Jan 11

“A DUBLIN TRAGEDY” : The infamous 1908 Fish Street Murder

MURDER

It was described as “A SQUALID CRIME” , a grim murder , subsequent court-case and sensationalist newspaper coverage which gripped the public imagination . While the names of the victim and perpetrator have long been forgotten , the murder was so infamous at the time that it led to a street name been changed to help erase the memory of the crime. Here is the full story :

The Laird Lines 'SS Olive'

The Laird Lines ‘SS Olive’

It was unusual for the SS Olive to be on the Liffey. Built in 1893 for the Laird Line’s Glasgow, Dublin, and Londonderry Steampacket Company  she usually served the Derry route, although her limited accommodation of 100 beds meant that even on the Maiden City route her appeal was limited. She could, however, handle up to 1000 deck passengers (but even this would eventually see her replaced in 1930 to provide a more comfortable and lucrative mode of travel between Ireland and Scotland). Besides passengers she also carried livestock and general merchandise.

City Quay , where the Baron Kelvin unloaded its cargo

City Quay , where the Baron Kelvin unloaded its cargo

Passenger ships engaged on the Dublin to Glasgow route were known locally as “The Scotch Boats” and moored close to the Fish Street and North Wall Quay junction as the Laird Line’s warehouse and offices were nearby. Early on Saturday the 7th November 1908 several men approached the crew of the Olive. They were Scottish and had been sailing with the Baron Kelvin, a screw steamer Cargo Ship which had been trading between Algeciras near the Bay of Gibraltar in Spain and Ireland. Having returned and unloaded their cargo the previous day on City Quay, six of the crew, not being required for the subsequent voyage, were paid off. Seeking a way back to Glasgow they were directed across the river on the Ferry to obtain passage home on the Scotch Boats.  Having obtain berths and loaded their luggage, the young men aged between 19 and 26, set out to find nearby entertainment while they awaited the departure of the ship. Flush with money , which was burning a hole in their pockets, some returned to City Quay and began to drink in nearby pubs  with the remaining members of the Baron Kelvin crew while others stayed on North Wall Quay, as James McDonnell’s pub was just a few feet from where the Olive was moored. It would be an eventful evening before they set sail for Scotland.

James McDonnell’s Public House on North Wall Quay

James McDonnell’s Public House on North Wall Quay

Around 6.00pm two of the Scots, George Robertson and John Peterson, somewhat the worse for drink, boarded the Olive and promptly began to sleep off their oncoming hangovers. The other four, David Anderson, Neale Gillies, Alexander M’Donald and Thomas Grant continued to drink the final hours away at McDonnell’s before the ship sailed at 10.00pm.

McDonnell’s had a snug, a self-contained compartment with a door and a window giving access to the bar counter so that the more excessive behaviour of the male customers could be avoided. In Dockland’s parlance this was sometimes known as a “Confession Box” and was usually installed for “the auld wans”, older women of the area who liked a drink. Younger women looking for alcohol would either go to a Spirit Grocers or would send a messenger in with a jug or can, to be filled with porter to be drunk at home. Women who went into pubs unaccompanied at that time were usually seen as being of poor moral standing or possibly prostitutes. Unusually on that evening in 1908 three unaccompanied women were drinking in the pub’s snug.

Women on Elliott Place in the notorious Monto red-light district

Women on Elliott Place in the notorious Monto red-light district

The women lived at No 1 Elliot’s Place a short narrow street which connected Montgomery Street with Railway street in the heart of the infamous Monto Red Lights District. Kate “Christy” Kenny was 38 and had a record of convictions for Sheebeening [running an unlicensed drinking house] and prostitution going back to 1900. (In 1909 she was charged with keeping a brothel at 17 Gloucester Place. Three years later she was arrested for larceny with three others at a brothel in Summerhill, but the case never came to court as the charge was withdrawn). Fanny Langford, aged 34, had been arrested with four other girls for the larceny of £47 in 1905 while working at a brothel in Summerhill run by Thomas and Jennie Blaney. Langford, who seems to have been the ringleader, received the harshest sentence of four months hard labour. Her convictions for prostitution would continue up to 1909 and her arrest records suggest that for much of her life at this time she was homeless or of “no fixed abode” except on the few occasions she was arrested in an Elliott Place Brothel. She died the following year. Both women had been caught up in mass arrests in July and October 1908 as the Dublin Metropolitan Police targeted the brothels, kip houses, and sheebeens of Elliott Place. This may have motivated the women to seek out “safer” pastures outside the gaze of the authorities as North Wall Quay was some distance from The Monto. Prostitution wasn’t unusual in the Docklands area in 1908 mainly in the pubs and areas in the vicinity of City Quay on the southside of the river where numerous ships unloaded their cargoes. However, it was rarer on the northern side where the cross channel passenger services were located. The third woman, Mary Carroll, was a 36 year old widow who had once lived nearby in Nixon Street off Lower Sheriff Street and Common Street. There is no evidence to suggest she was involved in prostitution, but the newspapers would still describe her as being “a miserable outcast” and of “that unfortunate class” of women. The Scotsman Newspaper would also incorrectly label North Wall Quay as a notorious part of Dublin.

Aerial shot of Fish Street (Castleforbes Road) in the 1930's. McDonnell's pub is the white building on the bottom left

Aerial shot of Fish Street (Castleforbes Road) in the 1930′s. McDonnell’s pub is the white building on the bottom left

Around 9.00pm the women left the pub followed soon after by the Sottish Sailors. M’Donald and Gillies went aboard the SS Olive while Anderson and Grant after some conversation with the women at the street corner walked into the darkness towards Mayor Street and Upper Sheriff Street. Fish Street (now Castleforbes Road) cut through the centre of the 14 acre site of the various departments of T. & C. Martin’s Timber Works. The street was poorly lit and large consignments of timber were often left along the roadside near waste ground as there were few houses at the Quay end of the street being largely works yards and warehouses.

Thomas Grant, an able seaman who had been part of the Baron Kelvin’s crew barely made it up the gangway as the SS Olive prepared to sail. Questioned by Neale Gillies, Grant claimed that he had been delayed by an occurrence involving one of the women whom he said had been “crushed” or assaulted during an incident involving some soldiers. Gillies found this strange as he hadn’t seen any military on the North Wall however he soon found that members of the 18th Hussars were on board the ship. Still, he found it suspicious that Grant asked him not to mention it to anyone if he had not been involved in the affair.

Former Laird Line Offices and warehouse on North Wall Quay

Former Laird Line Offices and warehouse on North Wall Quay

Kate Kenny had been returning towards the Quay when she saw the prostrate body of Mary Carroll. There was no sign of struggle but there was blood coming from her mouth and nose. Kenny screamed for assistance. David Anderson who had been with Kenny heard her cry out and ran to find Carroll’s lifeless corpse on the waste ground near some logs on Fish Street. Anderson thought he saw a gag in her mouth but couldn’t be certain. They quickly alerted Constable McCarthy who was on duty on the docks that evening. McCarthy attempted to phone the Corporation Ambulance from McDonnell’s pub but the phone at the premises was out of order. A local postman suggested he try the one at the nearby Laird Line Offices. Meanwhile Anderson, hearing the whistle which announced the imminent departure of the Olive ran down the street to catch his ship.

Jervis Street Hospital

Jervis Street Hospital

It was 10.30pm when the body arrived at Jervis Street Hospital where Dr. O’Sullivan, the House Surgeon, carried out a brief examination. Carroll had been ill for some time and it was initially believed that her death was caused by haemorrhage of the stomach. O’Sullivan had her admitted to the mortuary while awaiting further instructions from the Coroner. It was only while carrying out a post-mortem the following day that he discovered that Carroll had been stabbed with a long sharp blade to a dept of about 6 inches which punctured her right lung. O’Sullivan’s conclusion was that a single blow of great force had caused her death. The blade had been withdrawn so quickly that the blood had rushed into Carroll’s throat making it impossible for her to raise the alarm although it was subsequently discovered that she had attempted to crawl back towards the pub before losing consciousness. This was not death by natural causes. This was murder.

Kate Kenny described the man with Carroll as elderly, about 60 years of age, with white hair and wearing a dark overcoat and hard hat. She claimed to have been no more than 12 yards away and heard no screams or sounds of struggle. Langford was unable to give any description; however, Kenny’s assertion was somewhat verified by a local youth named Michael Lovatt, who would play a role in subsequent events.

Sergeant Andrew Lonergan DMP

Sergeant Andrew Lonergan DMP

Investigating the murder fell to Detective Sergeant Andrew Lonergan. A Kilkenny man, he had joined the DMP in 1891 later transferring to the Detective Section of G Division in 1896. He had recently been promoted to Detective Sergeant and this would be a case that would enhance his growing reputation which would see him finish his police career as a Detective Inspector. Up to then most of his work involved investigating racing frauds, pickpockets, and counterfeiters. He would be particularly noted for his clever employment of forensics in this case which was still a developing science. Lonergan quickly circulated the description of the elderly man given by Kate Kenny who allegedly ran off in the direction of Upper Sheriff Street. However, he quickly detected that the Scottish sailors who had been in company with the women may have an involvement and passed details onto the Police at Glasgow. Within days the Glasgow Police had tracked down the former crew of the Baron Kelvin and brought them in for questioning. It had taken some effort as they had dispersed across Scotland on their return but by the 11th November five of the men had been tracked down and brought to Glasgow under caution.

Holytown village in Lanarkshire, Scotland.

Holytown village in Lanarkshire, Scotland.

A sixth man had left word at his Glasgow lodgings that he was visiting friends at Leith near Edinburgh which the police quickly found to be untrue. However, they did find his kit bag which contained the sheath from a dagger and a sweater with what they believed to be three small bloodstains on the sleeve. Their suspicions aroused, after some intense investigation by Detective Inspector Thompson French, they found that he had actually gone a short distance from Glasgow to a house on an isolated road outside Holytown, Lanarkshire, where French effected his arrest. Lonergan, accompanied by 14 year old Michael Lovett, travelled to Glasgow to attend an identity parade of the suspects. Lovett, whose account of events Lonergan would later describe in court as “something of a Fairy Tale”, quickly identified Gillies and M’Donald and arrangements were made for their transfer to Dublin with the other four Baron Kelvin crew members.  The murder had attracted a lot of coverage and the court room was packed to capacity. However, when they were brought into the court to be charged, there was something of a shock for those assembled there. Far from being a white haired 60 year old, the man being charged with Mary Carroll’s murder was the 25 year old, brown haired, able bodied seaman, named Thomas Grant.

Gunners of the Royal Field Artillery

Gunners of the Royal Field Artillery

Grant was from the Shetland Islands and had joined the 147th Battery Royal Field Artillery on 28th June 1901. Army life didn’t agree with Grant and he deserted on the mouth of Christmas 1902. He returned to the service four months later and after a short prison sentence was dismissed “as no longer required.” Since then he had worked for some years on the American Coasting Service before returning to Scotland. Although he would claim to be single it was subsequently discovered that he was married with a wife named Jessie and a young child. As with most of Grant’s statements during the investigation he was consistently economical with the truth unless proved otherwise.

An artist’s impression of the “Formidable” Spanish knife.

An artist’s impression of the “Formidable” Spanish knife.

While being examined at Glasgow it transpired that he had purchased an unusual double edged knife from a Spaniard at Algeciras as a present for John Green, grandson of a friend’s mother, at whose house at Holytown, Lanarkshire, he was arrested and the blade recovered. Bizarrely he had produced the knife a number of times on the journey back to Glasgow on one occasion offering it to Neale Gillies to cut bread. He later showed it to a Private George Morrison of the 18th Hussars in the hope of impressing him.  The design was unusual and distinctive and seems to have fascinated Grant. Various testimonies at his trial have him fondling it and almost being hypnotised by it. Grant also possessed a small folding pocket-knife, but it was the murder weapon that he consistently produced to show people. It’s distinctive and unusual design was remembered by all who saw it and its shape was consistent with the wound which killed Mary Carroll according to Dr. O’Sullivan. The Doctor described it as a “formidable” weapon.

John Anderson Mess Room Stewart on the Baron Kelvin

John Anderson Mess Room Stewart on the Baron Kelvin

An artist’s impression of Thomas Grant while on trial in 1908.

An artist’s impression of Thomas Grant while on trial in 1908.

John Anderson had seen Grant alone in a doorway on Fish Street “as if waiting for someone” shortly before Kate Kenny discovered Mary Carroll’s body. Tackling him on the voyage to Scotland he claimed Grant had shown him the knife and said that Carroll had attempted to “get through him” a euphemism for attempting to pick his pockets. However, the lack of evidence of any struggle cast some doubt on this. Anderson told him that he’d found her dead body on Fish Street to which Grant replied, “It was me, don’t tell anybody.” When Grant’s address at Glasgow was searched his kitbag was found within which was a sweater with three small red stains. It was difficult to say if these were blood stains, and professor M’Weeneys investigations would subsequently prove they were not, but it motivated Lonergan to have the Spanish Blade examined by experts. John Green, the child who had been given the blade as a present, had cleaned it with emery paper, removing any potential external evidence of its use in the murder. However, a cutler on taking the blade apart found traces of what he believed were blood corpuscles under the two sides of the handle.  On examination under a microscope by Professor M’Weeney it was confirmed that it was human blood stains and that they were recent. No less than five or six weeks old. M’Weeney claimed they were preserved by Grant keeping the blade in his pocket. Grant’s defence would claim that the blade was second-hand, and that Spaniards used blades the way “Irishmen used their fists”, but this evidence was damning.

John Anderson Mess Room Stewart on the Baron Kelvin

John Anderson Mess Room Stewart on the Baron Kelvin

Ultimately the case came down to whether the jury accepted John Anderson’s account of Grant’s confession aboard the SS Olive or the Statement of Kate Kenny who said she had never seen Grant before when asked to identify him in Court.  Fanny Langford’s inability to provide any description also created doubt in the jurors’ minds. Anderson, aged 19 at the time, having been arrested at his home in Ardrossan, believed he was going to be charged with the murder and gave a statement to the Glasgow Sentinel Newspaper implicating Grant. It was only after he entered the dock at Dublin that he found out he was there purely as a witness. After some deliberations the Jury brought in a verdict of wilful murder with a recommendation towards mercy. In Passing sentence Justice Wright advised Grant that he would not give him any false hope of a reprieve and somewhat emotionally passed the sentence for Grant to be hanged at Mountjoy Jail on the 12th January 1909. Grant seemed unable to comprehend the implications of Wright’s sentence.

Mountjoy Register showing Grant’s Death Sentence and subsequent commutation.

Mountjoy Register showing Grant’s Death Sentence and subsequent commutation.

Almost immediately Grant’s defence council, J.G. Lidwell, instigated an appeal for mercy announcing that he was preparing a memorial for the Lord Lieutenant and requesting members of the public to sign it at his offices on Ormond Quay. Having submitted five separate memorials on Grant’s behalf Lidwell receive confirmation on the 28th December 1908 that Grant’s sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life with the sentence to be served at Maryborough [now Portlaois] Prison.

Maryborough (now Portlaois Prison)

Maryborough (now Portlaois Prison)

In January 1909 Grant began what should have been a life sentence at Portlaoise Prison. He seems to have been a model prisoner and was recommended for special privileges during his time there. It’s probable that with the excessive amount of drink taken that Grant had killed Mary Carroll in a moment of madness which he later regretted. On 25th April 1917 after only serving eight years of his sentence Grant was released under license and returned to Scotland.

Able Seaman Thomas Grant in 1918.

Able Seaman Thomas Grant in 1918.

Having been released Grant set about putting his life back together returning to the Merchant Navy and serving as an able seaman for the remainder of the First world War for which the above photograph was taken. There is something haunting about the image as if the life has been drained out of him. Given the amount of alcohol consumed by all parties it’s likely that Grant would be charged today with manslaughter and possibly have served much the same amount of time as he did in the early 20th century. The swiftness of the blow and absence of any evidence of a struggle suggests it was a momentary reaction carried out without any thought or premeditation. While its commendable that so many Dubliners supported J. G. Lidwell’s memorials on Grants behalf, it was also symptomatic of the class system of the time which saw the likes of Mary Carroll as worthless or as the Irish Independent described her, “a miserable outcast.” She consorted with prostitutes and thieves who had records for robbing customers in the brothels they worked in, so Carroll was seen as more of the same even though there was no evidence to suggest she was guilty of either.

A Laird Line Poster from 1908.

A Laird Line Poster from 1908.

Today all the protagonists in the story have faded from memory. At the time it had been widely reported not just in Ireland but had received extensive newspaper coverage throughout Britain where it was often described as “The Dublin Tragedy.” While that title was appropriate, the sordid story of illicit sex and murder lingered long in relation to the area. Fish Street and that part of North Wall Quay would acquire an unwarranted reputation largely based on the infamous murder on the night of 7th November 1908 when three women seeking a quiet drink encountered some Scottish sailors awaiting a Laird Line ship. In 1924 local merchant John Hughes would organize to have the name of Fish Street changed to Castleforbes Road thus wiping out the last link with the infamous murder and restoring the reputation of the street which he felt it deserved.

A view along Fish Street , re-named as Castleforbes Road in 1924

A view along Fish Street , re-named as Castleforbes Road in 1924

 

If you have any corrections, clarifications or further information please contact :

eastwallhistory@gmail.com

Dec 15

“North Wall eye-opener” – a Dockland Pub to remember

North Wall Fish Street

As a new local pub, “The Bottle Boy”,opens at the location of the fondly remembered  “Connors” and “Vallence & McGrath” , we take a look back at the history of this address and the drinking establishments which previously stood there.

The origins of a premises at No.81 North Wall Quay is somewhat obscure. In the early 1850s as sites around it were developed into dockside houses it was a vacant lot owned by the Ballast Board. Evidence suggests the current structure may have originally operated as a hotel or lodging house for those conducting business in the Dublin Port area. Among its residents was John Abraham a cattle exporter who also specialised in Clydesdale Horses which he sold from a yard nearby. In 19th and early 20th Century Dublin, the Clydesdale literally was the “work-horse” which drove the Dockland economy, being the preferred horse-power of many of the Dublin Carters which operated in the area for companies such as Pickford’s on Upper Sheriff Street or Wordies in East Wall before the introduction of the motor car. The last Dockland Carter was Paddy Behan who worked for CIE up to the 1970s. A vivid photograph showing Paddy and his cart exiting Castleforbes Road towards Levers still survives from this period.

Paddy O’Keeffe exiting Castleforbes Road to make a delivery at Lever’s Castleforbes Works

Paddy O’Keeffe exiting Castleforbes Road to make a delivery at Lever’s Castleforbes Works

Martin’s Timberworks at what was then Fish Street in 1860

Martin’s Timberworks at what was then Fish Street in 1860

 

In 1861 the Timber Importer, John Martin acquired a site including 81 and 82 North Wall Quay at the corner of Fish Street (later Castleforbes Road) on a 99 year lease. Martin operated a sawing planning and moulding mills and had an extensive warehouse in the area. Their operation would eventually encompass 15 acres on the North Wall. Martins seemed to have had little use for the property at No. 81 and so the following year it was let to James McDonnell who may have adapted the ground floor street level for retail purposes while continuing to rent out rooms in the premises above. McDonnell already had a presence on the Quay at No.60 with an interest in the Big Tree Pub on Drumcondra Road. The spacious retail premises, subsequently added to 81 at street level, was leased by Andrew Stapleton, a Shipwright and Carpenter with many shipbuilding, repairing, and related nautical businesses popping up in the area at that time. William Buckle, Ship Joiner, took over 81 in 1866. It would be 1873 before McDonnell divested himself of his other interests and took over and ran 81 as a Spirit Grocers and Merchants.

LNWR Passenger Fleet at North Wall with their North Western Hotel in background

LNWR Passenger Fleet at North Wall with their North Western Hotel in background

However, 1861 is particularly interesting as that year the London and North Western Railway Company (LNWR) moved their operations to the North Wall. McDonnell may well have been anticipating the opportunity to be created by the increased volume of passengers, dockers, and railway workers which would now be passing through, working, or living near that part of the North Wall Quay. McDonnell originally operated at No. 60 as a Vintner or Wine Merchant so it’s likely that his sales were off premises or even wholesale. He may also have been a wine importer. There were several Vintners in the area so there was competition but there was no Spirit Grocers or Public House at the No.81 end of the Quay which was rapidly expanding as the Port grew.

McDonnell’s Public House

McDonnell’s Public House

 Initially McDonnell’s operated as “J. McDonnell, Grocer, Wine, and Spirit Dealer”, a Spirit Grocers or type of General Provisions-shop within which there was a Spirit Counter where alcohol could be purchased either by the bottle or in a glass. However, while drinks could be consumed on the premises it was somewhat different to a Public House insofar as it was illegal to have seats on the premises.  Beer was sold; however, it is worth noting that it came in bottles which the “bottle-boy” used fill from the casks provided by the Brewery. Through this practice, strange and often perplexing Guinness labels turn up at auctions and collector’s fairs which confuse as they have a secondary name under the iconic signature of that brewery’s founder.

In 1880 McDonnell took the bold step of closing the Grocer’s end of the business and converted to dealing exclusively in the sale of alcohol. To facilitate this, a business in Nerney’s Court was purchased in order to transfer the license. At the Court Hearing, McDonnell’s barrister, Mr. M’Laughlin Q.C., broke into an impassionate appeal on behalf of himself as a resident of Gardiner’s Row, (which backed onto Nerney’s Court), describing the “infamous and outrageous conduct” of Nerney’s Court residents who frequented the Public House there as akin to that of “wild beasts.” Judging the case, the City Recorder, (no friend to the consumption of alcohol and with a commitment to opposing the opening of new Public Houses where none had existed before), was persuaded that extinguishing the licence at Nerney’s Court would be a mercy to that neighbourhood. Therefore, with so few public houses in the North Wall capable of providing “comfort and refreshment” for a growing population of tradesmen in the area, McDonnell’s ceased to be a Spirits Grocers, and J. McDonnell Wine & Spirit Merchant’s was born.

McDonnell had political ambitions, was active within Charles Stewart Parnell’s Irish Parliamentary Party, and would serve between the 1880s and 90s as a representative for the North Dock Ward on Dublin Corporation. In doing so he paved the way for that legendary North Dock Publican/Politician and Lord Mayor, Alfie Byrne.

St. Lawrence O’Tool’s Church c.1913

St. Lawrence O’Tool’s Church c.1913

Ever mindful of his civic responsibility, McDonnell was generous of pocket and his name was regularly found on various charity and church-building subscription lists. Among his local donations was the alter rail at St. Lawrence O’Toole’s Church in Seville Place. He served on the Board of the North Richmond Lunatic Asylum for many years and in 1893 was the Honourable Secretary of the Evicted Tenants Fund set up to support those evicted during Parnell’s Boycotting Campaign. During the “Parnell Split” of the Irish Parliamentary Party, McDonnell ran unsuccessfully as a Parliamentary Candidate for the Harbour Division under an Anti-Parnellite ticket. His greatest achievement, he would later claim, was his involvement while a member of Dublin Corporation in the creation of the Fruit and Vegetable Market at Chancery Place.

Anzac Soldiers on holidays in Ireland during WWI

Anzac Soldiers on holidays in Ireland during WWI

James McDonnell died in July 1910 age 83. His son, James McDonnell II, had taken over the business, but he had other interests and soon after leased the pub to a Francis Malone although the McDonnell name remained over the door. Malone in turn appointed a manager, John Shanley to run the Pub. A local, originally from 2 Fish Street (later Castleforbes Road), Shanley had vast experience in the Licensing trade having worked in America, Australia, and New Zealand. Observant to trends, and ever vigilant for opportunity, Shanley noticed the blossoming Tourist Trade in the Docklands driven by companies such as the London and North Western Railway Company. The LNWR had been aggressively promoting Irish Tourism since the time of Queen Victoria and offered a rapid 9 ½ hour journey from London Euston to their station in the North Wall for visitors wishing to explore the Lakes of Killarney, Glendalough, or Dublin itself. Over 1000 soldiers a week passed through the port during the WWI period many of them Anzacs (Australian and New Zealand) visiting their ancestral homeland.

Cocktail Bar Advertisement 1914

Cocktail Bar Advertisement 1914

 For St. Patrick’s Day 1913, Shanley re-launched McDonnell’s as an American Cocktail Bar, announcing an exotic assortment of bottles “now permanently held in stock” which many locals would have struggled to pronounce let alone have tasted before. This was, Shanley would claim, Dublin’s first authentic American style Cocktail Bar, and offered an eclectic menu of over 60 slings, flips, cups, and cobblers, the piece de resistance of which was their own rum based “North Wall Eye Opener.” Shanley claimed all these “amazing concoctions” could be supplied “at a moments notice.” While the Pub had always been popular with tradesmen and sailors this colourful change in direction, serving what they called a “heterogeneous” selection of drinks, meant the Pub avoided being directly caught up in the conflicts experienced by other Dockland establishments during the Great Strike or Lockout of 1913. With a keen marketing eye, as Irish Politics took a dramatic turn in 1914 through events such as the illegal importation of arms at both Larne and Howth, Shanley introduced a new range for his more daring customers known as “The Zenith Gunrunning Cocktails,” while the truly brave could imbibe with an assorted range of Absinth fuelled mixes – all at “indefensible prices!” They even came up with a marketing slogan of “call your beverage and it’s yours in a second!” Given that the First World War broke out in August 1914 it would seem that the “Gunrunners” were later removed from the menu as inappropriate for the time.

It would appear the War years were kind to McDonnell’s with Dublin embracing the “distinct novelty” of their inventive beverages. However, by the early ’20s it had reverted to its roots of being a good old fashioned Public House serving its traditional customer base of Dockers, Stevedores, Merchant Navy men, Railwaymen, and others earning a living in the Docklands. James McDonnell II died in 1930 and with family interests estranged from the business it was set for auction in December that year. It was at this time that it was acquired by its most prominent owner, John O’Connor, who would take over the license on the 5th August 1931. Ironically, although the name over the door would state O’Connor’s, to its faithful regulars it quickly became “Connor’s” the name which would stick – even after it was sold to Limerick man George Vallence and Tipperary man Pat McGrath in 1980.

OC Doorstep at entrance

OC Doorstep at entrance

Connors was a Union House and staff had served a six year apprenticeship, wore collars, ties, and waistcoats, and quite often with bar-aprons. All bar staff were addressed as “Mister” save apprentices and the Bottling-Boy who was know by their first name. Harry, the last Bottling Boy at Connors, was nearly 70 when he retired and up to that was a regular feature cycling round the Docklands and East Wall, collecting bottles to be washed, labelled, and filled with beer from the casks.

O’Flanagan’s Shop source of legendary Doorstep sandwiches in the Docklands

O’Flanagan’s Shop source of legendary Doorstep sandwiches in the Docklands

During its era Pubs were for drinking and no food was served. However during lunchtime  customers would often purchase some of the legendary “Doorstep” sandwiches in local shops, made from thick freshly cut slices of Batch Loaf, pale or smoked ham cut directly from the bone, or cheese sliced from great slabs, to which the adventurous might have a generous basting of Colman’s English Mustard, and bring them with them into the pub. Lettuce was optional.

A Traditional Dublin Snug

A Traditional Dublin Snug

Pubs were for men only, but as an increasing number of women began to frequent such establishments, the pub acquired a Snug for “the auld ones”, a type of walled compartment with an entrance door, at which there was a hatch at one end providing direct access to the bar. The idea behind the snug was to protect women from the more excessive behaviour of the bar’s male clientele. Although designed to facilitate women visiting such establishments they also made it possible for couples to drink together, a practice which would have been frowned upon in the open bar. A typical snug would sit up to 6-8 people. They were later replaced by the Lounge Bar.

Luke Kelly, Barney McKenna, and The Dubliners

Luke Kelly, Barney McKenna, and The Dubliners

John O’Connor placed great importance on his staff. They had all served an apprenticeship and when he advertised positions vacant he warned the potential candidate’s that their character would have to stand up to the “most strict investigation”. The quality of their service was a sign of their training as was the quality of the pub’s taps maintained by the bottling-boy once draft beer became popular. Connor’s was one of those pubs known for its “Pint” which meant that the beer was worth travelling for despite its somewhat remote location from the city centre. When the beer was good it was an attraction in itself, but one of the bonuses could quite often manifest itself in the arrival of the likes of Barney McKenna, banjo in hand, or the singer Luke Kelly, both searching for a decent pint. As word spread through the neighbourhood the ensuing session would always be memorable. Luke was local and is commemorated today by the powerful Vera Klute statue at nearby Spencer Dock. John O’Connor died in July 1963 swiftly followed by his wife that November. The family maintained an interest in the pub, but it lacked the personal touch of the man who gave it his name. Somewhat shabby and run down it was taken over in 1980 by George Vallence and Pat McGrath in an attempt to restore its fortunes

[Vallance & McGraths]

Vallence & McGrath

Under new management the rundown pub was once again given a facelift with comfortable contemporary furniture installed along with a complete revamp of the interior. But somehow the original charm was missing. Recession in the Docklands affected passing trade and as local residents relocated, business slowed down. The opening of the Point Depot (03 Arena) gave footfall a boost and it seemed like the Pub would thrive once more. However, despite the valiant efforts of the new owners, as far as their regular customers were concerned, it would always be known as “Connors” which particularly annoyed Pat McGrath after all the effort he and his partner had put into the business. The Munster publicans were noted supporters of local youth and sports groups as well as local charities and the pub became something of a social centre under the two men. Then in the middle of the economic boom the premises were sold, and the pub closed. Sadly, the expected development never materialised leaving 81 North Wall Quay as just a decaying memory of times past.

bottleboyDecember 2019 sees the return of “Connors” as part of the newly developed Mayson Hotel. The complex acknowledges the area’s maritime heritage with many of their rooms named after renowned Dockers of a bygone era while their intricate wooden floor tiles recalled a local skill of the previous century which was a speciality of T & C Martins timber works. The pub itself pays tribute to the much loved “Harry”, a North and East Wall legend, in its new name “The Bottle Boy” with a terrific selection of old photos of the area’s past adorning its walls. Meanwhile, just over a century after its creation the “North Wall Eye Opener” looks set to welcome guests to the Docklands once more.

 

For corrections , clarifications or further information please contact eastwallhistory@gmail.com .

Any personal recollections of these pubs or the general area also welcome .

Dec 15

“When Hitchcock met O’Casey” DVD now available


DVD COVER FrontThis feature length documentary , made in conjunction with the East Wall History Group is now available on DVD .

It is currently available from the following outlets in Dublin , Galway and Kerry :

Tower Records ,
Golden Discs,
OMG @zhivago, Galway,
Easons,
Irish Film Institute,
Music Express, Killarney.

It is also available mail-order from Easons , with free postage :

https://www.easons.com/when-hitchcock-met-ocasey-dvd-5131014?fbclid=IwAR0ZgYTyAegVX3jRMUlRckWLddimdLarQnsaKgfzCmIgvJ2ljnuDAxlSOrI

DVD COVER Back

Dec 15

Trinity College Dublin Innovation Awards

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The Trinity Innovation Awards celebrate innovation and entrepreneurship in Trinity College Dublin. The event was held in Regent House on 5th December 2019, attended by the Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast, award nominees and guests.

Awards were presented in 6 categories. Prof Carmel O’Sullivan was nominated for the ‘Societal Impact’ award which is presented to the Academic whose research has had a significant impact for Trinity, society and industry.

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Prof Carmel O’ Sullivan (School of Education) was announced as the joint winner of the ‘Societal Impact’ award, along with Dr Joan Cahill (Centre for Innovative Human Systems). 

Carmel’s work on Career LEAP (funded by the CDETB and NEIC, and delivered in association with East Wall Youth and Swan Youth Service), Social Drama for people with Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism (in association with Aspire), and Inclusive Arts Education in a Sustainable Society (in association with ReCreate and funded by the EPA) were cited as exemplary examples of the impact of her research and practice in society. 

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Congratulations to Carmel and all involved with the very successful Career LEAP initiative.

 

Dec 15

NOBBER – the Blue-Nosed Reindeer

poster2

Nov 26

CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL 2019

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A03B6081-8D69-4C09-B39B-BD24F217A550142EADA9-ADE7-4AEC-A738-FE67E01678EE5E6F675C-0167-45DA-BE03-9A1ABD26AE3E

Oct 15

HALLOWEEN FESTIVAL 2019

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Oct 10

HALLOWEEN WORKSHOPS @ East Wall Youth

halloween

Sep 28

IT’S CEILI TIME – all ages , on Wednesday 2nd October 2019

Céilí PosterEast Wall Youth

Sep 26

“WHEN HITCHCOCK MET O’CASEY” – cinema screenings announced

001The critically acclaimed documentary, made with the participation of the East Wall History Group, will be in the cinema for a limited period beginning on Friday 27th September . It can be seen at Dundrum ,Swords, Gorey and Dungarvan .

DIFF 01

DIFF 02The film was a success when it premiered to a sold out audience at the Dublin International Film Festival (DIFF) and received very positive reviews . Don’t miss this opportunity to see it on the big screen and support a project with substantial local participation .

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Check out the new facebook page for the film :

https://www.facebook.com/When-Hitchcock-met-OCasey-117048469693958/

 

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