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Within sight of O’Connell Street, a plaque adorns the wall of an innocuous red brick house that reads: ‘A tribute to the champion boxers and the people of the Sean McDermott Lr. Gardiner Street area 1930-1940.’ The house sits on the corner of the aptly named ‘Champions Avenue,’ the street taking its name from the several boxing champions the area produced throughout the thirties and forties. Gardiner Street and Sean McDermott Street spawned a good many talented fighters- Paddy Hughes, Peter Glennon, Mickey Gifford and Mylie Doyle among them. But arguably the most famous was John ‘Spike’ McCormack.

Though Spike would become synonymous with the north inner city, he was born in Listowel, Co. Kerry in 1919. The McCormack family moved to Dublin when he was eight and Spike would take up boxing soon after, fighting amateur by the early thirties. In 1939 along with Peter Glennon and Mickey Gifford he went to America with the Irish amateur boxing team to fight against the Chicago ‘Golden Gloves’ (amateur champions) in Soldiers’ Field, Chicago. The trio returned home as victors with the Irish team matching their hosts, gaining five victories apiece.

Either side of his trip to the US Spike enlisted in the British Army, his strength and physical fitness leading him to become a Commando. It was his sense of adventure that led him to join the British Army rather than the Irish one, his son Young Spike remembering him saying ‘Hitler took Poland by storm and Ireland by telephone.’ Initially stationed in Scotland, he boxed over there and was highly thought of, even receiving an offer from a promoter to buy him out of his service. Once, while there according to Frank Hopkins ‘the night before St. Patricks Day in Kilmarnock, he painted a statue of King Billy green to aggravate the town’s Orangemen.’

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In 1943 during his second spell with the army, an expeditionary raid down the French coast ended in a short but brutal clash and Spike sustained an injury to his thigh from a grenade blast. He returned to Ireland and whilst recuperating in the Mater Hospital was approached to fight Jimmy Ingle in what was to be the latter’s last amateur fight but not the last fight between the two men who had a competitive rivalry throughout their careers. Feeling the exertions with the injuryhe was carrying he went down in the third round, exhausted. According to his son ‘Young Spike’ in Kevin Kearns’ Dublin Voices

They took off his shorts and saw this big hole in his side and they said ‘Jesus Christ, he shouldn’t have been able to stand. So Jimmy Ingle turned professional but my father said ‘I’ll get him back when I’m good.’ So my father turned professional- just to get back at Jimmy Ingle.

(more…)

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In Dublin, the town Joyce claimed was impossible to traverse without passing a pub (only to be disproved with the aid of Google Maps a century later,) it can still be hard to find somewhere that suits your situation no matter the mood.

Somewhere that we’ve taken to recently is the Sackville Lounge, not spitting distance from O’Connell Street on Sackville Place. It’s that perfect mix of archaic and well, non archaic- a one room, no nonsense bar with a great pint, and with sound staff and customers alike. The horse racing on the telly, a bookies next door and the hum of ham and cheese toasties in the air; always made to feel welcome, and always a chat forthcoming whether in company or on your own.

In a city racing to be London-lite but with our dazzling city lights emanating from Spars, Starbucks, exuberant donut shops and expensive ‘brunch spots’ (I’ve grown to hate those words,) places like the Sackville are rapidly becoming a dying breed. People will claim Kehoe’s, Neary’s, Mulligans and their ilk to be the best ‘old man pubs’ in the city. To me, none is a patch on the Sackville.

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The Sackville during RTÉ’s ‘Road to the Rising.’ Image From the Sackville’s Twitter account

We spent a Saturday there last year in what I can only describe was a session of Canterbury Tales proportions. Dozens of people stuck their heads in throughout various parts of the day and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much in my life, or walked away from another pub in Dublin with the same “that was a good day” feeling than I did then. We spent another Saturday there watching Bulmer Hobson sip whiskey and mull over James Connolly’s pre-Rising disappearance as part of Anu Productions excellent  “Glorious Madness.” We saw a British army soldier duke it out with his sister’s ICA partner outside in another Anu piece during RTÉ’s ‘Road to the Rising.’ And I’d like to say I cheered home many a winner there but I think the place was a jinx on me but that matters not, we’ll be there this weekend to say farewell.

For here comes the hammer blow- from a cryptic message board post the other day we gleaned that the Sackville is due to close its doors. Confirmed by the staff and by a quick Google revealing a ‘mutual lease break’ date on the ‘Spire Portfolio’ (which contains the Sackville Lounge amongst other properties) of 8/2/17, it looks to be true. No doubt the recently granted planning permission for Clery’s across the lane and for the construction of a new hotel on Sackville Place will have an effect on the future use of the premises as Dublin looks set to lose yet another of the institutions that made it what its known worldwide for. Sadly, as they say, another one bites the dust.

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The recent occupation of Moore Street brought to memory past struggles to save buildings and locations of historic interest in Dublin. The ghosts of Wood Quay and Fitzwilliam Street’s Georgian Mile sit on the minds of those involved in the campaign to save the terrace and rightly so; a blatant disregard for history and public interest has often been a feature of redevelopment in Dublin with countless significant sites permitted to intentionally fall into disrepair and dereliction and many more to disappear from our streetscape forever.

Mindful of this over the last couple of weeks, and in reading Frederick O’Dwyer’s excellent “Lost Dublin” I started to think about not only what we’ve lost architecturally and historically but what might have been in this city had history played out a little differently. We’ve already covered the rather ambitious original plans to build Hugh Lane Gallery across the Liffey and the stunning landscape of Abercrombie’s “Dublin of the Future” but what of other plans that for whatever reason fell by the wayside? Think the U2 Tower and the Liffey Cable Car but step back a few decades/ centuries…

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The Merrion Square Citadel, taken from The Irish Press

Prior to the construction of the North Wall, the East Wall and the Great South Wall, the Liffey meandered as it liked from source to sea. The construction of these walls and the reclamation of land they afforded, along with the construction of quay walls changed the landscape of Dublin to resemble much what we see today. 17th Century Dublin, as a result looked very different to the Dublin of today with the Liffey’s muddy banks allowed to find their natural course. Consequently, Merrion Square sat considerably closer to the banks of the Liffey than it does now, and in 1685 was the site for an audacious plan to replicate the Tilbury ‘Citadel’ Fort located on the Thames. The fort was originally planned in 1672 by ‘His Majesty’s Chief Engineer’ Sir Bernard de Gomme to sit closer to Ringsend, but on his death, a man named ‘Honest Tom’ Phillips proposed the location covering large parts of Merrion Square, Mount Street and Fitzwilliam Sqaure.

According to Frank Hopkins’ ‘Deadbeats, Dossers and Decent Skins’, “had it been built, the fort would have covered an area of thirty acres and would have been capable of accomodating seven hundred officers and soldiers.” The fort was to be brick built, faced with stone and encompass ramparts, ravelins, a curtain wall and overhanging bastions. The prohibitive cost of over £130, 000 along with a cessation of hostilities between the English and the Dutch caused the idea to be shelved.

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A 1934 drawing by L.F. Dowling showing the proposed Merrion Square Cathedral. From http://churcharchives.ie

Merrion Square was also the site for a proposed Cathedral in the nineteen thirties. As late as 1934 the then Archbishop Byrne is quoted as saying “Merrion Square has been acquired as a site for the Cathedral and on Merrion Square, please God, the Cathedral will be built.” The park had been purchased from the Pembroke Estate four years earlier for the sum of £100, 000. Of course the Cathedral was never built on the site and in 1974 the land was transferred to Dublin Corporation for use as a public park. The Pro Cathedral on Marlborough Street which had been altered and extended in preparation for the Eucharistic Congress remained the main Catholic cathedral in the city. (more…)

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The Proclamation first read aloud by Pearse on the steps of the GPO on Easter Monday is a document synonymous with Easter Week and the birth of the modern Irish State. Widely accepted to have been composed by Pearse himself, there remain very few physical copies in existence.

Though it was intended for 2, 500 copies of the Proclamation to be printed in Liberty Hall and distributed around the country, it is likely that fewer that 1, 000 actually were, and these were entrusted to Helena Moloney for transport to the GPO. Seán T. O’Kelly, the second President of Ireland would from here take these and billpost them around the north and south inner city. The paper upon which they were printed was of poor quality, so very few remain. Fewer still exist of a facsimile of the Proclamation issued by the Irish Citizen Army for the first anniversary of the Rising in 1917 of which there is believed to be a sole surviving copy.

The Proclamation in full

The Proclamation in full, from typefoundry.blogspot.ie

The responsibility for printing the document lay with Michael Molloy and Liam O’Brien, two Volunteers, and Christopher Brady who had until now overseen the printing of ITGWU Weekly, “The Worker’s Republic.” Compositor’s and printers by trade, these men were approached by James Connolly in the run up to Easter week and asked to forego the planned parading of Volunteers in St. Anne’s Park on Easter Sunday morning and to instead meet him in Liberty Hall for a task he had prepared for them. Upon arrival, Connolly and Thomas MacDonagh, also present, handed them a sheet of paper with the words of the Proclamation inscribed upon it and remarked “Do if you wish to, and if not we won’t be the worse friends.” All three accepted the job.

As the men launched into their work, it became obvious that they would not have enough print to finish the job. The machine upon which they were to perform their task, an old Wharfdale Double- Crown machine upon which the Irish Worker was printed was wholly inadequate for the task at hand, the paper of an inferior quality, and print for the machine severely lacking. Different fonts had to be used, (the wrong font for the letter ‘e’ is used in over twenty instances,) many letters had to be fashioned out of others (in several cases, a capital ‘E’ was made from fashioning the type out of a capital ‘F’ and adding wax,) and eventually the men realised they would not have enough type and would simply have to borrow some more.

The Three Printers of the Proclamation. Irish Press,  Tuesday April 24th, 1934.

Irish Press, Tuesday April 24th, 1934.

The type was borrowed from an Englishman named William Henry West, a printer whose premises were located on Stafford Street. Following the tradition of Wolf Tone, the protestant revolutionary who Stafford Street would eventually be named after, West appears to have been sympathetic towards the cause for Irish Freedom. Census returns for 1911 list West as 41 years of age, with an address at Brigid’s Road Upper, Drumcondra. His job title is “Letterpress Printer” and his religion is given as “Cooneyite.” Cooneyism was an offshoot of a home based church movement known as the “two by twos” which gained some traction in Ireland in the late 19th and early 20th Century in Ireland. It was known as an “itinerant” religion and its lay people called “tramp preachers” due to the homeless and destitute nature of their calling.

West was printer of choice for the ITGWU and appeared twice in the courts alongside Jim Larkin. In January 1913, he appeared as a co-defendant with Larkin in a case in which Mr. William Richardson was claiming a sum of £500 after allegedly having been libeled in the Irish Worker. In September of that year, he appeared in a bankruptcy case involving himself, with the creditor bringing the case again him the same Mr. William Richardson, still looking to eek out punishment for his alleged libeling. In examination of his firms accounts, William Henry West had listed the ITGWU’s debt as a “bad debt,” or one which he deemed unrecoverable. West’s examination by the prosecution is below:

Mr. Larkin owes you £227 for the printing The Worker- isn’t Mr. Larkin the proprietor of The Worker?

He is, and he owes me £227.

Have you put that down as a bad debt?

Yes, because it is a bad debt.

Why?

Because I cannot get it.

Can you not recover it from Mr. Larkin?

I wish you could show me how. (laughter)

Has Mr. Larkin refused to pay the amount?

Well, he cannot pay.

He refused to pay?

No.

Did you ask him for it?

Of course, often. But he can’t pay what he hasn’t got.

You know that Mr. Larkin is Secretary of the ITGWU?

Yes, I have heard so.

And can you not recover this amount by suing him for it?

Do you think I would do that, when he’s my best customer? (laughter)

The case also makes reference to debt owed by other organisations, including the Labour Party and a drama class at Liberty Hall, and asked whether he could not sue for payment, to which he replied “I don’t believe in suing, I’ve never sued anybody in my life,” again to laughter.

The Witness Statement of Commandant Liam O’Brien states that on Easter Sunday, upon realising their shortage of type, Michael Molloy was ordered by Connolly to West’s printers along with a messenger and Citizen Army man employed by the Worker’s Republic who was known to him by the name ‘Dazzler.’ West provided the type, under the auspices that it was to be returned to him intact or compensated if lost- it was his livlihood after all. Of course, this wasn’t to be as Liberty Hall was first, pounded by shells from the Helga, and gutted by fire. When entered by British soldiers after the fighting had died down, they found the second half of the type still on the machine.

What happened to West after Easter Week, I can find no reference. But his is another story of the many from the Rising. The English protestant printer who supplied the type for the Irish Proclamation.

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Gang violence has featured on Come Here To Me before; with the Pinking Dindies, the Liberty Boys and the Ormond Boys of the 18th century, through the various fracas’ of the Animal Gangs and on to the Black Catholics in the 1970’s and 80’s and onwards all making an appearance. Dublin has always had its fair share of troublesome groups and there’s always plenty to write about them.

One event we haven’t yet covered that jumped out at me recently while reading John Edward Walsh’s “Rakes and Ruffians,” was a three day riot involving both the Liberty Boys and the Ormond Boys which brought Dublin to a standstill in mid- May, 1790. Accounts of Dublin from the late 18th/ early 19th century are rarely without mention of the two groups whose infamy is still regarded to this day. Injuries, maimings and deaths are all purported to have taken place in this encounter, making it one of their bloodiest.

According to J.D Herbert’s Irish Varieties, for the Last Fifty Years: Written from Recollections, the Ormond Boys were the “assistants and carriers from slaughter-houses, joined by cattle drivers from Smithfield, stable-boys, helpers, porters, and idle drunken vagabonds in the neighbourhood of Ormond Quay,” whilst the Liberty Boys were, “a set of lawless desperadoes, residing in the opposite side of the town, called the Liberty. Those were of a different breed, being chiefly unfortunate weavers without employment, some were habitual and wilful idlers, slow to labour, but quick at riot and uproar.”

Weaver’s Square, home of the Liberty Boys, from John Roque’s map of 1754. Taken from http://irishhistoricaltextiles.files.wordpress.com

The Liberty Boys notoriety spread further than Dublin, and references to them can be found in several newspaper articles from across the water, including one in the Leeds Mercury from January 1867 which refers to them as French Huguenots who have “degenerated physically.” “They are the Liberty Boys of Dublin, the dwellers in ‘The Coombe,’ or hollow sloping down to the river, famous for their lawlessness, their strikes, and their manufactures of poplin and tabbinet. They do not seem at all favourable specimens of humanity as you watch them leaning out of windows in the tall, gaunt, filthy, tumble down houses around and beyond St. Patrick’s.”

The hostility between the two gangs often led to full scale riots between upwards of 1, 000 men and these occurred several times a year, but especially in the run up to the Mayday festival. The city would be brought to a standstill, with businesses closing, the watchmen looking on in terror, as battles raged for the possession of the bridges over the Liffey. Walsh’s book reports the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alderman Emerson as saying “it was as much as his life was worth to go among them” regarding such riots.

Essex Bridge and Ormond Quay, where the main battles took place.

The battle this piece refers to though began on May 11th 1790 and lasted several days. The riot coincided with an election in the city, although an opinion piece in the Freeman’s Journal on the Thursday of that week described the violence as wanton, saying:

“The situation of the capital on Wednesday night was dreadful in the extreme; it was shocking to civilisation, for outrage was openly and without disguise directed against the civil protection of the city. On other occasions, grievance, from sickness of trade, from injury by exportation of foreign commodities, from the high price of provision and the low rate of labour, grievances from the want of employ and a variety of other causes were usually alleged for the risings of the people, but on the present occasion, no grievance exists, and the fomenters of disorder are without such a pretension. “Down with the police” is the cry and demolish the protection of the city is the pursuit.”

“In different parts of the town, prodigious mobs of people were assembled and the avowed purpose of their tumultuous rising was declared in the vehemence of their execrations against the police. “Down with the police, five pounds for a police man’s head.” They were the shouts which filled the streets.”

“In Mary Street, no passenger could escape the shower of brick bats and paving stones intended for the police. In St. Andrew’s Street, the scene was if possible more dreadful, for the mob not content in driving the Police watchman before them proceeded to pull down the watch house in which he took refuge. .. (The Men) were obliged to fire and three of the rioters fell.”

The riot only came to a conclusion on the Thursday due to military intervention, when a “party of men on horse dispersed the rioters and stood guard for the remainder of the night which prevented more bloodshed and massacre…. The blood of the unfortunate wretches who met their unhappy fate rests at the door of those few incendiaries who stimulated by their playful insignias unthinking persons to destruction.” And people think Love Ulster was bad!

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Dalymount Park, fresh from getting a pre-season lick of paint in the bars and corridors, got a lick of paint outside this weekend too as it played host to a selection of Dublin’s graffiti artists. Two-Headed Dog, Kevin Bohan, Marca Mix, Debut, Iljin, Tommy Rash, Kin Mx, Panda & Elroy and CJ Macken amongst others were involved in Dalymount’s first ever Spray Jam, with paint provided by http://www.vinnybyrne.com/ . Most are pictured below, a couple didn’t come out right, but I’ll get them again on Friday when Bohs play their first home game of the season.

The front gate and the side of the Jodi are the stand-outs in my opinion, but that’s not to take away from the other superb pieces. A long time patron of Dalymount said of the below, and I can’t but agree: “It’s the first thing a foreign or domestic visitor will see as they enter the Mecca… It’s what we’re all about, it’s a statement of intent and something to be proud about.” I’m not sure who owns what, so I’ll just put them up as I took them. Gratuitous dog shot at the end.

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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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