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.

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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Caitriona Ennis writes with passion about Rosie Hackett

The Irish Women Workers Union.

The Irish Woman Workers Union. The figure in the centre with the white blouse is Delia Larkin. Most people are agreed that the woman sitting next to her on the left is Helena Moloney. In the row behind the seated figures the woman second from the right is Lily Kempson. Rosie Hackett must be somewhere here, along with Kathleen Lynn, Jeannie Shanahan, Bridget Brady, Mollie O’Reilly, Bridget Paris, Annie Norgrove, Bessie Lynch and Ms. Connolly (Lizzie?).

It started with a simple ‘No’ ….

A young factory girl standing up to the injustice of her time simply saying no, refusing to back down and continuing to fight for the plight of others for over 60 years. Rosie Hackett, a lady I have had the honor of researching for ANU’S THIRTEEN. Rosie has become not only a part of my heart but has served as inspiration to me as a young Irish female. Why? Born in 1901 Rosie Hackett grew up in the tenements (she spent some of her childhood in No. 14 Henreitta Street), in a state of poverty. Rosie as a young girl stood up against the oppression of her time risking her own future, home and job for the greater good, fighting for worker’s rights and those of the ordinary citizens, who were so brutally forgotten by the powers of 1913 Ireland. Rosie played a vital part in The Lockout, in simply refusing to take off her red badge in support of the Union, simply saying no to the fear imposed by Ireland’s employers. In turn inspiring her peers to follow in her footsteps, from this moment on Rosie became a vital part of the 1913 lockout, working within the soup Kitchen alongside Helena Maloney in Liberty Hall. In 1916 she worked as a messenger. Rosie then became a member of the Irish citizens Army occupying the Royal College of Surgeons alongside Countess Markievicz until her arrest. Close to James Connolly, Rosie printed the first proclamation and brought it to him herself. After the rising Rosie stayed working on Eden Quay continuing to fight for the people of Ireland until her death in 1976. Rosie Hackett worked and fought her whole life in this area.

This is only a brief, VERY BRIEF, background into Rosie but one I feel I need to give before I ask you to stand with me in fighting for the New Dublin Bridge to be called the Rosie Hackett Bridge. I have many reasons for believing this is without a doubt the right choice, one of the most important being I EMPHATICALLY BELIEVE IT IS TIME WE RECOGNISED THE FORGOTTEN WOMEN OF IRELAND’S PAST, THE WOMEN WHO TOOK PART AND EXECUTED GROUND BREAKING WORK FOR THIS COUNTRY. Rather than a token figure Rosie Hackett stands as a feisty, strong and extraordinary young woman, her story needs to be heard and recognised for the simple reason that she offers so much to the Irish youth and people of today. It is time we commemorated the political, and important work so many Irish women have undertook throughout our History. A true figure who embodied the relentless strength of the Irish working class women. Rosie Hackett was an ordinary woman with an extra ordinary character that should be commemorated. Our history books reflect the roles men have played within Irish History, yet our women are often forgotten; their tireless contribution to this nation is forgotten. In supporting the Rosie Hackett Bridge campaign we can begin to eradicate this problem. Secondly 2013 stands as a year in which many Irish people face great hardship, Rosie Hackett’s young 1913 spirit, a hundred years on, should shine as a light of hope in these dark fearful times. A figure of strength, a figure who’s life story we can reap much courage from, courage to face injustice with restless determination and enthusiasm, courage we can begin to sow today. In naming a structure such as a bridge, I believe we should chose a name that represents a nation, a forgotten people, people that will not give up but rather stand up against the powers of inequality.

Rosie fought to bridge the gap between injustice and justice for Irish Citizens. Rosie spent her whole life caring for others, dedicating her fighting spirit to the plight of others while never looking for any recognition. I think it is time we fought for her name to be celebrated, in turn celebrating the many many great Irish women who have gone before us. But most importantly, follow in Rosie Hackett’s steps and take action. Ring, email and write to your local Dublin City Counselor and state your plea to support the Rosie Hackett Bridge Campaign. The decision will be made on the 2nd of September that gives us to two weeks to make as much noise as we can. Spread the name Rosie Hackett! If you are not convinced, stay tuned in, as I plan to give as much info on her as I can in the next two weeks.”

Follow Caitriona’s (and Rosie’s) journey on twitter:

@Caitriona_Ennis / #anuthirteen

The Irish Women Workers Union during The 1913 Lockout

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The Importance of ‘Coming Home’

Peter Brannigan in front of no. 14 Henrietta Street where he lived in the front room (reception) with his parents and nine siblings.

Peter Brannigan in front of no. 14 Henrietta Street where he lived in the front room (reception) with his parents and nine siblings.

In 1911 over 1,000 people lived on Henrietta Street. No. 14 was inhabited by 101 people, with many families living in a single room. With such limited living space, kids spent lots of time on the street: so the street was busy.

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. Diana only found out her mother was Irish when she saw her birth certificate, that recorded her address as 14 Henrietta Street.

Because so many families lived in one house, and families often moved between tenement houses, each house may be said to have its own ‘diaspora’. And, like the broader Irish diaspora, it’s really important for people to come home.

Yesterday lots of people who lived on Henrietta Street and the surrounding area came home. Among them were many who lived in no. 14. Yesterday Henrietta Street was really busy and full of fun.

Dr Danielle O’Donovan, The Irish Heritage Trust, August 2013

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Eddie Jolley on Living in Henrietta Street, Dublin, 1936-1960

An old photo taken in January 1937 of the five of us with Mom and Dad. I am on my mother’s lap, my brother John the oldest is on the left, my sister May is in the middle, my brother William is at the back and my sister Annie and our dad.

An old photo taken in January 1937 of the five of us with Mom and Dad. I am on my mother’s lap, my brother John the oldest is on the left, my sister May is in the middle, my brother William is at the back and my sister Annie and our dad.

My childhood memories of living at 13 Henrietta Street are days were full of laughter, fun and games both in and out of doors. We had freedom to go wherever we chose to go and play without fear of being harmed. The Kings Inn Park known to locals as ‘The Temple’ was a great place to play and kick a football and climb trees. The street was always full of playing children with no traffic to worry about. Our parents

had all the worry, about feeding and clothing eight children with no hand outs. Especially during the war years when there were food and coal shortages, ration cards, and gas masks. We were not too bad as our father was in the Irish army and had a regular wage coming in. He spent a lot of his service of 22 years stationed in Sligo.

No 13 was known as the haunted house and stories of strange happenings were talked

About … ghost stories were the favourite stories around the coal or turf fire at night. We would, as children, never climb the dark foreboding stairs without someone shining a light to guide you. It is known that some people have seen strange, ghostly figures coming down the stairs wearing old world looking clothes. They would suddenly vanish before their eyes or walk through a wall that was most likely a landing before the landlords who bought the houses and altered the rooms to get more families in.

I personally have seen not once, but twice, see a figure of a man standing on the first floor landing when out late at night. I was about seventeen or eighteen, when I got close enough to say hello he would vanish. I had the choice of going back down the stairs or running past where he was standing. I chose to run past, for if you turned and ran down the stairs you were worse off as you would have to go up eventually! It is known that some residents would run up the stairs with a lighted rolled up newspaper  very late at night and God only knows what the outcome would have been if they met another resident coming down!

When my father left the army he took over fetching a fresh pail of water last thing at night, for  the start of the next day.  He was a man that had seen a lot bad things in his life and was not weak. However, this particular night he went as usual to fetch the water and he came back rather quickly with an empty pail. He had seen something on the landing that scared or shocked him. He went to bed and the next day he spoke to my Grandfather and, whether he confided in him or not on what he had seen on the landing, we shall never know. My father on the next day put a small oil lamp and a holy picture on the stair well and lit it every night until eventually electricity was connected into the property and lit up the stairways through the house. The scary feeling was always there though, up to the time I left 13 Henrietta Street.

Fond Regards

Edward Jolley

Eddie’s sister Trish and lots of former Henrietta Street residents are gathering in Henrietta Street TODAY, Sunday 25th July, to see the Dublin Tenement Experience, visit ‘The Temple’ and help to launch Terry Fagan’s new book in The Kings Inns Pub! Photos to follow on the blog … watch this space.

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Conor Dodd on Henrietta Street Men in WWI

As Gertie Keane pointed out in her recent blog entry (The Census, Mobility and Henrietta Street), the residents of the tenements in Henrietta Street had a strong connection to the British Army. For Irish men of the period there were numerous different reasons for enlistment. The clearest and most obvious reason was, of course, steady employment in comparison to other casual work with no guaranteed or regular income; but there were many varied reasons. Populated urban centres always proved good recruiting grounds for the British Army and Dublin was no different, the tenements in particular providing more than their fair share of servicemen. Given these strong connections it is no surprise that at the turn of the 20th century those living in Henrietta Street included Patrick Masterson who had fought during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, Thomas Lawrence who had served in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War and many families of servicemen.

Corporal Thomas Gormley of number 13 who was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallantry after successfully leading a small group of men to capture a farm defended by a machine gun.

Corporal Thomas Gormley of number 13 who was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallantry after successfully leading a small group of men to capture a farm defended by a machine gun.

The outbreak of the First World War brought about a wave of volunteering that had never been witnessed previously and affected every area of the country.  A total of 140,000 men enlisted in Ireland between 1914 and 1918, more than a third of these being in the first six months of the war. Many of those who resided on Henrietta Street answered the call and they joined various different regiments.  The local regiment, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, with its depot in Naas and catchment area including the city proved to be one of the more popular destinations for the men of the street. The history of the street is sprinkled with stories of tragedy, valour and survival from this period. Patrick and Mary West who lived at number 16 lost their son Peter, aged 18, killed at Ypres with the Royal Irish Rifles in June 1915.  While John and Anne Keating of number 3 lost their son, Francis, killed during the Battle of Messines in June 1917. Thomas Gormley of number 13 won a Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallantry, just one step below the Victoria Cross. He lead a group of 20 men to capture a farm which was defended by a machine gun, attacking it directly he killed many of the gun’s operators, he put the gun out of action and despite his group being reduced to just 5 men he successfully held the farm against enemy attacks until help arrived.

Private Thomas Ronan of number 2 who spent all of the war as a prisoner of the Germans. This photograph taken in one of the prison camps and sent home to his family in Henrietta Street shows Ronan (back right) with some of his friends.

Private Thomas Ronan of number 2 who spent all of the war as a prisoner of the Germans. This photograph taken in one of the prison camps and sent home to his family in Henrietta Street shows Ronan (back right) with some of his friends.

From number 2, Thomas Ronan was captured in the first month of the war during the retreat from Mons and spent the four years of war in a Prisoner of War camp, including a considerable time in Limburg Camp, made famous by Roger Casement.

Number 14 itself was no different; one of those living in the house who enlisted during the fervour of the summer of 1914 was Patrick Ennis. He had married Mary Carberry in November 1908 aged 22 and shortly afterwards the two moved into the building while Patrick worked as a casual labourer. Their first two children, Jane and John, were born in 1909 and 1913 and together they lived in a single room in the tenement, room 14.17 on the census. On the 28th of August 1914 Patrick enlisted in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and was eventually sent to the 1st Battalion which had recently returned from garrison duty in India and was destined for the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign. He joined the battalion fighting in Gallipoli from July 1915 and continued with them when they were moved to the Western Front in January 1916. After their arrival in France the 1st Battalion’s first major action was as part of the great British offensive that was planned to take part on the Somme. A huge attack, it was hoped that the offensive would relieve pressure on the French at Verdun while also breaking the stalemate in the area, pushing the British front line forward. The day of attack was preceded by 7 days of artillery bombardment using almost 2 million shells on the German positions which was intended to obliterate the enemy and cut the wire in no man’s land between both sets of trenches.

The 1st Battalion of the ‘Dublins’ formed part of the attack at Beaumont Hamel with the 29th Division. The men of the battalion moved into the trenches at 1am on the morning of the 1st. Patrick Ennis was with Z Company which was in the rear in 88th Trench. As the bombardment became more intense the men watched and as zero hour approached, a huge underground mine at Hawthorn Ridge, over which the Dubs were to advance, was exploded. As the first men went over the top from the Lancashire Fusiliers and Royal Fusiliers, the battalion moved forward and followed into no man’s land. Patrick Ennis went over with part of the rear support and as they finally got out into the area between the British and German trenches they realised the disaster that was about to befall them. The wire which was promised to be obliterated was still intact, only small gaps were to be found at 40 yard intervals and the men streamed towards them. The German machine gunners were well aware of the few gaps and as the men tried to move through they were shot down in their hundreds. Very few of the Dublin men managed to make it past the wire in front of their own trenches and those that did got less than fifty or sixty yards before being hit by the unrelenting machine gun fire from multiple positions. Each gun was capable of firing 500 bullets a minute. The attack understandably petered out and at noon it was called off altogether. The great advance that had been hoped for had not been achieved and along the British front of 15 miles over 57,000 casualties were sustained, with almost 20,000 of those killed. The 1st Dublin Fusiliers had suffered 218 casualties themselves and one of those wounded was Patrick Ennis. His wound was serious enough to warrant a prolonged treatment in Stepping Hospital, Manchester, but Ennis returned to the front where he remained for the rest of the war which he survived. He was eventually discharged and returned to 14 Henrietta Street, his family, a city which was in the midst of the War of Independence, and a country which in the words of W. B. Yeats had ‘… changed utterly’.

Private Denis Lynch of number 9 who enlisted in March 1915 aged 34. He never made it to the front as he was killed in an accident at a barracks in Surrey. He left behind a wife and nine children on Henrietta Street.

Private Denis Lynch of number 9 who enlisted in March 1915 aged 34. He never made it to the front as he was killed in an accident at a barracks in Surrey. He left behind a wife and nine children on Henrietta Street.

Not all the men of number 14 who left for the war returned to Dublin. The Dyer family had been long term residents on the street and their eldest surviving son Thomas had been born and grew up there. They lived originally at number 12 and later at number 14, where by the outbreak of war, the family of eight was living in four rooms. Thomas Dyer was working as a messenger, aged 20. He originally enlisted in the Army Service Corps and arrived on the Western Front after 1916, being transferred to the 18th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers. One of the most well-known places that people associate with the First World War is the town of Ypres. Located in the west of Belgium, it was defended by British and Commonwealth troops for four years, their lines jutting out into a salient pressurised on all sides by the enemy. It was the scene of some of the most intense fighting of the war and the ground north and south of the town was routinely contested with countless men giving their lives.

Much of the fighting concentrated on the few elevated pieces of ground in the area which gave some tactical advantage in the flat Belgian countryside. One of these places was Hill 60, a highpoint created prior to the war after the excavation of a railway cutting which still runs alongside it today. The hill exchanged hands three times in the first few months of the war and it was the Germans who held it from 1915 until 1917 when the British gained the advantage. This advantage, however, only lasted a matter of months when the massive German Spring Offensive of March 1918 resulted in yet another change of ownership.

Private Patrick Brennan of number 15 who was wounded at Hill 60 in 1915, the same place where his neighbour from number 14, Thomas Dyer, would be killed three years later.

Private Patrick Brennan of number 15 who was wounded at Hill 60 in 1915, the same place where his neighbour from number 14, Thomas Dyer, would be killed three years later.

On 28 September 1918, just six weeks before the armistice, the 18th Lancashire Fusiliers, with 25 year old Thomas Dyer, formed part of the British advance that planned to retake Hill 60 once again. Dyer, along with his battalion, moved into assembly trenches on the night of the 27th/28th in preparation for the attack. They arrived at 3am, waiting over 2 hours before the advance on the German positions. They were to move over Hill 60 and an area known as the “Catepillar”, attacking in three waves under the protection of a creeping barrage and further into enemy territory. Despite a stubborn resistance the attack went completely to plan. Hill 60 had been captured for what would prove to be the last time in the war and following the action the battalion’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jewels, recorded that “… our casualties [were] comparatively light, 4 officers and 104 other ranks, one officer has been missing since shortly after zero…”. Given the sheer number of men who had been killed in earlier attempts to take the hill it is perhaps understandable that the officer writing in this case saw 108 casualties as a small price to pay for such a successful operation, however it would bring terrible news to 14 Henrietta Street. One of those reported missing presumed killed was Thomas Dyer. Although his body was never recovered he was eventually confirmed as being killed during the attack to take Hill 60 and his name is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the missing.

One of the most feared parts of the Ypres salient during the war, Hill 60 is now a quiet and serene place which belies its violent past. The area was left to nature following the armistice and the scars of war; trenches, craters and machine gun pillboxes are still visible today. The ground also conceals the bodies of many hundreds of soldiers from both sides who gave their lives fighting for this ground. In many ways it mimics the now quiet rooms and walls of 14 Henrietta Street, a building once teeming with life and stories of all descriptions and now a living memorial to the men and women who once passed through its doors.

Conor Dodd is a military historian with a special interest in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. He runs the website

If you want to read about a Catholic, suburban Dublin mothers feelings on sending her sons away to fight in WWI, one of them with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, check out this Trinity Digital Humanities project:

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