.

The Friendship became the Black Prince in the summer of 1779, sailing from Dunkirk and with an American Commission, as the Americans (spearheaded by Benjamin Franklin in Paris) sought means to harass the British at sea. As O’Shea has written:

The Black Prince went to work, sailing from Dunkirk in June 1779 and quickly snapping up eight British prizes which were sailed back to the French port of Morlaix. In July, Ryan and his ship captured a further thirteen British coastal trading vessels, which were stripped of their cargoes and then ransomed back to the English owners. A Waterford brig (a quick and highly-maneuverable ship with two square-rigged masts) called the Sally-Anne was one of eighteen vessels brought into the ports of Morlaix and Dunkirk after a particularly productive cruise to the waters off the South West coast of England.

Ryan and his men didn’t merely attack British ships – on occasion, they even attacked coastal towns and islands, which was widely reported in Ireland where he became a hate figure to panicked Loyalists. The Freemans Journal told their readers in 1780 that “Luke Ryan, Commander, landed at Stornaway, in the island of Lewis, and after plundering the town, carried off the principal inhabitants as hostages”. The man from Rush was captured in time, attempting to convince the courts he was French, before a series of witnesses that included numerous relatives gave the game away.

The story of Ryan’s life, which would take a few more dramatic turns, is well told by Joe O’Shea in three parts on his blog, as well as by Eugene Coyle in History Ireland.

Late last year, and into 2017, I had the pleasure of working on a project entitled ‘Around The Table’, which was part of Dublin City Council’s National Neighborhood project. In different parts of the city, people looked at different aspects of life and community there and produced interesting things, ranging from songs to theatrical efforts, all in conjunction with local groups.

In the area I worked, Dublin Central, we focused on the history of food. From East Wall to the Markets area, Dublin Central is strongly bound to the story of food production in the city, and the story of foods arrival and departure. We interviewed dockers, chip shop workers, slaughterhouse staff, street traders, market workers and more besides for what became a beautiful oral history production.

A digital PDF of ‘Around The Table’ is available online from here. Any serious history of food in Dublin can’t come from the newspaper archives alone of course, but has to be drawn from the memories and experiences of those who have worked in the field of feeding Dubs.  It is a piece of social history I think we captured well, and thanks to those who agreed to me sticking a recorder in front of them.

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Dockworker Pat Behan describing exotic food on the docks of Dublin. (click to enlarge)

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Cadbury’s worker Pat Glynn. (click to enlarge)

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Remembering the Andreucetti chipper and ice cream shop, which became a loved part of the East Wall Community. (click to enlarge)


My thanks to Jennie Moran and Ida Mitran (responsible for the beautiful illustrations in the book and more besides), photographer Jeanette Lowe and Bernadette Larkin for all their work on this project.

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1970s postcard of Liberty Hall.

Higher than a county lark
Can fly, a speck that sings,
Sixteen-floored Liberty Hall
Goes up through scaffoldings

So wrote Austin Clarke in his poem ‘New Liberty Hall’, composed in the 1960s as the trade union headquarters along the quays witnessed an incredible transformation. Gone was the crumbling Liberty Hall of the Larkinites, purchased in 1912 and created in what was once the Northumberland Hotel,and here was something new entirely. A skyscraper by Dublin standards, a more regular office block to some of the cities of the world.

I recently acquired this great 1970s postcard image of Liberty Hall, then still new along the quays.  The building looks familiar yet strikingly different from today; as Archiseek note:

At the time of its construction, it was fitted with non-reflective glass which gave the building a much-more translucent effect. However a bomb explosion in 1972 blew out most of the glass which meant that the glass was replaced but with a reflective variety and the viewing deck was closed.

The only building of its scale in the very heart of the city, surprisingly few have engaged with Liberty Hall and the opportunities its scale offers. In 2013 and 2016, tapestries of work by the artist Robert Ballagh decorated the building, to mark the centenaries of the Lockout and Easter Rising, events to which the earlier Liberty Hall was central.

Between 24 September and 11 October 2009, the project Playhouse transformed the union office “into a giant 50 metre, low resolution, TV screen.” This innovative and popular art project was part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. Tetris appeared on the building, along with love hearts and messages, and it was interactive too, allowing the public to directly engage.

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Playhouse, 2009 (Image Credit: Dublin Theatre Festival Archive)

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Liberty Hall under construction, 1960s (National Library of Ireland on Flickr)

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Crampton Buildings, Temple Bar.

When we think of the Dublin Artisan Dwelling Company (DADC), Portobello and Stoneybatter come to mind first. In both places you’ll find rows of redbrick artisan cottages that are synonymous with the semi-philanthropic housing body who transformed the face of parts of Victorian Dublin.

Still, there is evidence of their work right in the heart of the city too, including the recently restored Crampton Buildings of Temple Bar. Located on Asdill’s Row, you could easily miss this housing scheme amidst the hustle and bustle of what is now Tourist Mecca, but at the time of their construction in the early 1890s was very much an industrial quarter.

The DADC, created in the mid 1870s, was intended to construct houses for Dublin workers at reasonable costs and with affordable rents. In the absence of Dublin Corporation housing projects (the first Corporation housing project was undertaken on Benburb Street in the late 1880s), workers were almost entirely at the mercy of private landlords, a rather unscrupulous group in Victorian Dublin which even included elected Councillors. It was a former Dublin Lord Mayor, Alderman Joseph Meade, who would gain much from subdividing homes on Henrietta Street.

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Google Maps view of Crampton Buildings while under major restoration. The scheme has a ‘U shape’, with residential units entered from Asdill’s Row. Elephant and Castle and other businesses occupy the commercial units. (Image Credit: Google Maps 3d view)

As Murray Fraser has noted in his history of public housing in Ireland, the DADC  was backed by “the city’s Unionist business elite”, which included Arthur Edward Guinness, Edward Cecil Guinness (later Lord Iveagh, who would play his own part in constructing social housing with the Iveagh Trust), William La Touche and John Jameson. Fraser notes that while the body received some state assistance, “from the outset the DADC was run as an efficient business and paid a dividend of between 4 and 5 percent to shareholders.” It may have set out to building affordable houses for the working class of Dublin, but it was a business.

By 1900 the company had built about 2,500 separate dwellings, though as Joseph V. O’Brien noted, “the Dwellings Company generally conducted its operations outside the so-called central areas of poverty and dilapidated housing.” DADC homes were far superior to the tenements that dotted the city centre, but the rent tended to exclude ‘general labourers’, and meant that as such they attracted tradesmen, skilled labourers, and those lucky enough to enjoy regular employment with companies like Guinness, a far-cry from the precarious nature of much work in the city.

For some, the DADC houses came at just the right time. As Cormac Ó Gráda has noted in his study of Jewish Ireland, “the brand-new houses in Portobello came on the market at exactly the right time for clusters of Jewish migrants ready to pay the 6s to 8s weekly rent.”

The Asdill’s Row scheme, named Crampton Buildings, consists of 54 flats, with 27 each units each across the first and second floor levels. It was completed in 1891, and was constructed with retail usage at ground level in mind. At first they struggled to fill these units, perhaps unsurprising given the very different nature of the district at the turn of the nineteenth century. As with most DADC schemes, the Crampton Buildings outlived the body,  and were purchased in the 1990s by Dublin City Council, who recently undertook major restoration of the scheme. Having been hidden beyond view by hoardings for much of last year, this great DADC project is visible once again, and looking better than ever.

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