Guns, bombs and boxers: Saint Patrick’s Day, 1923

March 1923. Ireland is in the midst of civil war. Shootings, bombings, and executions are daily occurrences as the Free State government and the IRA bitterly fight out the final months of the civil war. While war raged on the streets, St. Patrick’s Day 1923 was also the occasion of a major international sporting event in Dublin. Flamboyant Senegalese world light heavy weight boxing champion, the Battling Siki, came to Dublin to defend his title against Clare man Mike McTigue. This is the fascinating story of that fight.

Siki, a World War I hero of the French army, became world light heavy weight boxing champion in 1922 when he knocked out French man Georges Carpentier in a fight shrouded in controversy. In the subsequent months attempts to defend his title were frustrated. Having been refused entry to Britain, probably due to racial discrimination, the new Irish Free State was more than willing to assert its independence and acceded to the request for Siki to defend his title against Clare man Mike McTigue.

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Stoneybatter Street History – Malachi Road

Malachi Road is presumably named after Mael-Seachnaill Mor the High king of Ireland. Mael-seachnaill Mór is the Irish for big or powerful Malachi. Born in 948 Maelseachnaill was a son and grandson of High-Kings, while he went on to become one of the most powerful figures in pre-Norman Ireland. By Mael-seachanill birth his family had long dominated the Southern O’Neill Kingdom (now modern Meath) and alternated the position of high-king between themselves of the Northern O’Neills of Tyrone.

Mael-seachnaill followed in his fathers footsteps and became high king himself in 980 but was immediately challenged by the Vikings at Dublin. In a battle fought at Tara, Mael-seachnaill lead the Southern O’Neills to a great victory. In the years following the battle he successfully gained control over Dublin and in effect ended the Norse as major players in Gaelic Ireland.

Malachi road

Mael-seachnaill’s is best known for his great rivalry with famous King of Munster Brian Boru who challenged him for the position of high-king in the late 10th century. After several years of conflict Mael-seacnaill eventually acknowledged Brian’s authority in 1001. Indeed this was perhaps Boru’s greatest achievement – he was the first to force submission from an O’Neill high-king in centuries.

Over the following decade Mael-seachnaill stayed loyal to Brian, however after 1012 Brian’s authority looked increasingly unstable. Firstly the Northern O’Neill’s revolted which was then followed by a revolt of the Norse of Dublin and the kingdom of Leinster. In 1013 Boru tried to gain control of the situation in three-month siege of Dublin. This failed and in 1014 a major conflict was clearly on the horizon. On Good Friday two great armies, that of Boru and an alliance of Dublin Vikings, the kingdom Leinster and numerous allies from across the isles of Scotland fought a ferocious battle. Although portrayed as Gaelic Irish vs Viking battle this was actually about Boru attempting to reinforce his authority. On the night before battle Mael-seachnaill had arrived to support his ally Brian but left after a conflict broke out in the camp. At the battle of Clontarf Brian was killed and although his forces won the battle they suffered massive casualties.

The victor of the battle was in fact Mael-seachnaill who assumed the high-kingship again after Brian death. He received the support of the support of the king of the Northern O’Neills Flaithbertach Ua Neill and dominated Ireland until his death in 1022. While later historians under played the importance and significance of Mael-seachnaill instead elevating Brian Boru, he was unquestionably one of the most powerful High-Kings in Irish history, indeed arguably as powerful if not more powerful than Boru himself and well deserving of a Street in the area!


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The feared Smithfield House of Correction.

In the summer of 1816, Andrew Molloney returned home to his house in Dame court, Dublin to find himself locked out. Resigned to the fact he was going to have to sleep out, he went to find a spot in the street. There he encountered three women Mary Doyle, Mary McQuead and Mary Harvey. A later court case seems to have implied the women may have been prostitutes as Molloney explicitly testified he had “no acquaintance or freedom with them“. According to his testimony he rolled up his coat to use as a pillow and fell asleep.

When he woke in the morning he found he had been robbed of £13, a substantial amount of money at the time. He accused the three women who were subsequently taken before a court. William Connor of Exchequer street and owner of a shop gave crucial evidence, when he testified that the women had given him £10 on that very night.

Freeman’s Journal, September 2nd, 1816

Unsurprisingly the women were found guilty and sentenced to one years hard labour in Smithfield House of Correction. However so bad was the reputation of the House of Correction in Smithfield at the time that Mary Doyle pleaded with the judge to change her sentence and

“make her punishment seven years transportation and expressed great horror at going to the House of Correction”.

(Transportation was in effect permanent exile and seven years of labour, 14,000 miles away in Australia.)

When the judge refused her pleas, Mary appears to have been enraged. The reporter of the Freeman’s Journal continued his report

she changed her style of supplication to the most faring kind of defiance and abuse

Sadly this did not help Mary’s case; she was sent to the feared House of Correction and put in solitary confinement. Unfortunately the reports from the time do not tell us why exactly the House of Correction was so feared. However the fact that Mary Doyle would choose exile on what was known as the fatal shore instead, is indicative of its reputation

If you want to hear more about the history of prisons and female prisoners like Mary Doyle come to our free public meeting this Saturday (October 5th)  at 5 p.m. in the Cobblestone pub Smithfield titled

“The Grangegorman Depot and the transportation of Irish convict women to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) 1840-1852.” Find out more details here 

By Fin Dwyer

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On this day in 1913 – The Dublin Lockout Begins.

One hundred years today Dublin witnessed the commencement of its greatest labour battle: the 1913 Lockout. Here we look at the events in the lead up to and the first days of the Lockout.

Dublin: ‘A frightful mass of destitution’

At the turn of the nineteenth century with a population of 290,000, Dublin was a largely commercial city which lacked an industrial base. Its port supplied the British Empire with a range of goods, but primarily cattle and other livestock.    No_-15-Tram

The city’s population had expanded significantly in the decades following the Famine. In 1841 the population of Dublin city was 232,726; a decade later it had risen to 258,369. Much of this rise was the result of an influx of rural migrants fleeing poverty and starvation and hoping to secure food, shelter and the prospect of employment.

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Upcoming events remembering the Lockout

1016If you want to get involved in remembering one of Dublin’s greatest labour struggles there are numerous events in the coming few weeks.  Perhaps the most interesting is the re-enactment of Bloody Sunday, 31st August 1913 which was one of the key events during the Lockout. This event which saw the police attack a major demonstration in O’Connell Street will be re-enacted on O’Connell Street on Saturday, 31st August.

The flyer attached below shows the schedule for a number of other exciting commemorative events that will take place in Dublin between this week and the first weekend in October. The events are organised by a number of community groups from areas where the Lockout had a huge impact in 1913, such as Dublin’s inner city and the docklands, working with volunteers from the Dublin Council of Trade Unions. Read more here  Dublin Lockout 1913.

Stoneybatter and Smithfield People’s History Project is marking the collapse of tenements on Church Street during the Lockout which killed Hugh Salmon, a 17-year-old locked out member of the I.T.G.W.U. You can find a full list of events here.resized

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Dark days – the funerals of the victims of the Church Street tenement collapse.

funeral2The funeral cortege of the victims of the Church Street tenement collapse as it passes over O’Connell Bridge en route to Glasnevin Cemetery. (To mark these tragic events Stoneybatter and Smithfield People’s History Project are organising a weekend of events on the 6th and 7th of September. You can find a full list of events here.)

On 2nd September 1913, two tenements on Church Street collapsed, killing seven people.  Two days later the funerals took place in Halston Street Church on 4th September. Those who died were:

  • Peter Crowley (aged 6)
  • Elizabeth Fagan (aged 50)
  • Nicholas Fitzpatrick (aged 50)
  • Elizabeth Salmon (aged 4)
  • Hugh Salmon (aged 17)
  • Margaret Rourke (aged 55)
  • John Shiels (aged 3).

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October 1920: British Murder Gang brings terror to Manor Street

At 1.50am on Saturday 16th October 1920 Peter O’Carroll and his wife Annie were awoken by a heavy and ominous knock on the front door of their home at 92 Manor Street. Mr. O’Carroll rose from his bed and reached for his trousers and stockings. A night-time military curfew was in place in Dublin and the family was becoming accustomed to such late night intrusions.

Peter O'Carroll

Peter O’Carroll

The O’Carroll home was a target of British army raids over the preceding weeks as the war between the British state and the IRA intensified. Two of the O’Carroll’s seven children were members of the IRA: Liam was Adjutant of the 1st Battalion of the Dublin Brigade, while Peter Jnr was a member of ‘A’ Company of the same Battalion.

Days previously, on 11th October, at ‘Fernside’ in Drumcondra two renowned IRA volunteers from Tipperary, Dan Breen and Seán Treacy, had shot their way out of a British army raid, killing several troops, including two senior officers, before making good their escape. Enraged at their losses and failure to capture the two IRA Volunteers, the British troops proceeded to interrogate the owner of the house,   Professor O’Carolan. As he refused to divulge the names of his house guests, he was put up against a wall in the house and shot in the back of the neck. He died in hospital later that night. Continue reading

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