Disease and Dirt: Public Health in Dublin, 1903-1917
Dublin was one of the most depressed cities in Europe at the turn of the century. Declining industry, overcrowding, unemployment, and poor housing created a cauldron of poverty for many Dubliners. The connection between poverty and disease had been formally recognised in the nineteenth century. These rarely seen images from Dublin Corporation’s Reports Upon The State Of Public Health In The City Of Dublin show some of the measures taken by Dublin’s civic authority to curb the spread of infectious diseases. We hope that it may be of interest to anyone researching the social history of Dublin in the early twentieth century.
The Sister Patricia Lahiff Photographic Collection
Just before the pandemic shutdown in March 2020, Sister Patricia Lahiff signed over her vast collection of personal photographs to Dublin City Library and Archive in Pearse Street, to be safely stored and eventually digitised.
The story of Molly Malone, the famous Dublin fishmonger, is immortalised in the song of the city. Her statue, in Andrews Street, is one of the most visited by tourists to Dublin.But behind the romantic image of Molly Malone is the sad reality that early death from disease and unsanitary living conditions was a feature of Dublin life for many, particularly in the late 1800s and early 1900s.When Charles Cameron was appointed by Dublin Corporation as Chief Medical Officer in charge of Public Health in 1876, - a position he was to hold for some 50 years - he had a challenging workload in addressing the many issues directly related to disease and poverty in the city at the time. These were issues close to his heart, having lost two young sons to typhus in the early years of his married life.Cameron prioritised improvements in housing conditions, going as far as closing down housing he felt was unfit as dwellings. He published many papers on topics such as sanitation and hygiene, whilst encouraging improvements in diet and nutrition, especially for those in poorer circumstances. One famous initiative from 1911 was the ‘3d per bag’ scheme for the capture of house-flies. These bags were deposited in the Corporation’s facility in Marrowbone Lane. As public health improved under his tenure, the death rate in Dublin associated with infectious diseases dropped from 9/1000 to 1.3/100 in 1919.When six cases of smallpox were reported in Dublin in December 1902, fearing an epidemic, Cameron established the Pigeon House Isolation Hospital in early 1903. This could accommodate fifty patients, and later became a tuberculosis sanitorium. Cameron also designed a fever ambulance to transport patients which was copied by health authorities in Europe.Charles Cameron died in 1926 and was buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery Dublin. However, his memory lives on in two housing developments in the city, Cameron Street off Cork Street, and Cameron Square in Kilmainham, both in Dublin 8.Blog post by: Catherine Scuffil, (former) Historian in Residence, Dublin South Central, Dublin City Library and Archive.
‘A Christmas Spectacle: The Story of Panto in Dublin’ Exhibition
Dublin City Library and Archive is pleased to present its latest exhibition which launches on Wednesday 6th November at 6pm in Pearse Street Library. The exhibition will be opened by Joe Conlan, who plays Widow Twankey in this year’s Gaiety production of Aladdin.It takes audiences down memory lane with material relating to the Theatre Royal and the Queen’s Theatre, as well as from the collections of Jimmy O’Dea, Vernon Hayden, Cecil Sheridan and Noel Purcell. This colourful exhibition traces the history of the pantomime tradition in our capital city, through the stories of its theatres and its entertainers.There will also be lots for the younger audience with features on more recent heroes, such as Twink, Jedward and Joe Conlan. There will be costumes and props, film, events and prizes.The exhibition will be based in the Dublin Room of Pearse Street Library (138-144 Pearse Street) and will open to the public on Thursday 7 November, running until the end of January 2020. Opening hours: Monday-Thursday 10am-8pm Friday-Saturday 10am -5pm and admission is free of charge.Free tours can be arranged for groups on demand. If you’d like to find out more about booking a tour, please email us at: [email protected] or call us on (01) 674 4997.
Irish nationalists drew parallels between their own struggle and that in India, particularly the brutality of colonialism. In mid-1919, the British government faced rebellion both overseas and at home. India was consumed with unrest as demobilised soldiers and economic recession created unstable conditions in the region, particularly the Punjab. On 10 April 1919, rioting began in the city of Amritsar, following the arrest and deportation of Indian national leaders. All meetings and public assemblies were banned in response to the violence; when a large crowd gathered at an enclosed public space known as Jallianwalla Bagh, British and Gurkha troops, led by General Reginald Dyer, opened fire without warning. At the subsequent enquiry in October, Dyer himself justified his actions by stating that it was ‘no longer merely a question of dispersing the crowd, but of producing a sufficient moral effect from a military point of view’ – in other words, setting an example.The image opposite, 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. At home, the campaign against British rule in Ireland commenced with an ambush on a police patrol in Tipperary in January 1919, the same day the First Dáil met at the Mansion House in Dublin.Dyer was eventually dismissed from the army but commanded widespread support in the UK, with one MP suggesting that he be sent to Ireland to use similar methods to defeat Sinn Fein. Another warned that the same would soon happen in Ireland: as the Marquess of Crewe said, ‘for "Amritsar" read "Limerick" or "Ennis," or some town in the South and West, and conceive a precise repetition of the circumstances there.’Dyer was eventually dismissed from the army but commanded widespread support in the UK, with one MP suggesting that he be sent to Ireland to use similar methods to defeat Sinn Fein. Another warned that the same would soon happen in Ireland: as the Marquess of Crewe said, ‘for "Amritsar" read "Limerick" or "Ennis," or some town in the South and West, and conceive a precise repetition of the circumstances there.’Dublin Irish and Local Studies CollectionThe Dublin and Irish Local Studies Collection includes new and second-hand material on Dublin City and County covering a range of books, newspapers, periodicals, photographs, maps, prints, drawings, theatre programmes, playbills, posters, ballad sheets, audiovisual materials and ephemera. Library and archive material cannot be borrowed or removed from the Reading Room. Collections can be accessed by filling out request forms and can be viewed in the Reading Room only.Blogpost by: Bernard Kelly, Historian in Residence, Dublin City Library and Archive.
In 1921, the Leinster Football Association separated from the parent body, the Irish Football Association (IFA), and subsequently formed the Football Association of Ireland (FAI). Soccer had been governed on an all-Ireland basis for 40 years beforehand. The split that happened in 1921 remains to this day, unlike most sports in Ireland that are still governed on a 32-county basis. Although football was divided the same year that Ireland was divided politically by the partition of the country, the primary reason for the split was an internal power struggle between Belfast and Dublin. The IFA, headquartered in Belfast, was believed by the football community in the south to be biased towards northern based teams. Most players selected for the Irish international team were from Ulster-based teams.Of the 48 international matches held in Ireland before the split, only six were held in Dublin, all the rest were hosted in Belfast. Most members of the IFA Council and its sub-committees were from the north also, and the allocation of funding favoured Ulster clubs over others.Left, an image of the Shelbourne team from 1914. The catalyst that led to the split involved one of Dublin’s oldest clubs, Shelbourne. After Shelbourne had drawn against Lurgan-club Glenavon in an Irish Cup semi-final tie in Belfast in 1921, it was almost universally believed that the replay would be held in Dublin.The IFA Protests and Appeals Committee ruled it was too unsafe for matches to be played in Dublin due to the prevailing conditions caused by the War of Independence, and Shelbourne was ordered back to Belfast for the replay.The club refused to do so and was removed from the competition.The action was roundly condemned by the Leinster Football Association and all associated with the game in Dublin. It was the spark that led to the division months later. Many attempts were made from 1921 to 1932 to re-unify the game in Dublin, all failing, leaving soccer in Ireland today divided, as it is politically, north and south.Blog post by: Cormac Moore, Historian in Residence, North Central Area.
Dublin Festival of History returns for it's seventh year and takes place from the 1st October to the 21st October. This year’s Festival will see over 150 walks, tours, exhibitions and talks take place across 65 venues in the city. The Festival is an initiative of Dublin City Council, and all events are free and open to the public.The Festival will culminate with a ‘Big Weekend’ of talks at the Printworks, Dublin Castle, taking place Friday 18th October to Sunday, 20th October. The best-selling author of Wild Swans, Jung Chang, radio presenter and author Joe Duffy, and popular historian and TV presenter Dan Jones have been announced as part of the line-up. Commenting on the launch of the full programme of events, Dublin City Librarian, Mairead Owens, said: “The Festival of History has been growing year on year, reflecting Dublin City Council’s commitment to preserving and promoting the history and heritage of our capital city and striving to make history accessible to all.”“History is all around us – in our built environment as we walk through the streets, in the stories we tell and the particular phrases we say. This year’s Festival will bring alive the multi-faceted nature of history, from the impact of political decisions such as the partition of Ireland, or the building of the Berlin Wall, to the story of Lemon’s sweets, the Periodic Table, to how Constance Wilde helped women to start wearing trousers."Lord Mayor of Dublin, Paul McAuliffe, said: “Since it began in 2013, the Festival has gained a reputation for attracting world-class, best-selling historians of national and international significance, and 2019 is no different. We look forward to welcoming speakers such as best-selling authors Jung Chang, Tom Holland, Dan Jones, and more to Dublin to share their knowledge and join us in a celebration of history – how it has shaped who we are, and its significance in shaping who we become."If you have an interest in history you can’t miss this Festival and remember, all events are free!Search upcoming lecture/talks here.
The Dublin City Library and Archive holds a beautiful image of the old Weaver’s Hall on The Coombe Dublin, a building still fondly remembered by older citizens in the area. The image shows a dignified guild hall, with a statue of King George II by Van Nost holding shuttles and other implements used in the weaving process set in an alcove above the main entrance. Although the Weaver’s Hall is long gone, there is still a lot of evidence of this once major industry that existed in this area over a 1,000 year timespan. The most obvious are various placenames. Weaver’s Square off Cork Street, and the adjacent Ormond Street commemorated both the Huguenot weavers who settled here in great numbers from the late 1600’s and the man who invited them over, the Duke of Ormond. Nearby Newmarket was constructed in the 1670’s by the Earl of Meath in response to this rapidly growing industry, to facilitate trade in wool, hides and flax and also the finished products. The Earl also included space for his own market, and this added to the unique shape and layout of Newmarket, still with us today.Above: Illustration showing statue of George II in niche on first floor facade.Earlier evidence of weaving has also been found in recent archaeological excavations prior to new developments in The Liberties. Items from the Hiberno-Norse era, such as whorls, spindles, weights and bone needles have been found, together with evidence of a thriving cap and scarf/shawl industry in both wool and dyed, watered silk - an indication of ‘high status’ - being found.Above: Framed painting of Weaver's House in the Liberties by Rose Barton.The imposition of tariffs and taxes on the Dublin weavers eventually caused the slow decline of this tradition, but not before it re-invented itself into other related industries. The manufacture of poplin gave way to a significant upholstery industry, providing seating, padding and also lace for carriages, the mode of transport at the time. Later, with the coming of the motor-car, a thriving industry arose specialising in ladies and gents motor scarfs and mufflers. Frys of Cork Street also announced that it was possible to get the latest in bow-ties to finish the ensemble!Above: Horse-drawn Omnibus, Westmoreland Street, Dublin (circa 1865). Courtesy: National Library of Ireland (Original)Today, there is a renewed interest in this oldest of trades, with the Botany Weavers – the one remaining company near Dolphin’s Barn who operate from premises that once housed the City Woollen Mills and who are key suppliers to Aer Lingus and City Jet, recently announcing an expansion to its business, thus continuing a tradition of 1000 years of weaving in this area.Blog post by: Cathy Scuffil, Historian in Residence,Dublin South Central.