Nov 26

Dublin Port, World War One and U-boat attacks on Merchant ships : 30th November


Nov 19

An Port Thoir Feile As Gaeilge : Samhain 2017

Irish Festival 01 Irish Festival 02 Irish Festival 03 Irish Festival 04

Nov 09

“ALL IN FAVOUR SAID NO !” – Sean O’Casey Theatre 22nd to 25th November


Nov 09

“Il Dovere del Medico” at the Sean O’Casey Theatre

23376162_1593140180750957_9093115218503575578_nThe TEATRO EMIGRATO (Dublin) was created in 2012 by the urge of some individuals to create a group to find a way of personal expression, especially through the theater. This is a deep need felt by  most members of the group, in order to recover a part of their “personal” scene in a foreign country, a scene which risked to be deemed by everyday routine.

This group includes people of different nationalities, age and personal experiences. Every member of the group is a “immigrant” in the Irish soil- hence its name- and, as immigrants, each one wants to preserve part of his roots in its strongest and deepest nature: the language. The main goal, in fact, is to organize mises en scene mainly of Italian theatre plays.

For further details :

Nov 05

“The Life and Times of Alfie Byrne” – as told by Trevor White


Alfie Byrne was the most popular Dublin-born politician of the 20th Century and the most historic Lord Mayor in the history of the City. Come along and hear the remarkable story of his life and career , as told by Trevor White , author of the recent critically acclaimed biography .


The Sean O’Casey Theatre , East Wall

Monday 6th November

@ 8pm

Elected as Lord Mayor of Dublin a record ten times, Alfie Byrne was called the “Shaking hand of Dublin” and “Alfred the Great” by the press, but Dubliners knew him simply as “Alfie”.  Even today, nearly 60 years after his death, many Dubliners remember this short, dapper figure with affection.

Lord Mayor Alfie Byrne

Lord Mayor Alfie Byrne

Alfie Byrne on O'Connell Bridge

Alfie Byrne on O’Connell Bridge

The son of a docker , he was reared in Seville Place , and he would eventually own a pub on Talbot Street . Politically he was involved with every issue of the day , always with a strong attachment to the Docklands community.

A great talk on the life and times of the only man in history who served as an MP, a TD, a Senator, a Councillor and Lord Mayor.

(Trevor White was born in Dublin in 1972. He founded the Dubliner magazine and the Little Museum of Dublin. “Alfie: The Life and Times of Alfie Byrne” is his third book)

Part of the East Wall History Festival 2017 , this is a FREE EVENT.

(Images courtesy Trevor White / Little Museum of Dublin)

Oct 29

Felo de Se & a Stake through the Heart : The Ballybough Suicide Plot.

 “…be buried in the usual place in the usual way.”

john williams dead

The site of Ballybough Suicide Plot currently under renovation.

The site of Ballybough Suicide Plot currently under renovation.

Recent weeks have seen things stirring at the intersection of Clonliffe Road and Ballybough Roads. What was once a derelict piece of waste ground at the site of two advertising posters has now been tastefully landscaped with a pair of benches for weary travelers. The site will be completed in the coming weeks. However, this wasn’t just any old piece of waste-ground, but the location of the infamous Suicide Plot.  Often confused with the nearby Jewish Graveyard on Fairview Strand, this historic site is generally believed to have influenced local writer Bam Stoker’s novel Dracula.

Stake pic

In the 13th century, the English jurist, Henry DeBracton, recorded the ancient common law of Felo de Se (literally Felony against one’s self), which set forth the penalties for those who committed suicide. Under that law, all of a person’s moveable property was forfeited to the Crown and their body was removed to waste lands – unconsecrated ground, near a crossroads, and buried with a stake through the heart. It’s unclear when the law was first implemented in Ireland but dozens of such locations, usually with Cillin or Killeen in their place-name, existed and are slowly being rediscovered by archaeologists today.

John Rocque’s map of Dublin.

John Rocque’s map of Dublin.

 In Dublin there were two sites, The Long Meadow at Islandbridge and the Crossroads at Ballybough Bridge , now the intersection with Clonliffe Road. This was originally known as Fortick’s Lane after Tristram Fortick owner of the Red House which is now part of Clonliffe College. At Long Meadow burials were directed to take place at high tide but it’s unclear if there was a specific time for burials at Ballybough. None of these sites were ever identified on maps. The 1848 Griffith’s Valuation for example, designated the Ballybough Site as part of land owned by the representatives of the Earl of Blessington. However, their common usage was known. Surviving Felo de Se verdicts from the Nineteen Century usually end in the diplomatic direction that the body “be buried in the usual place in the usual way.” In some cases babies who died before being baptized were also interred in such plots as were Highwaymen and thieves who had been executed. In 1806 the notorious Larry Clinch was hanged at a tree near Ballybough Bridge and later buried in the nearby Suicide Plot. During the Eighteenth-Century heyday of nearby Mud Island, gun battles between the Revenue men and the Island’s smuggling community were numerous and bodies were often left strewn along that part of Ballybough Road, inspiring one local balladeer to write “tis a wise man never saw a dead one.” These bodies may also have been buried in the Suicide Plot.

A Felo de Se burial at Midnight.

A Felo de Se burial at Midnight.

The only means of avoiding a verdict of Felo de Se was to prove temporary insanity at the time of the “crime.” Because of this the relatives of the wealthy and the famous could usually hold on to the family inheritance courtesy of a competent lawyer or sympathetic doctor. Therefore, it was usually the poor who fell victims of the law and so there is little surviving documentation of cases up to the end of the eighteenth century. However, a surprising number of suicides among soldiers and young women between 1800 to 1823 means we have some idea of how the inquests worked. The latter year saw the first reform of the law, allowing burials at midnight in consecrated ground with a police escort present, but with no religious ceremony permitted. In 1820 members of the regiment from which one unfortunate soldier was found guilty of Felo de Se had attacked the proceedings, rescued the body, and interred their former comrade with full military honors in a local graveyard. The Felo de Se law was finally reformed completely in 1886.

Over time most suicide plots were forgotten but uniquely a rich folklore tradition grew up around Ballybough so that its location remained in the local consciousness. In 1921 Weston St John Joyce would record that local residents in the nineteenth century“would have gone a considerable round rather than pass the unhallowed spot after nightfall.” As late as 1990, the former TD, John Stafford, informed Dail Eireann about the Ballybough location and stated that “it is said that spirits are still in the park beside the Luke Kelly Bridge.” Significantly, the corner location has never been built on probably due to the ever present superstition of the sites contents.

James Clarence Mangan.

James Clarence Mangan.

Probably its earliest influence on literature came from the poet James Clarence Mangan , most famous for “Dark Rosaleen”. He was part of a literary circle who met at a tavern near the present-day Railway Bridge at No. 23 Ballybough Road.One of Mangan’s earliest surviving works, dating from 1819, was originally titled “Enigma – A Vampire”and was published three years later as “Bleak was the Night” in Grants Almanack. In the poem, Mangan encounters a ghostlike warrior, risen from the dead, of stature “more than a man” clad in “robes of deepest black” with a “blood-red ribbon round his neck,” who by morning light will have returned to a “bloodless corpse.” Mangan often published pieces under a pseudonym, as being “from Mud Island beyond the Bog”, or by “Peter Puff of Mud Island”. A number of his early poems exhibit the same Gothic type of inspirations and imagery.

The 7 year old Bram Stoker.

The 7 year old Bram Stoker.

Of Course, the most famous association of the Ballybough Suicide Plot is with Abraham “Bram” Stoker, author of Dracula, who was born at No. 15 The Crescent, Fairview, on the 8th November 1847. Between the age of three and seven Stoker was struck down with a mysterious illness and was bed-ridden for that period. His mother, Charlotte, had a vivid imagination and had grown up in her native Sligo during the 1832 Cholera outbreak. She told her son stories of people burying sick visitors alive in hastily dug pits so as to avoid catching the disease and of her family home being attacked by cholera victims during which a terrified Charlotte apparently cut off an outstretched arm with a single blow of an axe. Dublin had also been affected by the outbreak and stories were current of priests visiting the fever hospital to ensure that their parishioners were actually dead before being buried. A long- standing tradition states that the Suicide Plot was used for Cholera burials during these outbreaks. The Cholera accounts by his mother certainly influenced Stoker’s short story “The Invisible Giant.”

Mummified bodies at St. Mican’s Church, Church Street.

Mummified bodies at St. Mican’s Church, Church Street.

It’s been suggested that Stoker’s first encounter with the “undead” came through visits to the vaults of St. Mican’s on Church Street. At one time many of the mummified bodies were exposed and it was considered good luck to shake hands with “The Crusader” and feel the leathery skin of “The Nun.” There is also a tradition that Charlotte brought him to see the Suicide Plot. Given her fondness for folklore and the macabre and the short distance from their various homes during Stoker’s youth it seems inevitable. The lurid tales of happenings at the Crossroads only minutes from their home would have been an enticing attraction. In the 1850s the Ballybough Road was far superior to that of the North Strand, one writer claiming it was among the best in the country. For many journeys it would have been the most efficient way to where they were travelling and would have brought him past the spot and there was no shortage of locals who could fill him in on its history, no doubt, with plenty of embellishments.

An 1882 newspaper report of Stoker’s heroism.

An 1882 newspaper report of Stoker’s heroism.

In 1882 shortly after Stoker and his wife Florence moved to London he leaped from a steamer on the Thames to try and save an elderly former soldier who attempted suicide. Stoker brought him to his home and sent for a Doctor to try and revive him, but he expired on the dining-room table.Stoker now found himself a key witness at a Salo de Fe inquest albeit one which would not conclude with a stake through the heart. However, the various tales he had heard as a child must have come flooding back to him.His wife, who had grown up in No.1 The Crescent, told him she would never live in their Chelsea home again; so they moved. Perhaps, like her husband, she was aware of the stories of the nearby Ballybough Suicide Plot and the Spirits who allegedly roamed near it at night.


In 1875, while still living in Dublin, Stoker had contemplated a story about a man thinking of suicide but who changed his mind when someone attempted to murder him. His short story, “Dracula’s Guest” published two years after his death in 1914, is believed to have been a chapter from Dracula which he had excised from the final book. In it Stoker specifically refers to the process of a Felo de Se burial, the unnamed hero recalling “the old custom of burying suicides at crossroads”without ceremony and with a stake through the heart.It unequivocally shows he was conversant with the punishment long before he read Emily Gerard’s Transylvanian Superstitions which gave him the added element of garlic for his most famous work.  Felo de Se was something which he had first encountered while still a child back home in Dublin when his imagination was fired during rambles around Ballybough.



For comments , clarifications and corrections contact

Oct 29

East Wall History Festival 2017

EWHW 2017 01 EWHW 2017 02

(Brochure design : Ciarán Swan)

Oct 22



Oct 22

“The words are there” by Ronan Dempsey – One show only on 26th October

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Oct 08

The first of the famous Guinness fleet – torpedoed in 1917

Guinness archivist Eibhlin Roche , with model of SS WM Barkley

Guinness archivist Eibhlin Roche , with model of SS WM Barkley

On 12th October 1917, the steam ship WM Barkley having set out from Dublin Port just hours earlier was torpedoed just off the Kish lighthouse. Five of the 13 crew members on board were killed, and the others were lucky to survive. Among those to lose their lives was Thomas Murphy of Sheriff Street, who left behind a sick wife and two children. The WM Barkley has an interesting history, being the first vessel of the famous Guinness fleet, and also because there is a vivid first-hand account of the attack, which gives an amazing insight to the terrifying experiences endured by those onboard and so many other seamen. This is the story of the sinking of the Barkley and of its crew- those who lost their lives and those who survived:

The River Liffey

Guinness is the most iconic of all Irish brand names. Manufacturing stout since 1759, in the early years of the 20th century the company was engaged in a busy cross channel trade, contracting a variety of carriers using the Dublin to Manchester and Liverpool routes. During the great Lockout of 1913 the transportation of Guinness was severely impacted. Though the company was not directly involved in the fierce industrial conflict that gripped the city, the disruption of commercial shipping due to sympathetic strike action affected their cargoes. Not prepared to have their business affected by events outside of their control, the company decided to invest in their own ships, and the legendary Guinness fleet was born. Before the year was out the first vessel was purchased, the WM Barkley. Built in 1898, the ship was only in service for Guinness a short time when world events would change her destiny drastically. In 1914 Great Britain and Germany would go to war, and she was commandeered by the British Admiralty. A number of perilous voyages were carried out in this new role, including transporting road building material to France, carrying timber to Britain and iron from Glasgow to Dunkirk. However, the vessel was eventually deemed not suitable for this war work and was returned to the company. Despite now being engaged only in commercial voyages, a German declaration in 1915 that the Irish Sea was “within the seat of war” and “that all enemy vessels found in these waters after 18 February would be destroyed” would seal her fate. In 1917 this policy was intensified and the Irish channel became particularly treacherous.

Coastal waters declared as 'within the seat of war'

Coastal waters declared as ‘within the seat of war’

On Friday 12th October 1917 she set out from Dublin Port with a cargo of Guinness destined for Liverpool. She would never complete the journey. Sailings from the Port had been suspended due to the increase of U-Boat attacks, and had only been lifted that very day. Tragically, the restrictions would be re-imposed almost immediately, but for this vessel and her crew this renewed caution would prove justified but too late. Having departed the city at 5pm it was at 7.45pm when her encounter with UC-75 would see the vessel struck by a torpedo and almost immediately break in half.

This vivid account of the attack was written by survivor Thomas McGlue (and published by Guinness in their ‘HARP’ magazine in 1964) -

“I was in the galley, aft of the bridge. I was just reaching out to take a kettle off the fire to make a cup of tea for the officers. When we got the poke, the kettle capsized and shot the boiling water up my arm to the elbow. The galley was filled with steam and I said a few hard words, but apart from that there wasn’t much noise – not a murmur, in fact.

The port side of the ship was locked to keep it dark, so I went through the engine room and out on the starboard deck. There was a lifeboat hanging there, hanging by one end to the forward fall. The Barkley was doing her best to go down, but the barrels were fighting their way up through the hatches and that kept us afloat a bit longer – in fact, it’s the reason any of us got out of her.

The master gave three blasts on the siren and then I didn’t see him anymore. I climbed into the boat and a mate gave me a knife to cut the fall and the painter. The boat dropped clear and dipped under a bit and we had to do some fast bailing. The other fellow was all for us getting away while we could, but I said No there’s more than two of us here and they’ll want to come along. Then the gunner came up – we had one gun on the after deck but he wasn’t at it when we got the poke; as a matter of fact, he was in the galley with me, waiting for some hot water to do his washing with. I don’t know where he’d got in between.

The gunwale of the lifeboat had been ripped when we were hit and the gunner gashed his leg on it, getting in. Then another A.B. [Able-bodied seaman] jumped in and that was four of us. We rowed away from the Barkley so as not to get dragged under, and we saw the U-boat lying astern. I thought she was a collier, she was so big. There were seven Germans in the conning tower, all looking down at us through binoculars.

We hailed the captain and asked him to pick us up. He called us alongside and then asked us the name of our boat, the cargo she was carrying, who the owners were, where she was registered, and where she was bound to. He spoke better English than we did. We answered his questions and then asked if we could go. He told us to wait a minute while he went below and checked the name on the register. Then he came up again and said: “I can’t find her.” He went back three times altogether. Then he came back and said: “All right we’ve found her and ticked her off.” We said can we go, but there were two colliers going into Dublin and he told us to wait until they were to windward and couldn’t hear our shouts. Then he pointed out the shore lights and told us to steer for them.

The submarine slipped away and we were left alone, with hogsheads of stout bobbing all around us. The Barkley had broken and gone down very quietly. We tried to row for the Kish light vessel but it might have been America for all the way we made. We got tired and my scalded hand was hurting. We put out the sea anchor and sat there shouting all night.

(Courtesy: Guinness Archive , Diageo Ireland)

(Courtesy: Guinness Archive , Diageo Ireland)

At last, we saw a black shape coming up. She was the Donnet Head, a collier bound for Dublin. We got into Dublin about 5 AM and an official put us in the Custom House at the point of the Wall, where there was a big fire. That was welcome because we were wet through and through and I’d spent the night in my shirtsleeves. But we weren’t very pleased to be kept there three hours. Then a man came in and asked “Are you aliens?” Yes, we’re aliens from Dublin. He seemed to lose interest then, so we walked out and got back into the lifeboat and rowed it up to Custom House quay. The Guinness superintendent produced a bottle of brandy and some dry clothes and sent the gunner off to hospital to have his leg seen to. The rest of us went over to the North Star for breakfast. And later, after I’d had my arm dressed – the doctor said the salt water had done it good – the superintendent gave me a drayman’s coat to wear and put me in a cab.

I was glad to get back to Baldoyle, because I’d left my wife sick and was afraid she’d hear about the torpedoing before I could get home.”


As remembered on the Merchant Seamen memorial , Tower Hill , London.

As remembered on the Merchant Seamen memorial , Tower Hill , London.

Those who died during this attack were

1. CORRY, ALEXANDER (age 48), First Engineer from 3, Victoria Villas, Dublin. (Born at Belfast)

2. GREGORY, EDWARD (age 46), Master from 2 Meadows Lane, Arklow, Co. Wicklow, (Born at Arklow)

3. KENDALL, ARTHUR (age 40), Able Seaman from 3 Meany Place, Dalkey, Co. Dublin. (Born at Falmouth)

4. MURPHY, OWEN FRANCIS (age 28), Second Engineer from 105 South Main St., Wexford. (Born at Wexford)

5. MURPHY, THOMAS (age 29), Ships Fireman from 36, Lower Sheriff St., Dublin. (Born in Dublin).

These two letters are heartbreaking, sent by Guinness to the next of kin of Captain Gregory (of Arklow) and Owen Francis Murphy (of Wexford).

(Courtesy: Guinness Archive , Diageo Ireland)

(Courtesy: Guinness Archive , Diageo Ireland)


(Courtesy: Guinness Archive , Diageo Ireland)

(Courtesy: Guinness Archive , Diageo Ireland)

The youngest man was unmarried, the others each left behind a wife, and a total of seven children, and Arthur Kendalls wife was pregnant. A report by the Guinness Company on the loss noted that the wife of Thomas Murphy of 36 Sheriff Street was “currently dying in hospital” and “who leaves in addition two children”. According to the company – “Arrangements have been made for dealing suitably with all cases”.

 Thomas Murphy lived with his wife Mary (nee O’Rourke) at 36 Lower Sheriff Street. According to the 1911 census, at that time he was living at number 4 Leland Place with his parents Anne and John (a gas labourer), who had come from Meath and Kilkenny respectively. Thomas was already employed as a ships fireman and two of his sisters were also employed -Catherine (a factory girl), Mary Ellen (a box maker), with the remaining siblings still at school – Martin, John, Lusia and Nicholas. His older brother, Patrick (a labourer) had moved on by this time. As was unfortunately common place in Dublin, three other siblings had died. By the time of his death onboard the Barkley in 1917 his mother had already died.

 The company were of course also interested in protecting their commercial operation. In light of the loss of the WM Barkley they had written to the Transport Department of the Admirality requesting the return of another of their steamers that had been requisitioned for the war effort “to enable us to cope with the present trade conditions”.

 In a strange sequel to this tragedy, reports of casks of Guinness being discovered floating or being washed ashore continued in the following weeks.

The SS Hare, (best remembered as ‘Larkins food ship’) though never part of the Guinness fleet had regularly transported the black stuff across the Irish Sea. The Hare was torpedoed just over two months later, on the 14th December, very close to where the Barkley was targeted. 11 of it’s crew would perish. Though it was not carrying any Guinness produce at the time, in what was a very generous gesture, the company was prepared to offer financial assistance to the families of those lost when the SS Hare was destroyed. This was deemed unnecessary, as a public fund raising committee was incredibly successful.  Guinness as a company contributed to this fund, as did the coopers seperately. The fund was administered by, among others Lord Mayor Alfie Byrne and Canon Brady of St Laurence O’Tooles parish.

Wreath in memory of crew of WM Barkley

 On the 30th September 2017 a commemoration event took place to remember those lost onboard Dublin Port ships due to U-boat attacks in 1917. Family members of the crew of the SS Adela and SS Hare set out into Dublin Bay aboard the St Brigid (operated by Dublin Bay Cruises) to place wreaths in the waters their families had sailed a century before. The Guinness ship was also remembered, with Fergus Brady of the Guinness Archive representing the company.

(Courtesy: Guinness Archive / Diageo Ireland)

(Courtesy: Guinness Archive / Diageo Ireland)

A painting and model of the WM Barkley can be seen at the Guinness Storehouse.


For further information , corrections or clarifications please contact :


With thanks to Fergus Brady .

(Images courtesy Guinness Archive / Diageo Ireland , used with permission)




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