Posts Tagged ‘tommy potts’

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)


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Other traditional and folk music uploads on CHTM

Liam Weldon
Dominic Behan
The Furey Brothers
Seamus Ennis (on pipes)
Seamus Ennis (Mrs. McGrath)

The Liffey Banks- Claddagh Records

The Liffey Banks

I remember the first time I saw the image above. It was over on Niall McCormacks blog, and the image just grabbed my attention. In truth, I hadn’t heard of Tommy Potts before. The image is striking but, a man completely content and in his element at one of the most iconic spots in Dublin. Bord Fáilte would ruin it if they tried to capture something like that again. It’s completely natural, a moment caught perfectly.

Anyway, it turned out that Tommy was a Dublin firefighter, and I heard mention of him from my father. Based at Tara Street fire-station, he was injured in the Pearse Street fire of October 6th,1936. Three Dublin firefighters died in the fire, including a 1916 veteran named Robert Malone, and two other firemen- Tom Nugent and Peter McArdle. The three men are buried at Glasnevin Cemetery, side by side.

Sibéal Teo, a television production company, deserve massive credit for their ‘Cérbh é….‘ series on Tg4 exploring some of the key personalities of traditional music in Irish history. Among the figures studied in the series was one Tommy Potts. It opened my eyes not just to his own music, but an entire hidden scene in Dublin, centered around the (sadly gone) Lavin’s pub. The show was presented by Paddy Glackin, a fiddle player himself, which no doubt added to the character of the show.

Here, we have two tracks from 1972s ‘The Liffey Banks’. From the voice of Liam Weldon to the pipes of Seamus Ennis, it’s posts like this I most enjoy.

You can purchase The Liffey Banks from Claddagh Records online for only €13

My Love Is In America

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