Sunday, March 25, 2018


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This event in the Dublin City Library and Archive in Pearse St. is becoming ever more popular not only with audiences but with speakers. This is a very encouraging trend. As I never tire of repeating to people, outlets like this not only promulgate the results of existing research but stimulate people to do further research in the knowledge that the results will have a platform.

For those who are not professionals in the game, it ensures that their work will be up to the highest standards, not only in content but also in presentation.

I think it was mentioned that this is the thirteenth year of this event which would have its existence coincide with the explosion in local history over that period. Much more than a coincidence I imagine.

Enda Leaney

This session, the first of two scheduled for this year, took place on 24/3/2018.

I nearly had a paper on the agenda myself but in deference to the plethora of aspiring speakers I was happy to settle for the second session in November next, and even further ahead if there is any danger of me squeezing anyone out.

I was thinking of a paper looking at some of the deaths in my family against the wider national background of when they occurred. I have infant deaths, drownings, war, TB and even a potential double mercury poisoning.

However, I am now contemplating putting that one off for a while and instead introducing the story of Edward Ball who murdered his mother in Booterstown in 1936. We'll see.

Enda, who is running these sessions, had his hands full this time round. The queue of speakers meant reducing presentations from forty five to thirty minutes, skipping lunch, and postponing any Q&A until the end of the session. I'm not sure if this will be the new template or is just a temporary response to the current profusion of riches.

Starting a Local History Group.
James Madigan, Liberties Cultural Association

James Madigan

James took the line of advise by example. He sketched the brief history of the formation and success to date of the Liberties Cultural Association.

From a small coffee group beginning, it is now organising very successful tours/walks in the area. Core group members bring varied sets of skills to the table. They have eschewed a written constitution as being too restrictive and likely to dampen the spontaneity and enthusiasm of members, That enthusiasm was palpable in James's presentation.

The name and the logo were the subject of much debate and the result achieves both inclusiveness and historical resonance.

I have a particular interest in the Liberties (outer reaches in James's St.) where my great grandfather was a master bootmaker and where my granny was born (up at the Fountain).

Closure of an Unremunerative Railway Line: Harcourt Street to Bray, 1958.
James Scannell, The Old Bray Society

James Scannell

James gave us the rundown on the Harcourt street line, from its opening to its closure and substitution by the crazy 86 bus route which staggered all over the place on its way to and from town. He took us through some of the many accidents on the line and the plight of the unfortunates who were seen to have caused them.

You could sense his sorrow and frustration at the withdrawal of the Drumm battery trains, and, indeed, at the closure of the line, most of which is, ironically, now back on the rails, so to speak.

I have memories of the No.15 bus on its way into town from Terenure. Passengers passing Terenure church blessed themselves, a common reflex in those days. Then again passing Rathgar church and again passing Rathmines church and yet again passing Harcourt Street Station. It's amazing what an imposing frontage will do to your subconscious.

The Meeting at Rochestown Avenue, 1884 and related history.
Thomas Burke, Local History Alumni Group

Thomas Burke

Tom sounded like he was building up to a bloody confrontation in Rochestown Avenue with his account of preparations for the big National League meeting there in 1884.

The Orangemen were making elaborate plans to attack the meeting from two sides. One crowd coming straight out from town and the Bray crowd trekking up from Killiney Station. The venue was on the borderline between the jurisdictions of the DMP and the RIC and both forces were highly mobilised for the event.

However, we were denied what appeared inevitable bloodshed by the weather and some Protestant good sense. So the epic tale turned into a shaggy dog story but not before it had got us all going.

Another item in which I had a great interest as I used to live just down the road from Rochestown Avenue.

“Dear Miss B” – a Collection of Edwardian Postcards.
Brian McCabe, Kill History Group

Brian McCabe

Brian was great entertainment with a sample from his collection of Edwardian postcards from around 1909/11. He had the audience in stitches betimes.

The postcards were all addressed to the same lady who appeared to be in service to a much traveling Lord. So the destinations were varied and interesting. The brevity of expression stimulated our imagination and some of the banalities rang loud bells - trust you are all keeping well, no news here.

Brian has produced a little book of some of his cards and I look forward to going through it when I finish this post.

An Irish Country House in Cloyne, Co. Cork.
Marie Guillot, Cloyne Literary & Historical Society

Marie Guillot

Marie has achieved the magnificent feat of living in Cork for the last twenty years and not picking up the slightest trace of a local accent.

I didn't think I'd have much interest in this item as big houses and their various accoutrements tend to leave me cold. But Marie's enthusiasm and her careful tracing of the evolution over the last three centuries of Kilcrone House in Cloyne had my rapt attention.

Each new family added a bit and the old pile just growed over the years. Marie had done a mountain of research, not forgetting her intensive personal interrogation of one of the former maids.

I took it from what she said that she is now living in the house, though I may be mistaken. Her evident pain at the work of some of the local jerry-builders in the house's distant history makes me feel I might have heard right.

Lesser Known Dubs – The Good, the Bad and the Downright Despicable.
Ken Finlay, The Old Dublin Society

Ken Finlay

Ken Finlay is no stranger to Dublin history. He's been at it for years and has published all over the place. What he was giving us here were snippets on some of Dublin's less well known characters.

He started with Charles Cameron, who profoundly affected the life of the city and that for the better. Cameron became the city's medical officer in 1876 and, as Ken pointed out, being a polymath he was able to rise above the silly preoccupations of the time and see the wider picture. I think of him as a major contributor to the emergence of epidemiology. He was one of the good guys.

Ken he went on to Frank Dubedat. From a well got Huguenot family, he let them down by scarpering with a load of his client's dosh. He was presumably a bad guy.

And then there was Leonard McNally who turned informer on the 1798 crowd. He was presumably a despicable guy.

Ken had got through just a few more off his long list when time ran out.

My Experience as a Dublin Docker 1963-2009.
Thomas Walsh, Dublin Dock Workers Preservation Society

Thomas Walsh

Thomas Walsh's contribution was riveting, so much so that he's been booked for an encore at the next session.

His description of his life as a docker was not only a personal testimony, it was a significant contribution to the not-so-glorious history of the city port.

He explained how hard and precarious was the life of a docker. The work was backbreaking at the best of times. There was the constant danger of serious accident which could end a career and deprive a family of the breadwinner. There were health hazards such as the handling of asbestos.

And then there was the inequality of the button system which created a permanent and hereditary elite, the button men. You can see examples of buttons in the photo above. Eventually, the Port Authority took over directly employing the dockers, so work, or at least remuneration, was spread over a wider pool.

But that was not the end of the story. Despite prolonged resistance from the dockers mechanisation and containerisation put paid to most of the jobs.

Just on a personal note: he mentioned a union/button meeting in Coláiste Mhuire. I assume that was in the halla. The whole complex there is scheduled for redevelopment, including where a meeting of nationalist groups took place in 1914 to start planning the 1916 Rising. I hope the new building will respect the site's historic past.

I'm looking forward to Part 2 in November. – a Resource for Local History Groups.
Jacqueline Hill, NUI Maynooth

Jacqueline Hill

Jacqueline's contribution was short and straightforward. Irish History Online is a mammoth bibliography of Irish history and if local historians want to be in it they will have to ensure that their journals are captured by the system. One way of doing his would be to be sure to comply with current copyright legislation regarding legal deposit.

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