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. 
Posted in Labour History, Social History, Tenement History | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

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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