Jul 18

Sarah Lundberg Summer School 2020 presents …

Jul 13

“May your song always be sung” : Sarah Lundberg Summer School 2020

The Sarah Lundberg Summer School 2020 will be an online event , due to COVID-19 restrictions. Each year we remember our friend Sarah (who sadly took her own life in 2014) , when we celebrate her inspirational spirit with an afternoon of talks or performances based on subjects that would have resonated with her and reflect her many interests .

This is the sixth such event . We will also be remembering out friend Alan MacSimoin , who passed away in December of 2018 . Alan was one of the organizers of and a contributor to  previous summer schools.

105683142_3062627390473117_5319781788746306078_nThese individual contributions will be broadcast on Youtube , East Wall History Group Facebook and on the East Wall For All website . Here is the full schedule of presentations , with most running for between 15 to 25 minutes. Please join us on Saturday , and we hope you find something to enjoy :


12.00pm: “One step behind”.

12.10pm: “To the East…”

12.30 pm: “Socialist Whodunnits: activism and writing crime fiction in Cork”.

1.15pm: “The Truth about Writing.”

2.00 pm: “The next five minutes: Science Fiction, the future and the present.”

2.45pm: “John Charles McQuaid made me a Socialist”

3.15pm: ‘”The Making of a Community Garden – the story of Mud Island”

4.00pm: “May your song always be sung”.

4.30 pm: “From across the broad Atlantic”

5.00 pm:  “Musical Differences”

5.30pm: “There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears…”






12.00pm: “One step behind”.

Paul O’Brien will open this year’s event performing his own beautiful song “One step behind”. A poignant memory of those who have gone before us but are still very much with us.


12.10pm: “To the East…”

Our first presentation is written and performed by Roxanna Nic Liam .

Roxanna Nic Liam
Roxanna Nic Liam

Roxanna is a poet, writer and actor from Dublin. She has performed her poetry at many different festivals including The London Irish Centre, Doolin Writers Festival, Body and Soul, All Together Now and Electric Picnic. Her poem ‘The Bubble’ was recently made into a short film directed by Dave Tynan and won best poetry film at the Doolin Writers Festival. She has performed with many Irish theatre companies including The Abbey Theatre, Druid, Brokentalkers, THEATRE club and AXIS Ballymun. She has also worked in the UK with many companies, including the National Theatre in London. She is a trained drama facilitator.


12.30 pm: “Socialist Whodunnits: activism and writing crime fiction in Cork”.


Kevin Doyle is the author of two contemporary crime novels set in his native Cork, with the final part of the Solidarity Trilogy due next year. His writing is a blend of traditional crime fiction and social commentary, very much located in a real time and place and shaped by his own experiences as a political activist.

In this presentation, Kevin will describe how his years of activism and his knowledge of his home county contributed to his writing, creating a sense of realism, with recognizable characters and a storyline which could be tomorrows headlines.


1.15pm: “The Truth about Writing.”


“Not a whodunnit, this is a how-I-dunnit “.

Derek Farrell is a Dublin Born Crime Fiction Author.

His five Danny Bird Novels have been described, by Neil Broadfoot, as having “Heart, humour and enough twists to give you whiplash,” by Chris McCrudden as “Like M.C. Beaton on MDMA,” and – by no less an expert than Monty Python’s Eric Idle – as “Quite Fun.”

He lives and works in West Sussex.


2.00 pm: “The next five minutes: Science Fiction, the future and the present”


Ciarán Swan takes us on an exploration of science fiction, personal activism and concepts of progress.

Ciarán works full-time in the area of political imagery in the Oireachtas, has a doctorate in visual and national identity on the island of Ireland and has lectured widely at third level in the areas of visual and material culture. He’s a member of the Curatorial Committee of the National Print Museum. He has also designed many of posters, flyers and newsletters for the East Wall History Group.

2.45pm: “John Charles McQuaid made me a Socialist”


In this short talk, Dr. Mary Muldowney will describe how her teenage years in the late 1960s and early 1970s were affected by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, as Dublin’s representative of the Irish Catholic Church. McQuaid’s powerful influence on successive Irish governments prompted Mary to question both the role of Catholicism in the Irish state and her own values as she was growing up. The belief in Socialism which answered her questions has stayed with her and prompted her involvement in community, pro-choice and trade union activism in a broad range of campaigns.

Mary is currently Dublin City Council Historian in Residence for Dublin Central, working particularly to promote ‘history from below’.

3.15pm: ‘”The Making of a Community Garden – the story of Mud Island”


It is one of the great local success stories, as much about community as it is about gardening, and we are delighted to have guests from this award-winning project participate in the Sarah Lundberg Summer School 2020.

This short-illustrated talk will cover the history of the garden, its development over the past eight years and the social as well as environmental role it plays in the area.

4.00pm: “May your song always be sung”.

Sarah loved music, was passionate about creativity and was committed to providing opportunities for artists to find a platform and develop their talents. This is a very important part of today’s event, as several talented young people will be performing songs  they have selected themselves.

Ghaliah Conroy was born in East Wall and having spent most of her childhood there is now studying dance and choreography in the Netherlands. Ghaliah is also a singer and has performed with a variety of different artists such as Soule and Gemma Bradley.

Tadhg Conroy (TYG) is an up and coming singer songwriter, his current single ‘Search for Freedom’ can be listened to on Spotify. His new single will be released on the 27th of July.

Daniel Wigglesworth is a singer-songwriter. He plays the guitar and sings, taking his influences from a wide range of rock and folk. On top of the solo projects, he sings for a rock band too, enjoying the opportunity to explore different styles and techniques within music.

Rebecca Duff is a 23-year-old graduate from the drama and performance bachelors’ course with TU Dublin. Rebecca has lived in East Wall for her whole life, and recently took part in the RTÉ documentary ‘O Casey in the estate’ as Nora Clitheroe. Rebecca also sings at wedding ceremony’s and funerals.

We know you will enjoy the incredible talent on display here, and please support these artists – buy their music, attend their shows , book them . They are the future.

Zeztra are sisters, Avril and Lorna from East Wall. They are a singing and songwriter duo with powerful unique harmonies. After a chance opportunity to open for Maverick Sabre at The Academy in Dublin, they continue to write release and perform their own material.

Rebecca Duff
Rebecca Duff
Dan Wigglesworth
Dan Wigglesworth
Tadgh Conroy (TYG)
Tadgh Conroy (TYG)
Ghaliah Conroy
Ghaliah Conroy

4.30 pm: “From across the broad Atlantic”


We are delighted to have Maria Deasy , President of Irish American Writers & Artists (IAWA) join us with a solidarity greeting and she will briefly describe the organisations goals and their links with todays event.

Maria will introduce Alice Dunne and Niamh Ryan, two Dublin born actors who first met in New York appearing separately at an IAW&A event. They will perform two short but topical lockdown themed pieces, one written by Niamh and the other by NY based Sheila Walsh.


Maria Deasy is President of Irish American Writers & Artists. She is a New York-based actress, who has appeared Off-Broadway and in several films and television shows. Maria won the Bairbre Dowling Spirit of the Festival Award at Origin Theatre’s 2019 1st Irish Festival for her work as a Producer of Derek Murphy’s Inside Danny’s Box. She also received a Best Actress nomination for that production. At the 2018 1st Irish Festival, Maria starred in Dyin’ For It, also by Derek Murphy, for which she received Best Production and Best Actress nominations. She is the author of the play Mine, about the connection between the coal mining industry and the New York finance world, which she produced at The Broadway Bound Theatre Festival in 2017. Education: Brown University. While her parents harken from beautiful County Mayo, Maria is both a native New Yorker and a Jersey Girl. www.mariadeasy.com


Niamh Ryan is an award-winning writer, actor and producer. Her plays have been performed in New York, Connecticut, Dublin, Galway and North Carolina. She is founding member of theatre company Cáca Dána. She received a BA in Drama, Theatre and Performance from the National University of Ireland Galway. She also trained at The School of Visual Art New York and The Acting Studio New York. She has enjoyed and thrived from her experiences at IAWA both at home and abroad and found lasting friendships in it’s caring members.


Alice Dunne is a student midwife who uses her spare time to act and dance. She began performing at a young age with East Wall’s PEG Drama and Variety Group, where she has preformed in many plays and pantomimes. She attended the National Performing Arts School for 10 years and currently teaches musical theatre there. Alice completed a year of full time dance training at Inchicore College of Further Education. She has had the opportunity to perform in James Plunkett’s ‘The Risen People’ (Sean O’Casey Theatre) Peter Sheridan’s ‘Children of Eve’ (Sean O’Casey Theatre), John Kearns’ ‘Sons of Molly Maguire’ (Liberty Hall) and most recently appeared as Mollser Gogan in Shinawills / RTÉ’s O’Casey in the Estate, which was set for the Abbey Stage. While spending a Summer in New York, Alice became involved with the IAWA, where had the opportunity to perform and make some amazing friends.


5.00 pm:  “Musical Differences”


A brief exploration of the role of song and music in the history of the international workers movement and the forging of a sense of class identity and solidarity. Two songs will serve as examples for the narrative and will be sung by the narrator.

Paul Bowman is an international anarchist activist currently living in Dublin and active in community and workplace organising as well as the occasional musical forays.


5.30pm: “There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears…”


Just as we opened with an appropriate song, we will finish with one. We never forget our friends, colleagues and family who have gone before us, and we try to move past the sadness and remember these people and why they were important to us. 2020 has been a strange and difficult year with hard times experienced by many. But we look to the future, and hopefully there are better days ahead.

A song that is almost 180 years old, performed here by Black 47.

Used with permission, with gratitude to Larry Kirwan.



 Thanks to all the contributors who joined us for this event , and took the time record their performance or deliver presentations .


 Remembering Sarah and Alan.


Any comments or messages please contact : eastwallhistory@gmail.com

Jun 14

“Kick over the statues” – the rise and fall of Edward Colston


(Illustration : Banksy)

Bristol-born Edward Colston (1636-1721) was a leading profiteer and organiser of the English slave trade in the late seventeenth Century. Predicated upon his philanthropy, during the Victorian era, Colston was reinvented by Bristol’s business elite as a ‘merchant prince’ and ‘moral saint’ effectively becoming the City’s father. 

The Countering Colston (CC) campaign was launched in 2015 to challenge these perceptions, uncover his real history and to oppose the celebration, commemoration and memorialisation of Edward Colston. Since then, many dominos have fallen, including his statue a few days ago.

Roger Ball of CC will briefly outline the history of the campaign and the questions it raised about who should and should not be celebrated in Bristol’s memorial landscape.

Join us for the latest presentation in our on-line series “Short stories and Tall tales”

Thursday 18th June @ 8pm 

ZOOM invitation :


Guest Speaker: Roger Ball of Bristol Radical History Group and Countering-Colston .

He is also the author of several books on aspects of Bristol history . His most recent publication , co-authored with Mark Steeds is “From Wulfstan to Colston -Severing the sinews of slavery in Bristol”.

Roger and Mark were guest speakers at the Sarah Lundberg Summer School 2018 at the Sean O’Casey Theatre.


Jun 14

“Matt Talbot, James Joyce, and a very different Pint of Plain.”


Take a walk on the Joyceside of Dublin’s Docklands in a pre-Bloomsday contemplation of two iconic Dubs.

They both have their own statue, they both have bridges named after them , and both men had a deep understanding and experience of the darker side of Docklands culture .

Hugo McGuinness will deliver a 15 minute presentation followed by questions and disussion.

Join us for the second in our on-line series “Short stories and Tall tales” , a special one to mark the evening before Bloomsday .

Monday 15th June @ 8pm 

ZOOM invitation:


Jun 01

“The 1832 cholera pandemic in the North Inner City” – online event

“Bodies , the Bishop , and Molotov cocktails :The 1832 cholera pandemic in North Inner City”.


Illness , death , social-distancing , lockdown and fake news – we’ve been here before !

Join the East Wall History Group on Thursday 4th June @ 8pm for our first ever on-line event , when Hugo McGuinness will tell the story of the 1832 cholera outbreak , including where it originated , how it spread and how was it tackled .

Fifteen minute presentation followed by opportunity for questions and discussion .

This is the first in a series of on-line series “Short stories and Tall tales” .

ZOOM invitation : https://dcu-ie.zoom.us/j/92546557020

Apr 24

“A RARE TIME FOR DEATH…” – Sean O’Casey and the Easter Rising

Watercolour of Irish Volunteer uniform by Sean O’Casey

Watercolour of Irish Volunteer uniform by Sean O’Casey

O’Casey was not just one of Irelands greatest playwrights, he also wrote a large amount of other material, including six volumes of autobiography. In these edited extracts, we look at his own experiences during Easter week 1916. Despite his earlier involvement with many of the revolutionary movements in the city,  O’Casey was a non-combatant in the Rising .His account is very much from a civilian’s perspective, and is a unique record of events locally, not recounted in such detail elsewhere.  We begin on Monday afternoon (24th April 1916) , as a quiet Dublin City suddenly changes -

 GPO Easter 1916

O’Connell Street, Spencer Dock and Abercorn Road

“Down the centre of O’Connell Street, silent but for the tramp of their feet, came hundreds of armed Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army, led by Pearse, Connolly and Tom Clarke, to halt, wheel and face the General Post Office.

There go the go-boys! Muttered an old man, half to himself and half to an elderly, thin lady beside him who had stopped to help him stare at the volunteers. Well, Mac Neill put a stop to their gallop! What th’ hell are th’ up to now? They seem to be bent on disturbin’ th’ whoremony of the sacred day. Goin’ in, eh? Wha’ for, I wondher? Can’t be wantin’ postage stamps. Can’t be to get th’ right time, for there’s a clock in th’ window. What’r they doin, ma’am? I dunno. Somethin’ brewin’? Ma’am, there’s always somethin’ brewin’. I’m seventy, an’ I’ve never known an hour that I didn’t hear tell of somethin’ brewin’. Be God, they’re takin’ th’ clock outa th’ window! That’s odd, now. Looka, they’re smashin’ out th’ windows with their rifles! There’s a shower o’ glass – right over th’ passers-by! That’s goin’ beyond th’ beyond. Tha’s, tha’s just hooliganism. We betther be gettin’ outa here – th’ police’ll be here any minute! Didn’ I tell you before, ma’am, I dunno! They’re shovin’ out the Post Office workers; pointin’ their guns at them. We betther be getting’ outa here while we’re safe. Houl’ on a second – here’s someone out to read a paper. What’s he sayin’? I dunno. How th’ hell can you expect a fella to hear from here? Oh! Pushin’ th’ people off th’ streets, now. Eh? G’ on home, is it? An’ who are you t’ ordher me about? Takin’ over th’ city? D’ye tell me that? Well, you’re not goin’ to take over me! I’m a peaceful man out on a peaceful sthroll on a peace-ful day, an’ I stand be me constitutional rights. Gun-fire here soon? Arrah, from where? From where, ma’am? I dunno, I’m tellin’ you! He says he’s speakin’ in th’ name of th’ Irish Republic, so now you’re as wise as I am meself. Th’ police’ll soon explain matthers. Don’t be talkin’, looka what’s comin’ up O’Connell Street! A company o’ throttin’ lancers – full regalia with carbines, lances, an’ all! Comin’ to clear th’ Post Office. Don’t be pushin’ me ribs in, ma’am! Hear th’ jingle of them! This looks like busi-ness. Here we see, ma’am, the Irish Republic endin’ quicker’n  it began. Jasus, Mary, an’ Joseph! th’ fools are firin’ on them! Here get outa th’ way, ma’am, an’ let a man move! Near knocked you down? Why th’ hell are you clingin’ on me tail for, then? Didn’ I tell you hours ago that it was dangerous dawdlin’ here? D’ye hear that volley! Looka th’ police runnin’ for their lives! Here, let’s get outa this; we’ve dilly-dallied too long where we’ve no real business to be! “

"A company o’ throttin’ lancers ..."

“A company o’ throttin’ lancers …”

“When the shooting seemed to have got less, Sean slid cautiously out of his shelter and, keeping close to the walls of the shop and house, made his way home. Darkness had fallen, and his near-sighted eyes could see but a few feet in front of them.  Coming to the bridge across the canal at Spencer Dock, his semi-consciousness heard a calm, tired voice say somewhere, Halt! Who goes there? A few steps farther, and the voice, tired no longer, terse and threatening, said again, Who goes there? In the hesitating shock of seeing nothing, he managed to say, Friend, and a moment after, passed by the dim form of a soldier with the rifle at the ready, who passed him by with the advice of, Answer quicker, next time friend. A narrow squeak, that! A few seconds more of hesitation and he’d have been high among the stars. Watch your steps, Sean. A little farther on, his breast almost touched a bayonet as another voice said, Who goes there? Murmuring, Friend, the bayonet was lowered, and a soldier’s voice said, Pass on, friend. They were dotted along the road up to the corner of the street that held his home. Pouring in by the North Wall, and no one here to stop them. Poor ould Ireland!

Spencer Dock (with St Laurence O'Tooles Church in background)

Spencer Dock (with St Laurence O’Tooles Church in background)

He halted at the doorway thrust through with the knowledge that it was dangerous for him to be abroad at night. His eyes were blank in the darkness. He thought of the things that had happened, and wondered how it would all end.  It was a deserted city now, but for those who fought each other. The pubs had emptied, the trams has jingled back to their sheds, the shops were shut.  Lansdowne Road, Rathmines, and Rathgar gathered up their fine clothes and ran home; the janitors of the Bank of Ireland came rushing out to slam-to the great iron gates with a clang, turning the thick lips of the lock with hurried hands, and the sentries rushed into the guardroom; those coming home from Fairyhouse had been stopped by British barricades, and choruses of How th’ hell am I goin’ to get home ascended to God and His blessed saints. And Sean, standing in the doorway of his house, gazed back towards the centre of the city and saw a great plume of flame rising high into the sky: the first passion flower had blossomed.”

Bell-tower of St Barnabas Church , as seen from the O'Casey house

Bell-tower of St Barnabas Church , as seen from the O’Casey house

Saint Barnabas Church , Snipers , and Soldiers.

“Sean was behind his mother when she gawked out of the window in the back room, seeking to see something of what was happening.

-There’s some soldiers in th’ church tower, she said, the last word blending with a cracking roar, while the two of them staggered about the room, choked and blinded from a cloud of powered mortar thick as white thundercloud.

-I’m shot, Jack she whimpered; but feeling her all over, he found she wasn’t; and he hurried her into the other room where she lay down, panting, on the old horsehair sofa. He gave her a drink of water, then coaxed her down to a neighbour below who set about making a cup of tea for her. As he was going back to see what had happened, a number of soldiers, in charge of an officer and sergeant, came in and went upstairs with him, leaving two men to guard the outside door. The officer stood beside Sean, a revolver in his hand, while the sergeant searched the back room. After some time, the sergeant came out and whispered to the officer.

-Come downstairs with me, said the officer to Sean.

They placed him stiff against the wall of the house, outside, while the sergeant searched him, taking off his old boots to have a look inside, a soldier kneeling on one knee before him, butt of rifle to the knee, the bayonet but a foot away from Sean’s chest. They were searching for an automatic, they told him, and he wondered how one could fit into either of his boots.  A violent explosion in the wasteland beyond the wall bordering the railway sent a storm of stones, tufts of grass, and bunches of poppies sky-high, showers of them falling around Sean and his searchers. Another, and then, a second later, a vicious ping on the wall beside him, sent Sean word that some sniper was having a shot at the soldiers around him.  The officer slid down the street into a shop, and the soldiers, bending low, followed him, leaving Sean stretched out against the wall, alone, watched by neighbours who were peeping from their doorways in the houses lower down the street.  He took his outstretched arms from the wall, turned in, and mounted the stairs to his home. While by the wall, he had felt that his end was near, and had had a stiff time trying to hold on to his pride and dignity. Now he was shaking, and tense with fright. Either the badly-aimed shells fired from the gunboat Helga or the sniper’s bullet may have saved his life. For a long time he had tried to keep out of danger, and as often had found himself in the thick of it. Three times, at work, he had had narrow escapes: once when a bucket had been whipped from a swinging hand by a train passing by at fifty miles an hour; once when a scaffold had collapsed, and he had come down with it, escaping with a bad shock and many sore bruises; and once on a high roof, cleaning glass, a fellow worker, in a hurry to show the foreman how alert he was, stepped on a plank, leading over the glass, before him; the plank had snapped, the glass had given way, and the poor devil had fallen forty or fifty feet, to be smashed to pieces on a concrete floor below. And today, he and his mother had had a stream of machine-gun bullets sweeping between their two heads, making a hash of the wall behind them. How often during the riots of drunken policemen had he escaped a batoning? More often than he wished to remember. He didn’t like this sort of thing at all. As he grew in grace and wisdom, he was growing less and less of a hero. Like the fine and upright Alderman Tom Kelly, he wanted to die in bed surrounded by medicine bottles.

"Dodging bullets in Dublin..." - sketch by Sean O'Casey

“Dodging bullets in Dublin…” – sketch by Sean O’Casey

Good God! Looka th’ mess the back room was in! The one old palliasse they had had been ripped open with a bayonet, and the dirty feathers had been scattered about. Their one mattress, too, had been torn the same way, and the straw, mixed with the feathers, littered the floor. And all this on top of his aching, trembling legs, and oozing neck. Had he been made of less sterner stuff, he’d have sat on the edge of the ruined bed to weep. But he must sway his thought away from an inclination to tears to hard resistance, and an icy acceptance of what was beyond his power to avoid.

He lighted some sticks, put some water into a small saucepan, and made himself a cup of tea. In the old dresser he found a small lump of loaf, and cut himself a slice; no more, for the neighbours might send back his mother any minute and she’s need her share. But he ate all the bread there. For he wanted all he could get to modify with new strength the energy lost through his oozing neck, his aching legs, and troubled mind. He was sipping the tea, when in came a sergeant and two Tommies, and his heart sank again.

-Ere, you, said the sergeant, motioning towards the Tommies, go with ‘em; the church; ‘urry! Why? Never mind the why. They ‘as their orders – that’s enough for you.

-Whose orders – the Lord Lieutant’s?

- Naw! Company officer’s. ‘Urry!

Sean sighed, and slipped a volume of Keats into a pocket, put on his cap, and went with them to the church. In the porch a young officer sat by a small table, a notebook before him, a pencil in hand. Name? Address? Age? Occupation? Sean saw the officer bend a searching look at him when he said, Unemployed. Another search. What’s this, eh? Oh, a book! Poetry – harmless enough. Why don’t you join the Army? No interest in armies – not even the Salvation Army. Civil answers, my man, will serve you better. Into the church with him.

Soldiers were asleep, asprawl, in the bapistry; others snored lying on the tiles of the chancel; and an armed sentry stood at the east end and west end of the church. Piles of haversacks, belts, boots, and rifles were heaped on, and around, the Communion Table. But two other prisoners were there, each widely separated from the other. It was strange to be this way in a church where he had so often sat as a worshipper, in which he found his first genuine, educated friend – the Rector. How angry he would be if he knew the soldiers were making themselves at home in the House of God! Do This in Remembrance of Me were words forming a semicircle above the Holy Table.

That whole evening, and throughout the night, he sat wearily on the hard bench, finding out that things even of beauty weren’t joys for ever.”


A prisoner in ‘the Merchants’

“The next evening, all the lusty men of the locality were marshalled, about a hundred of them, Sean joining in, and were marched under guard (anyone trying to bolt was to be shot dead) down a desolate road to a great granary. Into the dreary building they filed, one by one; up a long flight of dark stone steps, to a narrow doorway, where each, as he came forward, was told to jump through into the darkness and take a chance of what was at the bottom.  Sean dropped through, finding that he landed many feet below on a great heap of maize that sent up a cloud of fine dust, near choking him. When his eyes got accustomed to it, he saw a narrow beam of light trickling in through some badly shuttered windows, and realized he was in a huge grain store, the maize never less than five feet deep so that it was a burden to walk from one spot to another, for each leg sank down to the thigh, and had to be dragged up before another step could be taken. It took him a long time to get to a window, and crouch there, watching the sky over the city through a crack in the shutters. A burning molten glow shone in the sky beyond, and it looked as if the whole city was blazing. One ear caught the talk of a group of men nearby who were playing cards. He couldn’t read Keats here, for the light was too bad for his eyes. More light, were the last words of Goethe, and it looked as if they would be his last words too.

Merchants Warehousing Company , Sheriff Street

Merchants Warehousing Company , Sheriff Street

-I dunno how it’ll end, said one of the card-players; the German submarines are sweepin’ up th’ Liffey like salmon, an’ when they let loose it’s goodbye England. My trick, there eh!

-I heard, said another player, that th’ Dublin Mountains is black with them – coal-scuttle helmets an’ all – your deal, Ned.

-Th’ Sinn Feiners has taken to an unknown destination that fella who ordehered the Volunteers in th’ counthry to stay incognito wherever they were -  what’s his name? Oh, I’ve said it a hundhred times. What’s this it is?

-Is it Father O’Flynn? Asked a mocking voice in a corner.

-No mockery, Skinner Doyle; this isn’t a time for jokin’. Eh, houl’ on there – see th’ ace o’ hearts!

Then they heard them, and all the heads turned to where Sean was crouching at the window; for in the fussy brattle of ceaseless musketry fire, all now listened to the slow, dignified, deadly boom of the big guns.

-Christ help them now! Said Skinner Doyle.”

Liberty Hall , showing scars of bombardment

Liberty Hall , showing scars of bombardment

A ‘cup of scald’

“Next day, he heard his name called from the hole at the end of the store where the sentry stood.  Wading through the corn, he was told to leap up, and leaping, was caught by a corporal who helped him to scramble to the floor above. He was to go home for a meal, accompanied by a soldier, for a while the rest were permitted to disperse home for an hour, they were suspicious of him because his room was the one that received the fire from those searching out a sniper. He was covered with the dust of the corn, and though he had pulled up the collar of his coat to protect the wound in his neck, he felt the dust of the grain tearing against its rawness and felt anxious about it. But he had to be patient, so he trudged home, silent, by the side of the soldier. When he sat down, and, in reply to the soldier’s question, said there was nothing in the house with which to make a meal,

-Wot, nothink? asked the soldier, shocked. Isn’t there somewhere as you can get some grub?

-Yes, said Sean; a huckster’s round the corner, but I’ve no money to pay for it.

-E’ll give it, ‘e’ll ‘ave to; you come with me, said the Tommy; Gawd blimey, a man ‘as to eat!

So round to Murphy’s went the Saxon and the Gael, for food.

Murphy was a man who, by paying a hundred pounds for a dispensation, had married his dead wife’s sister, so that the property might be kept in the family; and Sean thought how much comfort and security for a long time such a sum would bring to his mother and to him. The soldier’s sharp request to give this prisoner fella some grub got Sean a loaf, tea and sugar, milk in a bottle, rashers and a pound of bully beef. On the way back, Sean got his mother, and they had a royal meal, the soldier joining them in a cup of scald.”


Extracts from “Drums under the windows” (1945)




(All six volumes of Sean O’Casey Autobiographies, republished by Faber and Faber , are currently available in both print and kindle editions).

Contact : eastwallhistory@gmail.com



Mar 08

The Aintree Grand National and the Dublin Dockland’s Field of Dreams

Wharf Tavern

“…renowned specimens of horseflesh got their first lessons in Horseology.” 

 Joe O’Grady passed away in 1960, and it was in that year that ‘M.A.T.’ an Evening Mail Columnist recalled sipping a pint in the Wharf Tavern with him. Joe was a well-known poet, balladeer, and songwriter, and that evening he was lamenting his changing world. All the landmarks of Joe’s youth were vanishing. Places such as the Middle Arch, the Halfpenny Arch, Madge Mulligan’s Hut, even the Bathing Slip at what is now Alexandra Road, were just memories buried beneath progress. Sass Bollan, the genial headless horseman, hadn’t been seen on Johnny Cullen’s Hill since the 1940s triggering Joe to compose a timely lament. But what caused O’Grady the most regret was the demise of Nugent’s Field and the East Wall greats that once pounded its turf. This was a place where dreams were once made and nurtured and where many “renowned specimens of horseflesh (both draught and racing)” according to Joe, “got their first lessons in Horseology.” Joe knew them, because he’d helped “train” them, insofar as he and Fluther Good used to stack up haybales to teach the horses to jump over them. Among them were an extraordinary trio whom all Docklanders who’ve ever had a flutter on the Grand National should be genuinely proud of.

A British Lancer Regiment

A British Lancer Regiment

The Nugent family were the last in a line of East Wall horse-breeders and dealers who up to the First World War stocked the cavalry regiments of Europe. Then in its aftermath, facing severe financial constraints, they concentrated on supplying the Sport of King’s, producing three extraordinary Grand National Champions between 1923 and 1931.

Cigarette Card showing Sergeant Murphy winning the 1923 Grand National.

Cigarette Card showing Sergeant Murphy winning the 1923 Grand National.

First up in 1923 was Sergeant Murphy a 13 year old 100/6 outsider ridden by Captain Tuppy Bennet and owned by the American “Laddie” Sandford. Bred in Ireland by C.L. Walker, the Sergeant was put through his juvenile paces at East Wall’s Nugent’s Field until inevitably, he was sold on, eventually being bought by the young American undergraduate at Cambridge University who fancied a horse for chasing foxes with the local hunt. Sandford was unable to handle him, so he was sent back to the track and his impending place in history. The Sergeant had fallen at the Canal Turn at the 1922 National but got himself back up to finish fourth. Then teaming up with Tuppy Bennet he won the Scottish Grand National some weeks later. Sergeant Murphy won the 1923 race by three lengths with only six of the original starters finishing as it was run in a thick mist.

Ronald Reagan in the Sergeant Murphy Story

Ronald Reagan in the Sergeant Murphy Story

The win caused such a sensation that Hollywood came calling soon after and a movie was made based on the Sergeant’s life starring Ronald Reagan in 1938. The renowned Irish artist Sir William Orpen painted Sergeant Murphy’s portrait in celebration of this win. However , this story of  triumph would not have a happy ending. Tuppy, unfortunately got a kick in the head in 1924 from which he died. Because of this all Jockey’s now wear helmets. Sergeant Murphy broke a leg in Scotland in 1924 bringing his racing career to an end.

Cigarette Card showing Gregalach winner of the 1929 Grand National.

Cigarette Card showing Gregalach winner of the 1929 Grand National.

Next up in 1929 was Gregalach. The 1928 National had been won by 100/1 outsider Tipperary Tim the only horse to finish that year which offered hope for those looking for a jackpot from a complete outsider. Gregalach had fallen eight days previously at Sandown, making him, like Tim the year before, a 100/1 outsider and all the hopeful punters’ favourite for taking the bookies to the cleaners. Ridden by Bob Everett, Gregalach played it clever overtaking the favourite at the second last fence before winning by six lengths. 66 horses, the largest field on record, competed. Born in 1920, (a not insignificant year in Irish history) Gregalach went through his early paces in Nugent’s Field as machine guns riddled Dublin Port and gun battles along the Wharf Road were common. Perhaps it helped give him his edge.

Cigarette Card showing Grackle winner of the 1931 Grand National.

Cigarette Card showing Grackle winner of the 1931 Grand National.

Grakle’s win in 1931, ridden by Bob Lyall, so delighted his owner, the Liverpool Cotton Broker Cecil Taylor, that he gave a half-crown to every child in his local village. He could afford it as the prize-money was £9,310. Bob Lyall was only in the saddle as Grakle’s regular Jockey had injured himself some weeks before. He was Richard Pigott, father of Lester and Grandfather of Tracey. Grakle was a difficult horse to handle, tending to “pull” when in full flight, and would create a bit of history wearing a customised figure of eight noseband in the race which is still named after this wonder horse. It was his fifth attempt at the National and he set a new course record at Aintree at odds of 100/6 which would have made many of his hard-pressed old friends back in Dublin’s Docklands, such as Fluther Good and Joe O’Grady, very happy with the fortuitous windfall. Born during the Civil War year of 1922, like his fellow East Waller Gregalach, (who came second in the 1931 National), he may well have benefited from exposure to the munitions flying around East Wall and Fairview Park when he was only a nipper.

The Legendary Pat Taaffe.

The Legendary Pat Taaffe.

Although only possessed of two legs rather than four, and something of a “Docklands blow-in”, an honourable mention has to go to the other legend of the turf, Pat Taaffe. Forever tied in song and story to his partnership with Arkle, (on whom he won three Cheltenham Gold Cups between 1964-66), Taaffe’s first serious berth on a horse came in Nugent’s Yard. Born in Rathcoole in 1930, Taaffe spent his holidays in East Wall and his love of the sport and skill in the saddle were first recognized and nurtured by the Nugents in their field off the old Wharf Road. Taaffe, of course, won the National in 1955 on Quare Times, a 100/9 outsider and again with the 15/1 Gay Trip in 1970. Despite all his success Taaffe never forgot where he got his start and was a significant fundraiser for the building of St. Joseph’s Church in the 1950s.

Stables at Nugent’s Field off Church Road.

Stables at Nugent’s Field off Church Road.

Today there are few markers of the once great local Docklands industry of horse breeding and training which went back to the eighteenth century, when in 1756, Mrs. Brown announced that the Bay Arab would cover mares at Cook’s stables for 5 guineas and a crown each (about €1,500 today). Financial constraints brought on by the First World War and the Irish Revolution forced the Nugent’s to sell much of their field of dreams for a factory in the 1930s. The same constraints had earlier required the sale of Ledbury, Linden, Pistachio, and Sans Pensee to the Brazilians in 1915. They had little financial gain from the wins of Sergeant Murphy, Gregalach, or Grakle, as their role was to bring the horses to a stage where they were competitive and would fetch a good price with the honour and glory going elsewhere usually in a different country. Grakle was sold for 4000 guineas and Gregalach for 5000 guineas to the owners who would ultimately gain glory with them. The Nugent’s would have originally sold them for a fraction of that. But people in the Docklands knew where these great horses came from and for the likes of Joe O’Grady it was something to celebrate.

The refurbished Seaview House

The refurbished Seaview House

Today Nugent’s Field lies beneath a number of Apartment complexes. The only horses to be seen in the area are Anto Kelly’s and then they are usually attached to a vintage hearse or one of the thirty or so carriages which form his nostalgic fleet. But Seaview House, built by the Bollans, and lived in by those other great horse-people, the Shiels and the Nugents, still remains and has recently been refurbished to its former glory.

Recalling it from her childhood, Lucy Brennan (nee Nugent) remembered it as “a solid, sprawling house, which in its heyday had three street entries. A high whitewashed wall with a red, latched door in it gave downwards onto a steep cement stairway, at the bottom of which were a rectangle of grass, about four stables and a plain backdoor into the back-kitchen-cum-scullery. There would have been fields behind, where the horses grazed when there were horses: but they had been replaced by houses and industry.” Horse-training may have declined in Lucy’s day, but a somewhat older Joe O’Grady,  known to her by the nickname of Pudner, drove a milk cart for a local Dairy and kept his horse at the stables behind Seaview House and occasionally allowed Lucy accompany him as he delivered milk in East Wall and the Docklands.

Seaview House
Beside Seaview House, the pillars of the gateway through which Fluther Good led the likes of Grackle and Sergeant Murphy in and out of Nugent’s Field are still standing and provides a tentative link with a once glorious past through which a small part of the Aintree Grand National will always be linked with the Dublin Docklands.


Corrections , clarifications and further information welcome 


Mar 07

Church Organ Restoration fund-raiser : 8th March 2020

Church organ fund raiserPlease support this community led initiative which aims to restore the original church organ to its former glory .

( The full story of the historic organ will be told later in the year , a unique part of the heritage of the North Dock community ).

SLOT history from 1961

Feb 14

“THE LITTLE MERMAID” – annual pantomime , tickets still available .

Little Mermaid

Feb 02

Up in Smoke – the tragic saga of Virginia House, East Wall Road.

“The first high-explosive shell of the long promised second battle of Clontarf has landed on the East Wall Road and blown an Irish firm out of existence and 300 Irish workers out of employment …”

Gallaghers actory 1931

It was a building many associated with industry in the area – some remember it was Wiggins Teape , older residents recall it as Fry-Cadburys . It’s demolition in controversial circumstances in 2001 is still a sore subject for many locals . It was originally known as Virginia House , and this is the fascinating story of it’s early days , one which was tied up with the political turmoil of the day.

Eamonn DeValera of Fianna Fail.

Eamonn DeValera of Fianna Fail.

On February 16th 1932 Eamonn DeValera led the recently formed Fianna Fail party into government and would retain power for most of the remaining decade. As Charles Dicken’s once put it “it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times,” depending on your perspective and location. Kathleen Behan, then living at 18 Russell Street off the North Circular Road, recalled it as an era of supping “sorrow out of a long spoon.” For her family it was a time of soup kitchens and visits to the pawnshop, with dole queues four deep and winding around the corner from the dole-office on Gardiner Street. She recalled on one occasion, cooking a pincushion stuffed with oatmeal as she had no other food available.

One million people gather in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, for the Eucharistic Congress Mass.

One million people gather in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, for the Eucharistic Congress Mass.

The Eucharistic Congress arrived in Dublin from the 22-26th June 1932 to celebrate the 1700th anniversary of the coming of St. Patrick to Ireland and a rapidly growing Dublin Port soon found itself the location of numerous “floating Hotels” as Harbourmaster John Henry Webb brilliantly improvised in the Docklands area to accommodate Dublin’s lack of tourist bed-spaces. Over a million people attended the closing mass in the Phoenix Park tantalizingly suggesting the potential of a buoyant future Tourist Industry. However, by the end of the month DeValera had Ireland engulfed in an economic war with Britain which depending on what you were engaged in meant a probable boom or bust. For residents in the Docklands this would have mixed results.

Tom Gallagher, founder of Gallagher’s Tobacco Company.

Tom Gallagher, founder of Gallagher’s Tobacco Company.

Derryman Tom Gallaher began his career hand-rolling tobacco and selling it from a cart. However, after his move to Belfast, his astute business acumen, would see his company rise to being one of the largest Tobacco producers in Europe and his factory, (spread across seven acres on York Street), was the largest of its kind in the world employing 3000 people by 1907. Twenty years later they were producing 40,000 cigarettes per minute with their Park Drive brand becoming one of the markets leaders. The company opened factories at London and owned tobacco plantations at Virginia in the USA. They were also among the largest buyers of raw tobacco on the global market. In 1908 Gallaher bought the site of the recently bankrupted Dublin Distillery on Pearse Street for £20,000. Interviewed by the Irish Times after the auction he refused to comment on whether he intended producing tobacco products at the location or retain it as an investment. They would quickly develop an unassailable position in the southern Irish Cigarette market and a sizable part of the sales in pipe tobacco and snuff as they developed what an Ulster writer would call “an enormous vogue during the heydays of the Irish Revival movement.”

Gallagher’s Factory Belfast.

Gallaher’s Factory Belfast.

Gallaher was an enlightened employer, being one of the first in Belfast to reduce the working week from 57 to 47 hours and introduced annual paid holidays. His factory served hot meals at cost price to their staff at lunchtimes and he seems to have been held in high regard by all those who worked for him being described as “courteous, kind, and generous.” He was noteworthy for refusing to bow to sectarian pressure to replace his Catholic workers during tensions in Belfast. However, he could be tough and inflexible when required particularly with Trade Unions as Jim Larkin would learn to his costs during the 1907 Belfast Dock Strike. When Tom Gallaher died in 1927, he left a personal fortune of over £500,000 or about 25 million in today’s money. Lacking a male heir, the role of leading the company fell to his nephew, John Gallaher Michaels, (known as J.G.), who had been manager of the company’s American operations.

Goodbody’s Tobacco Factory in Grenville Street.

Goodbody’s Tobacco Factory in Grenville Street.

Like his uncle, Michaels lacked a male heir, but it still took people by surprise when he decided to sell all the share capital in Gallaher’s to Constructive Finance & Investment for several million pounds who in turn offered the shares to the public on the open market in 1929. Michaels was struck down with pneumonia in October that year so it may have focused him on his imminent mortality. He would suffer indifferent health up to his death in 1948. That same year Michaels began negotiations with the Saorstat Government regarding the opening of a factory in Dublin. As rumours began to spread it was assumed that Gallaher’s would acquire the recently closed Goodbody’s Tobacco Factory off the South Circular Road. The company had been in business almost 100 years and fell into voluntary liquidation in 1929 with 250 mostly female workers losing their jobs. When the announcement finally came it was that the factory was to be located on a green field site consisting of three and a half acres at the junction of Church Road and East Wall Road. These were badly needed jobs and the factory would, as one writer put it, “form no mean acquisition to a city with a merited pride in its leading buildings.”

Belfast Boycott Advertisement from 1921.

Belfast Boycott Advertisement from 1921.

The location would probably have been familiar to the management of Gallagher’s. During the recent War of Independence (and subsequent partitioning of the country) Gallaher’s had featured prominently in local attacks  during the Belfast Boycott campaign of 1920-21. The Dublin Docklands area had a strong Socialist and Republican tradition , and the local Irish Citizen Army carried out numerous operations which saw boycotted produce , including Gallaher’s end up either in Spencer Dock or the Royal Canal at Charleville Mall. Similarly, the Dublin Brigade of the IRA intimidated local shops such as the Bayview Stores on the North Strand Road, while a Belfast Sales Rep was tarred and feathered and chained to the only public railings in the area at the Ivy Church.One report claims that in September 1921 shots were fired in the direction girls on their way into work at a Gallagher’s premises although nobody was injured. There were similar incidents throughout the country. At the time Gallagher’s virtually dominated the Cigarette market in the southern and western counties which would eventually become the Saorstat or Irish Free State. Ultimately, they were driven from this market. However, they fared somewhat better than their fellow Belfast manufacturers, Murrays, producers of renowned tobaccos such as Erinmore and Yachtsman’s Navy Cut, who had their premises on Talbot Street burnt to the ground in an arson attack.

Gallagher’s Cigarette Advertisement.

Gallagher’s Cigarette Advertisement.

Despite this Tom Gallaher had always prided himself on retaining the Independence of his company from the global conglomerates such as Imperial Tobacco Trust or The American Tobacco Corporation and took delight in featuring the Irishness of his products in their advertising. The above picture is just one example of the type of comely maidens which adorned Gallaher’s advertisements (and would no doubt have delighted Eamonn DeVelera). Despite being in a different jurisdiction after partition Tom Gallaher took a great interest in the industry on both sides of the Irish Border and was an enthusiastic supporter of attempts to grow native tobacco. In 1906 he purchased the entire crop grown at an experimental farm pioneered by Senator Nugent T. Everard at Randalstown County Meath. By 1930 this had expanded through several counties with one enterprising Roman Catholic Priest starting a co-operative cigarette factory using locally grown tobacco at Wexford. In 1923 the politician and diplomat Patrick McArtan had worked on a plan with Tom Gallagher and Irish American financiers to save the native Irish Tobacco industry in the Saorstat from what he perceived as a potential takeover by the Imperial Tobacco Trust. Indifference among members of the Cumann na nGaedheal government ultimately made it impossible and shortly afterwards Imperial Tobacco began to establish a significant presence in the market leading to seven long established Irish companies such as Goodbody’s failing between 1924 and 1930.

The site of Gallaher’s new factory had been part of the lands belonging to the Nugent horse-dealing family. James Nugent had been a substantial supplier of cavalry horses throughout Europe. Following the outbreak of WW1, he felt honour bound to refused to condemn his former clients in the German army, (despite being no longer able to deal with them because of the war), while engaged in a sales meeting with their British counterparts. Appalled the British withdrew from negotiations and Nugent effectively lost the most lucrative part of his business at a time when it was about to boom. By 1922 he needed finance and so borrowed £2,500 from the National Irish Bank placing the land as security. Unable to discharge the debt the Receiver took it over in 1923, leasing a number of plots, and ultimately selling a section to Gallahher’s in 1929. This enabled Nugent’s son Bernard to discharge the family debt. They would then reinvent themselves as trainers in the horse racing industry and play a leading role in developing legendary jockey Pat Taffe.

Part of the extensive new Tobacco storage areas built by Dublin Port.

Part of the extensive new Tobacco storage areas built by Dublin Port.

By any standards this was exactly the type of flagship project that the embryonic Saorstat needed as a confidence building measure. Lever Brothers had led the way with their redevelopment of the old Barrington’s and Dublin Glass Bottle Company site at Castleforbes Works on Upper Sheriff Street. In 1930 Dublin Port announced an extensive land reclamation programme around Alexandra Road. Ship tonnage passing through the port had more than doubled between 1929-30 while the Port had spent £40,000 on new storage areas for tobacco. However, these advances had to be balanced against some of the new state’s largest employers such as Jacobs who had established their Aintree subsidiary as an independent company in 1922 and were now spread over 30 acres at Liverpool. By 1932 they were employing 3000 people over there and warning that any new tariffs on their products would lead to production moving from Dublin to Aintree. In 1933 Guinness began the construction of their Park Royal Brewery near London. They had temporarily moved their HQ there during the treaty negotiations of 1922. The loss of either of these companies to the state, both of whom were significant employers, would have been devastating. Meanwhile long established businesses and large employers such as the Anchor Brewery began to fail or close.

Newspaper Advertisement showcasing the new factory on East Wall Road.

Newspaper Advertisement showcasing the new factory on East Wall Road.

Against this background the announcement by Gallaher’s was to be welcomed . “In these days when the decline of Industry is almost the despair of the Statesman and the Economist and when retrenchment rather than expansion is in keeping with the times, the stimulus of a tonic is afforded by the contemplation of such a magnificent new factory as that just erected by Messrs Gallaher (Dublin) Limited in the Irish Free State Capital” was one writer’s comment on viewing the new building.

Designed by John Stevenson of Samuel Stevenson & Sons Architects of Belfast, this was conceived as a landmark development which would create confidence in the new state. The main entrance was on East Wall Road extending 377 ½ feet along the 472ft wide site and set 30ft back from the roadway, enclosed by pretty wrought iron railings by J. C. McGloughlin of Pearse Street. The facing of the entire building was in attractive Dolphins Barn brick, and the overall construction, largely using steel frames and reinforced concrete, was built by M’Laughlin & Harvey Contractors of Dublin. In fact, wherever possible, local companies had been used as either suppliers or contractors acting as a showcase of what the Building Industry in the Saorstat was capable of. Not surprisingly organizations such as the Engineering and Scientific Association of Ireland would organize for their members to inspect the project. The overall cost was £100,000.

Aerial photo of Virginia House.

Aerial photo of Virginia House.

The main entrance on East Wall Road was through a central revolving door leading into a spacious hall with a large teak horseshoe shaped reception desk. The elaborate polished-plaster walls were interspersed with black marble finished pillars with ionic caps. The passageways leading off this into various offices had black and white terrazzo floors leading to the claim that they offered “every facility for the efficient dispatch of business in the most pleasant and up-to-date conditions and where the atmosphere is such as to generate staff pride in their surroundings.”

The workers entrance was on the Church Road-side of the building as was the delivery area for stocks and supplies. The Timekeepers Office, Cloakroom, Leaf Sample Room and Laboratory, Stockrooms, Wages Office, and Gatekeepers apartments were all located here. Behind these were the Boiler House, Pump Rooms, Air Conditioning Plant, and Snuff Department. The Air Conditioning designed by The Aerozone Air Conditioning Company, was state of the art and not only kept the various tobacco products moist but supplied cool fresh air for workers throughout the building.

At the front to the right of the building was cigarette production with plug tobacco and other products being produced to the left. All were kept on a flat single story level for both efficiency and safety. Management offices and the staff canteen were in a two storey block just off the main factory to the right. A central glass roof over the main production area filled it with an abundance of light making the workplace “bright and cheerful.” Of particular note at the time was the advanced sprinkler system fed by two separate water supplies which would protect the factory from any potential fires.

Women at work on one of the “intelligent” packing machines.

Women at work on one of the “intelligent” packing machines.

Central to the production process was a German Machine, described as “one of the wonders” by a visitor on opening day. It could produce 2,200 cigarettes per minute or 132,000 per hour. As tobacco entered one end, paper in reels of two miles long enter at the other and as the paper had the brand logo printed the tobacco was formed into tubes, wrapped by the paper, and came out as a fully formed cigarette. The same witness was impressed by the “intelligence” of another machine which could count the cigarettes into tens, wrap them in tinfoil, slip in picture cards or coupons, and then deliver a finished product for the packaging department. “No human workers could compete with these robots,” he concluded. Like many companies Gallaher’s were using a gift coupon system to promote their products and this witness calculated that in an hour it could produce enough coupons to secure the ultimate prize of a motor car.

J.G. Michaels, MD of Gallagher’s Tobacco Company.

J.G. Michaels, MD of Gallagher’s Tobacco Company.

Building had been somewhat delayed through the Dublin Building Lockout of 1930-31 which also effected the developments of the new housing estates at nearby Marino and Donnycarney. Initially production was set up at a temporary factory on the Rathmines Road in April 1930. Gallagher’s noted this in their first advertisements when they apologised for delays in delivering their products since opening in February at East Wall “which for the moment we are unable to deal with.” However, they claimed they had had “an outstanding welcome” to the Saorstat market and the patronage they had received would “ensure the success of Dublin’s newest factory.” In his speech at the opening of the factory J. G. Michaels paid particular tribute to the, “competent, efficient and experienced” East Wall staff through whose efforts they had been able to open in just three weeks after the building’s handover and predicted that with their “help and loyalty” they would be just as happy as their colleagues in Belfast. He claimed Gallaher’s “worked with their workers and tried to make them feel that the management studied their interests from beginning to end. They were out to make the new factory one of the happiest in the Free State.”

Dalymount Park in the 1930s.

Dalymount Park in the 1930s.

When the factory opened 300 staff were employed, of whom around 200 were mostly adult women. 50 of these had previous experience having worked for Goodbody’s as did many of the Clerical and management staff. However, an Evening Herald reporter who visited the factory just before production commenced was told that this was only the beginning and that the project could eventually employ up to 600. While initially many of the key personnel had come down from Belfast to set up at Rathmines Road by the end of the first year of trading these had been replaced by local workers many promoted from the shop floor. Wages for the women were above the industrial average and by 1932 the company had begun to discuss the introduction of a productivity bonus in the future. However, when the ATGWU (Amalgamated , Transport & General Workers Union) applied for an increase for the male workers towards the end of 1931 they were told they would have to wait until the company was better established. In a show of how Gallaher’s treated their workforce on the 3rd April, 150 staff from the Belfast factory were taken to Dublin and after lunch and a tour of the city were brought to East Wall to showcase the new factory and meet the Dublin staff. Then in a novel idea, courtesy of Bohemians FC, both sets of workers headed to Dalymount park for a “challenge” match between teams from both factories.

Gallaher’s Newspaper Advertisement from February 1931.

Gallaher’s Newspaper Advertisement from February 1931.

Throughout 1931 Gallaher’s proceeded with one of the largest and most aggressive advertising campaigns which had ever been seen on the island of Ireland up to that date. Regular advertisements were placed in the National Daily and Sunday Newspapers while all the major city-based papers around the country were also targeted. It was at an unprecedented level at which none of their competition could compete. The largest local producer of tobacco products was P.J. Carroll of Dundalk who also offered a coupon scheme which you could collect and convert into luxury items. Gallaher’s had a similar scheme from day one but with that tantalising top prize of a motor car. Not surprisingly they would claim that their total investment in the Saorstat project by 1932 was £200,000.

A Carroll’s gift coupon from the 1930s.

A Carroll’s gift coupon from the 1930s.

Carroll’s factory in Dundalk was one of the Saorstat’s flagship companies and in 1930 was described as “the largest and most up to date cigarette factory in the Irish Free State.” From early beginnings in a humble, grocers shop it had grown into a substantial employer in the County Louth region. Much of their marketing success was down to their coupon scheme, available with Sweet Afton cigarettes which could be collected and exchanged for prizes. Where possible these were of Irish Manufacture thus showcasing the resources of the Saorstat. Numerous shops around the country contained window displays showing the luxury goods obtainable through the scheme. Gallagher’s not surprisingly copied the idea but offered extraordinary top prizes such as the motor car.

As early as 1923 Imperial Tobacco had begun to court the Cumann na nGaedheal government then in power. W.D. & H.O Wills opened a factory at Glasnevin in 1924 on the back of announcements the previous year by John Players and William Clark’s that they were looking for suitable sites for factories in Ireland. All of these companies were members of the Imperial Tobacco Trust. For J. J. Walsh, T.D. and Postmaster General in 1923, this was another attempt to “kill off the opposition” after which “the combine will retreat to their English base and exploit from there.” Walsh had little long term hope of large scale employment from the “foreign” tobacco industry. Despite this employment in the Industry had increased by over 1200 jobs between 1922 and 1930 largely due to the English companies creating an Irish operation. The failure of Goodbody’s seems to confirm Walsh’s prediction and then Imperial Tobacco, alarmed at the rise of Carroll’s share of the market, began to threaten customers with a withdrawal of their seller’s bonus unless they removed the Carroll’s displays from their windows. Imperial’s deal with retailers allowed for 50% of all available window space to be devoted to Imperial products however they were not prepared to give over the other half to the opposition. Few tobacco dealers could afford to give up their seller’s bonus, let alone popular Imperial Tobacco products, so that in February 1932 the magazine Honesty would report that only one location in Dublin still displayed Carroll’s gifts and that was the Restaurant of the Savoy Cinema. In January 1931 the magazine accused the then Minister for Industry and Commerce of standing by while Carroll’s were either put out of business or forced into the Imperial Tobacco family of companies.

Newspaper headline announcing Fianna Fail’s first Budget on 11th May 1932.

Newspaper headline announcing Fianna Fail’s first Budget on 11th May 1932.

There was much anticipation and speculation about Fianna Fail’s first Budget delivered on the 11th May 1932. As Labour TD William Norton commented it was in some degree a “Budget for the plain people” insofar as it made a “substantial advance” in the provision of housing and had a “note of sympathy for the unemployed.” However, for many TD’s this was a budget designed to lengthen the Dole queues. One of the most controversial taxes was on the new tobacco factories developed in the Saorstat post 1922 who would have a special tax of 7d per lb of tobacco used in their manufacturing. Effectively this would only apply to companies owned by multinationals from outside the Saorstat and give a distinct advantage to the old native firms. Part of the thinking behind this seems to have been influence by the actions of Imperial Tobacco against Carrols and Fianna Fail decided to take action to protect native tobacco companies. However, as one tobacconist writing as “snuff” would claim, Irish companies would be better off sending their sales staff round the country rather than getting protective duties from the government. He only stocked Imperial products as they were the only companies whose reps visited him. He had never had an Irish Company’s rep call at his shop.

Press Headlines announcing the Closure of the East Wall Factory.

Press Headlines announcing the Closure of the East Wall Factory.

At the beginning of June 1932, J.G. Michaels issued a statement to the staff in East Wall.
“It is with the greatest regret that we have to inform all our employees that owing to the heavy losses sustained by us as a result of the differential duty rate imposed by the recent Budget it is now impossible for us to carry on our business. We have made every effort to secure equal treatment with our favoured competitors. But with no success.
We are, therefore, most regretfully compelled to give our employees one week’s notice expiring on the 8th June 1932, from which date they will be employed from day to day until our factory duty paid stocks are exhausted. Any employees finding other employment will be released on request.” Regarding the workforce Michael’s said that the situation was tragic, and in tribute to them stated that they had “at all times given us of their very best and have worked faithfully and well.”

During the 1907 Belfast Dock Strike, Tom Gallaher, who had played a crucial role in the development of Belfast Port, was threatened by James Larkin that he would spread a sympathy strike into Gallagher’s tobacco factory on York Road. Gallaher’s answer was that he would shut the factory down and move the entire production to London making the 3000 staff redundant. Larkin backed off. Faced with what he felt was a similar situation J.G. Michaels announced the imminent closure of Virginia House and the loss of all the recently created jobs. He wouldn’t be bullied or treated, as he saw it, unfairly.

Sean Lemass with the original flag which flew over the GPO in 1916.

Sean Lemass with the original flag which flew over the GPO in 1916.

It seems unlikely that Fianna Fail had contemplated the severity of Michaels’ reaction. Soon rumours began to be leaked to the press that they discriminated in the employment of workers on the grounds of religion which was emphatically denied by the East Wall Factory Staff. It was claimed that Fianna Fail supporters had offered jobs to 70 of the girls but there was no sign of them materialising. An English company was in negotiation to set up a car assembly plant on the site which never happened and would not have employed women anyway. Naively it was suggested that the factory be seized and run as a workers’ co-operative. Then suddenly stories appeared questioning exactly who were the real owners of the parent company Gallaher’s Tobacco Ltd. The local company had been registered in the Saorstat in 1929 but none of the key shareholders were residents. There had been a flurry of activity on the London Stock Market throughout 1932 and soon people were suggesting that there may have been more to the closure than the Saorstat’s new tariff on tobacco.

Buy Ulster Advertisement from 1932.

Buy Ulster Advertisement from 1932.

While it is difficult to say how much influence events in Ulster may have had it is interesting that an attempt was afoot to encourage Ulster citizens to Buy Ulster or Empire produced good which was directly aimed at imports from south of the border. This may have had some influence on Fianna Fail intransigence. The rumours of the senior company’s recent share sales also seemed to have impacted on many TDs. Behind the scenes the American Tobacco Corporation were attempting a hostile takeover bid and in order to counteract this, 51% of the shares in Gallagher’s were sold to Imperial Tobacco for one and a half million pounds.

At a special debate on the matter in the Dail, Richard Mulcahy of Cumann n nGaedheal had outlined Gallaher’s “Irishness” and pointed out that it was impossible for them to come into the Saorstat in 1922 or ’23 given recent history. He also pointed out that their annual Rates bill paid to Dublin Corporation was £700 in 1931. Fianna Fail had argued that the new tariff was actually below that paid by tobacco companies in Britain. Mulcahy demolished this argument demonstrating that only certain luxury types of tobacco paid more tax in Britain while most general types of tobacco, used in the more popular products, were below the new Irish rate.

As the Irish Women Workers Union represented the largest number of workers at the factory, Louie Bennett led a delegation to Belfast in August to negotiate with Michaels in the hope of saving the factory. The talks were inconclusive, but Gallaher’s agreed to hold off from selling the equipment and machinery at East Wall as she attempted to find a solution. Just before this another bombshell landed as Jacobs announced they were laying off 100 girls and moving those jobs to Aintree. Fianna Fail had also placed a tariff on materials used in confectionary.

From a socialist point of view, it was asked whether the Fianna Fail Government could really argue that Gallaher’s weren’t an Irish Company. Tom Gallagher had always seen himself as Irish (although not necessarily a Nationalist) and it was questioned whether Fianna Fail were now saying that Belfast was no longer an Irish city. The United Irishman newspaper argued that the party was re-enacting the War of Independence through its actions against what was generally seen as a model employer :

“The first high-explosive shell of the long promised second battle of Clontarf has landed on the East Wall Road and blown an Irish firm out of existence and 300 Irish workers out of employment. Mr. Lemass and Mr. McEntee, the blind gunners of Fianna Fail are quite pleased with the work of their heavy artillery. They care nothing what they hit so long as they destroy something. The wreckers of 1922 are still the wreckers in 1932.”

Louie Bennett  (IWWU)

Louie Bennett (IWWU)

Writing in the trade union paper ,The Watchword, Louie Bennet, of the Irish Women Workers Union (IWWU) stated:

“It may eventually be possible to get the young girls absorbed in other industries, but the prospects for the older women are of the worst, especially for those who have been ten or more years in the industry. Mr, Lemass must surely understand the difficulty of training adults in a new industry, and the practical impossibility of adapting to new processes, workers who have spent years in the same occupation. If Gallagher’s factory goes the more senior employees will have to face a poverty-stricken future. The first casualties in Mr. Lemass’s war.”

Sean Lemass announced that the Government were working on getting alternative employment for the workforce although he couldn’t guarantee that it would be on the type of terms on which they had recently been employed.

Goulding’s Sack Factory, Alexandra Road.

Goulding’s Sack Factory, Alexandra Road.

[ For a lucky few, jobs would be had at the Cadbury’s Chocolate Factory when it opened on Ossory Road in 1933. Lever’s at the Castleforbes Works, with what was described as “the best jobs in the Docklands” were expanding, but they had a full workforce. The remaining local options for women were far from great. Goulding’s Fertilizer Company had a sack factory on Alexandra Road which employed women. The hours were long and the work back-breaking. Lil Fagan who worked at Goulding’s at a later period remembers it as a “great laugh” because of the camaraderie but they only employed about 12 girls. Lil had previously worked in another sack factory, Smiths on Common Street, with her friends Bluebell Murphy and Dinah Proctor where she “classed” the sacks. She developed TB which meant she constantly had chest problems so she only lasted 6 months in Goulding’s.

The East Wall Packing Company described by one staff member as one of the “Fianna Fail sweat packing factories” employed 52 girls at wages from 4s 9d up to 10s 3d per week packing various products by hand. Other girls were on piece work packing sachets of Epsom Salts at a rate of 2s 6d per ½ cwt (25kg) although this was reduced by 3d in 1934. Six girls were fired when they suggested joining the Irish Women Workers Union. ]

sale add

Bennet sought assistance from William Norton, the Labour Party leader in the Dail, whom she hoped might give raise the situation and be a voice of influence in parliament. Norton refused to meet her delegation as the WWUI were non-affiliated to the Labour Party. Gallaher’s had been emphatic- either the tariff went, or the Factory went. Running out of options Bennet achieved a type of deal during a meeting with Lemass. The government would give Gallaher’s an exemption, but Gallagher’s would have to sell 51% of the Irish Company to Investors living within the Saorstat so that it effectively became an “Irish” Irish company. The share sale was to be completed by 1st February 1933, however Lemass noted in Cabinet on the 5th September 1932 that finding the type of capital needed might not prove easy. Throughout the year Newspapers had commented how the wealthy and their capital were fleeing the Saorstat. Two weeks later it was announced that Red Abbey Tobacco in Cork had acquired much of the machinery from the East Wall Factory. A similar announcement heralded the remainder of the machines going to Donegal. The advertisements, first published in June, for the sale of the factory reappeared.

Both Gallaher’s factory and 300 good jobs were lost to East Wall. The company had operated for just eighteen months. Women’s employment just wasn’t a priority for political parties in 1932. In a final effort Bennet tried to extract an agreement from Lemass that the East Wall workforce would get first options on any jobs which became available if and when the factory was reopened under new ownership. She was told there were no jobs for them as companies wanted young inexperienced girls just entering the job market for the first time.

Fry Cadbury’s Factory on East Wall Road, formerly Gallaher’s Virginia House building.

Fry Cadbury’s Factory on East Wall Road, formerly Gallaher’s Virginia House building.

In 1939 Fry Cadbury’s were looking to expand and seeing an opportunity at the vacant Gallaher’s factory promptly moved from Ossory Road. Renamed Alexandra House, the chocolate factory would be one of many East Wallers favourite memories both as a great employer and for the quality of its products often brought home by parents and neighbours for lucky children. Local legend suggests that it’s proximity inspired local chip shop and Ice Cream parlour owners, the Andreucetti’s, to invent the 99 Ice Cream Cone or choc ice. Cadburys remained on the East Wall Road until the opening of their current factory in Coolock in 1964. During the redevelopment of the site a few years ago, Owen O’Flynn, one of those who worked on the building site recalls that the delightfully pungent smell of cocoa was still everywhere.

In 1932 Gallaher’s were the fourth largest cigarette manufacturer in Britain. In 1934 they acquired Peter Jacksons, followed by Robinsons in 1937. Over the subsequent years they would acquire J. Freeman & Sons in 1947, Cope Brothers in 1952, and the prestigious Benson & Hedges in 1955. The alliance with Imperial had been to stave off a hostile takeover bid by the American Tobacco Corporation. However, they retained their managerial independence as part of the deal. In 1963 Gallaher’s once more opened a factory in Ireland at Ayrton Road, Tallaght. Four years later they contacted the IWWU to discuss a new shift system which would facilitate young married women with families remaining in employment.


This is part of our series of features on industries, premises and public houses in the North Docklands . If you have any material of interest – photos, documents , personal or family recollections then please get in touch .

Any corrections, clarifications or further information please contact us:




Epilogue : By the end of the 1930s Kathleen Behan and her family were living in a house on one of the Saorstat’s new housing estates at Crumlin. Isolated and lacking any facilities, her son, the future writer Brendan, described it as being like arriving at Siberia.


Kildare Road , Crumlin in the late 1930's

Kildare Road , Crumlin in the late 1930′s

Older posts «

» Newer posts


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: