Dublin in these photos from 1961 seems a different world and possibly a different planet. An American, Charles W. Cushman travelled the world for 30 years, including a visit to Dublin. When he died, he left his collection to Indiana State University, who have uploaded them, and a fascination window the provide on a Dublin which has gone. As Arthur Ryan who recently stepped down as MD of Primark remarked “we were always in recession” and money was certainly scarce. People generally used public transport or cycled to work. Most milk floats were horse drawn with the horses knowing how to pace themselves to the speed at which the milk was being delivered by the milkman. The “Breadman” on the other hand had an electric bread van normally from Johnston, Mooney and O’Brien as did the laundry vans. Amazingly, with hindsight, there were two laundry services.
One was called (wait for it) “The Swastika Laundry” and had a swastika on the side of the van, albeit at an angle, as the Sanskrit symbol of brotherhood but you didn’t need a degree in marketing to suggest a re-branding was perhaps overdue! The other was the Highfield Laundry from the convent in Drumcondra of the same name backing onto the Archbishop’s Palace which we now know was one of the notorious Magdalene Laundries.
It was also the city of the thought police presided over for many years by the person since known as the Arch Bigot of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid. It is hard now to understand the conservative nature of Irish Society but in those days a catholic needed “permission” to attend a protestant wedding and Catholics were forbidden by the church from attending Trinity College. On the other side many of the large companies, such as Guinness, were protestant companies where Catholics were not represented in management. After many years of stagnation Ireland’s greatest export was its own people and it coped with social problems by denying them and exporting them to England. Indeed it had an unrealistic world view blaming all its problems on England and believing one day Irish-Americans would come back home and make Ireland rich.
This was the Dear Old Dirty Dublin I grew up in the North Inner City district of Summerhill.
A special place, the Augustan capital of a Gaelic Ireland or a ravenous sow which devours its young depending on the literary source you use! An older Viking city than Oslo it was founded in the late 700’s (although Ptolemy referred to a town called Eblana in C4.) and the Viking Kings of Dublin & Dalkey ruled the Isle of Man and controlled trading in the Irish Sea. The Vikings were supplanted by the Normans in the late 1000’s who exiled the native Irish and Norse outside the walls of their new city (to Irishtown & Oxmantown respectively) and built a cathedral on the hill of their town which is known as Christchurch today. The tomb of the first Norman ruler, Richard of Pembroke, known as Strongbow, is still in the crypt of the cathedral. His daughter Isolde eloped with the warrior Tristam giving us one of the early great romantic stories, which will no doubt inspire you on Valentine’s or any other romantic weekend!
The name Dublin is derived from the Irish name Dubh Linn (meaning “black pool”). The common name for the city in Modern Irish is Baile Átha Cliath (meaning “town of the hurdled ford”). Áth Cliath is a place-name referring to a fording point of the Liffey in the vicinity of Heuston Station. Baile Átha Cliath was an early Christian monastery which is believed to have been situated in the area of Aungier Street currently occupied by Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church.
The subsequent Scandinavian settlement was on the River Poddle, a tributary of the Liffey, to the East of Christchurch, in the area now known as Wood Quay. The Dubh Linn was a lake used by the Scandinavians to moor their ships and was connected to the Liffey by the Poddle. The Dubh Linn and Poddle were covered during the early 1700s, and as the city expanded they were largely forgotten about. The Dubh Linn was situated where the Castle Garden is now located, opposite the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin Castle.
The writings of the Greek astronomer and cartographer Claudius Ptolemy provide perhaps the earliest reference to human habitation in the area now known as Dublin. In around A.D. 140 he referred to a settlement he called Eblana Civitas. The settlement ‘Dubh Linn’ dates perhaps as far back as the first century BC and later a monastery was built there, though the town was established in about 841 by the Norse. The modern city retains the Anglicised Irish name of the former and the original Irish name of the latter.
The formation of the new state resulted in changed fortunes for Dublin. It benefited more from independence than any Irish city, though it took a long time to become obvious. Through The Emergency (World War II), until the 1960s, Dublin remained a capital out of time: the city centre in particular remained at an architectural standstill, even nicknamed the last 19th Century City of Europe.
After the Union the city lost its economic momentum and unemployment, poverty and population increased significantly. Dublin went into a decline with many of the Georgian buildings deteriorating to tenements and the larger homes of the aristocracy being used for other purposes. Leinster House is now the Dail, the Irish Parliament (and the model for the White House, Washington which was designed by James Hoban a pupil of its architect, Richard Cassels) and Powerscourt House is now a shopping centre but was a post office.
However while Georgian Dublin survived 1930s plans and World War II, much of it did not survive property developers in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. The historic but now impoverished Mountjoy Square suffered heavily, with derelict sites replacing historic mansions. When in the 1950s a row of large Georgian houses in Kildare Place near Leinster House was demolished to make way for a brick wall an extreme republican Fianna Fáil minister, Kevin Boland celebrated, saying that they had stood for everything he opposed. He also condemned the leaders of the Irish Georgian Society, established to battle to preserve Georgian buildings and some of whom came from aristocratic backgrounds, as “belted earls”. In the 1960s, the world’s longest line of Georgian buildings was interrupted when the Electricity Supply Board was allowed to demolish a chunk in the centre and build a modern office block. By the 1980s, road-widening schemes by Dublin Corporation ran through some of the most historic areas of the inner city around Christ Church Cathedral. The nadir of this approach occurred in 1979 when Dublin Corporation destroyed the largest and finest Viking site in the world at Wood Quay, in the face of national opposition, to build its Civic Offices for its civil servants.
By the 1990s a greater civic pride and a new management team in Dublin Corporation saw changes in how the city was run; among the results was the restoration of City Hall to its eighteenth century interior (removing Victorian and Edwardian additions and rebuilds), and the replacement of the famed Nelson’s Pillar (a monument on O’Connell Street which had dominated the skyline until being blown up by republicans) by a new Spire of Dublin, the world’s tallest sculpture, on the site of the old Pillar and which could be seen throughout the city.
The city has a world-famous literary history, having produced many prominent literary figures, including Nobel laureates William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett. Other influential writers and playwrights from Dublin include Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift and the creator of Dracula, Bram Stoker. It is arguably most famous, however, as the location of the greatest works of James Joyce. His most celebrated work, Ulysses, is set in Dublin and full of topical detail. Dubliners is a collection of short stories by Joyce about incidents and characters typical of residents of the city in the early part of the 20th century. Additional widely celebrated writers from the city include J.M. Synge, Seán O’Casey, Brendan Behan, Maeve Binchy, and Roddy Doyle. Ireland’s biggest libraries and literary museums are found in Dublin, including the National Print Museum of Ireland and National Library of Ireland.
And the history of the Irish Parliament Building
This is from the video titled “The Dubliners’ Dublin” which is like a documentary with Ronnie taking viewers on a tour of his favourite watering holes, and meeting up with the lads for a few songs. The song “Dublin in The Rare Old Times” was written by Pete St. John, who also wrote “Fields of Athenry”.
Pete was an occasional and welcome visitor to the folk sessions at Tailor’s Hall in Back Lane which I used to frequent and helped in the (unsuccessful) campaign to keep it as a folk and community venue.