Buy-to-let slums

Dublin’s early 20th century tenements were investment properties that would be described as buy-to-let investments in the modern climate.
At least they were from the point of view of the owners.
Many people made their money from rents collected from tenants. Such incomes were often shared as gifts with others: a bride’s dowry could be the collective rent of two houses filled with people.
Almost a quarter of Dubliners lived in one-room family flats, 100 years ago.
Those flats were concentrated in the area inside the ring of canals north and south of the city.
Not many new builds took place in the 19th century, following closure of the Irish Parliament and the transfer of society and influence to London.
The well-to-do who remained moved to the suburbs beyond the canals to Rathmines and Drumcondra and Inchicore.
Many were influenced in their choice of destination by the new tram lines emanating from the city centre.
The old Georgian houses had been built for one family and its servants.
But each housed many more as time passed and prosperity dimmed.
Large family rooms were sub-divided into smaller units, each housing a family of its own.
In a time of poverty and famine, poor rural people moved to the city swelling the population.
Some of the houses had so many one-family rooms occupied they were like small towns in themselves. The shared hallway being the Main Street.
Little or no maintenance was carried out to the structure of the houses by landlords.
DSC00086On September 2, 1913, numbers 66 and 67 Church Street suddenly collapsed into the street taking their occupants with them. Seven were killed.
They tumbled down at 9 pm, when darkness had fallen.
A pall of smoke and dust lay over all for 24 hours afterwards making it hard to see who was dead or injured, or, who could be rescued.
The situation was unchanged even in daylight.  Rescue efforts were hampered by a lack of certainty of how many were inside the buildings when they came down.
The funerals of the seven victims brought Dublin city to a standstill.
Elsewhere, an  official enquiry found that: in one place, 36 people were living and cooking on an open fire in a room measuring 32x13ft in 1913 when the houses in Church Street collapsed.

Extract from a forthcoming book on Dublin: A Little Book of Dublin by Brendan Nolan

A drop a wather

In Dublin, long ago, people used combs to rid their itching hair of nits. When they finished with the combs, they threw them away.
Many centuries later, the broken combs were dug up and discussed by learned people seeking clues as to how other people lived their lives in a different time.
Various assumptions were made about the life and daily customs of a people who did not have access to showers, bathrooms or Jacuzzis to help maintain a high standard of personal hygiene.
Few homes had a piped water supply and most relied on a communal standpipe or rainwater gathered in tubs.
Personal bathing may not have been as regular as modern citizens now expect.
Dublin has had an organised system for water supply for almost 750 years.
The rapid growth in population and commercial and industrial development in boom years in the Dublin region placed major strains on the water supply.
Dublin City Council announced, in 2006, that it would spend €120m on plugging water leaks in an effort to reduce the level of leaks from the city’s water system.
The money was to be spent replacing some of the cast iron pipes that made up the water mains, many of which were more than 100 years old.
The council estimated that some 28 per cent of Dublin’s water leaked out of these pipes before the supply ever reached taps.
It hoped the €120m upgrade would reduce losses to 20 per cent.
An earlier project costing in the region of €47 million reduced leakage from 42.5 per cent to 28 per cent.
Anyway, Dublin was built on a body of water, the Liffey, whence all stories and folk tales poured.

The Dollacher walks again

Storymap, the online collection of Dublin stories told in situ has assembled Dubline a ramble of stories along selected routes.
My telling of The Dollacher story is included in the Christchurch section.


Full House for Stories of Dublin

The final night of three storytelling nights in Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin was sold out, last night.
There was a waiting list for cancellations to see the ghost strand of Stories of Dublin. Imagine that. A full theatre and a waiting list for storytelling to an adult audience.
Seven storytellers told stories old and new, personal and received.
New storytellers found their wings and flew before a willing audience.


Telling stories in the lounge

As part of the YARN festival in Bray last evening we told stories in Holland’s fine lounge which developed into a storytelling session with audience members telling stories.
We heard of the mad woman seeking sun in a sieve, four brothers who could not find their missing member, the queen’s cigarettes, Matt Talbot’s wardrobe, the goose woman who declared her own demise, the go-kart rivals, and the tale of the bald men and the beguiling woman.
A great night.