This exhibition tells the story of Dublin in the 20th Century, with artefacts from the Little Museum of Dublin. Photography by Alex Kearns.
The Arrival of Queen Victoria, 1900
Queen Victoria visited Dublin in 1900, near the end of her long reign. She landed at Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire) on April 4th. The streets were lined with delighted Dubliners, and Victoria arrived in ‘her’ city through mock-castellated gates on Leeson Street Bridge.
This is one of the most extraordinary letters ever written in Dublin. Angry, boastful, prophetic and full of self pity, it captures the frustration of a young genius in a small town, as 20 year old James Joyce tells Lady Gregory of his plans to go - "alone and friendless" - to Paris. "I do not know what will happen to me in Paris but my case can hardly be worse there than it is here."
"To be quite frank," he writes, "I am without means to pay my medical fees and they refuse to get me any grinding or tuitions…"
The letter contains a plea for help – "I am writing to you to know can you help me in any way" – and a litany of self-assurances that speak to Joyce's genius but also to the insecurity that often dogs young men:
"I am not despondent however for I know that even if I fail to make my way such failure proves very little. I shall try myself against the powers of the world."
The original of this letter was missing for many years. The Letters of James Joyce [Volume 1] notes that "a typewritten copy made by Lady Gregory was found amongst the papers of the late W.B. Yeats."
The Irish International Exhibition was the key social event of the first decade. It was hosted on the grounds of Herbert Park in Ballsbridge between May and November of 1907. The aim was to promote domestic industry by showcasing Irish products, as well as encouraging the development of commercial links by inviting all countries to exhibit their goods. This souvenir silk postcard from the exhibition shows the central exhibition hall.
Nearly three million visitors came to ogle at everything from industrial machinery to fine art, but the main attraction was a full-scale Somali village and the rare whimsy of a water chute and switchback railway. This souvenir silk postcard from the exhibition captures a scene from O’Connell Bridge.
A hundred years ago Dublin was smaller than Belfast. Most people were poorly-housed, poorly paid or chronically unemployed, and the city had the highest infant mortality rate in Europe. The story of tenement life is best depicted in John Cooke's Darkest Dublin Collection, now held in the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland.
In the census of 1911 we learn that in the 15 houses on Henrietta Street, there were 835 people. In one house alone there were over a hundred inhabitants.Throughout the first half of the century, nearly a third of Dublin's population lived in overcrowded tenements.
The tenement system had it's origins in the middle of the 19th Century, when Dublin saw an influx of people from the countryside in the wake of the Famine. In the words of archaeologist and historian Christiaan Corlett, "a Dublin solution was found to a Dublin problem," when many fine Georgian residences were converted to house far more people than they were originally designed to accommodate.
In 1913 John Cooke presented his pictorial account of the city's slums to the Dublin Housing Inquiry. They represent a grim and highly vivid account of the slum conditions at that time. For more information on this period, see Corlett's excellent book, Darkest Dublin.
This is a signed photo of the great Irish tenor Count John McCormack, who famously sang 64 notes in a single breath (during Mozart's Don Giovanni). In 1904 McCormack reputedly gave James Joyce singing lessons before Joyce entered the Feis Ceoil tenor competition, winning a very respectable bronze medal. That same year Joyce met Nora Barnacle, his future wife.
Since the 1880's Sandycove Bather's Association has faithfully maintained Dublin's famous 'Forty Foot' diving spot in Dún Laoghaire.
Famously in the first chapter of Joyce's 'Ulysses', characters Stephen and Buck Mulligan go for a swim in the Forty Foot ("the snotgreen sea, the scrotumtightening sea") and are joined by an English academic named Haines.
Patrick Pearse was the founder of the Irish language school St. Enda’s, as well as being a poet, journalist and qualified barrister. It was Pearse who stood outside the G.P.O. on Sackville Street (now O'Connell Street) to read aloud the 'Proclamation of the Irish Republic' on Easter Monday 1916 which signalled the start of the 1916 Rising.
After a week of intense fighting, surrounded on all sides and after witnessing the death of three elderly civilians by a British barricade, Pearse had a note delivered to the British Army's General Lowe stating his wish to surrender to “prevent the further slaughter of the civilian population and in the hope of saving our followers, now hopelessly surrounded and outnumbered”.
Pearse was executed weeks later along with fourteen other leaders of the Rising. These executions would eventually re-ignite a wave of nationalism across the country, leading to a 'War of Independence' which was led by some of the survivors of the Easter Rising including Michael Collins and Éamon de Valera.
Created by the popular Irish sculptor John Hughes in 1908, this statue of Queen Victoria dominated the front garden of Leinster House near Merrion Square for fourteen years until it was moved to the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham. In the 1980s, the statue was relocated to the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney, Australia.
The weekend edition of the Freeman’s Journal, the Weekly Freeman, was published in Dublin for 161 years until 1922. The Weekly Freeman once published a remarkable typographic error: in 1900, during Queen Victoria’s visit to Kingstown, the newspaper erroneously remarked that the Queen and her party “pissed over Leeson Street bridge,” rather than “passed over Leeson Street bridge.”
The Dolphin’s Barn Brick and Tile Company was established in 1900, and bricks with the Dolphin’s Barn stamp were used widely throughout the city between 1900 and 1942. The distinctive yellowish colour of the bricks means there is a tendency to describe all bricks of a similar colour as ‘Dolphin’s Barn’ bricks, even ones that were produced long before the factory opened. The company was a major employer, and its bricks were used in many notable buildings around Dublin, including the GMB in Trinity College, Steevens’ Hospital and the National Gallery of Ireland. The company merged with the Mount Argus works and the Rathnew Brick Company in 1921. It ceased operation in 1942.
This school prospectus encapsulates the two great loves of Patrick Pearse’s life: education and the Irish language. Greatly encouraged by the example of Belgian schools, in 1908 Pearse founded Scoil Éanna in Ranelagh, a bilingual school for boys, followed shortly in 1910 by a girls’ school, Scoil Íde.
As well as teaching through both Irish and English, Pearse pursued and pioneered a child-centred approach to education. His 1912 collection of essays, The Murder Machine, was an indictment of the British education system, placing Pearse at the forefront of educational innovation.
The Imperial Hotel was destroyed by shells from the British gunboat Helga during the 1916 Rising. The hotel was built in 1837, and the site is now occupied by part of the Clery's Department Store building.
Trade Unionist James Larkin was arrested in 1913 after sneaking into the Imperial Hotel in disguise to give a speech to workers gathered below on Sackville St. (now O'Connell St.) This speech constituted a coup against both the authorities and William Martin Murphy, leader of the Dublin employers during the The Lockout of 1913. Murphy was among the hotel's owners.
This cheque for four pounds and nine shillings was paid to Pádraig Mac Piarais, future President of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic, who signed the reverse side in both Irish and English. This small piece of paper highlights the common misnomer of 'Padraig Pearse'. A central figure in the Irish Language revival movement, Pearse practiced linguistic dichotomy. He signed his name either Pádraig Mac Piarais or P.H. Pearse, never a mongrel of the two.
Abraham 'Bram' Stoker was born at 15 Marino Crescent, Dublin in 1847. He was a sickly child and bed ridden with an unknown illness until he started school aged seven after making a full recovery. He completed his education at Trinity College Dublin. During his lifetime, he was better known as personal assistant of actor Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, which Irving owned. However he is best known for his world-famous gothic novel, Dracula, published in 1897. Stoker died in London in 1912 at the age of 64.
In June 1911, James Larkin, the Irish trade union leader and socialist activist, established a newspaper – The Irish Worker and People’s Advocate – as a pro-labour alternative to the capitalist press. On 'Bloody Sunday' August 31st 1913, the Dublin Metropolitan Police brutally charged a workers’ rally led by Larkin and James Connolly in Sackville Street. By the end of September that year, 25,000 men were on strike and heading for a harsh winter. The strikers were supported for a time, but the Lockout ultimately ended in defeat for the workers.
Many Dubliners lived in the sort of tenements depicted in this 1913 etching by Estella Solomons. Solomons was, like Harry Kernoff, Jewish. Her brother, Bethel, was master of the Rotunda Hospital. Estella studied art under Walter Osborne and William Orpen, and later married Seamus O’Sullivan, with whom she produced the Dublin Magazine for 35 years.
Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener, the iconic face of British army recruitment posters and Secretary of state for war, was born in County Kerry in 1850. Why should Irishmen fight for the English? Ulster Unionists saw it as an opportunity to showcase their loyalty to the Empire. The Nationalist community was divided, with Irish Parliamentary Party leader John Redmond encouraging Irishmen to join up and fight for Home Rule, while others saw “England’s difficulty as Ireland’s opportunity.”
HMS Dublin Flag, 1910s
The Battle of Jutland was one of the key naval engagements of the First World War. HMS Dublin played a part in the battle, which was fought in 1916. The ship had been adopted by a committee of Dublin citizens and businessmen who raised funds to provide it with a band and other amenities. When the ship was decommissioned in 1926, Dublin Chamber of Commerce was presented with its battle-scarred ensign – complete with Union Jack – and in turn the Chamber donated it to Christ Church, since when it has languished, unseen, in the cathedral crypt.
This picture shows Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) before and after the 1916 Rising. Like many documents of the period, it refers to the Rising as the Sinn Féin Rebellion. Sinn Féin had nothing to do with the Rising, though nationalists flooded into the party as public opinion turned quickly against British rule.
St. Stephen’s Green Garrison, 1916/1940s
This somewhat gory souvenir placard recalls the aftermath of the Easter Rising. Michael Mallin’s garrison of 200 men was camped across the road from the museum in St Stephen's Green (Countess Markiewicz was his second- in-command). The British forces made use of the high buildings surrounding the square to gain an advantage over the rebels.
Each morning both sides halted fire to allow the groundskeeper time to feed his prize-winning ducks. Eventually the rebels were forced to retreat to the Royal College of Surgeons on the west side of the Green. The casualties are remembered on this placard from the 1940s; as you can see, Mallin was executed for his part in the Rising.
Commandant De Valera in Custody, 1916 – Mick O'Dea
Mick O’Dea RHA tackles the second decade of the 20th Century, a seismic period in Irish life, where rebellion was followed by a War of Independence. Making compelling work in his signature style, from the photographs of the day, Mick uses brilliantly economic handling of line and colour to breathe new life into the telling of the tale. Steeped personally in the history of the period, Mick’s painting, 'Commandant De Valera in Custody 1916' shows De Valera arrested by two Tommies in the aftermath of the 1916 rising. The future Taoiseach and President of the Republic, spared execution because of his American birth, stands tall between his captors. He would cast a long and controversial shadow over Irish politics until his death in 1975.
Lemonade Bottle, 1918
This unopened bottle of lemonade was found by David Casserly in the wreck of the RMS Leinster, which was sunk by a German submarine in October 1918, two months before the end of the First World War. The greatest disaster in Irish maritime history, the loss of the mail boat off the coast of Dún Laoghaire took the lives of 501 people, including about 300 soliders and nurses returning to the front. The bottle was manufactured by Cantrell and Cochrane, better known as C&C. It was made in Bristol, by the Price stoneware company.
Kevin Barry started to attend Belvedere College in 1916. On the 15th of August 1920 he joined a group of IRA volunteers who wanted to ambush a British Army vehicle in order to capture their weapons. During the operation, three British soldiers died and Kevin Barry was the only volunteer captured. He was tortured, and executed in the Mountjoy Jail on November 6th 1920.
Republic of Ireland Bond, 1920
During the year and a half he spent criss-crossing the United States, Éamon de Valera used ‘republican bonds’ as a method of fundraising. Raising close to $6 million, the bonds were powerful tools, legitimising the Irish Republic in the eyes of people at home and abroad. However, after the Civil War the issue of whom the money belonged to would prove contentious. This $10 bond is dated January 21st 1920 and was issued to a Mrs. Goode.
Harry Clarke was Ireland’s pre-eminent stained-glass artist. His religious works are renowned for emulating the spirit of Irish medieval manuscript illumination. In his secular designs the Dubliner experimented with innovative new techniques, culminating in his masterpiece ‘The eve of St Agnes’ (1923-24). Clarke’s work was commissioned throughout Ireland and also in Australia and the United States. You can see his stained-glass windows in Bewley’s Café (1927), around the corner from the museum.
Accreditation of Dáil Plenipotentiaries, 1921
This is the most important historical document in the museum. Appointing Dáil Éireann’s delegation for the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations, it includes signed instructions from Éamon de Valera, who had recently been chosen as Dáil President by his colleagues. It is one of five original copies, and for 40 years the document languished at the back of a filing cabinet in a law firm on Ormond Quay. The exact role and powers of the plenipotentiaries would de disputed in the bitter debate that surrounded the Dáil’s ratification of the Treaty.
Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith – Sir John Lavery, 1922
In 1922 Sir John Lavery painted famous portraits of Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith (below) while both were in London negotiating with the British government. Collins was an Irish revolutionary leader, Minister for Finance, Director of Information, and Teachta Dála (TD) for Cork South in the First Dáil of 1919, Adjutant General, Director of Intelligence, and Director of Organisation and Arms Procurement for the IRA, President of the Irish Republican Brotherhood from November 1920 until his death, and member of the Irish delegation during the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations. Subsequently, he was both Chairman of the Provisional Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Irish Free State Army. Griffith was also part of the delegation that signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921.
Arthur Griffith, the founder of Sinn Fein, was also part of the delegation that signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. The Treaty did not provide full independence from Britain – Northern Ireland would remain part of the UK and an oath to the King would have to be sworn by all members of the Dáil. A civil war broke out, which the anti-Treaty side eventually lost. Collins and Griffith were both dead by the end of the war – Collins killed in an ambush in Béal na Bláth, Griffith succumbing to heart failure.
The Four Courts in flames, 1922
Republican forces opposed to the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 had taken over The Four Courts on Inns Quay in central Dublin. The newly formed Irish Free State was put under pressure to deal with the situation by the British government, who threatened to suspend the evacuation of British troops from Ireland if the rebels were not rounded up. Reluctantly in the early hours of the 28th June 1922, as head of the Irish Free State Army, Michael Collins had the Four Courts surrounded and attacked the building with heavy artillery. This signalled the beginning of the Civil War.
War News No. 3, 1922
The Anti-Treaty War News includes a report dated 29th of June: “The attack on the Four Courts... is a complete failure...Despite continuous heavy gun and rifle fire, the defences of the Four Courts are intact.” In fact, shelling by the Free State Army, which began on the 28th of June and precipitated outright Civil War, brought about the surrender of the Anti-Treaty’s Dublin headquarters by midday on the 1st of July. Quite apart from the damage to one of Dublin’s finest buildings, the incident also saw the destruction of hundreds of years of Irish historical records.
First English Edition of Ulysses, 1922
The history of Ulysses in print is almost as labyrinthine as the story itself. The Egoist Press edition of Joyce’s great masterpiece has been called the second printing of the first edition, which was published by Shakespeare and Company earlier in the same year. This is the first English edition. When the Shakespeare and Co. first edition sold out within a few months, the Egoist Press purchased the original printing plates from Sylvia Beach, the initial publisher. Printed in Dijon by the printers who had created the plates, the title page makes the following curious claim: ‘Published by the Egoist Press, London, by John Rodker, Paris.’ A private edition – like the Shakespeare and Co. edition – it was limited to 2,000 copies on handmade paper. Some 500 of those copies were confiscated by New York Postal authorities on the grounds of obscenity. This volume is number 1936.
James Connolly and the Citizen Army, Liberty Hall, Dublin by Harry Kernoff, 1920s
This woodcutting was made by Harry Kernoff, a Jewish Dublin artist. It represents James Connolly, an Scottish socialist who, with Patrick Pearse, led the Easter Rising of 1916. Connolly was also one of the founders of the Irish Citizen Army. Captured after the rebel surrender, a badly injured Connolly was executed by a British Army firing squad on the 12th May 1916. Due to his injuries he couldn't stand to face his firing squad – he was executed sitting down, tied to a chair.
The Dublin Stock Exchange, 1924
The Dublin Stock Exchange has been on Anglesea Street since the late 19th century. A composite work, this picture of the Exchange's members was created by the famous Lafayette photography agency, which was given the title of Royal Photographer in Dublin during visits by Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and King George V.
The opening ceremony of the 1928 Tailteann Games
Ten of Ireland’s most accomplished artists have each produced a piece that reflects on some aspect of life in Dublin during the 20th Century. The celebrated illustrator p.j. lynch took on the decade of the twenties, a period of civil war and economic hardship which was illuminated by the Tailteann Games. These games were one of the attempts by the new government to foster a Celtic spirit in a newly free nation. Ancient imagery informed the event’s style and approach, which included sporting and artistic events across the city. Returning athletes from European-based Olympic games participated, raising the profile of the Tailteann Games which continued throughout the decade. Johnny Weismuller, Tarzan from the movies and an Olympic swimmer, participated in a swim in the Phoenix Park. P.J. depicts the opening ceremony in Croke Park.
Letter from the Archbishop of Dublin, 1928
In his letter to Chief Justice Hugh Kennedy, Archbishop of Dublin Edward Byrne reaffirms the Catholic Church’s prohibition on Catholics entering Trinity College Dublin. The Archbishop explains: “How the authorities of any Catholic school can, in the face of their conscientious obligations, encourage their pupils to risk their soul’s salvation in Trinity College is to me an absolutely insoluble puzzle.”
Contrary to appearances, the Irish are not visually illiterate. This fine portrait of Hilton Edwards is by the Jewish artist Harry Kernoff. In 1928 Edwards co- founded the Gate Theatre with Micheál MacLiammóir, who like Edwards was actually English. In the Gate they presented European plays in contrast to the Irish peasant fare at the Abbey. (The two theatres were written off as Sodom and Begorrah). Edwards sat for this portrait in 1928, the year the Gate was founded.
Signed postcard, Lady Mary Heath
In 1928, Lady Heath became the first person to fly solo from Cape Town to London. Lady Heath began life as Sophie Catherine Theresa Mary Peirce-Evans in Limerick. Sophie attended St Margaret's Hall on Mespil Road, Dublin, later enrolling in the Royal College of Science in Ireland (which later became subsumed into U.C.D.).
In an era when the world had gone aviation mad, Lady Heath was more than able to hold her own. "Britain's Lady Lindy" as she was known in the United States, made front page news as the first pilot, male or female, to fly a small open-cockpit aircraft from Cape Town to London (Croydon Aerodrome). She had thought it would take her three weeks; as it turned out, it took her three months, from January to May 1928.
Sketch of Matt Talbot by Seán Dixon, 1931
Seán Dixon completed this sketch after the Oblate Fathers in Inchicore commissioned him to paint a portrait of Matt Talbot. Regarded as the Patron Saint of dipsomaniacs, Talbot was an alcoholic until a sudden and permanent reformation at 28. After taking a vow of abstinence, the Dublin labourer devoted the rest of his life to work and prayer, leading a harsh ascetic existence of self-deprivation and punishment. When he was found dead on a Dublin street in 1925, Talbot’s body was covered in chains that must have caused acute pain. A statue of the pious northsider can be found next to the city’s Talbot Memorial Bridge.
Arnotts Box, 1930s
Established at 15 Henry Street in 1843, Arnotts was for many years the largest department store in Dublin. Patrick Pearse allegedly stopped off to settle his account on his way to the GPO on the day of the Rising. In recent years the store has become a prominent victim of the recession.
Bicycle-wheel maker, barman, publican, councillor, senator, M.P. and T.D., Alderman Alfred Byrne is best remembered as Lord Mayor of Dublin. Between 1930 and 1939 Alfie, as he was affectionately known, monopolised the post of Lord Mayor, serving the city for nine consecutive terms. A room dedicated to Alfie containing key documents from his archive can be visited on the second floor of the Little Museum.
Jameson Ad Printing Plate, 1930s
Dublin is indefatigably proud of its reputation as a boozy town. Jameson whiskey was first made here in 1780, when a distillery opened on Bow Street. This plate was used for printing advertisements. It assures readers that “The quality of John Jameson Three Star whiskey is the same the wide world over.”
ESB Showroom 25 St. Stephen’s Green and advertisement, 1930s
It is arguable that the most positive decision made by the new Free State government was to build the Shannon Scheme. The project cost £5.5 million, which was about 20% of the government day to day expenditure at that time, and it involved the construction of Ardnacrusha Power Station. Critics of the scheme said it would be a White Elephant as the demand for electricity would never be sufficient to justify the project costs. They were wrong. There was a huge growth in electricity sales from 43kWh hours in 1930 to 218kWh hours in 1937. ESB’s first showroom at 25 St. Stephens Green was part of the success story. Opening in 1929, it sold £315.6sh.8d worth of electrical equipment in its first week of business.
Butchers Social Union Bingo Card, 1930s
In the 1930s the Butchers Social Union found themselves faced with a mystery. Their leather bingo cards kept going missing. One day someone noticed that bingo players were stealing the cards to patch holes in their shoes. So the Union decided to stamp several holes in the cards, thus foiling the thieves.
Alex Findlater & Co. started life in 1823, trading whiskey, wine and beer. The company expanded rapidly, adding general groceries to its alcohol trade, and became a major institution, with branches all over the city. Ultimately, pressure from supermarkets became too much for Findlaters’ more traditional service – as William Findlater had predicted at a 1902 staff meeting: “This brings up the question of packet goods, which is one of the curses of the trade, unless they bear our own brand. If this is encouraged much further it will mean the passing out of the grocer, and he will be replaced by a mere hander-out of packet goods, or, we will have nothing but girls behind our counters, which may be unpleasant to many of the young men present!”
The Final Cut
This is the last film censor’s certificate that James Montgomery ever signed. Appointed in 1923, this self-styled ‘moral sieve’ cut any scenes with kissing, blasphemy, incest, divorce, contraception, abortion, homosexuality, adultery or illegitimacy. He didn’t like the word virgin, or any mention of prostitutes – ‘with or without a heart of gold.’
Two and a half thousand films have been banned in the history of this state. Of those, James Montgomery personally banned over 1,800. He once said of a film under review: “The girl dancing on the village green shows more leg than I’ve seen on any village green in Ireland. Better amputate them.”
Ireland v Hungary, 1939
At first glance it looks as if the Irish soccer team is giving a fascist salute in this picture, which was taken in Budapest. In 1939, Hungary was ruled by a right-wing dictator, and was close to Germany and Italy. But Hungary was not fascist, and while it did have a fascist movement, it was a threat to the ruling regime, and was actually banned in 1939. Some members of that movement, the Arrow Cross, did use a closed-fist salute (the classic fascist salute was open-handed) but the truth is probably more innocuous. Three cheers for Hungary?
Clery’s Box, 1941
A box from Clery’s tailoring department in 1941. Clery’s was founded as ‘The New or Palatial Mart’ in 1853, bought over and renamed by M. J. Clery in 1883. The current building – which is modelled on Selfridge’s of London – dates from 1922, the original having been destroyed during the Easter Rising. In 1943, this much-loved department store was taken over by the Guiney family, who also owned the nearby Guiney’s department store.
James Joyce’s Death Mask, 1941
On 11 January 1941, James Joyce – who was 58 years old – underwent surgery for a perforated ulcer in a Zurich hospital. The following day he fell into a coma, before waking, briefly, and calling for his wife and children. They were still on their way to the hospital when he died 15 minutes later. While two senior Irish diplomats were apparently in Switzerland at the time, neither attended Joyce’s funeral, and the Irish government subsequently declined Nora Joyce’s offer to permit the repatriation of his remains. This facsimile of Joyce’s death mask commemorates our greatest novelist.
Postcard from George Bernard Shaw, 1943
In 1943 the playwright George Bernard Shaw was living in London. Shaw went to school here on St. Stephen’s Green, and never lost his accent, even though he left Dublin at 20. A magazine called The Strand asked a number of writers when they thought the Second World War would end. “Nothing doing,” Shaw writes here, “I never prophesy until I know; and nobody yet knows where those two will end. My best guess is that Adolf will enjoy a dignified retirement in the Vice-Regal Lodge in Dublin, which is presumably to let at present.”
A Dublin love story
McDowell Ring House and Clarence Hotel are two renowned establishments in Dublin. These framed documents show a receipt for two rings bought in McDowell Ring House, a telegram of congratulations for Mr. & Mrs.Clayton on the occasion of their wedding and a bill for the Claytons stay at the Clarence Hotel. A whirlwind engagement, marriage and honeymoon in the space of a day or two in April 1944!
Brendan Bracken - Olive Murray
One of the most mysterious Dubliners of the 20th Century, Bracken was an adventurer who tried to disguise his roots (Dublin/Tipperary), claiming instead to be Australian. A Tory MP at the age of 28, he published both the Economist and the Financial Times, and was loyal to Churchill when the latter had been cast into the political wilderness after the First World War. In 1940, when Ireland practiced scrupulous neutrality, Brendan Bracken played a key role in Churchill’s succession as Prime Minister, and went on to serve as Minister of Information for three years. Viscount Bracken died in 1958 at the age of 57. He is the subject of an excellent biography by fellow Dubliner Charles Lysaght.
Portrait of Maureen O’Hara, 1940s
The great Maureen O’Hara, star of The Quiet Man and Miracle on 34th Street, was born in Ranelagh in 1920. Now aged 91, she lives in Glengarriff in Cork. O’Hara trained as an actor at the Abbey Theatre and the Ena Mary Burke School of Drama and Elocution in Dublin. Her father owned shares in Shamrock Rovers F.C. and she remains a fan.
This is a French movie poster of John Ford's classic film 'The Quiet Man' about a retired American boxer, John Wayne, who returns to the village of his birth in Ireland, where he finds true love with Maureen O'Hara. Most people fondly remember the classic scene where John Wayne drags Maureen O'Hara through towns and face down through fields. Wayne and O'Hara were known to be constantly playing tricks on each other on set.
The last line of the wedding toast was censored by Republic Pictures. It should have said, "May their days be long and full of happiness. May their children be many and full of health. And may they live in peace and national freedom". After the film was completed, Republic Pictures decided "national freedom" in Ireland was too controversial a concept.
Tram Tickets, 1940s
The tramways began operating in 1872 and the very last line closed in 1959. The last tram in the city proper left Nelson’s Pillar in 1949. The tram barely made it, as the Irish Times reported:
“Tram No. 252, the last one, had struggled free from the clutches of thousands of souvenir hunters in Westmoreland Street and had set out for Blackrock; two hours later it crawled into its home depot. The tram’s seats were gone, windows smashed, side panelling ripped away, still accompanied by a roaring, singing, hooting crowd, which had to be forcibly restrained by police reinforcements from breaking into the Blackrock depot.”
Éamon de Valera with Dr. Alan Thompson and Dr. Bethal Solomons, 1947
A rare photograph of then-Taoiseach Éamon de Valera smiling. De Valera is being greeted by Dr. Bethal Solomons at the Rotunda Bicentenary Congress. Dr. Solomons was “a world famous obstetrician and gynaecologist, rugby international, horseman, leader of liberal Jewry and of Irish literary and artistic renaissance.” Master of the Rotunda Hospital, he won ten caps on the Irish rugby team, was the first president of the Liberal Synagogue in Dublin, and was even mentioned in Finnegans Wake.
Fianna Fáil Election Poster, 1948
Fianna Fáil had a tangled birth in the Civil War. Sinn Féin split into pro-and Anti-Treaty factions, with de Valera leading the Anti-Treaty faction. Anti-treaty Sinn Féin boycotted the Dáil for several years after the end of the Civil War until a faction around Éamon de Valera split and created Fianna Fáil. They first came to power in 1932 and were long the most popular party in Ireland. The 1948 election was controversial as Éamon de Valera introduced the Electoral Amendment Act, which was seen as an attempt to ensure the continued dominance of Fianna Fáil. But de Valera failed to retain power after the other parties joined together to create the first coalition government.
Ration Book, 1948
During the ‘Emergency’ the Free State had a rationing system like that in Great Britain. Sugar, tea, butter, margarine, bread, flour and clothing were among the many items for which ration tickets were required. Poor families were hardest hit by the restrictions as bread was a central part of their diet. The most unpopular figure at the time was not Minister for Supplies Seán ‘half-ounce’ Lemass, but the notorious ‘glimmer man’ who went door-to-door to ensure that citizens were not using gas after hours.
Schools International Photo, 1948
Irish schoolboys took on their English counterparts in the 1948 Schools International, and beat them 1-0 on home ground. Many of the players on the Irish team came from the Johnville and Home Farm teams, including Gerry Mackey, the team captain. Mackey went on to play for Shamrock Rovers and is the only man to have captained the Irish team at schoolboy, youth and senior levels.
Flyer for Blackrock Baths, 1949
The Blackrock Baths was created following public outcry at access to the sea being cut off by the building of the Dublin-Kingstown railway line in 1834. Hugely popular, the baths often witnessed displays by Dublin’s great high-diving and springboard-diving champion, Eddie Heron. During the 1980s the baths fell into disuse and were later dismantled and sold to a private firm.
Monument Creameries Invoice, 1953
The Monument Creameries was a chain of shops that was founded on Parnell Street in 1920 by Séamus and Agnes Ryan (née Harding). The Hardings were Republican activists during the War of Independence, and Séamus was later elected to the Seanad. The Parnell Street branch was the first of 36, and the family lived in the wealthy Dublin suburb of Foxrock. Kathleen Ryan, an actress, and John Ryan, an artist, writer and benefactor of many other artists, were among the Ryans’ eight children.
The Righteous Are Bold Poster, 1954
This poster advertises a run of The Righteous Are Bold by Frank Carney. It was the most-performed play in the Abbey Theatre (which was temporarily housed in the Queen’s Theatre). Now largely forgotten, the play was hugely popular in its day because it featured the first exorcism to be shown on an Irish stage. The plot concerns an Irish emigrant returning home from London who is possessed by some ‘evil’, and the ensuing battle between scientific, pagan and Catholic beliefs as to how it should be removed. It was performed 245 times, 96 of those on its first run in 1946.
Shamrock Rovers Photo, 1954
Shamrock Rovers F.C. was founded in Ringsend in 1901. This celebrated club has supplied more players to the Irish national team than any other, and it remains the most successful club in Irish history. Shamrock Rovers have always worn a green and white striped strip (until 1926 the stripes were vertical).
Re-Opening of the Gaiety Theatre, 1955
An invitation to the Lord Mayor of Dublin to attend the performance that re-opened the Gaiety on the 25th of November, 1955. The Gaiety had been forced to close ten months previously when Dublin Corporation condemned the upper circle balcony as unsafe. The auditorium had to be redesigned with safer exits before the Gaiety could re-open. Denis Larkin, son of the famous labour activist Jim Larkin, was Lord Mayor at the time.
Dublin Airport Terminal, 1950s
The airport was a British Royal Flying Corps base during World War I. It was taken over by the Air Corps when Ireland gained independence. Work commenced on the terminal in 1938 after the Government was persuaded to support “such an elaborate plan” despite the fact that annual passenger numbers were only in the hundreds. The tiered design and curvilinear forms echo the lines of the great ocean-going liners.
Menu from Russell Hotel, 1950s
This menu from the Russell Hotel, on the south side of St Stephen’s Green, suggests that politics and business have long been intimate. It was produced for a dinner hosted by R. F. Browne, Chairman of the ESB. The menu reads like a who’s who, with a line-up that includes Erskine Childers (President from 1973 until his death in 1974), Seán Lemass (Taoiseach from 1959-1966), Jack Lynch (Taoiseach in the 1960s and 1970s), Arthur Cox (Legal advisor to the ESB), Dr. Tom Murray (Secretary of the Department of Finance and future chair of the ESB), Henry Kennedy (a Director of the ESB, Bank of Ireland and many other companies), J. P. Digby (Chairman and founder of Pye Ireland and a Director of the ESB), John H. Ryan (a Director of Bank of Ireland), T. MacMahon (Director of the ESB) and Brendan O’Cearbhaill (Director of the ESB). Blue Nun wine was served at the meal.
Switzer’s Box, 1950s
Grafton Street was anchored by Switzer’s and Brown Thomas department stores. Switzer’s was the less elite of the two – many customers never crossed the street to shop in Brown Thomas. The basement café was an old-fashioned parlour with waitresses in black dresses and white aprons. Switzer’s was bought by Brown Thomas in 1995; BTs moved into the Switzer’s building across the street. You can still see the Switzer’s logo on the Wicklow Street side of Brown Thomas.
Memorial Shrine to Gaynor Crist, 1950s
Gaynor Crist was the inspiration for the protagonist in The Ginger Man by J. P. Donleavy. An American who studied at Trinity College, Crist was part of the city’s bohemian scene, and was a fixture in Dublin pubs (especially McDaids) along with Brendan Behan, Patrick Kavanagh and Flann O’Brien. Crist died in Gran Canaria in 1964. This miniature shrine was donated by Desmond MacNamara to Grogan’s – the city’s greatest boozer – in memory of Crist.
Guinness Advertisement, 1959
Guinness advertising has been iconic for a long time, but most of the advertising now seen in pubs here was never used in Ireland. This is an original proof of the first print ad ever published in Dublin. GD1, as it is known, was produced in 1959 – the bicentenary of the company.
President John F Kennedy addresses the Dáil chamber, 1963
The visit of US President John F. Kennedy was seismic. It was a historic visit, not least because Kennedy, a young, dynamic Irish-American, had long made much of his Irish roots. Kennedy was mobbed by autograph hunters at a garden party held in his honour at the home of the President. His address to both houses of the Oireachtas on 28th June was a bravura performance; a sort of homecoming, as the Irish Times noted. During his speech, Kennedy described his heritage, made an attack on literary censorship and noted – to the delight of the assembled politicians – that Leinster House “does not inspire the brightest ideas.” Six months later he was killed in Dallas, Texas.
John F Kennedy Lectern, 1963
On 28 June, President John F Kennedy addressed both houses of the Oireachtas. It was a historic visit, not least because Kennedy, a young, dynamic Irish-American, had long made much of his Irish roots. Speaking at this lectern, Kennedy described his heritage, made an attack on literary censorship and noted – to the delight of the assembled politicians – that Leinster House “does not inspire the brightest ideas.”
The ‘lectern’ is actually a music stand that was owned by John Brennock, who bought it in an antique shop on Fishamble Street. During one of many meetings to prepare for President Kennedy’s visit, it was realised that the Dáil chamber did not have a lectern that could be used for a speech – TDs address the Dáil from where they are seated. Mr Brennock offered to lend his music stand to the Oireachtas. By the time the stand was returned – strapped to the top of a car – Kennedy had already been shot.
Lourdes Holy Water Can, 1960s
The town of Lourdes became a major site for Catholic pilgrimages after Mary was said to have appeared in the town. Mary is said to have revealed the site of a spring to Bernadette, who dug and found water. Holy water from the spring is believed to have healing properties. Lourdes is still a popular place of pilgrimage for devout Catholics.
Miss Ireland Poster, 1960s
This poster advertises the Four Provinces ballroom on Harcourt Street. An iconic hangout for many years, the 4Ps later became the Television Club before being demolished. Showbands were popular between the mid 1950s and late 1970s; they usually featured a lead singer fronting brass and rhythm sections and a keyboard instrument, playing popular hits of the day. The Miss Ireland pageant has been running since 1947.
Smithfield Fruit Market Tokens, 1960s
These tokens were used in Dublin’s fruit market in Smithfield. Tokens such as these would have been common in the city once. Some would have been used when there was an absence of actual coinage, while others would have been used by merchants catering to wealthy customers who disliked handling cash.
Stafford & McMahon’s Dublin
These pictures show how much O’Connell street has changed in forty years. Pádraic McMahon, a photographer and former member of the Dublin rock band The Thrills, inherited a collection of photos of Dublin in the 1960s from an elderly neighbour, William Stafford (1915-2006). McMahon recreated the photos as faithfully as possible, using the same exposure settings, in the same locations – even at the same time of day and in the same weather.
The Great Marvello, 1960s
In this ‘magic robot’ game, a figurine tries to rotate to the correct answer. (Magnets, dear boy.) The game’s impresario, Eamonn Andrews, went to school in Synge Street CBS, just south of here. Andrews is best remembered as presenter of This Is Your Life, which he fronted for nearly 30 years until his death in 1987.
MiWadi Label, 1960s
MiWadi fruit squash is a part of many Dubliners’ childhoods. The name comes from the original parent company – Mineral Water Distributors, formed in 1927. MiWadi was originally sold in chemists, because cordials were thought to be good for sick people. In the 1970s, supermarkets such as Dunnes Stores started making MiWadi more accessible. In the 1980s it was often mixed with alcohol.
Piece of Nelson’s Pillar, 1966
This piece of granite is from Nelson’s Pillar on O’Connell Street, which was blown up by the IRA at 2am on 8 March 1966. Bombs destroyed the upper half of the pillar and threw the statue of Nelson into the street. Several days later, the Irish army demolished the remains of the pillar, causing more damage to O’Connell Street than the original blast. Nelson’s head was stored in a shed on Clanbrassil Street, before being stolen by students from the National College of Art and Design as a fund-raising prank. It was leased to a London antique store owner, and later appeared on the stage of the Olympia when the Dubliners performed. The head of Nelson’s Pillar is now on display in the excellent Dublin City Library and Archive on Pearse Street.
Irish coinage, 1967
This is a set of Irish coins from soon before the currency was decimalised in 1971. The coins on display are a six pence coin (with a picture of a dog), a half penny (a pig and piglets), a half crown (two and a half shillings, or thirty pence, with a picture of a horse), three pence (a hare) and a penny (with a picture of a turkey).
Letter from Charles Haughey, 1967
Charles Haughey was Minister for Finance at the time he wrote this letter to Eric Patton, from the Richie Hendriks Gallery. While the gallery, which was here on Stephen’s Green, was cutting-edge, the painting in question recently sold for just €800. In the same year, Haughey sold his old house in Raheny for £200,000, having bought it for £50,000 ten years earlier. The land had been rezoned in the interim. Opening an office building on St Stephen’s Green that year, he announced, “I, for one, have never believed that all architectural taste and building excellence ceased automatically with the passing of the 18th Century.” That same year, 1967, Haughey bought Abbeville, an eighteenth century mansion designed by Gandon.
Wanderly Wagon, 1967
This model of the Wanderly Wagon was used for the flying scenes in the RTE children’s programme. (The wheels have been repaired with Lego.) Wanderly Wagon ran from 1967 until 1982, and it was a beloved part of many an Irish childhood. The central role of O’Brien was played by the legendary puppeteer Eugene Lambert, who travelled the country in his flying wagon. O’Brien was joined by characters such as the grumpy Fortycoats, the lovable Godmother (played by Nora O’Mahoney) a flying dog called Judge, and old Mr Crow, a rather sardonic and unlikable bird. Strange but true: Neil Jordan once wrote an episode of Wanderly Wagon.
Ché Guevara by Jim Fitzpatrick, 1968
An iconic image, this print is from Jim Fitzpatrick’s original silk screening of Alberto Korda’s photograph of Argentinian revolutionary Ché Guevara. A proud Dubliner, Fitzpatrick created the image on Guevara’s death. “When he was murdered,” explains Fitzpatrick, “I wanted to do something about it, so I created the poster. This image had to come out, or he would not be commemorated otherwise, he would go where heroes go, which is usually into anonymity.” Fitzpatrick produced the image without copyright, only obtaining a copyright in 2010, and has since granted the rights in perpetuity to the Guevara family.
Sunday Independent, 1972
The Irish Independent was launched in 1905, successor to the Daily Irish Independent. The paper was owned by William Martin Murphy, and stayed in his family until it was purchased by Tony O’Reilly in a protracted coup between February 1972 and March 1973. This issue from July 1972 features a short, sycophantic profile of the new boss – no more, really, than a snapshot of his rapid rise. O’Reilly made his first million that year, and the Independent would soon become the cornerstone of his media empire.
I’ve Seen Santa At Switzer’s Badge, 1970s
Switzer’s department store had the best in-house Santa Claus, and their Christmas window displays were a seasonal benison. With lights, music and animatronic puppets, people would make trips from all over the country just to visit this much-missed institution.
‘Éamon de Valera is Dead’, 1975
On Saturday 30 August 1975, the Irish Times announced the death of Éamon de Valera. A towering influence, he served multiple terms as a socially conservative Taoiseach and President. De Valera retired from politics in 1973 at the age of 90, the oldest head of state in the world at the time. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.
Portrait of Francis Bacon, 1976 - John Minihan
Francis Bacon was born up the road on Baggot Street. But like many other Dubliners – from Edmund Burke to Brendan Bracken – he saw himself as an Englishman. This photograph of Bacon was taken by John Minihan in 1976. Bacon’s paintings were famously bleak and emotionally raw. Margaret Thatcher once called him “that man who paints those dreadful pictures.”
The Project Arts Centre
In 1967 the Project Gallery opened in Lower Abbey Street with an exhibition of graphic works by John Behan. In 1974 the Project settled in its current location, the former site of the Dollard Printing Works on Essex Street in Temple Bar. Under the shrewd direction of John Stephenson the venue consisted of a theatre/performance space, gallery and cinema. Actors such as Gabriel Byrne and Liam Neeson developed their skills, and music came to the fore too, as U2, the Virgin Prunes and the Boomtown Rats all played here.
Captain America’s Menu, 1970s
Mark Kavanagh opened Captain America’s on Grafton Street in 1971. It was not the first restaurant in Dublin to serve American-style burgers – but it was certainly a pioneer. Even iceberg lettuce was a rarity at the time. Chris de Burgh and Horslips played here in the early days.
Teacups from hotels in Dublin 1. Dolphin Hotel. This fine Gothic building is on East Essex Street. It was later converted into Dublin District Court offices. 2. Royal Marine Hotel. Originally the Hayes Royal Hotel (1828), the hotel was bought in 1863 by William Dargan, builder of the Kingstown Railway, and was rebuilt and re-opened as the Royal Marine Hotel in 1865. 3. The Metropole Hotel. During the 1916 Rising this hotel, adjacent to the GPO, was completely destroyed. The same site is now home to Penney’s clothing store. 4. Royal Hibernian Hotel. Formerly located on Dawson Street, this grand old hotel was demolished in the 1980s to make way for the Royal Hibernian Way.
Collection Poster for Sick and Indigent Roomkeepers’ Society, 1970s
Dublin’s oldest charity was founded in 1790 as The Charitable Society for the Relief of Sick and Indigent Roomkeepers of all Religious Persuasions in the City of Dublin. The founders were a group of concerned middle-class men – including a grocer, a schoolmaster and a linen-draper – who wanted to alleviate the poverty in Georgian Dublin long before any government social welfare schemes.
Dubliners Poster, 1979
The Dubliners were a world-famous Irish folk music group. The Dubliners were formed in 1962. By 1979, when the folk band were booked to play a week of gigs in the Olympia, such was their popularity that the concerts sold out instantly, despite the fact that the printer forgot to put the name of the band on the posters.
Hirschfeld Centre Plaque, 1979
On St. Patrick’s Day 1979, the Hirschfeld Centre opened at 10 Fownes Street in Temple Bar. The centre, named after German sexologist Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, was a social, cultural and political hub for Dublin’s gay and lesbian communities. It was the second attempt to create a safe space – the first had failed because of mismanagement and infighting. Then a dark, secluded part of Dublin, Fownes Street made it easier for people still in the closet to visit the Centre. The building included office space for political and counselling groups as well as spaces for socialising. The Centre never quite recovered from a fire in 1987 and was sold for development in 1999.
Bullets from Ben Dunne’s Kidnappers, 1981
On the 16th of October, 1981, Ben Dunne Jnr. was kidnapped by the IRA on his way to open a new Dunnes Store in Portadown. Before his release on the 22nd of October, two of his abductors gave him these bullets and told him that they could easily have been used – one on him and the other on Fr. Dermot McCarthy. Fr McCarthy had tried to secure Dunne’s release, making a plea on television and at one point meeting with Dunne’s kidnappers. McCarthy was nearly shot in crossfire. After his release, Ben Dunne mounted the bullets on a piece of stone from the cemetary in Armagh where he had been held captive.
Dermot Bolger’s Typewriter, 1980
This typewriter belongs to the playwright, poet and novelist Dermot Bolger, who was born in Finglas in 1959. Bolger has worked as a factory hand, library assistant and publisher. A respected voice in Irish literature, his novels include Night Shift and The Journey Home.
Repeal Section 31 Poster, 1980s
During the Troubles, censorship was used to silence Sinn Féin and the IRA. Under Section 31 of the Broadcasting Authority Act, it was forbidden to broadcast the voice of Sinn Féin members. This rule was brought in by Fianna Fáil’s Gerry Collins in 1971 and strengthened by Labour’s Conor Cruise O’Brien in 1977. The ban was upheld by the European Commission of Human Rights in 1991, but repealed two years later as part of the peace process.
Under a Blood Red Sky, 1983
Under a Blood Red Sky is a live album, recorded during U2’s tour in support of War, their third album. It was U2’s first headline tour of Europe and the US, and the band moved from small clubs to larger venues, even some arenas towards the end of the tour. Released along with the concert film Live at Red Rocks, the album bolstered U2’s reputation as a cracking live band. This copy is signed by the band.
Portrait of Samuel Beckett, 1985 - John Minihan
Samuel Beckett grew up in Foxrock, but spent most of his life in Paris, where he is here captured near his home on the Boulevard St. Jacques. Beckett is most famous for his minimalist plays, often laced with dark humour, like Waiting for Godot and Endgame. The man who took this photograph, John Minihan, is an engaging figure who recalls his youth with a puckish twinkle.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed by Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald (‘Garret the Good’) and Margaret Thatcher on 15th November 1985, with the intention of creating peace in Northern Ireland. The Provisional IRA and loyalist paramilitaries rejected the agreement and continued fighting. Magill was a left-wing magazine founded by Vincent Browne in 1977.
Carmencita Hederman in Enniskillen, 1987
In November 1987 eleven people were killed when an IRA bomb exploded during a Remembrance Day Service in Enniskillen. Carmencita Hederman, who was Lord Mayor at the time, remembers: “When a Book of Condolences was opened in the Mansion House, we kept having to run back down to Eason’s to buy new books because so many people turned up. At a memorial service in Enniskillen, I presented the book on behalf of the people of Dublin.” This photograph was taken during that service – note the presence of one Charles J Haughey.
Bus Ticket Machine, 1980s
This ticket machine was a common sight for most Dubliners, along with the two-man bus crew of driver and conductor. When Dublin Bus was born in 1987 it was the beginning of the end for bus conductors and their ticket machines. While most conductors were retrained as drivers, a few stayed on, with one conductor still serving the 20b route as late as 2005.
Valedictory Verses by Séamus Heaney, 1988
Séamus Heaney wrote this poem to mark “a significant moment in the history of Dublin” – the closure of Carysfort College in Blackrock. The Nobel-prize winning poet taught at the teacher-training college between 1975 and 1981, before he took up a position at Harvard. Carysfort was founded in 1877 as a college for Catholic girls who wished to become teachers. Other lecturers at the college included Éamon de Valera and Eoin MacNeill, co-founder of the Gaelic League and founder of the Irish Volunteers. The poem was written, as Heaney notes, “to mark the end of an era.”
Dubliners Fan Letter, 1980s
Two young fans of The Dubliners wrote this letter to the band in the 1980s – although they spend most of the letter telling the folk band how much they love U2. Despite tough times in the city, and especially in suburbs like Ballyfermot, these children evoke a colourful sense of community, fun and individualism.
Fake Banknote Postcard, 1988
In 1988, a group called Students Against the Destruction of Dublin produced these postcards for citizens to send the Taoiseach and Minister of the Environment to oppose the redevelopment of Bachelor’s Walk, which contains some of the most important early 18th Century houses in Dublin. At the time, buildings were being acquired by a development company, and the postcards urge the government to ensure that any development preserved the buildings.
McGonagle’s Sign, 1980s
McGonagle’s was a bar and live-music venue on South Anne Street in the 1970s. Many great bands played there, from U2 and the Stone Roses in their early days to acts like Death (the band after which Death Metal is named) and Sonic Youth. McGonagle’s has since been demolished to make way for a Hackett shop.
My Left Foot
Christy Brown was an author, painter and poet who suffered from cerebral palsy. He is most famous for his autobiograpy My Left Foot – his left leg was the only limb over which he had complete control, so he taught himself to write and paint with his left foot. Noel Pearson’s 1989 film of the same name, directed by Jim Sheridan and starring Daniel Day Lewis as Brown, is one of the most celebrated Irish movies of the last 30 years.
Mary Robinson Election Poster, 1990
Mary Robinson was Ireland’s first female President. Elected in 1990 as an independent candidate with the backing of Labour and the Workers’ Party, she was also the first president elected without the support of Fianna Fáil. Robinson began her career as a senator, fighting to liberalise Ireland in the 1970s – access to contraception was one of her early causes, as well as abolishing a legal requirement that women in the civil service leave their jobs if they married. She was a legal advisor to the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform, which eventually succeeded in overturning Ireland’s ban on homosexuality in 1992. As President, Mary Robinson revitalised the office, before becoming United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights.
Jonathan Philbin Bowman by Conor Horgan, 1991
There is a messer in every Dublin classroom. Jonathan Philbin Bowman was a freelance messer, at large in the city at a time – the late
1980s – when most of his peers were at school or college. The son of broadcaster John Bowman and his wife Dr Eimer Philbin Bowman, Jonathan had little time for conventional education, and was almost comically precocious. A fine mimic and boisterous conversationalist, he parlayed a vocation as a journalist into an unlikely role at the centre of Dublin society. In the Coffee Inn, a famous dive-café on South Anne Street, the house speciality was the Bowman Burger (20p): one microwaved bowl of hot air. Their best customer was, of course, JPB. A great Dubliner, he died in 2000 at the age of 31.
Evening Press, 1991
The Evening Press was the most popular evening newspaper in Ireland from 1954 to the mid-1990s, with sales at one point of 175,000 copies a day. It published nearly 10,000 cartoons by ‘Till’ (George O’Callaghan), the most prolific cartoonist in the world, and the early work of journalists Con Houlihan and Vincent Browne.
Mike Hogan adds to the gaiety of the nation. This is perhaps the sincerest compliment in Dublin. A former Eye in the Sky, Hogan bought the iconic 'In Dublin' magazine for £6,500 when it was in financial trouble and succeeded in turning it around, despite courting scandal with ads for ‘massage parlours’. Hogan once owned 38 magazines. He now works with telecoms magnate Denis O’Brien.
Thom McGinty as the Not So Laughing Cavalier, Dame Street, 1993
Thom McGinty, better known as the Diceman, was a street performer in the 1980s and early 1990s. He came to Ireland in 1976 to work as a model. The name Diceman came from a shop that sold role-playing games. In the 1980s and early 1990s, McGinty became well-known for performances on Grafton Street where he would sometimes work as a mime artist or would otherwise perform in costume, advertising the shop. He is pictured here as the Not So Laughing Cavalier. McGinty was diagnosed with HIV in 1990 and died in 1995.
This picture represents the great transformation that Ireland underwent in the 1990s. On the left, the conservative forces of old Ireland come face-to-face with the liberal forces of young Ireland on the right. In the background, there is a hint of neo-colonialism in the depiction of Marks & Spencer.
Fourth Birthday Party for Norris, 1992
A seminal moment in the struggle for gay rights in Ireland, captured by the great Christopher Robson. In October 1988, David Norris won his case in the European Court of Human Rights that the criminal laws on homosexuality were unjust and must be changed. Four years later, the Government had done nothing to implement these changes, and indeed stated that such law reforms “were at the bottom of the list of priorities.” In response, the Gay & Lesbian Equality Network [GLEN] held a “Fourth Birthday Party for Norris.” A huge pink cake was carried through the city, and TDs and Senators were invited to the party outside the Dáil, which was addressed by Senator Norris.
Mother Teresa’s Freedom of Dublin, 1993
Mother Teresa of Calcutta trained at Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham. This letter from the office of the Lord Mayor confirms the breakfast menu for the occasion of her acceptance of the Freedom of Dublin. The food was provided by Superquinn, and a traditional full Irish breakfast included bacon, sausages, eggs, tomatoes and black and white pudding. Mother Teresa was not a vegetarian.
Graham Knuttel painted gently satirical pictures of all the Taoisigh. This painting references Bertie Ahern's reputation as a man of the people - his famous anorak, that pub in Drumcondra opposite his constituency office. Charlie Haughey's much quoted description - "The Most Cunning of Them All" - refers to the other side of Ahern's reputation.
Colm Tóibín by Perry Ogden, 1990s
Colm Tóibín stands in his office near Fitzwilliam Square. One of Ireland’s more astute commentators – and surely Dublin’s greatest networker – he was born in Wexford but has spent much of his life in the capital. Tóibín published his first novel, The South, in 1990, partly based on his experience of living in Barcelona. His other works include The Blackwater Lightship (1999) and a wonderful collection of short stories called The Empty Family (2010).
Nouveau, First Issue, 1999
This periodical is evidence for the case that we lost the run of ourselves. Only in Ireland in the year 1999 could a magazine aimed at the rich be called Nouveau without a shred of irony. Ken Bryan, the magazine’s publisher, writes in his first editorial: “By all accounts, the risks [of publishing] are minimal.” Nouveau closed shortly afterwards.
Photography by Alex Kearns
Exhibit compiled and completed for the museum by Alex Kearns
with thanks also to;
Alan Roche (Digital Marketing Manager) The Little Museum of Dublin
Simon O'Connor (Museum Curator)
The Little Museum of Dublin
Trevor White (Museum Director)
The Little Museum of Dublin