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St Olave’s Church

On Wednesday 28th September, 2002, a Dublin City Council commemorative plaque marking the site of the medieval Saint Olave’s Church was unveiled at Fishamble Street, Dublin, by Councillor Michael Pidgeon, representing the the Lord Mayor of Dublin Caroline Conroy, and the Abassador of Norway to Ireland, Mari Sk.

Saint Olaf, the patron saint of Norway, was a young king of Norway, 1016–29, a country that had always proved difficult to unite, for largely geographical reasons, in contrast to its Scandinavian neighbour Denmark. Before becoming king he led a classic Viking-style career in the Baltic Sea area and in Normandy. For a short period he fought on behalf of King Æthelred II of England (978–1016).

Whilst in Normandy he adopted Christianity, at a time when many Icelanders were doing the same thing. On his return to Norway he seized power in warlord style and tried, sometimes by force, to get his countrymen to convert. Eventually there was a rebellion against him fostered by King Cnut of Denmark and England, and he went briefly into exile.

With Swedish help Olaf attempted to recover his kingship, but was defeated and killed at the Battle of Sticklestad, near Trondheim, on 29 July 1030. This date became Olsuk, his feast-day, and is celebrated in Norway and in the Faroe Islands, and parts of Sweden and Finland.

According to tradition, springs of water with healing properties emerged from his grave and miracles were reported. Grimkell, the English bishop of Trondheim (Nidaros) built a chapel on the site of the grave and declared him a saint on 3 August 1031.

 After the accession of his son, Magnus I, in 1035 the cult spread rapidly. In Britain there are over 40 churches dedicated to St Olaf, especially in the north-east (Danelaw), the Isle of Man and the Northern and Western Isles of Scotland. The earliest documented church at York, apart from the minster, was also dedicated to St Olaf. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle it was founded by Earl Siward of Northumbria (c. 1033–55). In addition a number of trading centres elsewhere came to acquire one, including London, Chester, Dublin and Waterford.

 The Dublin church is not mentioned in any record until the late twelfth century, in a cartulary of St Mary’s Abbey. Its position in Fishamble Street, near the waterline at high tide in the eleventh century, suggests that it may have served as a sailor’s and trader’s church for Christian Scandinavians.

Christianity, of course, had received a major boost in the town with the foundation of the cathedral and diocese in c. 1030. St Olave’s Church could have been founded at any time from the mid-eleventh century onwards. Among the relics of Christ Church Cathedral was part of the vestment of St Olaf, possibly presented by Dublin’s first Hiberno-Norse bishop, Dúnán (c. 1030–74).

St Olave’s appears to have led an undistinguished life as a small parish church. In c. 1294 it was said to have been too poor to be taxed. By that time there had been reclamation out as far as Isolde’s Tower, enlarging the parish a little.

By the late Middle Ages the name was starting to be lost, at least in some quarters, hence St Toven’s in 1317 and St Owyn’s in 1491. It is recorded as the property of St Augustine’s Abbey in Bristol in 1533, on the eve of the Protestant Reformation.

By 1553 St Olave’s had been closed as a functioning church, though it was still remembered for another century or so. In c. 1574 there is a reference to a lease of the church or chapel of St Tullockes or St Olaves. This corruption of the name also occurs in Southwark in London, in the form Tooley Street. Cf. Scattery Island from Inis Chathaigh, the only Norse-influenced place-name in Co. Clare.

The church and its cemetery were granted to George Bowchier in 1575, i.e. it had been secularized. Speed shows St John’s Church on his map of 1610, but only houses in Fishamble Street. The last references are to the chapel or temple called St Tulloks (1619) and to a priest’s chamber (1622).

Burials were uncovered in 1939 but not examined scientifically. Richard Haworth in his essay in The Wood Quay Saga identified from newspaper evidence the precise site of the successor house in Fishamble Street.

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Site of St Olave’s Church to be commemorated

The next plaque to be erected under the Dublin City Council scheme will mark the site of St Olave’s Church, which stood on Fishamble Street from the mid-10th century. The location is now part of the Civic Offices, where the plaque will be installed.

St Olave (or Olaf) is the patron saint of Norway, and churches dedicated to him can be found in several Viking-founded towns and cities.

The plaque will be unveiled by Councillor Michael Pidgeon, representing the Lord Mayor Caroline Conroy, and the Norwegian Ambassador to Ireland, H.E. Mari Skåre at 10.30am on Wednesday 28th September 2022.

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Ballyfermot Train Ambush commemorated by Dublin City Council Plaque

The last major action of the Irish War of Independence, the Ballyfermot Train Ambush of July 1921, has been marked by a Dublin City Council Commemorative Plaque.

The commemorative plaque was unveiled by Lord Mayor Caroline Conroy on the railway bridge at Le Fanu Road, the site of the ambush.

Speaking at the unveiling, the Lord Mayor said, “That this ambush took place in a quiet place like Ballyfermot brings home the fact that the War of Independence came to involve all kinds of people and places. In erecting this plaque we remember the sacrifices made, the men who were involved, and the civilians who were caught up in the fighting”. The Lord Mayor thanked Iarnród Éireann for their co-operation in agreeing to have the plaque erected on the bridge.

On Friday, 8th July, 1921, a train carrying British troops, members of the Gordon Highlanders – military supplies, cars, donkeys and horses, as well as civilians, was ambushed as it passed under the railway bridge near the small hamlet of Ballyfermot. 

In the 1920s, Ballyfermot was a rural area just outside of Dublin with local interest centred on the canal and the railway line.

The packed-train left Kingsbridge (Heuston) Station at 1pm, heading for the Curragh army barracks in Kildare.

Unknown to those on board, members of the 4th battalion of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), made up of locals from Ballyfermot, Inchicore, Drimnagh, Bluebell, and The Liberties, were waiting on what is now known as the Le Fanu Road Railway Bridge. Others, armed with small hand guns and grenades, locally made in the Inchicore Railway Works, had taken up positions on the hilly embankment along the railway tracks. A Thompson submachine gun was set up on the bridge itself.  This was the first time that the IRA successfully used such a weapon.

The well-planned and executed operation at Ballyfermot was over in a few minutes, with one known civilian casualty, and many more injured.

Following the ambush, the burning and badly damaged train continued to Clondalkin Railway station for assessment. The injured and the traumatised civilians, many of whom had sought refuge under train seats and on the floor were disembarked. The military section of the train continued to the Curragh army barracks, where the burned-out shell was stored pending an investigation into events.

The evening papers of 8th July 1921 presented a split headline: one side announced ‘Train Attacked Near Dublin’ but the other, dominant, headline stated ‘Peace Conference Resumed – Mansion House’.

The Truce was formally declared the following Monday, 11 July, 1921. 

Diarmuid O’Connor, a relative of the man who led the attack, spoke at the event, saying “I was delighted when I received word that Dublin City Council and Ballyfermot Heritage Group were placing a plaque on the railway bridge at Ballyfermot. I remember my uncle Padraig O Connor, who commanded this attack. He and his comrades lived on through difficult times and are remembered by their families”.

The plaque was proposed by the Ballyfermot Heritage Group who said, “We are delighted to be involved with Dublin City Council in the unveiling of the commemorative plaque on Le Fanu Railway Bridge in recognition of the ambush, an important part of the history of the state”.

The decision to erect the plaque was made by the Dublin City Council Commemorations & Naming Committee, whose chair, Councillor Micheál Mac Donncha, said, “The Commemorative Plaques Scheme allows the City to formally commemorate events which have made a significant contribution to the life of Dublin. We welcome suggestions from the public for people and events to be commemorated, and full details are on the Council website”.

Jim Meade, Chief Executive of Iarnród Éireann, said “Railways have a rich heritage, and are at the heart of our social history, never more so than during the time marked by the current Decade of Centenaries.  As custodians of that heritage, we were pleased to be able to facilitate Dublin City Council’s Commemorative Plaques Scheme at Le Fanu Road Bridge.” 

Dublin City Council historian-in-residence Cathy Scuffil has written an account of the ambush for the Dublin City Libraries’ blog, at https://dcpla.ie/3OJ9FrZ.

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Ballyfermot Train Ambush

On Friday, 8th July 2021, a Dublin City Council commemorative plaque marking the site of the Ballyfermot Train Ambush was unveiled at Le Fanu Road, Dublin 12, by the Lord Mayor of Dublin Caroline Conroy.

On Friday, 8th July, 1921 a train carrying British troops, – members of the Gordon Highlanders – military supplies, cars, donkeys and horses, as well as civilians was ambushed as it passed under the railway bridge near the small hamlet of Ballyfermot.  This incident occurred hours before the formal announcement of the Truce and was to be the last major conflict of the War of Independence.

Dublin City Council historian-in-residence Cathy Scuffil has written an account of the ambush for the Dublin City Libraries’ blog, at https://dcpla.ie/3OJ9FrZ.

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Dr Kathleen Lynn & Madeleine Ffrench-Mullen commemorated by Dublin City Council Plaque

Dr Kathleen Lynn and her partner Madeleine Ffrench-Mullen, founders of Ireland’s first hospital for children, have been honoured by a Dublin City Council Commemorative Plaque.

The plaque was unveiled by Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland on the building on Charlemont Street, Dublin 2, where St Ultan’s Infant Hospital was founded in April 1919.

Now the Clayton Hotel, the building housed the hospital until 1984, when it was merged with the National Children’s Hospital.

A native of Mayo, Kathleen Lynn (1874-1955) was educated at the medical school in Cecelia Street, and became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1909. A nationalist and a suffragist, who worked in food kitchens during the 1913 Lockout, she joined the Irish Citizen Army, serving as its Medical Officer, and tending the wounded in the 1916 Rising. Imprisoned after the Rising, and again in 1918, her release was secured by Lord Mayor Laurence O’Neill so that she could tend to the sick during the Spanish Flu epidemic. She set up a GP practice from her home at 9 Belgrove Road, Rathmines, where she lived until her death in 1955.

Born in Malta in 1880, Madeleine Ffrench-Mullen grew up in Dundrum, County Dublin. Having lived abroad for a few years she returned to Dublin in 1913 and worked in soup kitchens during the Lockout. She joined the Irish Citizen Army where she met her lifelong companion, Kathleen Lynn. After the Rising she was imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol, alongside Countess Markievicz.

Responding to the appalling rate of infant mortality in the city, Dr Lynn and Madeleine Ffrench-Mullen established St Ultan’s Infant Hospital at 37 Charlemont Street in April 1919. Ireland’s first paediatric hospital, it operated until 1984. Madelaine Ffrench-Mullen served as its secretary until her death in 1944.

Speaking at the unveiling, Lord Mayor Alison Gilliard said:

‘In my year as Lord Mayor I have had the pleasure of unveiling plaques to Margaret Keogh in Ringsend; Anna Parnell, on O’Connell Street, and Jane Wilde, on Merrion Square. I am delighted that the last plaque I will unveil as Lord Mayor honours two women whose contribution to our City and to its people is more than worthy of this long overdue recognition.  Dr Kathleen Lynn and Madeleine ffrench-Mullen led extraordinary lives, from their involvement in the Easter 1916 Rising to establishing the first hospital dedicated to paediatric care in Ireland in May 1919.  They encouraged its staff to be innovators, and through their hospital changed medical care for children in Ireland.’

In her remarks the Lord Mayor thanked the Clayton Hotel for their co-operation in agreeing to have the plaque erected on the building.

Historian Dr Margaret Ward spoke about the two women at the unveiling, saying:

‘Kathleen Lynn and Madeleine ffrench-Mullen were militant republicans, feminists and socialists. Their lives were devoted to achieving an independent Ireland and, with the formation of St Ultan’s hospital, they made a major contribution to improving the lives of working class women and children in Dublin. Their pioneering work on eradicating the scourge of TB became a model for Dublin Corporation. I hope the installation of this plaque at the site of St Ultan’s will be a first step in recognising the huge debt Dublin owes to these two remarkable women’.

The plaque was proposed by the 1916 Relatives Association, whose chair Noreen Byrne said:

‘the association  is very pleased to partner with Dublin City Council to erect a plaque on the original site of St Ultan’s Infant’s Hospital founded & run by Dr Kathleen Lynn & Madeleine fFrench-Mullen. We are grateful to the Lord Mayor for unveiling the plaque, to the Clayton Charlemont Hotel for their recognition of the historical significance of the site and to Dr Margaret Ward for her insights into the lives of these two remarkable women’.

The decision to erect the plaque was made by the Dublin City Council Commemorations & Naming Committee, whose chair, Councillor Micheál Mac Donncha, said:

The Commemorative Plaques scheme allows the City to formally commemorate people who have made a significant contribution to the life of Dublin. We welcome suggestions from the public for people and events to be commemorated, and full details are on the Council website’.

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ffrench-Mullen, Madeleine

This plaque commemorates both Madeleine ffrench-Mullen and her lifelong partner Dr Kathleen Lynn, who founded Teach Ultan (St Ultan’s Infants Hospital) at 37 Charlemont Street, Dublin 2.

Teach Ultan is now part of the Clayton Hotel, who kindly agreed to allow the plaque be erected.

Locate this plaque on Google maps.

Born in Malta in 1880, Madeleine Ffrench-Mullen grew up in Dundrum, County Dublin. Having lived abroad for a few years she returned to Dublin in 1913 and worked in soup kitchens during the Lockout. She joined the Irish Citizen Army where she met her lifelong companion, Kathleen Lynn.

After the Rising she was imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol, alongside Countess Markievicz.

Responding to the appalling rate of infant mortality in the city, Madeleine Ffrench-Mullen and Dr Lynn established St Ultan’s Infant Hospital at 37 Charlemont Street in April 1919. Ireland’s first paediatric hospital, it operated until 1984. Madelaine Ffrench-Mullen served as its secretary until her death in 1944.

You can read more about Dr Kathleen Lynn in her entry in the Dictionary of Irish Biography.

For more information on St Ultan’s Infant Hospital, see Maeve Casserly’s article in History on Your Doorstep, volume 2, published by Dublin City Council.

The plaque was proposed by the 1916 Relatives Association, and it was unveiled by Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland, on 19th June, 2022.

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Lynn, Dr Kathleen

This plaque commemorates both Dr Kathleen Lynn and her lifelong partner Madeleine ffrench-Mullen, who founded Teach Ultan (St Ultan’s Infants Hospital) at 37 Charlemont Street, Dublin 2.

Teach Ultan is now part of the Clayton Hotel, who kindly agreed to allow the plaque be erected.

Locate this plaque on Google maps.

A native of Mayo, Kathleen Lynn (1874-1955) was educated at the medical school in Cecelia Street, and became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1909. A nationalist and a suffragist, who worked in food kitchens during the 1913 Lockout, she joined the Irish Citizen Army, serving as its Medical Officer, and tending the wounded in the 1916 Rising.

Imprisoned after the Rising, and again in 1918, her release was secured by Lord Mayor Laurence O’Neill so that she could tend to the sick during the Spanish Flu epidemic. She set up a GP practice from her home at 9 Belgrove Road, Rathmines, where she lived until her death in 1955.

Responding to the appalling rate of infant mortality in the city, Madeleine Ffrench-Mullen and Dr Lynn established St Ultan’s Infant Hospital at 37 Charlemont Street in April 1919. Ireland’s first paediatric hospital, it operated until 1984.

You can read more about Dr Kathleen Lynn in her entry in the Dictionary of Irish Biography.

For more information on St Ultan’s Infant Hospital, see Maeve Casserly’s article in History on Your Doorstep, volume 2, published by Dublin City Council.

The plaque was proposed by the 1916 Relatives Association, and it was unveiled by Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland, on 19th June, 2022.

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Plaque at home of Patrick Pearse unveiled by Lord Mayor

The home of Patrick Pearse and his family in Sandymount, Dublin, has been marked by a Dublin City Council Commemorative Plaque.

The plaque was unveiled by Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland at 13 Sandymount Avenue, Dublin 4, on 29th April 2022.

Pearse’s father, James Pearse, was a monumental sculptor who moved to Dublin around 1860. The family originally lived over the shop in Great Brunswick Street (now Pearse Street) before moving to Sandymount. Their first address in the area was on Newbridge Avenue, and they moved to 5 Georgian Villas, now number 13 Sandymount Avenue, in 1900. James Pearse made the altar railings for the Star of the Sea Church, on Sandymount Road.

Patrick Henry Pearse (1879-1916) was an Irish teacher, barrister, poet, writer, nationalist and political activist. Aside from his prominent role in the Easter Rising (for which he was executed on 3rd May 1916), he is best remembered as the author of The Murder Machine pamphlet on ‘the English education system in Ireland’ (Dublin, 1916), and his founding of the Irish language school St. Enda’s in Rathfarnham (which he ran during the last eight years of his life).

Pearse lived in Sandymount during a formative period in his life, when he was training to be a barrister, became one of the key figures in the Gaelic League, and took on responsibility for the family on the death of his father.

The terrace of houses at Sandymount Avenue was built in 1864 and residents over the years included W.B. Yeats and Abbey playwright TC Murray, who are both commemorated with plaques.

Speaking at the unveiling, Lord Mayor Alison Gilliard said:

We have many, many memorials around Dublin, commemorating women (not as many as we should have), and men, and events of the past. Most of them, the vast majority of them, are in the City Centre. But great lives are lived in all parts of the City, and it is important that these places be commemorated, as well as those whose memories are marked in the streets of the City Centre.

The decision to erect the plaque was made by the Dublin City Council Commemorations & Naming Committee, whose chair, Councillor Micheál Mac Donncha, said:

‘The Commemorative Plaques scheme allows the City to formally commemorate people who have made a significant contribution to the life of Dublin. We welcome suggestions from the public for people and events to be commemorated, and full details are on the Council website’.

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Pearse, Patrick

This plaque commemorates Patrick Pearse, who lived with his family at 13 Sandymount Avenue, Dublin 4.

Pearse’s father, James Pearse, was a monumental sculptor who moved to Dublin around 1860. The family originally lived over the shop in Great Brunswick Street (now Pearse Street) before moving to Sandymount. Their first address in the area was on Newbridge Avenue, and they moved to 5 Georgian Villas, now number 13 Sandymount Avenue, in 1900. James Pearse made the altar railings for the Star of the Sea Church, on Sandymount Road.

Patrick Henry Pearse (1879-1916) was an Irish teacher, barrister, poet, writer, nationalist and political activist. Aside from his prominent role in the Easter Rising (for which he was executed on 3rd May 1916), he is best remembered as the author of The Murder Machine pamphlet on ‘the English education system in Ireland’ (Dublin, 1916), and his founding of the Irish language school St. Enda’s in Rathfarnham (which he ran during the last eight years of his life).

Pearse lived in Sandymount during a formative period in his life, when he was training to be a barrister, became one of the key figures in the Gaelic League, and took on responsibility for the family on the death of his father.

The terrace of houses at Sandymount Avenue was built in 1864 and residents over the years included W.B. Yeats and Abbey playwright TC Murray, who are both commemorated with plaques.

The plaque was proposed by Kathleen O’Callaghan, owner of the house, and it was unveiled by Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland, on 29th April, 2022.

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Jane Wilde, ‘Speranza’, plaque unveiled by Lord Mayor

Jane Wilde, a poet, nationalist and promoter of women’s rights has been honoured by a Dublin City Council Commemorative Plaque.

The plaque was unveiled by Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland on 19th November 2021 at 1 Merrion Square, Dublin 2, now owned by the American College Dublin.

Born in 1821, Jane Wilde was a polyglot who translated works from German and French. Inspired by Thomas Davis she became a nationalist and from 1846 contributed to the Nation, writing underthe pen name Speranza.

Among her poems in the Nation was ‘The Famine Year’, her response to the Great Famine, in which she criticised her own Anglo-Irish landlord class.

In 1848 her piece ‘Jacta Alea Est’ (‘the die is cast’), was seen by the authorities as so inflammatory that it led to the suppression of the Nation.

Living at 1 Merrion Square, Dublin, her weekly literary salons put her at the centre of Dublin’s cultural life. She continued her salons in London, where she lived following the death of her husband, Sir William Wilde, in 1876.

Speaking at the unveiling, Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland remarked:

‘Jane Wilde was not only a poet and a nationalist: she was also a feminist, an articulate advocate of women’s rights, who identified education, and access to education, as being key to the advancement of women’.

Noting that the house is now the home of a college, the Lord Mayor said:

‘Many of the students in the building behind us are following courses in creative writing, and I can’t help but think that Jane Wilde would be delighted that her drawing room is once again a hive of culture and creativity.’

Proposed by the American College Dublin, the plaque joins existing ones which commemorate her husband, Sir William Wilde, and her son Oscar. Also at the unveiling was the President of the American College Dublin, Dr Joseph Rooney, who flew over from Delaware for the event. Dr Rooney remarked:

The plaque honouring Lady Jane Wilde Speranza is long overdue and we are proud that it will be displayed in such a prestigious manner at One Merrion Square. Jane was a hero to the Irish people during the 1840s and an important part of the Young Ireland movement. With her salons and other gatherings Speranza created an open house within these walls for more than two decades and American College Dublin intends to continue this tradition.

Echoing the Lord Mayor, Dr Rooney concluded:

I think Jane would be delighted that the house is now a place of learning, and it is particularly poignant that it is possible to study creative writing and performing arts here in Speranza’s old home.’

The decision to erect the plaque was made by the Dublin City Council Commemorations & Naming Committee, whose chair, Councillor Michael Mac Donncha, said:

‘The Commemorative Plaques scheme allows the City to formally commemorate people who have made a significant contribution to the life of Dublin. This is only the sixth of our commemorative plaques to honour a woman, and we hope to see many more such applications in the future’.

The audience at the unveiling heard Eleanor Fitzsimons, author of Wilde’s Women, talk about the life of Jane Wilde, and poet Caoimhe Lavelle performed one of Lady Wilde’s poems and her own, specially composed tribute, ‘A Toast to Speranza’.