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Posts Tagged ‘Dublin Social History’

There’s not much left by the way of pre-boom buildings on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay. Row upon row of mis-matched shining steel and glass structures tower over the few remaining Victorian warehouses and enginehouses, relics of an era when Dublin’s docks bustled with industry. One warehouse that has managed to survive, a double gabled redbrick building that sits where the Samuel Beckett bridge meets the Southside boasts two unusual and very original features.

The warehouse at 30- 32 Sir John Rogerson’s Quay was built in the 1890’s and was once home to the Dublin Tropical Fruit Company, who occupied the premises for decades. It has played host to plenty of drama in its lifetime; in the mid-thirties, a young teenager fell to his death from the roof, the sixties saw a long running strike on the premises and the eighties saw a fire come close to gutting the building. On 16th April 1950, a ship named the Abraham Lincoln arrived into Dublin bearing tonnes of bananas bound for the warehouse. When the ship made port, it was discovered that its cargo of fruit was already too ripe for sale, leading the company to refuse it and the ship’s crew to dump tonnes of black skinned bananas overboard. Alexandra basin was lined with scores of people waiting for the chance to grab any that might float ashore, whilst rowboats set out from Ringsend with the aim of getting to the booty first. Gardaí struggled to maintain order as hundreds of children tried to force entry into the basin. (Irish Press, 17/4/1950.) The building later housed offices belonging to U2 and is now home to a software company.

annalivia

Representation of Anna Livia, photo credit- Simon Conway

Anyway, to the point of the piece. Over the doors of the building, hang two recognisable figures- two granite keystones representing Anna Livia and the Atlantic, replicas of which appear elsewhere along the River Liffey. Originally sculpted by the eminent (though self-effacing as some records state!) Edward Smyth, they had once adorned the archways of Carlisle Bridge, the structure that predated what we now know as O’Connell Bridge. The bridge was remodeled in the late 1870’s and the granite keystones were removed- Carlisle Bridge having had three arches with a hump rising high above the water below, Anna Livia and Atlantic were deemed too large to fit the lower elliptical arches of the bridge. The new bridge had arches which sat much lower over the water, and the keystones would need to be replaced. They were remodeled by Charles W. Harrison and the originals sculpted by Edward Smyth somehow ended up on the facade of the warehouse on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay.

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Representation of The Atlantic, photo credit- Simon Conway

Smyth (1749- 1812) was a sculptor and modeler who served an apprenticeship under Simon Vierpyl (Clerk of Works  for the Casino building in Marino) and later worked for a Dublin stone cutter named Henry Darley. His work was mainly ornamental, according to the Dictionary of Irish Architects, that is until Darley recommended him to one of the leading architects working in Ireland at the time, none other than James Gandon in the early 1780’s. James Gandon being one of the most sought after architects of the time, Smyth rose to prominence under his patronage and went on to sculpt some of the most recognisable features on some of Dublin’s most famous buildings. From humble beginnings he was to become a wealthy man.

The building at Sir John Rogerson's Quay, photo credit- Simon Conway

The building at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, photo credit- Simon Conway

Looking out over College Green from the roof of the Old Parliament, stand his figures of Justice, Wisdom and Liberty. His works are dotted around the Custom House; the 14 keystones representing 14 Irish rivers on the building are his, along with the Arms of Ireland- a Lion and a Unicorn standing either side of the Irish Harp. He was also responsible for work on a number of churches throughout Dublin, ornaments, statues and coats of arms at Kings Inns and you can add his name to the debate on something we’ve looked at before- who sculpted the anthropomorphic figures playing billiards and other parlour games on the windows of The Kildare Street Club? In her “This Ireland” column in the Irish Times in March 1975, Elgy Gillespie noted that it wasn’t until the 1950’s that discovery of Smyth’s keystones on the building at Sir Rogerson’s Quay was made, quoting Harold Leask (architect responsible in part for the reconstrucion of the GPO) in the Royal Society of Antiquaries Journal on their discovery. That column, and anything I’ve read on the subject, neglects to mention how the heads managed to make their way from Carlisle Bridge and onto the facade of a building on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay. Another reason why, when walking around this city, you should keep your head up because who knows what you might find!

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The way we drink in Dublin has been changing over the last few years; I can’t say evolving, so much as there has been a restoration of natural order. Craft beers vie for counter space alongside Diageo products and pubs like the Black Sheep, Against the Grain and The Beerhouse have sprung up to back up the Porterhouse in breaking the Guinness monopoly. Most importantly, our brewers are starting to brew again, with Five Lamps Brewery and JW Sweetman’s to name but two.

I say ‘again’ as while for decades Guinness and later their parent company Diageo would fully monopolise brewing in Dublin, ours was once an industry that could “present an unrivalled record to the world” (Irish Independent, 05/06/1908) and this city’s brewing was said, as far back as the 17th century to be “the very marrow bone of the commonwealth of Dublin.” (http://simtec.us/dublinbrewing/history.html) The excise list for 1768 showed returns for forty three brewers in the city, with many of these large operations employing dozens of workers.

Throughout the 1800’s, with the rise of Guinness’, Dublin’s breweries either amalgamated or closed so by 1850, there were twenty breweries left, by the 1870’s, there were ten left, and by 1920, there were just four breweries including Guinness’ operating in Dublin. One of the largest breweries during this time was Watkins’ Brewery, originally founded as the Ardee Street Brewery, and later known by the title of Watkins, Jameson, Pim & Co., Ltd.

Advertisement for Watkins' Brewers. From the Aonach an Garda programme,1926.

Advertisement for Watkins’ Brewers. From the Aonach an Garda programme,1926.

A date for the foundation of the brewery is hard to ascertain, but the Irish Times, in an article on Dublin brewers (21/01/1932) reported that Watkins’ “of Ardee Street Brewery hold the record of having paid the highest excise duty of any Dublin brewer in 1766”  so its going at least that long, with the excise list naming Alderman James Taylor as the owner. By the 1820’s, the brewery at Ardee Street was the third largest in Dublin, with an output of 300 barrels per week. It was bettered only by Guinness’ with 600 barrels per week and Michael Sweetman’s with 450 barrels per week.

By 1865 the brewery was exporting over 14, 000 hogsheads or approximately six million imperial pints of stout. (Findlaters: The Story of a Dublin Merchant Family 1774-2001, chapter 4.) The brewery was dissected by Cork Street, with the brewing house and offices on its south side, and 87 dwellings for their workers on the north side, some of which exist today, as can be seen in the image below. The houses were built at at outlay of £14, 460, with rents “from 2/6 to 6/-.”  (Irish Independent, Sept. 12th, 1913.)

Watkins' Buildings, and all that remains of the brewery.

Watkins’ Buildings, and all that remains of the brewery.

The Freemans’ Journal, (12/02/1904) spoke of rumours circulating Dublin of an amalgamation of two of its more prosperous breweries, namely Watkins’ and Jameson, Pim and Co., who would move from their premises between Anne Street and Beresford Street to make way for another Jameson: John Jameson and Son, the whiskey distillers. The article also reported that the Watkins’ family had “long since disappeared, and the business now carried on by Mr. Alfred S. Darley.”

The brewery saw action (although not much) during the 1916 rising, when it was occupied by Con Colbert (a teetotaller) and a garrison of 20 men- an outpost under the direct command of Eamonn Ceannt in the South Dublin Union. The outpost was ineffective, and the volunteers eventually joined up with the Marrowbone Lane distillery garrison. It was also tragically caught up in the events of the “Battle of Dublin,” a week of clashes in Dublin from 28th June to 5th July 1922, at the start of the Civil War that saw over sixty people killed. A cooper by the name of James Clarke who worked in the brewery was shot near Gardiner’s Row on the 6th July whilst walking a friend home. He took a bullet straight to the face and died half an hour after admission to Jervis Street Hospital.

O'Connell's Dublin Ale

O’Connell’s Dublin Ale

Towards the end of the twenties, Watkins’ Jameson, Pim and Co. acquired Darcy’s Brewery and it’s trademarks, including O’Connell’s Dublin Ale, which we’ve mentioned briefly on here before. The Findlaters book acknowledges the takeover of Darcy’s brewery, and also mentions that the company owned several Dublin pubs, “which it called Taps.” In March 1937, the financial paragraph of the Irish Times announced that the firm was in voluntary liquidation. The article shows that at the time, the brewery still employed over one hundred men, and blamed rising excise and falling exports for their downturn.The Findlaters book above also says that while the company outlasted many of it’s competitors, it closed down in 1939.

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We took a look at Dublin’s air raid shelters recently, and in 1943, the brewery was subject to a high court wrangle with a High Court judge quashing a warrant issued by a district justice who, under the “Air Raid Precautions Act, 1939” demanded that the Dublin Corporation be allowed enter the brewery, by force if necessary, to build a shelter in its basement. The demand wasn’t met. After this, as the excellent Wide and Convenient Streets concur, things get a little bit hazy regarding the brewery. In September 1951, there was a large fire at the site, and by 1954, advertisements pop up in various papers offering factory premises to let. With a history spanning three centuries, the brewery seems to have gone “quietly into that good night” along with the rest of Dublin’s breweries, which we hope to cover in the near future.

* Company records sites suggest there was a “Watkins, Jameson, Pim & Co. (1976) Limited”  set up on Wed the 28th of Apr 1976 and is still in existence at 10 Ardee Street.

 

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“What will the Christmas Monster bring? Geological cataclysms? Political Catastrophe? Economic Chaos? New World Order? Great Confusion? Energy Crisis? Atomic War? End of the World?” So reads the rear of an eight page pamphlet distributed outside the GPO in the run up to the Christmas of 1973 by a group calling themselves the “Children of God.”  The leaflet heralded the arrival of the Comet Kohoutek and the group’s belief in the impending apocalypse.

Comet Kohoutek was discovered on March 7th 1973. Astronomers predicted that it would be the brightest “naked eye comet” since Halleys’ passed in 1910. Dubbed the “Comet of the Century” by the media, much like the recent Comet Ison, predictions fell well short of the mark, and rather than the spectacular show the world was promised, Kohoutek proved to be a bit of a let down, with the Wall Street Journal calling it at the time “a disappointment to sky-watchers, if not a fizzle.”

Front Page 001

Front page of pamphlet handed out by the Children of God at the GPO, 1974. Scanned and uploaded by CHTM!

The Children of God were a fundamentalist Christian sect founded in 1968 in California by David Brandt Berg. “Moses David” as he was known within the group, declared himself to be “God’s Prophet for this time.” The organisation had an estimated 165 “colonies” in late 1973, with a presence from London to Paris, Florence to Liverpool and from their headquarters in Dallas, Texas to Dublin, Cork and Belfast. In order to show devotion to the organisation, followers were expected to live a communal existence in their “colony,” obey communiques from their leader (known as “Mo Letters”) , adopt Biblical names and refuse to accept secular employment. Marriage was promoted amongst members, but couples were far from monogamous, and rumours of child abuse in the organisation were rife.

According to a Des Hickey article in the Sunday Independent, September 16th 1973,  a Children of God colony was active in Dublin and based themselves out of a two storey house in Rialto. There were ten members of the organisation living in the house, including a 22 year old named Zibeon, his American wife Aphia,  20 year old Parable, and his English wife Magdala. Both Zibeon and Parable were Irish, Zibeon having attended Blackrock College, before going to the North for University, though both men spoke with “indeterminate American accents.”

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Back page of same pamphlet. Scanned and uploaded by CHTM!

The month after the article was written, a bus belonging to the group (which had at one stage been used as the London Headquarters of the organisation), caught fire whilst parked on Nutley Lane in Donnybrook. “Gardaí at the time could not tell if the fire was malicious or not.” (Irish Independent, 17th October, 1973.) Given that the group were looked upon suspiciously by established churches in the country, it’s doubtful arson could be ruled out. Several religious organisations spoke out against the groups “eccentricities and questionable characteristics” (Presbyterian Church notes in the Irish Times, December 6, 1972.). A 1984 meeting in Malahide proclaimed young people were at grave risk from cults operating in Ireland, and included the Children of God (alongside the Mormons and Opus Dei) on their watch list.

Throughout the early half of the Seventies, the organisation grew to approximately one hundred members in Ireland. At one point there were 27 members, both male and female, living in a house in Clontarf. Their main work consisted of distributing/ selling literature and “rehabilitating” drug addicts and alcoholics; “converting” them and asking them to give up their worldly possessions to the organisation. Judging from the fact that the address given on the Kohoutek pamphlet published here was a P.O. Box in Fairview, it’s possible that they were living here by the end of 1973, although the organisation had also based itself in different locations around the city, including Rathmines, Portmarnock and Miltown according to the Sunday Independent, 3rd December 1978. Moses David never paid the Dublin colony a visit but did, according to the same report, issue them with upwards of 500 letters, “with instructions ranging from how to brush their teeth to what music they should listen to.”

Des Hickey, Sunday Independent, September 16th 1973

Des Hickey, Sunday Independent, September 16th 1973

The pamphlet handed out at the GPO largely contained gibberish, proclamations and counter proclamations of impending doom or salvation, warnings that the apocalypse will happen either in forty or eighty days, or as seen below, some time in 1986. Some of the more ‘interesting’ quotes:

“According to our own calculations, 1986 should be about the time of the final takeover of One World Government by a world dictator known as the “Anti-Christ” and the beginning of his reign of terror!”

“For the heat of the comet shall be sevenfold, and men shall gnaw their tongues for pain for the travail that shall come upon them when the Lord shall arise to shake terribly the Earth! Thank You for the words Thou hast given their father! In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

The pamphlet also includes these two pages of useful survival tactics, along with instructions to “pray and stay close to the Lord!” The opening paragraph of these pages ends with the following line:

Are you even ready for the riots, the sabotage, the wrecking of utilities, the blowing up of your bank, the cutting off of your electricity and water, the problems of sewage and garbage disposal and food and gasoline rationing and shortages of all kinds is a state of emergency, and the brutality of martial law under the reign of terror of a military dictatorship of a dying nation that has forgotten God? What will YOU do?

Children of God Survival Tactics

Children of God Survival Tactics, click to zoom. Scanned and uploaded by CHTM!

The main focus for the group seems to have surrounded Comet Kohoutek, and reports about the organisation die out after this event, with the trail for the Children of God going cold around 1978. At the beginning of the eighties, there was apparently a small community in Mountjoy Square, but these fled the country to Argentina in 1981 under fear of another impending apocalypse proclaimed by Moses David.  A couple of newspaper reports appear in 1993, of a Dublin man taking his wife to court for custody of their daughter, whom she had taken without his knowledge to live with the Buenes Aires branch, now known as “The Family.”

This Post wouldn’t have been possible were it not for Harry Warren loaning us the pamphlet. Cheers H!

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Thursday, April 20th 1916, and with days to go until the Easter Rising, the Aud arrived in Tralee Bay, two days earlier than expected. The Rebellion was imminent, and with this in mind, Padraig Pearse along with his brother Willie made his way to Rathmines; with St. Enda’s not far away, they turned down Castlewood Avenue and into Doran’s Barbers. There they sat in silence as one after the other got their hair cut for the last time; it’s not so hard to believe that one of the brothers at least knew his fate.

 They did not speak much as they awaited their turn in the chair: but then, they never did, he remembers; and, whatever thoughts were in the minds of Patrick and Willie Pearse, the 20-year-old John had no foreboding that he was giving the brothers their last haircut.

John Doran, interviewed in the Irish Independent, March 28th, 1973.

The Pearse brothers are only a small part of the history of a business stretching back over a century. John’s brother James opened the shop on January 2nd 1912, then aged twenty four. The 1911 census lists him as a hairdresser, as it does John quoted above, fifteen when the census was taken. They were sons to Christina, (listed a widow on both the 1901 and 1911 census returns) and lived in a house on Chancery Lane, not far from Christchurch Cathedral. Their father was a hackney owner, and kept horses stabled nearby until his death sometime prior to 1901. John and James were just two of a family of thirteen.

Annual rent on the premises at Castlewood Avenue in 1912 was £52, and on opening, a haircut in the shop cost fourpence and a shave thruppence. Along with his wife, four girls and two boys, James lived above the barbers until the early 1930’s when the family moved around the corner to Oakley Road; born and reared above the shop, Jimmy and William  would go into the family business. Their father James didn’t retire until his late seventies and it wasn’t until then in 1966 and at fifty years of age that Jimmy took on the role of proprietor.

James and Willie Doran

James and Willie Doran

Jimmy, born in 1916, started cutting hair in 1930 at fourteen years old, with Willy starting at the same age five years later. Rathmines, and Castlewood Avenue was a different place then, the number 18 tram with it’s red triangle identifier passing the front door of the shop. The township of Rathmines existed as a seperate entity to Dublin City until 1930, when it was amalgamated into Dublin City Council.

I was born upstairs eighty six years ago, in 1916. I’m not a Dubliner though, I’m a Rathmines man. The oldest one around they say, though I’m not saying that. Dublin didn’t come here, to Rathmines, until the 1930’s. Rathmines Urban District Council made their own electricity until then.

Jimmy, in an interview with Rose Doyle, Irish Times, October 16th, 2002.

The tramlines were taken up in the forties, but Jimmy and the shop remained, unchanged. In the same manner as his father, Jimmy worked in the shop for sixty eight years, only retiring in 1998 and passing on the mantle to the shops current owner Robert Feighery who served his time in the Merchant Barbers, itself running for over half a century. Jimmy remained a regular visitor to the shop after retiring, dropping in a couple of times a week for a chat with the barber and his customers until his death on New Years Eve, 2010.

Doran Barbers.

Doran Barbers, estd. 1912.

The shop remains largely as Jimmy left it, with a polished wood floor, benches lining two walls, two wash basins and a large collection of historical memorabilia connected with the shop including framed electricity meter reading cards dating back to the shop’s opening, stamped with “G.F. Pilditch, M.I.E.E. at the Electricity Works, Town Hall, Rathmines,” a picture of Jimmy and Willie with Brendan Gleeson, and various clippings of the shop from books and newspapers it has appeared in.  Also on the wall is a large portrait of Padraig and Willie Pearse, and a selection of Bohs newspaper clippings, including one from the day after the League win in 2001; the Red and Black exterior evidence of Robbie’s footballing allegiance.

In the same interview with Rose Doyle quoted above, given in the shop in 2002, Jimmy said:

Sometimes a fella comes in and says ‘you cut my hair 30 years ago.’ Some are fifth generation customers, and there a number who are fourth generation. Famous people come and go, but everyone’s the same importance here. When a fella pays, and goes out the door, he’s all the same!

The Waldorf stakes a brave claim that it is Dublin’s oldest barbers, but I don’t think it can beat that.

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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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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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