City of Shadows

Today's post is a bit of a departure from local history and goings-on but it's a fascinating one nonetheless.

When a flood deluged an old Sydney warehouse in the 1980's, The Historic House Trust (Sydney, Australia) shifted around four tonnes of boxes, cartons and crates of old Kodak negatives. What they found on examination was an extraordinary visual archive of crime photos dating from 1912 to 1960. Con-men, itinerants, prostitutes, gangsters, all caught in the flash lamp of bygone police investigations; along with hundreds of crime scene, accident scene and surveillance photographs. There are plenty of Irish names which feature in the mugshots.

The negatives came without documentation so many were a complete mystery. However, by cross-referencing the names and dates on the mug shots with police records and newspaper stories of the day, curator of the City of Shadows Photographic exhibition Peter Doyle has brought their stories to life. These photo's have been exhibited briefly before in Sydney but are back by popular demand.

These mug shot photos especially are striking; offering intimate portraits of a city's illicit population.

Link to the 'City of Shadows' exhibition, Sydney, Australia:  http://www.hht.net.au/discover/highlights/insites/city_of_shadows


Working Class Drogheda 1836

Linen weaver & flax spinner

In 1833 an extensive survey of Ireland was initiated in order to investigate the causes for the widespread poverty and destitution in the country at the beginning of the 19th century. 'The Royal Commission for inquiring into the condition of the poorer classes in Ireland' conducted its survey over three years, from 1833 to 1836 and produced various reports of its findings and recommendations. These led to the introduction of the Irish Poor Law in 1838 which set up workhouses for the provision of the poor and poor rates collected for their upkeep.

Drogheda was one of the towns examined in the reports and makes for grim reading. It in it breaks down the various poorer classes into three distinct groups; the labourers e.g. weavers, mechanics etc., vagrants, and the destitute poor who do not work or have any income. The report from 1836 contains testimony from various businessmen and dignitaries of the town concerning its inhabitants, which could be scathing to say the least. It also highlights the decline of the linen industry in Drogheda at the time as being one of the main, if not the main, reason for the economic collapse in the town. It became cheaper to mass produce the linen in England; as a result, many local skilled weavers emigrated to England and Scotland, and local hand loom weavers couldn't compete with the prices and so suffered as a result.

The report offers a fascinating snapshot of life in pre-Famine Drogheda
for the poorer working classes and drives home the hardship that people had to endure.

Link to the third 1836 report here, well worth a read:  http://eppi.dippam.ac.uk/documents/11048/eppi_pages/252539 


Autumn School Reminder

Reminder to members, bookings are coming in fast for the John Boyle O'Reilly Autumn School on Sunday September 29th (details below).

If you intend attending please contact Liam or Kathleen on 041-9833097 (office hours) or e-mail info@droghedamuseum.ie http://droghedamuseum.ie/node/3030 -

  • Old Drogheda Society - History, Archaeology & Heritage -Millmount, Drogheda, Co. Louth, Ireland. Tel. 041-9833097


Drogheda's Markets & Fairs

Potato Market, Bolton Square, 19th century

This extract by Ann Crilly from the Old Drogheda Society Journal from 1977 concerns the towns' various markets and fairs that were part of the lifeblood of the town for centuries and still continue to this day.

"The market in Bolton Square and around the courthouse is the scene of very busy trading every Saturday morning in Drogheda. Almost everything from a needle to an anchor can be bought there now. Recently the Corporation raised the fees charged to stall holders as so many professional dealers were taking advantage of the selling space.

Long ago this market site was used almost exclusively by farmers bringing their field, garden and dairy produce in to sell to the town's housewives. The open area was called the Potato Market.

Cornmarket, Fair Street
All the wooden fronts would have been open arches
The buildings around the courthouse yard were originally built as a cornmarket. They were designed by Francis Johnston who also designed the G.P.O. in Dublin and Townley Hall a few miles west of Drogheda. These cornmarket buildings consisted of lean-to roofs supported by handsome pillars and they are now all incorporated into the municipal offices.

In the past part of these out buildings were used by a large number of farmer's wives for the sale of butter, eggs and poultry. Iron wrought tables, made in the Drogheda Foundry, were pu
t there to hold their baskets. These tables were erected during the Mayorship of Robert May, Fair Street, and his name was inscribed on the iron legs. Some of these can be seen in the Old Drogheda Society Museum in Millmount.

There used to be a Butter Market in John Street. One of the ancient town gates near here was called Butter Gate. A tax was collected here on butter brought into the town and this money went towards the upkeep of the Carmelite Monastery sited where the present Church of Ireland stands in Mary Street. Cornmarket Hill not far from there must have seen many dealings long ago in the produce of the cornfields.

The Meat Market in the centre of the town ran from West Street down to Dyer Street. There used to be gates at each end of this but they were removed a long time ago. There were six stalls at the West Street end, all selling meat. They are closed up now and put to other uses. One of them is used by Mr. J. Byrne, the Veterinary Surgeon, as an office. At the corner of the meat market and West Street, where Connolly's Shoe shop now stands, there was a butcher's shop once owned by Mr. P. Drew, also at one time Mayor of the town. The Byrne family who now own a butcher's shop next to Connolly's used to have a shop at the Dyer Street end of the Meat Market. There was a slaughter house about halfway down this lane.

The Fish Market was situated in a building at the Wellington Quay end of Dyer Street. This building was until fairly recently part of Donegan's sack factory. It is now owned by Messrs. Collins and used to store waste paper. Fish carts used to drive into this market and there were marble slab tables on which they could show their wares.

Most of the markets that I have dealt with so far were enclosed yards or buildings. However there were other commodities with which the vendors literally took over the squares and streets. The Haymarket was near the Fish Market in the square now used as a car park on Wellington Quay. There was a weighing scales provided here. Nearby was the Milk Market in Stockwell Street and further afield the Pig Market in Magdalene Street.

Another great colourful tradition in the town was the fair day. Two dates spring to mind of outstanding big fairs, the 12th May and the 29th October. The chief venues were not hard to find on the map; the Horse Fair, Fair Street and the Fair Green. But here again the whole town was used by the dealers who came from far and near, and the streets were full of livestock. The schools were closed on these days and the wise residents stayed indoors out of the way of galloping horses and droves of cattle and sheep.

The Horse Fair was held in the square at the west end of Fair Street and West Street. It is now partly a car park and mainly the northern approach to our new Bridge of Peace. Fair Street, now one of the prestige streets of the town, used to be called Horse Lane. There is, by the way another Horse Lane running from Trinity Street down to the river Boyne.

Horse Fair, Drogheda
courtesy Irish Historical Picture Society

The Fair Green was set up by the Corporation to help take the animals off the streets. Houses were demolished in what was known as Chesters Lane, west of the Horse Fair, and a wide open park was left in which fairs were held for many many years. Later carnivals were held in this space. Nowadays it is becoming built-up again and many business firms have their address there.

The Cattle Marts have long since taken over from the fairs, and I suppose the supermarkets are challenging the old markets throughout the country. But the Drogheda Market is more than holding its own. Rubbing shoulders with shopping centres and discount stores it is still the mecca every Saturday morning for busy shoppers looking for a bargain."  

As a side note, Bassett's Guide and Directory of 1886 offers a lively portrait of Drogheda on a market day: "Where the public thoroughfares are utilized on market day, a more enliving picture it would difficult to conceive than that which is presented. Geese are turned loose, and in flocks crowd the open spaces. The streets are possessed for the time being by vendors of every kind from the modest manufacturer of toy windmills to the hoarse reciter of ballad poetry. The most amusing of itinerant salesmen on such occasions are the peddlers of old and new clothing. Mounted on one-horse spring-vans, they make a very laughable pretense of imitating the eloquence and gestures of the great auctioneers, often selling for two-pence, articles which they had declared to be "dirt cheap" at a shilling each."

The Drogheda Cattle Mart, beginning in 1955 and finally closed in 1999, was situated on a site between Magdalene Street and the Green Lanes and readers will remember Branigans pub beside the site, one of the many public houses serving the dealers and citizens in the area. The area has since been redeveloped into a retail and apartment complex.

The market in Bolton Square is still indeed holding it's own on a Saturday morning with all kinds of produce and products to be found. The town has also added a few new fairs to its list; on a Friday, stalls pop up down West Street selling farm produce, home baked goods and locally-made crafts. The first weekend of every month is also the date of the Old Schoolhouse Market, an artisan food and craft fair held in the old Methodist Hall and schoolhouse in Laurence St. It offers a wide range of artisan food products as well as handcrafted home furnishings, toys and jewellery to lifestyle and natural skincare products.

More information on the Old Schoolhouse Market can be found on their facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/TheOldSchoolhouseMarket


Knowing Drogheda

Have you ever wondered about the history behind the buildings, streets and lanes of Drogheda? Who built them: when were they constructed, where did the people come from?

Brendan Matthews will be conducting a Know Your Drogheda Local History Course starting on Tuesday October 1st at 7.45pm finishing at 9pm  and running for six weeks, each Tuesday until November 5th.

The course will be delivered in a series of talks, discussions and imagery and should be of interest to anyone with an interest in local/community history.

The course cost €60 with a reduction of €10 for members of the Old Drogheda Society. There are a limited number of places available, so to book please contact Liam or Kathleen at Drogheda Museum Millmount: . Phone 041-9833097 or email info@droghedamuseum.ie

  • Old Drogheda Society - History, Archaeology & Heritage Millmount, Drogheda, Co. Louth, Ireland. Tel. 041-9833097


Research Your Family Tree Course

Please find details of a Research Your Family Tree Course which will be starting on Tuesday September 17th in the Governor's House, Millmount, Drogheda,which may be of interest to you.

The course will run for 7 weeks each Tuesday from 11am to 12.30pm by Geraldine Jennings, who conducted a similar, very successful course, last year.

Please note that this is not an Old Drogheda Society course).

  • The cost is €60 and to book. Please contact Geraldine Jennings on 086-8184954 or e-mail gjennings@remistrick.com.


19th Annual John Boyle O’Reilly Autumn School

 Old Drogheda Society/Drogheda Museum Millmount 19th Annual John Boyle O’Reilly Autumn School.


John Boyle O'Reilly

Patron Dr. Kenneth Whitaker

Sun 29th Sept 2013 10am-5.30pm Conference Centre, Drogheda Museum


1913 AND ALL THAT .. The Irish working class – a forgotten history?

It is 100 years since the Dublin Lockout, a titanic event which exposed the fault lines in Irish society and even had a decisive effect on the course of labour history in Britain. As the official labour and trade union movement tentatively enacts a muted commemoration, we ask why is it that the story of the Irish working class – the majority of the population – is almost totally excluded from the “official” historical record? Once again the Old Drogheda Society/Drogheda Museum brings a unique and vibrant vision to what might have been yet another run-of-the-mill commemoration. The panel includes leading international and Irish experts and commentators and, as usual, our in-house group, The Millmount Research Unit will present newly-uncovered local material on the topic.

Prof. Marilyn Silverman

Leading international expert, Canadian anthropologist Dr. Marilyn Silverman from York University Toronto, author of “An Irish Working Class”, speaks on her incredible 30-year long research into class relations in just one typical Irish town (Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny). She stresses that in order to analyse the processes of capitalism, colonialism and state formation in Ireland it is essential to understand the political economy and culture of the people who have contributed their labour. Her work is fascinating on the ways in which ideology works through Irish society and her unbelievably detailed research will have resonances for many in her audience.

Dr. Silverman is travelling to Ireland specifically for this conference and this will be her only speaking appearance during this visit.

Mary Muldowney

Mary Muldowney from the Centre for Contemporary History, T.C.D., is one of the leading oral historians in the country and a founder and Director of the Oral History Network Ireland. She speaks on the innovative 1913 Alternative Visions Oral History Group and their exploration of the post memory of the Dublin Lockout, including sometimes surprising insights. Extracts from the interviews will be played so the interviewees’ voices can be heard.

Michael Pierse

Michael Pierse, author of Writing Ireland’s Working Class, is a literary scholar who looks at the general absence of working class experience from Irish fiction, both literary and popular and his work includes research on Seán O'Casey, Brendan Behan, Dermot Bolger, and generally on cultural representations of class in Irish life. He is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities at Queen's University Belfast.

Tommy McKearney

Socialist and Republican, Tommy McKearney speaks on the political side-lining of the powerful Irish working class both North and South in the 20th Century. Tommy McKearney currently acts as northern area representative of the Independent Workers Union while also holding a seat on the National Executive of the IWU. Tommy was a member of the IRA during the 1970s and 1980s, spending 53 days on hunger strike in 1980 and is also the author of The Provisional IRA- From Insurrection to Parliament.

Millmount Research Unit: - Drogheda Working Class History – An Outline

  •  Conference lectures and 3 course lunch in the TOWER Restaurant: - €30 Conference lectures only: - €10 Advance booking essential – Booking 041 9833097 www.droghedamuseum.ie email: info@droghedamuseum.ie