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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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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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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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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’.

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Frederick Douglass honoured by Dublin City Council

Frederick Douglass, the anti-slavery leader who visited Dublin in 1845, has been honoured by a Dublin City Council Commemorative Plaque.

The plaque was unveiled on Thursday 21st October 2021 by Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland at the Irish Film Institute, Eustace Street, Temple Bar, formerly the Friends’ Meeting House.

Speaking at the unveiling, historian Cecelia Hartsell outlined Frederick Douglass’s life, his escape from slavery, the publication of his autobiography, and his visit to Dublin.

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.

I am proud that Dublin City is honouring the memory of Frederick Douglass here today, with a plaque that tells all who see it that back in 1845, he found himself welcomed with, in his own words, ‘a total absence of all manifestations of prejudice…’ and was treated not as ‘as a colour, but as a man.’

Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland speaking at the unveiling.

Also speaking at the unveiling was the chair of the Irish Film Institute, Professor Margaret Kelleher, who said:

‘On 9th September 1845, in this building which is now home to the IFI, Frederick Douglass delivered a stirring oration against slavery and in defence of human liberty. We at the IFI are very proud to mark today not only such a historic event but also his continuing legacy and inspiration.’

Councillor Mícháel Mac Donncha and Professor Margaret Kelleher at the unveiling of the Frederick Douglass plaque.
Cllr Mac Donncha and Professor Kelleher. Photo Chris Bellew /Fennell Photography Copyright 2021

The plaque was proposed by Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha, chair of the Dublin City Council Commemorations & Naming Committee. Councillor Mac Donncha said:

‘This plaque to Frederick Douglass sees the great African-American anti-slavery leader recognised by our City for his immense contribution to human liberty and progress. It is appropriate that this site links the United Irish Society which met here in the 1790s, the Society of Friends which hosted Frederick Douglass and still meets on this street, and the Irish Film Institute, a cultural hub of Dublin. Acts of commemoration such as this serve to remind us that while slavery was abolished in the United States, racism persists and needs to be opposed vigorously in all countries including our own.’

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City Council honours Anna Parnell

Anna Parnell, the founder of the Ladies Land League, has been honoured by a Dublin City Council Commemorative Plaque.

The plaque was unveiled by Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland at AIB Bank, O’Connell Street, Dublin, the headquarters of the Ladies’ Land League in 1881/82.

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, unveiled at an event on Monday 20th September, was proposed by retired teacher Lucy Keaveney, who was also the catalyst for the Government-funded restoration of Anna Parnell’s grave in 2017.

Speaking at the unveiling, Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland remarked: ‘Anna Parnell does not feature prominently in the many history books that tell the story of the tumultuous events of 19th century Ireland. That is an omission, and this plaque is a small but significant step in giving her due recognition. At a basic level, this plaque tells people that Anna Parnell worked here; but it does more than that. It tells all who see it that Anna Parnell is worthy of being formally honoured by the City of Dublin, by the people of Dublin, and on our capital’s principal street.

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 fifth of our commemorative plaques to honour a woman, and we hope to see many more such applications in the future’.

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Gardaí honoured by Commemorative Plaque

Dublin City Council is proud to unveil a plaque to honour two An Garda Síochána detectives who were killed in the line of duty, 81 years ago today. The commemorative plaque was unveiled on the morning of 16th August, 2021, at the building on Rathgar Road where the two men lost their lives. The plaque was proposed by the men’s surviving families and by Gardaí from Rathmines Station.  

Detective Sergeant Patrick McKeown, from Armagh, and Mayo-born Detective Garda Richard Hyland, were both shot during a raid at 97A Rathgar Road, on 16th August 1940.  

Shortly before 8 a.m. on 16th August, 1940 a group of five detectives, under the command of Detective Sergeant Patrick McKeown, carried out a search in Rathgar Road, Dublin, under the provisions of the Offences against the State Act, 1939.  After gaining entry to the building, the Gardaí were surprised by a burst of gunfire from behind a partition wall. 

Detective Garda Hyland managed to discharge one shot after being wounded which warned off his surviving colleagues from entering through the front of the shop. Detective Sergeant McKeown died from his wounds the following day. Another Garda, Detective Garda Brady, was seriously wounded. 

At the event Garda Commissioner Drew Harris spoke of the two men who were killed, and the sacrifice they made when carrying out their duties.  

Commissioner Harris said, On this day 81 years ago, Detective Garda Richard Hyland and Detective Sergeant Patrick McKeown made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the State and its people.  

We know through history that on August 16th, 1940 Detective Garda Hyland and Detective Sergeant McKeown demonstrated immense bravery and performed their duties intelligently, fully knowing that there was a risk to their lives.  

The commemorative plaque being unveiled today is a fitting memorial to their sacrifice. And, later this month, An Garda Síochána will also recognise their exceptional courage and bravery by awarding the Gold Scott Medal to both men posthumously at a ceremony in Dublin Castle. 

Today’s anniversary is another reminder of each of the members of An Garda Síochána that have their lost their lives in the line of duty, and the bravery demonstrated by Gardaí on a daily basis to keep people safe.” 

Also speaking at the unveiling, Councillor Mary Freehill, paid tribute to all the Gardaí who have lost their lives on duty, noting that the plaque will serve as ‘a reminder to us all, if any were needed, of the risks that the women and men of An Garda Síochána take on our behalf as they perform their duties on the streets of Dublin’

The plaque is being unveiled to mark the 81st anniversary of the incident by Councillor Freehill, representing the Lord Mayor; Mary P. Hyland, a daughter of Detective Garda Hyland, and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. 

The decision to erect the plaque was made by the Dublin City Council Commemorations & Naming Committee. 

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Guiness Barge plaque unveiled

The latest plaque to be unveiled marks the last sailing of a Guinness Barge, which took place on 23rd June 1961. You can read about the unveiling and about the plaque and the Guinness Barges in this post, which has a great video by historian James Curry.