Charter of Henry II: 1171-2

Charter of Henry IIIn the wake of the Norman Invasion of Ireland, Dublin was seized in 1170 by Richard de Clare, better known as Strongbow.  His overlord, King Henry II, was alarmed as it seemed likely that a separate and independent kingdom might be established in Ireland.  Accordingly he decided to visit in person to assert his authority, and his journey was financed by the merchants of Bristol.

"We are having hell of a time": Letters from the Somme 1916

Mansfield collectionJuly 2016 marked the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest and horrific periods of World War 1.  Despite lasting only 4 months, it incurred over 1.2 million casualties.  Impossible as it may be to understand these barbaric acts of extreme violence these men experienced, letters sent home from the Front to loved ones and friends offer us a unique glimpse into this period.  These letters provide us with a first hand account of the Somme, enabling us to piece together a picture of the daily life, opinions, and the innermost thoughts and fears of a soldier fighting at the Somme.

One such collection of letters are those sent by Harold Barton Mansfield to his wife Eveleen Mansfield (nee Barton), who was expecting their first child during the course of their correspondence.  In what is a series of honest, poignant and, at times, moving letters, Harold recounts his daily experiences of trench life to his wife and, by extension, us.

News from Nelson: Echoland

EcholandI have just finished with great enjoyment Joe Joyce’s novel Echoland which is this year’s choice for ‘One City, One Book’.  It is set in Dublin in the months of May and June 1940 and it vividly brought back the past to me.  The characters regularly go to drink tea in the posh and popular Monument Creamery Café which had two branches, one in Grafton Street and one in O’Connell Street right beside me – they were of course named after my own good self – as I was the Monument.

There is one specific reference to my Pillar (on page 339) which relates to my function (out of many) as the terminus for Dublin trams.  Speaking of monuments, the statue of Queen Victoria, which stood on Leinster Lawn – it was removed in 1948 to the Royal Hospital Kilmainham to make way for a car-park and in 1988 it was sent to Australia as a bicentenary gift – is another influence in the book. The statue is quite the minx, flirting shamelessly with the principal character, Paul Duggan, having previously glared at him. 

The Shaws of Bushy Park, Terenure

Robert ShawRobert Shaw was one of Dublin’s foremost financial experts, with his own bank, Robert Shaw and Son at Foster Place. He was born in 1774. His father, Robert Senior moved to Dublin in the 18th century where he prospered as a merchant and became the Accountant General of the Post Office. In 1785 Robert Senior acquired Terenure House, an estate of 35 acres – a sign of his growing wealth.

Image right: Robert Shaw Esq.

On reaching the age of 21 in 1795 Robert Shaw (Junior) obtained the municipal franchise and became a member of the Guild of Merchants. He was elected to the Dublin City Assembly (forerunner of the present day City Council) as a representative of the Merchants Guild. Robert Shaw was appointed to Dublin Corporation’s Committee of Finance and elected Lord Mayor in 1815-16. He was a founding member of the Royal Bank of Ireland which his bank merged with in 1837. Robert Shaw was a Member of Parliament for New Ross and Dublin from 1804 – 1826. As a compliment to his position he was conferred with a Baronetcy on 17 August 1821 during George IV’s visit to Dublin.

Belgian Connections in the Monica Roberts Letters

Freddy Berckmans and José VerachtertThe Monica Roberts Collection contains mainly letters she received from Irish Men fighting on the Western Front during World War 1. However two Belgian soldiers also correspond with Monica Roberts, writing in both French and English.  Library Assistant, Finola Frawley has transcribed and translated these letters, and provides us with an insight in their remarkable subjects and contents.

Sepia photo of Freddy Berckmans (standing) & José Verachtert (seated). Ref: DCLA/RDFA.01.08.039A

Freddy Berckmans serving in D44 2/I of the Belgian Army and writes approximately 17 letters to Monica which span from May 1914 until 24 January 1918 . The letters are mainly written from the Belgian Front, though he was only 17 at the outbreak of World War 1 and was initially in training.  His family and Monica Roberts’ know each other socially and he frequently refers to friends they have in common. He addresses her in the formal “vous” showing respectfulness. The tone is one of affection, humour and deep appreciation for presents she sends to him by post – butter scotch, air pillow, sardines, fountain pen, watch, (pen and watch were both later stolen), pipe & tobacco, writing paper, knife, electric light, inkstand, waterproof clothing, chocolates, cigarettes. A friend they have in common is a Mrs Conner who lives sometimes in Bradford, sometimes in London, and whose delicate health is often mentioned. Freddy’s mother, like Monica Roberts, sings and participates in concerts in aid of the war effort and this is also referred to.

No longer faceless or nameless – write the story of your First World War soldier

Assembly exhibitA long, long alphabetical list of 174,000 Allied soldiers who died on Belgian soil in the First World War; this is the new and emotive exhibit on display in Dublin City Library and Archive on Pearse Street until the end of March. The Assembly exhibit has been created by artist Val Carmen, for the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres. Consisting of a giant memorial book of the war dead and five old chairs from Passchaendaele Church, the exhibit is travelling around Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales to gather stories and mementoes of these dead soldiers.

Marino Garden Suburb

Marino elevationThe garden suburb of Marino was the first in Ireland and one of the earliest in Europe.  It is located on the north side of Dublin City.  This small garden village is unusual insofar as it was requested by the people themselves, at a public meeting held in Clontarf Town Hall in 1910. The historic village of Fairview was being redeveloped and the reclamation of land at the nearby Strand was underway in order to provide a public park.  The lessor of the land, James Walter, wrote to the local authority, Dublin Corporation, subsequent to the public meeting informing them that he would sell them his part of the Marino farm to create a miniature garden city.

Image: Marino Elevation by Horace O'Rourke (1919) view larger version of this image

News from Nelson: Welcome Visitors

Nelson's HeadMarch is always a difficult month for me – my Pillar and I were blown sky-high shortly after 1.30 on the morning of 8 March 1966, so this year I will be marking the 51st anniversary of this event.  That’s why I was particularly glad to welcome a group from the National League of the Blind Trust who called in last week.  The group consisted of visually-impaired and sighted friends and each of them approached me in turn for a detailed examination of my Head. They also found the two indentations made in my mouth by bullets during the 1916 Rising.  One or two of them noted that I didn’t wear a hat – I explained that I was too tough to need headgear, I could survive the cold perfectly well (although I also enjoy living in this cosy warm Reading Room – must be old age!).

Our Digital Repository Now Available Online

ImagesTraffic jams during the 1974 CIE Bus Strikes,  Croagh Patrick Pilgrimages (1958), and jubilant Heffo’s army supporters are among 43,000 historic photographs and documents  which are being made freely available online by Dublin City Council today.  These formerly unseen images date as early as 1757 and include photographs, postcards, letters, maps and historical memorabilia.

Highlights of the collection, which can be found at, include the Fáilte Ireland Photographic Collection with images of people, places and tourist locations all across Ireland from the 1930s, the Irish Theatre Archive Photographic Collection, and Dublin City Council Photographic Collection. Much of the material provides photographic evidence of Dublin's ever-changing streetscapes and buildings, as well as significant social, cultural, sporting, and political events in the City. Events as diverse as the Eucharistic Congress (1932), bonny baby competitions in the North Inner City, and the Dublin Football Team of the 1970s all feature, along with sombre Dublin streets in the aftermath of tragedies such as the 1941 North Strand and the 1974 Bombings.

News from Nelson: Joshua Dawson

Joshua Dawson portraitDear Friends and Fellow-Sailors!

From my vantage point on top of my Pillar I had a great view of Dublin and often wondered what was going on behind the hall door.  One of my favourite buildings was the Mansion House, the residence of Dublin’s Lord Mayor.  This was built between 1705-10 outside the city in lovely country parkland by Joshua Dawson, a civil servant who was also a property developer (nothing new under the sun, then!). 

Portrait of Joshua Dawson

Joshua also laid out a new street, calling it Dawson Street after himself (there’s also a Joshua Lane) and built a church for a new Church of Ireland parish, to be called ‘St. Ann’s’ after his lady wife, Ann Carr.