In 1918, news started to filter through of a ‘mystery malady’, a ‘mysterious war disease’. It appeared to originate in Spain as it was first widely reported there, hence the name it has been called ever since, the Spanish Flu. Although, first reported in Spain, the disease probably originated in a different location. Regardless of its origin, the flu wreaked havoc across the globe, claiming the lives of at least 40 million people from 1918 to 1920. The true figure will never be known. It is estimated that one fifth of the world’s population caught the flu.The flu started to make its way to Ireland by the early summer of 1918. On 10 June, an ‘unusual outbreak of illness’ was reported in Belfast, mostly amongst soldiers and female factory workers. By the end of June, 200 cases were reported in Dublin, 60 children in one convent alone, 40 workers in a factory.The flu was described by some in Dublin as a plague by early July. Death numbers were started to filter through, 2 in Dublin, 5 or 6 in Lurgan, 100 in Belfast. There were numerous deaths in Derry. Several people were falling on the streets in Cork. The flu came in two forms, one a mild type of illness, the second more severe. Dying patients sometimes had temperatures as high as 109 degrees Fahrenheit, became unconscious and twitched frequently. They usually died between the sixth and eleventh days of the disease.From the middle of July, the first wave of the flu started to recede. When the second wave struck in October 1918, it was clear to most that the country was in the grips of a severe flu pandemic. Like the first wave, Leinster and Ulster were the areas most affected by the second wave. The second wave was far more destructive than the first. There were many reports of unimaginable horrors inflicted on whole families.There was a case of a man in Clontarf returning home after burying his two sons to find his wife dead too. In Enniscorthy in Wexford, 3 young children from the one family died on the same day. Schools in Dublin city and suburbs were severely affected and were closed down. Absenteeism was rife in businesses. October and November of 1918 saw a paralysis in trade.The second wave, the deadliest of the three waves, dissipated in most places in Ireland by the end of November. The third wave came in February 1919. In Gloucester Prison, Pierce McCan, 35 years-of-age, newly-elected TD for Tipperary East died from the flu on 6 March. There was very little consensus within the medical profession on what was the most effective treatment for the flu. A mixture of whiskey and hot water with sugar was the most widely available. Non-prescription medicines were in high demand as people self-medicated during the pandemic. Hugh quantities of tonics, cough medicines and poultices were sold by pharmacies. Bovril and other beef teas like Oxo were very popular too. Despite all the tonics promoted and sold, bed rest and nursing were still considered the best way of beating the flu.By the end of Spring 1919, the flu finally ran its brutal course in Ireland. It had caused huge devastation throughout the country. An official figure of 20,057 deaths were recorded as being caused by flu during the three waves, although this is likely to be a conservative figure. There were also a lot more deaths from pneumonia, an excess figure of 3,231 deaths from pneumonia in 1918 and 1919 which also can be attributed to the Influenza Pandemic giving a figure of at least 23,288 deaths directly related to the epidemic.Assuming the same for Ireland as the worldwide trend of a 2.5 per cent fatality rate, an approximate number of 800,000 Irish people caught the illness, about one fifth of the population. Taking excess pneumonia deaths into account, the figure was 900,000 people.Mortality in Ireland, like elsewhere, peaked in the mid-life period, between the ages of 25 and 34. There was a surprisingly strong correlation between the social classes of those who died, it was a socially neutral disease. It was more job-dependent than class-dependent. Those who worked with the public were more likely to catch and, therefore, die from the flu. The influenza pandemic, ultimately, left behind a trail of destruction in Ireland, affecting everyone in every county from all classes and creeds.Blog post by: Cormac Moore, Historian.
History Document of the Month: Lepracaun Cartoon Collection
Britain faced similar issues ruling Ireland and India: both had to be held to maintain British international credibility and independence movements in both were driven in large part by religion. Irish nationalists drew parallels between their own struggle and that in India, particularly the brutality of colonialism. The above below, from the satirical newspaper, The Lepracaun, compares British rule in the two countries: executions and burning of homesteads in Ireland, while India saw the brutal practice of execution by cannon, particularly associated with the British suppression of the rebellion of 1857. The cartoon is pointing out the dark side of British rule: the ‘Upas Tree’ of the title refers to a highly poisonous tree common to Asia, while the figure of John Bull piously reading the common book of prayer while surrounded by bones, death and destruction is an unsubtle reference to the hypocrisy of evangelical imperialism. History Document of the MonthEvery month the Dublin City Council Historians in Residence will be highlighting a document from Dublin City Public Libraries and Archives Digital Repository. An image of the selected document will be on display in branch libraries during the month.Historians in Residence are available to meet groups and schools, give talks, walks etc, run history book clubs and advise on historical research.
This week I have had the great pleasure of visiting Massachusetts and presenting a paper at the annual national meeting of the American Conference for Irish Studies held in Boston. It was my second time attending such a gathering, having also presented a paper on Dublin poet Maeve Cavanagh MacDowell two years ago, when ACIS met in Kansas City, Missouri. This time around I spoke about the life of Dora Maguire, another woman who happened to be profiled in R. M. Fox’s 1935 book of essays Rebel Irishwomen.Whereas the likes of Maud Gonne and Countess Markievicz became legends in their own lifetimes, Dora Maguire (1889-1931) was perhaps the most obscure of Fox’s dozen ‘Rebel Irishwomen’. A friend of the author, she died aged forty-one in February 1931 after years of ill-health. During my paper I spoke about Maguire’s upbringing in England and the north of Ireland, time spent in Blackburn and London during the First World War (when she worked as a nurse and developed suppressed diphtheria and tuberculosis), decision to move to Ireland around the time of the War of Independence, and employment at St. Ultan’s Children’s Hospital in Ranelagh during the 1920s.I then focused at length on her arrest in 1925 over an incident at the Princess Cinema in Rathmines. Evolving into an ardent republican during her adulthood, Maguire was indignant at the time about the screening across Dublin of short films concerning the Prince of Wales’ recent dominion tour of South Africa. Entering the “Prinner” – as the Princess Cinema was known to locals – on 6th August 1925 with an inkpot hidden on her person, Maguire stood up and hurled her makeshift missile over the heads of the theatre orchestra as soon as the offending picture was shown, causing considerable damage to the screen and generating newspaper headlines.Surviving foyer plaque from the Princess Cinema, the scene of Dora Maguire's arrest in August 1925. Known locally as "The Prinner", the cinema closed its doors in 1960 and was demolished in 1982 (Photograph courtesy of Carol Dunne, Dublin City Libraries).This incident is the focus of The Spirit of Dora Maguire, an historical comic strip by Dublin artist Aidan J Collins. Some artwork from this creation, which came about in 2018 following a talk I gave in Dublin on Maguire’s life the previous year, can be seen below:Blueprint still from an animated video by Aidan J Collins. This is based on one of the panels from his 2018 historical comic strip The Spirit of Dora Maguire (Courtesy of Aidan J Collins).On Monday 20th May 2019 I will be teaming up with Maeve Casserly (Historian in Residence, South East Area) for a joint talk about Dora Maguire and St. Ultan’s Children’s Hospital at Rathmines Public Library. The event starts at 6:30pm and all are welcome to attend.Dr. James Curry, Historian in Residence, North West Area.Dublin City Council Historians in Residence are available to meet groups and schools, give talks, walks etc, run history book clubs and advise on historical research.
The Soloheadbeg Ambush in January 1919 did not lead to a wide scale conflict immediately. For much of 1919, the Irish Volunteers embarked on a mainly defensive campaign, primarily searching for arms. As a result, some skirmishes broke out leading to some deaths.Isolated deaths of RIC men occurred in Limerick, Clare, Mayo and Tipperary. The shortage of arms was the main problem posed. Gun shops and private homes were raided for arms. In March 1919, all such premises were raided in the North-East of Dublin city.The most successful arms raid throughout the whole war occurred at Collinstown Aerodrome, present day site of Dublin Airport, on 20th March 1919. As the Aerodrome was heavily guarded by the British Military, according to Patrick Houlihan, a Volunteer and employee at the Aerodrome, the local Volunteers had to submit plans to the Irish Volunteers General Headquarters (GHQ) for approval. Once it was granted, two guard dogs at the Aerodrome were poisoned the afternoon before the raid, 19th March, calculated to kill them some hours later, to prevent an alarm being raised. That night the raiding party, numbering about 25, were dressed in khaki and masks, supplied by GHQ. Some volunteers engaged in disarming and tying up the sentries, 20 in number, whilst others collected all the arms and ammunition they could. The haul was transported away in two cars. To prevent a chase, over 20 cars in the military garage were demolished with sledgehammers. Acting in almost total silence to capture the sentries and sticking clearly to their well thought out plans, was key to the raid’s success.75 rifles and 5,000 rounds of ammunition were secured. There were no casualties nor prisoners taken. It was the largest loss of weapons by the British army from a single operation throughout the whole conflict. Many of the arms captured that day ended up in the IRA arms dump at the Naul in North Dublin. The British decided to punish the locals, a trend they would continue throughout the war, a foolish move which brought more and more support for the Volunteers. All 800 workers were sacked on the Collinstown site and replaced by military personnel. It was an act of collective punishment, recognised and resented as such. Cormac Moore, Historian in Residence, Dublin City Library and Archive.Dublin City Council Historians in Residence are available to meet groups and schools, give talks, walks etc, run history book clubs and advise on historical research.
Last month I was in the King’s Inns building for the launch of a remarkable short film. Trish McAdams directed and wrote Confinement for the Grangegorman Development Agency, who asked her to create a public art project. The film’s 30-minute running time evokes three hundred years of the history of the King’s Inns, Henrietta Street and the Grangegorman Asylum. The story is told through the imagined voice of Tony Rudenko, an artist who lived in Henrietta Street until his death in 2014, who was also a friend of the director.(Poster for Dublin International Film Festival showing of Confinement)The film opens with animated maps of the Henrietta Street area in the early 18th century. It tells how the beautiful houses in the street were built originally for the wealthy, eventually accommodating the poor, and recently seeing many of them currently undergoing restoration to former glory. This is a history well told by the Tenement Museum at 14 Henrietta Street.The King’s Inns was built with its back to Henrietta Street and its magnificent frontage facing in the direction of Grangegorman, which was at various times since the late 18th century the site of a workhouse, a prison and an asylum for the mentally ill.(The King’s Inns building seen from Constitution Hill)By the early 19th century, the workhouse and prison had been merged into the hospital, which was added to over the years until its peak in the early 20th century, when it had over 2,000 patients. During the cholera epidemic of 1832, the hospital was used to isolate patients and was referred to as the Dublin Cholera Hospital for the duration of the epidemic.(Surviving gate to the asylum buildings at Grangegorman)For the film, McAdams animated her own wonderful drawings that are based on actual photographs of the inmates of the asylum, contained in the inmate records. The site is now part of the huge development in the Grangegorman area, which hosts the DIT campus of the new Technological University Dublin. Dr. Mary Muldowney, Historian in Residence, Dublin City Library and Archive.Dublin City Council Historians in Residence are available to meet groups and schools, give talks, walks etc, run history book clubs and advise on historical research.
Dublin supported James II at the Battle of the Boyne, but following his defeat by William III, a protestant ascendancy resumed control of the city and began to forge links with the new and successful monarchy. This process intensified after the death of Mary II in 1695 left William III as sole monarch. Dublin Corporation added William’s arms to the City Sword; in 1697 and in the following year, the king presented a chain of office to the Lord Mayor of Dublin, carrying the monarch’s bust on a medallion, which is in use to this day.
"Doing their Bit": Irish Women and the First World War
This fab exhibition, on display in Charleville Mall Library from 1 July to 10 August, tells a multitude of Irish women’s stories during the First World War from Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses to munitions workers, home front volunteers, anti-enlistment activists and separation women. It draws on the archival records of the Royal Dublin Fusilers Association Archive and is curated by Dublin City Library and Archive and funded by Dublin City Council Decade of Commemoration.Speaking about the exhibition senior archivist Ellen Murphy said "The role of Irish women in World War 1 is a story that is yet to be fully told. Against the backdrop of the campaign for female suffrage and the struggle for Irish Independence, this exhibition explores how the First World War impacted the lives of Irish women and greatly accelerated the changes which had been slowly taking place in society before the outbreak of war.
This flyer is an extract from a speech given by Fr. Michael O’Flanagan to 10,000 people at Ballyjamesduff, Co. Cavan on Sunday May 26, 1918. O’Flanagan mentions the arrest of De Valera, the suppression of Arthur Griffith’s newspaper, and the ‘poison-gas of lies’ spun by ‘the Little Welsh spider’ (Prime Minister David Lloyd George) against the Irish people in the ‘German Plot’.Over 70 members of Sinn Féin had been arrested that month as part of this alleged plot. They were accused of conspiring with the German Empire to stage an armed rebellion in Ireland. O'Flanagan's clerical status exempted him from the round-up and in the second half of 1918 he operated as acting leader of Sinn Féin's political activities. The censor refused to allow even one word of the speech to be published, but it was later printed and distributed by Sinn Féin from their office at 6 Harcourt Street. History Document of the MonthEvery month the Dublin City Council Historians in Residence will be highlighting a document from Dublin City Public Libraries and Archives Digital Repository. An image of the selected document will be on display in branch libraries during the month.Historians in Residence are available to meet groups and schools, give talks, walks etc, run history book clubs and advise on historical research.