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).

The church and the streets outside were thronged with people. It appeared that the entire community had come to express their sorrow and show their support to the families.

The Evening Telegraph reported on the funeral:

“the poor are not accustomed to hide their emotions, whether joy or grief. They sympathise with each other to a degree which those who do not know them cannot grasp; they have warm hearts. Among them when death comes there is no division into chief mourners, relatives and sympathisers. They are all alike…the sorrow of one is the sorrow of all”.

The cortege left the church and made its long mournful journey through the city’s streets. It left the church and made its way through the neighbourhood up to Capel Street. Many  the local shops closed and drew their blinds as a mark of respect to the dead. The cortege crossed the river onto Parliament Street, before turning left on Dame Street and on to College Green. It made its way to O’Connell bridge through Westmoreland Street, passing back over on to the northside of the river to O’Connell Street. All along the route crowds had gathered on footpaths to pay their respects. It made its way up Parnell Square and on into Phibsboro. As the coffins approached Glasnevin the crowds swelled.

funeral1There was a final harrowing scene at the cemetery. Elizabeth Salmon had lost two of her children in the tragedy. Her eldest son Hugh aged just 17, who was locked out of his employment at Jacob’s factory for refusing to renounce his membership of the ITGWU, had played a heroic role on the night of the collapse.  Having rescued most of his family from the house, he made one final dash to save his sister Elizabeth.

Tragically, as he made his way from the house with Elizabeth in his arms, the house gave way and they were both killed. Elizabeth Salmon was utterly distraught at the loss of her two children and as the cortege reached the cemetery gates, she fainted. After several minutes she was brought round and the burials commenced. In one final harrowing scene, Elizabeth attempted to hurl herself into the open grave of her two children and had to be carried away, utterly grief stricken.

Hugh and Elizabeth were buried together, while Elizabeth Fagan was buried with her two nephews, Peter Crowley and John Shiels. Margaret Rourke and Nicholas Fitzpatrick were buried separately.

By Stewart R


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