Aug 04

Dublin Docklands at War : 1914 to 1918

“The Whole world is in a state of chassis”

Dublin Port in a time of War: 1914 to 1918

 “…his Majesty’s Government declared to the German Government that a state of war exists between Great Britain and Germany as from 11 p.m. on August 4, 1914.”  With these words Ireland, as part of the United Kingdom at that time would inevitably find itself involved in the global conflict that would continue until November 1918.

The consequences for Cities and Towns across the thirty-two counties would be profound over this period, but for Dublin Docklands and the surrounding community the effects were immediate.

Much of Dublin Port was immediately seized by the military, with the North Wall extension and the Alexandra Quay taken over completely on the day war was declared. There was some easing of this militarisation over time but North Wall Extension remained under military control for the duration of the war. Quay-side sheds were converted for use by troops and built onto, and a section of the boundary wall was removed to allow the rail line to be expanded. Troops, animals, vehicles and equipment would pass through here on the way to the battlefields of France and Belgium.

Troops at Spencer Dock 1914

Just days after Britain entered the war it is reported that 50,000 people gathered on the Quays to wave goodbye to reservists heading overseas “most enthusiastic for England, singing and playing God Save the King, an unheard of thing hitherto”. Troop movement would become a two-way traffic as the injured, the maimed and horrifically scarred would soon arrive back via North Wall. This began as early as September, with the first ship carrying over 600 wounded men. An average of 400 would have been on these ships. A letter writer to the Irish Times in 1915 would ask “Cannot something be done before the next hospital ship comes to Dublin to improve the awful surface of the roadway down the North Wall? Its present condition is a disgrace to our city. The arrangements today at the ships side and at the various hospitals were admirable and worked with perfect smoothness, but the passage from the dockyard gates to Carlisle Bridge must have been an inferno for badly wounded men”.

Wounded troops arrive at North Wall

In the early years of the war, within the Docklands (as in other working-class districts) recruitment was high. The motivation for joining up was varied. These propaganda posters are clearly targeted at different potential recruits. Loyalty to the King and Great Britain was certainly a factor for some; while many Nationalist recruits would have hoped that their service would be rewarded with home rule after a British victory.  The Docklands suffered from grinding poverty, substandard housing unemployment and casual labour – joining the forces was paid well,dependents received a separation allowance and many employers could be expected to favour former soldiers,so ‘Economic conscription’ was rife.Additionally, some workers remained black-listed after the industrial dispute of 1913. There are some reports of 200 Dockers, apparently known as “The Larkinites”, who joined the 7thBattalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. The DMP claimed 2000 reservists from the ITGWU had re-joined their regiments to fight in France at the start of the war and in 1916 Transport Union organiser William Partridge stated that over 8000 had joined up nationally by March of that year.

Recruiting (2)

The earliest casualty from the Docklands we are aware of is 22-year-old William Regan; just three weeks after hostilities began, on 23rdAugust 1914. On this day, the Royal Irish Fusiliers lost 350 men at the Battle of Mons, Belgium, one of the first major engagements of the War. (Originally hailing from Cork, just over two years later his brother Thomas would die at Ypres,also serving with the Fusiliers).Many local employers enthusiastically supported the war effort. The London North Western Railway (LNWR) lost 13 staff associated with its North Wall Depot, killed in Europe.

01-Barnabas-War-memorialWhile military control and restrictions remained in place for the duration, commerce continued, and for some local industrialists, business would be booming. In 1902, the Scottish born ship builder John Smellie was part of an endeavour to reinvigorate the industry here. He established the Dublin Dockyard Company and by the outbreak of war this had developed into a major local employer. A repair contract with the Royal Navy was signed as early as September 1914. They were soon producing pontoon bridges, floating targets to train gun crews, fitting ship gun platforms, depth charges, wireless cabins, mine laying appliances, telegraph poles, among other war related work. They would eventually be repairing torpedo damaged ships following U-boat attacks.


Smellie had an ambitious plan to develop an aircraft manufacturing company here, but while he received the necessary licences he had difficulty acquiring a landing strip and abandoned this scheme. Instead he established the Dublin Dockyard War Munitions Company. Between 1915 and early 1919 the factory employed 200 women (mostly local) producing 648,150 shells during this period. Other local industries would also benefit from the conflict – such as T. &C. Martin’s, Timber Merchants, who would manufacture boxes and crates for military use.

Easter 1916, the capital itself became a war zone, and Dockland residents would get to witness the horrors of combat first hand. Much of the North Dock was placed within a military cordon, and sniper fire and deadly machine gun bursts would become a daily threat. South of the River, Boland’s Mill was one of the main rebel garrisons, and some of the most intense combat of the week took place near to Mount Street Bridge. A small number of artillery shells were fired into both Grand Canal Quay and East Wall, and some tenements on City Quay shook so much from the booming guns on the Helga that they became unstable and dangerous to inhabit. Civilian casualties were significant in Ringsend, Pearse Street and in other residential areas on each side of the Liffey. The Dublin Port and Docks harbour master himself would have a narrow escape when his driver was shot beside him.

 barricades at Townsend Street

One of the other significant consequences of the war for Ireland and the Dublin Docklands was the use of submarine warfare.   ‘Britannia Rules the Waves’ was no idle boast, and once war was declared Britain’s superior sea power was immediately put to use. A naval blockade of Germany was implemented , and by November the North Sea was declared to be a War Zone, with any ships entering doing so at their own risk. A British designation of food as ‘contraband of war’ was controversial, giving them greater opportunity to challenge merchant vessels and also signalling a clear intention to starve Germany into submission. Germany would soon respond in kind. Britain, as an Island nation was more vulnerable to such a tactic. However, they had anticipated their blockade would restrict the Kaisers fleet, and while this was the case for surface vessels, it was the aggressive deployment of U-Boats that would almost be their undoing.

-Blockade - Copy

This led to Germany formally declaring a policy of ‘unrestricted warfare’ on 4th February 1915. “Germany now declares the waters surrounding Great Britain and Ireland, including the whole of the English Channel, to be comprised within the seat of war, and will prevent by all the military means at its disposal all navigation by the enemy in those waters. To this end it will endeavour to destroy, after February 18 next, any merchant vessel of the enemy which presents themselves at the seat of war above indicated, although it may not always be possible to avert the dangers which may menace persons and merchandise” 

It was in the context of this policy that Dublin Port ships were targeted. These attacks intensified in 1917. Among the vessels lost that year was the WM Barkley, the first of the famous Guinness fleet . On the 20th October, just hours after it had set out destined for Liverpool it was  sunk with the loss of five crew members , including Thomas Murphy from number 36 Sheriff Street.

It was almost three and a half years after the declaration of war that the attacks on the SS Hare and SS Adela would occur. Of the thirty-six souls lost during that tragic Christmas season of 1917, seventeen of them came from the Dublin Dockland communities. This means that this period represents the single biggest loss of life locally during the Great War.


This article appears in “Within the seat of war …Dublin Docklands and the sinking of the SS Hare and SS Adela 1917…” published by The Adela-Hare Centenary Commemoration Committee , September 2017. Supported by Dublin City Council Decade of Commemoration Fund.

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For further information, corrections, clarifications or to obtain the book contact

Aug 04

Biggest ever wrestling show in East Wall – 10th August 2018

The grapple games

The biggest and most important Pro-wrestling show to be held in East Wall takes place next Friday 10th August @ 7pm in the Sean O’Casey Community Centre . Featured performers will include British wrestling legend Doug Williams and East Wall’s own Darren Kearney who will be defending his hard won tag team championship . Don’t miss it , in a venue which is gaining a reputation as THE home for Irish Pro-wrestling.

More Than HypeDoug WilliamsTickets available here -

Jul 25


37699778_1807217849347417_2446611636081917952_nWe’re back ! Due to circumstances beyond our control the community website was down and unavailable for the past number of days. Glad to say we’re online again , sharing all that’s great about East Wall . 

Jul 16

“The Wild Fox Cabaret” returns : July 20th 2018


Jul 03

Bank of Ireland Backyard Blitz , East Wall June 2018

Bank of Ireland Backyard Blitz for Age Action-5

The community was delighted to be part of the Bank of Ireland and Age Action #BOIBackyardBlitz on Friday 22nd & Saturday 23rd June. 450 volunteers were out helping older people tidy up their gardens including here in East Wall. Not only was their great excitement throughout the area but doesn’t it look wonderful afterwards ?

Bank of Ireland Backyard Blitz for Age Action-1

The Sean O’Casey Community Centre was very excited to welcome Dermot Bannon to the  centre on Friday 22nd June as part of the Bank of Ireland and Age Action #BOIBackyardBlitz . Dermot provided his expertise on the redesign the community centre garden!

Bank of Ireland Backyard Blitz for Age Action-4

Jul 03

East Wall Summer Festival , 14th July 2018

summer fest

Led by a  Grand Marshal  nominated by the community , who will be joined by the newly elected Lord Mayor of Dublin Mr Nial Ring .

Just a small sample of the activity’s on the day :

City Farm will be here with amazing animals to see – Exotic pets will be here, where you will be able to take photos with snakes lizards, tarantulas and much more for the brave children and adults .

Face painting with FM104.

The Girl guide are back with new games and goody’s.

Where would the children be without the bouncy castles .

Local band playing all the hits they will keep you dancing and singing . Who is this must see band ?  Name will be revealed soon …

We want everyone to join the parade this year please dress up and be proud of East Wall, put banners buntings up etc . All welcome to get involved . This is a great chance to show case your club / business etc


Jun 27

East Wall resists evictions in the 1970’s

“This is going back to the days of Adam and Eve- it just can’t happen in this day and age”

June 19th 1973

This is a story from the front page of the Evening Press, from just over 45 years ago. The story features details of an attempt to evict seventeen families from Caledon Road. The tenants, some whose families had lived there 60 years had vowed to resist the threats, and a meeting at the Play Centre on Russell Avenue was announced.

Press front page 01

 Press front page 02

An article in the same edition featured the warning that mass evictions were expected in the city but would be resisted.

“We will fight the evictions. There will be no surrender. We want everybody to sit tight and close ranks together”.

June 19th 1973 P.3

And a few years later, in August of 1979, other families facing eviction successfully occupied the Mansion House under they were rehoused by Dublin Corporation.


If you have any information on these stories, the people involved or the outcome of the events please get in touch, we would love to know more.

East Wall eviction scene 1913 (Image: East Wall History Group)

East Wall eviction scene 1913 (Image: East Wall History Group)

East Wall was the location of what we believe to be the largest single eviction in the history of Dublin City. In December of 1913, during the great lockout sixty two workers and their families (up to 300 people) were evicted from company owned houses on Merchants Road. The centenary of this was remembered in 2013 by the community when a plaque and mural were unveiled by descendants of some of those evicted.


Thanks to Karl Larkin (Wilde Vintage Dublin) drawing our attention to and providing an original copy of the Evening Press from 1973.

Thanks to Alan MacSimóin  (Irish Anarchist Historical Archive) for the 1979 article.

Jun 16

Refusing to fight in World War I: Resistance to military conscription in First World War Britain and Ireland.

Poster for Conscientious Objectors talk
We are familiar with how Irish people responded to the threat of conscription during the First World War , with a mass campaign of resistance which prevented it’s introduction here. This event will look in detail at how the same threat was faced in Britain , by individuals and organisations who showed great courage in resisting, while faced not just with propaganda , harassment and violence , but also the legal threat of imprisonment and even the death penalty.

Come and hear two excellent speakers, who will also talk about the ‘underground railway’ to Ireland and the Irish anti-conscription movement.


“Resistance to Military Conscription in First World War Britain: The Case of the Conscientious Objectors”

This talk by Lois S. Bibbings will give an overview of the legal regime which oversaw volunteerism and conscription. It will look at conventional ideas about objectors alongside an exploration of who these men (and women) were, what they did and why, what happened to them and how they were viewed. A complex picture emerges which takes us a long way from stereotypical images of objectors as simply, for example, despised, rejected, unmanly, lacking courage and/or devotedly religious.


‘On the run –and the matter of Ireland’

This talk by Cyril Pearce will explore a largely ignored aspect of anti military resistance.From the introduction of conscription in 1916 to the end of the war each year at least 80,000 men were reported missing as deserters or absentees from the British army’s home forces. Among them was an unquantifiable number of men who identified themselves as Conscientious Objectors. Some of their stories involved Ireland as a Conscription-free place of refuge. They also involved collaboration with Irish rebels in obtaining passage to America. Their stories of temporary or permanent escape are a part of the history of Britain’s 1914-18 war resisters which has been largely ignored.



Details of speakers -

(Lois S. Bibbings is Professor of Law, Gender and History at the University of Bristol. She began research WW1 conscientious objectors in Britain nearly 30 years ago. She has delivered numerous talks as well as writing articles and a book Telling Tales about Men: Conceptions of Conscientious Objectors to Military Service During the First World War (MUP, 2009) on the subject. She is one of the curators of the ‘Refusing to Kill: Bristol’s World War 1 Conscientious Objectors’ exhibition (which moves to Bristol Records Office in the summer) and a member of Remembering the Real WW1 ( She is also helping to put together a national WW1 festival in 2019, Commemoration, Conflict and Conscience, which focuses on telling lesser known and hidden stories of the war, including a focus on conscientious objection, war resistance, mutinies, strikes, military executions, women’s roles, commonwealth experiences, views from outside the UK as well as looking at commemoration, remembrance and reflecting on what has happened in the intervening 100 years (

(Cyril Pearce is an Honorary Research Fellow in the School of History,University of Leeds. His current research interest is British war resisters in World War 1. His book, Comrades in Conscience: The story of an English community’s opposition to the Great War (First published 2001, new edition, 2014) was based or the study of the anti-war movement in his home town of Huddersfield. The search for other places like Huddersfield is what has driven his last twenty years work. A central part of that work has been the compilation of the Pearce Register of British Conscientious Objectors, a database of more than 19,000 COs which is currently on-line as part of the Imperial War Museum’s ‘Lives of the First World War’ project. A new book with the working title Communities of Resistance : Patterns of Dissent in Britain, 1914 – 1918, is in preparation.)





This event is part of a co-operative project between the East Wall History Group , the Stoneybatter & Smithfield Peoples History Project and the Bristol Radical History Group .

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Supported by Dublin City Council Decade of Commemorations Fund for Communities .

Jun 12

“Love Liberty – Hate Slavery”: Dublin’s abolition movement in the 19th century

“Tell every man that you do not understand liberty for the white man, and slavery for the black man; that you are for liberty for all, of every color , creed and country”

Richard Allen , Dublin abolitionist

Richard Allen , Dublin abolitionist

Richard Allen was born in 1803 at Harold’s Cross, which was then a rural area of Dublin. The family were part of the Society of Friends (Quakers) community in the City. His father, Edward Allen was a successful Linen merchant, and as part of his charitable and philanthropic works (as often associated with Quakers) he was a founder of the Fever Hospital in Cork Street. Edward and Ellen Allen lived at James Street and afterwards at Bridge Street. The property at Harold’s Cross was their summer residence, this being largely countryside at the time. They had a total of 15 children, with Richard being the second.

 Like most his sisters and brothers he was educated privately by a tutor, and aged 17 he became involved with the family business. In 1928 he married Anne Webb, a member of another successful Quaker business dynasty. He developed his own business, and operated from premises on Sackville Street and also Patricks Street in Cork. The building on Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) was destroyed in the fires that devastated the thoroughfare during the 1916 Rising.

Amongst his friends and wider circle of associates he would include Frederick Douglass, the American publisher William Lloyd Garrison, the temperance campaigner Father Theobald Mathew, the Dublin-born philanthropist Dr Barnardo, and the poet and balladeer Thomas Moore.

Birthplace of Richard Allen , Harold's Cross , Dublin

Birthplace of Richard Allen , Harold’s Cross , Dublin

Richard Allen’s commitment to social reform saw him embrace the temperance movement, a campaign for prison reform and abolition of the death penalty, and most significantly the anti slavery cause. In 1836, alongside two fellow successful Quaker businessmen Richard D. Webb (printer & publisher) and John Haughton (corn merchant) he founded the Hibernian Anti Slavery Society. Haughton was chairman while Allen became its secretary.

The Society was considered by its contemporaries as “the most ardent in Europe in its antislavery efforts and activities.”  One of the chief goals of the Society was to “put an end to the unholy alliance between Irishmen and slaveholders in America.”

Emancipation logo from 1860's

Emancipation logo from 1860′s

 The Dublin Ladies’ Association, auxiliary to the Hibernian Anti-slavery Society was also established. As one modern writer commented:

 “…the Ladies Associations existed as independent auxiliary bodies to the Hibernian Anti-Slavery Society, holding their own meetings, organizing fund-raisers, liaising with the female wing of the American society and perhaps most importantly producing their own texts.”

 One of the most significant acts of the society was the production of a declaration calling on the Irish in America to “UNITE WITH THE ABOLITIONISTS.”

In 1840 Allen and Webb were among the attendees of the World Anti Slavery Convention in London, the first of its kind ever held. It was an event immortalised in a painting by Benjamin Robert Haydon. Incredibly detailed, Richard Allen, Richard Webb and Daniel O’Connell can be identified clearly in this historic work of art, now on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Anti Slavery Convention

There were approximately 600 delegates present, with 17 from Ireland, representing Dublin, Cork and Belfast. Those present “included 20 members of the British Parliament, 100 clergymen of all denominations, and deputations from France, Spain, Switzerland, Canada and the United States and West Indies.”

The Dublin published newspaper The Freemans Journal reported the assembly as including “ the sooty African, the swarthy coloured man, the intrepid American abolitionist, the indefatigable West India missionary , accompanied by two newly-emancipated negroes, whose language, whose deportment, whose bearing show that they value liberty, and that they thirst to extend to others what they themselves received.”

 The convention was not without some controversy, after a row broke out over whether women could be admitted as full delegates, which led to a series of splits in the ranks. This was not unusual, as within the broader abolitionist movement some sections were seen as too radical due to their promotion of women’s equality, women’s suffrage and workers rights. The Hibernian Anti Slavery Society adopted the more progressive position that women should be admitted. The convention opted not to act contrary to ‘English custom’ and women could only observe from a designated gallery. This was despite a number travelling a far distance to participate. This outcome was criticised by James Mott, a leading U.S. abolitionist (and Quaker) whose wife had also come to London:

“One of the first acts of a Convention , assembled for promoting the cause of liberty and freedom universally, was a vote, the spirit and object of which was a determination that the chains should not be broken, with which an oppressive custom has so bound the mind of women”.

Daniel O’Connell was widely regarded as one of the most impressive figures in attendance, and after he spoke a New York State abolitionist, James Canning Fuller appealed passionately to him as he believed he “…could do more to pull down slavery in America than any other individual. To the Americans, there was a particular charm about Mr O’Connell’s name, and his influence in that country was greater than that of the whole convention. If Mr O’Connell would issue an address to his countrymen in America the effect would be felt throughout the length and breadth of the land”.

Address from Ireland

The Hibernian Anti Slavery Society undertook this task and did issue such an appeal, with Daniel O’Connell the first of the sixty thousand signatures gathered in support. There was great enthusiasm shown for the pledge, as one contemporary report illustrates:

“A young lad, about thirteen, had been most indefatigable in collecting signatures. I heard the other day, he was going from house to house in the more genteel neighbourhoods, rapping at hall doors. . . the other day he came for five sheets more. He told me he was going to school the next week, and that before he left, he must do all he could to liberate the slaves.”

The ‘Address from the People of Ireland To Their Countrymen and Countrywomen in America’ was written by James Haughton, Richard Allen and Richard Davis Webb and was immediately endorsed by O’Connell. He used the membership of his Repeal Association, (dedicated to the repeal of the Union between Britain and Ireland), to gather a reported 60,000 supporting signatures. The ‘Address’ was brought to America by the black abolitionist Charles Lenox Remond (following a tour of Ireland), where abolitionists led by William Lloyd Garrison orchestrated its public reading in Boston. The Address explicitly condemned American slavery and called on all the Irish in America to ‘treat the colored people as your equals, as brethren’. Irish immigrants were also ordered ‘TO UNITE WITH THE ABOLITIONISTS’ and that ‘Slavery is a sin against God and man. All who are not for it must be against it. None can be neutral.’

Letter 1842

Disappointingly, the address did not have the desired effect. Two decades later, in a letter to Richard Allen, a leading American abolitionist lamented:

 It is horrible to think that so large a mass of your countrymen, who have known what it is to suffer from oppression, and who have torn themselves away from their native shores, in order to find freedom in this land of boasted liberty, should be enlisted in support of the most horrible system of slavery that the earth has ever known.”

 In 1845 the Hibernian Anti Slavery Society was responsible for the visit of the great abolitionist, escaped slave and author Frederick Douglass to Irish shores. Accepting their invitation, he conducted a lecture tour, which in his own words took him from “the hill of ‘Howth’ to the Giant’s Causeway and from the Giant’s Causeway to Cape Clear.” In Dublin he spoke alongside Daniel O’Connell at Conciliation Hall on Burgh Quay, and afterwards was received by the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House. He would go on to speak in Waterford, Belfast, Limerick and Wexford before travelling across the Irish sea to Britain.

Conciliation Hall , Burgh Quay

Conciliation Hall , Burgh Quay

“The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” had been published in Boston earlier that year, and while in Dublin a British Isles edition was organised, published by Richard Webb. This sold out almost immediately on the tour, and a second print run of 2,000 was arranged, published in 1846. This was significant as it included a new preface and appendix that had not appeared in the original. Webb, in addition to this re-publication took the lead role in organising and scheduling the lecture tour in Ireland and afterwards wrote to O’Connell to stress how important Douglass was to highlighting the cause in the country, as he had “occasioned deep interest in the anti-slavery cause, and many who never thought on the subject at all, are now convinced that it is a sin to neglect” 

Remembered at City Hall , Waterford

Remembered at City Hall , Waterford (Photo: William Murphy)

The three main stays of the society were also involved in other campaigning issues. And the society itself was not only concerned about American slavery. They had campaigned against the use of ‘apprentices’ in the British colonies and after the system was abolished they challenges the use of imported Irish labourers and Chinese ‘coolies’ in the West Indies. Throughout the 1840’s the society met in Dublin at the Committee Rooms on Anglesea Street and also the Royal Exchange (now City Hall). The Famine and Great Hunger from 1845 took up the time of these civic minded members and it appears the activity of the group dwindled somewhat. They did raise the controversial issue of the morality of those who profited from the slave trade providing aid during these years. By 1847 it seems the society did not exist in any meaningful manner, though the individuals did continue to be active in abolitionist organisations until the conclusion of the American Civil War.

 Richard D. Webb (Image : Friends Historical Library)

Richard D. Webb (Image : Friends Historical Library)

Richard Davis Webb died in 1872.

John Haughton died in 1873.

Richard Allen died in 1886.

(The Harold’s Cross house where Richard Allen was born still stands today, though it is currently derelict. It appears on the famous Rocque’s maps of 1756 and 1760, and some local residents have raised concerns that the building should be preserved)

The Sarah Lundberg Summer School 2018 will address many of the issues relating to the transatlantic slave trade and how Ireland reacted. See poster below, this is a free event and all are welcome.

Belfast Boston Bristol (1)

For clarification , corrections or further information contact:


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Supported by Dublin City Council Decade of Commemorations Fund for Communities .

Jun 12

BACKYARD BLITZ – Free gardening service for over 65′s (June 2018)

D8562 BOI Backyard Blitz Flyer May 2018 East Wall_final_Page_1 D8562 BOI Backyard Blitz Flyer May 2018 East Wall_final_Page_2_1

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