Dear Dirty Dublin

                                      The Dublin Lockout 1913

The Contemporary Music Centre, The Royal Irish Academy of Music and Dublin City Gallery ,The Hugh Lane  present ‘ Dear Dirty Dublin’ , a special concert commemorating the Dublin Lockout 1913. The event will take place in Dublin City Gallery,The Hugh Lane Gallery, Parnell Square on Saturday 1st February 2014 at 3 pm. Admission is free.

The concert will feature music by the  composers Vincent Kennedy and Michael Holohan  inspired by the city of Dublin and its history. The music will be complemented by readings from the writings of Yeats,Clarke, Kavanagh, Behan, Larkin and Connolly. Donal O’ Kelly actor and playwright will read September 1913 by W.B.Yeats.This poem  has a resonant connection with the Lockout and the early turbulent history of The Hugh Lane Gallery.

The compositions will include:
Tommy Donnybrook,  s-Trumpet City and  Soliloquy to a City  by Vincent KennedyDublin Street Cries,  All In , All In,  James Connolly and Jim Larkin ripby Michael Holohan.

Performers will include The  R.I.A.M. singers, conductor Margaret BridgeGerry Cullen, (Voice Squad) singer Vincent Kennedy,trumpet , Brian Dunning, flute,Niamh Mc Donough , piano, Breifne Holohan guitar, The Drogheda String Ensemble, Donal O’Kelly, actor.

Dear Dirty Dublin is an expansion of the musical project Musical Tales which toured The Dublin City  Libraries in April 2013. It was devised by The Contemporary Music Centre in association with One City One Book (Dublin City Council).This concert is the final artistic event associated with  Dublin Divided: September 1913 exhibition which was curated by Dr Margarita Cappock.

In association with the  Sundays at Noon, The Contemporary Music Centre’s Musical Tales/ One City One Book Project and Dublin Divided: September 1913 exhibition at the Dublin City Gallery , The Hugh Lane.

With the support of  Dublin City Council, The Contemporary Music Centre, Sundays at Noon , Create Louth, ICTU Lockout Centenary 1913-2013 and SIPTU.

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


'When is a Martello Tower not a Martello Tower?'

In the recently published 2013 Journal of the Old Drogheda Society there is an errata at the back which mentions that in a previously published article all mentions of Millmount Tower as a Martello Tower were removed. The local paper the Drogheda Independent picked up on this and published their own article questioning "when is a Martello Tower not a Martello Tower?" wondering what indeed was the difference.

image (c.) r&c ardill
Our Community Historian & editor of the Journal Brendan Matthews wrote an incisive response to the newspaper to clarify the tower's history which is reprinted here.

"There has always been controversy on whether the Richmond Fort at Millmount was ever indeed a true Martello tower built under Britain's National Defence Act of 1804 in anticipation of a Napoleonic invasion of these islands.

From the late 18th century Martello 'type' towers were being constructed around the British Isles and were known under different names such as coastal-batteries, beacons, watchtowers, gun-batteries, coastal-forts, citadels, redoubts and round-towers. Subsequently, the name 'Martello' was then applied as a universal term for any round defensive tower and although the towers were built to 'type plans', there was local variation depending on the contractors employed along with the materials that would have been available locally and so the towers often varied considerably in their construction as a result.

It also appears that the Martello type tower at Millmount may have been deliberately constructed here by reason that Drogheda at this time was a very important garrison town of the British Empire, thus protecting, not only the estuary of an important river, but also the town and its inhabitants from any further domestic trouble which had arisen during and after the Irish Rebellion of 1798. The sight of the tower would also have been a strong military statement by the British, dominating as it did the surrounding town, countryside and river estuary.

It is also clear from the records that during this period the Corporation of Drogheda was seeking to establish a permanent military barracks within the town and with the coming of the new Viceroy, Charles Lennox the 4th Duke of Richmond, to Ireland in 1807, with his experience of such towers and fighting the French, along with a threat from Irish insurgents, the timing was right for such an undertaking in Drogheda. Interestingly the tower at Millmount was also known as the 'Richmond Fort' in honour of the 4th Duke of Richmond and this name was also applied to this fortress up to recent times.

The majority of the towers also had their guns placed on their roofs, but at Drogheda the two nine-pounder cannon guns were placed on a circular movable platform placed on either side of the tower. The reason for this may have been that the tower was already sitting on top of a great mound and, being very much higher than any of the rest in Britain or Ireland, placing the guns on the roof of the tower would not have been of any great benefit. The majority of the towers were also protecting coastal areas, acting as beacons for a proposed threat. The tower at Drogheda was in fact protecting a garrison and a prosperous town; a jewel in the crown of Britain's policy in Ireland after the Act of Union less than a decade earlier.

The topography of Drogheda and the surrounding area, including a major route-way to the north and south also made Drogheda a 'key player' in these troubled times of the British Empire. It is clear that the tower at Millmount was not just erected as another 'Martello tower' as a result of a proposed Napoleonic invasion, but rather that it was erected as a back-up for the coastal watchtowers and that its line of defence was therefore the protection of the north-east territory and guarding one of the most important trading routes; that of the estuary, which, if fallen into the French hands, would have been detrimental to Britain.

Records also show that the Duke of Richmond was very much anti Catholic and a strong advocate of oppressive measures to subdue the populace after the rising of 1798 and the follow-up executions of Robert Emmett in 1803, the construction of the Richmond Fort in Drogheda was then erected as yet another symbol of oppression in Ireland. The erection of such a magnificent tower on top of the great mound also reflected a symbol of great strength to any future insurgency against the town, which again, as the historical records show, was a hotbed of rebel activities during and following the rising of 1798.

At a meeting held on the 16th July 1813, the Drogheda Corporation addressed a letter to the Duke of Richmond on the eve of his departure expressing their grateful thanks and acknowledging the great work he had done for Drogheda at a time of great trouble and strife in the country. This is surely a further indication that the 4th Duke of Richmond was primarily acting on suppressing the domestic problem in Ireland during his period here, namely his war against the Croppies and not because he had ordered the erection of the 'Martello type' tower at Millmount in anticipation of a proposed French invasion.

Brendan Matthews"

Brendan has also published, through the Old Drogheda Society, a very interesting history of the tower complex itself from prehistory through to the present day called 'Tower of Strength" which can be purchased through Eason's Drogheda or directly in Drogheda Millmount Museum. (ISBN 978-0-9546658-3-8)

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


MAHS 2014 Programme of Talks and Outings

Meath Archelogical and History Society is pleaded to share with the Old Drogheda Society information about its 2014 programme of talks and outings.  

This year's programme includes 10 lectures,  3 guided walking tours (Summerhill, Duleek and the Hill of Ward), a day-long summer excursion (Emo Court and the Rock of Cashel, 5th July), an AGM (24th April), a seminar on “History in Modern Ireland” (September) and the launch of the annual Journal Ríocht na Midhe.

The launch of Ríocht na Midhe 2014 takes place on Thursday 13th February in the Ardboyne Hotel, Navan. MAHS esteemed patron, Dr. George Eogan, will once again perform the launch and the evening will commence with a reception for members and guests at 6.30pm.  The current Journal and back issues  will be available for purchase on the night as well as the latest copy of the bound volume series -  Ríocht na Midhe Vol. II, Nos. 1-4 (1959-62).

MAHS will see a major change this year: its illustrious journal Editor, Seamus MacGabhann, is hanging up his quill after more than 20 years at the helm. Through his sagacity and learning, Seamus has steered Ríocht na Midhe to be one of the prominent local history and archaeology journals in Ireland.MAHS thanks Seamus for his dedication, perseverance and hard work over all those years and wishes him all the best in his retirement. Seamus will introduce his successor as Editor at the launch on 13th February.

The evening will close with a talk on The Book of Kells by Dr Bernard Meehan of TCD Library.

Drogheda Museum
MillmountGovernor's House,


The Irish Military War Museum and Other Things

The Meath Archaeological and Historical Society have kindly shared the following information with the Old Drogheda Society.

The Irish Military War Museum opens this year at Starinagh, Collon, Co. Meath. A military show will take place on the weekend of June 6th to 8th to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day in World War 2. All living history re-enactors are invited to attend the event. Contact Con O’Sullivan of the WW2 Club at 087-6693302 before April 30th.

Brigid of Faughart Festival runs from Wednesday 29th January to Sunday 2nd February 

The launch of Ríocht na Midhe 2014 takes place on Thursday 13th February in the Ardboyne Hotel, Navan at 7:30pm. Tea and coffee will be available from 6:30pm.

The recently published bound volume series Ríocht na Midhe Vol. II, Nos. 1-4 (1959-62) will be available for sale at the launch, special launch price of €20.00.  

Anyone who would like to sell local history or archaeology related books at the launch, please contact Tom French, Secretary and Publications Secretary, mobile 087 4119633 before Wednesday 5th February.

Program of events for 2014 can be viewed here.

Drogheda Museum
MillmountGovernor's House,


Drogheda Street Teams

I came across a few of these great photographs of local Drogheda street football and hurling teams and thought they were worth sharing; if anyone recognises where the Duleek St. teams photos were taken let us know in the comments!

Duleek Street U-13s 1962

Back Row L - R: John McGovern, Tony Tiernan, Richard McCullen, Dermot Pentony, Christopher Hanratty, Gerry Kenny, Tony Pentony, Brendan Everitt, Frank Buckley, Noel Carolan, Martin Reilly

Front L - R: Timothy Kelly, Patsy Murtagh, Noel Dunne, Liam Kelly, John Martin, Tony O'Brien, Tony O'Neill, Jodie Finnegan and Austin McEvoy.

Duleek Street U-15s 1963/64

Back Row L - R: Jono McCabe, John Martin, Johnny Reynolds, Jodie Finnegan, Oliver Carolan, Frank Buckley, Joe Leech, Jim Hanratty, Pasty Murtagh, Liam Kavanagh, Oliver Kavanagh, Willie Murtagh

Front L - R: Oliver Kimmins, Brendan Beakey, Joe Gibney, Jackie Thornton, Michael Gavin, Gerry Kenny, Dessie Murray, Tony O'Brien, Tony O'Neill.

From the far side of the town, the hurling team street league from mainly Yellowbatter area 1962/63

Back Row L - R: John O'Connell, Michael Campbell, Christy Burke, Jim Martin, Mick Lally, Bernard Byrne, Pat Connor, Peter Clarke, Manus Maguire, Dan O'Connell

Front L - R: Gerrard Connor, Oliver Owens, Chris Byrne, John Kelly, Frank Brogan, Jim Kennedy, Kieran Crilly.


Leaving Certificate Examination Talk in Navan Tonight

The Meath Archaeological Historical Society has kindly informed us that Dr. Patrick Callan, former National Coordinator for L.C. History, will give a talk on the Leaving Certificate Examination in St. Patrick's Classical School, Navan tonight Thursday, January 23rd at 8.00 pm.

All aspects of the examination are dealt with - the project, documents question and the topics for study are discussed in detail. Students are encouraged to identify difficulties they are having with any aspect of the course and hopefully they will be resolved at this forum. This is an extremely useful talk for students in their final preparation for the exam and well worth attending.

Drogheda Museum
MillmountGovernor's House,


1867 & the sad fate of Rose Rogers of Wallace’s Row.

Community Historian Brendan Matthews with a poignant story on the lonely death of Rose Rogers.

Back in the 19th century there was an extensive village of wretched mud cabin houses named Wallace’s Row, which was situated about one and a half miles outside of Drogheda on the Ballymakenny Road.

Griffiths Valuation of rateable property in the 1850`s shows that there was around 64 houses here and that the majority of the families living here were that of Hand-Loom Weavers. The wretched little homes were constructed in order to create a number of 40 shilling Freeholders at the beginning of the 19th century and the residents here played a key role in many of the Parliamentary Elections of that period.

The village got its name from a man named Thomas Wallace who actually contested one such election in the 1830`s.

On Friday January 18th 1867 an old woman named Rose Rogers was found dead from the want of food and warmth in one these mud cabins by some of her neighbours. Later that same day Rose Rogers was interred in the Cord Cemetery in what was termed at the time, 'in the poorest of wood coffins'. There was no Mass, no funeral service and no priest in attendance.

The County Coroner, Dr. Moore, then ordered the body to be exhumed for a proper post mortem and this was carried out on Monday January 21st with several witnesses in attendance from the Coroners Court. These witnesses later on told the inquest that, 'there was a red blush in Rose Rogers’s face when the lid of the coffin was raised such as they had never seen while she was alive' and that, 'she was warmer in the soil of the ground surrounding her flimsy coffin than she had been in her cold and damp house.'

The inquest heard from many of the old woman’s neighbours who stated that:

her house was in a terrible condition with holes and gaps everywhere and that the recent snow had fallen through her roof and that there was a few boards along the wall of the cabin with some pieces of straw which acted as her bed, but that the straw was so few that the pieces could be counted.

The Coroner was also told that there was no clothes in the house other than the ones Rose had on her, there was no coal, no wood and no food except for two small pieces of stale oaten bread. One neighbour stated that, 'there wasn’t enough straw in the cabin that would make a nest for a hen.' The court also heard that, from time to time, Mr Whitworth would provide the residents here with some coal.

A Doctor Ellis also gave evidence of carrying out a post mortem on the body and he said that, in his opinion death was due to the effects of cold and want and that on examination he found that there was no food whatsoever in the old woman’s stomach and that he had never in all of his life seen a corpse so placid in expression.

Neighbours who attended the Coroners Court included Anne Farrell, Catherine Byrne, Jemmy Duffy and Betsy Carragher.

Drogheda Museum
MillmountGovernor's House,


Dublin in the Rare Aul Times

This morning whilst doing some research on an entirely unrelated topic, I fell into the black hole of time that is Youtube (this is a phenomenon familiar to many, usually involving Facebook, Wikipedia and similar). The reason why was a fantastic collection of video clips filmed around Dublin over the various years, ranging from 1915 to the '40's, '60's, '70's and '80's. It is wonderful to see people from a past time (I refer more to the 1915 clip!) walking around living their lives, oblivious to the camera picking up a small portion of their day, our very short glimpse into their lives. Seeing footage like this always reminds me of a quote from James Joyces' 'Ulysses', as the character of Leopold Bloom goes to a funeral in Glasnevin Cemetery he thinks: "How many! All these here once walked around Dublin. Faithful departed. As you are now so once we were."

So as not to get sucked down the slightly morbid route of pondering on the fleeting nature of time & the transience of life, I present a selection of the clips, but there are many more on Youtube to be discovered and enjoyed.

Dublin 1915

Dublin in the 1940's

A sunny tour around Dublin in the 1960's

Dublin in the late 1960's

Driving in Dublin in 1976

The first four videos are taken from the Youtube channel 'memorybliss' while the last is from William
McQuillan's channel; all videos are their property and copyright belongs to them.


Pontana Fete 1936

Monsignor Segrave
In June 1936 a group of civically-minded citizens organised a week long Fete in order to raise money for a new organ for St. Peter's Church. It was in honour of the deceased Monsignor Patrick Segrave, Archdeacon of Armagh (1849 - 1934) who had worked tirelessly to upgrade St. Peter's Church but never saw the installation of "a organ worth of the Catholic town of Drogheda". Monsignor Segrave oversaw the completion and decoration of St. Peters, "universally admitted to be one of the finest parish churches in the country" and was there for its two greatest achievements; the consecration of the church in 1914 & the enshrinement of the relic of St. Oliver Plunkett in 1921.

The Pontana (the Latin form of the Irish name for Drogheda) Fete was set in The O'Raghaillaighs GAA grounds and had a a very wide range of events with something indeed for everyone. The main programme of activites was distinct from the five stalls set up around the stadium, each of which provided their own entertainment. The variety on offer is a testament to the organizers of the festival and would attract crowds of people today.

Sport featured heavily, with Gaelic Senior & Minor football tournaments for local and school teams, veteran hurlers and 'old timers' football matches, a Louth vs. Meath camogie match, road races from outlying parishes (Slane, Duleek, Termonfeckin) finishing at the grounds, a tennis tournament open to all, and a gymnastics display by the Free State Army team. There were tug-o-war competitions, fireworks displays, drill displays by the C.B.S. & St. Philomenas schools. The Drogheda Brass and Reed Band and the Artane Brass Band played open air concerts for children and adults alike. Flower shows and Irish dancing competitions took place alongside an industrial fair, the fete showcasing all of Drogheda community life.

The individual stalls, all with religious names and individual colours such as St. Vincents (blue & gold), Immaculata stall (pink & white), and Blessed Oliver's Stall (red & purple), ran their own lineups of fun and games. Some went all out with chutes and helter-skelters, obstacle golf, clay-pigeon shooting competitions, treasure hunts both on foot, in cars & on bicycles, ceilidhes, fancy-dress parades, and five a side football matches. The old fairground favourites of hoop-la, shooting galleries, fortune telling, donkey rides, wheel of fortune were present along with games of chance like 'penny on the squares', three card trick, and dice games.

There were numerous refreshments available for the punters at the stalls such as teas, minerals, dips, ice cream, cigarettes and even an ice salon.

Some of the amusements listed have fallen out of common use in Ireland, such as 'Aunt Sally', 'Nail in the Block' and 'Bagatelle'. Aunt Sally is an English pub game, which is still played in Oxfordshire, England where it originated. It consisted of a wooden ball, called a dolly - originally a figurine manikin painted to look like 'Aunt Sally' balanced on an iron spike. The aim was to knock Sally off her perch without hitting the iron.
The required items for playing Aunt Sally
Bagatelle was effectively an early version of a pinball machine, whilst Nail in the Block is fairly self-descriptive - players take turns driving a nail into a block of wood with the wedge end of a hammer.

A game board for bagatelle

Prizes were handed out on the evening of the 29th June with the Drogheda and Artane Bands bringing to a close what must have been a wonderful 12 days of festivities.
The fairground

The Hawker-Woman and her Soldier Husband.

Community Historian, Brendan Matthews with another of his short but fine pieces that reveal so much about the past life of Drogheda and its people. 

Back in the summer months of 1875 an old woman by the name of Mrs Dwyer was a regular visitor to the town of Drogheda. Apparently Mrs Dwyer had some kind of a lodging house in Balbriggan. However, due to her being a Hawker who lived by travelling throughout the countryside and from town to town selling goods from a basket around her neck, she was seldom seen at her residence in Balbriggan during the long and bright summer days.

On a sunny Saturday in the month of July 1875 Mrs Dwyer was in Drogheda selling her wares and fancy goods when she became ill on the street and was subsequently removed to the Workhouse Infirmary on the Dublin Road. A few days then passed but Mrs Dwyer, who was an elderly lady, didn’t recover from her sudden illness and died within the Workhouse and was laid to rest in the nearby Bully`s Acre burial ground.

Some two months later, on Saturday 11th Septembe 1875, an elderly man by the name of Thomas Dwyer arrived in Drogheda and went to a lodging house in Trinity Street which was owned by a woman named Mrs Halloran. Thomas Dwyer was also from Balbriggan and apparently he had often stayed at this lodging house in Drogheda and was familiar to Mrs Halloran.

It transpired that Thomas Dwyer was in fact the husband of the late Mrs Dwyer, the hawker-woman who had passed away in the Drogheda Workhouse a couple of months previously. When Thomas Dwyer was informed that his wife had died some two months earlier he broke down in the lodging house in Trinity Street and sobbed his heart out. He was overcome with grief as he sat by the fire in the house and began to sup some whiskey which he had with him in a carrier bag.

He told Mrs Halloran that he was an old soldier and that he was nearly 100 years old and that he had walked to Drogheda to look for his wife when he hadn’t heard from her in a few weeks. Thomas Dwyer then took some kind of a small inventory from inside his pocket and it contained a long list of the fancy goods and items that his hawker-lady woman used to sell to the general public and included items such as penknives, dolls, scissors, books, trotter-oil, beads, holy pictures, etc.

The following morning, Sunday September 12th 1875, Thomas Dwyer continued to sit in front of the fire at the lodging house in Trinity Street. For most of the day, according to Mrs Halloran the landlady, he continued to drink whiskey to ease the pain of his grief and the only other nourishment he took was a naggin of Hollands Gin and refusing to eat. On Monday September 13th, Mr Dwyer went to lie down on his bed at the lodging house. After some hours when he didn’t return downstairs, Mrs Halloran went up to his room to check on him and discovered that the aged man had quietly passed away in his sleep.

Found among his personal items and clothing following his death was some papers that showed that Thomas Dwyer was admitted as an out-pensioner at Chelsea, at 6 pennies a day in 1841 and also that he had enlisted in the British Army at Carrick-on-Suir in the year 1825.


 Drogheda Museum 

MillmountGovernor's House,




Don't Forget Tonight's ODS Lecture

A reminder to all our members, readers and friends that tonight at 8pm in the Governor's House, the Old Drogheda Society will host the following lecture.

 Who Fears to Wear the Red Hand Badge?

To be delivered by Francis Devine and Fergus Russell, the lecture is an illustrated talk about the Great Dublin Lock-Out of 1913, its local impact and its aftermath. 

All are welcome.

Drogheda Museum
MillmountGovernor's House,


Update from the Meath Archaeological

Kells Lecture Series: Breaking the Silence: The Poets of North Meath and the Famine a Kells & District Tourism Forum event on Wednesday, 15th January at 7:30pm. St. Columba's Church Hall, (on the right as you walk up the south entrance to the Monastic Site / St. Columba's Church), Kells, Co. Meath. Admission €5 / Refreshments served. A Lecture by Danny Cusack who discusses the paper that was included in Ríocht na Mídhe XIX (2008). His lecture will look at An Gorta Mór through the eyes of five mid-late 19th century poets from north Meath, some of whom wrote in Irish as well as English. It will challenge the notion that there was a total silence after that traumatic episode.

Dr. Patrick Callan, former National Co-ordinator for L.C. History, will give a talk on the Leaving Certificate Examination in St. Patrick's Classical School, Navan on Thursday, January 23rd at 8.00 pm. All aspects of the examination are dealt with - the project, documents, questions and the topics for study are discussed in detail. Students are encouraged to identify difficulties they are having with any aspect of the course and hopefully they will be resolved at this forum. This is an extremely useful talk for students in their final preparation for the exam and well worth attending.

The launch of Ríocht na Midhe 2014 takes place on Thursday 13th February in the Ardboyne Hotel, Navan at 7:30pm. Tea and coffee will be available from 6:30pm.

The Irish Military War Museum opens this year at Starinagh, Collon, Co. Meath. A military show will take place on the weekend of June 6th to 8th to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day in World War 2. All living history re-enactors are invited to attend the event. Contact Con O’Sullivan of the WW2 Club at 087-6693302 before April 30th.

Drogheda Museum
MillmountGovernor's House,


Museum Special Offer!

Special Offer!

All of next week, Monday 13th - Saturday 18th January, Drogheda Museum Millmount will be offering two for the price of one admission. The museum is open each day from 10am with last tours at 4pm.

The museum is also open from 2pm - 5pm on Sundays, but this offer does not apply on Sundays.


Drogheda 1310 – Murder and Solidarity in a Medieval Crisis.

This Irish History Podcast was broadcast on 5 December. Our readers may find it of some interest.

tellin' it like it was……

Drogheda 1310 – Murder and Solidarity in a Medieval Crisis.

avatar2The year is 1310. Ireland was gripped by a severe economic, military and political crisis – pretty much everything that could go wrong had gone wrong for the Norman colonists. In October of that year, a man called Jordan the Chaplain made his way to Drogheda, a major port in medieval Ireland. However not long after arriving he got involved in a dispute with one of the townspeople – Robert the Tailor. What started as a fraca in a tavern, quickly escalated begining a fascinating story which ended in a murder, producing strange and unexpected reactions in the divided and crisis ridden Drogheda.
This podcast is a little different that many of the previous episodes. In this story, I attempt to explain how a major crisis in Ireland in the 14th century affected two ordinary people who lived  in these trying times. Through this story of murder and unexpected solidarity the podcast explains why such what were seemingly minor events were indicative of much bigger changes underway in medieval Ireland. It is a bit of an experiment so I would appreciate feedback – whether you enjoyed the show and whether agree with my argument or disagree, mail me at history@irishhistorypodcast.ie

Listen here.

If you want updates check the show out on facebook and follow irishhistory on twitter.

Subscribe in iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/ie/podcast/irish-history-podcast/id363368392  

Drogheda Museum
MillmountGovernor's House,


The Wrath of a Woman.

Community historian, Brendan Matthews, with another fine piece that brings forth the colourful past that Drogheda was host to.

Over the decades and centuries the town of Drogheda has played host to many famous and infamous Female Street Characters and it is often possible to get a glimpse of these people from the pages of the local newspapers of yesteryear, particularly as many of the characters often ended up in the local Petty Session Courts, albeit on minor charges. The covering of such court cases by the local press is also very often the only record we may have today of these, `ghosts of the past`.

An example from the month of May in 1909 recalls a woman who was referred to as a `Street Tramp` and the heading in the pages of the Drogheda Independent read, The Taming of a Shrew:

Kate Thornton, a tramp has been sent to jail for a month for ill behaviour while she was in the Workhouse. Kate’s tongue wagged too freely and she backed up her eloquence by giving the Assistant Matron a stinging cuff around the ear. 

One of the best known and apparently, best loved street characters of the later 19th century was of course Catherine McGrath, alias Kate The Navy. Her tale was that of a street hawker woman who sold bits and bobs, needles and thread, rosary beads, medals, etc, from a tray around her neck while she walked the streets and lanes of Drogheda. And although she lived in a wretched mud-cabin house at Chesters Lane, she was seldom off the streets, and any money she made she spent much of it on alcohol. As a result she was very often a frequent visitor to the local Petty Session Courts and a `guest of honour` at the local Scarlet St Jail.

Kate was sadly killed after being run over by a cart which broke away from a horse while carrying a load of stone down Georges St from the quarry of Kilineer in the summer of 1887. However, she will be forever remembered as she is the key figure in John Cassidy’s painting, titled A Street View of Drogheda which was crafted in 1881 and which now hangs in the Highlane Gallery.

One last female figure of note in the streets of Drogheda at the close of the 19th century may be gleamed from the following court case in August of 1895:

That familiar old figure, known as Biddy Dillon, came up before the magistrates to answer a charge of inebriety brought against her by one of the local police. Biddy admitted that there was some truth in the charge but she justified the offence by stating that she was often drunk saying her prayers. She then broke forth into the following extempore couplet: 'The green will flourish and the shamrock nourish, blood-in-nouns let us have a drink.'

The justice, Mr Beresford, then imposed a fine on Biddy of two shillings and seven pennies to which she replied, “How much”? The justice then repeated the sum and Biddy exclaimed: “God only knows that you open your mouth very big you know”, to which the public gallery in the courthouse erupted in laughter. She was then warned that the fine imposed had to be paid or she would be committed to the Scarlet St Jail.

Biddy Dillon then replied: 'Well that’s too bad. And before she was removed from the court, she again broke into the following which of course was directed at the justice:

Long may ye reign, the promised land to gain and long may ye prosper on the bench, may the powers O`glory, descend before ye and gut and gore ye, who fined this wench. 

Drogheda Museum
MillmountGovernor's House,


The Night of the Big Wind - 6th/7th January 1839

During this horrible weather we've been having over the past few weeks, it seems appropriate to remember that on the 6th January one hundred and seventy four years ago today "The Night of the Big Wind" - 'Oiche na Gaoithe Maoire', effectively a category 3 hurricane, wreacked utter destruction across the country.

It was by all accounts a freak storm. Ireland was experiencing very unseasonable weather; heavy snow on 5th Jan was followed by very warm weather on the 6th. Around 3 o'clock in the afternoon of the 6th January it began to rain with the weather deteriorating rapidly throughout the day, until ten o'clock at night when the winds raged up and mauled the country until six a.m. the next morning.

The scenes that greeted people in the dawn must have seemed unreal; roofs had been blown off buildings, trees uprooted and flung across streets and fields, windows & doors were blown out, whole cabins were blown, or subsequently burnt, down, farmland was destroyed, crops and hay ricks (essential for feeding livestock) blown clean away; fences & walls were blown down and livestock escaped & were lost. The storm had been so powerful that when it initially crashed into the west coast waves actually broke over the top of the Cliffs of Moher. What was probably the most terrifying aspect of the storm was that it happened in utter darkness; people had no idea what was going on as their homes were destroyed.

A cottage in Mohill, Co. Leitrim 1889 - many cottages in 1839 would have been like this one & so could be easily destroyed by high winds or flying debris.

The after effects in Drogheda and the surrounding area was described vividly in newspapers of the time. "As the hurricane hit Drogheda, many families fled in mortal terror for their lives as the wind thundered through their shaking homes. The nightmare atmosphere was further raised as slates and chimney pots crashed down into the streets in the darkness. Frightened horses bolted wildly about adding to the general terror and confusion. Some families made their way to the safety of the Tholsel and the Watch House. Others quit the town to spend the night huddled together in the freezing rain, under the hedgerows of the open fields.

As daylight broke on Monday morning the streets of the town were seen to be blocked with debris of every type and description. Very few houses had escaped the night undamaged. But the greatest loss and suffering was felt amongst the poor of the town. A large number of their cabins were demolished, two or three were burned to the ground, and the remainder were stripped of their thatched roofing. Remarkably in all this destruction, not one single life was lost, nor were any serious injuries reported in the vicinity of Drogheda.

The north side of the town bore the brunt of the storm. Homes in Windmill Lane, directly in the path of the scythe-like wind, suffered most. Of some 90 houses in the road, 32 had their roofs whipped clean away and were also damaged by falling debris. Residents in the North Road also reported extensive damages to their property." A family in Laurence Street had a narrow escape when a falling chimney stack caused their roof to collapse on top of them; luckily they weren't injured. A large number of buildings reported their roofs being stripped, including St. Peter's C.O.I., buildings on West St. and the quays, Mayoralty House, and Mell Flax Mill which was seriously damaged during the storm.

Throughout the county, from Dundalk to Ardee to Collon, stripped roofs and damaged buildings were the main reports. In nearly all of the great estates dotted throughout the county fallen trees were the main casualties, with entire groves of valuable timber being uprooted, some dating back centuries. Another extract from the papers highlighted that "in one instance on the Red House estate, to the north of the town (of Ardee), one desolated family saw their small house burned out during the storm. Everything they possessed was lost in the fire, even a valuable sow and her litter of young ones. The family spent the remainder of the night in the freezing sleet and snow in a hedgerow. Mr. W. P. Buxton, landlord of the Red House, on hearing of their terrible plight sent blankets and clothing for all the family."

Such was the intensity of the storm that in a letter from Slane dated from the 7th Jan, the writer states " a very curious fact that I have discovered from a twig having accidentally gotten into my mouth which, to my great suprise, I found strongly impregnated with salt. This turned out generally the case throughout the place: the spray, therefore, of the Atlantic must have crossed this island."

A huge rock thrown up by the recent storms in Doolin, Co. Clare. The storm in 1839 did much the same thing, and the crashing of the waves on the coast could be heard for miles inland.

It was estimated that between 300 - 800 people were killed, but the figure was probably much higher given the amount of people that would have either froze to death in the fields or died from illnesses that followed given the intense rain & snow that accompanied the storm.

The storm was a hugely traumatic event for the Irish people and it became a marker for an era. Hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless and penniless, and the countryside and farmland was left devastated. One positive outcome was in 1909 when the Old Age Pension System was enacted, due to the lack of written genealogical records in rural areas, the ferocious storm that blew in from the North Atlantic 70 years earlier proved to be a useful marker. One of the questions asked of elderly people was if they could remember the 'Night of the Big Wind'; if they could, they were old enough to qualify for the pension.

Extracts from "The Night of the Big Wind, 6th January, 1839" by Michael O. McDonough, O.D.S. Journal 1990.

Lecture: Who Fears to Wear the Red Hand Badge?

The 2014 lecture programme of the Old Drogheda Society opens in spectacular fashion on Wednesday 15th January when the Society presents Who Fears to Wear the Red Hand Badge? an illustrated talk about the Great Dublin Lock-Out of 1913, its local impact and its aftermath.  

The lecture will be held in the Governor’s House, Millmount, at 8 p.m.

Francis Devine, the acclaimed labour historian, author, poet and singer and his colleague, Fergus Russell, will tell the story of the Lock-Out through the songs and stories of the time, accompanied by fascinating contemporary images.  Francis, often called “Renaissance Man”, because of his accomplishments in such a wide variety of activities, is well known in Drogheda and his previous presentations have been a great success.  He has collected the contemporary songs and poems relating to the dispute. And the singing of these songs, most of which have not been heard for a century, will bring the events of Dublin city and county vividly to life.  

No mere academic exercise, this event will add greatly to our understanding of the period – a decade that laid the foundations for modern Ireland.  
Representatives of the Millmount Research Unit will complement this exciting material with a parallel presentation on the reporting of the dispute in the local newspapers at the time.  Although Drogheda itself was not directly involved in the cataclysmic events in the capital city, the story of the struggle of the farm labourers of North County Dublin for union recognition and for better wages and conditions cannot be separated from the better known events in Dublin.  

As well as telling this story in detail, the presentation will also deal with the conflict within the communities of North Dublin, the response of the Church to the industrial unrest and the political developments arising from the dispute that prepared the way for a refocusing on the National Question and opened the path to the 1916 Rising.

This is a public lecture and all are welcome. There will be a book stall open on the night  

Drogheda Museum
MillmountGovernor's House,


The Musical Priest

Chairperson of the Old Drogheda Society, Seán Corcoran, has just produced a radio documentary on an aspect of Irish Music History and it is now available on SoundCloud.

Sean Corcoran at play
This fine production, The Musical Priest, was first broadcast @ 7pm Sun 29th December 2013 on Waterford Local Radio FM (WLRFM.com. A 48min radio documentary it was funded by the BAI Sound & Vision scheme and surveys the extraordinary life of Richard Henebry of Portlaw (1863-1916): funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with the Television Licence Fee.

Richard Henebry, a farmer’s son from Portlaw, Co. Waterford became one of the leading figures internationally in the fields of Celtic Studies and of Irish Music studies at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.

Richard Henebry

Ordained a priest in 1892 he spent most of his life researching Irish Music and Celtic languages. An accomplished fiddler and a piper, Irish music was one of the great passions of his life and his historic contribution was that he was the first to carry out field recordings of country musicians and singers using the newly invented phonograph in 1903.

Edison Standard

This programme uses interviews with family members and experts and drama-documentary techniques to re-create the life of this extraordinary character.

Phonograph horn

  • Writer, director, producer and presenter: Seán Corcoran
  • Sound design:  Ronan Browne
  • Actors: Diarmuid DeFaoite, Fred McCloskey
  • Fiddle: Breda Keville
  • Uilleann pipes: Ronan Browne
  • Mandocello and vocals :- Seán Corcoran
  • Music from Henebry adapted and arranged by Seán Corcoran

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


Ploughing Ahead in 2014

Now that we have stepped over the threshold of a new year and into 2014, the Old Drogheda Society would very much like to take the opportunity to wish all our members a Happy New Year. While mindful of the maxim that no news is good news we would nevertheless persist in our wishes that you have a Happy News Year.

Here at the Old Drogheda Society we will do out best to keep you informed of any news that is germane to the work that we do. History might not be news in the accepted sense of the term but historical finds, fresh investigations, new discoveries of artifacts, innovative approaches to history gathering all combine to make news.

Throughout the coming 12 months the Society will be ploughing on with its work of making local history accessible to Droghedians and those further afield with an interest in the topic. 

The type of work the Society is engaged in may be found by following or reading both this blog and our Facebook page where efforts are made to keep the public informed of ongoing activities and upcoming events. All members as well as the general public are invited to contribute to our Internet page.

It is our hope that the combination of this blog and our Facebook page will in some small way contribute to a better public understanding.

For those with more than a passing interest in local history the Old Drogheda Society might just be the type of body you could join.

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