James Plunkett, author

Photograph of a Dublin City plaque. on a red brick wall. The plaque is made of granite and has a blue base with the Dublin City Council logo on it. The text on the plaque is in both Irish and English and in English it reads 'James Plunkett 1920-2003 writer lived here'.

 This plaque commemorates the author James Plunkett, author of Strumpet City.

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James Plunkett Kelly was born in Sandymount, Dublin, on 21 May 1920. He was educated at Synge Street CBS, and, following the death of his father, became a clerk in the Dublin Gas Company. There he joined the Workers’ Union of Ireland (WUI), becoming a union official and working alongside James Larkin.

During the 1950s, Plunkett became a regular contributor of talks, short stories and radio plays to Radio Éireann, which he joined in 1955, eventually becoming the head of RTÉ’s features department in 1968.

His first published was ‘The mother’, which appeared in the The Bell in 1942, and many other works followed, including the play ‘The risen people’ in 1959.

Plunkett’s best known work is Strumpet City; published in 1969 it sold over 250,000 copies worldwide and was translated into several languages. Paperback rights were bought for £16,000 and the seven-part dramatisation of the novel, adapted by Hugh Leonard and screened by RTÉ, is regarded as one of the highpoints of the station’s dramatic output. 

Strumpet city was followed by Farewell companions (1977), a semi‐autobiographical account of Dublin life between the 1920s and 1940s, and The circus animals. Neither achieved the success of Strumpet city, though some critics thought Farewell companions superior. In 1987 he published a collection of essays, The boy on the back wall.

James Plunkett died on  28 May 2003.

Veteran Dublin City Councillor Mary Freehill, who was friendly with the Kelly family, proposed that the plaque be erected. It was unveiled on 21 May 2024 at 25 Richmond Hill, Rathmines, on what would have been his 104th birthday.

You can read more about James Plunkett in the Dictionary of Irish Biography.

Brennan, Maeve – writer and journalist

A photograph of the Dublin City Council commemorative plaque for Maeve Brennan, at 48 Cherryfield Avenue, Ranelagh, Dublin.

This plaque, at 48 Cherryfield Avenue, Ranelagh, commemorates Maeve Brennan, columnist with the New Yorker magazine and writer of short stories.

Maeve Brennan, once described as ‘the greatest Irish writer you never heard of’, was born in Dublin on 6 January 1917, second of four children of the journalist Bob Brennan, who would go on to found the Irish Press.

The family lived at 48 Cherryfield Avenue, Ranelagh, Dublin, from 1921 until 1934. The house is the setting for many of her stories.

After her father was selected as Ireland’s ambassador to Washington in 1934, Maeve Brennan completed her secondary and third level education in Washington and moved to New York to work in a library. There her literary talent was noticed by the editor of New Yorker magazine. For three decades she contributed to the New Yorker and had two critically acclaimed collections of short stories published in 1969.

While fighting a losing battle against financial and mental health problems, she retreated into obscurity and spent her last years in a home for the elderly in New York, her talent unknown to her carers and, in the end, herself.  It was only after her death in 1993 that her work was anthologised and recognised by a new generation of writers and critics, placing Maeve Brennan among the best Irish short-story writers since Joyce. Her works have been accepted into the canon of twentieth century literature:

The plaque was unveiled by the Lord Mayor of Dublin on 6 January 2024.

Holloway, Joseph – literary critic and architect

This plaque commemorates Joseph Holloway (1861–1944), Architect and Theatre Critic, who designed the first Abbey Theatre.

Born in Camden Street, where his father had a bakery, Holloway was educated at St Vincent’s in Castleknock. Following the death of his father, in 1874, the family moved to 21 Northumberland Road, where Holloway lived until his death in 1944.

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After studying at the Dublin School of Art, in 1890 he joined O’Callaghan architects, in Kildare Street, Dublin, and after 6 years he began working for himself in 1896.

Holloway’s most famous work was the remodelling of the Mechanics’ Institute and Theatre on Lower Abbey Street as the first Abbey Theatre, which opened in December 1904.

He gave up architecture after the First World War, and, having a private income, he was able to devote himself to the theatre. A great supporter of the Irish Literary Theatre and then Irish National Theatre, he attended almost all rehearsals and first nights.

Over his lifetime he accumulated a vast collection of material relating to Irish theatre, which adorned every inch of his house, including programmes, playbills, prompt sheets, and paintings and sketches of theatrical personalities.

More significantly, he kept a diary or journal which amounted to 25 million words on Dublin’s theatre world. Although criticised by the likes of Sean O’Casey and Frank O’Connor, the diaries are an invaluable source for the history of Irish theatre.

Holloway died in 1944 and his huge archive was donated to the National Library of Ireland where it is catalogued as the Joseph Holloway Collection.

The plaque was unveiled by Councillor Dermot Lacey on 28 June 2023.

Mac Grianna, Seosamh – Irish language writer

This plaque commemorates the Irish-language writer Seosamh Mac Grianna (1900-1990).

Born in Donegal in 1900, Mac Grianna came from a storytelling background, and his brother Séamus Ó Grianna was also an Irish-language author.

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Trained as a national school teacher in St Patrick’s, Drumcondra, Mac Grianna was a staunch republican, took the anti-treaty side in the Civil War, and was interned in Newbridge camp.

In 1924 he began writing as Gaeilge and during 1924–5 he contributed many of his early short stories, including ‘Teampall Chonchubhair’, ‘Teacht Cheallaigh Mhóir’, and ‘Leas ná Aimhleas’, to the newly founded An tUltach. These later formed the basis of his first book, Dochartach Dhuibhlionna & sgéalta eile (1925).

He also contributed numerous articles to a range of publications, including the Irish Press. Although his active literary career only lasted around eleven years, he made a significant contribution to the development of literature in the Irish language, publishing ten original works, translating twelve books into Irish, and also publishing a substantial number of reviews and letters.

Four particular books stand out within his body of work: An Grádh agus an Ghruaim (1929), An Druma Mór (1935/1969), Mo Bhealach Féin (1940), and Dá mBíodh Ruball ar an Éan (1940).

In the main, he ceased writing after 1935; in his own words “Thráigh an tobar” – the well dried up. Around this time, be began to suffer from psychiatric illness, which afflicted him for the rest of his life.

Mac Grianna lived in Dublin through the 40s and 50s, moving from place to place. Sometime around the early 1950s, he settled in a house on the coast road, in St. Anne’s Park, near Watermill Road. The commemorative plaque is erected on one of the remaining gate pillars of the house.

The plaque was unveiled on 29 May 2023.

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Dowden, Edward – poet & critic

Photograph of a Dublin City Council plaque commemorating Edward Dowden

On Sunday, 29th November 2015, a Dublin City Council commemorative plaque honouring the Irish poet and literary critic Edward Dowden (1843-1913) was unveiled in Ballsbridge.

The plaque is located at 50 Wellington Road, Dublin 4, where Dowden lived for several years, with Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha speaking on behalf of Dublin City Council’s Commemorative Naming Committee.

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Appointed to the newly created position of Chair of English Literature at Trinity College Dublin in 1867, Dowden quickly earned a reputation as an internationally respected literary critic and was an authority on William Shakespeare as well as figures such as Percy Bysshe Shelley and Robert Browning. A staunch unionist who was hostile to the Irish Literary Revival and growth of Irish nationalism during his later years, Dowden received honorary degrees from the Universities of Oxford, Edinburgh, and Princeton.

He married twice and had several children, with a daughter from his first marriage, Hester Meredith Dowden (1868-1949), going to become one of the most famous spiritualists and psychic investigators during the first half of the twentieth century. Those wishing to learn more about a figure described by author John Eglinton as “almost a saint to culture”, should consult the chapter ‘Edward Dowden: Irish Victorian’ in Terence Brown’s book Ireland’s Literature: Selected Essays (1989). You can reserve a copy of the book when Level 5 restrictions are lifted. 

Watch the presentation below by Dr James Curry, Dublin City Council historian in residence, which is part of a “Plaques of Dublin” online lecture series.

Submitted by Historian in Residence, James Curry.  

Murdoch, Iris – philosopher & writer

photograph of commemorative plaque honouring Iris Murdoch.

This plaque honours philosopher and novelist Iris Murdoch, who was born on Blessington Street, Dublin, on 15 July 1919.

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This plaque is located temporarily in the Blessington Basin and will be erected at 59 Blessingotn Street in due course.

Read Iris Murdoch’s biography from the Dictionary of Irish Biography

The plaque was unveiled on 11th July 2019, to mark the 100th anniversary of her birth.