The 20th Annual Sir John T. Gilbert Lecture - Transcript
The following is a transcript of the twentieth Annual Sir John T. Gilbert 20th commemorative lecture, 'Gentlemen’s daughters in Dublin cloisters: The social world of nuns in early 18th-century Dublin', given by Bernadette Cunningham at Dublin City Library & Archive on 25 January 2017.AudioWelcome to the Dublin City Public Libraries and Archives Podcast. In this episode, "Gentlemen’s Daughters in Dublin Cloisters", Dr Bernadette Cunningham examines the social world of nuns in early 18th century Dublin. The twentieth annual Sir John T. Gilbert Commemorative Lecture, was recorded in front of a live audience at Dublin City Library and Archive, Pearse Street on the 25th of January 2017.Good evening everybody, Deputy Lord Mayor, City Librarian and friends. My topic this evening is the social world of the communities of Poor Clare and Dominican nuns who established themselves in the Oxmantown and Smithfield area of Dublin in the early eighteenth century. Their story is, in many ways, a microcosm of the social history of eighteenth-century Dublin, more broadly at a time of rapid expansion of the Catholic population to the north of the River Liffey. These convents did not exist in isolation, and their archives offer glimpses into the wider social networks of the gentlemen’s daughters from many parts of Ireland who lived, by choice or necessity, in Dublin cloisters.As a northsider himself, if John T. Gilbert had written a fourth volume of his history of Dublin, he might have ventured home north of the Liffey and he would surely have explored the three 18th-century north-side parishes of St Mary, St Michan and St Paul. At St Michan’s he would have seen the Linen Hall, the medieval parish church of St Michan. In St Paul’s parish he would have seen the Blue Coat Boy’s Hospital and the original St Paul’s church, built in 1702 at the northern end of Oxmantown Green; And he would have seen and written about the imposing structures of the military barracks on a large, elevated site above the river.Somewhat less distinctive would have been the convents of the Dominican Nuns and the Poor Clares, one on Channel Row, now called Brunswick Street North the other nearby on King Street North. This evening, I would like to bring you to this northern edge of the city, between Smithfield cattle market and Grangegorman Lane, in search of two communities of Catholic women who made their home there in the early decades of the eighteenth century. John Rocque’s detailed map of the city in 1756 shows us where to look. He marked one ‘nunry’ on the north side of Channel Row, facing the junction at Red Cow Lane, which was the Dominican convent. It was set alongside a landscaped garden, that would have formed the convent grounds. Beyond it to the north were fields rather than streets, the area known as Grangegorman, then owned by Christ Church Cathedral, (the landlord of properties on Channel Row), a pleasant landscape, on good land on a south-facing incline.John Rocque marked a second ‘nunry’ a short distance away, between Channel Row and King Street, in a more built-up area, with a gate leading to some green space immediately adjoining, again presumably the convent garden. This seems to have been the location of the convent of the Poor Clares.The convent buildings are long gone now. The Dominican convent was converted for use as part of the Richmond Surgical Hospital in 1811. Both the main convent residence and the adjoining chapel were remodelled c.1810; one ward was known as the ‘chapel ward’. The manner in which the convent buildings were reused can be seen from architect William Murray’s plans of the surgical hospital as built, drawn in 1830 when further changes were made. These buildings were demolished as unsafe in November 1944. A modern apartment block now occupies the site. The site, which faced Red Cow Lane, is not to be confused with other later red-brick hospital buildings closer to Church Street, used until recently as a district court house, and currently being redeveloped.Nearby, the presumed location of the former Poor Clare convent on a site set back from King Street north, accessed via a laneway opposite Brown Street, is awaiting redevelopment. The convent site and garden seem to be occupied now by St Paul’s school, accessed from Brunswick Street.While there is little trace of the convents now in the Oxmantown streetscape, some fascinating archival records survive in the convents that succeeded them, with microfilm copies available in the National Library of Ireland. They allow us to look inside the walls of these nunneries, to see who was living there, how they lived, and what their connections were with the wider community.2. Catholic Dublin in the early 18th centuryIn the early eighteenth century, Oxmantown was a rapidly expanding suburb. The Hearth Money returns of 1705 for Dublin recorded 7,369 houses in the city of which just 1,336, or 18 per cent, were on the north side. By the time of Rocque’s map in 1756 the developed area north of the river was almost equal in extent to the south side. The northern suburb was more neatly laid out and less densely populated than the medieval core. It was a distinct area. The people of Oxmantown and Smithfield in the eighteenth-century considered that they resided outside the city of Dublin - a pleasant alternative to living in the medieval city.Some of the political and social elite built new houses on the north side, but generally the area was home to the middling sort of merchants and tradesmen. It was distinctly more Catholic than the south side. Many residents had come from outside the capital, and these included the women religious who lived in the convents there. The first nuns in the Poor Clare and Dominican convents in Dublin were all newcomers to the city, as were most of the lay women who lived with them as ‘parlour boarders’.The area was divided into three civil parishes – shown on Brooking’s 1728 map. Similarly, new Catholic parishes were created to cater for the expanding population. The Catholic archbishop of Dublin actively encouraged the expansion of religious institutions in the area. By 1708, a Mass house was functioning in St Paul’s parish. Located to the rear of 11 Arran Quay, this make-shift structure would collapse in 1729, killing several parishioners. After that calamity, a nearby warehouse was converted into a chapel and remained in use until a Catholic church was built at Arran Quay in the 1830s. In St Mary’s parish, there was a well concealed, but internally elaborate, chapel in Liffey Street. Among religious orders of men, the Capuchins established a house at Church Street, and their chapel was built at Church Street West in St Michan’s parish in 1720.A convent of Benedictine nuns had been established in Dublin in the late 1680s, occupying a substantial building on Channel Row. The foundation stone, dated 1688, found near the site, is now preserved at Kylemore Abbey, County Galway. That Benedictine initiative proved unsustainable in the changed political circumstances that followed the defeat of King James at the battle of the Boyne, and the Irish nuns returned to their former continental convent at Ypres in the 1690s.3. Establishment of several convents of nuns in 1710sIn 1712, a group of Poor Clare nuns moved to Dublin from Galway, to the newly created Catholic parish of St Paul. They came from a Galway convent that had existed since the 1640s. The community in Galway had grown too large to be sustainable, and this may have prompted the formation of a new convent in Dublin. They initially occupied the former Benedictine convent at Channel Row, but soon moved to nearby King Street where the Poor Clares remained until 1826.A few years later, some Dominican nuns arrived, encouraged by Fr Cornelius Nary. They likewise transferred from a Galway convent to the same Dublin parish of St Paul. Eight Dominican nuns moved to Dublin in 1717, and by the end of that year they were residing at Channel Row in the convent vacated by the Poor Clares. They probably obtained a 31 year lease on the premises.These communities of religious women were part of an international network of religious houses. In 1721 the Dublin Dominican convent was officially recognised by the general chapter of the Order and the nuns were granted permission to elect their own superior. At another general chapter at Bologna in 1725, it was recognised that the Irish Dominican convents in Galway and Dublin were viable, and it was resolved that those Irish women living in Dominican monasteries abroad should return to Ireland, though that did not happen. Two other Dominican convents were established at Drogheda and Waterford in the 1720s and 1730s, which is evidence of further demand for such institutions.Gradually, through the early eighteenth century, the political environment in Ireland became less hostile to Catholic communities of nuns, and while they were not officially permitted to live as cloistered religious communities, their presence was usually tolerated. As Maureen Wall explained in respect of the Penal Laws, ‘limited toleration, by connivance, of the Catholic religion’, while maintaining protestant supremacy, was deemed to offer the best prospect of political stability in Ireland.Both the Poor Clares and the Dominicans took in lay women as boarders, usually referred to as pensioners or parlour boarders. The income from this source helped finance the convents. Both also ran small boarding schools for girls.The existence of other boarding schools in the city offered a context in which convents of women could function without attracting undue attention. In the Flying Post of 30 June 1707, Mrs Dawson’s boarding school announced a move from Meath Street to St Mary’s Street, described as being in Oxmantown near ‘Caple Street’. Here ‘all young ladies may have boarding and schooling.’ The emphasis was on needlework, along with ‘dancing, writing and pastry’, ‘and all manner of work done for gentlewomen and others’.The curriculum in the convent schools was probably similar, and the convent accounts mention the hiring of a dancing master on occasion. By offering a boarding house for women, and also offering a place of education for girls, the Dublin convents had a public image that helped at least partially disguise the primary religious purpose of their institutions.Significantly, the lay women and young girls who lived in these convents were not randomly chosen. For example, one of the parlour boarders who lived in the Dominican convent from the late 1720s until her death in the early 1740s, was Mrs Mary O’Gara. Mrs O’Gara was the daughter of Randall Fleming, 16th Baron Slane, and was the widow of Captain Richard Fleming of County Meath and latterly of Colonel Oliver O’Gara, of Moygara in County Sligo. Following the death of her second husband, in the mid-1720s, she returned to Ireland after many years in France. Among the children in the boarding school in 1728 were two Plunkett girls who were Mary O’Gara’s granddaughters, the daughters of Bridget Fleming and Randall Plunkett, 11th Lord Dunsany. Mary’s daughter from her first marriage, Bridget Fleming, who had married Lord Dunsany in 1711, also became a parlour boarder for a time in late 1741, in the final months of her mother’s life. Bridget herself was widowed by then, but may have resided in the convent to take care of her dying mother.Others living there in 1741 included ‘Mrs Aylward and daughters’ - another family group of women and children among the boarders. Miss Nagle and servant and Mrs Nagle and servant were both listed in the accounts – possibly a mother and daughter – while Sara and Mary Kelly were among the siblings living in the house in the same year.It is likely that similar family connections were commonplace among the other women and girls connected to the Dominican convent. The presence of lay women and children was not unusual. In convents throughout western Europe at this time, accommodating boarders and schoolgirls was the norm. It was a means of ensuring the financial viability of communities of religious women. While the parlour boarders in Dublin had better furnished and more luxurious rooms than the cells assigned to the nuns, they would probably have attended many of the religious services that were a central part of the daily convent routine.4.What was the social background of the nuns?The family backgrounds of most nuns in both the Dominican and Poor Clare convents can be described as Old English Catholic. The first four women in the Dublin convent of the Poor Clares were Mary Augustine Lynch (d.1744), Margaret Clare Kerwin (d.1735), Bridget Antony Daly (d.1737), and Margaret Antony French (d.1754). The family names of the Anglo-Norman ‘tribes of Galway’ were prominent. Thus, it was not a case of Dublin women returning to Dublin. Encouraged by Catholic priest the Revd Cornelius Nary as well as by the Franciscan provincial, these west of Ireland nuns were on a mission to enhance the Catholic institutional presence in the capital, a task in which they succeeded.The young Dominican women who moved from Galway to Dublin were also drawn from Anglo Irish families. Their surnames were Bellew, Browne, Keating, Plunkett, Rice, Vaughan and Weaver. Apart from the first superior, Mary Bellew, professed in 1703, the others had all been professed in the years 1709 to 1714. Thus it was a very young Dominican community of women drawn from prosperous families that formed in St Paul’s parish. They were known publicly as ‘Mrs Bellew’s family’, disguising their true purpose of living in religious community inspired by the life of St Dominic.Some snippets of information about the early experiences of the Poor Clares are recorded in their convent chronicle compiled in the 1820s. A story is told about bailiffs coming in just as Mass was concluding on 7 Sept 1712, and two the nuns being apprehended. An officer allowed Margaret French to escape, perhaps indicating some sympathy with the nuns. More significant is the fact that, although only recently arrived from Galway, this nun Margaret French had friends in Dublin to whom she could go for help. When she escaped, we read that ‘She made off to Colonel Donelan’s on Cuckoo Lane, his lady [wife] being her relative, and from thence she sent for her uncle, Mr Francis Lynch, an eminent merchant on Merchant’s Quay’. The same narrative had earlier recorded that this nun, Margaret French, was ‘daughter to James French of Porterron, of one of the most ancient families in the west of Galway’. Her mother was a Lynch.Francis Lynch of Merchant’s Quay, no doubt originally from Galway, continued to provide protection to the Poor Clares in Dublin. After the 1712 raid, the nuns were allowed live in the convent, but according to their historical narrative: ‘Mrs Kerwin and Mrs Daly were obliged to appear at the King’s Bench and have bail entered for them every term. This was entirely effected at the expense of Mr Lynch, for which he has had the constant prayers of the community’.Even more routinely, in many instances the financial management of the dowries of the nuns and the quarterly or annual payments of interest on bonds were often managed by male relatives – fathers, brothers, or uncles of the women concerned. Dowries were in the range £200 to £300 each and convent investments required management.The mercantile, landed, or professional networks of the nuns who joined the Dublin Poor Clares after 1712 is clear. Margaret O’Kelly, who joined the Poor Clares in June 1714 was daughter of Captain William O’Kelly. He was described as ‘proprietor of the great estate of Gallagh’ [Dunmore Barony, Co. Galway], and his wife was one of the Dillons who owned the large Clonbrock estate in the same county. Mary Claire Cruise who joined c. 1715 was daughter of Peter Cruise and his wife Elizabeth Dillon of Co. Meath. Jane Crilly was daughter of Captain Crilly of Co. Louth; her mother was a Clinton. Mary Joseph Chievers was daughter of Councillor John Chievers of Carlingford, Co. Louth. Amongst the other novices who joined in Dublin were Clare Sexton, ‘a merchant’s daughter from Co. Clare’ and Catherine Arthur, a member of the Arthur family of Limerick city. We learn that in June 1718 a young nun who was ill in the convent was a niece of Lord Dunsany indicating that that particular family had relatives in both the Poor Clare and the Dominican convents.Over the next few years the Poor Clares continued to accept new members into their new Dublin communities, almost all of them drawn from propertied or merchant families. While they had taken a vow of poverty, their relatively wealthy backgrounds and genteel upbringing shaped their manner of living. It has long been recognised that the financial support from their families in the form of dowries and gifts to the convent was crucial to the viability of the convents. In practice, though, they never balanced the books – month after month, year after year, their outgoings exceeded their income.Perhaps, too, the legislative restrictions on the functioning of Catholic religious houses may have strengthened the ongoing links between the nuns and members of their extended families. It meant, for example, that merchant Francis Lynch had a direct and continuing practical role in assisting with the financial and legal affairs of the nuns in the Poor Clare convent – not just his niece, Margaret French, but others also.The difficulties created by the legal status of Catholics were challenging. Catholics were not legally permitted to live in religious communities in eighteenth-century Ireland, and the nuns were obliged to disguise the nature of their establishment. Within two years of their arrival the Poor Clares had moved from the former Benedictine convent in Channel Row to more concealed premises nearby, but in June 1718, their more discreetly located house was again raided by the authorities. The bailiffs came to check that the building was operating merely a residence for pensioners and not as a convent, that they were not dressed in religious habits, and not observing the rules of a continental convent. On this occasion, the official convent chronicle relates that the nuns quickly disguised themselves as laywomen. Interestingly, the nuns were also able to get help from passers by, alerting them from a window, ‘and the house was soon filled with the friends of the inmates’. [2012, p. 293] Again, even though they observed a monastic rule, they were not an isolated group withdrawn from the world, they had friends and neighbours who knew them and who passed by their house every day.On the occasion of the 1718 raid of the King Street convent, three carriages full of women were brought before Judge Caulfields, of whom just one was a professed Poor Clare nun, three were novices and the rest were lay women who lived with them. Following a court appearance, the women were allowed resume their residence, it being deemed to be ‘no other than a house of lodgers’, an apparent example of expedient toleration in practice. From 1718 onwards, the Poor Clare nuns in King Street ceased to wear a habit, and may have relaxed other elements of the strict rule of St Clare. This became a matter of division in the community by 1751, but that is a separate story.5. The nuns and their neighbours The nuns in both the Dominican and Poor Clare convents had clear ideas about their social position and the daily tasks appropriate to a genteel and prudent lifestyle.It is important to realise that the early education of these women, not just in reading and writing, but also in music, dancing, and other social accomplishments, useful in polite society, influenced their lives as nuns.Aside from time spent in prayer and meditation, ladylike occupations such as needlework were part of the daily routine. A workroom was set aside in Channel Row for such activities, though it was sparsely furnished with just one table, three chairs and a stool. However, cleaning, cooking, washing clothes, brewing, gardening, looking after the cow, cleaning chimneys, household repairs and other manual tasks were among the things the nuns paid others to do. It is evident from the account books that the choir nuns employed servants to do such tasks, as would have been the case in their family homes in their earlier years. The household servants, some of whom lived in the convent, regularly feature in the accounts. Generally referred to by their Christian name only, or sometimes just the ‘washerwoman’, or the ‘gardener’, the meagre payments to them were often well in arrears.Others who had almost daily contact with the convent included the local men and women who supplied essential foodstuffs: bread and flour, milk and butter, eggs, beef, mutton, fish and fowl, and a variety of vegetables. The nuns also regularly purchased malt for brewing, or purchased beer and ale, the normal drink in an era of unsafe water supply. The outhouses associated with the convents included a brew-house; the Dominican one was rebuilt more than once in the early eighteenth century.Goods were routinely delivered to the convent from the market. In 1728 for example, Mary Maguire brought general goods from the market, Else Grady and Margaret Goss supplied milk, various others supplied eggs, John Bruton supplied coal, Elenor Dillon did washing, and Terence Hynes was employed to keep the garden in good order and supply salads, root vegetables, herbs, and ‘every other thing proper for the kitchen in its season as the ground will afford’. In the same year, 1728, a woman named Christian Usher, was paid 6s. for baking. It was agreed she should be paid 2d. per dish, big or little. Allowance was made ‘for the dish she melted’.Another regular caller was a huckster, whose name we eventually discover was Thady McDonnough (possibly another migrant from the west of Ireland), who supplied miscellaneous food and other goods and was even the source of loans to the Dominican nuns on occasion. Very few of these trades-people were able to sign their names. Most of the women, who signed for payments received, used a mark only, as did some of the men.The regular diet of bread, oatmeal, beef and mutton, eggs, fish, potatoes, vegetables and salads, washed down with beer, was occasionally supplemented by more exotic items. Tea and coffee were available, and they occasionally noted the purchase of new tea or coffee pots. Green tea, cakes and biscuits, cream, mushrooms, mustard, oysters and rice, were more occasional purchases. Cauliflower was grown in the garden one year. Some but not all of the wine bought – sometimes direct from a French merchant – was for liturgical use. Brandy was occasionally bought. They paid 12s. 2d. for ’Snuff for the Sisters’ in March 1743/4. The servants received a ‘St Patrick’s Pot’ and a Christmas box, and the feast of St Dominic was also celebrated.Other items routinely purchased included candles & soap. Wax candles were used extensively in the chapel, particularly on special occasions, but would have been used throughout the house also.There were frequent payments for household maintenance to chimney cleaners, slaters, plasterers, carpenters, and glaziers for window repairs. In 1729, when Thomas Bryan worked for six days at 2s. a day, using deal boards, nails, hinges, glue, & bed cord, he was probably making beds. They sometimes bought chairs from a supplier in Bride’s Alley. A smith was employed to supply iron bars for accessible windows and padlocks for the garden gate in 1729, 1730, 1733, 1734 and 1735 - an indication that the security of the buildings was an issue on more than one occasion. A break-in at the Channel Row boarding school was reported in Pue’s Occurrences in October 1754.Other frequent purchases included materials and specialist threads for making curtains, vestments, and other garments. There are indications of a dress code, with check gingham bought for servants and blue aprons made for lay sisters, distinguishing them clearly from the choir nuns.In the 1730s the Dominicans were paying rent on three buildings, totalling almost £100 per year. By the 1740s the rent was more than six months in arrears. March 1744 was typical: they paid £42 10s., half a year’s rent for two houses, due the previous September. In those years they were also paying an annual rent of £10 for a separate house for ‘Mr Egan’ a priest who lived there unnoticed by the civil authorities. In 1752, the nuns were careful to negotiate a discount ‘being allow’d for ye 11 days’ that were lost due to the adjustment of the calendar in that year.The convents were part of a wider Dublin community whose affairs were managed by the local Church of Ireland parishes. The Dominican convent had the misfortune to straddle two parishes. The dividing line between the parishes of St Michan and St Paul ran northwards from Smithfield market along Red Cow Lane and through the plot occupied by the Channel Row convent.Like other parish residents, they paid local taxes and charges. In a typical year, they paid Grand Jury cess, hearth money, minister’s money, watch money, lamp money and cess for the poor house. They also paid for water, and sometimes paid for the cleaning of the nearby river Bradogue.The local collectors of all of these payments would have had a good idea of who the nuns were, and it is very clear that they were not living in secrecy.As well as being local taxpayers, they were an active presence in the lives of the Catholic laity in Dublin. This is evident from the success of the Rosary confraternity operating in the Dominican convent chapel at Channel Row by 1733. These devotions drew sufficient members of the laity for the Dominican friars to become concerned. In 1747 the friars nearby attempted to suppress the Channel Row confraternity because it was drawing people away from their own similar confraternity. Such rivalry could only emerge where semi-public Catholic devotion was tolerated in the city, and where the activities of the nuns enjoyed significant lay support.Devotion to the relic of the True Cross was also facilitated and was a source of some income for the Dominican nuns. For example, £2 10s. 1d. was received ‘at the cross’ on Good Friday 1747. An ebony cross reliquary dating from 1732 still survives.Indulgences could also be gained for certain devotions. Entries in the accounts to pay postage for foreign letters appear to relate to the role of the convent as intermediary in obtaining indulgences.In the late 1720s, a pamphlet by Stephen Radcliff, vicar of Naas, addressed the issue of toleration of Catholics. It included an appendix by an ‘anonymous popish author’, which referred to some Catholic activities of which the government seemed unaware. The author instanced the establishment of several monasteries and nunneries, ‘and particularly, a famous convent of the latter, in Channel Row, Dublin, where the most celebrated Italian musicians help to make the voices of the Holy Sisters more melodious; and many Protestant fine gentlemen have been invited to take their places in a convenient gallery and hear the performance.’Radcliff’s claims were almost certainly true. When the Dominican Provincial, Bernard MacHenry visited in 1734, he observed [in Latin] that ‘they have many ornaments and other precious things pertaining to the chapel’ Among them were a very large oil painting depicting the crucifixion, in the style of Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641) which was the main altar-piece. It measured almost 3 metres by 2 metres, and was valued at £16 in 1726. It now hangs in the Dominican Convent in Cabra, where an early painting of St Dominic is also preserved.A report on the state and condition of Roman Catholic chapels in Dublin, compiled in 1749, gave further details on the Dominican convent chapel.‘The house is large, the chapel decent, the altar grand, well wainscoted and adorned with pillars. The altar-piece is a painting of the crucifixion. On one side is the picture of St Dominic and on the other that of St Katherine of Siena; on the altar pillars stand two small gilt images of Angels with wings expanded, each having a wax taper in his hand. The Tabernacle is double gilt, about which stand six silver candle-sticks on the altar, with as many artificial nosegays. Before the altar stands a silver lamp, and near it a silver branch for wax lights. Here is another altar also called the Rosary Altar, whereon is a picture of the V[irgin] M[ary] giving the Beads to St Dominic. The sacristy is large and commodious, the pulpit neat and there are two confessionals at the lower end of the chapel. The gallery serves for a choir, and has many stalls in it, at the front of which is a very sweet organ, the gift of Mrs Mary Bellew.’This, then, was the setting for the Rosary devotions that attracted many of the laity to the convent chapel in the mid-eighteenth century. In the 1760s Dominican historian Thomas de Burgo described the Channel Row chapel as‘an oasis in the desert, a centre of devotion where the devout soul would find many spiritual helps not to be found elsewhere, for the nuns had the ceremonies of the Church carried out with becoming splendour. The organ was used for choral services and at High Mass.’This same chapel provided the venue for the ordination of three Catholic bishops, who were members of the Dominican Order, no doubt with much elaborate ceremonial. That this was so gives us an inkling of just how prominent the Channel Row convent was in the Catholic ecclesiastical life of Dublin. The women used the resources at their disposal to achieve a degree of style and comfort.[The Poor Clares had an equally elaborate chapel, described by Mrs Mary Delany in 1751.]6. What were the residential part of the convent like?The Dominican convent at Channel Row in the eighteenth century was a large establishment, with an extensive house and a garden. There were 27 or 28 nuns in the community in 1735, and 30 religious women resided there in 1750. The house was largely rebuilt, to the original plan, c. 1748, which was 31 years after they had first arrived. This major investment in the building presumably began after they had negotiated another long lease.The account books contain several inventories of the furniture and furnishings of the building, itemised room by room. The 1741 inventory is typical. It opens with a detailed list of the contents of the chapel. The contents of the residential part of the convent were then itemised. There was a kitchen, refectory, brewhouse, cellar, washhouse, green parlour, white parlour, school parlour, the room over the school which contained 3 beds, the servants’ room with another 3 beds, the infirmary, the work room, 35 individual bedrooms, a gazebo, and a dairy. [There was also a stable.]A typical nun’s cell contained a bed with curtains, and a chair or two, and sometimes a table. They did not all have a window or a fireplace. (There were 24 fireplaces in the main residence.) In contrast, a parlour boarder such as Mrs Nagle hadOne standing bed with curtains;two pairs of Paragon window curtains, and a spare pair of curtains in the closet;twelve walnut chairs with silk seats, one walnut settee;one moving grate, fender and set of irons;two tea tables;one pair of brass branches (candle holders); one swinging glass;one pair of brass candlesticks & snuffers;one chair bed,[three other tables and a stool] – quite a clutter!There was an obvious difference between the worldly comforts of those who had taken a vow of poverty and those who had not. The difference was also a matter of lifestyle. Mrs Nagle and others who had similar large rooms entertained family and friends in their own rooms, while the nuns would have adopted a more communal lifestyle.We get little enough sense from the accounts of the daily routines of the nuns, almost always conducted within the convent walls. The day would have been regulated with a routine of prayer and devotion. There were only occasional changes of scene. The Dominican accounts make periodic mention of coach hire for ‘the sisters going to the country’, and on two occasions in 1733 this was specifically stated to have been for the purpose of ‘takeing the air’. They probably did not venture much beyond Glasnevin or Finglas.There are some indications that the nuns were rather lax about the idea of enclosure, which had been stipulated by the Council of Trent as the norm for all communities of nuns. In his 1739 visitation, Rev John Fottrell, the Dominican provincial, insisted that the Dublin nuns should be punctual and conscientious about attending devotions at the prescribed times, beginning with Prime at 6am in summer, and 7am in winter, and that they were to attend the first meal of the day.Fottrell also instructed that they were not to go out from the convent ‘without leave and urgent necessity’. He insisted that ‘none shall go alone, nor to any other place but to such as the superior gives them leave to go, that they shall not go otherwise than in a coach, and that they shall be home before night.’He also complained that ‘It has given great offence to see young Nuns walking for a considerable time with secular men in the garden. This particular has given offence or scandal not only to some [of] the Religious, but to Gentlewomen that lodge in the House.’The Dominican provincial was also concerned that the nuns’ style of dress was too elaborate. In 1739 he instructed that ‘a uniformity should be observed in your dress, that no new customs should be introduced, and in particular I absolutely forbid you the use of ruffles, either at home or abroad, and that none without particular licence shall wear or lie in linen.’Nuns going out in public too often - or alone - seems to have been a continuing issue as far as the church authorities were concerned. In 1750, Canon John Murphy, a secular Dublin priest representing the Irish bishops at Rome, complained that the Dublin Dominican nuns did not observe a formal cloister, wore lay clothes, went out in public too often, and were insufficiently responsible to the male superior general of the order. His comments appear designed to achieve stricter ecclesiastical control over the nuns, but were unsuccessful.In the case of the Poor Clares, we get a brief glimpse of one nun’s outing to visit friends in 1751. Mary Delany and Laetitia Bushe were joined by a Miss Crilly, for dinner at Delville, Mary Delany’s house on Glasnevin Hill. The visit had been prearranged and Laetitia Bushe collected Jane Crilly from the Poor Clare convent. We know of the episode from a chatty letter Mary Delany wrote to her sister in January 1751.‘And who is Miss Crilly? Say you. Why, she is a nun professed, and lives at the Nunnery in King Street, Dublin; but nuns in this country have the liberty of going to see relatives and particular friends: this young woman is a relation of Mrs Forde’s, and is just returned from France, where she has been ten years for the recovery of her health. She ... is extremely sprightly, civil, and entertaining, was in raptures with everything in Delville’.The sociability for the day did not end there, as the two hostesses escorted Miss Crilly back to the convent by coach after dinner.‘She entreated me to go in, that some of her sisterhood might gratify their curiosity by seeing me; we drank tea with them, saw their chapel, and I played the organ; they wear no particular habit, only a black stuff nightgown and plain linen ... Bushe was very droll amongst them all, and said a thousand comical things, which they seemed not at all offended at. They have a handsome parlour to receive their company in’.Clearly Mrs Delany, the wife of an Anglican dean, was somewhat surprised at the freedom of the nuns, their lack of primness, but was little disappointed by their informal dress. ‘I should like them much better in their habit’ she commented.Jane Crilly’s outing to dinner in Delville was not an isolated event. On 13 April of the same year, Mrs Delany told of another visit.‘... here flew in my nun Miss Crilly: sprightly and agreeable as she is, I wish she had stayed away an hour longer – she has overwhelmed me with praise and compliments. I must break her of that abundance of French civility, it quite confounds me, set that aside, and she is an agreeable, entertaining creature, and seems to have good principles and pretty sentiments.She has been confined with sickness and devotion, and I don’t call upon her so often as I should like to do, as people are so offended here if these nuns are much taken notice of, that I should be thought disaffected.’So, it seems that the extent to which it was acceptable to consort with Catholic nuns was a matter of discussion in Mrs Delany’s own social circle. The nuns, too, may have exercised caution about consorting too freely with Anglican women, but it is clear that their social circle outside the convent walls was not restricted to their Catholic relatives and acquaintances.In this as in many other dimensions, it seems to me, the social world of these nuns was a microcosm of Dublin society in the eighteenth century. The necessary interactions across social and denominational groups that were a defining characteristic of urban living, were part of the story of these Dublin convents.7. ConclusionThe interdependence of families and the primacy of kin relationships was an essential element of the lives of these recent migrants to Dublin. These religious women from gentry and merchant families were sustained by their relatives and other benefactors.The presence of these Dominican and Poor Clare convents certainly contributed to the expansion of Catholicism in eighteenth-century Dublin. They succeeded in creating viable Catholic communities in the city of Dublin, despite the social, economic and legislative restrictions on women religious, and despite the precariousness of their finances. Within the convent environment, they would have engaged in the kind of sociability necessary to cultivate and sustain those kin relationships.The limitations on women’s education and the subordinate role of women in society could be mitigated but not overcome in a convent environment. But for those who lived in these religious communities, the restrictions of convent life, or the comforts of living as a parlour boarder, were clearly preferable to the alternatives.The fortunes of these convents declined in the later eighteenth century. Economic crises meant the circumstances of Catholic merchant and gentry families were reduced. Convents were forced to spend some of the capital of the nuns’ dowries, rather than living off the interest, which seriously undermined their long-term viability.At the same time, throughout western Europe and in Ireland, attitudes towards women, not least surplus daughters and widows of the gentry, began to change. Where some families had earlier encouraged women to live in convents in the absence of viable alternatives, that trend became less pronounced as the century progressed.Yet there was more to convents than that. The religious imperative was strong and these communities of religious women survived, though with reduced numbers. They eventually became involved in philanthropic care of the poor, as they adapted to changing social attitudes. The Sisters of St Clare in Harold’s Cross are the modern successors of some of the King Street community who established a second convent in Drumcondra Lane, now Dorset Street, in 1751, before moving to Harold’s Cross and opening an orphanage there in 1804. The Dominicans moved from Brunswick Street to Clontarf in 1808, before relocating to Cabra in 1819, where they still have a strong presence in education and care of the deaf.The communal memories of their early years in Dublin were not forgotten, and historians within the Orders have periodically documented their histories, and crucially, have preserved the archival records that allow us glimpse the world of eighteenth-century Catholic Dublin, and the world of these gentlemen’s and merchants’ daughters, from inside the convent walls.Thank you for your attention.Thank-you for listening to the Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive Podcast. To hear more, please subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud. You can also visit our website - dublincitypubliclibraries.ie and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
O'Connell Street...the story of the street and its buildings - Transcript
The following is the transcript of a talk given by Klaus Unger and Stephen Kane in Rathmines Library on 23 August 2016.AudioWelcome to the Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive Podcast. In this episode, architects Klaus Unger and Stephen Kane present a history of Dublin City's main thoroughfare, O'Connell Street, formerly named Sackville Street. Hear about the unique design features of some of its landmark buildings and the stories behind them and find out more about the influence of the Wide Street Commission, Lord Gardiner, and renowned architects Edward Lovett Pearce, Richard Cassels, James Gandon and Francis Johnston.Recorded in front of a live audience at Rathmines Library on 23 August 2016 as part of the Libraries' Heritage Week Programme.KlausSo ladies and gentlemen, can I just give up a warning notice in a way, we’re not historian, for any historians who are here. We are retired architects. And I recommend a lovely book by David Dixon on Dublin, Making of a Capital City for those who want to take a more detailed view of the development of Dublin. I’m going to give a very brief introductory background to the origins of O’Connell Street as it evolved from the kind of tangle of medieval Dublin, and Stephen’s going to take us through the journey of its development from there on.O’Connell Street has been the occasion of momentous events throughout the 20th century. And we’ve got an aerial view of what we are talking about, principally O’Connell Street and O’Connell Bridge there. And that’s the aerial of the actual architectural conservation area, that features centrally O’Connell Street. But it has as I said been the occasion of momentous events throughout the 20th century, which starts here with Collins funeral in 1922. Then the world heavyweight boxing bout, boxing seems to be a thing nowadays in 1923, which was interesting because this occurred as a result of it being refused in London, England and because it black and white. And the white man, the Irish man in fact won the bout at the time of the day. The next one is the Eucharistic Congress, 1932. Then we’re showing Kennedy’s appearance in 1963. And thereafter, Patrick’s Day events which have occurred every year and every Patrick’s Day, bringing thousands and thousands and thousands of people to O’Connell Street.And apart from the most significant event of the 20th century, which was the Easter Rising, O’Connell Street has enjoyed all kinds of events, such as we’ve shown with these huge crowds of people attending. So the 20th century is a momentous time in the story of O’Connell Street. I have a personal interest in advancing that period, because I was born at the top end of O’Connell Street at the end of the first half of the 20th century. So that puts me very much in the frame.I’m going to start the story with a look at, this is the cover of the Book of Dublin, which is the official handbook published by the Corporation of Dublin in 1929, which said that the main features of modern Dublin may be said to date back to an act of the Irish parliament in 1757, appointing commissioners for making a wide and convenient street from Essex Bridge to the Castle of Dublin. I would like to suggest however, that the evolution of Dublin as a European capital city began perhaps 100 years earlier, when on the 27th of July 1662, the Duke of Ormond landed in Dublin, having been sent by King Charles II to take charge of governance of Ireland. And that this was the day which Maurice Craig in his tome, Dublin 1660 to 1860 refers to the occasion of that date being the day when renaissance came to Ireland.Maurice Craig is a more for whom I had great respect as an architectural historian and just as a kind of a slight digress, he was renowned as an architectural historian, conservative in nature, naturally. But he wrote a wonderful letter to the Taoiseach in 1953, which I valued greatly, because I was engaged in work in Dublin Castle at the time. And he wrote that letter in support of a proposal which had been made by Raymond McGrath, the chief architect in OPW in 1946, and years afterwards, which was the design of a large crescent shaped development at the back of Dublin Castle housing the whole of the Irish civil service, which from memory was going to be built for something less than two million pounds at that time. It was a very brave, wonderful letter and I’m just mentioning this because despite the fact that he was an architectural historian, he was also very much promoting the idea of contemporary design in conjunction with respect for the historical precincts and locations. Needless to say, Maurice’s intervention didn’t work and Raymond’s scheme was never built, except for one part, the Companies Office is the only part of that crescent development that was ever in fact created.Back again to the Duke of Ormond, who having come to Dublin after a number of years in exile on the continent, was concerned to create a peaceful environment for principally the Protestant, and if possible Catholic communities within the pale, and considered as Maurice says in his book, that “the noblest outward sign of peace in life would be the creation of public works”. And so he set about instigating works by the commencement of development of the City Quays, Phoenix Park, and most notably the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham. It’s also worth noting that the population of Dublin at this time in the mid 17th century was less than 10,000 people. And although Dublin was a city with a Royal Charter in the centre of civil and military authority in Ireland, other towns were exercising a bit of competition for primacy, like Armagh, which was the ecclesiastical centre, Drogheda and Kilkenny and so on. The note about the population is interesting because as we’ll see, it jumps enormously in the subsequent years. As Maurice Craig advises in his book, “By 1700 it has gone from less than 10,000 up to 75,000, by 1750 to 150,000 and by 1850 to a quarter of a million”.We have on the screen here Steve’s map, 1610 which shows the kind of layout of Dublin at the time. And just to note over here on the right, is Trinity College. Way over on the right. And Dublin Castle is number 23 there. So that’s Trinity and that’s Dublin Castle here. And if O’Connell Street, which isn’t yet even thought about were there, if you kind of relate it to Trinity College, it will be somewhere over here. So you can see that the whole of the city is over towards its foundation as the Ath Cliath and the Linn Dubh, which was in this area here with the Poddle is westward. And it hasn’t gravitated as it is today towards the east, more east. Just something I think is worth thinking about, if we reflect on the conditions of the times, that’s in the early 1600’s and in the subsequent later centuries, something that I noted I think is rather important, and as an architect, engineer one would consider this important, that the whole life’s condition was pretty grim from our perspective, from the 21st century perspective. And something that I picked up from Muiris de Buitléir’s book which is worth mentioning, that the invention of public sewers systems hadn’t been created until late Victorian times. So if you can imagine what life must have been like for everybody. It was pretty grim. Water was brought into the city from the Dodder, or later on in the 19th century, from the canals. Human waste was accumulating in the yards and streets with presumably open sewers running into the Liffey. And this really resulted in a city up until the late Victorian period which as Muiris states in his book, is a “city of filth and stench, with typhoid and cholera rife”. So that’s the condition in which life existed for most people.The next important step after the Duke of Ormond I think occurs in the 18th century, in 1711 when a decision to reclaim land from the sea in the estuary area over here, east, centre and east, was taken and this resulted in the creation of the North and South Lotts. The beneficiary of much of this reclaimed land was the Earl of Drogheda, that’s the Moore family, Moore Street. And the Earl of Drogheda, he sold lots of this reclaimed land to the most important figure of the development of the 18th century of Dublin who is Luke Gardiner. And I’m just going to read a little extract by Merlo Kelly from this “Portraits of the City” publication, which was a publication of papers presented at an international conference which OPW hosted together with UCD, looking at the cultural significance of place and sense of place and so on.“Dublin underwent considerable change in the late 18th century, comprising of dramatic eastward expansion and the establishment of a complex urban framework, which forms the basis of cityscape today. The former Gardiner estate encompass much of the north city and was developed by a family with grand ambition and foresight. The creation of the north Georgian core involving sophisticated urban design strategies, negotiated land transfers and the collaboration of builders and craftsmen, driven by the Gardiner family and by the Wide Streets Commission. The first Luke Gardiner was a self made man of obscure origins, who began life as a foot man in Leixlip Castle, but in marrying the niece of the second Viscount Mountjoy, became connected to the peerage. He went on to become a member of parliament, Surveyor General of the Customs, Privy Counsellor and Deputy Vice Treasurer of Ireland. He was a successful banker and soon turned his attentions to the acquisition of land for development. Through shrewd investment, he acquired land parcels incrementally, and quickly emerged as a significant player in the development of the north city centre. The gradual process of buying land in stages meant that developments in the estate tended to be disparate and interrupted. Though this disjointed urban condition remained for much of the 18th century, his grandson, the second Luke Gardiner, henceforth referred to as Gardiner, he was the man that they regarded as Gardiner, focused on linking elements within the estate and making sense of the fragmented quality that was associated with the emerging north Georgian city”.The second Gardiner, that’s the grandson was a really important, he seems to have been an incredible guy. He had a wonderful upbringing and childhood. He wasn’t like his father, he didn’t come from humble. The grandfather did all the hard work and his father before him. And he served as a member of parliament for Dublin from 1773 until he was created a Baron in 1789. He was appointed to the Irish Privy Council and Colonel of the Dublin Militia. He was given the title Viscount Mountjoy in 1795. In addition to his role as a private landowner and developer, he was an active member of the Wide Streets Commission at a critical time, when they held responsibility for development within private estates. And I think Stephen this is where I pass the baton over to you.StephenThis is a 1610 map. One bridge over the Liffey, (13.57 inaudible) and south of the Liffey where people lived in medieval conditions. A full century later, this map shows not a big geographical change, but there is significantly development on the north side of the river, where the work done in Ormond’s time was protecting the buildings from the river flooding, and also retaining land towards the east side at Oxmanstown corner with the North Lotts and south of that called the South Lotts, where development was to take place. That map is 1714, and Dublin had changed dramatically, but the population had changed dramatically. 70,000 people now lived in Dublin in 1714. And then 1728, (14.36 inaudible) map and you can see for the first time, O’Connell Street called Drogheda Street is now on the map. This is part of the reclaiming of land which had occurred in the beginning of the 18th century. This land had been transferred to (14.52 inaudible) Desmond from Drogheda to the Moore family and acquired by Gardiner himself.Gardiner was an ambitious man. There was no development by Dublin City Council or Corporations in those times, so these estates took over and they developed properties themselves in parts of Dublin. This was the beginning of the move from the inner city on the west side of Dublin to the east side of Dublin to a renaissance city, attempt to begin that process in Dublin.This is Henrietta Street in Dublin, which has the beginning in 1720’s. And Edward Lovett Pearce, Ireland’s great architect developed this. Gardiner was also involved in the development of Gardiner Street as well, Henrietta Street and Bolton Street, and that part of north central Dublin, effectively. These were the classic houses at the time, the first in Ireland of townhouses and maybe the first, perhaps in most European countries.This is number 9 Henrietta Street, designed by Edward Lovett Pierce, a great beautiful house from the 1720’s. This is Pearce himself, and Pearce was the architect for the Parliament building 1729, which was the first parliament building anywhere in the world which had an upper and lower house built. So Dublin was the first to have a parliament building like this. This was gradually moving again towards east development. There was no parliament building in Dublin. The parliament was now meeting much more often in Dublin than previously. Previously the parliament only met when the Viceroy was here or the Lord Lieutenant was here, they met very irregularly. But suddenly now with the new building things have changed dramatically. And when that happened there was demand for property in this new east part of Dublin.And suddenly we see here from the rough map of 1756, this was the first development of, can you see there Sackville Street. This is the beginning of the development. This started in 1749 and went on for about 20 years. And about 400 houses were built in this part of Sackville Street. This is purely the block form, it’s the beginning of loose development. Gardiner had acquired that property from Henry Street as far as what’s now called Parnell Street. And he ideally wanted to develop the whole lot round as far the river, but he didn’t own the property south of Sackville Street that’s there now. That just shows the block format of Sackville Street. Look at the top of Sackville Street, you’ll see the Rotunda Hospital, designed by Cassels. Cassels was involved with Gardiner in the development of Sackville Street. Here you can see the individual plots of Sackville. The plots would vary in size, there were big houses and small houses. But the depth was 200. The street itself was 150 feet wide and in the centre of the terraced street was a mall. It was initially called Gardiner’s mall. This was an amenity area and outside of that there was a carriageway for access to the houses. It was a private estate, what we have today, gated estates we have in this country these days. It was a very privileged area for the nobility. But the problem for this was that this was now started in 1750’s, parliament was open in 1738. And we see at the bottom of the river, a number of ships are going somewhere and they’re going up towards Customs House. But there’s no bridge connecting the Parliament building, can you see that?KlausAnd there’s nothing from there across.StephenSo if the parliamentarians were going from the house in Upper Sackville Street to get to Parliament, they had to go around to the west of the city, across the bridge at Essex Bridge and then towards the Parliament. This was a long route. Clearly the idea of linking these things together, to create more demand on the east of the city was extremely important for developers like Gardiner.This was the Customs House in 1707, you can see the ships coming up the river towards that old Customs House. And they paid their taxes there. The building itself had problems with foundations, it was in serious condition. And also the big ships couldn’t get up the river easily, so suddenly demand became greater to build the new Customs House, and that meant getting a bridge built linking Sackville Street with the Parliament Building, crucially important for the development in that part of Dublin and making Dublin a renaissance city.This here shows the mall of Upper Sackville Street, and you see this very gracious street. And the thing about this sketch here shows the buildings were of varying heights and varying sizes. It wasn’t a uniform city like say Bath is. It’s very much unique character of Dublin had developed, similar today to a Merrion Square and Fitzwilliam Square where the heights are very different and at variance with each other. And also the houses are very different in widths and so on. But the overall feeling of grandeur is here amenity. Maurice Craig called this an “elongated square” because it was very, very private. And in the centre of the mall the people who lived there could meet, discuss the gossip and boast about their houses inside. These houses were very important to these people, because they wanted to show off the interiors of the house particularly. Externally they were very ordinary looking in many ways, but inside they were full of beautiful decorative plasterwork, collections of paintings and so on and so on. And part of that was the boast they had with each other on the way to Parliament. And this was this lovely amenity and the very same with the much later houses that were built in Merrion Square and indeed in Fitzwilliam Square.And this is what they looked like. This is Upper Sackville Street. They looked very ordinary looking houses. You can see they were different, there were two bay sizes, there were three bay sizes and there were four bay sizes, depending on the kind of money you had, and what kind of structure you have as well. But if you look at number 42 here towards the middle of the slide, this house was designed by Richard Cassels who was assistant to Lovett Pearce, and ultimately became Surveyor General himself in this country, in the city. And he was the architect for this house here.KlausThat’s this one here.StephenAnd today, it’s the only house that’s still extant in Dublin, number 42 (21.12 inaudible). It looks like a very ordinary house, but collectively the whole thing was much more important than a string of individual houses. And you can see renovations took place round the entrance doorway, the Portland stone and the details round the door itself, the elegance of that. So all the elegance is put at the front door, the impression of importance, the impression of elegance, that’s still there today in Dublin to enjoy.So the first phase of Sackville Street was now completed. And one of the things that Gardiner wanted to do was to have an end and beginning to life. At the top of Sackville Street, if you close off that vista with a Portland window Cassels encouraged them to use the Rotunda to close off Sackville Street. He was against that idea because he wanted to ultimately develop the whole street north ways further on beyond Parnell Street itself. That was his idea, and then link up similarly at (22.11 inaudible) towards the O’Connell Bridge area, Sackville area itself. So ultimately then, Cassels located the building here away from Sackville itself.And then the Wide Streets Commission came along with Atkins in 1777. But these people were extraordinarily important people in Dublin as Klaus said earlier. They had huge powers, huge influence and they also had a considerable amounts of money to spend. They could compulsorily take over properties and they left an extraordinarily great legacy in this city, including Sackville Street. They would have built Dame Street, North Westmoreland Street and so on, these are wonderful streets to have in Dublin. But also they wanted to continue on the Sackville Street. Because Gardiner’s son was now a Commissioner, an important person as well. And so Sackville Street was completed in around the 1770’s. and the bridge was built in late 1780’s. But for the second part of Sackville Street, two architects were involved in the Lower part of Sackville Street. These were White and Gandon. White laid out the street and the complex to unify the street together before the GPO was built and before Nelson’s Pillar was built. And then Gandon designed the elevation studies for the buildings themselves, because they were now going to become shops at ground level. Very different than the Upper part of Sackville Street. And also at this time, the mall that Gardiner had designed and built was taken away and removed completely. And once the street became an important street overall, the amenity value of the street for people to discourse and meet and gossip disappeared because of that. It became a very important street, a very lovely street but something was lacking in that because of the great work that Gardiner had done back towards the middle of the 18th century.And this shows the extent of the street, this is the pillar shown here and also the GPO. It shows the width of the street as continuous street from north to south, one continuous whole. But the street has now changed in character, as I’ve said we’ve now become a shopping street. And there’s a gradual disconnect between the Upper and Lower Sackville Street. And then suddenly in 1801 the Act of Union, the speed changed dramatically. Because it meant that people living on the Upper level of Sackville Street sold off and moved elsewhere. But two things happened to make the street I think considerably better. This was the Nelson’s Pillar. After the victory of the British over the French and Nelson’s victories, Dublin people collected money themselves to honour Nelson’s victory. And they built this column, this statue. And they had Francis Johnston, the great architect design it for them and locate for them too. A very important location on the streetscape. And also they had the GPO built in about 1815 or so. This magnificent public building, the first real public building on Sackville Street. And this added to the street enormously. It conferred a special urban quality the street hadn’t got previously. This was dramatic, and the day of importing or locating the portico right over the pavement, impose itself on the street as a gathering point, was a really wonderful idea of Johnston to do that. So it gave the street a civic importance as a street. It lost a lot by removing the mall, but became a different kind of street altogether.And this is what it looked like. You can see it’s a very wide street. There’s no sense of gathering, no sense of community there. No sense of involvement. But there is a sense of this huge big street, impressive street. And if you look closely at this one here you will see that now suddenly the pavement is very, very narrow. The place where you could discourse and chat and talk was very, very small. This street looked great but people need to use the street sensibly. And they were getting impeded now with chariots and horses and all the rest of it. And there’s a guy on a horse here talking to the people on the sidewalk as he’s going along on his horse. And you can see there going all over the place with their horses and carts, all different directions at one time. So there’s a lack of discipline, the street looked well, but discipline was not going well on the street. Just note the paving was close to where they were walking. There was no paving on the street, the main street wasn’t like that all. It was a beaten down dirt track.And this is the GPO today, it’s a very strained building. It’s a lovely, lovely building, very strained. And given the street is imposing civic quality which confers the importance of the street, but inside the building it was very beautifully and heavily decorated. This event took place in 1853, a significant event for O’Connell Street’s future. This was the Great Exhibition of Dublin of 1853. It was located in Leinster Lawn in Dublin. And a million visited this site between March and September of 1853. And they’re mostly from overseas, and these people came with a lot of money to spend. And if people in O’Connell Street were prepared for this invasion of people with money, they were put on their best behaviour and decked out with best possible goods for sale. And this shows O’Connell Street now in 1853. Studying it, there’s a new department store built, probably the first in Europe. The shops are now appearing at ground level, further down the street than before. The street is losing its character somewhat, the height of this department store, much higher than anywhere else, a different scale than everything else too. But somehow, it was acceptable because it’s close, almost opposite the GPO building. But you can see the certain vibrancy, the street is now a commercial street in Dublin. And that changed dramatically and increased dramatically as the 19th century wore on.These are elevations showing the street of early 1850’s, this is Lower Sackville Street. Showing the array of shops is quite amazing which was available in Dublin for these rich people to come to Dublin to spend their money, build an exhibition. All kind of shops, all kind of goods. This is Lower Sackville Street. And you can see in the bottom picture, you can see some of the shop fronts which would have been designed by Gandon, from his early studies back 60 years earlier. Again Lower Sackville Street, full of shops, very commercial street now. Very different from Upper Sackville Street.And this is Upper Sackville Street itself where the change isn’t as dramatic. There are still houses there and still people living there, there’s occasional businesses like a gas fitter here in one house here. But it is predominantly still the same houses, with minor modifications and people living in these houses, back in 1850.This one here is interesting because at the top right hand corner, very right near where the Rotunda Hospital is, there’s a Mr. Geoghegan a live-in draper to her majesty, no less, that’s Queen Victoria. On the bottom part at the far side of the street, was simply very changes still in early 1850’s. That was to change dramatically in the late 19th century in O’Connell Street.This kind of happened before Victoriana took over on O’Connell Street, where individual buildings became much more important than the overall street. This was the Dublin Vet Company restaurant that made bread here. In fact Joyce refers to this in his book Ulysses and he has Bloom looking in the window and gazing inside at people who were having a cup of coffee, a cup of tea inside and commenting what they were eating at as well. This building was destroyed in 1916, it was never replaced. Some say thankfully. And then there were hotels appearing on O’Connell Street too, back in the late 18th century. The whole rise of the commercial part of the street taking over gradually, and domestic housing moving gradually away from O’Connell Street.And then because of the enormous success of the commercial part of O’Connell Street, there were 10,000 carts crossing over the bridge every single day back and forward. 10,000 carts, extraordinary number of carts crossing over the carriages. And that caused a man to build a new bridge over O’Connell Street. Shopkeepers in the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, over the river I should say. And they contacted one guy, Richard Turner of Botanic Gardens fame. It was a single span building, cast iron building. It was designed so that high tide ships and boats could go up underneath the bridge. Very different than the present bridge in O’Connell Street. It was laid on the table of the Corporation about 20 years and they decided eventually not to build it. And they simple just built an extension of the Gandon bridge in about 1880, a bridge made wider and that’s what happened. The bridge became a full bridge back in the 1880’s. And O’Connell Street then had this kind of impact, bring it more and more towards the south side and bringing the ward visually and easier towards the south side. And its connection with Westmoreland Street and its connection with the (31.42 inaudible).Then this happened in 1916. And this city centre was certainly reduced to rubble after the 1916. And there were consequences for the street, serious consequences for the street at that time.This map shows Sackville Street and all the ground totally destroyed. They were bombed and burned down. There was very little left, the west side was particularly badly hit in 1916. The east side was badly disturbed in 1922. But in 1916, this was happening. And the effect of that was quite dramatic, because people who worked in these shops and worked all over Dublin were now out of a job. The people who owned the businesses were now out of business and they weren’t paying any rates to Dublin Corporation. The insurance companies didn’t pay up any money because it was an act of war, and there was chaos for a long time after the 1916 Rising. And Asquith, the Prime Minister came over to Dublin to look at the political situation that was going on in Dublin politically. But I’m sure when he came here at that time, he got an earful from the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, from the Council of the Dublin Corporation about the payment, who’s going to pay for the city? And the Irish Builder magazine, they said that the rebuilding of Sackville Street presented a “unique and unexpected opportunity for Irish architects to the great needs involved”.What Dublin Corporation had on its plate at this time already presented to them was a plan for Dublin. This was the (inaudible 33.36) plan for Dublin. This was a radical plan, and it moved the city now back towards the west again. And you can see that this plan.KlausThis is O’Connell Street there and the whole thing is shifting over, so that this becomes the centre now. This is Dublin Castle here.StephenThis town was based on the (inaudible 34.00) in Paris. It was centralising the Parliament, railway stations and public buildings in the centre, linking north and south together. It was a great plan, and along with visitors from all over the city coming towards the centre. For every space there was a Abercrombie plan. But that plan took a lot of organisation, a lot of time, a lot of money to gather. And the people had no mood for those kind of (34.22 inaudible) approaches to planning. So the Corporation sought powers to help the rebuilding be paid for, and exactly what should be built.This shows them the Abercrombie plan. On the top of O’Connell Street, the Parnell monument. This was what Gardiner had in mind for his development.KlausAs a vista, up here.StephenThe vista closed off for reaching Sackville Street back in the 1750’s of having a vista contained in a public building.KlausThe Gate Theatre here, and this the Rotunda.StephenYou can see this was an Abercrombie idea, but very much based on what Gardiner had proposed. So the Corporation sought powers for an ambitious and prudent plan which all buildings would have to conform. They applied for government grants. But Dublin Castle and Westminster objected to British taxpayers funding the rebuilding of a beautified Sackville Street. And the Dublin Property Owners Association even, they resisted attempts to add any expense to the beautification and rebuilding of O’Connell Street. However, the Westminster parliament passed an act called the Dublin Reconstruction and Emergency Provision Act of 1916. This act compelled all rebuilding to submit to Dublin Corporation elevations and plans and the city architect was empowered to acquire reasonable alterations to proposals if unsuitable to the amenity of the street. The Corporation could loan money for the rebuilding and compel purchasing of sites if required. And 1.8 million pounds was given by Westminster towards the rebuilding. Now that was considerably added to as things went on. Meanwhile the RIAI, which is the Royal Institute of British Architects which we both know, they wrote to the Home Secretary, this is what confuses me. They wrote to the Home Secretary over in Westminster and they were urging builders to observe uniformity, harmony and symmetry for the reconstruction of O’Connell Street.Now the city architect was a man called Horace O’Rourke and he produced a number of drawings and sketches for O’Connell Street. And he wanted O’Connell Street built in a neo classical style. And this is Lower O’Connell Street, which is the most successful part of it. And he laid down guidelines for height restrictions, parapet heights, corners and for set back at roof level, and also that materials would be of brick, would be stone and limestone. This was a most successful elevation. Alas, all streets were not like this. But this is a very successful and very harmonious part of the street in Dublin. And that’s still there today, very much respected and very much enjoyed. And the bottom part may be pretty vulgar, but the top part is a really elegant piece of work. When you see the old bread company’s shop is now gone, you see the road is set back at a distance, but playing the role in a quieter fashion than was happening in the late Victorian period.T. J. Byrne as principal architect in the OPW insisted that all public buildings be rebuilt and refurbished exactly as they were. This was a building, the Metropole, which was rebuilt.That’s now the march from the 70s and it’s now Penneys shop nowadays. But there was a lot of good work done on that reconstruction on O’Connell Street. A lot of it was not demolished again in 1922, but nonetheless the efforts were outstanding.When the GPO was being rebuilt, the footprint for Francis Johnston’s building was considerably added to. It became a much, much bigger building when Johnston designed it himself, with what the government required at that stage. The GPO was open again in 1929 by Cosgrave.And then we come on to the 1990’s. In the 1960’s particularly, O’Connell Street undergone more change. There’s more demand for office building and change was happening rapidly, with the economy getting better and better. And then Nelson’s Pillar was blown up and this image from the early 80’s shows like the highway of travel going across O’Connell Street. It had lost its way with the development in (38.50 inaudible). Even trees seem inappropriate in Dublin at that stage, inappropriate tree planting. You can see here from the 80s, the west side of O’Connell Street, inappropriate (39.01 inaudible) took place and the very top right hand side, an office building there, that was where Gilbey’s shop was. And Gilbey’s was designed by the Dean family, Sir Thomas Dean, and that was demolished in the 1960’s like way from this commercial building. So a lot of damage was done to O’Connell Street and the Corporation to their great credit fought back to examine O’Connell Street again.I think the model the Corporation were using was the model of the Champs Elysee in Paris, that was the approach to having a boulevard again, which would be time for walking, reflection and enjoyment. This is Paris here. That kind of gentleness, time and space, not rushing anywhere anymore. It’s time to enjoy the street and enjoy being there.Again, a further image of Paris, the sense of contentment almost, of being there on the street. It’s like a day out to enjoy being there. It wasn’t the case that O’Connell Street in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.And this is what O’Connell Street, part of the plan the Corporation came up with. They made recommendation, then they were quite narrow to begin with. The widening of the pavements and the central mall be installed in O’Connell Street. Traffic lanes to be reduced to two on both sides. A new Luas station would be built. A plaza built outside the GPO, a civic space effectively. Steps of planting around that plaza and then a suitably new paving. All the monuments, all the pieces of sculpture were all cleaned up and there was a spire, the new competition for a replacement was done and that was constructed as well. And the street was now beginning to fight back, it was becoming a better place. But it’s only the beginning of that fight back with a street that’s so much part of our history and the story of the Irish people.This map here shows the sculpture on O’Connell Street. And if you go down O’Connell Street these days, I’d ask you to take time and reflect and look at these beautiful sculptures we have on O’Connell Street. They are all pre 13 and have been restored. Sculpture comes into its own when things slow down and you can enjoy them and see them better, the great parks have done that effectively in Chapelizod. You slow down and you enjoy the city, enjoy the street and you enjoy being there. And that’s what this attempt by Dublin Corporation are doing, to make it a better place for all of us, and celebrate our Irishness, I suppose as well.So that’s back where we started, and you might want to say a few words.KlausWell just to book end things as we finish off because to reflect again on, go back again to the good Duke of Ormond and his interest in public works and investment in public works. As Stephen has pointed out the Corporation’s very meritorious development of the paving and the tree planting with Ian Ritchie’s spire has helped in considerable measure to improve the character of the street, than the pictures that we saw what it was like in the 80’s. I too had some involvement in the feasibility study looking at the possibility of putting a new national theatre, the Abbey Theatre in O’Connell Street on the site of the Carlton cinema at one time. It’s not going to happen now. But I do feel fairly strongly that the kind of public investment in a public work, in a public venture like that would underwrite the sustainability of the street into the future and allow it then to develop its commercial activities, its entertainment activities and so on, and give a vibrancy, but a vibrancy together with a civic dignity, that I think was portrayed in the 19th century, with the development of the GPO and Nelson’s Pillar at the time.So that would be our view as previous public service architects, that there is scope for public investment in the main street of our capital city. That’s it. (Recording ends here)Thank-you for listening to the Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive Podcast. To hear more, please subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud. 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Working on the Railway in Dublin, 1900-1925 - Transcript
The following is the transcript of a talk given by Mary Muldowney in Cabra Library on 25 August 2016.AudioWelcome to the Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive Podcast. In this episode, Mary Muldowney looks at the lives of Dubliners who worked for the Great Southern and Western Railway in the early years of the 21st century. At the time the Great Southern and Western Railway was the largest railway system in Ireland and it was a significant employer in Dublin. Mary looks at working conditions, pay, pension and industrial action, focusing especially on the lives of those who were engaged at the lower levels of the pay scales, men and women who were completely dependent on the railways.Recorded in front of a live audience at Cabra Library on the 25 August 2016 as part of the Libraries' Heritage Week Programme.In 1990 John O’Mahony and R. Lloyd Praeger wrote a guide book and it was entitled ‘The Sunny side of Ireland: How to see it by the Great Southern and Western Railway’. It was published by Thom’s Directories but it is likely that the Great Southern Railway – and I’m going to call them just the Great Southern for convenience – had had a hand in the commission. The style reads almost like an advertisement brochure as you can see from the extract.The carriages which the company provide are of the very latest design – vestibule corridor, trains with dining and breakfast cars, run daily and the speed of the trains will bear comparison with any. The journey Dublin to Cork 165 miles is performed in 4 hours which is not all that much slower than sometimes it takes now. (laughs) To Killarney 189 miles and about 15 minutes more and all the important tourist centres can be reached within a very short time. Comfort of passages is well arranged for. Refreshment rooms are provided at the principle stations and breakfast, luncheon and tea baskets can always be had as well as pillows, rugs and all the modern conveniences of travel. Besides all this the enterprise of the company have provided at Killarney, Parknasilla, Kenmare, Carragh Lake and Waterville hotels which for appearance and luxury, tempered by economy, are the equals of any in Europe.Now the book follows various routes covered by the Great Southern and it outlines many of the sights that can be seen if you take the railway excursions and the brief forays into local history and there are lots of really attractive illustrations.But as is the case for such guide books it makes absolutely no reference at all to the people who worked on the railways to provide the excellent service. The smooth travelling and the wide range of amenities are also outlined in great detail, again with no reference to those who deliver it. So in this talk I’m going to focus on some aspects of the lives of those people who were engaged at the lowest levels of the pay scales, who were completely dependent on the railways for their livelihood at a time of significant economic, political and social upheaval.Now the Great Southern had the largest railway network in Ireland. It began in 1844 as a railway that would connect Dublin with Cashel and it was incorporated the following year. The lines afterwards extended to the city of Cork and various other amalgamations took place in the second half of the 19th century so that by the end of the century the company’s rail network covered a significant area of what is now the Republic and they were a pretty powerful organisation. They were typical of other companies in the railway industry in employing a predominantly male workforce. Women’s employment was confined to catering and cleaning for the most part and that would have been cleaning carriages and the dormitories of drivers. Locomotive cleaning was confined to young boys who would be apprentice locomotive drivers eventually.So women were starting to be hired for clerical work at this time and we’ll say a bit more about this later. But as technology advanced in the early decades of the 20th century typewriters and telephone exchange started to become an integral part of systems like railway networks and it was mainly women who were employed to operate them. Now, according to the 1901 Census the number of women working in the Irish railway industry and related commercial operations was very low indeed. You can see you have a total of more than 11,500 workers only 96 were women and it hadn’t changed all that much by 1911. But although there were now 143 females, some of those would have been working in the hotels that were mentioned in the guide book and the number of men had increased but as a proportion of the total workforce the male workers had decreased every so slightly if not really significantly.Jobs on the railways were very much prized at the time. Even in the lower paid grades such as permanent weigh men and crossing gate keepers and they were generally secure and quite often they came with accommodation provided. Railway houses were of mixed quality and they usually had to be surrendered when the worker retired. The rationale for this was that wages were considered by the railway companies to be high enough for employees to save for their old age. This policy, however, often resulted in workers – particularly in rural areas – holding on to their jobs until they were very old or even dying in service in order not to lose their homes. The Census returns in both 1901 and 1911 show that the accommodation was frequently of a very poor standard, particularly the cottages associated with crossing gates. This was not necessarily because they had been built to a poor standard but simply that many of the buildings were getting on in age at this stage – they were 40-50 years old – and while they had been built to a good standard maintenance wasn’t very high. So the houses built around the Great Southern Railway networks, particularly the works in Inchicore, are a good example of the kinds of accommodation provided for workers. The houses there were of a very good basic standard. They weren’t luxurious but the tendency to large families could be problematic. Now I was looking at the square which was built for a lot of the fitters and others who were sort of the skilled workers in the railway works in Inchicore at the time and the Sadlier family were fairly typical in that you can see that there were several members of the family at adult level still living in a house that had 5 rooms. It was classified as a second class house by the Census but this simply meant that it had a roof and windows and a front door and it was fairly solid in that it was brick built. It wasn’t likely to blow down. But it didn’t necessarily mean that there was anything wonderful about it. There were seven members of the family present on Census night in both 1901 and 1911. As I said, they are nearly all adults as you can see in the third column there and their ages. So there wouldn’t have been a lot of space available. And the one thing that was innovative still at that point of building around the houses was that green spaces tended to be included in the planning so the square and other similar developments, like the Great Western houses in Phibsborough, they would have all had a green space or park built in as an integral part of the development. The residents of this house, 16 Great Western Square, were also ... that was for the Midland in general, the Midland and Great Western Railway (laughs), and they operated out of Broadstone where the Great Southern operated mainly out of King’s Bridge, what’s now Heuston. But again the houses were of a good standard but the problem was that the families tended to be fairly large. Now, if you’re looking at this one which is from 1911 the Brown family, several of the adult children are described as working as ‘clerks’ and because it was very common for railway companies to employ family members, they were particularly keen to have people who could be vouched for by existing workers, it’s quite likely that they were railway clerks but I can’t swear to it. But certainly the father was a railway guard and he had originally in the 1901 Census the family had been living in Clifden where he was also a railway guard and at that time for the Midland and Great Western too. He may simply have transferred to Dublin because he had been born there and there would have been more opportunity for the children as they grew older.Now despite the company’s claim that workers were well paid enough to allow them to save for their old age, in 1900 the Great Southern implemented a non contributory pension scheme, following the example of the industry in Britain, and it was aimed for people who were very much on the lowest pay grades because I imagine you know underneath all of the claims about adequate preparation for old age was an awareness that the wages were pretty low. So the introduction of the free pension in 1900, as it was called because it was non contributory, was welcomed and there was quite a number of pensions immediately qualified. But in 1908 the state pension, old age pension, was announced and the Great Southern immediately decided that they would cut the occupational pension. They were just going to take it away.So they issued in October 1908 as the Old Age Pension Act had been made law they issued this notice, it was signed by Francis Ormsby who was the Company Secretary at the time. So the heading was ‘Free pensions to servants on the wages staff of the company’. As I say when free pensions to the wage earning staff of the company were sanctioned in the circular 17th of February 1900 the directors reserved to themselves the right to alter or terminate the arrangements then made as per following paragraph. And he quoted:As the allowances to be granted by the company will be provided out of their own funds without contributions from the men, the directors reserved to themselves the right of declining, withdrawing or reducing an allowance in any case as also the power of altering or terminating the arrangement at any time and as they may deem necessary. The recent provision of old Age pensions by the Government charged in the general taxes to which the company and their shareholders both as a corporation and its individuals or large contributors has materially modified the position of men in advanced years and the directors give notice that they hereby terminate the free pension scheme hitherto enforce from 1st of January 1919. This notice does not affect those to whom pensions are at present being paid.But actually of course it did because if you’re getting the occupational pension and you get this thing out of the blue saying that if you qualify for a state old age pension we’re taking away your occupational pensions it would have come as quite a shock to a lot of the older people.Now, William Partridge was the representative for the ITGWU, the Irish Transport and General Workers Union in the Inchicore works and he wrote to the Irish Independent and it was really drawing attention to the fact that existing pension holders, that claim that they wouldn’t be affected was actually just exactly what (laughs) you know ... to put mildly it couldn’t stand up. So he clarified the position from the men’s point of view and just there’s a quote and extract from his rather long letter, that:Upon the publication of the recent order of the Board relative to the stoppage of old age pensions after January next a petition was drafted seeking a modification of that order in so far as not to apply to men having 30 years and upwards. The object of this petition was to safeguard the interest of old and faithful servants who had devoted the best years of their lives to the service of the company and who, for the past 8 years, had been schooled to regard the reception of the free pension as a certainty in the future. To such men the recent order of the board was cruel in the extreme and the petition presented upon their behalf was signed by 860 adult employees engaged at the Inchicore works. Of that number no less than 700 possessed only 29 years service and under and therefore would not be eligible to gain anything by the granting of the rest. In other words it was entirely altruistic on their part to be getting involved in this. The remaining 160 had a service of 30 years and upwards and if they lived and were fortunate in their services to qualify for the pension provided the directors were so kind as to favour the considered petition presented upon their behalf.Now, given that Partridge was a very active trade union official and in them days you got involved in other Republican activity I suspect the tone was rather tongue in cheek. But a lot of letters at that point were written in these very humble terms.Now, he said that the very day we were officially informed that the order of the board relative to the stoppage of the payment of free pensions must stand but that the directors would be prepared to consider individual applications upon their merits. This promise carries no guarantees that a pension will be granted. Thus the door is not slammed it is shut gently but nevertheless closed tightly leaving not one ray of hope for those whose lives were given in the service of the company and now in their old age are disappointed. The board just ignored the petition essentially and department heads were told to compile lists of the pensions who had previously worked in their areas and to give details of their dates of birth. This was to ensure that the company would be aware of every worker who was over 70 years of age and thus entitled to the state old age pension.Now, in December 1908 Ormsby wrote again to all the pensions who had been identified by the department heads and he sent them this circular letter.Sir,Under the Old Age Pension Act which comes into operation on the 1st of January 1909 every person aged 70 and upwards whose yearly income does not exceed 31 pound 10 shillings per annum is entitled to an Old Age Pension from the Government at the rate mentioned in the schedule of the Act. As the company will have to contribute to these Government pensions as rate payers they cannot continue to pay the company’s existing pensions in full and I am directed to say that you should immediately make application for an Old Age Pension from the Government and as soon as you report to me that you have obtained such the board will then consider the question of supplementing the weekly payment which you may receive from the Government. The company will only continue the present pension to you up to the 1st of March 1909 but not after that date and you should therefore take steps at once to secure whatever weekly sum you are entitled to from the Government. Forms of application for Government pensions can be obtained at your local post office.Now, the state Old Age Pension at this point was a maximum of 5 shillings a week so we’re not talking huge amounts of money, even for the time and although the cost of living would have been rather less than it is now it was still a pretty paltry amount and a lot of pensioners had clearly thought when the Old Age Pension came out it would be in addition to their occupational pension so that maybe for once in their lives they might even start to approach a reasonable standard of living. However, what followed Ormsby’s letter was copious correspondence between him and other senior personnel in the Great Southern around the country and various elderly men who were in receipt of the pension from the company who wrote of their distress and concern at the proposal to cut their pensions. By the way, women weren’t getting any pensions, the 143 don’t arise in this case.So not only did the letters from the pensioners illustrate the poverty in which many of the former wage staff of the company were living, but they also shed light on the sense of vulnerability which the company’s decision inflicted on many of them.In February 1909, for example, a gate man, William Byrne, who lived at 50 Arbour Hill, was granted an Old Age Pension of 5 shillings. He wrote to Francis Ormsby because the company was going to withdraw his occupational pension of 6 shillings. He wrote that he was 76 years of age and had no other means of support. The withdrawal of the pension would mean he would be thrown on the mercy of the union or the workhouse for survival as he couldn’t live on 5 shillings a week. There were many other letters in a similar vein and eventually the board decided to cut the free pensions only by the amount of the Old Age Pension granted by the Government so at least the pensioners were no worse off, not any better but it could have been worse.Well, one aspect of the introduction of the Old Age Pension in Ireland was how it revealed the extent of very irregular recording of births.Now this unfortunately is a typically racist cartoon from Punch but it does ... if you can see it’s you know ...Officer investigating Old Age Pension Claims “Well. Mrs Brady, and how old might you be?” Mrs Brady “Sorra wan of me knows, indeed, Sor.”.I’m no good at this kind of thing and it really is awful. But the officer says to think, don’t you know the date of your birth and she says“The date of my birth, is it? Sure there was no such things as dates when I was born!” (laughter)Which is okay for us to laugh at but not the English audience it was aimed at. But, as I said, it does show that people had to prove that they were over 70 in order to get the state pension and they didn’t have birth certs so there lots of mentions in the correspondence from the pensioners of the sorts of documents and other kinds of evidence that they’d have to produce to try and prove to the pensions officer, the local pensions board, that they actually were entitled at 70 years of age.So there were multiple cases of people who weren’t able to prove that so they basically were left to swing unless you could come up with somebody like a local authority figure like a priest or a local policeman who would be prepared to swear for it if you had no other form of documentary evidence.The Act also excluded the dissolute and the occupants of workhouses, presumably on the basis that they were not deserving of the pension because they had not contributed their labour during their lifetimes. Several of the letters from Great Southern pensioners responding to the initial notification of the pension cuts from the company had given their local union or workhouse as their address, proving that their occupational pension was already insufficient to keep them in their old age.Then in the 19th century during the early decades of the company’s existence the employees had remained fairly contented or at least they hadn’t been obviously revolting, although there had been some occasions when men had sought better conditions and wages. The boards policy was to be ruthlessly opposed to any appearance of combination or organisation of unions among the men to rewards those who remained loyal in any conflict and to grant small increases in pay from time to time.During the decade which ended with the outbreak of the First World War the number of passengers carried by the Great Southern increased to over 6 million annually and the yearly freight (21.54 inaudible) to 2 million. In 1913 the company’s income reached 1 million 600 thousand which was significant even for the time. This gave shareholders a fairly healthy dividend but it wasn’t reflected in any increase of wages at the lower levels.So industrial unrest which was widespread in the early days of the 20th century started to have some effect on the Great Southern. In late August 1911The Irish Worker, the newspaper of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, defiantly claimed on behalf of railway workers:In the future we’re not going to have the men crawling into the office of anybody of railway directors. In future, workers would stand up for themselves and take things like union recognition, higher pay and shorter hours as rights.There were two railway strikes as a result in 1911. One was brief and successful and the other longer and ended unfortunately in complete defeat for the strikers. The first was really part of a British strike and it was Irish workers of the North Wall joining a strike by the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants which was an English union. They were joined by the ITGWU but following negotiations in London the strike was settled within 24 hours. The second strike began in September 1911 and railway workers refused to handle goods from a timber yard that had sacked workers for union membership. They were in turn sacked by the Great Southern and this led to an all-out strike along the lines to Limerick, Cork, Waterford and Tuam.Now, economic historian Conor McKay has made quite a study of the 1911 strike and he notes that William Goulding, who was the owner of the Great Southern and the Chairman of the board at the time, had a number of powerful weapons at his disposal. The first was money obviously. Those worked who ‘scabbed’ the strike were paid a £10 bonus which was quite significant. Station masters were given clocks in gratitude for their service throughout the strike. I’m not sure if they would have preferred the £10 but the clock was a prestige thing. Another advantage held by Goulding was his ability to exploit sectarian animosities. Northern Protestant workers were brought south to take the places of the striking workers for the duration of the strike. In the final resort Goulding had the force of the British state to back him up. Thousands of British soldiers – and we can see some of them here – were drafted in to man the lines and stations and to make sure they were not blocked by pickets. One observer thought it looked as if all Ireland was turned into a military camp and actually the picture on the right there was from a German journal because this drew quite a lot of attention in recognition that the workers were being treated very badly and the state forces being used against them. But Goulding just rejected all attempts at arbitration, even those people like the Catholic Archbishop Louis Walsh and the nationalist leader Michael Davitt had come forward and offered to intervene and by late September the workers’ representatives were indeed, contrary to the Irish Workers confident prediction earlier, were crawling to Goulding to beg for reinstatement. The company did take back some workers – those who were identified as quiet and inoffensive and they sacked those identified as militant. The workers in the railway were still recovering from the impact of the 1911 strike when the First World War began in 1914.Now, when the war started in 1914 the Great Southern employed over 9,000 staff or one third of Ireland’s railway workers in total. It was one of Ireland’s largest employers outside just even the railway networks. But unlike the other European powers with mass armies based on compulsory military service the UK which we were part of at the time depending on the small professional army and this was really depleted by the end of 1914 so huge efforts were starting to be made to recruit voluntarily and although it had been asserted at the beginning of the war it would be over by Christmas 1914 it was beginning to be obvious by 1915 that wasn’t the case. And a lot of the efforts weren’t just aimed at persuading workers to enlist but were focused on employers to persuade them to release workers and to make do with less labour. So William Goulding asked for an assurance that the Government would not call upon any railway man who had returned himself as willing to enlist if the company employing him was unable to dispense with his services. An undertaking in this regard has been given to English railway companies in September 1914 and a similar arrangement was made for the Irish railways giving the companies a veto on the enlistment of staff members. At the outbreak of the First World War the railways in Britain were immediately placed under government control but the Irish companies were left free to run their lines until late in 1916 when the Irish Railway Executive Committee was set up and the Great Southern’s General Manager, E. A. Neale was the Chairman but it wasn’t a government body, it was still an independent industry body just reporting back to the government rather than their own shareholders. They were responsible for controlling all the activities of the Irish railway companies and the railways didn’t actually return to the management of the individual owners until August 1921. Now, in Britain as we said the British railways had been negotiating with Lord Kitchener who was the Minister, Home Secretary, for the war and because they were so intent on getting workers out of employment and into the army there was a big focus on recruiting women. Now, that didn’t happen here because we never had conscription but at the same time it opened up a lot of opportunities in railway employment as men were released and particularly the numbers of female clerks who were employed enormously grew in the period of the First World War and many of them didn’t leave afterwards. So it changed the nature of the workforce at least as far as the white collar work was concerned.But the women were really only supposed to be employed for the duration of the war in order to protect the jobs of the men who had enlisted and although women came forward in huge numbers and did anything that was asked of them and showed that there was no need for it to be an all-male industry, it was really made very clear indeed that it was for the duration of the war. In Ireland the only significant change in the nature of employment was the hiring of ticket collectors by the Cork Blackrock and Passage railway and this might not seem terribly significant now but in 1915 it was quite a scandal. In a write up in the National Union of Rail Women’s Journal Railway Review remarked that:The ticket collector is often exposed to the economies of a rough element which passes through the ticket gates and this is the objectionable part of the position unsuitable to the fair sex. In addition to consideration of working hours and the expense involved in providing extra toilet facilities for them the author suggested that attention would also have to be given to the conditions under which the women would have to work and still be properly supervised and safeguarded to make sure that the sexes would not be brought into undesirable association.Now the poor dear. (laughter) And this is written by a union man, anyway. In the Irish railway companies women were employed as caretakers in premises that were used as dormitories for drivers and maintenance staff who needed overnight accommodation away from their homes. I couldn’t find any evidence in the files that anyone was concerned that they might be undesirable associations in their work but you never know. Certainly women upholsterers who were employed in production and repair of the carriage furnishings were released from their training in what was called the sewing class 5 minutes earlier than their male colleagues in order to keep them separate socially. Another group of women worked as crossing gate keepers and their conditions were pretty dreadful and the pay low but they were generally given use of the gatekeeper’s house and this group of women seems to be the only one that actually combined both single and married women and widows where the clerical work was for single women and the cleaning work was for widows, often to provide them with an income if their husbands had died.One exception to containment of women in clerical and so-called traditional women’s work in catering, cleaning and sewing was Mrs Margaret McKenna who was the Great Southern Station Mistress in Kilfenora County Kerry, although she doesn’t really seem to have benefitted significantly from her post of responsibility. In 1915 her salary was £45 per year which was roughly similar to the earnings of a lady clerk with several years experience. Margaret had been appointed in 1904 when she was 41 years of age but her terms and conditions would have included the free occupancy of the station house and I imagine that was intended to balance the relatively low pay. She was a Catholic widow living with her three sons but the family members were all from Dublin so when I looked in the 1901 Census I found that her husband was still alive at this stage and he was the Station Master in Lucan which would have been a reasonably prestigious station. So it’s likely that because he had died between the two censuses that this is where she needed to be given a job but the files unfortunately didn’t say why they felt they had to move her from Kerry and why she couldn’t have just taken over the job in Lucan. I can guess but I’m not supposed to speculate as a historian (laughs).But the houses, again in Kilfenora the house is described as a second class building and there were only two rooms for the family to live in whereas the Lucan one had been bigger, there were five rooms, so that may have had something to do with it, that it was a better house. But another significant thing is that by the 1911 Census Margaret is living with her sons and her two daughters are in-mates of the Presentation Convent Orphanage in Dundrum and Tipperary, presumably because she simply couldn’t afford to keep all of them on her meagre pay. Others, Kate and Jane I think, no, the young Margaret, don’t appear in the 1911 Census and I couldn’t find them anywhere at all suggests that they may have gotten married in the meantime or maybe they emigrated but they don’t turn up in the British records either. However, Margaret records show that she left the company in January 1922 when she would have been just short of her 60th birthday but there is nothing at all about her circumstances and she wouldn’t have been entitled to a pension because it hadn’t been sorted at that point and she wouldn’t have been entitled to the Old Age Pension either so presumably she found more lucrative employment. Anyway, unfortunately I don’t know where the story went.But there were no national pay scales applicable to the industry at that time and each grade within each railway company had its own rates of pay. So if you were engaged at a minimum rate men were commonly awarded an annual increment, although the scale was usually reached within 5 years. Temporary staff would only receive a minimum wage with no increments and of course because of the deal done between the British Government and by consequence the Irish railway companies with the National Union of Railway men women were hired as temporary workers so they weren’t getting any increments or anything else.Peter Rigney has shown how the records of the Great Southern helped throw some light on the movement of troops into Dublin in Easter week in 1916 and also the British Army’s response to events in the provinces. The general manager at the Great Southern at the time made a report to the board on the 5th of May. It is headed:The Sinn Fein InsurrectionHe said:I beg to report for the information of the directors that on 12.25 on Easter Monday 24th of April the military authorities telephoned the superintendent of the line to stop all traffic and to prepare military specials for The Curragh immediately. Empty specials left King’s Bridge at 1.17pm, 1.45pm, 2.06pm and 2.26pm returning at once with troops, the last arriving at 5.30pm. 3,000 men were thus conveyed to the city.So obviously the railway was playing a crucial part in the almost immediate reaction to what was going on in Dublin on Easter Monday. He went on to say that:The military on arriving took possession of the station (this was King’s Bridge) and arranged for its defence. Some of the window screens etc., were broken to enable the troops to fire from them. We were next ordered to stop all trains then proceeding to Dublin, the last conveying passengers being the 9.45am from Cork.Rigby points out that the 1916 Rising was envisaged by the Volunteers originally as conventional military engagement and this meant that large bodies of troops would be confronting each other and in this scenario the railway network would play a central role, they’d have to you know in helping to mass troops to set piece battles. And in April a crucial tactic in the anti conscription campaign – 1918 sorry – was a general strike, including the stoppage of all work on the railway network. So it was still recognised that as the form of transport that was keeping the country either moving or not it would allow you to control it, the railway network was absolutely crucial.Now the slides here, you can’t see them very well, but they are just really to show the impact of some of the workers. The letter, the typed one here, is in relation to a group of men who had been sacked for not turning up for work during Easter week and some of them had pleaded that it wasn’t their fault, they couldn’t travel, they couldn’t get passed the soldiers but it was quite clear that others had been busy doing other things themselves and had been involved in the fighting and certainly there were several Irish Citizen Army men working on the railways, they were not getting their jobs back. The Secretary at the time, Crawford, said that yes they would give jobs back to some of the men and he names them specifically but there would have been demotions for them and they had to apply for them and everybody else was basically being told we don’t want to know you anymore. The other letter is interesting because it’s written by one of the women on behalf of the women who clean the stations and saying because they couldn’t get to work during Easter week 1916 they’d lost a week’s wages which would have been pretty drastic for them and pleading extreme hardship and the company did agree to pay them the week back because it wasn’t a political dimension obviously from that point of view.But in the 1921 War of Independence it was mainly a gorilla war so the railways weren’t as important. The struggle didn’t have all that much material effect on the Great Southern but though there were lots of temporary interruptions to traffic, mainly because of military orders or by refusals of employees to work trains carrying troops or armaments and that lacking of military equipment was an extremely important weapon on the side of the Irish independence fighters, so large sections of the railway were shut for long and short periods. There were hundreds of incidents of damage to company property during the civil war which followed the War of Independence. So by about November 1922 about a third of the system had ceased to operate and there were multiplications of malicious damage to the track, stations and the trains themselves. But following the ending of the civil war the new Irish Government gave priority to maintaining the railways as transport hub and they set up a Railway Defence and Maintenance Corp which was engaged in patrolling the lines and repairing damage. So throughout the conflict the company’s employees had kept some sort of service operating although sometimes in conditions of danger to themselves and their families but then you know everybody was in conditions of danger to themselves and their families at the time.So eventually the tax payer paid for restoring material underlay to the railways but no compensation was ever received for the loss of travel although they did try to claim for it. By this stage the situation of the Great Southern was so serious financially with expenses up and receipts down that the company notified the Government of its intention to suspend all operation of the railway network. But the Government took the view that railways were essential for the life of the country and they wouldn’t permit the proposed closure so the directors decided to maintain the services as best they could until the fighting should cease and the long task of restoration could be undertaken.The Government also made it a policy to bring about the fusion of all the railways in the Free State into one company. They threatened legislation to enforce a merger if it wasn’t brought about voluntarily. Consultations failed and in April 1924 a Bill was introduced and became an Act with very little delay. Under its terms the larger companies were to amalgamate first and then absorb the smaller railways. Most of debate in the Dáil actually, as it went through the various stages, concerned who would be shareholders in the company. There was very little about the terms and conditions of those whose livelihoods were going to be in play. At the second reading of the Bill, however, Tom Johnson, the Labour deputy, expressed his anger at what he believed was the wrong focus of these negotiations. He said:The railways in Ireland should be directed towards furthering the development of Ireland, rather than that Ireland should be an instrument for furthering development of railways and that railway policy should be subordinated to national policy and development. It has been pointed out in the past many times that railway policy has been directed to convey commodities and passengers for as long distance as possible to England and conveying commodities from England for as long distance as possible to increase the revenue of the railways and the effect of this policy has been to develop this importation and exportation not because of its advantage to Ireland because it would be of advantage to the railway companies, both in Ireland and England.And as I said (laughs) there was really no reference to the people who would be delivering all of this service one way or the other, regardless of the management.But in the Spring of 1925 the mergers had gone through. We now had the Great Southern Railways and a number of parliamentary questions were asked of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Patrick McGilligan – who was overseeing the change, and they indicate that the merger of the railway companies into the Great Southern Railway was causing hardship for employees of the Great Southern and other companies. John Lyons T.D. claimed that 217 men from the Midland and Great Western Railway had already been dismissed at this point and a further 32 were under notice of dismissal on the 4th of April 1925. The Minister replied that all those who had qualified would receive the compensation provided for in the Railways Act. If they registered at an employment exchange their names would be submitted for any suitable employment. He stressed that the efficient running of the railway company was a matter for the company and he would not interfere. I’ll refrain from commenting on similarities to similar ministers 100 years later. Anyway (laughs), Liam Davin who actually was a Station Master by profession before he was elected before the Dáil wondered how many railway employees had already been made redundant and if the minister was aware that the GSR was adopting the practice of calling upon the men to retire without, in many cases, mentioning compensation at all and in others merely asking the employee the amount of compensatory claims and generally replacing the onus of claiming calculation of compensation on the employees and whether he was aware that the railway company is bound to advise each redundant employee of the compensation to which he is entitled. Now the Act had a third schedule that set out the rates of compensation which were not generous but were fixed and should at least have provided a minimum payment. The minister not surprisingly responded that the procedures were laid out in the Act and he was sure the company was following them and of course it wasn’t his place to interfere. So the question of intimidation by the company was raised again over subsequent months suggesting that concerns were being raised nationally as the TDs asking the questions were coming from all over the country and it wasn’t because the Great Southern Railway was now the one body it was all about them. Further questions related to the adequacy of the compensation payments and of course a few months later it was beginning to seem that they weren’t adequate and again the minister stated he had no control over anything to do with the Great South Railway, even though in the Act it said that he did.The issue of a new pension scheme for employees of the GSR, the Great Southern Railway, was raised but it actually wasn’t until 1934 that this was finally resolved and this was only after lengthy hearings of the railway tribunal. It took 2 years of hearings before it was finally settled and they followed the pattern of British railway industry.So the first 25 years of the 20th century were turbulent ones for the people of Dublin and the rest of Ireland. Despite the glowing portrait of elegant and leisurely travel evoked by the guide book that I quoted at the beginning of this talk the reality for most of the people delivering the service was low pay, long hours and consciousness that their work was not particularly valued by their employers. There is an extract here from the rules and regulations for the guidance of the officers and men in the service of the Great Southern and Western Railway Company published in 1915. It’s indicative of the attitude of the senior management to the position of the ordinary workers at the time and basically it is saying:No servant when on duty or in uniform is allowed to enter a station refreshment room or any other refreshment room under the control of the company, except by permission of the Station Master or person in charge of the station.I was getting very wound up about this in discussing it with somebody who said “Well, sure you know they wouldn’t have been let go in and be drinking during the day” but it is only what was considered the servants, in other words the lower grades that were being excluded because of course you could trust officers (laughs), you know the white collar workers.So the Great Southern and Western Railway was by no means a bad employer really by the standards of early 20th century Ireland. However, the workplace apartheid that categorised white collar employees and skilled workers, such as locomotive drivers as officers while all the others were mere servants, did create a mindset that facilitated the poor treatment of already vulnerable people and that was still evident very much in 1925 when a new era was supposedly dawning.Thank you. (Applause)Thank-you for listening to the Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive Podcast. To hear more, please subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud. You can also visit our website - dublincitypubliclibraries.ie and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
On Raglan Road - Irish Love Songs and their Inspiration - Transcript
The following is the transcript of a talk given by Gerry Hanberry on the 23 August 2016 in the Central Library, Ilac Centre, Dublin 1.AudioWelcome to the Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive Podcast. In this episode, writer and poet Gerard Hanberry reveals the inspiration behind well-known Irish songs and ballads. Learn the often surprising, sometimes bittersweet but always absorbing stories of the real women who inspired some of the world’s finest love songs. Recorded in front of a live audience at the Central Library on 23 August 2016 as part of the Libraries' Heritage Week Programme.ModeratorWelcome to the Central Library and this afternoon we have Gerard Hanberry and he is a Renaissance man, author, poet, musician and he is going to be looking at his latest book today on 14 love songs, famous Irish love songs, and the women that inspired them. His book ‘On Raglan Road’ will be out in September I think, isn’t it Gerry?GerardThe end of September yeah.ModeratorThe end of September and it will be on Amazon and in all of the book shops. So without any further ado I’m sure you are dying to get going, can I introduce Gerard Hanberry. (Applause)GerardThanks very much.So that’s the cover of the forthcoming book ‘On Raglan Road’, as you know called after the famous song, ‘Great Irish Love Songs and the Women who Inspired Them’. This book brings together, might introduce my various activities. I tend to have a very kind of compartmentalised world. I’m involved in poetry. I have four collections published and I’m also involved in music. I’m involved in writing. So this book sort of intersects all three I think, the lyrics and there’s a man, Kevin Maguire, I just want to name check him because he gave me a lot of help in researching.Some of the high points in the book would include the song ‘The Galway Girl’:I took a stroll on the old long walkOf a day -I-ay-I-ayI met a little girl ... or I met a pretty girlIs this fiction or fantasy? Well the reality is it is true. There is a Galway girl and I was lucky enough to be able to trace her and we’ll see her coming up now shortly.And the real story behind Nancy Spain as well is very interesting. It’s not at all what you would imagine. I often think of the people standing up and Christy Moore singing ‘I love you Nancy Spain’ and their hands on their heart, when they hear the real story (laughter) I’m afraid another Irish myth will be shattered. (laughter)What I really enjoyed about putting the book together was speaking with the composers and the artists and the recording artists and all of that. But very often little asides came out as well as their generosity and their honesty in revealing who the actual females were and in some cases they wouldn’t reveal it and told me ‘I don’t really want to be in the book. I don’t really want to go back there’ for understandable reasons given their current relationships maybe. So some people declined. But there were a few little nice stories on the side.One of them was Mundy telling me as a young man of 19 and the girl that inspired his very first song which was used in the film ‘Romeo and Juliet’, the song is called ‘To You I Bestow’ and it was the night following her farewell party, she had to go back to the United States, she was an American here for a few years and he fell madly in love with her. But he was in bed and as he said in this freezing cold house and the words came to him in the middle of the night and he didn’t want to get out of bed but he remembered Bob Dylan had said in some interview that very often your words will come in that moment between half sleep and half wake and no matter what happens you have to write them down. So he told me how he got out of bed in this freezing cold house in the middle of winter and found a biro and wrote the words on the back of a Golden Pages phone book (laughter). Yeah and that became his very first hit which set him on the road to success. It was featured in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, as I say, and that album went on to sell 11 million copies. So if he hadn’t got out of bed that cold ... if he hadn’t and said ‘Ah, I’ll think of it in the morning’ but you won’t think of it in the morning.So those little asides I really enjoyed hearing and one of the most famous songs in the whole world today is a song called ‘You Raise me Up’ and I’ll have a little surprise towards the end of the talk, hearing the actual story of how that came about and the inspiration for that. I had another song by the same author ‘Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears’ about the same woman who came through Ellis Island but unfortunately we were cut down to 14 songs, 14 chapters, so that didn’t get through on this occasion and Mick Hanly’s great song ‘Past the Point of Rescue’.That’s the contents. It begins back in the 1600s with an old ... you’ve often heard the cliché the 40 verses, well this has over 40 verses, Una Bhán, it’s an old Gaelic song from the 1600s, it tells of the love affair between Thomas Lauder Costello and a McDermott girl. It’s a sort of a Romeo and Juliet story and it goes on and it goes on and it goes on and goes on (laughs). But it’s a fabulous...The next chapter is ‘Danny Boy’, then ‘Down by the Sally Gardens’, ‘Gortnamona’ Percy French’s great love song set to music in the 1950s, he wrote the lyrics. And then ‘On Raglan Road’ itself, the song that inspired me to write the book. ‘Nancy Spain’ by Barney Rush. ‘Sarah’, the story of Phil Lynott and his love for his daughter expressed in song, the tragic story of Phil Lynott. I was listening to a local radio station during the Easter 1916 commemorations and the radio presenter came on and said “Now we’re going to play the song ‘Grace’ that was a big hit for Jim McCann in the 1980s written by Joseph Plunkett an hour or two before his execution in Kilmainham jail and I was saying to myself had he nothing better to do (laughter) than write a song a couple of hours before he was led out which of course the radio presenter had it all upside down. The song was written in the mid 80s by Sean and Frank O’Meara who were ... and still are ... songwriters. In fact Sean is the Head of the Advertising Authority at the moment and the song ‘Grace’ was written in response, as he told me, ‘The Fields of Athenry’ had been a great hit in the early 80s and I said to myself ‘Surely, I could find some historical story to match ‘The Fields of Athenry’ and it took him months and months searching his mind but then he remembered a story he had been told in school about this girl who married one of the signatories of the Proclamation just hours before he was to be executed in Kilmainham. So he wrote the song in the mid 80s ‘Grace’. ‘Passed the Point of Rescue’ Mick Hanly’s great song of love, ‘The Voyage’ Johnny Duhan. Frank and Walters ‘After all’, a great 90s song. ‘Galway Girl’, Steve Earle. ‘To You I Bestow’ by Mundy and ‘You Raise me Up’ by Brendan Graham.Okay, so I think what I’ll do is I’ll read the introduction to the book just so as you get a feel for it and then I’ll skip down and I’ll read a little bit of the chapter on Patrick Kavanagh. So the book opens with an introduction and this is the introduction:It is evening and friends have gathered. Conversation and conviviality abound. Eventually somebody requests a song. A reluctant member of the company known to have ‘a voice’ is identified and pressed to sing, hush descends, the singer grows in confidence as the spell takes hold. Some listeners close their eyes while others hold hands and sway to the melody. The song might tell of unrequited love or of loss and pain due to death or emigration or another lover. The singer’s head is bowed now and the song concludes. A moment of poignant silence and then the warm praise. The bard, the poet, the musician, those people have always been held in very high esteem in Ireland. Back in the old days of the Gaelic Order the poet or the file was a powerful individual and each chieftain had his own bard. Writing in 1596 the English poet and Government official Edmund Spenser said poets in Ireland were, and I quote:“Held in so high request and estimation amongst them, that none dare to displease them for fear of running into reproach through their offence, and to be made infamous in the mouths of all men”.Many of us have tapped our feet to the Chieftains as the band performed an ancient tune by Turlough O’Carolan, the blind 17th century harp, and wondered who was it that could have inspired him to write such a beautiful melody. Audiences still listen enthralled by Christy Moore as sings of ‘Nancy Spain’, a woman whose name continues to haunt the composer no matter where he wonders. How often have we taken to the dance floor at the sound of the opening notes of ‘Galway Girl’ and wondered who the beautiful enchantress could have been. A girl he said he met as he took ‘stroll on the old long walk of a day -I-ay-I-ay’ with her hair of black and her eyes of blue. Maybe we’ve rocked to Thin Lizzy and wondered about Sarah who according to the song changed Phil Lynott’s world and who exactly was the beauty first seen by the poet Kavanagh ‘On Raglan Road ... whose dark hair weave a snare that I might one day rue’ and, by the way, since I started writing this the amount of women who claim to have been (laughs) the inspiration for Raglan Road is amazing really. And people thought Kavanagh lived a quiet, sheltered life (laughter) but quite obviously not as quiet and as sheltered as we thought.Anyway, this book tells the story of all of those wonderful women, of great beauty and charm, who inspired poets and composers to write some of the world’s finest love songs. It also provides information about the lives of the writers and explores the circumstances under which these beautiful songs and poems came to be composed. So even though the book begins with the old Irish love song Una Bhán there, which was sung by Joe Heaney and (10.14 inaudible).I’m going to start by talking about Kavanagh ‘On Raglan Road’ because that’s the title of the book. So again I’ll just read a few pages from that chapter. So the chapter ‘On Raglan Road’ which is chapter 5 begins like this:It has to be one of the great iconic images of Irish folk music. Luke Kelly, his eyes shut tight, chin up, head thrown back. There he is. And that flaming tangle of curly red hair so instantly recognisable. In some still photographs he has his 5 string banjos strung around his neck and you just know he is delivering ‘On Raglan Road’ from deep in his heart. Hearing Luke perform this moving song of unrequited love is a powerful and emotional experience. Sadly Luke died in January 1984 at the age of 44 from a brain tumour but his voice lives on and so on. His masterful interpretation of ‘On Raglan Road’ partly stems from the fact that he was personally invited to sing the song by the composer, the poet Patrick Kavanagh. They met in 1964 by accident in The Bailey pub, a well known Dublin public house, and Kavanagh told Luke that he had a song for him and even sang him a few verses. But it was 20 years before meeting Luke Kelly in the Bailey that Kavanagh appeared in the offices of the Dublin based newspaper The Catholic Standard and produced a sheet of brown lined paper from his pocket on which was written the lyrics of ‘On Raglan Road’. Kavanagh was a columnist with The Catholic Standard at the time and his friend Benedict Kiely who also worked on the paper was able to recall in an interview years later that the lyrics were scribbled in pencil and the spelling was not very accurate (laughter). Typical Kavanagh, yeah. Patrick wanted to know if the verses could be sung to the tune of ‘The Dawning of the Day’. So the two friends raised their croaking voices in a terrifying cacophony (laughter) and sure enough the rhythm and lines fitted perfectly with the old Irish air and that was in the mid 1940s. ‘The Dawning of the Day’ is a very apt tune for Kavanagh’s poem because the original Gaelic lyric, known as ‘Fáinne Geal an Lae’, is a good example of what’s known as an Aisling or a vision poem. So I go on and I talk about what an Aisling is. He was bewitched by her beauty and tries to court her with gentle words but she rejects him and it goes on like that. Kavanagh’s poem ‘On Raglan Road’ can be seen as a loose reworking of the old song ‘Fáinne Geal an Lae’ which is an old Aisling. I’m jumping through paragraphs now. And in Kavanagh’s version the poet sees a beautiful girl on Raglan Road and falls in love with her. He knows that it’s impossible and that grief is as inevitable as the falling leaves in autumn but he is helpless because he has become enchanted. He tries his best to win her using all his artistic talents but in the end she rejects him and he fears that she may have taken his inspiration with her as she departs down ‘a quiet street where old ghosts meet’. Then I go in and I explain where the old air came from, the ‘Fáinne Geal an Lae’ was originally composed in a more complex form by the Sligo born harpist Thomas Connellan in the 17th century and the lyrics ‘Fáinne Geal an Lae’ were first published by teacher and writer Edward Walsh in his collection ‘Irish Popular Songs’ in 1847. But it’s really Patrick Weston Joyce who published a much simpler version of the song known as ‘The Dawning of the Day’ in his collection of Irish airs in 1873 and it’s this version that we all know and some of us were tortured going to school (hums the tune) on the tin whistle. Yeah so that’s the version, Patrick Weston Joyce’s version.I go on then and I talk about Kavanagh and a bit about his background. He was born in Inniskeen. Most of you know the story anyway so I won’t read it out, born in Mucker and I think it’s a fabulous name (laughs) for a place in which Kavanagh would have been born yeah, 1904. A townland called Mucker. He was the son of a small farmer and a cobbler and most of you know that story so. He left school at 13 and went on to help his father with the land and (laughs) there is a great quote from his father, he was useless of course. Kavanagh was useless at farming and at most things really except poetry and obviously talking to girls as well as we find out (laughs) but there’s a great quote from his father “You’ve broken every implement on the farm except for the crow bar and you’ve bent that” (laughter), so that about sums it up on his ability. So he walked off down to Dublin, all the way from Mucker down to Dublin, and got to know to know some of the literati. He went back and read as much as he could and eventually made his breakthrough and came to Dublin. He left home. He tried London for 5 months before settling in Dublin but he soon became disillusioned with the poetry world and the Dublin arts community. In 1942 his long poem ‘The Great Hunger’ was published in The Horizon magazine and so on. There followed a difficult period for Kavanagh as he tried to make a precarious living as a columnist and writing bits and pieces up around Dublin. This was the first time he first saw the woman that would inspire him writing an ode. He was working on pros manuscript that would later be published in 1948, Tarry Flynn, a semi-autographical novel and it was banned for a while actually following publication so it must be good. (laughter)So who was this beautiful enchantress? Here is Kavanagh anyway in his middle years I suppose. A fabulous photograph I think because it captures Kavanagh’s rural background, you know the little cottage and there’s something scholarly about him all the same and yet the fabulous rustic ... So this guy was 40 or 41. The girl was Hilda Moriarty and when Patrick first set eyes on her she was a young student from County Kerry studying Medicine at University College Dublin. She was 22 years of age at the time and is said to have been “one of the two most beautiful women in Dublin”. I don’t know who said that now but it’s a great quote. The other being Kathleen Ryan, star of the film ‘Odd Man Out’. The year was 1944 and the poet was living at 19 Raglan Road boarding house run by Mrs Kenny, he was paying 10 shillings a week. He had arrived in the capital from his farm in Monaghan 5 years previous. He befriended the girl, brought her to tea, they met a lot. Hilda was interested in him because he was a well known poet about town, a published poet, and she was very interested in writing and that. She also felt he needed some encouragement at the time, he was a bit down, and she was doing Medicine because her father told her basically. Her father was a doctor down in Kerry. Now, Hilda was not in the least bit interested in having a romantic relationship with the much older man with his dishevelled appearance and his harsh Monaghan accent but Patrick saw things differently and he was badly in need of some excitement in his life at this time too. He had recently lost his job as a columnist in The Irish Press and so on. In an interview, RTE 1987, Hilda, who was still alive at the time, explains how she thought Patrick was quite old “at least in my eyes at that time he seemed quite old”. She tells how she abraded him about Terry Flynn and writing about cabbage and turnips and potatoes and Kavanagh replied that he was a peasant poet and Hilda told him that he should write something else and she explains in the interview that this was the origin of writing good. The young student and the older poet continued to meet regularly during 1944 and into the following year. This is why she looked like. They met in the Country Shop up in Stephen’s Green and in cafes in Grafton Street and deep down Kavanagh knew the relationship was doomed to failure and he afterwards wrote that “falling in love is more a suicide than an accidental death” (laughter). But he was struck by cupid’s arrow and he couldn’t help himself. He followed her down to Dingle one Christmas, made an eejit of himself down there (laughter) and of course wasn’t invited to the doctor’s house. A total disaster. But he got an article in a newspaper about it anyway so he got something out of it.Now, just a few points, in 1945 he brought Hilda with him on a visit to Dunsany Castle down in County Meath. He wanted to meet Lord Dunsany. He thought he would get him to become his patron. He had other ideas as well bringing Hilda. But if his intentions were to turn both the Lord and his young companion into succumbing to his wishes then the day was a complete failure. But, he took Hilda for a walk through the castle grounds and there he saw bluebells growing beneath the trees and later Kavanagh wrote a poem on unrequited love inspired by the flowers and by his day out with Hilda in County Meath. The untitled poem is now known as ‘Bluebells’ and it is sometimes known by its first line “The bluebells are withered now under the beech trees” and the importance of it is it prefigures ‘On Raglan Road’. It’s not as good a poem at all as ‘On Raglan Road’ but it contains the idea that love is about a season like spring and that the use of nature imagery and the various specific locations. So the poem ‘Bluebells’ is linked to the later and superior poem ‘On Raglan Road’ and we can see the poetic mind working towards something finer that will emerge when he comes to write his great song of unrequited love. As the months began to pass after this Hilda began to find Kavanagh bothersome, to put it mildly. He would show up ... I suppose nowadays we’d kind of call him a bit of a stalker maybe (laughter) but she’d be having coffee with her student friends in Bewleys or wherever it was and he would be over here looking over. So she tried to shake him off a bit. There is a letter in the National Library – this is really good – which was sent by Kavanagh to Hilda dated 31st of May 1945. It’s exactly what you would expect him to write. It’s written shortly after their trip to Dunsany Castle. It’s not a very diplomatic statement, nor is it an example of a perfect love letter. It is, however, exactly what one might expect from the modern poet in his floundering attempts to come to terms with his emotional situation and his disappointment. He was beginning to realise that this wasn’t going to work out as he had planned. So he wrote her a letter – a few lines from it.“I am no longer mad about you (laughter) although I do like you very, very much. I like you because of your enchanting selfishness” (laughter) and he goes on. “Your friendship, our love or whatever it was, was so curious and so different. There has never been and never will be another woman who can be the same to me as you have been. (laughs) I think it’s a perfect Kavanagh letter, you know putting his two big feet into it and yet redeeming himself sort of at the end.She wanted to make a complete break with him of course but his mother died and that held her back from making the break. But in 1946 she met Donogh O’Malley, a newly qualified Engineer from Limerick, and much to Patrick’s distress they began seeing each other regularly. Kavanagh even accompanied them on numerous dates. (laughter) Donogh was confident that Kavanagh was not a rival. (laughter) He was now putting the finishing touches to the poem that would eventually become ‘On Raglan Road’ and it was published in The Irish Press in October 1946. It was called ‘Dark Haired Miriam Ran Away’, that was the original name of ‘On Raglan Road’. It was accompanied by a photograph of the poet which was very unusual at the time. The poem became very popular in Dublin and it was sung at parties and that to the tune of ‘On Raglan Road’ after it was published in the paper in 1946. It would be in the 60s before he produced it to the ballad here. Anyway, ‘Dark Haired Miriam’, who was Miriam? Well his brother Peter claimed that Miriam was his girlfriend (laughter) and that Patrick had stolen the name of his girlfriend and that was, again, quite in keeping with Kavanagh’s style. In ‘47 Hilda married Donogh O’Malley and they settled down in Limerick. She was now a qualified doctor and Donogh, as you know, went on to become a famous politician, he became Minister for Education and he is forever known as the man who introduced free secondary education into Ireland and free bus travel as well which changed the face of Ireland in a way.I’ll just skip to the end. That was the end of the relationship and the song became a hit in the 60s and indeed it remains Kavanagh’s most famous song. Donogh died suddenly in March 1968 following a heart attack after delivering a bi-election speech at Six Mile Bridge and Hilda ran for election but she didn’t get it. It was very acrimonious. Des O’Malley got it and it was a very acrimonious election. Patrick married his long term companion, Katherine Barry Moloney, a niece of Kevin Barry, in 1967. They had been seeing each other and were partners for many years but sadly he married in April and he died that November and Hilda sent a wreath to his funeral and she lived on into the 80s. So that’s a potted ... a very quick version of ...Now, I want to jump forward to this is Brendan Graham. A major figure in world song writing, I mean one of the major figures, and we’re lucky in Ireland to have him. If ever a man should be honoured in his home country it’s Brendan Graham – author, composer, lyricist. If he were in England he’d be Sir (laughs) or knighted or whatever. If you know Brendan, ‘Rock and Roll kids’, does that ring a bell, yeah? ‘The Voice’ and of course ‘You Raise Me Up’, a huge hit for Josh Groban in the US and around the world, Westlife as well yeah and played at all these historic moments. I could go on and on. It’s an amazing, amazing song. It is the most popular song in the world today, ‘You Raise me Up’. The facts and figures, I won’t bore you with them, they’re in the book but sold in its millions. Million! And used at historic moments – Olympics, Super Bowl. It’s currently being used by Hillary Clinton for her election promotion video. You all know the song yeah. Now, it is possible to appreciate and interpret ‘You Raise Me Up’ in many different forms, in different ways. The lyricist, Brendan Graham, regards his song as and I quote ... by the way, I want to thank Brendan Graham, he was so generous and honest and forthcoming and thoughtful about his inspiration for the song. A signpost that people will read through their own particular frame of reference and according to their own particular needs. He is happy if the song serves to elevate the milk of human kindness and he is not interested in determining how the lyric should be perceived. What gives the song its power and what makes it universally popular is the fact that the listener is permitted to bring his or her own meaning to the worldview in the line ‘You Raise Me Up’. So you bring your own meaning to the ‘You’. For some, the ‘You’ might be a loving and supportive partner and therefore it’s a love song. But for others it could be a song of praise and thanks for a parent or a teacher or a mentor and it’s been used for all these. It might be addressed to a sibling or a grandparent or a coach or a preacher. Others will interpret it as a sort of hymn of praise or a divine being. The listeners make their own meaning. As someone said to him ‘it’s a cross between a hit and a hymn’. (laughter) I think it’s a valid description of the song, it is too. Brendan wrote the lyrics and he accepts all of those interpretations. I quote him “I was aware of the ambiguity I created in the way I used the word ‘You’ in the lyric” he explains “but it is not simply a device to make the song universal, Brendan expands on his thinking behind the famous line ‘You Raise me Up’. If I am raised up ‘to be more than I can be’ it is the person I love who loves me and through that person it is also something greater, an embodiment of the spiritual energy of the universe and the greater unknown”. I think it’s a fabulous way of putting it – those are Brendan’s own words. When pressed further, for the first time ever, in this book Brendan explains his source of inspiration for the song. He was reflecting his own views that we are all ‘one with the moment’ – to borrow a line for another of his songs. He first became aware of this idea by doing research for his novel. Brendan is also a best-selling novelist, as if he hadn’t enough success to contend with, he is also an author as well as a composer, a lyricist. This novel, ‘The Whitest Flower’, he was researching this among the indigenous people of South Australia’s Coorong. These Aboriginal people “see humans and animals, plants and the land, as a conjoined part of one great whole” to quote Brendan, therefore they have a great respect for life and for the environment, for the sacredness of things. This is all tied in with their idea of ancestors who still live in the sun and the moon and the sky and in the rivers and lakes and in the billabongs and in the very shape of the earth. Brendan sees a parallel between the beliefs of Aboriginal people and Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson’s notion of the super soul, that we are part of all the creation. Some people that the ‘You’ in the line ‘You Raise Me Up’ refers to their God but as Brendan points out it doesn’t matter who you call God because it is the same God and if you are preaching to the creator but yet one with him or her or “the force that through the green fuse drives” as Dylan Thomas put it then the ‘You’ of everything is the same, it is at once both human and divine because we are all part of the divine. Now that’s a bit deep for me to expound in a lecture but if you’re reading the book you can read back over that and it makes really profound and very good sense. He wasn’t using the ‘You’ in the singular sense rather it was a plural or split meaning, it is the people around me who raise me up but because they’re also part of the divine and the one the ‘You’ is also ... so as I say he’s one of Ireland’s leading song writers, a top lyricist and I won’t go through all the awards and all about his life.Let me just go on a little bit about the song. ‘You Raise Me Up’ was originally an instrumental called ‘Silent Story’. It was composed by a Norwegian called Rolf Løvland of the Irish/Norwegian duo Secret Garden. Some of you might remember that from the 1995 Eurovision Song Contest winner ‘Nocturne’. Now, Rolf Løvland later came to believe that his musical composition was somehow incomplete, it needed a lyric, but it had to be the correct lyric, one that was in total harmony with the music that he composed. So you’re familiar with the music (hums a tune), so there were no words to it. So Rolf let the tune sit for a good while. Sometime later Rolf Løvland’s musical partner, a girl called Fionnuala Sherry, the Irish violinist with the band, came across Brendan’s novel ‘The White Flower’ and was impressed by what she read. The book tells the story of Ellen O’Malley, survivor of the Irish Famine and so on and she was inspired by the book and she somehow saw a link between the book and the story and the music that her musical partner had written. Fionnuala passed the book onto Rolf and he was deeply moved by Brendan’s writing. He saw a tenuous connection between the music he had written and his composition which was then called ‘Silent Story’. In May of 2001 Fionnuala Sherry called Brendan and asked if he would be interested in meeting with Rolf and herself and have a listen to his composition side of the story with a view to writing a lyric to match the air. They knew each other, having been introduced at the Eurovision in ’95 when the Secret Garden won. Brendan was now working full-time as a novelist having secured a lucrative publishing deal but when he found out they were actually in Dublin at the time and staying close by he agreed. Then Rolf and Fionnuala were confident that if anybody could hear the story in the music that Rolf was trying to tell in the melody it would be brilliant. Brendan listened to a demo of Fionnuala playing the tune and he said very little. He then went home and he set to work. I’ll show you what he did. By the way, the song became a huge hit all around the world, particularly in the USA for Josh Groban ‘You Raise Me Up’. That’s Josh Groban here. There is the ...You raise me up, so I can stand on mountainsYou raise me up to walk on stormy seasI am strong when I am on your shouldersYou raise me up to more than I can beYeah. Now, just to go back. They were confident that Brendan could do it. He listened to the demo. He then went home and he set to work. The first thing he did was to brainstorm his ideas and jot them down on a scrap of paper. (audience gasp) And there is the scrap of paper. So that’s the very first moment that ‘You Raise Me Up’ appeared in the world, yes, and those original ideas on that sheet of paper turned up recently among his bits and pieces and he very generously sent me a copy which I can use in the book. The title and most of the chorus you can see kind of emerges here and the title and most of the chorus emerged first, that same night, and Brendan called Rolf and Fionnuala over to his house. He had the lyric written on a sheet of paper, Rolf saw the words ‘You raise me up so I can stand on mountains, you raise me up’ and he immediately said ‘Yes, these are the words, that’s the song’.So just the women behind ‘You Raise Me Up’ are Fionnuala Sherry who saw the link and maybe a fictional woman called Ellen O’Malley in the novel, yeah, and the world wouldn’t have what is, without doubt, at the moment probably the best known, probably the best-selling song as well.Now, as I told you I had a surprise for you, if Brendan doesn’t mind me pointing them out, Brendan is with us today and there he is. (Applause) He’s now embarrassed.Brendan GrahamI only came because I thought you might do a Paddy Kavanagh on me. (laughter)GerardI’m sorry for putting you in the spotlight Brendan. He is not a man who likes the spotlight in any manner or means.Now, how are we doing for time? Not too bad. All I can do now is go down through the images here and talk about them, yes.Let me see the next image here, yes, ‘Grace’, the story of ‘Grace’, everybody knows this, yeah, yeah. And in fact I’ve been giving talks around Galway libraries on ‘Grace’ for the 1916 thing but it’s such a fabulous story behind the song. I mean the song is a romanticised version of it. (Sings)Oh Grace just hold me in your arms and let this moment lingerWell, she arrived at the jail at 6 o’clock, having purchased an engagement ring herself in Grafton Street and went up and waited until 11.00. Near midnight she was brought in to the little church there. She was brought in to the little church in Kilmainham and Joseph Plunkett was brought down the steps in handcuffs and they weren’t allowed to speak or touch. They could respond to the service, to the Mass. She had recently converted to Catholicism. After the ceremony he was handcuffed again and taken immediately away. The place was full of soldiers and she was taken away by the local priest who had officiated. She was lodged in the house, the local bell ringer’s house of that church. That was about 1.30am. She went to bed. About an hour later a car arrived for her. The Governor of the jail had sent for her again. She was brought back to the prison and she was allowed 10 minutes with him in his cell. The cell was full of soldiers and officers, packed tight. A sergeant was put standing at the door with a stopwatch to time the 10 minutes to the second. Again, they weren’t allowed touch but they were allowed speak but as she said later ‘we who had so little time to speak in our last 10 minutes couldn’t find anything to talk about at all’. So he spoke about Pearse and the others who had been executed the previous morning and then she was ushered away and 3 hours later he was brought out and executed. This photograph was taken a few weeks afterwards by a journalist who came over to interview her. Now she was a prickly enough character. It’s a very interesting story but I just don’t have time to tell it but notice she’s wearing a wrist watch, yeah, the height of fashion at the time. So why is she holding a cat? She wants the watch of course (laughter), yeah. And the journalist was very surprised that a person didn’t appear around the corner. That was taken out in Plunkett’s Mansion in Widows Weeds, she became the height of fashion. But the story is fantastic.AudienceI’d like to say something if I may?GerardYeah?AudienceI think I’ve a few Christmas presents now sorted out.GerardOh thanks. (laughter) Yeah. That’s great. In a painting with William Orpen, the painter, painted in 1906 – the height of fashion, yes. Again, she’s a very fashionable person.AudienceDid she ever re-marry?GerardNever re-married. Never re-married, no. Got very involved in the anti-treaty, ended up in Kilmainham herself for a year or so. She was an artist. That’s her cartoons. She was a cartoonist, a caricaturist and no she lived a sad life enough. Yes?AudienceWhy were they allowed marry in the first place?GerardWhy were they allowed to marry? Yeah that’s a very ...AudienceWhy them above everybody else?GerardYeah that’s a very interesting question. First of all, why did she call back an hour later? It wasn’t because the Governor got sorry for her or anything. It was because she was now his next of kin legally and they were allowed to marry ... it’s tricky enough. They had planned to marry on the Easter Sunday of the Rising in a double wedding with Joseph’s sister and of course he couldn’t turn up because he was planning the Rising the following day but the bands had been read and everything had been ready to go ahead on Easter Sunday with their marriage and he had written to her saying ‘We could get marry by proxy?’ and there’s another ... I had to be delicate about this in the book ... when she went to the priest, the words, the phrase, she used was ‘We have to get married’ (laughter). Now we in Ireland there’s (laughter) connotations around that phrase, yes, and in fact rumours abounded for years around that whole issue and when the Plunkett girl who did go ahead and got married that Easter Sunday came to write her memoirs which were in the National Library up until the end of the 1990s when they were published in a book, in a biography, edited by Ní Bhrolcháin in the early 2000s she clearly states that Grace was pregnant and had a miscarriage and it wouldn’t be worth mentioning at all, it would only be rumour and hearsay and not worth mentioning, except for the fact that she is very specific about it and that it was in her memoirs and now is published in the public domain. But I was kind of delicate around it in the book saying that she was the only person ever who said that you know. So all these feed into the reasons.The story of Grace is one of the highlights of the book. When she was incarcerated herself she painted a ... she was an artist. This is her cell and if you visit the prison now, Kilmainham, you can visit her cell. Sadly, it’s exactly as she painted it but it was touched up in the early 60s but (laughs) it was touched up to such a degree that, for example, she didn’t ... different colours are used and it still gives us a rough idea but it’s a more romanticised version than the one she actually painted herself on the wall.Now, skipping on, ‘Danny Boy’, right. I’m going to go through the remaining 10 songs (laughs) in 5 minutes, right. ‘Danny Boy’, the story of ‘Danny Boy’ is really, really amazing. It spans centuries and continents and has been the subject of much debate and all of that. You divide it into the tune and the lyrics and the old tune could go back to Rory Dall O'Cahan, a blind harper in the early 1600s picked up in Limavady. I’m really shortening this story now by a Jane Ross. The story is she heard it being played by a fiddler. She lived her and he played at the market across the road and she wrote down the music. Sent it to Petrie, the great Irish collector of songs in his Irish love songs and therefore the tune was committed to paper at last. But, there is a big difference really between the original Gaelic tune that is supposed to be the ancestor of what we now called ‘The Derry Air’ as played by and as written by blind Rory or Rory Dall O'Cahan and the tune that Jane Ross wrote down and sent to Petrie that he put down in his book. The title ‘The Derry Air’ or ‘The Londonderry Air’ only appeared in 1894 when the poet Katharine Tynan set the words of her poem Irish Love Song ‘Would God I were the tender apple blossom’, set that to the melody, the melody that she found in Petrie’s book. But, anyway the melody was fairly well known and that’s Jane Ross of Limavady who sent that melody that we know as ‘The Derry Air’ to Petrie who put it in his book and then it was taken and used by various artists. It’s a very convoluted story but it’s a very interesting story because ... and just skipping forward, the next woman behind the story of ‘Danny Boy’ is Margaret Weatherly was the wife of the London doctor Edward Weatherly who in 1899 abandoned his practice and left England to find his fortune in San Francisco and later in Colorado in the Gold Rush. She heard the tune being played, this Margaret Weatherly, and she knew that he husband’s brother, Frederick Weatherly, back in England, in Bristol, who was a lawyer but he was also a fabulous songwriter and lyricist, so she sent him the music. So the music went across with the fiddlers from Ireland or maybe from Australia and this woman heard it in Colorado and sent it back to her brother and it was Frederick Weatherly ... he had never heard the tune ‘The Londonderry Air’ before but it so happened that he had the lyrics of a song called ‘Danny Boy’ already written and it required just a few alterations to make it fit perfectly, the melody that he’d received from his sister-in-law. After the song and the air had been accepted by a publisher Frederick found that it had also been used by a person who grades and so on. So the song ‘Danny Boy’ ... but here is the interesting thing and I kind of like picking holes in myths, the air that this woman, Jane Ross, wrote down is too polished. It isn’t really a Gaelic air, it’s ... even though it has some links to the old blind harper’s tune it’s too polished. But she was not a composer so somebody somewhere polished it up and this was fairly known practice at the time, that people who could read music and play the piano in the big house front room as it were would sort of polish up Irish traditional tunes and make them a little bit more classically orientated. But Jane Ross never admitted where she got the tune but somebody had to have worked on it and this is what I say, a bit of digging and I found this. Her talent was as a collector and a composer and the melody supplied to Petrie is of such high quality and of sentiment that it could only have been composed by someone of fine talent who had been classically trained but who was also familiar with the latest musical fashions of the time and Jane Ross was not these. By a strange coincidence one person who possessed these exact credentials did exist and lived in Limavady at that exact time and only a stone’s throw from where Jane Ross lived. His name was Edward Frederick Christian Ritter. He was a Prussian born musician who was employed as a music tutor to the two daughters of the wealthy Alexander family. They were landed gentry who lived on the outskirts of Limavady. The Alexanders and the Ross family knew each other well and they belonged to the same social stratum. The music teacher, Edward Ritter, was from a well known musical family. He arrived from Alsace-Lorraine around 1848 and most certainly would have known Jane Ross in the small town. Now, Ritter (laughs) fell in love with the daughter that he was teaching the music to, the youngest Alexander daughter, and the pair eloped in 1850. They married in Middlesex in August 1850 and they saved for Australia where he made his fortune. So could it have been this man who polished up the tune that Jane Ross had found up in the mountains? Actually it was her brother that found it up in the mountains and the story of taking it up from the blind fiddler and sending it on to Petrie. She sent it on to Petrie but it makes all the sense in the world that she didn’t want to say where she got it because of the scandal involved at the time with your man running off with the daughter. (laughter) Now, that’s my story and that’s the woman behind it and that’s the house in Limavady where she is now accredited to live. It’s a much more complicated story than that, I have just tipped the top of the iceberg. But that’s Frederick Weatherly who wrote the lyrics of ‘Danny Boy’ and loads of other lyrics (sings) ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem’, he wrote that s as well.Now, I’ll just go quickly through in the last 3 minutes.Johnny Duhan, the great song ‘The Voyage’, yes everybody loves that song. It’s one of his great songs. He told me who the woman was, and the whole story of it, it makes fantastic reading. It’s a pure love song and a real love story. There they are. They’re married. They are husband and wife. They live together still (laughter) which is very unusual in the love songs in this book I might add, they’re mostly either break-ups or unrequited love. So the story of Johnny Duhan and ‘The Voyage’ is a fabulous story and Maureen, his wife, who has supported them all she became a Principal, a National School Teacher, and Johnny eventually made good as we all know. (laughter)The story of ‘Nancy Spain’, that’s Barney Rush, the man who wrote ‘Nancy Spain’. It wasn’t Christy Moore, it was Barney Rush. He died 2014 sadly. He wrote also ‘The craic was 90 in the Isle of Man’, his two great songs. ‘Nancy Spain’, the real ‘Nancy Spain’, that’s her. ‘Nancy Spain’ was a woman journalist in England, upper class, famous in the 1960s for her feminist and lesbian risings. So ‘Nancy Spain’ was an English lesbian journalist (laughter). I told you I would surprise you. (laughter) That’s her. He took her name. He thought it was a perfect name for an Irish ballad. He wrote the ballad when he was on 18. Yes, he thought the name ‘Nancy Spain’ was fabulous. It was in all the tabloids at the time. She was killed in an air crash going to Aintree to cover the Grand National and he knew nothing about her but the headlines. And imagine his poetic sensibility at 18 to know that that name would resonate forever. But the real ‘Nancy Spain’ there she is. ‘Nancy Spain’ could be used in our next gay pride march.Now, Phil Lynott, a beautiful painting by Fitzpatrick, Jim Fitzpatrick, yes, of the tragic Philip in his garden with Caroline, Sarah and Cathy. So the book tells the sad story of Phil Lynott’s life and his brief happy and unhappy marriage to Caroline, Crowther’s daughter, the comedian, Leslie Crowther, yeah, and Sarah the daughter. His grandmother was also called Sarah. He wrote two songs ‘Sarah’ – one was on the second album ‘Shades of a Blue Orphanage’ and the Sarah in that song is his grandmother. He was sent by his mother from England as a boy to live with his grandparents because his mother couldn’t support him. She had become pregnant and she kept him with her for a few years but eventually the pressure of having a black child in England at the time, just in the post war era, it was too much. So the whole story of Phil Lynott is one of those great rise and fall stories. It’s really tragic and an enormous amount of skeletons in the Lynott closet and back in Galway where I come from a great sculptor there, Macdaragh Lambe, recently discovered he was actually Phil Lynott’s son through DNA and all of that. Everybody had been telling him for years he looked so much like him. He got tested and it turned out he was and his mother Philomena, a very nice woman, I mean a lady, but she admits herself she may have been rather naive at the time she had Philip, and held on to him, but she had two other children as well and she gave them up for adoption. But they recently found her. So the chapter on Sarah is very interesting. There they are on their wedding day – that’s baby Sarah now:When you came in my life you changed my worldMy SarahYeah. So that was just before they jetted off to Buenos Aires on their honeymoon and Leslie Crowther (laughs) you know he was English and I don’t know how he felt about having his daughter marry a black Irish man but his quotes are jokingly recorded at the wedding. But Philip’s mother is still alive and a gracious woman and I met her a few times, she says he was the kindness, most gracious man ever. But if you hear some of the quotes from his wedding speech, you know ‘he asked me for my daughter’s hand and I said “Why not? Haven’t you had everything else?” and so on (laughter) but he was a comedian so. There I am talking to Philomena and looking at Philips book of poetry. That’s him as a young fella in Crumlin growing up. That’s his grave, sadly, he ended there in 1986, 4th of January he died.The story of Sally Gardens, everybody thinks it’s about Maud Gonne, it’s not. It’s inspired by two other ladies. That’s the Una Bhán where the both of them were buried out in the island in Lough Key and two trees grew up out of the graves and intertwined and I just happened to come upon a fine photograph in a photographic exhibition and got the rights to publish it because I thought it told the story perfect and it goes with the chapter.Now, that’s the ‘Galway Girl’ in real life. Her name was Joyce Redmond and she is from Howth. (laughter) Another myth shattered but she lives in Galway and her parents, her mother at least, was from the Aran Islands and she lives in Galway now and is a musician and was fond of the arts and it’s one of the great selling points of the book. Don’t tell anyone, you’re sworn to secrecy that this is the ‘Galway Girl’. Percy French, the sad story of Percy French in Gortnamona, his wife Ettie died after ... she was only ... he married her at 19, he was in his 30s. He loved her deeply. They got on really well. But she died in childbirth when she was 20. (audience gasp) So all his humorous songs, all his fabulously witty songs and all that, but he’s also extraordinarily poignantly sad lyrics you know:Now if you go through the woods of Gortnamona,You hear the raindrops creeping through the blackthorn tree.But oh! it is the tears I am weeping, weeping, weeping,For the loved one that is sleeping far away from me.And it’s Ettie. Ettie Armitage-Jones whom he married and she died in childbirth and that’s who Gortnamona is about. So she’s the woman behind that.Mick Hanly told me the story of ‘Past the Point of Rescue’, one of the great songs and exactly who it was, his first wife he married. She was 18, he was 28. Then he took off on a mad world tour playing music thinking the marriage would work out. I’m afraid, as I said, one of the few happy marriages was back ... who was it? Johnny Duhan, yeah, yeah.The Frank and Walters, I just don’t have time to go into it. Mundy, as I told you, the story of the inspiration for his book and saying goodbye to the girl and writing the lyrics in the middle of the night and the ‘Raglan Road’ and that’s it. (laughs)(Applause) Thank-you for listening to the Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive Podcast. To hear more, please subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud. You can also visit our website - dublincitypubliclibraries.ie and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
May and James's Love Letters during the Rising - Transcript
The following is the transcript of the talk given in Rathmines Library on 25 August 2016 by Tessa Finn on the extraordinary exchange of love letters between her grandparents which took place during the turbulent year of the Rising.AudioWelcome to the Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive Podcast. In this episode Tessa Finn, discusses and reads some of the extraordinary love letters between her grandparents written during the turbulent year of the 1916 Rising. The letters provide an intimate glimpse into the lives of two people growing in love, not involved in the conflict but touched by it in many ways. Recorded in front of a live audience at Rathmines Library on 25 August 2016 as part of the Libraries' Heritage Week Programme.TessHello. I’m here to present to you letters that were written by my Grandparents in 1916.1916 was a year of many events both in the world and in Ireland but my Grandparents were not large player on the world stage nor were they on the stage of Ireland. They were just ordinary people but the most important thing that was happening for them in their life was that they became engaged in January of 1916 and married in June and she was living in Westmeath and he was living in Dublin so they wrote each other letters as people did in those days. We still have more than 90 letters that they wrote in that period which is not all of them by any means, one can see that there are gaps in the letters. But they wrote and could expect delivery within a day or two and they responded often right on top of each other’s letters.My Grandmother kept my Grandfather’s letters very carefully. We found them after she died in the 70s in a box all still wrapped in ribbon by her bed in her bedroom. She had a really good reason to keep them with a great deal of care because they were only married less than 6 years when she was pregnant with my Father, her fourth child, she was 6 months’ pregnant when he died suddenly of heart failure and that was due to damage that had been done by a flu epidemic a few years earlier. So she was left a widow with four children having been very much in love as you can from the letters.These are some of the letters, some of the envelopes. I have them all in a file here. You can look at them afterwards if you want to. It’s such a beautiful thing to look at the old documents. And it was a great pleasure for me to have the process of transcribing them and making them into a narrative that was understandable and getting to know the players in a way that I never could have otherwise.My Grandparents were not big players. They were middling folk, reasonably well off by the sound of it, there were so many people in Dublin at the time, it was of course a very poor place. But she was from comfortable farming stock, he from a family that had been in Civil Service for generations and he was making a career in the Civil Service in Dublin. And this is his family. He was born in 1876 in Castledaly in Westmeath. His Father was a Revenue man who died quite young. His family story was that he sampled too many goods when he was going around from distillery to distillery. (laughter) In any case, his Mother was left a widow. There was one son and three daughters, so as the only son he would have been under a lot of pressure to take over the support of the family and he worked hard and got scholarships and then joined the British Civil Service, as it was, quite young and made his way up through the ranks. This is him in the front there, his Mother behind in the middle looking quite staunch and his cousins at a wedding. That was taken in 1915. In 1912 he was promoted to the National Health Insurance Service Commission which was just set up that year and had an office in Mount Street in Pembroke Court. We have documentation showing his promotion to that job.My Grandmother, May Fay, was only 19 when she became engaged so she was almost 20 years younger than him. She was convent educated, not very far but better than her brothers, that wasn’t a necessity in the farming community they lived in. This is her mother and her two sisters. We don’t have very many good photographs so they’re (laughs) as good as I can give.AudienceShe’s like Princess Diana there isn’t she?TessYeah (laughs). She was a very pretty girl. Many people commented on this. So her mother was also a widow and had had to get the farm up on its feet again after, it was a difficult time.We can see that in these letters his voice is more often heard than hers, that means that she kept his letters whereas she wasn’t so concerned about her letters which is kind of normal enough. They are full of everyday stuff but I think they have a tone in them that is very special and it gives you an insight into the life of the time and the way things were. There’s things about fear of conscription which was very much in people’s minds, especially at the beginning of 1916. All of the different events that were going on to do with the war and the people they knew that had gone to the First World War and then of course there is the Rising and they are separated. He was visiting her in Westmeath when the Rising actually happened. He visited on the Easter holidays there. But he had to make his way back and then there’s all of the rumours and fears of people they knew and stuff like that.He was living in Rathmines in Belvedere Square. Rathmines was the place where Civil Servants collected at that time. It was very much a place for the people who were making a name for themselves in that place. He moved into Belvedere Square in 1912. Sorry in 1914. The house stayed connected with our family until this year, it’s just been sold so.AudienceWhy did you let this happen?Tess(laughs) It wasn’t a possibility to keep it in the family. They are very valuable houses and there wasn’t a family to fill them but it’s a big sadness to us. It’s my Grandmother’s house. My Aunt lived there. So it’s also part of the heritage of Rathmines.So what we’re going to do is, my husband Andrew here and I, we are going to read from the letters little excerpts to give you a feel of the narrative that goes on. And the first letter was written after they have become engaged over the Christmas holidays presumably in Westmeath. He writes back to May.AndrewI’d just like to explain, I’m usually a little bit deaf and at the moment I’m really deaf (laughs) so I can hardly here what Tess is saying there and it makes it a little difficult to read, though I’ll do my best. And also if at any point my lips are moving but no sound comes out of them that will be the reason why. (laughter)January 13thI got back safe and sound although I didn’t feel quite so cheerful as I did in the country. I always feel like that but I had more reason I suppose this time than ever before. I remember now that on Monday when I spoke to you I was so intent on asking you to marry me that I quite overlooked in the excitement telling you that I loved you very dearly. I hope you didn’t need me to tell you that anyhow in order to believe it of me. I can hardly yet think that the converse is true, that you have any special regards for me. It seems somehow too good to be true but I hope with God’s help that it may come true anyhow. As I told you already, I could never bring myself to believe that any good girl could trust herself to me and in your case it seemed impossible but I suppose the reason is that the Lord is always a thousand times better to us than we deserve. This is a queer sort of letter to write to you, you will think, but perhaps you will be able to read between the lines because I love you whatever comes and that if the Lord spares me I will try and do my duty to you.14th of JanuaryI was delighted to get your letter this morn. You were very good to write, you were very good to write so soon. I wasn’t expecting it though I was hoping you would. I’m quite looking forward to seeing you the week after next. I did feel a wee bit lonely after you leaving and you may be quite sure I would not have consented to marry you if I did not like you very much and that for some time. But I never thought I would be so fortunate as to get one corner in your heart. I hope dear James that at some time I will be able to show you how much I appreciate your love.19th of JanuaryI was in town with (09.49 inaudible) Saturday last. I paid a long promised visit to Brother Leary and was very pleased to get out of him, not withstanding how nice he was to me, took me on his knee, put his arm around me, in fact did everything but kiss me. I was going to tell him I’d tell you but I thought I better not.21st of FebruaryI was very jealous to hear about Brother Leary’s conduct. I begin to see that if a man is only cheap enough he can do anything so he better look out for trouble when I see him.This is the family farm in Tubberstown on the hill of (10.43 inaudible).7th of MarchMy dearest James, you were indeed very thoughtful to manage a moment to send me a line. I must say you’re a very good, dear man. I was very glad to have your letter this morning very early and having two but I could not find energy to get through my few jobs having nothing to hurry for better than dinner. For the first time I felt a want in country life but I was so not silly as I call it as to let that be seen. But I prayed to write this letter to you and then set to and make pancakes for the tea on account of Shrove Tuesday. It’s a big job for so many but for once I wished there was one more. I hope you were not lonely last night when you went home. I was very lonely sitting at the fire. When I went to bed it was relieved by tears and then away with me to dreamland. No such luck as happy dreams even, I am not aware of them now. But my very best love to you from your old May.8th of MarchI was delighted and pleased with your letter this morning. It has kept my heart ringing all day up to the present for it is clear all through it that you are not quite the superior, sensible thing that you are trying to humbug me into believing. It is the greatest possible comfort and happiness to me to know that my dear girl thinks of me so much and so highly. I suppose it’s heartless to be glad to hear that you had recourse for tears on Monday night. Is this the superior girl that never cried and who was so contemptuous of me for being silly when I thought I was only being affectionate? Well, I am glad to see that you were moved to tears on my account and I love you all the more dearly, if that is possible, for it. For my part, I’m not a bit inclined to cry these days. In fact I feel quite pleased with myself and inclined to shake myself by the hand almost indeed to stand myself adrift because I have been so lucky as to get such a treasure as your love. The thought of it warms and comforts me so that I can almost feel something warm and singing within me all day long.I should mentioned too that the way the year went by you could see that obviously every few weeks one of them would visit the other and you can see that after each visit they’ve gotten more clear with each other or to know each other, more at ease with this getting married stuff. And also as in that last little exchange she is missing him.9th of MarchMy dearest James, very many thanks for your nice letter this morning. I was very pleased to see by it you are keeping in such spirits. I’m in the best of form now. I was at Mass Ash Wednesday, Mass only, because I’m keeping my loaded conscience for a Mullingar priest if I can manage the point without anyone knowing it. Mother was telling the lads not to forget the novena for the speedy end of the war to Saint Patrick. Christy said ‘No such thing for when the war is over he is beggared’. I have no news now so I’ll conclude with my best love and very best love to my dearest James from his loving May.Well you can understand how anxious I am that you should have it for the very same reason that I love my dearest girl above and far beyond anything else in this world. I am not ashamed to say that to you although you seem to be shy of saying the same. Still, I hope that it is true although you don’t say it. Thanks love for the kisses. You wouldn’t ask who is good in the holy season to send them, I know very well that my dear sweet girl is always good so that I hope you won’t expect me to take too seriously the references to ‘loaded consciences’ and sin and all the rest of it. I imagine the priest must have a job to keep from laughing sometimes when he hears of your ‘sins’.13th of MarchI am quite sure you will be able to keep your end with Mrs Duffy. When you put on that consequential air of yours it requires quite a lot of courage I should say to resist it. In my case anyhow I find it very difficult to resist you at any time but I think the emotion produced is not fear so much as something very different. I always want to take you in my arms and smoother you with kisses. By the way, talking of kisses I must say that I have formed a very high opinion of the intelligence and good sense of Father Flynn, your recent confessor, and I feel quite grateful to him for making your tender conscience easy on that score. The prospect sounds so promising and appetising that I feel almost inclined to swoop down on you some week and soon and take advantage of the greater generosity which I presume you are now prepared to show me. (laughter) To tell the honest truth, I am beginning to feel the want of you more and more every day worse and worse so that I very much doubt if I shall be able to hang on ‘til Easter without seeing and kissing your dear face again and hearing your dear voice. So don’t be surprised if you hear of my arrival in the country about the end of the month.TessSo you see there is also the point where he is getting his house done up and getting ready to have the new bride come in. He is also going to have to turf out his mother and sisters which is another matter.29th of MarchI must start tonight the preparations for it now. There is a good deal in the way of painting and papering that I should like to see done and I must try and induce my landlord to do the house up generally for your reception. Of course I must have it looking its best for my dear bride who comes home to it. When a man gets a perk, that’s what Ray called you wasn’t it, he must get a proper setting for it. I must at any rate have our bedroom done up.30th of MarchYou are a darling man to be planning improvements on the house for me. I will never half appreciate your goodness. The only reward I can ever offer you is my very poor indeed prayers, nothing else. It is not my heart is stopping me, there are a hundred things I would like to do if I only had half the goodness in me. At last I have nothing at all but my youth and the wish for all heaven necessities to enter on married life.30th of MarchIf anything happened now to separate us I know that life would have no further joy or interest for me. It wasn’t at all in a joke that I said to you some time ago that you would have to be my guardian angel for the future. I do really and truly mean it and the more I get to know you and understand the truth, that goodness in you, the more I realise what an unhopeful and undeserved blessing from God I received when I won your love.14th of AprilI did not settle in my own mind yet how I’ll see you on Good Friday. It will be the dear stations I will do with you by my side. Unless I have very much stronger will I will give up all prayers after June. I never can pray when I’m near you. As far as the love, honour and obey goes, I intend to commence in June and take up the poker and say ‘I’ll be the boss’.15th of AprilI hope it won’t be quite so bad as that and that you will be content to go and do the stations with me on Good Friday and be good and loving and sweet afterwards as you always otherwise are. Sometimes I don’t know when you talk that way whether you are joking or not or whether you really do scruple being fond of me or kissing me with a freedom and frankness which is only reasonable in the case of us two. I don’t see what harm you can do even if you did think of me and love me on Good Friday as well as on any other day. So far as I am concerned my conscience is not only clear in loving and thinking about you but I know and am convinced as I never was of anything before that my only hope of salvation lies in loving you and thinking of you always. I am always a better, cleaner man when I think of you and I intend to cling to that last straw like the drowning man. In view of what I say, I imagine it will be easy enough for you to boss me even without the poker but I hope you will not be too severe, although I’d certainly advise you to be firm. (laughter)TessSo this moves on to Easter 1916 and, as I said, James Finn was visiting at his relative’s next door to May for the Easter holiday, to spend time with May and they seem to have only really got to know about what was going on as he was trying to make his way back in. He describes what a difficult journey he had.29th of AprilI got back alright and found my mother and Essie quite well but frightened. We had some trouble in getting out of Mullingar. We had to get a military permit which, however, was never asked for. I had first to go to Drumcondra with a lady who was my passenger and I was much delayed in consequence as I had to go back around my Lucan to get in by Terenure. In Drumcondra I ran up against a friend who told me that the Volunteers had just surrendered on promise of an amnesty and I believe from what I hear now it is true that they have surrendered. I really have nothing to say except to thank God that I found everything quite well at home. No news on Mo or Maura but I hope in God and feel quite confident they are quite safe. The driver is taking us back but as he is only leaving now at 7.00pm he may be late for the messenger from Toalstown.TessWe can see how his sisters were travelling at that time too, they are worried about them and they hear loads and loads of rumours, it’s just it’s so unsure what’s actually happening and who is doing what to whom.8th of MayIndeed, part of the time I fear that I might never see you again. You remember how often I told you that both by letter and by mouth that I might not have the good fortune or the grace from God to be married to you? Now somehow I feel that I may be thought worthy although why it should be so I cannot understand when I think of all the fine spirits this calamity has called to their internal account. Things are gradually getting more like their usual way and people are beginning to rebel or restore all that has been shattered but it will be many a long day before Dublin is anything like its old self. It will probably take 10 years before the central parts are completely restored.10th of MayThey are still arresting men all over the country and I suppose you know that they have shot 12 of the leaders in the last group. They are P. H. Pearse and his brother Willie Pearse, Tom Clarke, an old Fenian, Thomas MacDonagh, J. Plunkett, instead of count Plunkett, Major MacBride, of the South Africa war, Eamonn Ceannt, Con Colbert, J.J. Heuston, M. Mallin and one or two others whose names I forget at the moment. A large number, up to 40 I think, have got penal servitude ranging from 3 to 20 years. Countess Markievicz imprisoned for life and 200 or 300 prisoners taken to England to be interred.10th of MayWe are always looking out for the paper and news. We manage to get an odd paper now and then but I saw where all Civil Servants were asked to render in account of their Easter holidays. Will you not be asked to render in account of all the time you spend talking to me and sitting at face fire? You need not be afraid to mention our names anyway, we’re not very rebellious characters. I have no other word of news.16th of MayYou’ll be glad to hear that John Fitzgerald, one of our men here who was arrested last week has been released today and will be back again on duty in a day or so. I think I was telling you about him having been arrested at his house on Iona Road. One or two others have had their houses searched but nothing incriminating was discovered. No strange news in the papers this morning beyond what you saw in last evening’s papers.18th of MayJohn Fitzgerald was in the office yesterday for a while recounting his experiences in prison. The only charge against him was that ‘he spoke Irish continually in his house and played Irish and German music on the piano’. And his neighbour, a man named Casey, over 50 years of age was charged that ‘between the 22nd of April and the 1st of May he was seen speaking to people who were believed to be Sinn Feiners’. Absolutely nothing else on the charge sheet of either party and although they were kept in prison for 5 days they were never examined or called upon to answer any charge whatsoever. Both were released on Friday morning. They slept 25 in one room on the floor with one blanket each and neither chair, table, pillow, knife, fork, spoon or any other means of making themselves clean or comfortable. He tells me also that there are 7 men in all shot without trial in Portobello Barracks, that is Sheehy-Skeffington and 6 others and that Skeffington was not shot by a firing party but by a Captain Colthurst, one of the Colthurst’s of Cork, by his own hands with a revolver. I haven’t seen any news of the Casement trial worth relating. Up to the present time the only evidence produced was the usual two yards about his family and the Irish Brigade in Germany and his laughing it off afterwards.22nd of MayI’m glad that you have eventually decided on how your dress is going to be made. But I think if you don’t look very snappy they’ll leave you in the lurch at Keelings and maybe I’d have to marry you without a rag on you. As regards that, however, of course you could always turn up smiling with your watch wristlet and your bangle and to be in the fashion with you I could appear in a tall hat and a pair of cuffs on my ankles like any African Chief. I must look after Mangle and Roche this week but I don’t know where to go now that Hopkins has just disappeared off the map.TessThat was of course Hopkins one very famous jewellery shop in Dublin that was completely destroyed in the barrage attack. One thing you can also hear from the letters is that there was a great ... I mean Dublin was mad at the time but there was a great deal of attention paid to the Civil Servants because they were ... in many cases there was a lot of sympathy among the Civil Servants for the Easter Republican thoughts. There was a lot of ... well I think Michael Collins, a lot of the actual people who ended up involved in the Rebellion had been Civil Servants and I think it was a situation that actually fermented the Rebellion. So then were very suspicious of them. And of course these victims just shot right up there in Portobello Barracks.22nd of MayDon’t worry about my being arrested, there is no fear now or indeed at any time. If I was any blooming good I would have been arrested long ago. Men a thousand times better have a daisy quota over them in Glasnevin now. Poor Roddy Collins being deported to England and Sean is still confined in Richmond Barracks. My mother was over seeing them yesterday. They are having 6 soldiers billeted on them from today I suppose by way of punishment. A pleasant thing to have 6 boyos in your bathroom for goodness knows how long.27th of MayI wonder what I’m going to write about today. My mind seems to be an absolute blank so far as music is concerned except perhaps the yarns and rumours of all kinds that are going around Dublin at present. I suppose you have heard that we are going to have another Rebellion on Whit Monday? The rumour has been around Dublin for the last fortnight and I believe priests have been advising people to be very circumspect during the Whitsuntide holidays and to keep near the shelter.TessAnd so despite the Rebellion it’s coming close to their wedding day and they are still planning that so they still have to kind of come to terms with those realities. They had planned for June, they had originally planned a honeymoon in Kerry, but that didn’t work out quite the way they ... now they weren’t sure what would be possible. Of course everything was closed down. But they were still going ahead with it. And May is getting herself ready.My dearest James,We had a nice day in town, better than today anyway. I had my dress fitted. It looks very well I think and my hat also. But I can tell you I was sick of the job of turning and twisting and standing all the time when I was being fitted. I think I will leave it to your taste. I liked your taste in the watch and well you have the advantage of having seen both the ring and the finger I dare say unless you have a great eye and memory altogether you will forget my ring finger is fat and short. I got my first present today from Mrs Kiernan – a silver tea pot. I hope you will get something nice for yourself. I heard (31.57 inaudible) was in the GPO in uniform so he cannot get off so easy. I have no more news so goodbye. I hope we won’t have weather like this for our wedding, whatever about the honeymoon.1st of June 1916You’ll have to let me off with a very short note today as I’m awfully rushed and have been all day, partly business and partly arrangements for the coming events. Tourist arrangements in the south they are all off I’m afraid so we must try and manage as best we can by car as the motor coaches will not be running until 1st of July. We will make for Glengarriff anyhow and chance our arm from there as to getting through to Killarney by the coast route. I have not time to write anymore now although I can spend a few more minutes anyhow telling you how I love you. Do you need me to do that though? I hope that by now you know me enough to feel sure of my settlements in that respect anyhow. Don’t forget to ring Pa this evening. I send you my warmest love and kisses my dear, dear May.Your loving James.TessSo that’s more or less the last letter from before the wedding day which is more or less the last of the letters. We have a few very small letters written afterwards. So they got married in June – June the 6th they got married in Toalstown. There was a very small wedding party, as lowly as she was there was a wedding breakfast and they made their way down to Glengarriff and they seemed to have had a fantastically happy marriage. It seems like sometime in 1918 or 1919 he caught the Great Flu during one of the outbreaks and from that point on they knew his heart was damaged because he had the endocarditis which was side effect for many that caught it, especially as they were very young. They had four children. They had three children when they were married and she was pregnant when he died. The few letters we have were written when maybe she went back home to the farm and wrote back letters. One of them has a thumb print from the eldest child wishing love to his Daddy and then in 1922 according to the family story he was very active in the process that was going on in early 1922 where they were getting ready to hand over power to the Free State Government. There were a lot of processes going on in terms of designing the new Civil Service, what would be carried over, what would not be carried over. There were lots of meetings. James was apparently very involved in those and dragged off even when he was quite sick. So at one point they were actually talking of carrying him in the bed into a meeting and she put her foot down. This was very shortly before he died. This is all family history.In any case he must have had a major heart attack just a couple of days before he died when they knew there was no hope because there was just enough time to write a will and he wrote ... he wasn’t sure whether she would have easy access to his money after he died. He knew she would eventually but he knew she desperately needed money. So from his sick bed he signed his will over, what he had was left to her, because they were only renting the house and in a new cheque book he wrote the rent for the house for a couple of months ahead, the payment for the medical care he had received and he wrote a cheque for her of all the money he had left so that she’d have access to it and we still have that cheque. She never actually tore it. And if you see there at the top it says May with fierce love, 84 pounds, 1 schilling and 12 pence.And that’s his death cert – chronic endocarditis. He collapsed 5 days beforehand.I have the cheque. It is a very beautiful document. It is surprising how important looking at any old cheque is (laughs).So we’ve rushed through the letters just to give you a taster of the story. To finish off, my Grandmother as I say not very well educated and I think just turned 26 when he died in a rented house in an expensive part of Dublin with four children, she was a survivor and a very strong woman. And she managed. She took in lodgers. James, who was always living a little ahead of himself, had filled a house with lots of beautiful furniture, especially when he was expecting her to come and by and by she sold off all the nice furniture and remembers what it was like seeing the beds leave which was the last to go (laughs). Obviously in a big house like that they had a servant girl and she left saying they used to be gentry but now they were taking in lodgers, they weren’t up to their class anymore. (laughter) So this obviously left a bit impression on my Aunt who was about 3 or 4 or 5 – quite young.So that’s my Grandmother there with presumably maybe the same servant girl because that picture was taken before my Grandfather died. It was the oldest son and the second child, my Aunt Emma, and that’s the two of them in the farm I think with a goat. (laughs)And that is later on after my Grandfather died with all four children and my Grand Aunt.After she took in lodgers she trained in various things. She trained as a Chiropodist, as a Health Inspector, as a Midwife. She managed to twist the arm of the bank manager – what was unusual for the time – she managed to get a mortgage. It was very unusual for a woman to be able to get a mortgage and bought a house and put it into flats and then by the time she died she had managed to put at least one child through college. She had a number of houses so she always said that as long as she was in the red she had luck, as long as she was betting she had luck.AudienceCan you remember her?TessOf course yes. And that’s one little older picture. And there’s a picture outside of the house in Belgrave Square when my aunt, her daughter, married, in 1941.That’s my father there (laughs).That’s a little collage of her in later years. She was a real matriarch and a very powerful woman. But she had many offers of marriage apparently, including apparently she had a ... she walked out, as they said, with Roddy Connolly who was the son ... he lived down the road just three doors up. He was about the same age as her. A bit younger but also a widower. But they didn’t ... she never seemed to take anybody, any man, very seriously.AudienceWas it only 6 years of marriage they got?Tess50 years a widow.AudienceWhat?TessShe was 50 years a widow. She died at 76.Any questions?AudienceHow did they meet originally was one I meant to ask and the age difference and the background – the rural kind of farming and then the urbanised Civil Service background and 20 years of an age difference? Did you mention that he had relatives near her?TessHe had a relative who was their nearest neighbour.AudienceSo that’s how?TessAnd they probably spent at some point in ... like in the 1911 Census his mother and sisters are living in Castletown Geoghegan so they’re not very far away too. So he presumably was there at least some of the time. But he was very attached to his cousins that lived next door and it sounded like it was ... from the letters you can read that he had been visiting there at various times and attended like for one her sister’s wedding the year before and that he’d had his eye on her for some time he said but he felt like he had to wait until she was a decent age. Of course it wasn’t unusual at the time for a man to be that age before they had enough clout to be able to marry.AudienceYeah to provide for some of them.TessYes to provide.AudienceBut it was a love match anyway what you’re saying there.TessIt seems to have been, yes.AudienceIt wasn’t a made match...TessNo.Audience...which would have been often the case in the country itself with that kind of an age difference at that time.TessYes. I mean I’ve heard that her mother thought he was a real catch so she was (laughs)...AudienceShe was egging it on.Tess...she was definitely egging it on.And should you be interested I have a book that’s €14 and also I have the letters here if you want to have a look at them. They are very beautiful things.AudienceIt was a great postal service around that time.TessYeah it was amazing.Audience(41.54 inaudible due to over speaking) the post in Dublin was at least four times a day.TessYeah.That’s the wedding photograph, you can see that’s on the cover. We only have two pictures of him although there must have been many more we don’t know what happened to them and not many of her as a young woman either.But it was such a great thing to find these letters. To me it was very intimate, getting to know them and handwriting tells you so many things as they say.AudienceThank you very much. (Applause) Thank-you for listening to the Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive Podcast. To hear more, please subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud. You can also visit our website - dublincitypubliclibraries.ie and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
The following is a transcript of 'The Queen's Theatre', a talk by Cecil Allen in Pearse Street Library on 24 August, 2016.AudioWelcome to the Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive Podcast. In this episode award winning writer Cecil Allen talks about the colourful history of The Queen's Theatre, which was located in Pearse Street and which, from its earliest days until its closure in 1969, celebrated Ireland’s heroes and her historical characters. Recorded in front of a live audience in Pearse Street Library on 24 August 2016.Anne-Marie KellyTonight’s speaker, Cecil Allen, has a very good pedigree. He is grandson of the actor Ira Alan who performed at The Queen’s Theatre, Pearse Street. He has written actually a book on the subject called ‘The Actor’, a novel, and it was published in 2014. We have a few copies of it available in our public libraries if you want to borrow it. He is also a retired college professor from Dublin Institute of Technology and he has got 20 years broadcasting experience in RTÉ. I think it is going to be a good talk tonight, I am looking forward to it. So you are welcome Cecil. (Applause)Cecil AllenOkay, thank you very much Ellen [name error]. That was a great introduction. Even I am looking forward to what I have to say. There’s The Queen’s Theatre. A fine old building. Well I was seven years of age when I first experienced the magical involved world of The Queen’s Theatre. My mother took my brothers and I to see a pantomime – Cinderella. We sat in the auditorium, the lights faded, the audience went quiet and the big red curtain rose. I was captivated by everything I saw and heard – the lights, the sets, the colourful costumes, the music, the magic. I fell in love with Cinderella. I didn’t like Cinderella’s mother, especially when she was mean to Cinderella but I did laugh heartily at the comedians, I booed the ugly sisters and I really was enchanted by everything I saw in there and that was my first memory of The Queen’s Theatre. But that’s only very little about the history of The Queen’s Theatre. For most of its time The Queen’s Theatre was known as the home of Irish drama.Now, The Queen’s Theatre was located on Brunswick Street, now called Pearse Street, this very street, and it was located right down by Trinity College, right opposite where the fire brigade station is now. And for nearly 200 years there was a theatre on that site. The first theatre was called The New Olympic Circus and that opened in 1823. Unfortunately it was demolished six years later. In December 1929 a new theatre, The Adelphi Theatre, opened on that site and here we have a drawing of The Adelphi Theatre. Opening night’s play was the melodrama ‘The Old Oak Chest’. Now, the Adelphi Theatre lasted a little longer than The New Olympic Circus. The Adelphi lasted 15 years. Then in 1844 the theatre was sold to a John Charles Joseph who promptly tore it down and built a much grander theatre on the site and he called this new theatre The Queen’s Theatre. That’s an old picture of the original, well of the drawing when they were building The Queen’s Theatre. It was called The Queen’s Royal Theatre because it was granted a royal patent. The Queen’s Theatre opened with three short melodramas – ‘The Devil In It’, ‘The Lottery Ticket’ and ‘The Miller’s Maid’. The new theatre was a big success and Dubliners quickly nicknamed her The Queen’s.Now, The Queen’s was a very large theatre for its type at the time. It seated about 2,000 people – as big as Bord Gáis Theatre now in terms of seating capacity. It had 750 people in the pit or the stalls as we would call it. It had 200 people in two rows of boxes which ran right across the front of the theatre. And there were 400 people in the lower balcony and 700 in the upper balcony. So it was a very big theatre. Now, down through the years many famous actors appeared on the stage of The Queen’s Theatre. In 1860 the London actor Henry Irving appeared at The Queen’s Theatre and he endured one of the worst theatrical experiences of his life. The story goes that Irving was 22 years of age and he had been engaged to take over the part of Laertes in Hamlet because a Dublin actor by the name of Vincent had been dismissed for some reason or other. When Irving came on stage the audience started to hiss, catcall and boo and to the end of the engagement poor old Henry Irving didn’t get a chance to say a word without being interrupted. And this was so traumatic for the actor that he never spoke of it for 25 years and we don’t know how he reacted or if he ever learned that the whole fracas was orchestrated by the actor Vincent who had been summarily dismissed.Incidentally, Henry Irving had a dresser. That’s what they called him and like a dresser was a personal assistant, and he was a Dubliner and his name was Bram Stoker. He was the man who wrote Dracula. Indeed, it has been said that Henry Irving’s personality can be seen in Dracula. They would say that.The golden age of The Queen’s Theatre began in 1882 when a young English actor, producer and manager by the name of James W. Whitbread joined the theatre. The Queen’s at that time was a stock company. Now, a stock company is a permanent company of actors who performed one play in the evening and rehearsed another play in the afternoons. Now, like most theatre managers Whitbread found it difficult to continually find interesting plays for his company. However, because The Queen’s Theatre was a royal theatre or a patent theatre he could and he did invite many of Britain’s great touring companies to perform in the theatre and before long The Queen’s Theatre became a number one date for tour companies touring out of England. Now touring companies were important to The Queen’s Theatre because they came with very high standards of acting, of sets and of costumes and this high standard of production became the accepted norm for the theatre goers at The Queen’s Theatre. The touring companies performed operas, operettas, dramas and melodramas. The big crowd pleaser was always melodrama. Audiences loved them and they came in their thousands to see them. There we have melodrama. Now, the word melodrama is two words – the original pronunciation was melo drame – melo meaning music and drame meaning drama. So melodrama is drama with music or really music with drama. Music was used throughout the production to heighten emotion, intensify the action, to create mood – very much like a film soundtrack today and these music scripts, if you like, they were specially composed for each melodrama or it was other music especially adapted for it and The Queen’s Theatre took it seriously. They had a twelve piece orchestra.Now, here we go, the traditional Victorian melodrama featured six characters – a dancer who could be in distress, a not very bright hero and his often very silly or stupid friend, a silly or infirmed parent, a good natured servant for the aged parent and most important of all a sneaky scheming cowardly villain. The villain was usually the central character of the play and indeed the best role in the play. The dastardly villain would work the audience into a hissing frenzy relying on his comic timing and acting skills to produce laughter, tears or boos. Now, plots in melodrama were usually sensational, featuring a murder, theft and of course love. Often the good but not very bright hero is duped by the scheming villain who has eyes on the heroine. The villain would confuse, frustrate and cheat the hero until fate intervenes and good triumphs over evil. The characters in melodrama were highly exaggerated and stereotypical characters. The acting was elaborate and with very big gestures and ready emotions. Actors talked directly to the audience as I am to you. Each act ended with what we call an artistic tableau. In a tableau the actors would freeze in a dramatic position and create a powerful reasoning image. This is probably a tableau. You can see how the exaggerated emotion of our heroine here tearing her hair out literally and the villain accusing her of killing probably the hero who was only unconscious and saying ‘I’ll go get the police and you’ll go to prison’ and the poor girl was distraught. But what’s interesting about this actual etching is the fact that the audience takes up more room in the picture than the action on the stage and you can see the interest in the audience, they are captivated by what they see. They are enthralled and obviously very worried for this poor young lady.Special effects were important in melodrama. Sets were elaborate and it was the responsibility of the theatre’s machinist to supervise all these special effects and stage machines. Now, the stage machines were enormous contraptions, like practical waterfalls, exploding towers, exploding erupting volcanoes, boats on cliffs. Other special items were trap doors, secret panels, flying harnesses were also a constant feature in melodramas. If you’ve seen Phantom of the Opera either here in the Point Theatre or indeed if you’ve seen it anywhere else they used a lot of the melodrama stage machines at that time. They were very effective. They had boats on lakes and they had secret mirrors and all that kind of stuff and it’s very entertaining to watch and indeed in Billy Elliot they have a flying harness which they use on one of the dancers.There you go. Animals too were often featured in melodramas – dogs, monkeys, even bears. In the cowboy drama 'The Cattle Thief', the actor playing the hero usually made his stage entrance by clearing a fence on horseback and he made his exit in the same way. There were many types of melodramas. There were tragic, comic, romantic, historical and later political melodramas.Now, a word about The Queen’s Theatre audience, let’s have a look at it. There, all 2,000 of them. The Queen’s was a people’s theatre. It was not a literary theatre or a poetic theatre, it was theatrical theatre. Audiences of the 1900s were not polite like today’s audiences, they were a rowdy bunch who sang with the actors, cheered on the hero, advised the heroine and howled at the villain. Often the audience was so familiar with the play that if an actor forgot a line or left it out someone in the audience would should it out (laughter). And one of the great pleasures of going to the theatre in the 1900s was smoking in the theatre, commenting out loud on the action, calling out witty responses to the actors, talking to friends during the performance, eating oranges and when the acting got a little dull going to the bar for a drink. A theatre viewer at the time wrote of one Queen’s Theatre audience:“At times when the villain held the stage one could scarcely hear with the din and as far as cheering and the hissing, they seldom ceased for a moment. When the villain said something they did not meet with the approval of the audience they were up in arms hissing, howling and calling for the villain’s death. A Queen’s Theatre audience to an actor not used to it must have been a daunting experience.”Let me talk a little bit about this photograph. This photograph was taken in 1914 and it has got lots of interesting things in it. For one thing you could see here, particularly in the pit, the ladies wore hats all during the performance. They had these rather large hats and God help you if you were sitting behind them. And why didn’t they take their hats off? Well, the hairstyles were devised for a hat and if you took the hat off the hair would flop down so they kept their hats on. Also, you can see the men too have caps on them, so they kept that on. Now, this first balcony if you like is called the dress circle and you can see why it’s called the dress circle they are all in evening dress – bow ties, tuxedos and starched skirts. And up here you had the Gods, not that’s only some of the Gods. There were 600 people up there and all they could see was probably the tops of the heads of the performers but they were the cheap seats.Audience: When did the theatre open?Cecil Allen: The Queen’s?Audience: Yeah, yeah.Cecil Allen: Oh well in 1830, something like that, yeah. Okay, let’s go on here. Now, going to see a play at The Queen’s was a joyous event. People had their favourite actors and their favourite plays. Melodramas may to us seem very simple but they were very powerful plays. Let me try and give you an idea of some power of the play. The date is 6 November 1914. The place, The Queen’s Theatre. The play, ‘The Lights of London’. The scene is the Thames Embankment. In a top hat, frock coat and waxed moustache the villain stalks on the stage. He cringes at the sight of a child begging. He ought to. He is the father of that child and he deserted the child’s mother years ago. “Curse the brat” he says in a state and oozing with wealth and sympathy a benevolent old gentleman walks on stage. He is on his way to the club. “Oh poor child,” murmurs the old gentleman, breathing through his disinfected handkerchief “I shall give her half a sovereign. That should bring gladness to her heart and her garret”. In melodramas the poor always lived in basements or garrets. Garrets were attics. When the good man has passed out of sight the villain hisses evilly to audience “I’ll show that old fool”. And what do you think he does? You’re right. He steals the child’s knapsack. Oh! This is too much for the audience and they start to boo and to hiss and one lady and the audience jumps to her feet and bellows “You dirty cur. You blackguard. You’re stealing from your own child. I’ll be delighted when you get your comeuppance” and you’ll be glad to know that he did get his comeuppance in the fifth act.So who wrote these melodramas? Well, throughout the years there were many writers whose work week after week, night after night, filled The Queen’s Theatre but I’m only going to concentrate on four now. A man called Dion Boucicault, J. W. Whitbread, PJ Bourke and my own grandfather, Ira Allen.First let’s talk about Dion Boucicault. Dion Boucicault was the true genius of world melodrama. In his lifetime he wrote more than 200 plays and he was the most successful actor/playwright in the world – in the English speaking world and today, more than 125 years after this death his plays are still performed everywhere throughout the world. So who was Dion Boucicault? Well, he was Irish. He was born 1820 and he was educated in Dublin. He lived in Gardiner Street. His mother was Ann Darley, sister of the late Mathematician and Poet George Darley. They were distantly related to the Guinness family. The identity of Boucicault’s father is questionable but he was probably the lodger in his mother’s house. Dionysius Lardner was his name and he financially supported Dion throughout his life. When Dion was thirteen he was sent over to London and he was enrolled in University College school and after that he studied at the University of London. After Boucicault graduated he found instant success – instant success as a dramatist on the London stage. His first play was ‘London Assurance’. He rapidly followed this with ‘The Bastille’, ‘Old Heads and Young Hearts’, ‘The School for Scheming’, ‘Confidence’ and the extremely successful ‘The Corsican Brothers’. Now, Boucicault’s plays were always innovative. The play I just mentioned there to you, ‘The Corsican Brothers’, the Corsican Brothers were twins and Boucicault wrote the play in such a way that one actor played both parts. He used doubles and mirrors and a quick change of costumes and The Abbey Theatre had a production of ‘The Corsican Brothers’ on about ten or fifteen years ago and it was really, really good and it worked a treat and it was a joy to see. So he was always innovative and he was pioneering, for his subjects and the topics he chose were ones that other playwrights were afraid to go near. For instance, in the summer of 1859 Boucicault premiered his play, this one, ‘The Octoroon’. Now the word octoroon means one eighth black. Now if you think about this is in 1860 and the play concerned itself with race and the lives of residents of a Louisiana plantation. It was very controversial and it sparked debate about the abolition of slavery which was still in there and the role of theatre in politics. It was a Broadway sensation and it was so successful that Boucicault had seven companies criss-crossing America performing it for years. ‘The Octoroon’ made Boucicault a very wealthy man. Boucicault – have a look at him here – seen here on the left married his leading lady, here, Agnes Robinson and in 1860 they returned to England where he wrote and produced his most successful trio of plays – his Irish plays. And once again Boucicault was innovative and pioneering. For one thing, all his plays had Gaelic names. It was 1860 now. Gaelic names! Second, all his main characters were Irish. Before Boucicault Irish characters on the stage were always fools, drunks or simply wild people. The first of Boucicault’s Irish plays was ‘The Colleen Bawn’, the fair haired girl, the blonde. ‘The Colleen Bawn’ was extremely successful and Boucicault performed it in almost every city in Britain and then he took it to America, he toured, he had it on Broadway and then he toured all over the United States. If ‘The Octoroon’ made Boucicault a wealthy man ‘The Colleen Bawn’ made him extremely wealthy. Four years later he produced his second Irish play, ‘Arrah-na-Pogue’, Arrah of the Kiss, this was equally successful and it was followed with his third play, ‘Shaughraun’, the rogue.And let me talk a little bit about this poster, this is an interesting poster. For one thing, at the time, this was a full colour poster which was very unusual in those days. You can see the simplicity of the poster, it was the name – ‘Shaughraun’ – usually they had the author’s name underneath that and then scenes from the play are depicted in these panels and then this was made by a company called Allen Publishing. But they heard this from many, many, many plays and what ... a company – whether it’s Queen’s or any other company – could buy these posters, put them up and then they would put on these little additional panels which said ‘Queen’s Theatre, twice nightly’ whatever was the time of production. And, well, Boucicault then after that went back to New York City and he made his home there and he lived there for the rest of his life. He continued to write his plays until his death in 1890. Boucicault never performed in The Queen’s Theatre but his work became a staple of The Queen’s Theatre as it did for most theatres in the English speaking world.The second playwright I would like to talk about, a man I have already talked about to you, James W. Whitbread. In addition to being an excellent theatre manager, Whitbread was an extremely talented playwright who introduced ground breaking political melodramas to The Queen’s Theatre. Now, born in 1848 Whitbread was an English man who developed a great affinity for Ireland. Among his many successful melodramas was this one here, ‘Lord Edward’, another play was ‘The Nationalist’, ‘The Irish Dragoon’, ‘Sarsfield’ and his most famous play ‘Theodore Wolfe Tone’. His plays played to crowded houses and one critic wrote of ‘Lord Edward’:“It is a historically accurate portrayal of the 1798 Rising. The dialogue is theatrically effective, the sets picturesque and the staging excellent.”Reviewing the opening night of his play ‘Wolfe Tone’ a critic wrote:“I have experienced many noisy audiences but never such a noisy one as I did on that assemble in The Queen’s Theatre on the afternoon of December 26th 1898. Such a pandemonium of discord and sounds I have seldom experienced. The quality of Mr Whitbread’s writing is excellent. The play’s dialogue is witty, natural and convincing. There was action, energy and deep human interest and the audience followed it with the deepest of interest.”Now, let me talk about this poster. This is a generic poster made by the Allen Company in Belfast and you see there’s Wolfe Tone and then in small writing J. W. Whitbred. Now I’d call this a political melodrama while Mr Whitbred called it a Romantic Irish drama. Now, this is important because if you remember I said Boucicault made it alright for Irish people to be intelligent and act normally on stage. Whitbred took it one step farther and now they were romantic. Now they were noble. Now they were heroes and that was important to the development of Irish theatre.After twenty-five years at The Queen’s Theatre, Mr Whitbred left and shortly afterward the theatre closed for extensive renovations. It remained closed for two years and when it re-opened in 1909 it was a much changed theatre. It is now a tight horseshoe that hugged the stage with a balcony and two upper galleries and a much shallower pit or stalls. This meant that the audience was closer to the stage and this suited The Queen’s theatre audiences greatly. What was gone was there was two tiers of boxes right in front there where that balcony is which they could only look after, what, about 200 people. So now it opened the theatre up for greater view for a greater number of people.Right. The new management at The Queen’s Theatre made little effort to re-establish as the home of Irish drama. Instead it emphasised a sensational English melodrama, pantomimes and the occasional variety show. Now this constant fare of English melodrama was not to the liking of The Queen’s Theatre audience and they failed to attend. However, in 1911 things did change when two Irish playwrights appeared on the Dublin theatrical scene. They were, my grandfather, Ira Allen and his friend and colleague PJ Bourke.Now, that’s Ira Allen. Ira was born in 1879. During his life he played in more than fifty roles in fifty plays and wrote and acted in more than fifteen of his own. Ira wrote three kinds of melodramas – historical, comic and political melodramas. His leading lady was usually his wife, May Murnane, and she featured in most of his productions. Now, this was May Murnane here on the left and she is in costume as Lilly, Lilly is the Colleen Bawn in the Colleen Bawn. Now you’re going to see she isn’t the Coleen Bawn so she must have wore a wig on stage for the performance. That’s Ira over there when he was about thirty-five and this is a poster for one of his plays ‘Tara’s Halls’ or very un-PC at the time, ‘St Patrick and the Pagans’. Ira emphasised the Irishness of his plays, particularly at this point because he was at The Queen’s and it had sort of went over to English melodramas so they have it on the poster here, I don’t know if you can read it, it says ‘Ancient Irish costumes, Irish scenery and Irish dancing’, so he was to emphasise the Irishness of the plays.Irish productions were known for their frequent changes of picturesque scenery, the obligatory informer and the use of tableaus at the end of each act. Ira’s most hard hitting political melodramas was this one here, ‘The Boys of Wexford’, ‘The Bailiff of Ballyfoyle’ and ‘Father Murphy’. These political melodramas were more aggressive than the romantic Whitbred plays. Ira, his plays were nationalist, republican, and they took political melodrama to new heights. Ira’s most successful play was ‘Father Murphy’. Seamus de Burca, the Irish theatre historian, said of Ira’s performance:“His performance as the parish priest of Buaile Mhaodhóg was nothing short of shattering.”Now, this poster I’d like to talk about it for a moment, this is probably the best preserved poster that I’ve got. I must say, some of these posters I actually got here in this library, in the Archives section. Now, this was ‘Father Murphy’ and it is the best preserved of the lot. Actually the colour scheme is right, it was on yellow paper, black lettering and some red lettering to emphasise things. Now, you can see that the play was on twice nightly – 6.45 and 9 o’clock and on Saturday they had a matinee, so it was three times on a Saturday, once again emphasising the Irishness of Ira Allen’s company, of Irish players. And then ‘Father Murphy’ and the subtitle ‘The Hero of Tullow’ and the play concerned itself with a man called ... it was a real character, John Murphy who was a priest, the parish of Buaile Mhaodhóg and it tells the story of the fights at Vinegar Hill and right here you can see he gives himself, ‘Father Murphy’, Ira Allen, top billing – big letters. Then, the next two people have nearly as big and then it keeps getting smaller and smaller until it comes to the last one, Grace Gallagher, who happens to be played by Ms May Murnane, Mrs Ira Allen, so.Then the next part of this poster gives you a detailed scene analysis. It gives you the seven scenes, it tells you what happens in the scene and it gives you a little couple of lines from each scene and then it gives you the price of admittance. There was 3p, 6p, 9p, 1/6 and 10/6. Now, that seems like a big jump but the 10/6 was for a box and you could get 6 people into that box and they all could be seen by the rest of the audience so it was ... you didn’t sit in box to see the play, you went to sit in a box to be seen at the play. Then, next week, ‘A Fast Life’, nothing to do with ‘Father Murphy’. And this is from the 1913 production of the play at The Queen’s, it was originally put on in 1909 and every year after that or every two years it was revived. This poster as I said was specifically made for that and as you can see it’s called Brunswick Street up there. These posters, or on similar ones like it, Ira Allen would take a residency at The Queen’s Theatre – he and other people, J. B. Burke and Carrickford and all that, they would take one, two or three week residency at The Queen’s and then they would tour the play to Cork and Kerry and Galway and Belfast and they had a tour and it would usually end in Dundalk, their tour. Then they would put together a couple of more plays and continue their tour.Okay, there you go. Ira Allen was also one of Ireland’s first film stars, for he had the title role in the feature film ‘In the Days of St Patrick’, Aimsir Padraig. The film script was based on Ira’s play ‘Tara’s Halls’ and the film was a Killester Production and was directed by Norman Whitten who used to put together a news reel, like Pathé News, although it wasn’t called Pathé News then and it was silent of course. This film, Aimsir Padraig, ‘In the Days of St Patrick’, was a silent bilingual film. Not as odd as you might expect, the title cards, dialogue cards that would come up were in two languages – as Béarla agus as Gaeilge – and this of course was an innovation for the people because most of the films at that time were American or some British and to see Irish writing up there, the Irish actors and Irish scenes, and some of this film was made in the original sites where the drama was supposed to take place. It was made in 1919 and it was shown all over Ireland in cinemas and theatres, parish halls, church hall and three was even a travelling tent version which was like a circus tent and they had a projector and a couple of musicians and off they went, and it had seats of course and the audience. It was also shown in America and in England and it’s in the Irish Film Centre’s Archives now.Now, let’s see. Now this is a shot from the film, this is Ira over here playing St Patrick and King Laoghaire and this is he drinking a poison chalice and it’s a miracle, he drinks the poison chalice and he survives. For years afterwards when Ira was on tour with his melodramas people would stop him in the street and ask him to come to their farm and bless their children and the animals in the house (laughter) and Ira would explain that he wasn’t St Patrick, that he was merely an actor who had played the part and the people would listen and nod their head and when he had finished they’d say ‘Will you not come to the farm and bless the animals’ (laughter) and Ira always obliged. Ira died in 1927 leaving behind his wife May and their five children. Ira was aged 43.The next play that I’d like to talk about is this man PJ Bourke. He was a Dubliner, like Ira, and he was born in 1883 and he was a man of many talents. He was a playwright, he was an actor, he was a theatre manager and a company manager. He was also an excellent musician and he possessed a beautiful baritone voice. Peadar Kearney, the author of ‘The Soldier’s Song’ asked PJ to be the first singer to sing the song that became Ireland’s national anthem.But PJ Bourke’s greatest talent was as a playwright ‘When Wexford Rose’, ‘In Dark and Evil Days’ and ‘For The Land She Loved’ were his most successful melodramas. One critic wrote of Bourke’s play:“They were politically passionate, thoroughly theatrical and socially aware.”Now, there was no stage censorship in Ireland but Dublin Castle kept a little eye on what was going on and in 1914, when Bourke’s play ‘In Dark and Evil Days’ was to be performed for the first time the Castle ordered all advertisements for the play to be painted over or taken down and burned. And the reason for that was – it wasn’t this poster – it was one of those generic posters I talked about and the scenes of the play were on it, from the play, and one of the scenes was of a naval battle between the British and the French and the British weren’t doing so well. So 1914 the Castle said “take that down, that’s seditious” and they painted over it and they tore them down and that’s how we don’t have a copy of it. Again, in 1915 when the play ‘For The Land She Loved’ was to be performed, Dublin Castle commented “that such a play, seditious play, should never be performed again”. It was and regularly.Early in his career PJ Bourke married the seamstress Margaret Kearney and from the day they met Margaret Kearney made most of the costumes for PJ Bourke’s productions and in time the Bourke family became suppliers of costumes, make-ups and props to theatre companies all over Ireland. They had a shop right beside the Olympia Theatre in Dame Street and some of you might remember, it was there for many, many, many years. Throughout their lives PJ and Ira were friends and they often appeared in each other’s plays and productions and indeed after Ira’s death May Murnane, Ira’s wife, continued to appear in PJ’s productions.Now, what about women? We haven’t talked about them at all. Well not all melodramas were political or historical. Romantic melodramas were always extremely popular and the list of plays performed in Ireland in 1915 reads like a women’s melodrama in itself. This is its title: ‘A Woman’s Honour’, ‘Her Luck in London’ and you’ll love this one, ‘Only a Woman’, ‘The Shop Girl and Her Mask’, ‘The Old Wife’ and ‘The Queen Of The Red Skins’. But, the most particular and the most performed melodrama of all time was this one, ‘East Lynne’. ‘East Lynne’ tells the story of a beautiful young woman who made a tragic mistake. Based on the sensational novel by Ellen Woods, ‘East Lynne’ is a fast paced tale filled with suspense, adultery, a villainous seducer, illegitimacy, murder, deception and disguise. The story goes like this.“The beautiful and refined young lady Isabelle Carlisle deserts her hard working but cold hearted husband and their infant children to elope with an unprincipled spendthrift Captain Francis Levison. When Captain Levison deserts her a repenting lady Isabelle in disguise takes the position of governess to her own children in the household of her former husband and his new wife.”Doesn’t that sound like an episode of Downton Abbey? What I never understood was how this man didn’t recognise his first wife, it’s only a few years later, but then that’s melodrama! But that’s ‘East Lynne’, “Look at me, I am your mother”. God help her.On 28 July 1914 World War I began and by 1915 most UK actors in theatre companies the actors had joined the British Forces and the companies had disappeared. Consequently there were few touring companies coming out of England and of course this was an opportunity for new theatre companies, Irish theatre companies, to put together a play and put them on in The Queen’s Theatre. And they did. Quite a lot of companies developed.Five years later the fortune of The Queen’s took another turn. The Troubles and the fighting in Ireland caused The Queen’s to close for most of 1920 and 1921 and by the time it re-opened the aggressive, heroic melodramas of Ira Allen and PJ Bourke were badly out of touch with the mood of the time. So the theatre reverted to the earlier, gentler melodramas of Boucicault and Whitbred. Over at The Abbey, remember that, over at The Abbey things had changed too. With the arrival of John Millington Synge and Sean O’Casey The Abbey’s offerings changed from literary and poetic theatre to the more popular realistic theatre. They had also stole some of The Queen’s best actors – Barry Fitzgerald, F. J. McCormack, May Craig among them. Then in quick succession The Queen’s suffered another double blow. Ira Allen and PJ Bourke died. They were both still young men and on the evening of 17 June 1928 the future of The Queen’s became clear when it showed its first motion picture ‘Old San Francisco’. The theatre continued to stage Christmas pantomimes for another 23 years but otherwise from 1928 to 1951 the theatre offered exclusively comic reviews and a combination of film and stage act known as Cine Variety and so melodrama – the stable of Irish theatrical life for more than a century disappeared from The Queen’s.Down through the years there have been many famous actors who appeared at The Queen’s Theatre, actors like Barry Fitzgerald, Jimmy O’Dea, Cyril Cusack, Val Vousden, Harold O’Donovan, F. J. McCormack, May Craig and J. B. Carrickford.Now, a few words about The Queen’s Theatre pantomime. The Queen’s Theatre pantomimes were great family events. They were usually based on a fairy story – Cinderella, Puss in Boots, Jack and The Beanstalk and Bo Peep. A young actress usually played the part of the male hero, the principle boy, and a male actor usually played the part of the dame. The dame was the comic villain. She was the mother of the ugly sisters in Cinderella or the bad witch in Sleeping Beauty or any other fairy story. The Queen’s had a pantomime almost every year of its existence. In its last years The Queen’s pantomime featured The Happy Gang. Some of you might remember The Happy Gang, they were a troupe of musicians and singers and featured such performers as Paddy Grogan, Danny Cummins, Cecil Nash, Noel Purcell, Mixer Reid and others.Now, this is The Abbey Theatre, the interior of The Abbey Theatre. In 1951 there was a fire in The Abbey. The theatre had to close for major renovations. Louis Elliman, The Queen’s Manager at the time, realised that audience for Cine Variety were quickly disappearing so he leased the theatre to The Abbey Theatre. And there is The Queen’s, The Abbey Theatre. For fifteen years The Abbey Theatre remained at The Queen’s and in 1966 The Abbey Theatre moved out of The Queen’s into its new home in Abbey Street. The Queen’s Theatre closed and for three years the theatre moulded into decay. Then in April 1969 the theatre was demolished. An office block now stands – Pearse House now stands on that site.Long before The Abbey Theatre ever existed The Queen’s was known as the home of Irish melodrama. From its earliest days, The Queen’s celebrated Ireland and her historical characters. People like St Patrick, Wolfe Tone, Lord Edward, Robert Emmet and Father Murphy were the subjects of her plays and often these plays were the only history lessons that the people received.Let me tell you about a project of mine. I wanted to celebrate the work of The Queen’s and indeed the work of my grandfather, Ira Allen, and the research for that project formed the content of this talk this evening. Well I wasn’t able to gather enough information to write a history on the subject so I wrote a fiction story about the theatre and the actors and called it ‘The Actor’. It tells a story of a fictional actor Jim Brevin who becomes an apprentice of the Ira Allen Company of Players. It tells how Jim reluctantly gets involved in the Rising and how he is mistaken for a spy and marries a rebel sister. In time Jim becomes a celebrated Queen’s Theatre actor and at the moment of his greatest theatrical sets he is faced with a stark choice.Anne-Marie: Well I just would like to say thanks very much because that was really scintillating, I use scintillating just off the cuff but I really do mean it because I think your grandfather seems to live through you, you have such animation and you gave a wonderful lively presentation tonight so it’s something that we’re all going to remember I think.Cecil: Okay.Anne-Marie: So thanks a million.Cecil: Well thank you very much and thank you all for coming to it. (Applause) Thank-you for listening to the Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive Podcast. To hear more, please subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud. You can also visit our website - dublincitypubliclibraries.ie and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
Dublin Literary Award Winner Akhil Sharma Reading and Q&A - Transcript
The following is a transcript of 2016 Dublin Literary Award Winner Akhil Sharma reading and answering questions in Dublin City Library & Archive, Pearse Street, on Friday, 10 June, 2016.AudioWelcome to the Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive Podcast. In this episode Akhil Sharma, winner of the 2016 International Dublin literary Award reads from his winning book 'Family Life'. The reading is followed by a Question and Answer session introduced and moderated by Niall MacMonagle. Recorded in front of a live audience in Dublin City Library and Archive on 10 June 2016.Good evening everyone. This is what I call a lucky, lucky point of time. This is my idea of a really special occasion, an enthusiastic gathering of book lovers, a wonderfully talented writer, a marvellous novel and all on a sunny spells and scattered showers summers evening. Welcome everybody. Especially welcome to Akhil Sharma, who’s come 3,000 miles to celebrate with us this evening his novel “Family Life”, winner of the Dublin Literary Award 2016. The novel has a fine and distinguished history, and though it has been argued that among the countless novels published to date, there are only two plots; a person goes on a journey, and a stranger comes to town. The novel continues to be written and it continues to be an innovative, resilient, exciting form. It is forever reinventing itself. In Akhil Sharma’s memorable novel, a family goes on a journey, things go terribly wrong, they suffer intensely, and their lives are changed forever. Family is one of the most potent words in every language. Tolstoy tells us that every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. And the unhappiness that visits the Mishra family in Sharma’s novel is devastating. Ajay the narrator, is 40 when the novel opens. But then Akhil Sharma returns immediately to that same narrator at 8 years of age. We follow Ajay through boyhood and adolescence, from Delhi to New York in an intimate first person narrative that captures his response to ordinary and traumatic events. It seemed unfair says Ajay, that something like this could happen and the world go on. Sharma is a novelist alive to language, its power, its possibilities, a writer who tells an engaging story in his own unique way. The writing is spare, vivid. Ajay’s voice is honest, direct, unsettling. Consider the following effective description. “My father lifted me onto a stool. I looked around. There was an old fat man in shorts sitting at a table. He was wearing an under shirt and his stomach sat on his lap like a small child. He was wearing sneakers and no socks, and the skin around the ankles was black, like a bruised banana”. Our Ajay tells us that “at school the guilt and sadness were like wearing clothes, still damp from the wash”. And it’s not without humour. A character describes Paris as “the most beautiful city in the world, there is dog shit everywhere though. What is the point of a city being so beautiful, if you have to always be looking down”. But not only can Sharma describe something so clearly, and do what Joseph Conrad urged all writers to do, “above all to make you see”. But he has a remarkable ability to catch the unsettling and truthful complexity of a consciousness. Ajay admits his imperfections. He talks to God. He is bullied at school. He lies at school. He watches his family implode. He reads about Hemingway, then he reads Hemingway. He falls in love. He wants to be a writer. At times the voice is endearing. “On an aeroplane, the stewardess has to give you whatever you ask for, I’m going to ask for a baby tiger”. At other times it’s disturbingly convincing as when he thinks about his older brother Birju following his accident, Ajay wonders if he was dead. This was thrilling. “If he was dead, I would get to be the only son”. And he tells God “I was glad I might become an only child”. Only for Ajay to imagine God replying “everybody thinks strange thoughts, it doesn’t matter if you think something”. Like Akhil Sharma, other writers, I’m thinking of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jhumpa Lahiri, (4.46 inaudible), NoViolet Bulawayo, they have also explored the experience of moving to a new county in search of a better life. Family Life is one such story, and yet like no other in that the central episode is captured with such honesty, with such clear sightedness. And there’s a world beyond family. When Ajay discovers American libraries, his life changes. “Vanishing into books, I felt held”, is how he describes it, and Sharma says that “reading a book a second time was more comforting than reading it in the first place, because during the second reading, everything was in its place”. Reading Family Life, especially, certainly, sorry, reading Family Life you will certainly feel held and you will want to re-read it. The American poet Marianne Moore believes that the cure for loneliness is solitude, and solitude can be an enriching and rewarding experience, especially if you are a reader, and if you are reading a novel as fine as this one. This evening, Akhil Sharma will read an extract, then he and I will be as they say “in conversation”. This will be followed by questions from the floor, and then finally through the doors at the back, to a delightful reception. Please join me in congratulating Akhil Sharma and welcoming him to Dublin. (Applause)Akhil SharmaThank you very much. The introduction might be better than what I’m going to read. I’m very honoured to have won this prize. Partially because the books that have won this prize are genuinely good, and books that I admire. And so there’s a sense of oh I belong in the same tradition. And I get a congratulatory email and so they asked me how I felt and I said you know I feel like a fake. But you know, it’s hard to be a good copy. So I might not be genuinely good, but I’m at least a good copy of somebody who is good. Thank you to the Dublin Public Library for inviting me. I’d like to thank the city of Dublin for this award. I will read and I’ll talk a little bit about what I was thinking as I wrote this book.“When I was a child, I thought my father had been assigned to us by the government. This was because he appeared to serve no purpose. When he got home in the evening all he did was sit in this chair in the living room, drink tea and read the paper. Often he looked angry. By the time we left for America, when I was 8 and Birju was 12, I knew that the government had not assigned him to live with us. Still, I continued to think he served no purpose.”The book draws very heavily on my own life and I had a brother who had an accident like this and became severely brain damaged. And when I was writing the book, part of the motivation for writing the book was to memorialise him, and memorialise my family. And while writing the book I tried whenever possible to use something from my own life. Like I would of course always pick the good detail over the worst detail, but I would try to use what had actually happened. And so I used to think strange thoughts like that. I wondered who is this man? Why is he always around? I also remember being very young and being in love with my mother, and thinking she was the most beautiful woman in the world, and hoping that one day I would get to marry her. Which I think is something that lots of little boys think.I’ll continue reading “As far back as I can remember my parents have bothered each other. In India we lived in two cement rooms on the roof of a house. The bathroom stood separate from the living quarters. The sink was attached to one of the exterior walls. Each night my father would stand before the sink, the sky above him full of stars and brush his teeth until his gums bled. Then he would spit the blood into the sink and turn to my mother and say, (10.00 speaks in native tongue) no matter what we do we will all die”. “Yes, yes beat drums my mother said once, tell the newspapers too. Make sure everyone knows this thing you have discovered”. Like many people of her generation, those born before independence, my mother viewed gloom as unpatriotic. To complain was to show that you were not willing to accept difficulties, that you were not willing to do the hard work that was needed to build the country. My father was only two years older than my mother. Unlike her, he saw dishonesty and selfishness everywhere. Not only did he see these things, but he believed that everybody else did too, and that people were deliberately not acknowledging what they saw. My mother’s irritation at his spitting blood he interpreted as hypocrisy.”So this book took forever to write. It took twelve and a half years. Whenever I would finish a draft, nearly every draft I wrote was terrible. And whenever I would finish a draft, I would begin with a blank screen. Just because otherwise one is lazy and one wants too just recycle things, you know just the end the pain as quickly as possible. And you know, you just have to walk into pain. I mean I think that’s part of what it means to be a writer, to do the stupid thing over and over. And so people have asked me how did I realise that the book was nearly done. And for me, there are certain things which are characteristic of my voice. And one is that I see really beautiful things, you know the most wonderful things in life, noble things, right next to utter stupidity. So to me when I began to see sentences such as “each night my father would stand before the sink, the sky above him full of stars and brush his teeth till his gums bled”, I thought okay, this thing is nearly done. I’m also always, I want all of my characters to be right, and I want all of my characters to be wrong. So, you had the mother is right, in that she says what is the value of pointless gloom. She is wrong though, in that her motivation for this is largely what will the neighbours think. The father is of course wrong, because unattached cynicism, just cynicism as a habit is corrosive, it’s dangerous, it destroys joy. Except if you know India, it might be wise to be cynical about everything. So, I’ll just read a few minutes more.“My father was an accountant. He had wanted to emigrate to the west ever since he was in his early 20’s, ever since America liberalised its immigration policies in 1965. His wish rose out of self loathing. Often when he walked down the street in Delhi, he would feel that the buildings he passed were indifferent to him, that he mattered so little to them that he might as well not have been born. Because he attributed this feeling to his circumstances, and not to the fact that he was the sort of person who sense buildings having opinions of him. He believed that if her were somewhere else, especially somewhere where he was paid in dollars and thus was rich, he would be a different person and one who’s life had meaning. Another reason he wanted to emigrate was that he saw the west as glamorous with the excitement of science. In India in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, radios, televisions and cars were not just expensive objects, but were seen as almost supernatural. I remember that when we turned on the radio in our apartment as the vacuum tubes warmed up, first of all he said it would sound far away, and then they would rush at us. And this was thrilling, as if the machine were making some special effort for us. Of everybody in my family, my father loved science the most. The way he tried to bring science into his life was by going to medical clinics and having his urine tested. He loved clinics and doctors’ offices. Of course hypochondria had something to do with this. My father suspected that there was something wrong with him and that it might be something physical. Also sitting in the clinics and talking to doctors in lab coats, he felt that he was close to important things, that what the doctors were doing was the same as what doctors would do in England or Germany or America. That he was really there in those foreign countries. My mother had no interest in emigrating for herself. She was a high school teacher of economics and she liked her job. But she thought that the west would provide me and my brother Birju with opportunities. Then came the emergency. Indira Gandhi suspended the constitution and put thousands of politicians and journalists in jail. My parents like almost everyone who had seen independence come, were very loyal. They were the sort of people who looked up at a cloud and thought, that’s an Indian cloud. After the emergency however, they began to think that even though they were ordinary and unlikely to get into political trouble, it still might be better to emigrate.”That’s all I’m going to read. When I was writing this book, for me it was a really difficult experience. For many of the years while I was writing this, my wife was supporting us financially. And so, you know, I needed to at least appear to not be going out of my mind. And so when she would leave for work, I would be sitting at my desk working. And then she would, I would work for about half an hour and then the depression would get so great that I would go lie down and sleep. And that somehow caused the brain to restart. It renewed the hope. But often times when I was lying there I would think that the book will eventually get done. And I would think that the book will matter to someone. And sometimes a book, even if it is a very bad book, right, a totally incompetent book, contains certain truths that matter to a few people. You know, I’m not totally sure that this book is a great book. I haven’t read over the book since I finished it. But I do believe that there are things in the book which are true and which matter, you know which can be of comfort. Whenever possible because of my own experience, I go visit people in hospitals. And I remember a friend of mine, her husband had a seizure and was taken to the hospital, and you know, I visited her and the day I showed up, I showed up in the morning and I said to her, you know, I’ll be with you all day, don’t worry. Because I remember when I was a child, when people would visit me in the hospital, visit my family in the hospital, I would immediately begin thinking when are they going to leave. Not because I wanted them gone, but because it became unbearable to be alone again. And at some point I went to, when I was going to go get us lunch for me and my friend, I said to her you know, I used to get very lonely when people would leave. And she said, okay, and then I went, I was gone for 20 minutes and I came back and she said she got so lonely so fast, that it was almost like she was getting cold. And whether or not the book is a good book or a funny book or a well written book, it has certain truths which I think make people feel less alone. And in the end that’s what I think is the most powerful thing that a book can do. Thank you for inviting me to be here. (Applause)Have we got sound now?Yes.Moderator Thank you very much. Could I begin with a big general question and bring you back to April 1719 when what is so called the first novel in English, Robinson Crusoe was published. Do you write within a tradition or against a tradition, or where do you see your two novels in terms of that backdrop to you as a novelist in the 21st century?ASI think, can you hear me? Okay. I think I write very, very much in the mainstream of literary fiction. That is, I write books which have stories. I write books where there are characters, characters who matter to the reader, and they exist in situations which transform the characters. So by the end of the story, somebody the reader cares for is changed. Often times as part of the tradition, the post Robinson Crusoe, the late 1800’s tradition of Dostoyevsky I believe that it’s important to write about characters who are not completely good. You know, it’s easy to love the lovable, right. The key is to learn to love the people who are difficult. So, I mean I think of myself as very much in the mainstream of fiction.ModeratorI heard Ail Kennedy last week in Listowel say “all good writers say here is my anguish”. Now in your work, is your anguish the anguish of your family, your own personal family history? Or was there another anguish within you as a writer, as a creative person?ASWhen I was a child, when I was 7 or 8, right before we emigrated to America, my mother took me, went to all our different relatives to say goodbye. And at one point we left a relative, you know somebody who lived on a farm and we went and stood by the side of the road waiting for a bus. And I was bored and sort of restless and my mother took off her sunglasses and gave them to me to play with. And so I put them on and the world not only looked different but it felt different. A world to me, to see the world as it actually is in an ordinary way has less intensity and flavour than to see a world that is slightly artificial. I find the world as it actually is, shapeless. Going on and on and on. Both slightly uninteresting and also frightening. So for me, there was a part of me as a child, I was a shy child and that shyness came from a certain amount of fear. And that fear was comforted by existing in a universe which had rules, which had very strict rules. And fiction allows strict rules to exist. And so there is anguish certainly in terms of what happened to my family. But I think even beneath that, like as far back as I can remember, there was a certain anxiety, a certain thin-skinnedness about life. So for me fiction was a way of dealing with that anxiety. You know, even if nothing bad had happened to me, I think there would have been a desire to go into fiction. You know, I as a child was incredibly happy. I mean I remember being a little kid, playing cricket you know, and one day I was about 6 years old, I was playing cricket and I was thinking you know, I’m good at cricket, I’m good at flying kites, you know, I’m about as old as I need to be.ModeratorIn your first novel you describe Delhi as “living inside an oil tank”. And then you went to the land of the free and the home of the brave. What’s your relationship now with India?ASYou know, I care for it very much, but it’s like the relationship between me and my cousins, you know cousins whom I love. But in the end, their lives are their lives. And I can offer help where I can, but their lives are their lives. And to some extent I can’t love them more than they love themselves. So I have a cousin whom I adore, love him. I mean I love him so much that for many years I used to carry a photograph of him with me. You know, and he’s married to somebody who is mentally ill. So mentally ill that when she gets into a fight with him, she will take off her clothes and run naked down the street. Because when she does something like that, what’s she’s saying is that there are no rules. I will do anything. And so you need to be quiet and listen to whatever I have to say. And you know, my response to this is that you gotta get out of this marriage, I mean this woman is insane. And he says to me, oh you know, but then my children won’t be able to get married. You know, nobody will marry a girl or a boy whose parents are divorced. And I say I don’t know if that’s true, but there’s a certain point where you can no longer care more than they do. You know, if you say something once to a person, you say it right? You say it twice, you’ve said it twice. By the third time you’re saying it you’re trying to control them. And so, if I say about India look, don’t steal, don’t do these horrible things, India’s going to do what it’s going to do. I can only love it and try to keep a certain amount of distance from it.Moderator In Jhumpa Lahiri’s story, Mrs Sen, she romanticises India, she talks about how perfect India is compared to crass, materialistic America. But you have a much more clear sighted view of India. For example, a bad marriage is often accepted as part of life and where depression and mental illness are described as a person being “moody”. So, did you ever think of returning to India? Was America the place for you for the rest of your life?ASWhen I was a child I was so unhappy, right, my life was so difficult because of the illness in my family and the problems that my parents had, that I kept fantasising that elsewhere I would be happy. And so I pushed India when I was a child with this ferocious sort of love. Like it mattered to me that I knew the bus system inside Delhi. That mattered to me.ModeratorEven though you were living...?ASEven though I was living in America. It mattered to me the cost of tomatoes. There was something, I needed that level of details so I can imagine myself into a different world. Once I was able to escape the difficulties of my family, I began to be much more comfortable and so when I began to be more comfortable I looked around and I thought, you know this is a good place, you know, there’s a reason why even Indians who emigrate to you know, countries where they are periodically driven out from. You know, you go to some county like Idi Amin driving out the Indians, they returned to India and as soon as they get a chance they go back, they leave India. Because you know, India is a difficult place to live. So I thought when I was a child of going back, but I would not go back and also there is an animosity and a jealousy felt for people who have gotten to go live in America. Like you know, you think you’re better than us, or if you haven’t suffered the way we have suffered, if you’ve not breathed in the polluted air, if you haven’t drunk the bad water, then what right do you have to participate in the good things in this country. You know, people are crazy, they’ve always been crazy, they’re always going to be crazy.ModeratorWe’re in a library and a pivotal moment in the novel is you’re discovering the wonderful library system in the US. And is that autobiographical? The Hemingway connection?ASOh yeah. Yeah, I learned writing. So when I was a child, I used to lie all the time about the books I had read. You know, I would say I had read this thing, I had read that thing, I hadn’t read anything. Mostly the only thing I enjoyed reading was science fiction. And I began at some point to read biographies of famous writers so I could lie more effectively about these books (laughter), about the books they had written. And so I read a biography of Ernest Hemingway and I can tell you where I was sitting. I had just finished bathing my brother. It was winter. So it was still dark outside, and I began reading this book called “The Young Hemingway” and I was amazed that this guy, Hemingway, got to have such a nice life. He got to travel around, he didn’t have to be an engineer, he didn’t have to be a doctor. And I thought hey, I can do this (laughter) and so I went and I read all of these essays about him, you know all these books about him. I must have read like 30 books about him because my thinking was I don’t have to be good, I just have to do what this guy has done, right, and I feel like I have always had this tremendous gift of obedience. Like if you tell me what I need to do then I will do it, right. Why should I argue with success (laughter), right? If you ... like when I was a young kid, a young boy, I used to read Cosmopolitan magazine thinking, hey, I’d like to get married one day, let me read what women want (laughter) and so that’s always been my attitude.ModeratorAnd was Hemingway the most important literary influence in your life?ASYeah by far. By far.ModeratorAnd is it their style, is it the bravado of the life, is it the macho stance?ASI mean originally it was because of lifestyle.ModeratorRight.ASBecause he got to lead a good life and then there was a ... in a lot of ways Hemingway is essentially false, right. And so his characters, all these quiet characters that he writes about are good people because ... and he writes simply ... because you can’t write simply about people behaving very badly, right, you can’t deny these people introspection and justification. The only people who don’t have to justify themselves are the people who are behaving with a clean conscious, right. I don’t know many people who behave with a clean conscious, right. I am somebody who worries a lot. I am somebody who has my doubts, like for example I am always hoping to somehow avoid tipping (laughter), right. And so I am always looking for excuse to be able to avoid tipping, right.ModeratorBut you live in a country where the tip is paramount.ASI know but I’m always looking (laughter).ModeratorAnd they come after you saying ‘Sir, were you not pleased with the service?’.ASYou know I have had that happen (laughter) and I think that a lot of people are strange in the way that I am strange, you know and I just feel like if you’re going to write about human beings you have to somehow include these aspects and Hemingway just the way he writes he is unable to do that. I mean I think that to some extent the reason he ran out, sort of he began to have problems writing – aside from his drug abuse, was that whatever he had to say he could not write truthfully about the world because his sense of the world had gotten so complicated that he wasn’t able to right truthfully about how people behave. So, for example, his son was a transvestite, right, and he was not able to write about that. Among the late, late, late stories the only one to me that seems really good is there’s a story about a man, a father, who learns that his son has been cheating at a shooting contest, right. And that story is based on something that happened in his own life where his son had gone and copied some stuff from (32.38 inaudible) and presented it as his own and that story is magnificent. It’s a great work of art. And just his style did not allow him access to those type of complications. So at some point I found that I could not do what he had done because my sense of the world is different from his sense of the world.ModeratorI think Harold Bloom called ‘Hills like White Elephants’ possibly the greatest short story in the language, what would you make of that?ASThat’s fair. I think that’s a fair work. Yeah it’s a great work. Is it the greatest? You know my father’s house has many mansions...ModeratorSure and we’ve got James Joyce to consider as well in that discussion.AS...yeah.ModeratorYou said that writing family life was like chewing stones and you chewed stones for 12 years.AS12½. 12½. (laughter)ModeratorOh 12½, sorry okay, sorry, count those days. And you had the stop watch 5 hours a day.ASYeah.ModeratorWas it the subject matter or was it the form that gave you most difficulty?ASI mean there’s the subject matter, right, the subject matter of grappling with physical illness has been written about before and there are plenty ... so one obvious problem that you learn about when you’re writing about physical illness or when you’re reading about physical illness is that the reader will only stay with you for a certain point, a certain amount of time, and then the reader will say, look, this is a bridge too far for me. I accept the fact that this is true but I don’t really want to be with you. You know it’s sort of like ... I assume that all of you guys have dealt with people with severe illness and an aunt of my ... somebody said to me people will cry with you once, they’ll cry with you twice and then they’ll say ‘Oh he’s always crying’ and I mean that’s reality so there are certain problems writing about physical illness that you can sort of solve. The problem that I was running into was that I was trying to write about ... I was writing about covering many years and I was writing a book where there is not that much causation, right, a) happens and a) causes b) and b) causes c) but in real life a) happens like then b) is caused and maybe c) and then f) wanders in and y) is n) bothering me ... I mean that’s the reality of life you know. An immigrant family ... in a traditional family, the traditional novel, the fact that there is an accident would be at the very beginning, right. That would be the key that turns the engine and so because causation is not present we as readers begin to feel that what we’re reading is just incident after incident after incident and that’s a bit ... you know a reader gets tired, like what’s happening, how are things accumulating. Why are we ...? So then what occurred was I tried all these different solutions and I was reading Chekhov and I began to think that what I could do is do the reverse of what Chekhov does, so typically when you are writing you are creating visceral reality and you are using ... everybody uses sight, smell, sound, feel and what Chekhov does is he uses sight very little. He uses sound a lot. He uses smell a lot because these are stickier, right. So sound always has to exist in present tense, right. And so I was thinking what I need to do ... because the problem I was having was that things felt slow, what I can do is I can remove certain elements of the sensorium. I can get rid of ... if I take out sound, if I take out smell, it thins out the reality of the book, right, because there isn’t as much visceral reality and so the readers enter into a scene and exit a scene very quickly because there isn’t resistance. We as readers are not as present inside the scene because it is not being made as real and so when I did that that sort of converted what had been a series of incidents into a story. The feel of the novel changed. The problem is that if you thin out reality in that way it begins to feel false and so then you have to go in and put in other things – humour, introspection, as a way to thicken and plump out the novel. So it was just these technical complications that took forever. At a certain point you know writing a novel is like designing microchips, you know here is a sentence that is going to generate this type of emotion, what do I need to do about this? I need a transition, how do I hide this transition? So, for example, when you are describing something typically you will use three descriptors, so I would say of this room, a large room, a crowd sitting on chairs and a wall with posters, right. I would do something like that to generate the scene and you would also list the scene based on smallest word to largest word because this list has teach the reader how to read it, so as the words get bigger the reader is able to read it faster and so it reads at the same speed, right. That’s how a list inside fiction works. If you need to create a transition inside a paragraph what you do is you put in four descriptors because by the fourth description, descriptor, the reader is getting a little bit bored, the reader detaches a tiny bit and then you can put in the next thing and the reader won’t notice that a transition has occurred, right. So you have to be able to know how to bore the reader just enough (laughter). So all these different things, hundreds and hundreds of these devices, just you need to be able to use them if you are going to write a competent story.ModeratorYou must enjoy teaching creative writing?ASI love discussing the work of writers who are greater than I am.ModeratorAnd who would you bring into class?ASTolstoy. So, for example, when you read one piece you oftentimes feel this sense of floating, right, that you are hovering inside this work and the way that he generates this is that he’ll describe a character from the outside, right. So a third person, slightly distance point of view of Pierre. Then with the next paragraph he’ll describe the character from internally and then with the third paragraph the point of view is going to shift out and the rapidity with which that is done discombobulates the reader and suddenly there is a sensation of floating, so just being ... admiring great writers and being aware of the fact that you’re being affected.ModeratorDo you read much contemporary writing?ASI read very little contemporary writing. I mean if I were to expand contemporary like into 30 years then I would say yeah, yeah I read enough to regularly be in awe.ModeratorOkay. Your novel initially was much longer, ‘Family Life’.ASUh-huh. (laughs)Moderator And then towards the end of the novel the pace really quickens and you don’t dwell on a death, you are successful, you are giving your mother money, you are going on holiday. Why did you quicken it so much towards the end?ASThe book has two beginnings and in some ways there’s a structural need for two endings and so you have the ending with the flashlight, where there’s a flashlight, and then you have ... so that’s the ending of a traditional novel, right. You can end a novel there and it will feel complete. The reality is that when you have difficult things happen to you you never get over them. The problem is not that something happened to you, the problem is that you can’t get over it. You know you’re always sort of shell shocked and that’s the other part of the ... that’s the second ending.ModeratorBut the second ending then is about the need for letting go, is it?ASOr the impossibility of letting go.ModeratorOkay, okay. There are many characters in this novel and every one of them is interesting and fascinating but the character of the guard or the presence of religion is a hugely important part – the miracle workers, the alters in the bedroom.ASSure.ModeratorThe superstition surrounding it. What’s your own response to an Indian belief within Queens or the Bronx or Manhattan? I mean you portray the families and they are in deconsecrated churches so the temple has become a place that has replaced the Christian tradition. What was your own relationship with that, religion?ASYou know my family is Brahmin, right, so we are traditionally of the priestly caste, right. A lot of my ... I mean my mother used to lie all the time (laughter) and so I would think how can you ... if there is a God shouldn’t you be afraid of it? Afraid of him? And so religion was ... I mean to me it seemed like magic, like voodoo. We prayed all the time, right. We prayed, like so in my family we would pray as soon as woke up, then we would take care of my brother – bathe him and all that – and take our own baths. So we would pray after we had bathed. Then we would pray before we left the house and these are all sort of prayers where you burn incense and then there would be an 11 o’clock prayer and a 3 o’clock prayer and then a prayer before dinner and then a prayer before you go to bed.ModeratorAnd you pray for good exam results?ASYou pray for good exam results ... you ask for the things that you want and so you know I would pray ‘God let me know get caught in this lie that I have told’ (laughter), you know the way that children pray. There’s an enormous ... you know religion is different from spirituality and religion is different from community but religion oftentimes helps both so the fact that my family had this problem and my parents and my family were viewed as very pious meant that we became the centre of a community. The fact that we were suffering and trying to do good motivated other people to sort of respond with equal goodness and that’s a type of spirituality – sympathy meeting sympathy. So all of my ... you know I am pro religion just because I sort of feel like we all need help to become better versions of ourselves and oftentimes religion is a good way to do it. I mean that’s my personal belief.ModeratorBut in the novel your home becomes a place of pilgrimage ...ASYeah.Moderator...and you know is a powerful force to sustain and yet Ajay asks his father at one stage ‘How are you?’ and the father says ‘I feel like hanging myself every day’, I mean it’s very bleak and black at times. So what allowed you to come through all of that terrible, terrible sorrow?ASI knew that someday somebody would love me, I just needed to be good enough so that was that.ModeratorAnd is that your wife or was it your parents sorting themselves out? I mean they were rowing, your father was ... well the character in the novel is alcoholic, let’s not confuse the two but though they parallel each other.ASYeah. I mean I didn’t really expect my parents to love me, you know that ... or love me in a way that would be of comfort to me.ModeratorAnd what do you make then of the Americans, where the Americans dote on their children, telling them they’re the best and it’s a culture of ... you know that it’s the other extreme of be seen and not heard, you k now that the celebration of youth culture in American.ASYeah. Sure.ModeratorYou know anyone over 40 is invisible unless you’re Donald Trump. (laughter)ASYou know we say that America is a culture which dotes on its children. I think the reality of course is that there are plenty of kids who suffer, who have problems. I was talking to an acquaintance of mine who was sexually abused by his mother’s boyfriend and he told her this and she said to him ‘What do you want me to do about it?’, right. And so it’s a myth that that’s a culture which dotes on the children.ModeratorOkay.ASIt’s like any other society you know that really you have very ordinary human beings with lots of problems trying to do a very hard thing which is raise children.ModeratorBut I mean yes I agree but in America the amount of material things ... middle class kids have so much stuff, of course they have their problems and the like but it is so different from the world that your family left behind in Delhi where the description of your years in Delhi were so basic. Do you like living in New York City?ASI like living in ... I mean I like New York because New York doesn’t feel like the rest of America. Manhattan is an island off the coast of America. It’s enormously diverse. More people look like me in New York than look like you guys (laughter). My wife once looked in the phone directory. My wife’s name is Lisa Swanson and she found no other Lisa Swansons and she found three Akhil Sharmas (laughter), you know and so for me it’s a very comforting place to live.ModeratorOkay. I’m looking at the clock and we can now go to the floor please for any questions. (Recording ends here) Thank-you for listening to the Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive Podcast. To hear more, please subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud. You can also visit our website - dublincitypubliclibraries.ie and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
Elizabeth O’Farrell, The woman with the white flag - Transcript
The following is a transcript of "Elizabeth O’Farrell, The woman with the white flag" a talk by Ian Kelly, grand-nephew of Elizabeth O’Farrell, at Dublin City Hall on Monday, 25 April 2016.AudioWelcome to the Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive Podcast. In this episode Ian Kelly talks about his great-aunt Elizabeth O'Farrell, her role in the 1916 Rising, her work as a midwife in Holles Street and her legacy. Listen to 'The Tricolour Ribbon' sung by Antoinette Heery, to Ian reading Liam Mac Uistín's poem "We saw a vision", and to Divisional Librarian Anne-Marie Kelly performing her original vignette 'Elizabeth Looks Back'. Part of a seminar held in Dublin City Hall on 25 April 2016.Firstly, on behalf of all our family, I’d like to say many thanks to Dr Mary Clark from Dublin City Library and Archives for organising and inviting us, all of the family of Elizabeth O’Farrell, here to this fantastic venue today. I’d also like to thank the Lord Mayor of Dublin Críona Ní Dhálaigh for receiving us here at the City Hall on behalf of the people of Dublin and finally I’d like to thank Elizabeth D'Arcy for the magnificent work on restoring and conserving the Proclamation donated by our family. So thank you very much one and all. (Applause)Just regarding the Proclamation, I think it’s the most important words that were ever put to paper in Irish history. When Pádraig Pearse wrote this with the help of Connolly and made it so inclusive for everybody it was so far reaching, ahead of its time, and even at that time. It’s a magnificent piece of work and it’s great to hear that this Proclamation that we have for the people of Dublin will last forever. So hopefully future generations will read it and take on board what it says and especially in the last few years, the way country is moving forward now. Rather than looking back all the time I think a Proclamation will always be ahead of its time so and it’s interesting to note, I just copped this in the last few days while reading it and studying it that Ireland to me always was feminine, she’s regarded as ‘she’ and its mentioned 12 times in the Proclamation, the word ‘she’ and ‘her’. So Pearse was obviously well aware of the inclusiveness and the fact that women were equal and obviously if not more important than men. We really only sit in the background maybe, the women run the show. So this confirms that and it was highlighted by Yeats in his play ‘Cathleen Ní Houlihan’ which he wrote in 1902 and staged in the Abbey and this, again, was before the Rising so they obviously knew, this Gaelic Movement, that women had a really important role to play coming forward in the Rising. And they are just the few words I wanted to say about the Proclamation. We are absolutely delighted that this was found and restored and we always knew our family would have given away things all the time. They would have given ... Joseph Plunkett’s suit was given away. The stuff – you touched on it earlier Mary – people didn’t hold onto things. They weren’t materialistic like today but it was great that it is there and it’s preserved for all time.So moving on to the main act today which is Elizabeth O’Farrell. Firstly, I’d like to introduce Antoinette Heery who is a friend of mine. Not unlike most people in Ireland and in Dublin, Antoinette would have a connection as her grand uncle James Heery was in the GPO with Elizabeth during the week of the Rising. So Antoinette is going to sing us a song now and it’s a song that would have been heard in our home McGuinness Square which was Elizabeth’s sister’s house and most Sunday nights we would gather there and this song was mostly sung in the house and it’s called ‘The Tri-coloured Ribbon’.Antoinette Heery: And please join in the chorus if you know it. I’m sure a lot of you do. (Singing) (Applause)Thanks Antoinette, that was fantastic. So I’m just going to move on to the story of my Great Aunt, Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell whom we all know was the woman in this iconic photograph with the leader of the Rising, Padraig Pearse, at the moment of surrender to General Lowe, Commander of the British Forces in Ireland. I am often asked how she came to be in this position. Well, I want to share with you the life behind this woman.So Elizabeth was born in City Quay in Dublin on the 5th of the eleventh, 1883. Her father was Christopher Farrell and her mother was Margaret Farrell née Kenna. She had one sister Bridget who was our grandmother. She was christened Elizabeth Farrell without the ‘O’ which was purposely dropped. This was quite common at the time as a way of avoiding ethnic description in a country that was rife with it. This was her father’s second marriage. His first wife was a Mary Connolly and he became a widower when Mary died. Mary was from Lower Mount Street and Margaret was from City Quay so he kept his courtships to the local area. (laughter) He didn’t marry anybody from Ringsend. (laughter) Sorry Ann. (laughter)So Elizabeth in her formative years attended school at the Sisters of Mercy on Townsend Street along with her best friend, Julia Grennan, and Julia would have been known to all of us in our family as our Aunt Sheila. She was the Aunt Sheila. Sheila was from nearby Lombard Street and would remain Elizabeth’s best friend throughout her lifetime and the two of them quickly became inseparable as they both developed a love of the Irish language and Irish culture from quite a young age and in fact they were listed as fluent Irish speakers on the Census of 1911 which was highly unusual. They both became members of the Gaelic League and Inghinidhe na hÉireann which they joined in 1906 and that had been founded by Maud Gonne, and the attempt of this organisation was to help promote all things Irish – as in Irish products, the language and the culture – and at the heart of the Movement was also Irish independence and a right of women and children which years later were also at the core of this Proclamation we see here today.Her father, Christopher, died in 1907 when she was still relatively young and out of necessity she took a job in Armstrong Printers on Amien Street. So at this stage of her life, along with Sheila and many members of her family – including both my grandmothers – she became very Republican in her thinking. Many years later she said that her Republicanism was already in her soul at the age of 16. I really believe this was fostered by an era where there was no TV, no internet and probably more importantly no pubs open on Sundays so that meant that people could gather – families could gather – together, sing songs, tell stories and talk about, more importantly, politics and freedom. All of these feelings of Republicanism and rebellion were fuelled by the poverty and deprivation in Dublin that was particularly prevalent among the Catholic lower or classes and at that time Dublin was the second city of the Empire but was also widely acknowledged as the biggest slum in Europe. So the only way out for most local boys and men was down to the Docks or join the British Army. So it was around this time, 1913, that the Irish Volunteers were founded as a direct counter to the UVF that had been formed in the North to fight Home Rule.So Elizabeth joined Cumann na mBan on its foundation in 1914. Initially 250 women joined the Movement and they came from all sections of society with no discrimination but had one common goal and that was Irish freedom. They actually considered themselves to be the women’s section of the Irish Volunteers. Their agenda was to fight alongside the men in the struggle for freedom and during a Rising, if and when it came about. So like all women in the Movement, Elizabeth would have been trained in the use of fire arms, transport of weapons, dispatches to the Volunteers and nursing and this training was overseen by Countess Markievicz and the great doctor, Dr Kathleen Lynn. Cumann na mBan was also heavily influenced by the Suffragette Movement in its desire to further the rights of women to vote, hold political sway and improve social conditions for the underprivileged and especially for the children of that time. So this would manifest itself later in the wording of the Proclamation. In this respect, their biggest ally among the future leaders of the Rising was James Connolly, given that the backdrop to this was the devastating effect that the 1913 lockout had on the working classes. It also must be remembered that the generation of the time still had first hand family experience of the Great Famine and all its awful consequences as well as a view, a strong view, that the ruling British were to blame. All of this led to an immense cultural, socialist and patriotic revival which already had led to the formation of many bodies like the GAA, the Gaelic League and the Trade Union Movement. (Music) Thanks Shay. (Applause) Go raibh maith agat Shay.So now to the Rising. So in the build up to 1916 Europe was in turmoil and without doubt the British focus was elsewhere as they fought a devastating and horrific war on the European western front. In fact the events of the Great War and the total disregard for human life, particularly for the foot soldiers, probably influenced the subsequent decision to execute the leaders of the Rising. At this time Home Rule agenda was gathering pace leading to tensions between the southern Catholics and the northern Protestants and it’s possible to believe Home Rule could come about and it could have led to a civil war in Ireland. So even though there wasn’t a general ground swell of support from the general population the rebel leaders believed that this was the right time to strike for freedom and in the build up to hostilities it must be remembered that communication methods were still pretty basic and given the number of informers that had always been the bane of the Movement this was quite dangerous.So on the eve of the Rising Elizabeth was dispatched by Eoin MacNeill who was originally asked by the IRB to lead the forming of the Irish Volunteers and she was ordered to Galway to inform the Volunteers that the Rising was cancelled and little did she know that Pearse himself had countermanded these orders and was intent on proceeding with the Rising. So when she got back to Dublin and realised what was happening she headed straight to the GPO along with the other women Volunteers and she set about nursing and feeding the soldiers. So later in the week as the fighting intensified Pearse ordered all the women to vacate the building except for Elizabeth and two others – Winifred Carney and Julia Grennan. In fact, they actually refused to leave the building, the GPO, and he couldn’t persuade them otherwise so they remained there until it became futile as the GPO was in ruins and the order was given to evacuate the building. So they then left the side of the building onto Henry Street with Connolly on a stretcher and under heavy gunfire, with the remaining Volunteers, they made their way down the laneways to 16 Moore Street. So they witnessed some horrific things, sights, actually on that journey down the laneways. For instance, there was a young girl called Bridget McKane, she was aged 15, and she was shot dead at her home on Moore Street and she was killed by a bullet that pierced her forehead which had already passed through her father’s shoulder and right lung and Padraig Pearse himself, on hearing what happened, said ‘My God I’m sorry this happened, what can we do?’ and it was also on this journey that The O’Rahilly lost his life.So under siege and after another 3 people bearing white flags coming down the laneway of Moore Lane Pearse decided enough was enough. So in number 16 Moore Street when they broke through all the buildings, and people would be very familiar now with it, they called it mouse-holing through the different buildings and they decided to hold the Council of War there. So the women were actually set aside to the other room with Julia, Winifred and Elizabeth and the Rising was then going to be called off and this is probably one of the most significant parts of the week. It probably is the most significant part.So Pearse knew all along himself that the Rising was going to be, in his own words, ‘a glorious failure’ and he needed a trusted Volunteer to approach the British position and offer a conditional surrender. So the trusted Volunteer was Elizabeth and it’s remarkable because he didn’t pick any of the other Volunteers – the male Volunteers – he went straight for Elizabeth and I think he was making a massive statement to the British that he wanted a woman alongside of him to do this. So Elizabeth, at 12.45 on Saturday the 29th of April, under heavy fire she approached the British position waving a white handkerchief and with a great deal of good fortune made it to the commanding officer. So this commanding officer was at the bottom of Moore Street and behind him was all guns pointed down Moore Street, actually where The O’Rahilly was killed. So they were still firing as she was making her way up that street so she was quite brave to do what she done, like it was amazing how she actually made it up to the barricade and then the officer at the barricade he was flabbergasted that a woman should be in this position and announcing herself as a Volunteer which in no uncertain terms she did announce herself as a Volunteer. And at first they assumed she was a spy and they removed her Red Cross Insignia and detained her around 2.25pm that afternoon and they said to her ‘Go back to Pearse and tell him there will be no terms and that only an unconditional surrender would be accepted’ and she was also instructed that Pearse was to come with her to the position at the corner of Moore Street and Parnell Street to surrender to General Lowe. She followed the instructions and at 3.30pm General Lowe received Commandant Pearse and Elizabeth at the designated point leading to this now immortal picture we see here which, for the purpose of newspaper reporting, was unfortunately doctored to remove part of her image. At this time General Lowe asked that Elizabeth be the one who delivered Pearse’s surrender orders to the various rebel garrisons around the city and she being Pearse’s comrade, for want of a better word, she asked him would that be okay with him and he said yes he agreed that it would be.So in the hours after surrender Elizabeth continued her role as a dispatcher delivering those surrender orders to the rebel garrisons. So she made her way around a lot of the city still in danger of being shot because a lot of confusion was going on and how she survived it is a miracle. So all the deliveries went off and she finally needed to get to Boland’s Mills where de Valera was the officer in charge and on the way she came under heavy fire and I live in the area where this shooting took place, it’s on Grand Canal Bridge, and I work between Grand Canal Bridge and my house – I walk it every day – and on this way to Boland’s Mills a man just beside her was running alongside her and he was shot in the back, a fatal injury to himself. So indeed it is a miracle that she survived. So when she got to de Valera of course he refused to take the order unless it came from Commandant MacDonagh and it’s no surprise that he wouldn’t take the order from a woman you see. So she had to track (laughter) ... so we all know the story there. So she had to go back to town and return with MacDonagh’s orders. In fact she didn’t get back down with the orders. MacDonagh delivered the orders back to de Valera himself and I think that instilled, in later life, when talking with the family she had a high disregard for de Valera. She didn’t put him up on the pedestal that people thought of de Valera and she obviously had a lot of her own reasons for that you know.So after all the dispatches were delivered and the Volunteers had surrendered she was subsequently removed to Kilmainham Jail where despite previous assurances by General Lowe she was strip searched, had all her possessions taken from her and was treated as a prisoner in the true sense of the word. So when she protested she was told by a British officer ‘Don’t be silly, sure we know for a fact that you shot 6 British soldiers’. So it’s remarkable that the General and his commanding officers recognised her bravery and the role that she had played even though she was clearly a committed Volunteer and as a result the General kept his word and she was released from Kilmainham Jail and all her possessions were returned. So when we were growing up and you’d talk about what actually happened among the family it was agreed that General Lowe actually was a gentleman. So in terms of the bigger picture of the rebels and the war itself, everybody liked to behave properly in the situation they found themselves in. So even, for instance, when I heard yesterday that the guys who took the tram into town he paid for 52 tickets, he didn’t just hijack the tram and left it an IOU (laughter) so they were very careful ... say even if they took food from a shop they’d leave an IOU in the shop so everybody got fixed up later on. So it’s remarkable how they went about their business and behaved properly.And as a footnote to this release from Kilmainham Jail she actually had in her possession £13 in gold coins which was given to her by a young Volunteer and this was this young man’s wedding fund and he was in lodgings and he took the money, the gold with him – the gold coins, to the Rising on Easter Monday rather than leave it in the lodgings he actually gave it to Elizabeth to mind for him. So in many ways they were simpler times and this is the way the people behaved which was amazing.So I want to move on now to the famous airbrushed iconic photograph and there are many theories as to why this photograph doesn’t show her more clearly but two in particular are most believable. Firstly, is Elizabeth’s own account when she stated that she wanted to get out of the way as not to detract from Pearse at that historic moment. And the second accounts for the airbrushing which is believed happened so that Irish men fighting in World War I wouldn’t be stirred against the British by photographs of Irish women fighting for Irish freedom at home. I think there is so much speculation on the photograph I would actually go with the latter but we might never know the reason. She wasn’t a very extroverted person. She was very introverted but I do believe the way she was positioned and the way she was airbrushed was done by the British not to show her in her true light as a rebel as well as a Volunteer. So post Rising as they say the rest is history. The execution of the leaders became the most potent weapon in driving public opinion in the formation of a Republic. So this was Maxwell, we’d all be well aware, there was two Generals, there was General Lowe and then he was replaced by General Maxwell. Maxwell came over from Britain and had experience all over Asia etc., as a General so he would be the type of guy who would have ... when I think of the young Volunteers that crossed Mount Street Bridge, the Sherwood Foresters, he sent them over the bridge because they were large in numbers and Malone and Darcy who were positioned on Northumberland Road, there was only two of them and they picked off 200 young soldiers and these young soldiers though they were in France but it just gives you an insight into the way this Empire worked with their young foot soldiers. They were willing to sacrifice 200 young lads over the bridge, they get shot, 30 of them are killed and their bodies, I’ve heard from a funeral director in town – is Nichols Funeral Directors – they say that in their records that they actually placed the bodies in the laneway behind Northumberland Road and the bodies were then taken by the undertakers to Glasnevin and as well they were also placed in a massive grave. So there was no real regard for ... they were cannon fodder basically.So getting back to Elizabeth and the Women’s Movement, nothing changed as they continued as before with their struggle for freedom. The revolution had to begin again after the Rising and sadly this was a different revolution and in Elizabeth’s eyes and in most of the women’s – I’d say 100 per cent of the woman in Cumann na mBan – the focus now was Anti Treaty. So in reality these strong willed women were ‘never going back to the kitchen sink’ as Elizabeth herself was quoted as saying, the war wasn’t over. But in fairness to them, they had won major victories for the poor and for women’s rights. So, for example, in 1921 women won the right to vote in Ireland a full 7 years before their British counterparts which was an amazing achievement. It’s small if we look at it nowadays but at that time it was an amazing achievement.So Elizabeth herself then returned to normal life, if you could say it was normal life. She still was very active in the background during the War of Independence and post Treaty. But she had a lifelong ambition to have an education and become a Midwife. So in early 1921 she started her training in Holles Street Hospital and she passed her basic exams with a 69 per cent score and was described by the matron as ‘a fair nurse with a fair education’, right, so that was quite funny at the time. I suppose matrons being matrons that’s the way they were. But before I move on regarding the matron, I just want to go back to Holles Street itself, the hospital, the family – we were invited to Holles Street there just 3 weeks ago by the Master who is great to see is a woman, Rhona Mahony. She is the first lady Master of the hospital and we were allowed ... I was allowed access to the records in the hospital of what happened in Easter week and one young girl came in to have her baby but she had been shot in the leg and it’s recorded during the week but in fact a healthy baby was delivered. But in the middle of the women giving birth during the week there was also the Rising going on all around the area – whether it be Mount Street, Grand Canal Street, the back of Holles Street. And I just came across something there, this lady would have been neighbour of Elizabeth’s and she is from a place called Grant’s Row which is actually, again, just around the corner from us. So she explained. Margaret Jordan* was her name. She was from Grant’s Row near Holles Street. She has given an account of the British Army attack in the family home and shooting her father and brother. This was within 15/20 feet of the hospital. So the father died in Holles Street Hospital because he was taken in there and her brother never recovered and died 2 years later and she was 12 years of age and she had witnessed the removal of 100 bodies from Holles Street Hospital by the British and they were also taken and buried in a mass grave in Glasnevin. So as a 12 year old this had a huge influence on her, for want of a better word, but she actually ended up herself becoming a member of Cumann na mBan on witnessing this. So the activity around the local area was incredible, what was going on.So getting back to Elizabeth’s subsequent idea of becoming a Midwife. She as I said, she passed her score with a 69% score. And I say the Matron herself, getting back to the Matron, I don’t think she has a plaque named in her honour, and a nurse of the year award, which Elizabeth has in recognition of her decades of devoted service to the hospital. And for that matter, Elizabeth this month coming in May, has her face with Kathleen Lynn on a stamp. So even to this day she’s still delivering, right. (Applause)So she lived in 37 Lower Mount Street, is where she set up residence with Julia Grennan, her Aunt Sheila and they lived there and Julia was a dressmaker. She went back to her dressmaking days and worked away. And Elizabeth became one of the major midwives in Dublin, not just in the area. She actually delivered babies in the locality and also delivered all the babies in my own family, and they’re all here today. And Moya being the eldest girl, and Brid being the youngest, or sorry the last baby that Elizabeth delivered is Brid and she’s here today. (Applause)So throughout this time, Elizabeth never lost her devotion to republicanism and in the 50’s after the border campaign went wrong and Sean South was killed, she delivered a speech where I thought was on College Green, but in fact it was outside the GPO because a gentleman just pointed that out to me on the way in here today, Simon’s brother. This man down here. He was actually present when Elizabeth gave one of her last speeches and it was a massive crowd outside the GPO. And she wasn’t one for turning as Thatcher said later on. But she wasn’t one for turning at all. She believed in the 32 county, which she stood alongside Pearse for. And as well as that, I’m noticing nowadays that we’re living in a society where we’re all equal, which is fantastic. And a lot of people don’t know that Elizabeth was actually engaged to be married to a chap called Eamonn Kelly. And Eamonn was intent on moving to Chile to mine for silver. But when push came to shove Elizabeth couldn’t leave Ireland with unfinished business. So to every extent her marriage was to the cause.Recently, I also met, you meet some amazing people when you’re on this journey, it’s great. We were invited up to Arbour Hill and I met a lady by the name of Nuala Fitzgerald at a commemoration in Arbour Hill. And she’s the Niece of Michael Malone, who I would have mentioned earlier on from Northumberland Road. And she’s also a Niece of Leo Fitzgerald, who are famous in a way from the area, the local area where we come from. And this lady was also a great friend of Elizabeth and Sheila, and I would know this, and she was one of the last people to see Elizabeth before she died. Elizabeth went out to Enniskerry to visit Nuala and her husband and on this trip she took ill. In those days as well it was quite simple, Nuala got the husband to go down and get the bus man to drive the bus up to her house, collect Elizabeth and bring her back into town. But they got as far as Loughlinstown, she was dying at the time, and they got as far as Loughlinstown and Sheila actually remarked to them in Loughlinstown Hospital that she wanted her brought back into the city, through Bray into Patrick Dunn’s. So she reminded the man who was driving the ambulance of who Elizabeth was, because Sheila was, if I could just go on to her for a second. She had a more outgoing personality, she was the more jollier of the two. Elizabeth would have been quite stern, would have been non-dramatic, where Sheila in other words she could talk for Ireland, so basically that’s what she could do. So they made their way back into town and Elizabeth, she died on the 25th of June 1957, and is buried in the republican plot in Glasnevin Cemetery, alongside Julia Grennan. And her great friend Eamonn Mac Thomais gave the oratory at her graveside and Eamonn Mac Thomais would have been a fellow republican, and his son became one of the historians, just recently in the last number of years, Shane Mac Thomais, and he tragically died just recently as well. And he’s actually buried with Eamonn beside Elizabeth and they loved Elizabeth through Eamonn, you could sense that often when I met them.So the Elizabeth O’Farrell Foundation was set up in Holles Street and a medal is awarded to the student nurse of the year each year. And in fact it’s going to be awarded again this year and I think Maria or Frances is going to attend the hospital. They want people in the family to acknowledge this and award the medal to the student of the year this year. And also within Holles Street, if you’re familiar with Holles Street Hospital, when you go in the door of Holles Street Hospital you see a plaque and that was designed by an architect artist called Gary Trimble. These would have been friends of Elizabeth’s originally, hence they lived in Mount Street, and this plaque was unveiled on the 50th anniversary of the Rising in 1966. And our Mother Una is the face that was used for Elizabeth, such was her likeness. So when I go into Holles Street and my daughter just recently had a baby there, I can see my Mother there on the wall so, that’s good you know. And my Grandson is called Padraig, I thought she called him another name, it’s a long story but that was just quite unintentional so it’s great to see that there’s still a great presence there. And I must say that the people in the hospital actually really recognise the women who were involved, Kathleen Lynn, Elizabeth O’Farrell, Stopford Price, all of these amazing women. It’s great to see that their story is being told now and it’s coming to the fore, which is fantastic. And I just spotted here, this lady over here is called Mary Murray. So in 2006 a chap called Donal O’Kelly and a lady called Barbara Ni Caoimh approached me about the story of Elizabeth O’Farrell, and he wanted to stage a play in Kilmainham Jail. And so the play was to run for a week and the last play that was held in Kilmainham Jail was actually by the Volunteers back in the day, the put on the odd show if they were allowed. So Mary played Elizabeth O’Farrell in the play and she done such a remarkable job the likeness that my sister Moya thought Mary was Elizabeth, she in fact she was, so it was fantastic.So the Proclamation which Elizabeth had in her possession in the GPO which is on display here today was originally donated to a republican museum Mary tells me in south Frederick Street and in 1966 I’m told by my sisters it was leant in trust by our family to the people of Dublin. And it’s fantastic to see that it’s restored and it’s amazing that it’ll be there and we’re happy that it’s with the people of Ireland and the people of Dublin because there’s few artefacts around that you can honestly say that you can be proud of. And I think we’re all proud of the Proclamation in itself, it’s remarkable. So Elizabeth herself, I think her life’s ambition can be summed up in the conversation she had with my Grandmother in the mid ‘50s. Now my Grandmother’s name was Bridget. And I have to really state this, she is the only sister that Elizabeth had. There was two sisters, Bridget and Bridget herself was a strong republican. And Bridget had all the babies. So Bridget was the woman who got married and Elizabeth stayed single. So our Grandmother was also a remarkable woman, and was also a great woman for delivering babies as well. And actually my Mother was also handy at delivering babies too. So they didn’t need to go to hospitals or anything like that. So they took a trip out to Sandymount Strand and I think the way they thought in those days that my Grandmother would have predeceased Elizabeth. But in fact Elizabeth died before Bridget. So one of the days they had off which was very unusual, the place you would go to if you lived in our area was up to Sandymount Strand. So they sat on the beach in Sandymount Strand and looking back on life, how lucky were we said my Grandmother to Elizabeth. And you were very lucky Bridget, you had all your children around you, but I didn’t get what I wanted. And that was a 32 county Ireland. So on that note I’d just like to dedicate this poem, it’s called “We saw a vision” by Liam Mac Uistin and I think it’s very appropriate because I think it nails exactly what the Proclamation is all about and the vision for the country and what it will do for future generations. So he wrote this for the 50th anniversary in 1966 and it’s on display up in the Garden of Remembrance. So it’s “We saw a vision”."In the darkness of despair we saw a vision.We lit the light of hope and it was not extinguished.In the dessert of discouragement we saw a vision.We planted a tree of valour and it blossomed.In the winter of bondage we saw a vision,We melted the snow of lethargyAnd a river of resurrection flowed from it.We sent our vision aswim like a swan on the river,The vision becomes a reality.Winter becomes summer, bondage becomes freedomAnd this we left you as your inheritance.Oh generation of freedom, remember usThe generation of the vision."(Applause)Mary Clark: And we’re just going to finish now with another poem about Elizabeth O’Farrell and this here is my colleague Anne Marie Kelly, who is a self confessed Elizabeth O’Farrell groupie, I think perhaps even more so after today. But Anne Marie is also a divisional librarian with Dublin City Libraries and she has been one of the people who has delivered the wonderful 1916 programme that was done by the libraries. So there you are, Anne Marie, whenever you’re ready.Anne-Marie Kelly: Thanks Mary. I don’t know if I’ll match Liam Mac Uistin’s poem now, I think it’s a bit more bawdy. The title of this poem sketch is "Elizabeth looks back""Drastic and all that this may seem,But I think the women of Dublin should stop having childerYou see, I know they’re jaded with itBut not half as jaded as us midwives,Although if they stopped having childer, I’d be without a job I supposeAnd that would be bad, but worse still the country would be without future rebels.And of course it’s in the deliverin’ of rebels that was, is and always will be the aim of this midwife.And who are you says you in all that’s good and holy to be telling us what this country needs?Well sorry, I should have said the name’s Elizabeth O’Farrell, of City Quay.Some say history airbrushed me,A printer, a rebel, a midwife am I,A woman who looked General Lowe in the eye,You see I was there that week in the GPO, a proud Cumann member who fought the foe.MacNeill, he really set the cat among the pigeons with the decision, a decision and an unholy revision.And no luck for Casement and the ammo, and you see that did make the fight a tale of woe,Yet still we struggled against the Empire.You see we were dreaming of a world beyond this quagmire.Well by the end of the week the city was in chassis, the fire brigade, they’d saved it for the masses.The rebels’ names were mud for upsetting the applecart.And sure what cared we, weren’t we doing our part.Pearse surrendered with me in tow,And sometimes you can see my feet below.Rebel woman in the photo who helped permission was rubbed out.Did somebody say rubbed out?Yes, says I, rubbed out when the struggle was won."(Applause)(Recording ends here) *In the audio recording Ian Kelly refers to Margaret Hennessy. Margaret's great-nephew Diarmuid Gannon subsequently got in touch to correctly identify the girl in question as Margaret Morrissey (nee Jordan). This transcript was corrected on October 8th 2018.Thank-you for listening to the Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive Podcast. To hear more, please subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud. You can also visit our website - dublincitypubliclibraries.ie and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
Remembering and reinventing the Rising - Transcript
The following is a transcript of "Remembering and reinventing the Rising" a talk by Donal Fallon in Dublin City Library and Archive on Thursday, 23 June 2016.AudioWelcome to the Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive Podcast. In this episode historian Donal Fallon discusses the history of commemorating the 1916 Rising, while looking at events such as the first anniversary in 1917, the often-violent Easter parades of 1930s Dublin and the 50th anniversary in 1966. Recorded in front of a live audience in Dublin City Library and Archive on 23 June 2016 as part of the Dublin City Council 1916 Centenary Programme.You’re all very welcome to Dublin City Library and Archives. My name is Tara Doyle and I am one of the Librarians working here on the 1916 Rising Commemorations for Dublin City Council. I am delighted this evening to welcome Donal Fallon who is going to talk to us about remembering and reinventing the Rising. Donal is a really interesting young historian working in Ireland now. He has a terrific blog called ‘Come here to me’ and if you haven’t looked at it I’d advise you to have a look at it because it’s full of all sorts of interesting articles and photographs – the hidden histories of the city and a lot of social history. He also has a slot on Newstalk – Tuesday mornings is it Donal? And he talks about all sorts of interesting aspects of history then as well. He does walking tours of the city, writes regularly in the media. He has worked with me on a couple of really interesting projects here so I think it’s a privilege that he’s come and he’s going to talk to us tonight on his own area of research, his specific area of research, on remembering the 1916 Rising. Will you please welcome Donal Fallon. (Applause)Cheers Tara, thanks for that. We are probably all commemorationed out in this country at the moment but commemoration is a very interesting thing actually and my kind of main area of research is commemoration, memory, how people remember the past and how they forget things, you know what they choose to commemorate and what they choose to forget. And I suppose when we look at commemorations, like the huge ones we’ve just had in this country, they really tell us more about the time in which they happen than the time that they are commemorating and when they look back on 2016 they’ll be looking at it in the context of Ireland today, just like when they look back on 1998 and the bicentenary of the United Irish Rebellion, they’ll be looking at that in the context of say the Good Friday Agreement. So commemoration always happens in the context of its own time. There’s always been a tug of war I suppose for ownership of the 1916 Rising. Some asked who fears the speak of Easter week? Nobody feared the speak of Easter week (laughs) but everyone wanted to claim it for themselves and from the very first anniversary in 1917 commemorating the Rising has often been a very contested battlefield of ideas.So today I want to focus on a few specific cases, a few specific years, of Easter Rising Commemoration that I think are interesting for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the first anniversary in 1917 which was very widely marked in the city in spite of the fact there was a Proclamation outlawing any such gatherings. Then I want to look at the 10th anniversary, 1926, that was the year in which the Easter lily symbol emerged established by Cumann na mBan activists. What was interesting about 1926 and the 10th anniversary of the Rising is by that time in the city you had enormous Republican commemorations at Easter but you also had enormous commemoration at that time in Irish society around the First World War and there were frequent confrontations between those two strands. I want to look at the 10th anniversary as well in the context of the National Graves Association, a hugely important commemorative body, they have put up more monuments in this country than anyone. They were established in 1926 and the 10th anniversary of the Rising was the catalyst for their establishment. Then I’m going to look briefly at the 1930s, incredibly violent confrontation on the streets in the 30s between the far left and the far right, both of whom sought to claim the mantle of Easter week. And then finally I’ll look very briefly at the Golden Jubilee in 1966.When we talk about 1916 and these people, in a sense we kind of commemorating commemorators you know (laughs). The past was enormously important in the lives and the radicalisation of a lot of the people we ourselves are remembering. The 1898 centenary of the 1798 Rebellion was a real pivotal moment for many of the Irish revolutionary generation. A lot of people talk about it and the Boar War which happened at the same time as having an enormously important role in politicising them. There was also the centenary of Robert Emmett’s death in 1903 and even the 900th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf in 1914 when Patrick Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh and others tried to present Brian Boru as some kind of proto Republican. You know commemoration was something these people did themselves. That’s the foundation stone of the Wolfe Tone monument in 1898, it was unveiled at St. Stephen’s Green. They never got their Wolfe Tone monument, that’s where Fusiliers’ Arch is today and it’s up in Croppies Acre just beside the National Museum. But people that fought in the 1916 Rising would have been partaking in these kind of events themselves.The first anniversary of the Rising in 1917 was a very dramatic one actually in the city and I think the authorities had a sense that something could happen, that it could be volatile, because on the 6th of April 1917 there was a Proclamation issued by General Sir Bryan Mahon, Commander and Chief of British Forces in Ireland, and it was posted in police barracks all across Dublin and beyond. A very clear attempt at preventing any commemorative gatherings in the city during the week marking the anniversary of the uprising. It said that “between Sunday the 8th day of April 1917 and Sunday the 15th day of April 1917 any assembly of persons for the purpose of the holding of meetings would amount to a breach of the peace and would likely serve to promote dissatisfaction”. Under the Defence of the Realm Regulations Mahon’s Proclamation made it clear “there would be no tolerance for unapproved gatherings” and it ended with the words “God save the King”. When Easter Monday 1917 came around all eyes were very much on Sackville Street and there were small crowds gathering on the street from very early in the morning, kind of in anticipation that something would happen. Defiantly the newspapers reported that, quote “Some Dubliners wore Sinn Féin colours on their clothing, black bands reportedly worn by others as well and a tricolour was raised over the ruins of the General Post Office”. The paper said that the rubble of the Rebellion was used by youths to attack the police with stone throwing on Sackville Street from about 4 o’clock and an inspector and superintendent hospitalised. Helena Maloney, a female participant in the 1916 Rising, remembered that in the weeks before this day there was a kind of feeling among female Republicans that something was coming and she remembered producing flags, “We made the flags, three measuring 6 feet by 4½ feet. There was a very nice Sailor from Glasgow named Moran who looked up at the flagstaff of the GPO and said “You could get a flag on that. I’ll do it and they won’t get it off in a hurry”. But the symbolic raising of tricolours in Dublin troubled the authorities but it wasn’t only in Dublin that it happened. There were similar scenes in Cork and Mullingar. Anything between 300 and 400 people reportedly marched through the streets of Galway, stopped at City Hall where the municipal flag had vanished and been replaced by a tricolour. Probably the most dramatic act of the first anniversary of the Rising though happened at Liberty Hall on the 12th of May 1916, on the anniversary of James Connolly, and there were commemorative gatherings for Connolly held in interesting places – in Edinburgh, in Chicago, in New York you had small trade union demonstrations on the 12th of May 1917. But this was a real act of defiance. A number of female Republicans again took the lead – Helena Maloney, Rosie Hackett, Jinny Shanahan and others and they took it upon themselves, to quote Rosie Hackett, “On the first anniversary of Connolly’s death, us and the transport people decided he should be honoured. A big poster was put up on the Hall with the words ‘James Connolly murdered May 12th 1916’. It was no length of time up on the Hall when it was taken down by the police, including Johnny Barton and Dunne, two notorious kind of ‘G’ men, “We were very vexed over it and we thought it should have been defended. It was barely an hour or so up and we wanted everyone to know it was Connolly’s anniversary. Miss Maloney called us together, Jinny Shanahan, Bridget Davis and myself. Miss Maloney printed another script, getting up on the roof, she put it high up across the top parapet we were on top of the roof for the rest of the time it was there” and she remembered that they were up there, Rosie Hackett remembered, they were up there for hours and she claimed that it took, quote “more than 400 police men to get it down”. I’m not entirely sure I believe her. That can happen in the bureau military history statements but it’s a great story none the less and it gave us one of the really iconic images of the first anniversary of the Rising. She remembered that “thousands of people watched this from the quay on the far side of the river. It took the police a good hour or so before they got it down and the script was there until 6 in the evening”. Also on the first anniversary they printed a reproduction of the 1916 Proclamation and I’ve never seen one of these. They’re actually rarer than the 1916 Proclamation. Very few of them around today. Helena Maloney again remembered that it was the women that took the most prominent role in doing this, she said that “we pasted it around the city with flour paste made from glue, jam pots of which were used by teams of willing Republicans all over the city”. She said that “one poster was up in Grafton Street for 6 or 8 months”. Dublin Corporation marked the anniversary in their own way too, they passed a Motion calling for an amnesty for Irish prisoners. So 1917 was very dramatic and it was a day of great defiance in the city.Skipping forward into the 1920s and post independence I suppose. Post independence you have competing kind of commemorative rituals in the city and the big one really is Remembrance Sunday or Armistice Day. That picture is taken in 1926, 10 years after the Rising, on the 11th of November at the Wellington Monument in the Phoenix Park. Armistice Day was a hugely important day for many working class people in Dublin. Frank Ryan, the Republican leader claimed, to quote him, that “the people that partake in this day are bank clerks and students of Trinity College” (laughter). Now it was very clear it was something much, much more than that. You know regardless of how politics had changed many working class people did have a connection to the war and continued to identify with it. There was huge opposition to Armistice Day or Poppy Day in the city, often instigated by Republican activists, many with an IRA background. In fact, even during the War of Independence and Armistice Day the IRA considered taking very drastic action against that parade that passed Trinity College Dublin. One volunteer remembered in his bureau military history statement that “We paraded under arms and took up positions in Dame Street and George’s Street. We were to open fire on the parade but at the last moment this instruction was cancelled. On our way home we observed a camera man who had taken pictures of the parade, we took the camera off him and destroyed it”. But in the Dublin of the 20s and the 1930s you know remembering the First World War was very, very common, the Flanders poppy was commonplace in the city. The British Legion had ‘Poppy Depots’ and not only in places like Rathmines, as An Phoblacht pointed out, but in the centre of the city as well. Hand to hand fighting, flag burning and even attempted arson in ‘Poppy Depots’ was relatively common in the 1920s. The poppy was formally launched in Ireland by the British Legion in October 1925, they would have been sold on the streets for years before that and the selling of the poppy brought in huge revenue to the British Legion. I think it was ... and here’s a newspaper report on kind of a typical Armistice Sunday in Dublin, “City Centre in turmoil, many hurt in charges and stampedes poppy-snatching, guards break up band of processionists”. It was largely in response to that, in response to the rise of the Flanders poppy in Ireland that you saw the establishment of the lily in 1926 on the 10th anniversary of the Rising. And again it’s Cumann na mBan. Cumann na mBan, the Women’s Movement in particular, are very prominent in the commemorative stuff. They are the ones that are often issuing the commemorative literature. They are the ones that are selling the lilies on the streets as well and the Easter lily very much was an attempt to I think establish a radical alternative to the Flanders poppy. Its sales were very poor. It was considered a minority symbol from the beginning. In 1926 the British Legion raised the grand sum of £7,430 through selling poppies in Ireland. Easter lily sales in the same year saw only £34 raised, that was the first year. By 1934 the figure had risen to just over £900 but it still remained very much a minority symbol and Gardaí often noted in kind of intelligence reports that it was sometimes non-existent the kind of old IRA gatherings. You know it was very much a symbol that was associated with the contemporary Republican movement. This poster is from the early 1930s. ‘They died for a Republic, we’ll accept nothing less, spurring compromise, forward to the Republic’. So it was associated with the contemporary Republic Movement very much so. Gardaí noted in intelligence reports that it seemed to be women and children that were often selling them, Cumann na mBan and Fianna Éireann activists. It was Fianna Fáil that really clamped down on the Easter lily in the 1930s. They went after the sellers of the lilies arguing that they didn’t have permits, so it wasn’t that they were outlawing the lily themselves they were just outlawing the selling of it on the streets without a permit. Fianna Fáil had come into power in 1932 with the help of the IRA. The IRA had actively canvassed for Fianna Fáil and encouraged their members to vote for the party but relationships between the IRA and Fianna Fáil strained very quickly. In fact from 1933 on Fianna Fáil were talking about a new IRA which was sheltering behind the honoured name of the old IRA and even launched their own commemorative symbol. Fianna Fáil launched what was called the torch in 1935 as an alternative to the Easter lily. That same year, 1926, saw the foundation of the National Graves Association as well. A hugely important body. If you travel around Ireland you’ll find National Graves Association monuments popping up in the most unlikely of places, on roadsides and laneways all across the country. They were a distinctly Republican commemorative body who, quote ‘strove to remember all those who gave their lives to what they perceived to be the cause of an Irish Republic’. Their founding members were interesting people and they were people that carried great importance. Kathleen Clarke was Treasurer, the widow of Tom Clarke. Joseph Clarke who fought at the Battle of Mount Street Bridge in 1916, no relation, he was involved. You had Sean Fitzpatrick, not of Anglo Irish Bank fame – another one. James Stritch. Lily O’Brennan. You know these were people that carried great weight in the Republican Movement, they were the founders of the NGA. James Stritch is particularly interesting. You can see him there on my right hand side of this picture. That’s the Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa Funeral Committee. James Stritch is over there. Not only did he fight in the 1916 Rising, he took part in the 1867 Fenian Rebellion. He was involved in the smashing of the van, a raid on a police van in Manchester in 1867. So I think he’s the only person who could claim to be out in 1867 and 1916. He was on the Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa Funeral Committee, hence this picture. He was involved in the Wolfe Tone Commemorative Committee. He was someone that was very heavily involved in commemoration in the city and it’s not really surprising that he’s a founding member of the National Graves Association in 1926. And there’s Kathleen Clarke and Kathleen Clarke brought a kind of respectability to the NGA because she was the founding member of the Fianna Fáil political party. So you had a very broad church of people from Sinn Féin to Fianna Fáil to veteran Fenians, all in the NGA in its foundation years. The first thing that they did or the first thing they strove to do was to unveil a monument at the 1916 plot in Glasnevin cemetery and they eventually managed to do that in 1929 and the NGA still maintain the 1916 plot in Glasnevin. The unveiling was carried out by Frank Ryan who was the Editor of An Phoblacht, a self-described ‘street fighting man’, one of the most active kind of poppy day agitators in the city. What I like about this image, it’s from the Cashman Collection, you have Frank Ryan speaking here, he is the Editor of An Phoblacht, An Phoblacht was actually banned at the time of this unveiling. But look on the other side of him again you have the Fianna and the Fianna are always very central to commemoration in the 1920s and the 1930s. Frank Ryan was furious at the time that this received no attention in the press. He wrote that “the daily press Anglophile today is always sought by its silence to belittle the significance of our ceremonies, in a few line comment on the Dublin commemorations they refrain from mentioning an oration that was delivered in Glasnevin obviously to create the impression that Dublin was cowed into silence”. The NGA’s work is all around Dublin today. That’s one example, the Thomas Weafer plaques, beautiful plaques on O’Connell Street on the old Hibernian Bank building there on the corner of O’Connell Street and Middle Abbey Street.The 20s were I suppose there was confrontation between those who were taking part in kind of British Army commemoration and those who were taking part in Republic commemoration. In the 1930s the confrontation was between the left and the right and scenes of violence between the far left and the far right were quite commonplace on the streets in the 1930s. Anti-communist feeling in Ireland was very, very high. You had street protest movements like the St. Patrick’s Anti-Communist League, the Irish Christian Front, the Uniformed Army Comrades Association or the Blue Shirts, all clashing with the organised left. And Easter was always a flash point in the 1930s.The Easter commemorations in 1936 on the 20th anniversary of the Rising were particularly violent. On that occasion a Communist contingent who marched in the annual IRA Easter Parade suffered repeated assault in the city. They were joined by Willie Gallagher who was a Scottish Communist who had actually been elected to the Westminster Parliament in 1935 and the Irish Press in April, on the 13th of April detailed the assaults on communists, noting that, quote ‘members of the Communist Party of Ireland were attacked with stones and there were a number of free fights in which several people were injured during the IRA procession from Stephen’s Green to Glasnevin Cemetery yesterday’. They claimed that about 60 members of the Communist Party marched through the streets with red tabs attached to their Easter lilies and at the General Post Office a mob of about 200 people attempted to rush the group and Roddy Connolly, son of the executed James Connolly, was hospitalised. The Irish Press detailed that the attacks on the group continued all the way to Glasnevin Cemetery where sellers of the British Communist newspaper, The Daily Worker, were assaulted and had their papers taken from them. Among the people that was attacked on this day was Captain Jack White, DSO, a Northern Protestant, a veteran of the British Army who had fought in the Boar War who had been influential in the establishment of the Irish Citizen Army. He remembered the following year, he said ‘Last Easter Sunday I had to fight for 3 kilometres against the Catholic actionists who attacked us on the streets as we marched to honour the memory of the Republican dead of 1916. The pious hooligans came inside the cemetery, tore up the grave rails, to attack us’. The day after the IRA parade to Glasnevin Cemetery which ended in scenes of carnage there was a meeting at College Green in the City. Willie Gallagher, the Scottish Communist, and Peadar O’Donnell were going to speak on the theme of 1916 and Gardaí estimated that, quote ‘about 98 per cent of the people present were opposed to the objectives of the meeting’ which is kind of incredible to think about it. Wild scenes at Dublin meeting speakers attempted address from lamp post. Peadar O’Donnell attempted to climb up a lamp post and talk to the crowd. The much anticipated visit of a foreign radical like Willie Gallagher, you know an elected member of the British Parliament, should have provided a boost to a struggling Irish political movement but it was clear reading the newspapers that 1936 was disastrous for the left at least. And these kind of confrontations remained common in the years that followed, at least in the 30s. That’s Willie Gallagher, the Scottish Communist MP and of course that’s Peadar O’Donnell.In 1935 the left boycotted the unveiling of the Oliver Sheppard Memorial, a beautiful monument, a beautiful memorial, sorry, in the General Post Office, showing Cúchulainn, they argued that they would not attend it because Roddy Connolly, the son of James Connolly, was imprisoned at the time and it’s funny that the Republic Movement kind of universally boycotted the unveiling of that memorial because today you see it all the time, you know that symbol of Cúchulainn has been really appropriated by Republicans and in the North you often see it on murals. But in 1935 the IRA and others all actually boycotted the unveiling of Sheppard’s memorial and the left too.To skip forward and to finish up with the 1960s, the Golden Jubilee of the 1916 Rising I suppose is remembered for a couple of reasons. Primarily I would argue it’s remembered for two things, one, it’s remembered for the great insurrection which thankfully we’ve shown this year on television and, secondly, it’s remembered for the destruction of Nelson’s Pillar and neither of those two things – you know the two things that 1966 is primarily remembered for – were really state projects you could say (laughter). The insurrection, the TV show, I was delighted to see it re-shown this year, was really ambitious and quite ground breaking. It was stored in RTE Archives for the past 50 years before we got to see it again – an 8-part series broadcasted nightly in 1966 and this is a great scene from it, Michael Malone up at Mount Street Bridge. People sometimes attribute 1966, the Golden Jubilee of the Rising, to the Troubles that followed on in the North. I think that’s quite ahistorical. I think that ignores the other factors that were brewing in Ulster that eventually created the Troubles. Terence O’Neill, the Prime Minister in the North, described 1966 as ‘Not a very easy year’ and he expressed his frustrations that ‘Catholics insisted on celebrating the Dublin Rebellion’ but I don’t think it was the commemorations of ’66, of the Golden Jubilee, that sparked the Troubles. Funnily enough reading the newspaper archives though, the fear really was there on the Unionist side, and from Ian Paisley in particular, that the Golden Jubilee could spark something but I don’t think it was. I don’t think it was commemorations that kicked off the Troubles, no way. Hugh Leonard who wrote the script for Insurrection, he recalled ‘from the point of view of a dramatist my favourite character turned out to be James Connolly, bow-legged, fiery, an unquenchable optimist, cheering his men on with ‘courage boys we are winning’ while the GPO roof blazed overhead or lying wounded a cigarette in one hand and a detective novel in the other announcing with satisfaction that this was ‘revolution deluxe’ (laughter). The production was certainly lavish, it involved 200 extras and 300 members of the Defence Forces and Diarmuid Ferriter noted that Insurrection was broadcast twice in 1966 and never since, not it has been maintained due to the Troubles or political correctness but because of the cost of repeat fees and explanation that appears far-fetched. Journalist, Fintan O’Toole would contend that Insurrection had huge influence on the rise of Sinn Féin in the North. Harvey O’Brien wrote in his study of the Evolution of Ireland in film that though it saluted the bravery of the Irish it was unusually even handed in its betrayal of the British Armed Forces. It depicted, for example, a growing respect between a British medic trapped in the GPO and the wounded rebel commander James Connolly.I think the abiding memory people have of 1966, however, is always going to be the destruction of Nelson’s Pillar on the 8th of March 1966. Horatio Nelson on his Doric column in the centre of O’Connell Street came crashing down into the street and Liam Sutcliffe who was part of the group, the small group of Republican activists that was built around the maverick Joe Crystal, he talked himself about how it was over a discussion in a Belfast Republican club in the months before they decided that they were going to intervene in the Golden Jubilee and that they would not allow the Golden Jubilee to pass with Horatio Nelson standing outside of the General Post Office. So ultimately it was the 50th anniversary of the Rising that provided the imperative I suppose for Republicans, like Joe Crystal and Liam Sutcliffe, to bring about the destruction of Nelson. And that more than anything I think – more than the army parading past the Post Office, more than the lavish production in Casement Park and Croke Park – that became the abiding memory of ’66.So 1916, I hope that brief talk has illustrated, has always been contested or the memory of it has always been contested by different factions, be it the left and the right, be it kind of Constitutional Nationalists and Republicans, there has always been a tug of war for Easter week and I think when we look at 1926, 1936 and even 1966 we learn more about that time than we do about the Rising and I wonder how they’ll look back on 2016? I think on the whole the centenaries have been wonderful. I think there’s been a wonderful community engagement. There are permanent memorials to the Rising all across Dublin now in suburbs erected by community groups and I think there was a real engagement this year, in particular from young people and communities, and that should always be welcome. Any discussion around history is good. I just hope in the years ahead that that popular discourse will remain even into the civil war (laughter) but thank you very much, we’ll leave that there. (Applause) Thank-you for listening to the Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive Podcast. To hear more, please subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud. You can also visit our website - dublincitypubliclibraries.ie and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
The following is a transcript of "Conserving the Proclamation" a talk by Elizabeth D'Arcy at Dublin City Hall on Monday, 25 April 2016.AudioWelcome to the Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive Podcast. In this episode Elizabeth D’Arcy shares the exciting and sometimes nerve-wracking story of how she conserved the 1916 Proclamation so kindly donated to Dublin City Council by the family of Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell. One of three talks given at a seminar held in Dublin City Hall on 25 April 2016.Hello. My name is Liz Darcy and I am going to be speaking about the conservation restoration of this Proclamation. Just to give you a bit of background about myself, I studied History of Art in UCD in Dublin and I then went on to do a Masters in Conservation of Fine Art on Paper over in the UK and basically what my job involves is conserving and restoring anything paper based, so documents, archives, maps, works of art on paper, drawings, water colours, prints – anything at all that’s on paper.So I was asked by Mary Clark to take a look at this Proclamation last year and I took it away for 24 hours to test it and gave it back and established that it could be conserved. So this is what it looked like – and I’m sure many of you here from the family of Elizabeth O’Farrell are probably familiar with it – when I first looked at it. So there were various issues for me to consider. The huge issue was it was covered front and back in Sellotape and some bits of laminate. So at some stage it had become stained and discoloured and then it had been covered in Sellotape and then placed in this frame at some stage. So the main concern was that if I wanted to clean this and preserve this I had no way of getting to it apart from removing the tape from it and as you can imagine removing Sellotape from any paper if you just take it off obviously you’re going to pull all the ink off, the surface of the paper is going to be damaged. So the reason I took it off for the 24 hours was just to test various solvents to check that that Sellotape could be removed from the paper without damaging the ink. I found a solvent that worked with it so that was the first step for me to consider. Also the frame that it was in was just a little bit tight, so it was putting a good bit of pressure on the paper and causing further tearing and slight damage because it was just that little bit too tight in the frame. So, the first step was to take it out of the frame. So this is an image of the front of the Proclamation before conservation, so you can see obviously the shine on it is from the Sellotape and it has various stains on it. Now the stains aren’t a huge issue because you want to retain the integrity of the object as it was. I describe my job as conservation because I’m not restoring something to look like new, I’m preserving it and conserving so it retains its own qualities and its own inherent strengths as it should be. You don’t want something old to look brand spanking new but you do want it not to degrade over time which was my job, was to try and prevent any further degradation.So this is the reverse, the back of the Proclamation. Again, totally covered and you can see quite clearly the staining. Now that staining I think was kind of an oil based staining and you know the nature of the Proclamation at the time was people didn’t think they would be kept you know, they were meant to be seen at the time and then possibly thrown away or used as bedding (laughs) by the nurses. And the paper itself wasn’t great quality paper, it was quite poor quality so it would tend to degrade over time as well, unlike say water colour paper or paper that is specifically produced for works of art, that would be a very pure cotton and linen paper, this would be a you know kind of poorly made wood pulp paper so it would contain acids in the paper that would degrade anyway. So that was something else to consider, that the paper was probably acidic in the first place and would degrade over time.So this is just a small section of the damage to the top left corner of the Proclamation. So you can see the actual corner is missing and then just below that there’s a slightly different tone to the paper, so someone at some stage had tried to repair this corner and placed what was essentially I think grease proof type paper and then it was laminated but obviously it was with good intentions that whoever had the Proclamation at the time was trying to stop any further tearing or any further damage. But this repair that was placed onto the Proclamation was actually causing further damage to it because it was even poorer quality paper so any acids in that paper would migrate into the original paper so I knew that I had to remove that new repair, newish repair, whenever it was done and replace it with a conservation grade repair to strengthen the paper which you will see further on in the photos. So the first step for me was before taking all the tape off was just removing that old repair which I did, again using solvent just to soften the tape around it and then remove that and that was left to one side so that the Proclamation was basically back to the original state before someone had attempted to repair it. So that corner was missing so that was something else to consider during conservation.So this is a photo of me removing the Sellotape. So I had a lot of things to consider. As Mary specified, the printing was different. Sometimes if I’m removing tape from something or cleaning something if it’s been printed, if it’s a poster or something like that, all the print is the same so I kind of know what I’m looking at but in this I was so conscious of the importance of the Proclamation in the first place and what I was working on, you know the historical importance of it, that some of the print had smudges on it already, some of the print, as we saw, there were little pieces of print missing so when I was using a solvent to remove the tape I photographed each very, very small section before I worked on it because I just wanted to be sure that the solvent I was using wasn’t shifting any of the ink and you know if I had worked on a section without photographing it and it happened to be one of the letters that the ink was smudged on already if I hadn’t photographed it I may have thought ‘Oh my God I’ve smudged the ink’. So you know I photographed each section and I literally worked kind of millimetre by millimetre, photographed it, worked on it, photographed it, worked on it and I was extremely conscious of the discrepancies I suppose in the print and just checking as I went along that I wasn’t shifting any of the ink in the paper. In general printing ink is very stable, you can clean it very well without shifting any ink but I just ... I was extra cautious because of the importance of this document.As you can see I’m using a cotton swab there, so I applied a solvent to the tape, the Sellotape, and the shiny top layer was melted off first of all and then I reapplied it and then the adhesive underneath dissolved and then I could very, very gently lift that tape off the surface of the paper without damaging any of the print so it was a very pain staking process. If I removed say a couple of centimetres of the tape from the front of the Proclamation I then turned it over and removed the tape from the exact same area on the reverse of the Proclamation because if I had removed all the Sellotape from the front the paper would have been very soft on the front whereas the back of the Proclamation was still covered in tape, it would have been very hard, it would have caused a lot of tension in the paper and again it may tear further or cause further damage because there would have been too much tension in the paper. So what you’re looking at here is ... I hope you can see it ... the top corner to the right of the image, the tape has been removed and you can just see around it to the other edges is where the tape is still there, so it’s just an example of you know an image showing the tape removal section by section.And this image shows ... so the top half the tape has been removed on the front and back and then the bottom half you can see the shine where the tape is still there so it’s kind of working methodically through it removing each section, checking on the print, checking there’s no damage, no smudging, was the smudging there already and just very slowly removing that tape. So I’m hoping you can see where it’s shiny at the bottom and it’s not shiny at the top.And again just another image, this is very, very gently lifting. So I’ve softened the adhesive of the tape and I’m just very, very gently lifting it off with a scalpel so really just touching the surface extremely gently lifting that adhesive off. Sometimes I used a scalpel, sometimes I used a cotton swab, depending on how it came off and just removing it very gently without damaging the ink or the surface of the paper.And the next step was so all the tape has been removed and once actually the tape came off you could see quite clearly there was a lot of tearing in the paper, particularly where it had been folded and at the edges, so it had been folded in half and then folded over again. So these were the weaker areas and they were torn and also there were some small tears at the edge as well as the small sections of missing area. But once the tape came off it was very visible how damaged it was and how much tearing there was. I’ll show an image of the repairs, later on you can see it a bit more clearly.But the next step for me after the tape was removed was removing any soluble discolouration. So, as I said, the process is not to make it look like new but it had become discoloured over time and it had become dirty basically from handling. So this photo is the first process, the first washing process. Now when I talk about my work people are sometimes a bit horrified because I do put some objects, works of art, in a sink of water. Obviously there’s a lot of testing done beforehand, all inks or pigments are tested and you know everything is checked to see whether it’s safe to do so. This is a very, very gentle washing process and the best way to describe it really is it’s almost like washing your clothes in the washing machine, that the dirt comes out but what’s meant to stay on the paper stays on it, so the print remained.So what’s happening here is the Proclamation is placed on a damp acid free blotter and then there’s another blotter underneath which is dry, actually two blotters, and basically the damp blotter pulls the dirt out of the Proclamation, the paper, onto the damp blotter and pulls it down to the dry blotter so it’s very, very gentle but it does work. So you can see here, this is the damp blotter underneath and that’s the dirt coming from the paper onto the blotter and then every few hours the blotters are changed to clean blotters and you basically leave it sitting on the damp blotter and the dirt gradually soaks out through the blotters. So this is done several times and when I saw that the Proclamation, the paper, was strong enough to take this I moved on to a slightly more interventive method of washing, so more discolouration could come out. So this is float washing it, so this was the next washing process. So basically this is in a sink of water and it’s sitting on a mesh tray so the water is literally just coming up to underneath the Proclamation so it’s able to soak through the paper and then the discolouration in the paper washes out into the water. The Proclamation is then taken out and left to dry on blotters and again as it’s drying a bit more discolouration comes out and this was done again several times. It’s a very gradual process but I could see that the staining was reducing and the discolouration was washing out of the paper so it was very successful. And then the last wash that I do is an alkaline wash so I add calcium hydroxide to the water which basically makes the water alkaline and what this does is it reduces any damaging acids in the paper and it actually makes the paper stronger so there are bonds in the paper which are broken when paper becomes acidic but if you add an alkaline buffer the bonds actually strengthen up. So it’s preserving it and it’s making the paper less prone to tearing in the future and making it stronger. So that was the last wash was an alkaline wash, just to try and reduce any acids that were in the paper.So this was it after washing, still looking a little bit the worse for wear but that’s the nature of it, but brighter. So it’s not back to the brightness it would have been originally but any dirt has been taken out of it and any damaging acids that would cause it to degrade further have been taken out of it. I was very happy with how the dirt was reduced and the discolouration was reduced. Again, you can still see the staining is slightly there but it was definitely reduced and not as visible.So I spoke about the tears that you could see once the Sellotape had been taken off, so this is the repairing of the tears on the reverse of the paper. So what I was doing here was any weak areas, any torn areas, I repaired them with a conservation technique. Again, it’s all reversible and it’s all stable, so unlike Sellotape it’s not going to be damaged further in the future by these repairs, these are going to hold it together in a stable way and what I use is Japanese paper and that’s adhered with a wheat starch paste which I make up myself and a lot of techniques that paper conservators use come from Japan because they started ... obviously they invented paper but they started paper conservation so we use a lot of their techniques, so a lot of Japanese techniques are used. So you can see obviously the white pieces are the Japanese paper. You can see the damaged corner up on the right corner of the image, so that was strengthened with a bit of extra Japanese paper and then on the front of it there was another piece of Japanese paper placed in to replace that old tear, so that missing area was in-filled. But it was toned in to look similar to the paper but I didn’t want to tone it in completely because I wanted you to see that I had done a repair there. Again, part of the conservation process. I wasn’t trying to hide the work that I did on it or kind of create a fake corner as such so that people wouldn’t know it’s there. We just spoke about the Japanese techniques that we use, so these are some of the tools and materials that I use – a lot of Japanese brushes, a Japanese spray, a Japanese paste and it’s just to give you an idea of the type of tools and brushes that I worked with to conserve this Proclamation.So this was afterwards and apologies for my photography it’s not great (laughs). So the tape had been removed. The discolouration had been reduced. It had been made stronger by reducing the acids in the paper and introducing an alkali and the tears had been repaired and the corner, you can see the corner on the left of the screen, I’m not sure if you can see it properly but it’s slightly lighter but it stabilised the paper so that it could be handled when framing or handled in future if it was taken out of the frame. But you could see that that corner had been replaced but it was still strong and stable and not too obvious but still left there so that it’s visible that it had been conserved and in this image it’s about to be framed so it’s placed against ... sorry it had also been pressed after all those treatments just to reduce any creasing. You can still see the folds down the centre but again that’s the nature of the paper and that’s okay but it had been pressed to reduce any other creasing that didn’t need to be there.So in this image it’s placed against an acid free board. It’s not stuck, it’s hinged just at the top two corners, no part of it is stuck to the board because again if you wanted to take it out of the frame in the future this would cause issues and you may damage the Proclamation further. It’s placed against museum quality acid free board which will help preserve it and as I mentioned acids are really the enemy of paper so it had been placed against an acidic backing board which again was causing further damage. This will help preserve it. And then this is the before on the left, after on the right. So I think it retains its character but it’s in a much more stable condition and as it was due to be placed in its frame I organised the framing along with Mary Clark and a conservation framer that I use. The frame was specially made, all acid free museum quality materials. The frame consists of acid free backing boards. The rebate of the frame was covered in acid free linen tape and as you can see the difference between this and the original frame is there’s a space around the edge so the paper has a little bit of freedom of movement. Paper is a hygroscopic material so it can absorb moisture or release moisture and it changes its dimensions very, very slightly depending on the moisture in the air. So we deliberately left a slight gap around the edges so that it’s not under too much tension and it has room to breathe. The glass in the frame is also ultraviolet glazing. So there’s ultraviolet rays in daylight, in these type of lights, they cause damage to paper and again over time they can cause it to degrade so this glazing is a special museum quality glazing that would protect it from ultraviolet rays and the damage that they can cause to it. So essentially once it had been conserved and preserved it was then placed very carefully in what is its own little micro climate which will also help preserve it and on display downstairs again the environment is being monitored and they are ensuring here that it’s kept in a stable environment which will also help preserve it.So there’s no reason to think now why it shouldn’t be preserved really for generations to come. The condition it had been in, unfortunately with the tape and in the frame that it was slightly too tight, it probably would have degraded further over time so hopefully this will stop the degradation and it is preserved now for generations to come and as long as it’s kept in a stable environment, in good conditions, it should last hopefully forever.Well thank you very much. (Applause) Thank-you for listening to the Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive Podcast. To hear more, please subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud. You can also visit our website - dublincitypubliclibraries.ie and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.