Dublin Museum Hunt 2014

For all those feeling energetic on Saturday 21 June 2014:

Dublin Museum Hunt 2014.

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A shared tenement story from Jim Meade …

I came across your site while researching my old primary school, Weavers Square Convent. I was an ATGWU shop steward at my job in Dublin during the late 70s early 80s and learned a great deal about the 1913 Lockout as part of my trade union training.

I was born in the old Coombe hospital in 1959. My family lived in one room in a tenement house at 61 Cork Street. Four of my parent’s five children were born there, sharing one cold water sink on a landing outside our room, and with no indoor toilet. From memory I can recall there were at least four families living in that house, but I’m reasonably sure the actual number was more like six. Illness among kids was very common. I attended Weavers Square Convent, and Francis Street Christian Brothers before we eventually moved to the bleak wilderness that was Coolock in 1969, after a brief residence in the then state-of-the-art Pimlico Flats. 

We moved from our one room at 61 Cork Street to Pimlico flats in the late 60s (’67 I believe). While living in the flats, my father became treasurer of the tenant’s association, working very closely with the great Matt Larkin. When we left Pimlico flats for “better” housing in Coolock, Matt presented my father with a watch to mark his service to the tenants association. As a labourer all his life, my dad was a man with very few personal possessions, and this watch was his fondest. On my 21st birthday, he took it from his wrist and gave it to me as a birthday gift, having literally nothing else to offer. It was one of the proudest, and saddest, moments in my life. It illustrates the spirit of tenement Dublin, people who have little displaying great generosity.

Ireland is a different planet now. My nieces and nephews know nothing of the crushing poverty we were raised in just one generation ago. I emigrated to the United States 12 years ago. Like many emigrants I still have a nostalgic spot for the old town, dark side and all. Keep up the good work there people, this is what history actually is.

Thank you so much to Jim for sharing his story with us. The area that he speaks about, Cork Street and Weaver’s Square, has changed dramatically over the past 15 years. Here’s a string of posts on Archiseek tracing that re-development and what was there before

Jim mentions that Dublin is a different place now, that those in their 40s have no idea of the poverty that existed in Dublin City in the 1960s. Here are some videos that cast light on housing in 1960s Dublin:


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Karol Mullaney-Dignam “Larkin’ about”

One hundred years ago, the Weekly Irish Times featured a regular column entitled ‘The Jokers Corner’ comprising prizewinning jokes by readers from around the country. Jokes were submitted on postcards addressed to ‘Joke’, Weekly Irish Times, 31 Westmoreland Street, Dublin, and the best jokes received each week were published. Half-crowns were awarded to the two that the Editor considered the best while ‘standard books’ were given as consolation prizes to the others. The jokes generally took the form of questions-and-answers or a short story and typically employed sarcasm or wordplay to realise their humorous intent.
Certain categories of jokes prevailed: the Irishman, the Englishman and the Scotsman; the Irishman abroad; education; economy; animals; illness; the military and constabulary; food and alcohol; courtship and marriage; gender and class. By 1913, quips referencing the Suffragette movement were occasionally featuring. Examples included:
The German Chief of Staff shook his head. “No”, he replied to the brilliant assemblage about the council table, “we are not prepared to invade Britain.”
The veteran Nicolshnapps looked amazed. “But we have the fleet,” he cried, “yes, and the grand army, yes, and the submarines, and the airship, true. We know that the British Fleet is scattered, and the army unprepared, why should we hesitate?”
“Yes, but you forgot the Suffragettes,” said the Chief of Staff, coolly.
(M. Foley, Ballydoole, Roscommon. 3 May 1913)

Mr Jones: “Another lordly mansion destroyed by ‘suffragette’ incendiaries; only a mass of smouldering wreckage left. I left the firemen playing on the ruins.”
Mrs Jones: “Shocking! Cards, no doubt. Positively indecent I call it. The fellows ought to be reported.”
(May McGing, Tourbeck House, Ayle, Westport, Co. Mayo. 23 August 1913)

Magistrate to suffragette (who has set fire to two public buildings): “As you did this damage wilfully, I must give you seven days’ imprisonment or forty shillings.”
Suffragette: “Thank you, I will accept the money.”
(Nannie Daly, Milford House, Mary Road, Carlingford, Newry. 23 August 1913)

Mrs ‘Suffragette’: “Now, I have engaged you, Bridget, I am to begin at once to give you a little training in the art of waiting on guests. You see my daughter is coming out next month.”
Bridget: “Indade, mum, an’ how long was she sint to prisin for?”
(Mrs MacSweeney, 2 Portland Place, Cork. 8 August 1914)
Characters and events of the Dublin Lockout of 1913-14 also made it into ‘The Jokers Corner’ as the following selection reveals:

Brown: “I say, Jones, what do you think of the recent Castle discussion between Messrs Healy and Larkin?”
Jones: “All a huge joke.”
Brown: “How’s that?”
Jones: “Why it is only a case of ‘Tim and Jim Larkin’” (Larking)
(Miss M. English, C.G. Station, Clontarf, Dublin. 25 October 1913)

Jones: “Did you hear the latest?”
Brown: “No. What is it?”
Jones: “Terrible. There are to be no marriages in Dublin until after Christmas.”
Brown: “Why?”
Jones: “Because the match-makers are all out on strike!”
(B. McDonagh, Main St., Boyle, Co. Roscommon. 25 October 1913)

First Boy: “Why did Larkin throw the clock out of the window at Liberty Hall the other night?”
Second Boy: “I give it up.”
First Boy: “Because it would not strike.”
(Anthony Cuddy, Glen Herbert, Bray. 27 December 1913)

Friend: “Well, Tom, what do you learn at school?”
Tom: “All sorts of things.”
Friend: “Well now. Tell me where matches are made.”
Tom: “Eaven and Sweden, sir.”
(Edward Byron de Lacy, 68 Marlborough Road, Donnybrook, Co. Dublin. 3 January 1914)

“Was your husband much frightened when he saw the police making a charge, and using their batons on the rioters?”
“Indeed, and he was. He shook like an ass upon a leaf.”
(Miss Bull, 1 Synnott Place, Dublin. 14 February 1914)

Ostensibly written and published for amusement, these jokes can be viewed today as historically specific cultural formations with topical witticisms providing contemporary voices and insights.
Dr Karol Mullaney-Dignam, August 2013

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Bairds of the Revolution

The Lockout has inspired some great tunes.

Francis Devine sings “Who fears to wear the blood red badge”

Mark’s Men sing “Jim Larkin”

Thanks to Allan for sharing this taster of The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock’s “Lockout”, a new large-scale work written to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1913 Dublin Lockout. For this project, the band will be augmented with an electric guitar orchestra …

And to Maurice for sharing this link to Caeden’s “Along the Docks

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‘My Grandad’ by Stella Larkin McConnon

Stella Larkin and her husband Michael McConnon on the steps of Dublin Tenement Experience

Stella Larkin and her husband Michael McConnon on the steps of Dublin Tenement Experience

The sun beams danced as I trudged up
Those worn out steps so long ago
My small hand in my Mother’s clasped
Safely with loving confidence

Suddenly a man appeared
A giant silhouette he seemed
The light shone round him as he spoke
This was my Grandad, called Big Jim

This was my first memory of him
I did not know what he’d done
To help to lift the City’s poor
Up from the mud to see the sun

While he worked hard my Nan did too
In a much quieter way
Bringing up four big sons
Two who helped him in later days

One called Denis was my Dad
The other was my Uncle Jim
These were a very special pair
And became a great support to him

The years passed by and then once more
I walked again up other steps
In College Street to see him lie
In quiet sleep, peaceful at rest

There were no sunbeams on that day
The snow lay heavy on the ground
Men joined in as his funeral passed
With brush and shovel, heads were bowed

There is a time in every life
For joy and sorrow this I know
But I could hear my Grandad say
Look to the sun, not the shadows

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Chris Corlett on the Church Street Tenement Collapse

An Image of the Church Street Tenement Collapse from the Illustrated London News. Image courtesy of The National Library of Ireland.

An Image of the Church Street Tenement Collapse from the Illustrated London News. Image courtesy of The National Library of Ireland.

At about 8.45p.m., as dusk approached on the night of Tuesday 2nd September, 1913, two houses, Numbers 66 and 67 Church Street collapsed.  The rubble fell across the width of the street as far as the door of the Father Mathew Hall across the road.  Perhaps it is ironic, given the nature of the tragedy that unfolded, that the owner of the houses, Mrs Margaret Ryan, and her family ran a lime and sand business at 68½ Church Street, at the rear of the houses that collapsed.  Perhaps even more ironic is the fact that Mrs Ryan’s daughter, Mary Leahy, was at that very moment in time collecting the rents from the tenants in the two buildings.  It would appear that she was accompanied by her mother and brother, Patrick Ryan.  Her husband Michael Leahy was talking to Jack Kelly, the caretaker at the door of the Father Mathew Hall.
Later evidence to the Coroner’s Inquiry stated that there had been a rumbling noise, after which No. 66 collapsed suddenly, followed soon afterwards by the fall of No. 67.  Given the sequence of the collapse, no one was killed in No. 67. All seven who died in the tragedy had lived in No. 66.  In this four-storey building had lived 26 people – Mr and Mrs Sammon and five children, Mr and Mrs Shiels and four children, Mr and Mrs Benson, Mrs and Mrs Fitzpatrick and five children and Mrs Fagan and three children.
One newspaper provided the following eye-witness account of the moments during which the two houses collapsed;
“Nicholas Fitzpatrick, a young lad of about 14 years of age, was in the third story of the house No. 66 when the first rumble was heard.  “My mother and my two sisters had just come back from the chapel” he said.  “My sister went out again, and my two brothers Andrew and Edward, my father and mother, and my sister Margaret were all in the front room.  I was sitting at the window when I heard a queer noise like an engine banging against a carriage, and when I looked round quickly I saw a crack in the wall over the chimney piece.  “Run down and see what’s wrong” said my father”.  I ran downstairs, and looking into the drawingroom which was under the room where we lived, I saw the street wall open up and bulge out.  I shouted out and rushed downstairs.  Just as I got to the hall the side wall began rocking and bulging, and I ran into the street…Mr Jack Kelly, who was near the door [of the Father Matthew Hall], caught me and another boy, and pulled us in, and just then there was a terrible loud crash like a quarry blast, and bricks and mortar and glass tumbled into the hall, and we were all thrown down and covered with dust”.
The father of Nicholas Fitzpatrick, Nicholas senior, was killed by the falling houses.  Nicholas junior’s two brothers Andrew and Edward were rescued from the rubble some two hours after the houses fell.
It was No. 66 that collapsed first, and the lack of any real warning meant that all the victims of the collapse were in this house.  Mr Salmon, who survived, told reporters the heroic story of how his son Hugh or Eugene had died;
“Eugene took the youngest child (Josephine), aged one year and eight months, and brought her out safely.  Then he went back for the other children, and got out with them alright, but it was when he was coming away with Elizabeth that they were struck by the falling masonry and killed”.
The collapse of No. 66 provided sufficient warning to the residents in neighbouring No. 67 a chance to escape.
Immediately following the collapse of the two houses a “great cloud of dust enveloped the scene for a considerable time, in consequence of which those in the street were unable to measure for the time being what was the magnitude of the awful catastrophe”. Soon units of the Dublin Fire Brigade arrived at the scene and took control of the rescue work. By now the street was completely dark, except for some poor street lamps.  In order to aid the rescue workers “the clergy had the front rooms of the Father Mathew Hall lighted up as much as possible, and this shed a considerable amount of light on the mass of debris opposite.  In addition to this, numerous lighted lanterns and candles were held aloft by a body of willing assistants who stood around on the heaps of the stones, mortar and timber”.  At about 10.30 the rescuers heard “stifled moans and calls for help” from deep down in the rubble, and the assembled crowd was silenced.  After about three quarters of an hour, one of the firemen brought out of the rubble one of the two Fitzpatrick brothers (Andrew and Edward) whose “appearance was greeted with a loud outburst of cheering from the crowd”.
On another occasion the rescuers heard the faint moans of a child buried in the rubble;
“Work was immediately begun in the place where the heartrending sounds proceeded from, and the first body come upon was that of a woman named Mrs Fagan.  A few yards away a little boy lying in his little cot slept the sleep of death.  He had been put to bed by the woman, Mrs Fagan, who was watching over him, when the dreadful collapse came.  The little fellow, who had long golden hair, and was aged about 5 years, must have been alive up to about 3 o’clock this morning.  There was a look of fear and anguish in his tear-stained face, and he had grasped the sheet convulsively in his death agony.”
The boy in question was John Shiels, aged only 3 years old, and Mrs Fagan was his aunt.
As the time went by the hopes of finding any others alive faded quickly.  The rescue work soon became one of recovering corpses from the rubble;
“Now and again there was a lull in the voices of the workers, while a dead body was reverently removed and placed in the ambulance.  The stillness was carried to the big crowd outside the police lines, and many fervent prayers were offered for the repose of the souls of those who had met with such an untimely end”.
Throughout the night, looking on at the rescue work, were the relatives of those still missing under the rubble of the collapsed houses.  One account described the scene at 1.00a.m.;
“While the rest of the city was at peace the silent, heart-broken relatives of the victims in this awful catastrophe waited patiently the operation of the willing volunteers with the lingering hopes that those they loved might be rescued from the debris…There was no hysterical wailing as the hours passed.  That had given way to the silent intensity of tragedy”.
The next morning the sun was shining brightly on the scene of the disaster.  Only now could the full magnitude of the damage be appreciated.
Over the next few days the newspapers gave confused and conflicting reports about the number and identity of those killed or injured.  It was only three days later, at the Coroner’s Inquiry, that a full and accurate list of those killed was made available.  These were; Hugh Sammon (17), Elizabeth Sammon (4½), Nicholas Fitzpatrick (40), Elizabeth Fagan (50), John Shiels (3), Peter Crowley (6) and Margaret Rourke (55)”, all from No. 66 Church Street.
Two days after the disaster, Mr Sammon, the father of two of the children killed, wrote a letter to the editor of the Evening Telegraph, to thank publicly the Dublin Fire Brigade;
“During all their arduous toil their only refreshment was cold water, but if earnest thanks and appreciation are any reward, I for one tender them to the fullest extent”.
Ironically,the letter was addressed from No. 66 Church Street.
Christiaan Corlett is an archaeologist, historian and photographer. He is author of Darkest Dublin: The story of the Church Street Tenement Disaster and a pictorial account of the slums of Dublin in 1913. 
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Anu’s Laura Murray on her work at 14 Henrietta St.

Anu's Laura Murray as 'Mary' in 'Living the Lockout' at the Dublin Tenement Experience.

Anu’s Laura Murray as ‘Mary’ in ‘Living the Lockout’ at the Dublin Tenement Experience.

This week is the last week of the DUBLIN TENEMENT EXPERIENCE in number 14 Henrietta Street. The house has welcomed us and we settled in nicely.

We are so grateful to the audiences that have attended the experience. They are as much a part of each show as the Actors are and each new audience brings its own new dynamic. Each audience member has their own individual reaction to the action or dialogue they are presented with and certain decisions are made by the Actors through observation and intuition on how to best interact with each person or whether a person wants to interact at all. We want to respect our audiences and will not stretch them beyond their boundaries unless we have clear indication that they are comfortable in doing so. Yet we want the experience to make an impact and to ignite a reaction in our audience whether it is physical, emotional or simply mindful.

So you can imagine how each show is different for us and how it keeps evolving and changing in response to new challenges from our audiences. This is the part that we love most about this work; we are always being challenged with each show. We have had wonderful feedback from our audiences over the past few weeks, many of whom are past residents or who have connections to the house or similar houses and we are really pleased that they approve of our representation of the people who resided here as it is so important for us to be respectful toward the people who lived, loved and died here. The real heroes of 1913.

Laura Murray, August 2013.

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The Baton Charge! Batons from the National Museum

The Bloody Sunday baton charge, Sackville Street, 31 August 1913. Joseph Cashman, NMI Collection.

The Bloody Sunday baton charge, Sackville Street, 31 August 1913. Joseph Cashman, NMI Collection.

We are at the 100th anniversary of the 1913 Lockout, undoubtedly the most significant labour unrest in Irish history.  One of the most notorious incidents, the DMP Baton Charge, took place on Sunday 31 August in O’Connell Street. The iconic photograph taken by the Irish press photographer Joseph Cashman has somewhat fixed this charge in our minds as a singular event, though it was only one of a series of police baton charges on civilians during a particularly tumultuous and violent few days of rioting during the period. These police batons, one a standard DMP baton, the other a baton of the mounted police unit, were used in the infamous baton charges, and are part of the National Museum of Ireland’s collections.

Dublin Metropolitan Police batons, the Bloody Sunday Baton Charge (NMI Collection)

Dublin Metropolitan Police batons, the Bloody Sunday Baton Charge (NMI Collection)

Dublin and labour in 1913

Dublin in 1913 was a city of contrasting fortunes for its people. Being the second city of the British Empire, it was a centre of business and political power, and a wealthy Catholic elite had emerged. However, Dublin also had some of the worst social conditions in Europe, with high unemployment rates among unskilled labourers, who, when they could find work, endured long hours, bad conditions and low pay. Housing was also poor; in 1911 about one third of the city’s population were living in overcrowded tenements with up to 20,000 families living in a single room. Such conditions led to an increased need for labour to organize. James Larkin, an organizer in the National Union of Dock Labourers, had arrived in Belfast in 1907 to organize a strike there, and was later transferred to Dublin where he, James Connolly and William O’Brien established the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union in December 1908. By 1913 it had about 10,000 members in Dublin alone.

The Employers’ Federation and the Lockout

The main employers in Dublin, seeing the threat of trade unionism as the destruction of the capitalist system, formed the Employers’ Federation. Led by William Martin Murphy, owner of the Dublin Tramway Company, a number of newspapers such as the Irish Independent, and the Imperial Hotel in O’Connell Street, the Federation banned their workforce from union membership, firing suspected members. Murphy himself fired over 300 tramway workers in August, leading to a series of sympathy strikes and the eventual ‘locking-out’ by employers of about 20,000 workers, who were replaced with blackleg or scab labour. The Lockout continued until February 1914, and the interim saw not only extreme hardship for the workers and their families, but also violence on the streets as conflict arose between the workers and the strike-breakers. The British Administration, who had sided with the employers, ordered the DMP to quell the disturbances, and there were in total 15 baton charges during the Lockout period.

The banning of the Sunday Sackville Street meeting

The Union leaders – Larkin, Connolly, O’Brien, P.T. Daly, and William Partridge had held a series of public meetings at the Union Headquarters at Liberty Hall, Beresford Place, in the evenings leading up to the infamous Sunday the 31st, for which a meeting was planned to take place on Sackville (O’Connell) Street. Larkin had already been arrested on the Wednesday, charged with seditious libel, seditious conspiracy and unlawful assembly, but released on bail.

On Friday 29th August E. G. Swift, the Chief Divisional Magistrate, Dublin Metropolitan Police District, issued a proclamation banning the Sackville Street meeting, stating ‘that the object of such a meeting or assemblage is seditious, and that the said meeting or assemblage would cause terror and alarm to and dissension between His Majesty’s subjects, and would be an unlawful assembly’.

That night, the leaders spoke to a crowd of about 2,000 men, women and children at Liberty Hall. Connolly lambasted the ignorance of those who had issued the proclamation, saying that there was no such street in Dublin, and that they would peacefully assemble on O’Connell Street to see if the Government had sold themselves body and soul to the capitalists.  Larkin stated that the banning of the meeting was unlawful and publically burned the proclamation; dead or alive, he would address the people on Sunday.

On Saturday afternoon, the DMP arrested Connolly and Partridge for using ‘language calculated to incite to breaches of the peace’. Partridge was bailed, but Connolly refused and was sentenced to three months in prison.  Though the police searched the city, Larkin was nowhere to be found. As news of the arrests spread, rioting broke out around the city, beginning in Ringsend and spreading to Great Brunswick Street, where trams came under attack. By 8pm that evening serious riots were taking place around the city, Beresford Place and Talbot Street on the north side, and areas around Corporation Street, Camden Street, Cornmarket and Clanbrassil Street on the south side, and many people on the streets were injured in the police attempts to put down the riots.


Bloody Sunday

In the wake of Saturday’s rioting, O’Brien feared worse to come and reorganised the Sunday meeting, ordering union members to march to Croyden Park in Fairview instead. At the same time Larkin, disguised as an old man managed to enter the Imperial Hotel (Clery’s), undetected by the police. He gave his speech from the balcony of the smoke room, overlooking Sackville Street. Larkin was immediately arrested and brought to the College Street Police Station.

As news of the arrest spread crowds gathered in Sackville Street. As tensions mounted, the DMP rushed the street in a baton charge, attacking both protesters and bystanders indiscriminately in the chaos. Rioting again broke out across the city, much of it centred on the north side. The police repeatedly baton charged the protesters, and were themselves under attack from volleys of stones and bottles. The trade union members returning from Croyden Park also took part.

About 450 DMP and 200 Royal Irish Constabulary were on duty in the area, and members of the West Kent Regiment were also called to assist the police in quelling the disturbances. The Irish Times even reported plain clothes policemen armed with walking sticks charging the crowds alongside their uniformed colleagues.  The day became known as Bloody Sunday, the first of four in 20th century Irish history.

The casualities

There were many casualties during the weekend of riots. Labourers James Nolan and John Byrne both died of injuries received by police batons on the Saturday, and contemporary reporting stated that 433 people; protesters, constables and bystanders, received treatment in three city centre hospitals; Jervis Street, Sir Patrick Dun’s and Mercer Street. There were many more injured who were not officially recorded and some estimates go as high as between 500 and 600 injured.  The violence of the DMP baton charges on the people of Dublin not only tarnished the reputation of the force, but was also a main factor in the formation of the Irish Citizen Army.

The opinion of the establishment                          

The newspapers, many of which were under the control of William Martin Murphy, were not sympathetic to the strikers. The incidents in Dublin were reported by many newspapers as being the result of the influence of Larkin on his followers, labeling them as criminals, and tended to concentrate on the actions of the rioters. For example, the Irish Times described the scenes on the 1st September as ‘an orgy of lawlessness and cowardly crime. In the worst streets of the city women assisted men in assaults on the police. The innocent as well as the guilty suffered in the confusion of the fighting’. Political opinion too was not favourable towards Larkin and the ITGWU. They viewed Larkin, as did the employers, as a dangerous socialist whose aim was to destroy capitalism and the social status quo. Even the nationalist M.P.s regarded trade unionism as a particular worry at a time when the issue of Home Rule was still being fought for. The British Trades Union Congress went as far as to disown Larkin at its conference in December 1913.  With this lack of support the Lockout was in the end a failure, with the employees eventually returning to work in early 1914 with little to no rights won.

DMP baton, standard issue. (NMI Collection)

DMP baton, standard issue. (NMI Collection)

The Dublin Metropolitan Police batons

The DMP batons themselves were a standard issue to the police force. The Dublin Metropolitan Police, established in 1836 to police the city and modeled on the London Metropolitan Police force, were not armed with firearms like their counterparts in the Royal Irish Constabulary.  Instead, constables were equipped with wooden batons to be used only for self-protection and in the apprehension of criminals. They are made from a hardwood such as teak, turned with a ribbed handgrip, often with a leather wrist strap, and stamped with the constable’s police number. The standard issue baton is 48cm long, and the mounted police version is longer at 62cm, and was issued with a leather holder. Each is fairly heavy, and I have heard of a belief that lead weights were inserted inside. However, the batons are clearly turned from a single piece of wood, with no joins, so this is a myth.

DMP baton, mounted police unit. (NMI Collection)

DMP baton, mounted police unit. (NMI Collection)

The National Museum of Ireland will be exhibiting the batons, along with other unique objects from the period, as part of its new exhibition on the 1913 Lockout in Collins Barracks from September 2013.

Brenda Malone is a historian with the National Museum of Ireland, and writer of The Cricket Bat That Died For Ireland blog, which explores the Museum’s Historical Collections. www.thecricketbatthatdiedforireland.com

With special thanks to Lar Joye, Curator of Arms and Military, National Museum of Ireland.

Further Reading

  • ‪Lockout: ‪Dublin 1913. Pádraig Yeates. Gill & Macmillan Ltd., 2001
  • A Capital in Conflict: Dublin City and the 1913 Lockout. Edited by Francis Devine. Dublin Corporation Public Libraries, 2013
  • Dublin 1913: Lockout & Legacy. Gary Granville. O’Brien Press Ltd., 2013
  • The Dublin Metropolitan Police: A Short History and Genealogical Guide. Jim Herlihy. Four Courts Press Ltd., 2001

Strumpet City by James Plunkett, this years’ One City, One Book choice, is also great for an insight into the impact of social conditions and the effect of the Lockout on the people of Dublin in 1913. Read Garrett Fagan’s Blog post about Strumpet City on our blog.

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Dear Sean O’Casey by Camille Peat (age 11)

“Dear Dublin Tenement Experience, my name is Camille Peat, age 11. The Abbey Theatre actors came to my school and reenacted some of the Dublin Tenement Experience with us. I was inspired to write this short story to Sean O’Casey, who also wrote some stories about life at this time.”

A story about a boy who lived in the Tenements on Henrietta Street by Camille Peat

A Dublin newsboy in January 1959

Dear Sean O’Casey:

Me name is Paddy. I have five brothers and three sisters; life is tough where I live, Dublin, that’s the one, Henrietta street. I’m the middle child, I work as a delivery boy. Me oldest sister is havin’ a baby, me and the rest of the family have to keep it a secret ‘cause she’s not married yet. I’m the only one in me family who knows how to write and I forget how to read, no one knows these days! I don’t go to school ‘cause we don’t have enough money even to feed ourselves, never mind school. Me friend Jim, he goes, says it’s great craic, but I just think he’s braggin’.

Me and me family we live with eleven others, there’s uncle Jack, there’s Tommy and Mary, that’s all I can remember, there’s so many I can’t count. I know there’s only eleven but it seems way more. I don’t know if eleven is a big number or what but it sure seems it.

Me and me friends came up with this great thing, it’s called a football. We tied rags up together, that’s how you make one. It’s great, really mucky, that’s the sort of stuff we like, except we don’t have any shoes so we is always going home with sore feet. And I thought rags were soft! … well apparently they’re not ‘cause we put rocks in them.

We’re having bread and drippin’ tonight, great craic! About the football thing, me Ma says she’ll buy me some shoes but I know that won’t be happenin’. Me Da passed away last year, caught the consumption. Me ma says I’ll have his shoes but he’s like a size 9 and I’m only size 2. I like playin’ conquers I do, me and Jim, we’re always playin’ it.

Tonight I’ve gotta get some sausies for the coddle tomorrow … well I’ll see you later, gotta get ‘em before the shop closes.

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Diana Hope finds her roots in 14 Henrietta Street

Twin sisters Annie and  Margaret Esther Dillon, their birth certificate records they were born in the Rotunda Hospital. Their home address was 14 Henrietta Street.

Twin sisters Annie and Margaret Esther Dillon, their birth certificate records they were born in the Rotunda Hospital. Their home address was 14 Henrietta Street.

My interest in the name Dillon and in Henrietta Street began on the death of my mother Annie Dillon in 1983. She always professed to be Scottish, we accepted that, as all her kin live in Scotland and still do.  She lived most of her married life in Surrey. It was not until we had to witness Annie’s death certificate that it became apparent that she was in fact Irish. She was born at the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin, on 16 December 1907, along with her twin Margaret. Their address is recorded as 14 Henrietta Street, Dublin. Their family comprised of Frederick Augustus Dillon, his wife Margaret (nee Mooney) and children Kathleen, Frederick, and William.  Since Annie’s death I have been researching the Dillon Family.

Lots of digging in the archives ensued, and I discovered that my great, great, great Grandfather was Charles Dillon, Attorney. He was married to Eliza Tandy. They had 13 children, some were solicitors, engineers, fine wine exporters, painters etc. It appears they were very much a middle class family. Coincidentally, as an attorney, Charles Dillon may well have attended Kings Inns, at the top of Henrietta Street.

One of those 13 children was my great, great grandfather Charles Dillon, who married Kate Suffield.  Charles was a journalist with the Saunders Newsletter.  They had six children, one of whom was my Grandfather Frederick Augustus Dillon.

Annie Dillon as a young woman.

Annie Dillon as a young woman.

Frederick Augustus seemed to have many occupations, including horse trader and poultry trader, whilst living in Dublin with Margaret and their 6 children. In the 1901 census the family can be found occupying two rooms in Upper Rutland Street and Frederick’s aged father was living with them.  By the time the twin girls were born at the Rotunda Hospital, the family were living 14 Henrietta Street, as recorded on Annie’s birth certificate. Times must have been hard trying to make living, which may be why the once middle-class family were now living in a tenement.

Diana Hope in front of 14 Henrietta Street in 2007. Diana only found our her mother was Irish when she saw her birth certificate, that recorded her address as 14 Henrietta Street

Diana Hope in front of 14 Henrietta Street in 2007.

By the time of the 1911 census the family were living in 13 Grenville Street, where their last child was born. This move to Grenville Street may represent a further decline in circumstances, as Henrietta Street was thought to be rather ‘posh’ in tenement terms.

Learning about the Dillons and their life in Henrietta Street continues …

Diana Hope, August 2013

Tenement Houses on Grenville Street, c. 1913

Tenement Houses on Grenville Street, c. 1913

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