Dec 10

The SS Hare : A tale of solidarity, hope and stout

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The SS Hare was a steamship built in 1886 at Barclay Curle & Co. shipyard in Glasgow for G&J Burns Ltd. In 1899 ownership was transferred to George Lowen of Manchester. In partnership with Dublin business man D.J. Stewart, Lowen had established The Dublin & Manchester Steamship Company In 1897. Stewart was also the owner of the SS Duke of Leinster, from which vessel a number of the crew of the SS Hare transferred. This included Alexander Carmichael, 1st mate on the SS Duke of Leinster, who joined the SS Hare in February of 1900 and the following month became its Captain, a position he would still be holding on the ill fated voyage of 1917. For the years under his command, the SS Hare’s activity was recorded as ‘Trading between Dublin & Manchester carrying General Cargo, Livestock and Passengers”. On occasion trips to Liverpool were also undertaken.

It was during the industrial conflict of the Great Lockout in 1913 that the SS Hare came to fame among the Irish working class.  James Larkin had founded the Irish Transport & General Workers Union (ITGWU) in 1909. He sought to unite Irish workers into one big union and used their numbers to force a radical change not just in the workplace but in society. The Dublin Docks were a prime recruiting ground, and labourers, carters, etc., flocked to its ranks. The ‘Larkinites’ won many key concessions and improvements in pay and conditions, the use of the sympathetic strike being a powerful tactic. Fearing the growth of organised labour, powerful businessman and newspaper owner William Martin Murphy, formed the Dublin Employers Federation. Workers were urged to sign a declaration disassociating themselves from the ITGWU. When many refused they were ‘locked out’ of their employment. The dispute escalated and soon 20,000 workers were involved, and in an already poverty stricken city this was catastrophic. Murphy believed that the workers could literally be starved into submission, informing the Dublin Chamber of Commerce:“The employer all the time managed to get his three meals a day, but the unfortunate workman and his family had no resources whatever except submission, and that was what occurred in 99 cases out of 100. The difficulty of teaching that lesson to the workmen was extraordinary.”

Waiting for the food parcels


Larkin travelled to Britain to rally support, and the response from the workers there was phenomenal. The British Trade Union Congress (T.U.C.) raised funds to send essential supplies to their Dublin comrades, and an initial shipment of 60,000 food parcels was dispatched.The SS Hare was actually strike bound with a cargo of Guinness onboard, but agreement was reached to unload the cargo and she soon set off across the channel. The SS Hare sailed into Dublin on 27th September 1913 to scenes of jubilation. Paddy Buttner, a young boy at that time, was there to collect food for his family, his father being one of the strikers. He recalled the excitement –

“…a cheer rose from every throat of those watching when someone cried ‘It’s the SS Hare!’ The captain answered the swell of cheering with three sharp and one long blast on the siren , and it seemed to me , just a boy , to be saying – ‘It’s US, it’s US, it’s US ,HURRAY!’ The hair stood up on my head and I shouted with the rest in joy. As the vessel came abreast of the South Point, we all turned about and kept pace with her; the cheering and the waving continued while tears streamed down the faces of women and, indeed, men too. And all the while the crew and siren answered each cheer”.

Discharging of cargo

This voyage of hope was only the first undertaken by the SS Hare, and she would be joined by the SS Pioneer and SS New Fraternity.The goods were stored in the Manchester Shed on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay throughout the Lockout. Thanks to the efforts of the T.U.C. by late November 255,330 packets of tea had been shipped to Dublin, 255,000 bags of sugar, 255,330 packets of margarine, 597,000 loaves of bread, 251,804 bags of potatoes, 1,856 lb of Jacob’s Biscuits, 72,639 pots of jam, 85,330 tins of fish, 12,500 boxes of cheese and almost 885 tons of coal. Food parcels were distributed right up until February of the following year when the strike was ended. This act of solidarity literally saved lives in Dublin, and has never been forgotten.

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The 1913 log concludes “Ship lying in Dublin through Labour strike from Nov.12thuntil end of year”

The SS Hare would carry a variety of cargo in its lifetime, but it’s most famous customer was undoubtedly the Arthur Guinness, Son & Co. LTD. The iconic brewery would begin to develop their own legendary ‘Guinness fleet’ at the end of 1913, but the SS Hare would continue charters with the company until its loss. The regular routine would see barrels of stout being delivered to Manchester and the empty casks returned to Dublin.

 Guinness cargoes December 1915 – January 1916

Guinness cargoes December 1915 – January 1916

As stated, the SS Hare was carrying a cargo for Guinness when it made its memorable Lockout mission. Communications from Guinness show that they expected nothing less than being accommodated-“I was fully aware of the circumstances under which she had been discharged”, but further added “under our agreement we were bound, while the boats were sailing, to give him our traffic and they were equally bound to take it.”

Throughout 1916 there was a series of agreements which essentially saw the SS Hare being on permanent contract during that historic year. Having enjoyed a series of weekly arrangements, inFebruary the Brewers accepted a “charter for one month for £1,000, we to supply coal and pay all dues, the other expenses payable to Mr.Lowen including full insurance of ship against war and maritime risks”.For the first half of April the Ship was in Dock for repairs but re-entered service just before the Easter Rising. Shipping from Dublin was curtailed during the rebellion, but on 3rd May the SS Hare arrived in Manchester with a cargo of Guinness, the first Dublin Port vessel to dock across the channel. There was a request from Guinness to charter on a three monthly basis but George Lowen was not agreeable. Lowen preferred a month-to-month arrangement, but eventually they settled on a two monthly arrangement.

Guinness charter Feb 1916

Guinness charter Feb 1916

Guinness of course had built up its own fleet by now. War time restrictions on brewing imposed by the Governmentled to a reduction in the demand for cross-channel cargos and the arrangements with Lowen concluded at the end of May.  However, in June the Admiralty commandeered the SS Clarecastle and SS Clareisland from the Guinness fleet, forcing the Company to request the return of the SS Hare. They were informed that the vessel was not available due to other engagements.

During this period Guinness was experiencing real difficulties in shipping its product to a variety of destinations. They entered discussions with Tedcastle’s to arrange for 100 tons of stout to be carried to Liverpool on a weekly basis, though if this was to be on board the SS Adela is unclear.

On the 12th October 1917, the first of the Guinness fleet, the SS W.M. Barkley was torpedoed crossing the Irish channel. Almost exactly two months later when the SS Hare was lost in a similar attack at almost the same location. Of the 23 crew on board twelve would lose their lives while 11 would survive.

Following the sinking of the SS Hare, Guinness noted the loss as follows:

“This boat, which carried our beer for many years between Dublin and Manchester, and was frequently chartered by us, was torpedoed on Friday, the 14th, in the same locality as our own steamer the Barkley. She carried none of our property on this voyage. Eleven of her crew of twenty-two, including the Captain and the Chief Engineer, were saved”.

There is a final reference to the SS Hare recorded in Guinness reports, dated 25thJanuary 1918:“Lord Iveagh was reminded that we had written to Mr. Lowen telling him we were willing to assist in giving any financial assistance granted to the relatives of those who were lost in the HARE, but we’ve since heard from Mr. Lowen stating that he considered the public arrangements were ample to meet the necessities of the case, and that it was not proposed to take any steps in the matter.”

That was their last word on the relationship between the City’s most iconic product and one of the most famous vessels in the history of Dublin Port.

Jim Larkin (centre) with trade unionists and the crew of the SS Hare

Jim Larkin (centre) with trade unionists and the crew of the SS Hare

Eleven of those who were serving on the SS Hare in 1913 were aboard on the fateful voyage of December 1917. Daniel Eley, Donald Gilchrist, Lachlan MacFadyen, Joseph Edward Swords, Charles Walsh, James Wilson would lose their lives,while Alexander Carmichael, Thomas Brown, John Hunt, William McGowan and Christopher Tallant would survive.

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


Image credits: ‘Guinness Archive, Diageo Ireland’

 SS Hare painting by Kenneth King , courtesy of Eric Hopkins who commissioned the work. 


Dec 05

“Dancing with the Stars” – at the Sean O’Casey Theatre


Nov 30


XMAS TREE 2017 AND PADDYS finalXmas fair final

Nov 26

CAREER L.E.A.P … soars to new heights !

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CONGRATULATIONS to all the Participants in the CAREER L.E.A.P project . Based on an initiative by East Wall Youth the project has drawn in many partners and supporters and the second group of participants have now completed their term . This is an exciting , very well organised and effective initiative . See newspaper report linked below and an earlier article we published on the launch of the project .

Career Leap 02Participants were delighted to have the opportunity to be among the first passengers on the new LUAS route and visit the control centre



Nov 26

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


Nov 19

An Port Thoir Feile As Gaeilge : Samhain 2017

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

Nov 09

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


Nov 09

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

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

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

For further details :

Nov 05

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


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


The Sean O’Casey Theatre , East Wall

Monday 6th November

@ 8pm

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

Lord Mayor Alfie Byrne

Lord Mayor Alfie Byrne

Alfie Byrne on O'Connell Bridge

Alfie Byrne on O’Connell Bridge

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

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

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

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

(Images courtesy Trevor White / Little Museum of Dublin)

Oct 29

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

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

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The site of Ballybough Suicide Plot currently under renovation.

The site of Ballybough Suicide Plot currently under renovation.

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

Stake pic

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

John Rocque’s map of Dublin.

John Rocque’s map of Dublin.

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

A Felo de Se burial at Midnight.

A Felo de Se burial at Midnight.

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

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

James Clarence Mangan.

James Clarence Mangan.

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

The 7 year old Bram Stoker.

The 7 year old Bram Stoker.

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

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

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

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

An 1882 newspaper report of Stoker’s heroism.

An 1882 newspaper report of Stoker’s heroism.

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


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



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