The Tenters Remembered

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View of the Cherry Trees on St Thomas’s Road, looking towards Oscar Square, in early Springtime. Circa late 1970s or early 1980s courtesy of Noel Clarke.


© Tailte Éireann/Government of Ireland Copyright Permit No. MP 005224

THE TENTERS REMEMBERED A COLLECTION OF ESSAYS FROM THE TENTERS PAST Written by members of a local heritage group ‘The Tenters Celebrated’

We would like to give our thanks to all at Massey Bros. for their sponsorship for the printing costs of this booklet. Without their support, we would not have been in a position to produce and provide it, free of charge to a thousand homes within the immediate Tenters’ area.

CONTENTS Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . i Foreword by Evan Dwan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iii Cherry Blossoms by Maria O’Reilly . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 The Lamplighter by Pádraig Turley . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Pride of Place extract from ‘A Liberties Childhood’ by Ciaran Black. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Sickness in the 1940’s and 1950’s extract from Tales from the Tenters by Tony Corcoran . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Wolseley Street Memories by Pete Bodie . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Reflections of the Past by John Fitzsimons. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Nosey Parker, Niagara Falls and Nancy Balls extract from ‘Remembrance of Things Lost’ by Peter Walsh . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Mission Statement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20



hiS BOOkLET CONTAiNS a miscellany of memories relating to an area of Dublin 8 known as The Tenters. The general housing within the wider area dates back to Victorian times. however, the principal housing development within the Tenters boundary, The ‘Fairbrother’s Fields housing Scheme’, was built in the period 1922 to 1924. This was a unique project commissioned by Dublin Corporation as for the first time in the irish Free State, all the houses contained within the scheme, were intended to be sold to the Tenant Purchasers under a forty year mortgage. The contents of this booklet were put together by a local heritage group, ‘The Tenters Celebrated’, which is made up of present and former residents of the local area. These short stories are based on their memories and knowledge of the Tenters area. We are fortunate to have the support of the City of Dublin Education and Training Board who facilitate the Tenters’ Memories Course which commenced as a result of our centenary celebrations. We also meet regularly outside of the Course timetable and have been steadily gathering material from residents over the past year. This collection of short stories is a flavour of what we hope to achieve in our bigger Tenters book project. We hope you like them. While this booklet may concentrate on the past, we know there are many of you out there who have something to contribute. The Tenters’ past, present and future is in all of us. Our overall aim is to gather an archive body of material relating to the Tenters area and eventually donate it to the most suitable repository. We would therefore, like to take this opportunity to invite those who wish to include their stories or memorabilia relating to the Tenters, to make contact with us. We also plan on publishing a larger publication based on the Tenters, exploring its past, present and future. We welcome anyone who would like to help in making the overall project of our proposed Tenters book a reality. Our email address is: –i–



hAVE BEEN fortunate to spend time in the company of a group from the Tenters who bring the past alive through sharing stories and growing up in this special part of the Liberties. it was my privilege to witness these stories being enacted live. To listen to such stories is to be brought into a different world, a world that largely no longer exists. Social changes over the last century have altered how people live their lives, as globalisation, technology and work practices have transformed childhood and brought about declining levels of community and connection to place. Coming together and telling stories is a powerful way to build community. The work in this booklet highlights the power of conversation and the written word to unearth the hidden riches in the ordinary and the everyday. Writers like Joyce and kavanagh celebrated the beauty in the most ordinary, everyday things (‘Dublin poets open your eyes, even Cabra can surprise’). The writings in this booklet embody a similar sentiment. The Chinese say that the wise person is found, not blazing the trail ahead, but picking up the treasures left behind in the frenzied rush towards progress and the future. Sometimes we have to go back so that we can go forward. Exploring the past allows us to move into the future grounded in a sense of belonging and rootedness in place. The booklet stands as an inspiring example to other communities looking to rediscover their roots, strengthen their connections and reestablish their identities. The formula is simple: gather people together and let them share their stories. From this will emerge the natural poetry of people and place. Evan Dwan, CDETB Tutor

– ii –



NE OF My earliest childhood memories is of the spectacular cherry trees that lined St Thomas Road. When they flowered, their branches would be heavily laden down with bunches of sweet smelling pink and white blossom heralding the arrival of Spring. Even from an early age, i appreciated the wide tree lined St Thomas Road, a commanding sight from either direction. in my 1970s childhood, these cherry trees had matured into fine specimens. When they blossomed, they evoked a universal sense of wonder. The air was heady with their fragrance. Their short lived blossoms gave a Disney-like magical appearance to the broad, sweeping road. Coming from school we would gather fistfuls of candy coloured blossoms for our mammies. Mind you, the younger and shorter children, including myself, would have to suffice with those bunches of blooms which had fallen to the ground. Slightly crushed and definitely the worse for wear, these offerings were gratefully received by our mammies with ne’er a word about their battered appearance. All too soon, within a matter of weeks, the blooms would start to weaken and fall gently to the paths below. From a child’s perspective, this always looked to me at least, like snowflakes or confetti as it fell gently on our heads while we watched transfixed from below. Depending on how strong the wind was, the branches would lose all their blossom and the roads and paths would become sludgy with petals. i remember as a six year old, feeling shocked and sad when, as i rounded the corner from O’Carolan Road one early morning on my way to school, i saw that all the blossoms had disappeared from the branches prematurely as a result of an overnight storm. i also remember the week that these beautiful trees were brutally felled in one clean swoop in the early 1990s. As far as i know, not because of disease or for reasons of safety, but because Dublin Bus had introduced double deckers to their route through the Tenters area and –1–

these beautiful trees were seen as a hindrance when the branches smacked against the upper decks. The trees are gone and so too is the 121 bus. Only the 150 travels the route and many upstairs passengers passing through my Tenters will never have known the joy of those trees in bloom. Regrets are said to be those things that we did not do. Oh, how i wish we had fought to keep those cherry trees on St Thomas Road. Those trees were precious, beloved and reliable neighbours, a reassuring presence which annually signalled bright days and long, scented evenings. They were also symbolic of the status that was originally planned when this ‘Main Avenue’ of the Fairbother’s Fields housing Scheme was designed. We should have fought to prevent that chainsaw massacre. The cherry trees should still be here, roots deep and strong, for future generations of the Tenters to enjoy and cherish, just like generations of residents did before them. you can’t un-ring a rung bell, we can only learn the lessons of hindsight.

Image of the Cherry trees in early blossom on St Thomas Road, looking towards Oscar Square Park circa early 1980s. Picture courtesy of Noel Clarke.


THE LAMPLIGHTER by Pádraig Turley


N 1955 WhEN i arrived in the Fairbrothers Fields, as the Tenters was then commonly known, and indeed for a good few years afterwards, a man came around each evening to light our street lamps. he would also come around each morning to extinguish them.

i recall the lamp standards on our road were much shorter than they are today, they were extended in late 60s, by removing the swan`s neck and adding on an extension. This alteration is still clearly visible. They were also spread out much more thinly, resulting in portions of the road being in semi-darkness. Each lamp standard had an opening/door which was of course locked. Every evening at about forty minutes before dusk, the lamp lighter from the Corporation would arrive to light the lamp for the night. Our man always arrived on a bicycle, would stop at each lamp, take out a bundle of keys, unlock the door on the lamp standard, and turn on the light. As kids we used to rush over to him, `Mister, Mister can i turn on the light?` Sometimes he would say yes, and it would be a great thrill to turn on the light switch, which looked exactly like the ones in our houses. he would then lock the door and head off to the next lamp standard. Of course we would often chase after him to the next lamp standard. –3–

Occasionally some of the older boys would pry open the door on the lamp standard, with a large screwdriver or some such implement, which gave us access to the switch. Then we could turn the light on and off as we pleased. This must have been very annoying to older folk. As very few people had a car back then, it was not a great traffic hazard. On his next roster, the Lamplighter would discover the door broken and express surprise. Now he was not allowed to lock the door, as it had been interfered with. he would have to summon an electrician from base, to lock the door as the switch was an electrical device, even if it had not been messed with. Apparently some time earlier, a Lamplighter had locked the door in these circumstances, but had gotten in to bother with some shop steward from the irish Municipal Employees Trade Union. Back then the lamp post was not so much in use as a canine latrine as it is today, as most folk did not have a dog. One has to wonder how the electrician would have dealt with the dog`s water as a conductor of electricity.




An extract from ‘A Liberties Childhood’ by Ciaran Black

ELigiON CAST A large shadow over our young lives. My first experience of religion was the 3 years i spent in Low Babies, babies and First Class in the convent in Warrenmount. Strangely for the 3 years i attended i was not taught by a nun at all. however, i have happy memories of the two lay teachers we had, Miss kavanagh and Miss Fitzpatrick. Some of the nuns had savage reputations that were probably created to scare us young kids. Making your First holy Communion in Francis Street Church was my first big religious occasion, and in my case, this passed off without incident, except for the annoyance of my younger brother accompanying me as i made my collections. This same younger brother had been accepted to follow in my footsteps by also attending Warrenmount convent. A month or so before he was due to start school, our mother Mary was summoned to the convent to be told that he would no longer be accepted. it transpired that one of the nuns, a Sister Benignus was walking up O’Donovan Road one day to attend mass in Donore Avenue church and my brother was encouraged by some older boys to shout the nun’s nickname at her as she passed by him. My brother, not knowing any better, roared “Sister Big knickers” at the nun and managed to get expelled from the convent before he had even started. it took a lot grovelling and explanation by our mother before the expulsion was revoked.


i am friendly with a retired postman who made deliveries to the Tenters area for many years. he told me that in An Post the nickname of the area was “the Promise land”. When i asked him why, he said it was because when he met his customers around Christmas time, they would invariably say something like “i will see you next week or i will fix you up after Christmas” and they never did.

Perhaps the strangest imitation of real sports occurred during the Dublin horse Show every August. On TV we would watch the show jumping particularly the Aga khan trophy. Now of course, for us kids in the Tenters, the big disadvantage that we had was our lack of access to horses and how to set up a proper course that did not have to be dismantled for every passing car. however, imagination was in abundance amongst us, and the course and the jumps were set up in the back yard of 4 Donore Road, home of the Doyle family, an uncle of theirs and a lodger. The horse dilemma was a tougher nut to crack but, in the end, we settled on the idea your torso was the rider, and your legs were the horse. home advantage meant that Paul “Scorcher” Doyle was the course designer and he decided what height the tallest fence was. Scorcher, being the tallest of us, always arranged for the tallest fence to be the maximum height that he could comfortably clear and us shorter guys often came to grief at that fence and the lap of honour usually fell to our host. –6–


An extract from Tales from the Tenters by Tony Corcoran


AMMy, i DON’T feel well”. The cry would occur regularly in our homes from children of various ages. if we discount the fake illnesses due to not having done our homework, then the Mammy of the house would dish out some form of medication. Calling a doctor was rarely an option since few families could afford the cost. “

A pain in the tummy would be diagnosed as constipation and treated with a large spoonful of castor oil or, kindlier, with syrup of figs. Beecham’s, which could be purchased in the local shop, had two answers. For constipation, it was Beecham’s pills, while a headache would be treated with a Beecham’s powder. This was a not unpleasant tasting powder, and it came wrapped in tissue paper, so you had to be careful not to spill it on the floor. if a baby had colic, the answer was Woodward’s gripe Water or Steedman’s powder. For an upset stomach we would be given a spoonful of Andrews Liver salts mixed into a glass of water. Then, for growing kids, a daily spoonful of “Virol”, a thick syrup of sweet malt, designed to keep our vitamins up to date. A bad cold or chest infection was treated by rubbing your chest with Vick’s Vapour Rub, designed to clear your airways for better breathing. A follow-on from this was when your mother would encase your chest in red flannel after the Vick treatment. Then, not forgetting the power of prayer, a miraculous medal would be hung around your neck, sometimes combined with a relic, supposedly from some saint or Padre Pio to speed up your healing. On a day-to-day basis and also for the weekly bath we would be washed with red carbolic soap, a form of strong antiseptic soap. For any form of skin problem, such as cuts and bruises, the immediate treatment was germolene or Vaseline. For hair washing, a shampoo powder would have to be mixed with water to make a liquid shampoo. For boils on the skin, it was a very hot bread poultice which made you scream with pain when it was applied. Fleabites and ringworm were more common than people would care to admit, and these could be –7–

treated with iodine or a weird, purple-coloured antiseptic. Then, if you had warts, you were brought to a “healer” who would hold your hand and mutter some mumbo-jumbo words before collecting his fee. One abiding memory, however, was that, within the local community there was great support when a child was seriously sick. There was always a Mammy who, having been through the same experience, would be on hand to help. in addition, the local chemists were a godsend with free advice, like Moore’s in St Teresa’s gardens or Boles at Dolphins Barn. Finally, if you were unable to convince your mother that you were sick because you didn’t do your homework, there was a falsehood spread amongst school kids. it was that if you put blotting paper in your shoes you would faint during class and thus not have to hand up your homework. it didn’t work!! i had many a sore hand to prove it!




OT A LOT happened on Wolseley Street in the late 1950s. Several kids lived on the street, so it became a gathering point for all the other kids in the surrounding neighbourhood. Play time amusements, besides the constant game of street football, were hard to come by. horse drawn carts would occasionally meander down from Donore Avenue and deposit dollops of ‘fertiliser’ on the street. The dollops were much sought after by local gardeners who rushed to scoop them up with shovels or even pieces of cardboard. We kids found it greatly entertaining to watch our normally staid and reserved neighbours scramble for what to us was a pile of sh&te. however, we did appreciate that our football ‘field’ was cleaned up for us. Some scenes from a film called the “Siege of Sidney Street” were filmed around the junction of Donore Avenue and St. Catherines Avenue. it held our gang’s attention only briefly as it mainly consisted of the film crew waiting around until someone yelled ‘ACTiON” and three actors would run out of the house, gesticulating and yelling wildly. Then somebody would yell “CUT”. Nothing would happen for


another 20 minutes, and the process would be repeated. We got fed up after the fourth rehearsal and went back to our football game. The cast didn’t contain any notable stars. Perhaps if Richard Burton or Elizabeth Taylor were involved, we might have hung around longer. if you are curious, i’m told the full movie is available on youTube. A unique meteorological event occurred one hot afternoon when the east end of Wolseley Street turned hazy and then darkish. The gang stopped in amazement as a very heavy rain shower crept up the street towards us. Nobody said a word as the rainfall slowly advanced. For one brief moment it was possible to stand with one outstretched arm in the rain while the rest of you remained dry. Then suddenly, we were all thoroughly soaked. Unimpressed, we went back to playing football in the heavy rain. Friday nights could be special depending on which milkman came to collect the weekly bill. in those days, a refrigerator was a rarely seen luxury. Bottles of fresh milk were delivered daily in the early hours of the morning. One of the milkmen team would arrive each Friday night to ‘settle up’. Benny was our favourite. he was a short, very dapper man, well turned out in his neat, brown knee length smock. This was his ‘official’ milkman uniform. Strangely the sleeves always seemed just a little too long and too wide. he also sported an ‘official’ milkman’s hat with a shiny black brim. This light cotton coat was worn over his regular overcoat. Benny’s arrival was always eagerly awaited because he could make empty milk bottles disappear. Despite being surrounded by a gaggle of kids concentrating on his every move, Benny could toss a bottle into the air and (as far as we could see) it never came crashing back to earth. This magic was only ever performed on dark evenings with one of the nearby street lights in the immediate background. it didn’t occur to us then, but i suspect the wide sleeves of the jacket were involved in the ‘magic’. “Do it again Benny”, we’d plead. “i can’t, me arm is tired … but if youse all keep drinking milk i might be able to do it again when i see youse next time”. Ah sure, Benny was the ultimate superstar in our opinion, and that’s way before superstars were even invented.

– 10 –



by John Fitzsimons

CAN REMEMBER the day i started school, it was 1944 and i was 5 years of age. i was enrolled in the Low infants class in the Boys National School in Rialto, Dublin. At that time i lived with my paternal grandparents in Emerald Square, Dolphin’s Barn. in those days Dublin consisted of a conglomeration of self-contained villages such as inchicore, Phibsborough, Rathmines, Donnybrook and, of course, Dolphin’s Barn and many more. All the shops and services which one needed were within these “Villages”. i can recall occasions when my grandfather went to the local post office to collect his old age pension and he would take me with him and i would always get a treat, maybe a small bar of chocolate or perhaps an apple. They were very happy times indeed.

A scene on the morning after the 1941 bombing of the North Strand, Dublin. In the forefront at the mobile canteen, holding a mug of tea, is Ambulance Officer Mark Fitzsimons (the author’s father) of the St. John Ambulance Brigade.

– 11 –

One of my grandfather’s sisters, Mary Ann Fitzsimons, had married Johnny kavanagh in 1898. Johnny was a fireman in the Dublin Fire Brigade and lived for many years in Thomas Street fire station. They had two sons, Jack who was born in 1900 and Mark who was born in 1902. Johnny kavanagh purchased one of the new houses in the Tenters in 1923 through a 40 year mortgage. The house was 26 St Thomas Road and the family moved from their residence in the fire station to this house. it was around that time the Civil War broke out and the two sons found themselves on opposite sides, Jack being in the National Army and Mark siding with the “irregulars” their father persuaded Mark to emigrate to America where he remained for the rest of his life. When i was a boy living in Emerald Square i was often taken on visits to Aunt Mary Ann in the Tenters. My impression then was that the Tenters was a very posh area because all the houses had front gardens where, as in Emerald Square the front doors led straight on to the street! My grandparents in Emerald Square passed away in the 1940s, grandmother in 1942 and grandfather in 1947. in 1949 my father’s sister Catherine married Jack kavanagh(they were first cousins!) Jack’s parents had passed away in the early 1940s and he was now the owner of 26, St Thomas Road. Around that time i went to St. Vincent’s school in glasnevin as a boarder. We were allowed to go home on Sundays and home for me was Catherine and Jack’s house in the Tenters. in 1953 i came to live here. Following the deaths of Catherine in 1981 and Jack in 1984 i inherited 26, St Thomas Road and have resided in this wonderful part of Dublin ever since. – 12 –

A house on St Thomas Road, Fairbrother’s Fields Housing Scheme (now known as part of The Tenters) circa 1930.


Extract from ‘Remembrance of Things Lost’

An internal monologue by Peter Walsh, Local historian, in close association with my seven-year-old self


hERE’S ThE BELL, half twelve and time to go. i take my dip pen from the china inkwell, close the brass cover and dab the nib dry with a piece of blotting paper. i think my new double-decker pencil case is deadly, with its carved-out channels and hollows like nests for my rubber, pencil-parer and spare nibs. i can get a few marbles and a couple of wounded soldiers into the lower deck. The lid is like a long tongue, rounded like a half-moon at its tip. i slide it into the groove and with my reader, copybook and catechism pop it into my schoolbag. My deadly doubledecker pencil case. I got the ‘Aspro’ pencil from the commericial traveller in Granny’s shop.

My cap and scarf now on, and checking that the English threepenny bit – the twelve-sided one – is in my right coat pocket and the Pixie in my left, i shove my arms through the straps, hump the bag onto my back and line up in the yard until dismissed by Sister B with her regular order ‘not to run’ headlong out the door. The low-babies go first and the hallway is full of mammies and grannies so we all walk down the dark hallway and out the open door of No.117 The Coombe. it’s a Friday. No school till Monday. – 13 –

The street and footpath are very busy. i turn left and stand with my back to the convent railings beside the granite steps taking in the view on the far side of the road while my left hand reaches for the Pixie. i nearly trip over a woman pushing a well wrapped-up baby in a go-car. She’s in a hurry and has a net-bag of messages swinging from her wrist. Something fishy in there. Mackerel i’d say, probably from Mrs grimes’s wheeled basket, she’d be down along New Street by now. Over the road i see the corner shop set at an angle at the foot of Francis Street. ‘P. J. kilmartin’ it says on the fascia board, right next door to No.1 the Coombe. My head is wrecked lately trying to work out what class of a job a turf accountant might be. is it a kind of Original Milroy wrapper for Pixie coal merchant like Andy Clarkin, or Bar © Private collection. Donnelly’s where Dad works, or should i read Patricia Lynch again for clues? She has two books out now about turf cutters and their donkeys and other country stuff.

Site of Jemmy Hope’s shop, No.8 the Coombe.

As i peel back the brown red and gold wrapper of Milroy’s penny Pixie chocolatetoffee bar, i notice that kelly’s window opposite at No.5, is full of second-hand clothes, shoes, knitting patterns, magazines, oddments galore and a few holy pictures. No.8, where they sell the Daylight lamp oil, was once the great Jemmy hope’s premises. When i grow up, i will learn how he won over the hearts and minds of tenant farmers tradesmen and labourers to the cause of the United irishmen. A lumber merchant, he had a timber yard on New Row.

There is some music in the air. Over to the left is a shop selling records, books and comics. Three years from now, in 1956, as i wait for the twins to come out from Sister Bernard, i’ll browse over there and discover LPs and EPs including Frank Sinatra’s In The Wee Small Hours, Elvis Presley’s Golden Records Vol I and hear the rich voice of – 14 –

Julie London whose picture is on the sleeve of the LP in the window. The shop owner plays Cry me a river on the turntable behind the counter. The voice is haunting but i don’t like the words…too much revenge for my liking. i don’t really get it. it’s grown ups’ stuff. Not a patch on the songs i hear on the radio these days, like Patti Page and The Doggie in The Window, or Burl ives’ new record I know an old lady ‘…She just opened her throat and swallowed the goat!’ i love way he sings The Big Rock Candy Mountain and of course The Blue Tail Fly. instinctiveiy i go ‘…beneath this stone i’m forced to lie, A victim of the bluetail fly. Jimmy crack corn and i don’t care, Jimmy crack corn…’ Jeepers! i nearly missed the ginger tom, blending in nicely while sunning himself against the orangey-red brick of the tenement. Bedad, there he is, Redser in all his battle-worn glory, having a big stretch and giving himself the cat’s lick. What a specimen! Pussyfooting now into the hallway and slipping into the cool dark shadows like a thief, ha ha! sussing out what he might have for lunch no doubt. A couple of plump mice maybe for this ‘maestro of mousers.’ That line in Shake Rattle and Roll always brings Redser to mind ‘i’m like a one-eyed cat peepin’ in a sea-food store.’ in a little drawer at home, where i keep my seasoned conkers, i have an old picture of him taken at the back of Sweeney’s Lane by the water course. My molars are going like billy-o now and shift into top gear Pixiemunching. i realise that some houses, like Lynch’s at No.11, have wide windows upstairs. When i grow up i will get to know they are Wyatt windows, named after the architect who introduced them. There are old-fashioned half-doors to the shops at ground level, like those on Dean Street and St Michael’s hill. A woman, folding her arms, leans out of one, watching her world go by. The next house, No. 13, formerly the Weavers Alms house, has a black ribbon tied around the knocker and a card with writing on it pinned to the door. The blinds are down. i can make out ‘RiP’ …and what looks like… ‘Tuesday after 10 o’clock mass to glasnevin’. That wasn’t there yesterday. And today all the arrangements are made. Mr. Massey is on the ball. Another quiet client that won’t bat an eyelid at him. No end of customers. My chewing eases off, Pixie’s end is nigh – 15 –

too… yes i know i should be ashamed of myself thinking that just now, but i can’t help it as the last, strands of chocolatey toffee have melted and are sliding down the hatch …just gorgeous. i’d better head for the Tenters. First though, i must watch out for horses coming out of Parkes’. The throaty whistle for workers’ dinner-time will go off at any minute. They make bikes in there now i heard someone say. The slow clip-clop of steel on limestone setts heralds a small red cart from the Pim Street Cooperage, loaded with a large coil of hoop Parkes of the Coombe 1910. Arrow marks the site of Niagara Falls at No.114 where the little iron. The carter is wearing one horse and I got the fright of our lives. of those rough, durble ‘hairy jackets’ made from Rialto serge, that granny uses for the linings of our coats. he halts in Parkes’s gateway before merging into the traffic. i take the opportunity to tighten my bootlaces and i jump sky high when the husky siren goes off like there’s an air raid coming. What a bloomin’ racket! The carter’s cap falls to the ground and the cartload shifts. The frightened little horse, poor dumb thing, chomps on the bit, tries to rear up and then wets himself, right, left and centre and half the street into the bargain. WhOOOOSh! Niagara Falls on the Coombe!... Janey Mack! i’m not the better of it. Never saw the likes of that before.

No.82 Bus passing the Weavers Hall 1953.

Moving on when quiet is restored i note, not for the first time, that’s a very unusual front door on the Weavers hall over there. A hand-painted sign for The Weaver Furnishing Co spans the façade now. They used to make lead soldiers in there and before that it was Sammy Fine’s rag and wastepaper store. – 16 –

There goes the 82. The single decker bus with the little seat beside the conductor that i always try to ‘bags’ when i get on. Sometimes the door is at the front and sometimes at the back (depending on whether it’s the Leyland or the Bedford forty-eight-seater). it pulls in alongside Pidgeon’s Pork Butchers to let two ladies off and is gone again in a flash. Even though it is Friday and a fast day, many people will buy in the rudiments of their weekend fries today - rashers, sausages, black and white pudding and a white loaf ‘for cutting’, for the fried bread and dripping (i.e., the lard, often kept in kitchens in a mug by the cooker). Beside Parkes’s is the Widows’ house of the parish of St. Nicholas Without and St. Luke, and beyond it the avenue leading to the church. One old lady, with a shallow basket over her thin left arm, is deadheading a rose, another is tidying the flower bed by the path. A third sits nodding in the shade, a red-edged, black-covered hymnal on her lap. i long to explore St. Luke’s someday and get to know something of its otherness. in time this will all come to pass and i will make great friends here. But not today. The gate, as usual, is locked and i need to replenish my stocks now and get home. i run past Massey’s as always; not a place for lingering, but unable to resist, i catch a glimpse through the gateway of the black horses in the stable stalls at the top of the yard. No headless horseman in the daytime. Next door a man is loading a dray with crates of Mineral Waters from kennedy’s stores for town delivery and there, a few yards ahead beyond Pidgeon’s and O’Shea’s, lies the target of my desires, No. 99 The Coombe. At last, i cross the worn threshold and embrace the darkness of the Busy Bee, the little north-facing shop on the corner of Newmarket Street. it is the middle of the day and the naked light bulb is on, but to little avail. it is a tiny space, one and a half, maybe two, square yards in all. The figure behind the counter is only half visible, the light never falls on her face; to me she is a kind of aisling or spéirbhean or something. i come here a lot, yet i am not ready for the question when it comes… ‘yes please?’ her words hang in the air. i am getting flustered now. i have been so much taken in by the goings on in the street that i have not given enough thought to my purchases. i don’t want to blow the whole threepenny bit. My mind is running wild…the Fizzy Bon Bons or the Marshmallow Mice? Aah! Quick! Come on! – 17 –

Neither maybe? i ask myself and answer silently yes, neither…neither. good. E-e-easy now, problem solved. Deep breath. ‘Emm…can i have a pennyworth of eh... Nancy Balls please…and a Peggy’s Leg please?’ There is a pile of neatly cut pieces of newspaper, about six inches by eight, on the counter. The long fingers deftly take a sheet and twist it into a cone, and she counts out twelve fine aniseed balls… i breathe in and now get the heady, sweet, malty bouquet of the Peggy’s Leg as she places it before me, wrapped in cellophane, glistening. My tongue is kind of hanging out as i hand her the shiny yellow coin with the new queen’s head and say ‘thank you’ and pocket the penny change. i think i got real value for money just now and they’ll last much longer than the mice and bon bons would have. Must get some nutty favourites next time. Let me explain two things. First, if you haven’t guessed already, i’m a terrible Nosey Parker. i try to map my little world in my head; my recollections and imaginings are all in there and everything has a story. i try not to just look at things, but to see them. i don’t just hear sounds, i listen. i know, ‘curiosity killed the cat’ - but so far so good. Second, it’s 1953 and i’m seven and a half. i had to eat the Pixie toffee earlier by chewing it between the molars on both sides of my mouth because my new front teeth haven’t come down yet and there’s a gap where my gums are on display.

Nosey Parker’s First Commumion photo mind the GAP.

Leaving the Busy Bee behind and skipping past, on my right, the great bulk of the old Coombe Ragged School for Boys, now an EMO oil depot, i pass the site of the Battle of Skinners Alley on my left, and dash southwards towards the great open space of Newmarket and homewards. Emerging from the top of Newmarket Street, Minch Norton’s Moon Rocket is on the left, and the garda lock-up, where Lugs Brannigan’s bike is parked, is on my right. i run past it towards Mrs hendrick’s coal and kindling shop to say hello – 18 –

to her. She works very hard. She is sitting outside on a stool that once was a kitchen chair, beside the weights and scales. Like Mrs grimes who sells fish on Fridays, Mrs h is one of the last of the ‘shawlies’. The real Molly Malones. She collects slops for the pigs on Saturdays, with the help of her son, who is a boxer, in a hand cart that holds a steel drum. She calls to the doors with a bucket which she then empties into the drum. Ow! i feel a speck of grit in my eye. The breeze is tossing dark dust from the coal, and sawdust from the logs, into the air which is sharp with the whiff of paraffin. Crossing the old marketplace, i hold my breath and my nose, against an awful rancid mustiness mingled with DDT, rising from the ragstores that stretch back from Newmarket to Mill Street, and i see three young female workers, hands up shading their eyes, stumbling like miners into the midday sunlight as their dinner hour begins. Are they dancing?... Oh no… their arms are flea bitten to the elbows. Aah! My sinking heart didn’t expect that...i should know better… every day is full of eye openers, some of them good, mind you. This one is beyond grim. My older self believes that this offensively foul and noxious underworld, this louse-house, combined with the rotten pongs and clouds of chemical manure particles from O’keefe’s the knackers, and the bloody effusions from Ross’s, the sausage-skin makers situated between the two of them, must constitute the nastiest workplace environment in all of the liberties. My childhood self walks on, trying to close my mind to them and Lugs Brannigan and his bike, but i will never forget those young ones, those slips of girls hardly fourteen, those all-too-easy victims of explotiation. i try and take solace in a land of milk and honey as i head for Clarence Mangan Road… On the Big Rock Candy Mountain, the cops have wooden legs. The bulldogs all have rubber teeth, the hens lay soft boiled eggs… Oh, the buzzin’ of the bees and sweet cigarette trees (from Liam Devlin’s of Cork Street!) The soda water fountain, Where there’s lemonade springs and the bluebird sings On that Big Rock Candy Mountain. Mam! i’m home! – 19 –



hE MiSSiON OF the ‘The Tenters Celebrated’ group, is to preserve and maintain the various historical factors that have shaped the community of the area in south central Dublin within the Liberties, known as the Tenters. Our aim is to reflect on the sense of place that our community has experienced since it was first established, so that future generations can appreciate the heritage of this area. We hope to achieve this by promoting an understanding of the past, present and future of the area and by collecting and communicating materials that foster historical knowledge.


– 20 –

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View of the Cherry Trees on St Thomas’s Road, looking towards Oscar Square, in early Springtime. Circa late 1970s or early 1980s courtesy of Noel Clarke.


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