Posts Tagged ‘The Abbey Fire 1951’

A promotional image for the current run of The Plough and the Stars at the Abbey.

Sara Keating, for The Irish Times, recently wrote a fantastic piece on the background to some of the props in the current production of The Plough and The Stars at the Abbey. You’re only a click away if you want to read it.

One of the props dealt with was the pram belonging to Mrs. Gogan. She discussed the pram with prop maker Eimear Murphy.

The pram being used for the looting in Act Three is one of the oldest props at the Abbey. An original Victorian pram, it was used in the very first production of the play and every production since. Over 100 years old, it is in a delicate state; “one of the wheels is just taped on at this stage”, Murphy says. It was also badly damaged in the fire of 1951, so that while the frame of the pram is original, its casing isn’t. With its delicate frame and unique wooden handles it is totally authentic, and has been especially reserved over the years for The Plough and the Stars

The fire? Well, on July 18 1951 a fire ripped the home of the Abbey apart.The great history of the Dublin Fire Brigade compiled by Tom Geraghty and Trevor Whitehead noted that in was the busiest night of the year for the Brigade, with nine crews fighting the blaze.

What had been the former Mechanic’s Institute and City Morgue was just a gaunt dangerous skeleton festooned with The Plough and the Stars posters, and the ghost of Yeats was left to haunt an eerie smoke-filled chamber.

Flann O’ Brien (Or eh…Myles na gCopaleen) dealt with the fire in his excellent Cruiskeen Lawn column on July 25, 1951. Writing about plans to stage some major plays in the Peacock, he quipped that.

At the moment the company purports to be playing The Plough and the Stars in the Peacock. Why not Juno in the Peacock?

Or why not Autumn Fire?

No, I’m probably wrong- The Plough is probably the right play. After all, it brought the house down.


The photograph below is a gem, showing Fireman Frank Brennan salvaging the above mentioned pram from the ruins of the Abbey.

Thanks are due to the Dublin Fire Brigade Museum for the use of the image. What survived of the pram can be seen on stage in the current run of the O’ Casey play.

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