Introduction with some very little additional text by Diarmuid Breatnach
Main text from East Wall History Group
Among the many events packed into History Week by the East Wall History Group was a walking history tour of the area on Sunday 27th September. Over a score of people took part in “East Wall and the Irish Revolution” to hear Joe Mooney, a long-time community activist, outline the relevant events of history at various points along the way, covering
local connections with the Fenians, docks and migrants, the Lockout, 1916 Rising and the Spanish Civil War. Appropriate songs and music accompanied the tour, Paul O’Brien performing compositions of his own at some of those points and Diarmuid Breatnach singing verses from Viva La Quinze Brigada at another.
The East Wall History Group has been in existence for a number of year; they may be contacted through https://www.facebook.com/eastwallhistory and http://eastwallforall.ie/?tag=east-wall-history-group and it would not be a bad idea to get on their mailing list. The following account has been shamelessly looted from their FB page:
“We set out from St Joseph’s School, originally opened in 1895. The first Principal of the Boys’ school was J.F. Homan, who served as a St. John’s Ambulance Brigade volunteer during the Rising and also during the Civil war. A number of former pupils from the school were involved in the revolutionary events of the time (the following decades) and of course in 1911 a schoolboys’ union was declared and a short strike ensued (complete with pickets!). Their demands included a shorter day and free school-books.
“Our first stop was Merchant‘s Road, where during the 1913 Lockout 62 families (almost the entire population of the street) were evicted by their employer the Merchants Warehousing Company (their yard was Merchant’s Yard on East Wall Road, just before the T-junction by the Port Authority. At the fantastic mural (erected by the community) Paul paid tribute to the families and the workers‘ struggle with his song “Lockout 1913“. Amongst the evicted families were the Courtneys from number 1 – their son Bernard was a ‘Wharf’ school pupil and fought with the Jacob‘s garrison in 1916, before succumbing to TB in 1917.
“Next we visited the East Road, where Diarmuid set the tone with a stirring rendition of the Christy Moore song “Viva la Quinze Brigada” (explaining that Christy incorrectly called it “Quinta” but had since corrected it – as the lyrics in English make clear, it was the FIFTEENTH Brigade). Gathered opposite the family home of Jack Nalty, we heard the story of another former ‘Wharf ‘ school-boy who became an active Republican and Socialist, eventually losing his life fighting Fascism in Spain in 1938. Jack (who was also a champion runner) was amongst the last of the International volunteers to die, while his friend and comrade Dinny Coady was amongst the first. Many of Dinny Coady‘s relatives still live locally, and we plan to commemorate them properly in the future.
“Next was a quick stop at the junction of Bargy and Forth Roads, which along with Shelmalier, Killane and Boolavogue were the names given to streets of Corporation houses erected here in the 1930’s and ’40s. They are of course synonymous with places in Wexford in the 1798 Rebellion.
“At the rear of the former Cahill printers‘ premises we learned how an innovative glass–making factory (Fort Crystal Works) once stood there, perhaps the first industry in the area, but by the early 1800’s lay in ruins. As reported in newspapers as far away as New York, in 1848 a hundred men gathered here and spent an entire day in musketry practice, even setting up a dummy of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (the Queen’s representative) to practice on. These were members of the Young Ireland movement, preparing for rebellion.
“On Church Road we remembered former resident Edward Dorin, a Sergeant in the IRA who was part of the operation to burn the Custom House during the War of Independence. Another former ‘Wharf’ school pupil (he started there the same year as Jack Nalty), he was shot dead alongside a young volunteer from Ballybough when they engaged a lorry–load of Auxillaries at Beresford place (just by Liberty Hall). (They were covering the attacking party). There had been a suggestion in the 1950’s to rename Custom House Quay as Dorin‘s Quay .
“A short stop at the “Scotch Block”, Fairfield Avenue, where Paul played two songs recalling Glasgow immigrants to the area and also Edinburgh–born James Connolly. An incident in 1918 when Union Jack–waving residents from these buildings attempted to disrupt a Sinn Féin election rally also got a mention.
“As we passed Hawthorn Terrace its most famous resident Sean O’Casey was briefly discussed, as was his former neighbour Willy Halpin, the diminutive Citizen Army man most famous for almost escaping capture at City Hall by climbing up a chimney.
“As we passed Russell Avenue a dishonorable mention was given to those who attempted to raise a 5,000 strong Fascist militia from an address here in the late 1950’s. Thankfully they failed miserably, as did the Italian fascist sympathiser resident of Caladon road who was banned from the U.S.A. during World War Two and eventually arrested by the Irish state and handed over to British authorities via the Six Counties.
“At Malachi Place the action–packed tale of Fenian leader John Flood was recounted. He lived here in the 1860’s as he worked on plans to stage a rebellion against British Rule. After an audacious attempt to seize weapons from Chester Castle was betrayed, he was eventually arrested following a boat chase on the Liffey and deported to Australia on the last convict ship to sail there. A memorial stands above his grave, unveiled there in 1911, two years after his death. This story could be a movie script!
“We finished off the day at the base of Johnny Cullen‘s Hill at the block of houses formerly named Irvine Crescent (now incorporated into Church Road). It was here the Scott family lived and in 1916 their 8–year–old son was shot from the gun boat Helga. He lingered on for months after his wounding before finally dying, making him the last of the child casualties of 1916. The same year his father died in an accident in the Port, leaving his mother to raise five children on her own while coping with this double tragedy.
“Their next–door neighbours were the Lennon family. On Bloody Sunday 1913 Patrick Lennon was one of those injured in the baton charge on O’Connell Street. Bloodied but unbowed, he worked alongside Sean O’Casey to raise funds for the relief of strikers‘ families, a project which eventually led to the establishment of the famous soup kitchen at Liberty Hall.
“And finally on to Bloody Sunday 1920. Everybody knows the story of how the Squad under Michael Collins (and the Dublin Brigade of the IRA) targeted British Intelligence agents in the City but not many know of the East Wall operation. A house on Church Road was targeted but the agent had left the evening before and was in Cork when the IRA group arrived. The exact location is unknown but we suspect it was within this block here as many of the houses were sub-divided at that time.”
Even if they didn’t get to tell half the stories of East Wall and the Irish Revolution, it was an enjoyable and informative walking tour … and the weather was beautiful – and there’s always next year!