Gibson, Violet – anti-Fascist

This plaque commemorates Violet Gibson, the Irish woman who shot Mussolini

The Honourable Violet Albina Gibson was born in Dalkey in 1876 into a wealthy Anglo-Irish family and raised in Merrion Square. She received her title at age nine when her father was made the Lord Ashbourne and Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Educated at home by governesses, she was a debutante at the court of Queen Victoria, and lived a very privileged life regularly appearing in the society columns, at balls, concerts in London and Dublin, social events at Buckingham Palace, family holidays in France and Italy, and skiing in San Moritz.

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At the age of twenty one, she received an independent income from her father and decided to pave her own path in life. She travelled extensively pursuing her interest in religion, politics and philosophy. Her conversion to Catholicism caused much upset in her family. She moved to London, rejecting and freeing herself from the conventions of her privileged background.

On April 7th 1926, three years into Benito Mussolini’s fascist rule of Italy, Violet Gibson drew a pistol and shot Mussolini at point blank range in front of an adoring crowd in the Campidiglio Rome. Mussolini’s head turned as she did so, and the bullet grazed his nose. She fired again, but the gun jammed.

Following her attempt on Mussolini’s life, Violet Gibson was placed in an asylum in England where she was kept with little or no contact with the outside world. She died in the asylum in 1956.

For more information about Violet Gibson, see her entry in the Dictionary of Irish Biography:   https://www.dib.ie/biography/gibson-violet-albina-a10139

Siobhán Lynam’s documentary is on the RTÉ website at https://www.rte.ie/radio/doconone/2014/0612/647669-documentary-irishwoman-shot-mussolini-violet-gibson/

St Olave’s Church

Photograph of a Dublin City Council Commemorative plaque marking he site of the 12th century Saint 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.

Ballyfermot Train Ambush

Dublin City Counil commemorative plaque at Ballyfermot

On Friday, 8th July 2022, 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.

ffrench-Mullen, Madeleine

Photograph of Dublin City Council Commemorative Plaque honouring Kathleen Lynn and Madeleine ffrench-Mullen.

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.

Lynn, Dr Kathleen

Photograph of Dublin City Council Commemorative Plaque honouring Kathleen Lynn and Madeleine ffrench-Mullen.

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.

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.

Wilde, Lady Jane ‘Speranza’

Photograph of a Dublin City Council commemorative plaque to Jane Lady Wilde 'Speranza'.

This plaque commemorates Jane Wilde, poet, feminist, and nationalist.

Born in 1821, Jane Wilde was a polyglot who translated works from German and French. Inspired by Thomas Davis and the Young Ireland movement, she became a nationalist and from 1846 contributed to their journal The Nation, writing under the pen names Speranza and John Fanshawe Ellis.

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.

An advocate for women’s rights, she campaigned for greater access to education for women.

The woman of the future will never again be the mere idol of a vain worship, the petted toy of a passing hour; She takes her place now in the world on higher grounds than physical beauty, and will gain nobler triumphs…

Lady Wilde, Social Studies (London, 1893), pp 94-5.

Proposed by the American College Dublin, the plaque joins existing ones which commemorate her husband , Sir William Wilde, and her son, Oscar, on the house where she lived until 1876.

The plaque was unveiled by Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland on 19th November 2021.

Douglass, Frederick – Anti-Slavery Leader

Photograph of a Dublin City Council plaque commemorating Frederick Douglass

This plaque commemorates Frederick Douglass, the anti-slavery leader, who visited Dublin in 1845, at the IFI on Eustace Street, Dublin 2.

Locate this plaque on Google maps.

Born into slavery in 1818, Frederick Douglass escaped and in 1845 published his autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. The book’s popularity in Europe, and fear of being captured and returned to slavery, led Douglass to visit Ireland and the UK in 1845/47.

Douglass returned to the USA a free man in 1847, and went on to become a leading abolitionist, a newspaper proprietor, and a government official. Renowned as an orator, through his writings, speeches, and photographs, he boldly challenged the racial stereotypes of African Americans. He was the most photographed man in 19th century America.

While in Ireland Frederick Douglass met Daniel O’Connell, a firm opponent of slavery, and the two men spoke at O’Connell’s Conciliation Hall, on Burgh Quay.

Douglass was a guest of Dublin’s Quaker Community, and in September 1845 he spoke at the old Friends’ Meeting House in Eustace Street, now the Irish Film Institute.

The plaque was unveiled on Thursday 21st October 2021, by Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland.

Parnell, Anna – founder of the Ladies’ Land League

Photograph of a Dublin City Council plaque commemorating Anna Parnell

This plaque commemorates Anna Parnell, feminist, activist, and founder of the Ladies’ Land League, at the offices of the Leaguea t 37/38 O’Connell Street Upper, now AIB Bank.

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A feminist and a radical, Anna Parnell was born at the family estate in Avondale, Wicklow, in 1852. The younger sister of Home Rule leader Charles Stewart Parnell, she became organising secretary of the Ladies’ Land League in 1881. Over 500 branches of the ladies Land League were founded, and with the banning of the Irish National Land League in October 1881, Anna Parnell and her female colleagues led the ‘No-Rent’ campaign. Anna travelled around the country, encouraging women to organise independently of men to resist unjust rents.

The Kilmainham Treaty led to the ending of the ‘No-Rent’ campaign, and Charles Stewart Parnell and the National Land League leadership put pressure on Anna and her colleagues to take on a purely charitable role. Anna resisted this and following the dissolution of the Ladies Land League in August 1882, she never spoke to her brother again.

Anna Parnell spent her final years living under a pseudonym in Devon, England, were she died in a drowning accident on 20th September 1911, at the age of 59.

The plaque was unveiled on 20th September 2021 by Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland.