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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1 Response to A shared tenement story from Jim Meade …

  1. Brigid Doyle johnson says:

    I have a friend that was born in the Coombe named woods had four sisters did you know any woods?

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