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Posts Tagged ‘Social History’

Whereas today, the words Donnybrook Fair elicit visions of Ross O’Carroll Kelly characters buying tiger prawns, Perrier and “gourmet goods” in a store whose business surely boomed during the Celtic Tiger years, look up the word Donnybrook in the dictionary and you’ll see something like this:

don·ny·brook [don-ee-brook] noun (often initial capital letter) an inordinately wild fight or contentious dispute; brawl; free-for-all.

For the original Donnybrook Fair was not the food store that services D4 residents, but a Fair established by the Royal Charter of 1204 “to compensate Dubliners for the expense of building walls and defences around the city.” It  lasted fifteen days from the latter end of August until mid-September, was held annually for over six hundred years, and by the mid 19th Century would become the most important fair on the island.

Erkine Nichol, “Donnybrook Fair,” 1859

Originally billed as a horse fair, the run up to the event would see traders of everything from exotic fruits to horse manure set up their stalls on Donnybrook Green. Calling it a horse fair was slightly misleading, as horses were rarely on show, and those that were, were said to be fit for little but the glue factory. As sparse as the display of horses was, the actual buying and selling of wares was a cover for what was, in essence, a fortnight long drinking session.

By the time it was dissolved by Dublin Corporation in 1855, it had become a cacophonous event famed for music, heavy drinking, cock-fighting and shillelagh swinging. Walter Bagehot in his book The English Constitution of 1867, references the Fair by saying “The only principle recognised … was akin to that recommended to the traditionary Irishman on his visit to Donnybrook Fair, ‘Wherever you see a head, hit it’.” Another quote that gives some idea of the pandemonium appeared in the Freeman’s Journal on 31st August, 1778:

“How irksome it was to friends of the industry and well-being of Society to hear that upwards of 50,000 persons visited the fair on the previous Sunday, and returned to the city like intoxicated savages.”

Traffic to and from the Fair was said to have caused a continuous dust cloud the whole way from town for the two weeks of its duration. Alongside references to open displays of drunkenness, promiscuity (Charles William Grant wrote that “Dancing and flirting took place all round, and love making took place publicly”) and a general lack of respect for authority, historically, Donnybrook Fair is largely remembered for its’ fights and its contribution to the English language dictates this. The daily madness often subsided to nightly slumber, and when stallholders shut up shop at around midnight, participants, too drunk to make their way home would simply sleep on site and the party would just continue where it left off the next morning. A favourite past-time of younger Fair go-ers was to buy cheap treacle tarts known as “treacle tillies” and walk around sticking them to the backs of unsuspecting revelers.

A ‘Fair Fight.’ Samuel Lover, from “The Neighbourhood of Dublin,” by John Joyce.

By the second half of the 19th Century, the establishment had enough of the annual bout of debauchery in Dublin’s suburbs, and a committee, imaginatively called “The Committee for the Abolition of Donnybrook Fair” was established with the aim of raising the £3, 000 required to purchase the license for the fair from it’s holder. One of the members of the committee was the then Lord Mayor of Dublin, Joseph Boyce. The rest, as they say, is history.

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Further Reading:

http://www.grantonline.com/grant-family-individuals/grant-charles-1881/CW-Grant.htm

Blacker, Henry Beaver: Brief Sketches Of The Parishes Of Booterstown And Donnybrook. Dublin, 1860

Sweeney, Clair L.: The Rivers  of Dublin. Dublin, 1991.

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Tomorrow sees Bohs first home League game of the season, and to coin a phrase, all has changed, changed utterly. We’re lucky to have a team on the pitch, never mind a team who, despite their youth, fight like lions for possession and give it their all as seen over the last couple of weeks in the Setanta Cup and our first League game against Derry. I don’t think anyone can be disappointed with the effort put in so far.

But, to the point. Tomorrow evening, at six o’clock or so, I’ll make the journey up North Circular Road. Coming to Mountjoy Prison or there-abouts, I’ll see the beacons in the distance that are the floodlights of Dalymount Park. And then I’ll start to get the jitters. They signify the start of something, generally a night of beer, shouting my head off, beer, football, camaraderie, beer, shouting my head off again and a sense of ‘home.’ They signify everything I love about this League, a feeling those who follow a foreign team might get if they were to make their yearly trip to Old Trafford or Anfield every week instead. But they don’t, and won’t ever feel it the same way. Its a feeling of pride/ despair/ love/ heartbreak/ joy/ pain. (Insert where appropriate.)

Anyways, the reason for this post. Yesterday, the seventh of March was the fiftieth anniversary of the installation of floodlights at Dalymount Park. One of the most striking features of the Phibsboro and indeed the North Dublin skyline has been around for a full half century. How old they are is anyone’s guess when you think the pylons themselves came from Arsenal second hand, and they were guest opposition on the event of their unveiling. Below is a scan of the programme cover from that night, shame I can’t find the match report.

So, for half a century, the phrase “just follow the floodlights” has been used when directing visitors to Dalymount. For half a century, people have been feeling that same feeling I do when I’m walking up the NCR on a Friday night. I can’t wait for it tomorrow, that feeling never grows old. This isn’t the end, and we told you so. Come on Bohs.

Cheers to Giofóg from thebohs.com messageboard’s Da  for uploading the scan, and Dotsy for the picture above.

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I took a swing by the aforementioned Cromwell’s Quarters earlier to get a snap of the recently replaced sign. Whether the old sign was swiped or merely kept in storage while building work was going on next to the lane, who knows, but its not there if you take a look on Google Maps…

Yup, Cromwell's Quarters!

I also came across this map from 1885, seven years before the name changed to Cromwell’s Quarters on the excellent rootschat forum which marks the steps as “Murdering Lane.” Granted, you do have to squint, but there it is between Bowe Lane and the South Dublin Union.

Just beside Bowe Bridge is... Murdering Lane! Kudos to shanew147 for the upload.

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It’s a good question for a pub quiz- How many bridges span the Liffey from Heuston Station to where Dublin meets the sea? No doubt you’ll get a plethora of answers, but you’ll rarely get the right one. You can guarantee people will forget that two bridges traverse the water at Heuston, they’ll forget about the little Rory O’Moore Bridge that has more history than most of them, or the DART Loopline at Butt Bridge. They might even forget the ugly abomination that is the East Link, the last connection between Northside and Southside before Dublin Bay separates the two…

Perhaps Dublin's best known bridge, The Ha'Penny Bridge.

The correct answer, if you want to know, is seventeen, starting at Sean Heuston Bridge and working all the way along the river to the Eastlink Bridge at Dublin Port. I’m not going to cover them all in this piece; I won’t be covering the bridges we all know, like O’Connell Bridge or the Ha’penny Bridge for that matter. What I will do is take a look at some of the ones to the west of O’Connell Bridge; ones I find interesting mainly due to who they’re named after or because of their historical importance.

-Sean Heuston Bridge (ex-King’s Bridge, Sarsfield Bridge) 1829

The first incarnation of the bridge was built in 1828/ 9 and named Kings Bridge to commemorate a visit by George IV to Dublin in 1821.  After the declaration of the Free State  in 1922, it was renamed Sarsfield Bridge, in memory of Patrick Sarsfield, leader of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1641. (I’ll talk about the 1641 Rebellion later.) In 1941 the bridge was again re-named, this time after Sean Heuston, a member of Na Fianna h-Éireann who played a prominent role in the Easter Rising of 1916.

At 19 years of age, Seán Heuston was Captain of a twenty three strong company of men, mostly Fianna h-Éireann members around his own age, who were directed by James Connolly to take “The  Mendicity (Institute on Ushers Island) at all costs”. Their goal was to prevent British re-inforcements coming into the city from The Curragh Camp and the West. They held out until Wednesday afternoon, until they were scattered by the 10th Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. One of the more striking stories of the Rebellion (or one of countless stories to tell of that week) is that of the Liutenant of the 10th Battalion, Lieutenant Gerald Aloysius Neilan who was shot and killed by a sniper from the Mendicity, while his brother Anthony Neilan took part in the Rising on the Rebel side. He was one of two Liutenants killed in Dublin that day, with another nine members of the 10th Batt. killed at the Mendicity,  as per a report to Prime Minister Asquith by General Sir John Maxwell.  Seán Houston was captured with 22 other men and executed by firing squad on May 8, 1916 in Kilmainham Jail on the charge that he “… did take part in an armed rebellion and in the waging of wars against His Majesty the king such act of being of such a nature as to be calculated to be prejudicial to the defence of the Realm and being done with the intention and for the purpose of assisting the enemy.”

 Kingsbridge Station was later renamed Heuston Station in his honour.

Nothing like this anymore of course, theres more silt than water under it, and the LUAS runs across it!

The Bridge itself was reconstructed in 2003 and now carries the LUAS from Tallaght to the Point.

– Rory O’Moore Bridge, (ex- Victoria & Albert Bridge, Queen Victoria Bridge) Watling Street to Ellis Street, 1859 (Previous structures: 1670, 1704)

“Oh lives there the traitor who’d shrink from the strife, who would add to the length of his forfeited life. And his country, his kindred, his faith would abjure; No we’ll strike for old Ireland and Rory O’Moore.” (more…)

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Myself and dfallon spotted a number of these plaques around the Dublin 8 and Liberties area last weekend. Here’s the story behind them…

Artist Chris Reid set out to create a micro history about Nicholas Street, Ross Road, Bride Street and Bride Road. This history would be centered on audio recordings of conversations Chris had with residents and people associated with the area. This research took place between 2004 and 2008. These oral narratives formed the basis of a subjective local history and heritage that would be placed back into the area. This subjective local history would be for local, resident, and tourist alike.

This history would privilege the human reality of a given situation rather than any factual account.  The oral narratives recorded on minidisks were turned into a series of 220 short texts and a series of 100 longer anecdotes and stories. Each contributor participated alongside chris in the selection of a final 20 short texts for use on the plaques. These were typeset and individually cast on bronze in the form of commemorative plaques and installed on the walls of the aforementioned streets between 7 and 8 foot from the ground.

To view all the plaques and a map showing where they are, log onto http://www.chrisreidartist.com/projects.html. Let’s hope we see more of this in Dublin in the near future.

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