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Posts Tagged ‘Dublin History’

There was a time when transport by tram around Dublin wasn’t restricted to two bizarrely unconnected routes, when tramlines extended miles in every direction, spreading from O’Connell Street outwards like arteries from a heart to Dublin’s rapidly expanding suburbs.

Three companies operated the trams initially, the Dublin Tramways Company, the North Dublin Street Tramways Company,  and Dublin Central Tramways. These companies united in 1880, forming the Dublin United Tramways Company, with 137 trams running routes which totaled over 32 miles. The last horse tram ran in January 1901,  by which time Dublin had completely electrified it’s system, now with 66 miles of track, of which nearly 50 were owned by the DUTC.

As well as numbers, the trams also had colourful route indicators. Uploaded by JadedIsle

The first tram came into service in February 1872, and ran from College Green to Rathgar. The trams generally operated within the City Centre or stretching to the more affluent South Dublin suburbs. Traveling on the trams, in the early days at least, was a luxury only Dublin’s white collar workers could afford. The majority of trams started at, or stopped nearby Nelson’s Pillar, and their terminus’  stretched to the likes of Sandymount, Blackrock, Dun Laoghaire, Dalkey and Terenure, as can be seen on the route identifier above. As well as featuring in a high percentage of photo’s of Dublin streets at the turn of the last century, they played parts in the Easter Rising, being toppled and bombed and their wreckage used for barricades, and feature in Joyce’s Ulysses.

Uploaded by Cracker on dublin.ie

What must have been the 21 tram to Inchicore

For over twenty years after the introduction of electric trams here, Dublin was a pioneer in tram building, the works in Inchicore churning out carriages whose design would be copied worldwide. But the introduction of the car to Irish roads, the growth in their use in the twenties,  and the newly designed four wheeled “bogey,” or basically a precursor to the bus saw the abandonment of many trams. The last tram in Dublin City ran on on 9th July 1949,  with the Howth Head line lasting another ten years before it too succumbed to progress. Some of their lines can still be found around the city, relics of a time past.

Removing the tracks at Lord Edward Street

A copy of the Dublin United Tramways Company from 2010 has been uploaded by the National Archives of Ireland and can be found here. The image of workers removing the tracks from Cork Street is from the Dublin City Council’s Photographic Collection.

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While historically, and perhaps understandably, The Abbey Theatre takes centre stage in this city, mainly because of it’s connections with Synge, Yeats and O’Casey and their associations with the 1916 Rebellion, its sometimes easy to forget that there are, and were a plethora of other theatres, not only The Gaiety, The Olympia, The Gate, but a long list of many more.
I came across the picture below, of a building on the corner of Poolbeg Street and Hawkins’ Street with a stone columned pallisade and cast iron and glass canopy while flicking through the excellent dublin.ie forum recently. It started me thinking about the recent publishing by the Dublin City Council of images of Dublin’s vanishing and forgotten features (see JayCarax’s piece on that here ) and about actually how much of this city has been erased. Streets, buildings and sites of archaeological significance were destroyed; eradicated in the name of progress without thought of their value, socially and historically, to future generations.

The Theatre Royal Hippodrome, Credit to Cosmo on dublin.ie for the picture

One such building is the Theatre Royale Hippodrome/ Winter Gardens on Hawkins’ Street. The only reason I know of its existence is because of a flash of interest when I first saw the picture above, did a quick search and found the poster below. Dating from 1919, these were turbulent times in Dublin. The Declaration of Independence was declared at the 21st January assembly of Dáil Eireann, and hostilities in the War of Independence began on the same day with Dan Breen and Seán Treacy’s attack on two RIC constables who were escorting explosives in Soloheadbeag, Co. Tipperary.

The Evening Telegraph front page, from the morning of January 22nd, 1919

There is not too much information on the Theatre Royal Hippodrome available. It is known that there were four in existence; the first was on the site of the still running “Smock Alley” theatre, the second on Hawkins Street, (the site of the image above,) where it ran until it burned to the ground in 1880. This theatre re-opened in 1897 with a capacity of 2, 300 (compare this to the Olympia, which nowadays holds 1, 100) and ran until 1934 when it was demolished and replaced by the fourth theatre which opened in 1935 and ran until 1962. The picture is estimated to be from around 1906/ 07, which suggests it is from the third incarnation of the Theatre.

Poster for the Theatre Royal Hippodrome for 16th June 1919, credit to Matthew from http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk for permission to reproduce here.

Two events stood out for me in reading about the theatre. The first was Charlie Chaplin’s appearance here as a young man in 1906 as part of an act called The Eight Lancashire Lads (1.) The second was the attempted assassination of British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith here on July 19th 1912, not by Irish Revolutionaries but by militant English Suffragettes (2.) Their first attempt involved a hatchet thrown at him by one woman as his carriage passed the GPO on O’Connell Street. While it missed him, she did succeed in striking John Redmond, the nationalist leader. The second involved three women who attempted to set fire to the Theatre as Asquith was about to speak.

The Irish Times report stated:

Sergeant Cooper, accompanied by his wife and Colour-Sergeant and Mrs Shea, was sitting in the dress circle of the theatre. About a quarter to nine, when the performance had concluded and the people were going out, he saw a flame in the back seat, just in front of the cinematograph box.

With the presence of mind that one should expect in a soldier, he rushed to the place, and found that the carpet was saturated with oil and ablaze. He and Colour-Sergeant Shea beat the fire out with their mackintoshes. Just as they had succeeded in this, under the seat there was an explosion, which filled the dress circle with smoke.

At this moment Sergeant Cooper saw a young woman standing near. She was lighting matches. Opening the door of the cinematograph box, she threw in a lighted match, and then tried to escape. But she was caught by Sergeant Cooper and held by him. She is stated to have then said: “There will be a few more explosions in the second house. This is only the start of it.”

From the Irish Times archive.

From the posters, I get the feeling that the Theatre was the anti- thesis of the Abbey which stood a mere 100 yards away as the crow flies, albeit the other side of the River Liffey. An advertisement which I have been unable to reproduce (but can be seen here on the arthurlloyd.co.uk website) has the adage “God Save the King”  amid advertisements for “Hammam Turkish Baths, Sackville Street” and open daily “Winter Gardens” serving “Teas, coffees and light refreshments,” delights the majority of Dubliners at that time could only dream about.

As far as I know, nothing remains of the Theatre Royal Hippodrome today. From the photograph above (and from deductions that the construction work in the background was the construction of he Sheehan Memorial on Burgh Quay,) its been worked out that the National Aviation Authority  stands on the site formerly occupied by it. There is now a housing scheme off Pearse Street named after the Winter Gardens, but searches for more information have thrown up little more than (apart from advertisements for apartments for sale and to let,) the poster above, the picture of the Hippodrome, the Irish Times article and a brief history of the theatre in a book called “Dear, Dirty Dublin: A City in Distress.” Published in 1982, this book has a great paragraph on the Gaelic Leagues denunciation of the demise of Irish culture as a product of the hegemony of imported English popular culture. While in the early twentieth century, the Abbey Theatre put paid to the notion that Irish culture was condemned to obsucurity, the book also has a great quote from Padraig Pearse as he proclaimed the Dublin of his day held:

Nothing but Guinness porter. Her contribution to the world’s civilisation (3.)

Due in part to some of the works that have made their debuts in The Abbey Theatre, Dublin has proven itself to have contributed more than just Guinness porter to the world. Who knows how much more we could have contributed if sites of historical and cultural relevence such as the Theatre Royal and the Viking Settlement at Wood Quay not half a mile down the same side of the river weren’t trampled on and replaced by drab, dour, and most importantly “conventional” buildings.

Footnotes:

(1.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theatre_Royal,_Dublin

(2.) http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2010/0719/1224275016332.html

(3.) Dear, Dirty Dublin: A City in Distress by Joseph V. O’Brien, Page 23. Can be read here.

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Mellows’ last message was delivered to Eamon Martin by a prison officer. It was written at 7.30am and ran:

To my dear comrades in Mountjoy. God bless you, boys, and give you fortitude, courage and wisdom to suffer and endure all for Ireland’s sake.

An poblacht abu!
Liam O Maoiliosa (Liam Mellows)

The above is taken from C Desmond Greaves wonderful biography of Liam Mellows, entitled Liam Mellows and the Irish Revolution. Undoubtedly one of the most complex characters of the anti-treaty republican movement, I’ve always been fascinated by Mellows. A great account of what Mellows was like as a man inside Mountjoy can be found in Peadar O’ Donnell’s prison memoirs The Gates Flew Open.

Recently, I saw the letter below. It is the final letter of Liam Mellows, the letter published above in Graves biography. It comes from the personal papers of Paddy Kelly, whose father was a republican prisoner in Mountjoy at the time. Look closely at it however. There are a number of clear edits made to the letter, for example the first line, where “to my very dear comrades…” becomes “to my dear comrades”. “God bless you,” becomes “God bless you boys” and the word “and” is added at various points, replacing the & symbol.

At the end of the letter “Irish first” is added and underlined next to Liam’s name.

Were these edits made by Mellows himself, or are they an early example of spin doctoring? Was the letter edited by republicans for propaganda impact before publication? Several of the letters seem completely different to those in the original letter, yet with others it’s a little less clear.

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It is said that countless country folk have used it as a rendevous point, and that thousands of relationships, amorous and otherwise have been formed under it. Phillip Chevron of The Radiators even wrote a song about it. As landmarks go, it’s pretty, though rather unimpressive, but the saying “I’ll meet you under Clery’s Clock ” has been coined for generations.

The spot of many a life changing moment; Clery's Clock

Clery’s is an integral part of the social history of Dublin, as much as it is the actual history. It’s ties with the Imperial Hotel and the Martin Murphy empire, the lockout of 1913 and Jim Larkin, and the events of Easter week in 1916 are irrefutable. It was the scene, as has been mentioned here before, of Jim Larkin’s arrest for addressing the crowd at a rally from the upper balcony of the building while dressed in a priests robes and a fake beard.

But as I said, there is an important social history to be told about the building, and Media Arts Student Sinead Vaughan is looking for people to tell it. I came across this plea for help this morning while browsing the Dublin City section of boards.ie and thought it an excellent idea. So anyone with a story about meeting there, or especially anyone who was at the unveiling of the new clock in 1990, contact sineady_vaughan@hotmail.com

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Writing a piece on the modern disappearance of Liberty Lane, got me thinking about other streets and alleys in Dublin that have since changed beyond recognition.

For hundreds of years, it was possible for Dubliners to cross from College Green to Fleet Street via Turnstile Lane and Alley.

The map below, kindly reproduced with Pat Liddy’s permission, shows in the bottom left side how this was possible.

Temple Bar, 1760s. 'Temple Bar - Dublin. An Illustrated History', Pat Liddy, (Dublin, 1992), p. 32

In the 1780s, Turnstile Lane was widened considerably and renamed Fosters Place after John Foster (1740 – 1828), the last speaker of the Irish House of Commons. Turnstile Alley was renamed Parliament Row c. 1775. A narrow alleyway still linked the two but this was finally closed in 1928 due to the construction of the Bank Armoury.

Parliament Row today. Nothing more than a Car Park entrance and a bottle bank.

The Irishman’s Diary in The Irish Times on May 30, 1928 noted that “the closing of the passage at the ‘back of the bank’ … is causing much inconvenience to the many busy people who found it a short cut”.

Another view of the modern Parliament Row.

The modern map of Temple Bar below illustrates just how much has changed not least the blocking off of Turnstile Lane and Alley.  The cobbled Fosters Place is now most familiar to Dubliners for its Starbucks, taxi rank and new Wax Museum while Parliament Row has nothing much to boast for except a Car Park entrance and bottle bank.

Temple Bar, 1990s. 'Temple Bar - Dublin. An Illustrated History', Pat Liddy, (Dublin, 1992), p. 67

Fosters Place today. The road that swings right used to once lead to Fleet Street.


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This is a nice find, from the Irish Municipal Employees’ Trade Union, 1942.

The back of the leaflet was clearly used in 1942 by someone dealing with union finances, as it is littered with figures and sums.

Union members are encouraged to attend a commemoration in memory of Connolly on May Day, and also to show up a demonstration on the 3rd of May, “…to participate along with other Trade Unions in procession, which will leave STEPHEN’S GREEN at 12.15 pm”

Of all places, it showed up recently in the books of the Dublin Fire Brigade Union, loaned to the DFB Museum. The things that show up in books eh?

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This article aims to provide a brief overview of the Pearse Street Fire of 1936. It is by no means a complete overview of events and I recommend anyone seeking more information on the incident consult ‘A Triple Tragedy in Dublin, The Pearse Street Fire, 1936’, by A.P Behan. That paper was published in the Dublin Historical Record (ISSN 0012-6861, Spring 1997). I have relied on it, and newspapers of the period, for much of the information below.

Men fight the blaze, image taken from Independent. This image was taken moments before an explosion in the premises.

Writing in the Irish Independent in the immediate aftermath of the event , Anthony Flynn wrote of the risks men in the Dublin Fire Brigade faced in the line of work.

The fireman himself thinks only of duty. That duty is clear and defined. And our Dublin firemen do not hesitate. In Pearse Street, as on countless other occasions, these men faced death. Three of them died, displaying a courage equal, if indeed, it does not transcend, that of the battlefield.

The premises of Exide Batteries, at 164 Pearse Street, had been the site of a horrific blaze on the night of Monday October 5th. Due to the proximity of Tara Street Fire Station, it took less than two minutes for the men to arrive on scene. The fire had been detected by the tenants above Exide Batteries at 10.50 p.m. In the definitive history of the Dublin Fire Brigade (The Dublin Fire Brigade: A History of the Brigade, the Fires and the Emergencies, by Trevor Whitehead and Tom Geraghty)they note that

Number 163 housed a barber’s shop at ground level and a private hotel occupying the upper floors. Number 164 had a retail shop belonging to Exide Batteries Ltd. on the front ground floor, vacant offices on the first floor and a family of seven living on the top floor. The basements, although not connected,were the location of a factory in which Exide batteries were assembled….

The fire was fought in terrible conditions. The water supply in the area was nowhere near adequate, for example. A.P Behan stated in his paper ‘A Triple Tragedy in Dublin, The Pearse Street Fire, 1936’ that

There was practically no volume of water and no pressure. Onlookers were incensed at the firemen having to fight such fire in these conditions, and the absence of adequate water supply had the result that the firemen had to get so close to the fire that their uniforms were scorched

Two explosions ripped the premises apart. Initially, two firemen were thought missing in the premises, but quickly it became apparent a third was missing. It was not until about 10 in the morning the next day that the third body was found. The three Dublin firefighters killed in the line of duty were:

Fireman Robert Malone– a veteran of the 1916 Rising who had served as a Lieutenant with “D” Company 3rd Battalion at Bolands Mills Garrison, under Eamon de Valera. He left a wife and child behind.

Fireman Thomas Nugent– who was engaged to be married.

Fireman Peter McArdle– who left a wife and seven children (His funeral mass card is shown below)

(more…)

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