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A Short History of Dublin’s Mount Jerome Cemetery

“St. Michan’s Church.” The Dublin Penny Journal 2, no. 79 (1834): 209–10. http://www.jstor.org/stable/30002982

By the early 19th Century, Dublin’s churchyards were dangerously overcrowded, unsanitary and a threat to public health. Many of the churchyards were small, often less than an acre of ground, and had been in use for centuries by both Protestants and Catholics. Burials were taking place in churchyards which could not decently or properly accommodate further coffins, as described in 1835 by Thomas Fitzpatrick, M.D., of Park Street, who attended the funeral of a lady to St Bride’s Churchyard, which was on the corner of Bride Street and Bride Road until 1900.

‘On arriving there, I was surprised to see a coffin on the ground tied with ropes, and in so shattered a condition as to permit a partial view of the body which it contained. On making inquiry, I ascertained from one of the attendants, that owing to the crowded state of the churchyard, it was necessary to lift up this coffin in order to make room for that of the lady, and while they were removing it to a short distance it broke asunder, and the body, in an advanced stage of putrification, fell to the earth, creating so disgusting an effluvia as obliged the gravediggers to retire to a distance. On the occasion alluded to, a gentleman and I recognised the head of a friend who had been interred in the same grave two years previously; the muscles and the lower jaw were removed, but the scalp being perfect, the peculiarity of the hair and the formation of the skull satisfied us of its identity.’

Daniel O’Connell. Österreichische Nationalbibliothek – Austrian National Library – Public Domain

New land for cemeteries outside the city needed to be found and Daniel O’Connell, Member of Parliament for Co Clare, and champion of Catholic rights, campaigned for the opening of a burial ground in which both Catholics and Protestants could give their dead a dignified burial. On 21 February 1832, Glasnevin Cemetery on the north side of Dublin was consecrated and opened to the public. O’Connell was soon to be involved in the campaign for the opening of another cemetery.

Glasnevin Cemetery. Finerty, J. F. (John Frederick). (1898). Ireland in pictures: a grand collection of over 400 magnificent photographs of the beauties of the Green isle … wth historical and descriptive sketches. Chicago: J. S. Hyland & co. Public domain

On 17 February 1834, a petition from subscribers to the Dublin Cemetery Company was presented to the House of Commons, seeking permission to establish a general cemetery in the neighbourhood of the city of Dublin. A petition was also presented from the churchwardens of the city of Dublin and from the Board of Health, in favour of the cemetery.

The Sun (London) – Friday 28 February 1834

The company’s petition was referred to a committee, headed by O’Connell, and on the committee’s reporting on 28 February, O’Connell and Christopher FitzSimon, Member of Parliament for Co Dublin and O’Connell’s son-in-law, were ordered to bring in a Bill in compliance with the petition. The Dublin Cemetery Bill passed the Commons on 12 May and after undergoing several amendments in the House of Lords, the Bill received the royal assent on 27 June 1834.

The Sun (London) – Friday 16 May 1834

In January 1835, the company came to an agreement with Michael Keogh for the purchase of his interest in the lands of Mount Jerome, at Harold’s Cross on the south side of Dublin. Mount Jerome was originally part of lands belonging to St Thomas’s Abbey. After the dissolution of the monasteries in the sixteenth century, the lands were granted to the Brabazon family, later the earls of Meath. The origin of the name Mount Jerome can be traced to the Reverend Stephen Jerome, Vicar of St Kevin’s Parish in 1639, who leased the lands from the Brabazons and established an estate there.

Extract from A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland 1837 by Samuel Lewis for Harold’s Cross

A legal difficulty regarding title and John Chambré Brabazon, the 10th Earl of Meath, being away on the Continent, meant the Dublin Cemetery Company did not obtain possession of Mount Jerome until November 1835, but they immediately set to work. The 25-acre cemetery grounds were laid out under the direction of Ninian Niven, curator of the Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, with 600 selected species of rare and beautiful trees including yew, cypress and weeping willow, planted as an arboretum and a stone wall surrounding the grounds was built.

Ninian Niven. Nelson & Marshall, Dublin. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

On 19 October 1836, Dr Richard Whately, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, signed the deed of consecration, setting apart the lands of Mount Jerome as burial ground for ever. The Dublin General Cemetery was to be multi-denominational, so why was the Roman Catholic Archbishop not in attendance, too? The Irish newspapers give no reason but according to a scathing anti-Catholic piece in the London Morning Post of 22 October 1836 ‘A deputation waited upon the titular Archbishop, Dr Denis Murray, to know if he would consecrate any part for Roman Catholics who might think proper to select that place for themselves or their friends. He made no objection at the time, but requested a copy of the Act of Parliament, under which the institution was formed, in order that he might look into its provisions. After some time he returned for answer that, on consulting with his clergy, he must decline consecrating any part of the ground.’

The Cusack vault. Photograph by William Murphy from Dublin, Ireland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The cemetery became the burial ground for Dublin’s Protestants and more popularly known as Mount Jerome Cemetery. On 5 November 1836, the Warder and Dublin Weekly Mail declared, ‘About sixteen persons have already been interred in this place, which is termed the Protestant Burial Ground of Mount Jerome, near Harold’s Cross.’ It was not until the 1920s that the first Catholic burials took place there during a gravediggers strike at Glasnevin Cemetery.

Photograph by William Murphy from Dublin, Ireland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Mount Jerome Cemetery website states ‘The first burial took place on 19 September 1836 of the infant twins of Matthew Pollock’ but curiously, according to Saunders News-Letter of 20 October 1836, a Mr Pollock ‘one of the most active supporters of the institution’ was the first to be buried there.

The chapel. Photograph by William Murphy from Dublin, Ireland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The mortuary chapel, designed by William Atkins, was built in 1847. It was the first Puginian gothic church in Dublin and in 1874; the cemetery expanded to its current 48-acre size.

Mount Jerome Cemetery. Finerty, J. F. (John Frederick). (1898). Ireland in pictures: a grand collection of over 400 magnificent photographs of the beauties of the Green isle … wth historical and descriptive sketches. Chicago: J. S. Hyland & co. Public domain

During the second half of the 19th Century, most of Dublin’s city churchyards were closed for further burials and over the course of the 20th Century, some were built over, turned into car parks and others into public parks.

St Catherine’s Graveyard and Park behind the church on Thomas Street. The graveyard was closed to burials in 1894

In 1984, the Dublin Cemetery Company went into voluntary liquidation and by the late 1990s, Mount Jerome Cemetery had fallen into a serious state of neglect. In 1998, the cemetery was purchased by Massey undertakers and a crematorium was opened in 2000. This reversal of fortunes means the cemetery will not fall into decline again.

Photograph by William Murphy from Dublin, Ireland – MOUNT JEROME CEMETERY – SESSION ONE AUGUST 2017 [HAROLDS CROSS DUBLIN]-131402, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

With its Victorian funerary art, including ornate memorials, shrouded urns, tombs, angels, vaults and crypts, the cemetery has often been compared to Père Lachaise in Paris and Highgate Cemetery in London. The cemetery contains over 300,000 burials including the artist Jack Butler Yeats, Sir William Wilde, ‘Oculist to Her Majesty, Queen Victoria’, and the father of Oscar Wilde, the author Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, playwright John Millington Synge, judge and M.P. Thomas Langlois Lefroy, who had a youthful flirtation with the author Jane Austen, and members of the Guinness family.

Dublin, Ireland, July 1887. The city is struggling in a seemingly never-ending heatwave and Will receives devastating news from his father. John has only months to live but his dying wishes leave Will reeling. With the Fitzgeralds suddenly facing money worries, some difficult decisions must be made. Can Will and John repair their complicated relationship before it’s too late?

When a tragic accident brings unexpected truths to light, Isobel discovers a forgotten life intertwined with her grandmother’s. Nothing can prepare her for Lily’s story but will learning of their families’ pasts bring Isobel peace or further heartbreak?

Read an excerpt from Chapter One…

Tess, one of Will’s parents’ house-parlourmaids, admitted them to number 67 Merrion Square at eight o’clock and while Will ran upstairs to fetch his father, Tess showed Isobel into the morning room. Sarah, seated as usual on the huge sofa upholstered in green velvet, put a periodical on a side table and gave her a puzzled frown.

“Isobel?”

“Both Will and I have called and Will is bringing John here. There is something John wants to tell you.”

“Is there,” Sarah replied in a flat tone as the door opened and the two men came in.

“Mother.” Will went to her and kissed her cheek. “Father has something he wants to tell you.”

“So Isobel has just informed me. Well, John, you had better sit down.”

John’s face was ashen as he went to what had once been his armchair, and Isobel squeezed his hand as he passed her. Taking her arm, Will led her to the far end of the room, pulled the chair out from the writing desk and she sat down.

John informed his estranged wife of his impending death and cremation remarkably calmly and when he sat back in the armchair, Sarah got up and stood on the hearth rug with her back to them and her hands on her hips, just as Will had done earlier.

“Mother—” Will began, but she held up a hand to stop him from continuing.

“You shall have the front guest bedroom, John,” she said. “It is the smallest and will be easily kept warm when the weather breaks. The bed shall also be positioned that you can look out over the square and—” Her voice broke, she ran from the room and Will ran after her.

Isobel went to the door and closed it, hearing Sarah sobbing in the breakfast room. She went to the drinks tray on a side table in a corner of the room and poured an inch of whiskey into a glass. She handed it to John, then bent and kissed his cheek.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered, and he replied with a weak smile before they both jumped as the door was flung open and Sarah strode back into the room with Will right behind her.

“Cremation,” Sarah said, her voice little more than a squeak. “So half your ashes can be buried with her. Well, if you expect me to be buried with the remaining half – the second-best half – you can think again. To you, I have always been second best and I refuse to be second best in death.”

“That is entirely up to you, Sarah. I was merely affording you the courtesy of informing you that soon you will be free of me.” Passing the glass back to Isobel, John struggled out of the armchair. “Good evening to you.”

John left the room and Will nodded to the glass, silently telling her to make his mother drink the whiskey. Will then followed his father, closing the door behind him.

“Come and sit down.” Isobel ushered Sarah to the sofa, sat her down, and sat beside her. “Drink this.” She put the glass in Sarah’s hands and, to her relief, Will’s mother drank the contents in two gulps. “More?” she asked, and Sarah shook her head.

“Oh, Isobel.” Sarah squeezed her eyes shut for a moment. “I shouldn’t have shouted at John. I must apologise and—” She went to get up, but Isobel grabbed her arm.

“Wait a little while – Will is examining him,” she said and Sarah sighed and nodded.

“I have wanted to be free of John for so long – but not like this. I hoped against hope that the laws surrounding divorce might be relaxed, but they remain unchanged because the laws were drawn up by men and it is far more acceptable for a man to have a mistress than a woman to have a lover.”

“That is true.”

“And cremation, Isobel. What are people going to think?”

“I can hazard a guess, which is why Harriett should be told. She will persuade her friends and acquaintances – who amount to most of Dublin society – that cremation will become the norm one day.”

“Do you really think so?”

“Why were Mount Jerome Cemetery and Glasnevin Cemetery opened?” Isobel asked and Sarah gave her a blank stare. “They were opened because the parish graveyards were all but full. Also, compare the size of a container of ashes to the ridiculously big and heavy coffin my grandmother Greene was buried in. Cremation is practical and sanitary and it will save space and reduce the expense of funerals.”

“Isobel, I don’t want people to think we cannot afford to give John a decent Christian burial.”

“Harriett will assure them that is not the case. May I inform her tomorrow, or would you prefer to inform her yourself?”

“Please do it now, Isobel. I believe she is at home this evening. I shall attempt to gather my thoughts while you are out.”

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A Short History of Dublin’s Ha’penny Bridge

The bridge in 1818 by Samuel Frederick Brocas

Ferry services across the River Liffey date back to at least the Fifteenth Century, but in 1665, they were granted a charter by King Charles II. The Charter gave the mayor and sheriffs of the City of Dublin the right to maintain ferries over the river. They were required to provide at all times from an hour before sunrise to an hour after sunset a sufficient number of boats and all other things necessary and becoming. It empowered them to levy a toll of one halfpenny from every passenger who used the ferries to cross the river.

Roque’s Exact Survey of Dublin 1756 – Bibliothèque nationale de France – Public Domain – Tap/Click to open map in a new tab

One of the ferry stations on the south shore of the Liffey was at Fownes Street Lower, known as the Bagnio Slip. The word bagnio comes from the Italian word for illicit bathing house or brothel and there were many bagnios in Temple Bar masquerading as wash houses. In the early 19th Century, William Walsh of Aungier Street, a member of the lower house of Dublin Corporation known as the ‘sheriffs and commons’, leased the tolls of the ferries from the Corporation. A toll bridge at the Bagnio Slip would be lucrative, especially as it would provide a shortcut to Crow Street Theatre in Temple Bar, which was Dublin’s chief theatre, so Walsh proposed building a bridge and the Corporation agreed.

William Walsh listed in The Treble Almanack For The Year 1832

Costing £3000 and cast at Coalbrookdale in Shropshire, England, the iron bridge was transported to Dublin in sections and assembled on site. The bridge comprises an elliptical arch of 43 metres, is 3 metres in width, and rises 3 metres above the River Liffey.

An engraving of the bridge in Warburton, Whitelaw and Walsh’s History of Dublin Vol. 2, published in 1818

The bridge opened on 19 May 1816 with ten days toll-free to celebrate and remained Dublin’s only pedestrian bridge until the completion of the Millennium Bridge in 1999. It was originally called Wellington Bridge, after Arthur Wellesley, the Dublin-born Duke of Wellington, and victor at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815, but the name wasn’t popular. Only a year after its opening, it was being referred to as the Metal Bridge.

The Dublin Evening Post of 15 May 1817

On 29 September 1817, William Walsh was granted a further lease of the tolls of the ferries, which now included the Metal Bridge, for 70 years. It was later extended by 29 years, giving Walsh and his successors the right to extract a halfpenny (ha’penny) toll until 1916. The lease was amended in 1835, setting down stricter terms for Walsh and also enabling him to run other ferries across the river.

Dublin Assembly Roll 1824

In the early days, an average of only 450 people per day used the bridge and despite several campaigns over the years to abolish the toll, Dublin Corporation couldn’t do anything until the 99-year lease expired. Footfall across the bridge increased, however, and by 1878, the tolls amounted to a net annual income of £329 3s 10d for William Walsh’s successors.

Along the quays

In 1913, a proposal by Sir Hugh Lane to replace what The Sphere described as ‘a hideous iron bridge covered with advertisements that is at present one of the eyesores of Dublin’ with an art gallery spanning the Liffey designed by Sir Edward Lutyens was turned down by Dublin Corporation.

Sir Edward Lutyens’ design

William Walsh’s lease expired on 29 September 1916 and control of the bridge reverted to Dublin Corporation. It was expected they would abolish the toll, but a further temporary lease meant a toll was charged until March 1919.

When the Irish Free State was established in 1922, the bridge was renamed The Liffey Bridge but it remained more commonly known as The Metal Bridge. It wasn’t until decades later that it became known as the Ha’penny Bridge.

In 2001, Dublin City Council undertook an extensive refurbishment of the bridge. In the past, the bridge was painted black and silver but is now back to its original off-white colour. Today, an average of 30,000 pedestrians cross the bridge and it remains the best known of Dublin’s bridges.

Dublin, Ireland, July 1887. The city is struggling in a seemingly never-ending heatwave and Will receives devastating news from his father. John has only months to live but his dying wishes leave Will reeling. With the Fitzgeralds suddenly facing money worries, some difficult decisions must be made. Can Will and John repair their complicated relationship before it’s too late?

When a tragic accident brings unexpected truths to light, Isobel discovers a forgotten life intertwined with her grandmother’s. Nothing can prepare her for Lily’s story but will learning of their families’ pasts bring Isobel peace or further heartbreak?

Read an excerpt from Chapter One…

The sun was setting as their cab made its way to the quays. It stopped behind another cab on Bachelors Walk and Will got out. To his immense relief, a solitary lady was standing on the bridge looking downriver through the railings towards O’Connell Bridge.

“It’s Mother,” he told Isobel, lifting her hand and kissing it. “I don’t know how long we’ll be.”

“Take as long as you need,” she replied softly, and he closed the door.

Pulling the remaining coins from his trouser pocket, he extracted a halfpenny, crossed the street and held it out to the tollman, who shook his head.

“The lady has asked that no one be allowed onto the bridge for a short time, sir.”

“The lady is my mother and today, she has learned that soon she will be a widow.”

“Put that halfpenny away and go to her,” the tollman said, his face crumpling in sympathy. “And give this back to her,” he added, holding out a half-crown.

“Thank you.” Will put the coins in his pocket and walked to the middle of the bridge. “Mother?” he began, and she jumped and turned to him with tears in her eyes.

“Will? How did you know where to find me?”

“You told me once that this is where you accepted Father’s marriage proposal.”

“Yes. Oh, Will, I did love him so very much once.”

“I wish I could protect you from what is to come, but I can’t.”

“I know and I’m scared. Once your father leaves the Journal, what will we do? We can’t continue to live at number 67 on his savings.”

“We will discuss practicalities at another time, but you will both continue to live at number 67,” he told her adamantly. “And Father will do his best to hide it, but he is terrified about the future, too. Which is why both you and he need your family around you. Evelyn is on her way to number 67 as we speak.”

“Evelyn? Why?”

“Isobel thought you had gone to number 8 to speak to her about Marcus. When we called and you weren’t there, Evelyn was concerned for you – and puzzled – so I told her to take a cab to number 67 and Father would explain.”

“Explain how much?”

“That will be for Father to decide.”

“I should decide it, too,” she cried. “Evelyn knows nothing about—” She broke off, unable to say Maria Simpson’s name and turned back to the view. “Perhaps it’s time Evelyn knew, but I wanted to tell her myself.”

“Let’s return to number 67.”

“Is Harriett there?” she asked, and he nodded.

“When Isobel and I left, Father was breaking the news to the servants and Harriett was about to make tea for them all,” he explained and his mother spluttered an incredulous laugh.

“Harriett making tea… The world has certainly been turned on its head today. That’s my cab over there. I must pay the cabman,” she added, opening her handbag, but he gently closed it.

“I’ll pay,” he said and took her arm.

They walked to the second cab, Will nodding gratefully to the tollman as they passed. He helped his mother inside, and Isobel kissed her cheek. He paid his mother’s fare, then returned to the second cab and instructed the cabman to take them to 67 Merrion Square.

Explore my blog for more excerpts, character profiles, and background information

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Dublin City Morgue and Coroner’s Court

It was not until 1871 that Dublin had a morgue for the reception and housing of the unidentified dead or those who died in suspicious circumstances. Before then, inquests were held in various locations. Under the terms of the 1846 Coroner’s Act, a coroner could order that a dead body be deposited in the nearest public house until an inquest could be held, and if the proprietor refused he could be fined. Cool beer cellars were an ideal storage place and as time went on, it became common for publicans to keep marble tables in their cellars for post-mortem examinations. This legislation was not removed from the Irish statute books until 1962 which explains why many publicans to this day, especially in rural Ireland, are also undertakers.

The Sanitary Act 1866 gave impetus for the creation of a city morgue. The Act stated: Any Nuisance Authority may provide a proper place … for the reception of dead bodies for and during the time required to conduct any post-mortem examination ordered by the Coroner of the district or any constituted authority, and may make such regulations as they may deem fit for the maintenance, support, and management of such place. D.J. Dickinson, Secretary of Dublin Corporation’s Sanitary Department declared in Saunders’s News-Letter of 31 January 1866 that ‘the Corporation (sanitary department) lately erected a commodious dead-house in Fishamble Street for the reception of bodies found drowned, and a coroner’s room for holding inquests.’ The Dublin City Council Minutes of 29 March 1866 reveal the building, located in a corporation yard off Fishamble Street, had only been open a month when employees from a neighbouring business complained about ‘the noise being occasioned by the removal of bodies and from inquests held therein.’ Hopes that a back entrance could be knocked through to Winetavern Street came to nothing and the building was closed.

OS Map Dublin 1864. Tap/click the map to open a larger size in a new tab.

Flynn’s Livery Stables in Bass Place off Boyne Street, described by the newspapers as filthy and wretched, was used as a morgue and for inquests from at least November 1864 and continued to be used as such until 1871. According to the Warder and Dublin Weekly Mail of 24 June 1871 ‘remains were often left for days, amid surroundings repugnant to every idea of decency or reverence.’ The Irish Times of 9 June 1870 described it as a ‘discreditable den in a filthy stable lane’ and ‘being dark and dirty; there are not even light and conveniences to perform post-mortem operations; the air is stifling and odorous, hanging about the walls laden with the effluvia of a charnel house. No one ever entered that dead-house without feeling disgust and horror.’

OS Map Dublin 1864. Tap/Click to open a larger size in a new tab.

On Monday 25 September 1871, the Dublin City Morgue was opened in a substantial two-storey stone building purchased from a Mr Curwin on Marlborough Street just north of Eden Quay. According to The Irish Builder of 15 April 1871, the building was originally erected for the Dublin Savings Bank and following the bank’s relocation to Lower Abbey Street, the building was used as ‘a Temperance Hall, an Irish School, a Rechabite hall, a cheap restaurant (kept by a black man), an oil stores more recently, and now it is being fitted up by the Corporation as the “City Morgue” in which King Coroner will hold his inquests!’ The location attracted criticism from The Irish Times as it was in a highly-populated built-up area and would have a detrimental effect on property prices. James Cleary was appointed as caretaker and registrar and the building was to be in readiness at all times both day and night.

Thoms Directory 1873.

The Freeman’s Journal of 21 June 1871 commented ‘That very unpleasant, but still indispensable, requirement for a great city, a morgue or dead house, has at last been supplied. Up to the present time the corpses of unfortunate persons found drowned or dead in the streets were treated with the greatest neglect not to say indecency. The remains of persons thus deceased were deposited in an open shed, and the coroner’s inquests were held in taverns. To remove such a condition of things the Corporation have converted the old Savings Bank in Marlborough Street into a morgue. One of the lower rooms of the establishment has been fitted up in the same manner as that adopted in the celebrated Parisian institution. The bodies are to be laid on large slabs, and over them a gentle stream of water is to flow. Passing from this ghastly apartment, a fine room has been fitted up for holding coroner’s inquests. The room is supplied with a bench, jury-box, witness chair and the other requirements of a court of justice. Ample accommodation is also provided for the press. The alterations were conducted under the care of Mr Glynn, Clerk of Works to the Corporation, and reflect much credit on that gentleman.’

Thoms Directory 1887.

Despite the newspapers describing the new morgue as well-ventilated, the mortuaries and post-mortem room were separated from the courtroom above only by wooden floorboards and the city coroner Dr Nicholas C. Whyte frequently complained about the insanitary conditions as the odour from below, especially in warm weather, was almost unbearable. It was impossible to alter the building as there was no room for an extension.

OS Map Dublin 1892 – Tap/click the map to open a larger size in a new tab.

In 1902, a new Dublin City Coroner’s Court and City Morgue opened on Store Street and the Weekly Irish Times of 9 August reported ‘From a letter of Messers A. Armstrong & Co. in The Irish Times it appears the old morgue in Old Abbey Street is a condemned structure, and yet it is occupied by a caretaker, who as a matter of kindness and humanity is permitted to reside in it.’ The caretaker was fifty-year-old Annie Byrne. ‘Should it collapse and kill her, she would, of course, be promptly transferred to the new morgue but it might be more judicious not to wait till then’ the newspaper added. By 1904, the old morgue, along with the adjacent Mechanics Institute were purchased and incorporated into the old Abbey Theatre as an entrance to the stalls and balcony and a portion was used for dressing-rooms.

Fire Insurance map from 1893 created by London-based company, Charles E. Goad Ltd. Tap/click the map to open a larger version in a new tab.

W.B. Yeats wrote in August 1904 “I have just been down to see the work on the Abbey Theatre. It is all going very quickly and the company should be able to rehearse there in a month. The other day, while digging up some old rubbish in the Morgue, which is being used for dressing-rooms, they found human bones. The workmen thought they had lit on a murder, but the caretaker said, ‘Oh, I remember, we lost a body about seven years ago. When the time for the inquest came, it couldn’t be found.’”

The old Abbey Theatre. The Dublin City Morgue and Coroner’s Court was in one of the buildings to the rear of the theatre.

The purpose-built coroner’s court and morgue on Store Street was designed by the city architect Charles J McCarthy who had gone on a fact-finding tour of coroner’s courts in England. It contained a court with a public gallery, a jury box, retiring rooms and a waiting room for witnesses. The mortuaries and post-mortem room were separate and to the rear of the building. The viewing lobby was separated from the mortuaries by glass screens so jurors and others called upon to view the bodies on which inquests were being held could observe them without actually entering the mortuaries.

Dublin City Coroner’s Court.

The outdated morgue was demolished in 1999 and Dublin City Mortuary was housed in temporary accommodation until a new state-of-the-art City Mortuary came into use at Griffith Avenue, Whitehall in 2016. The building is shared with the Office of the State Pathologist.

The Coroner’s Court on Store Street, Dublin.

The Coroner’s Court still stands on Store Street. It was refurbished between 2008 and 2010 and an extension was added, providing improved facilities for staff and members of the public.

Dublin, Ireland, September 1886. Will is reacquainted with his former fiancée when his father’s close friend Dr Ken Wilson dies suddenly. On finding they have received the only invitation to the Wilson residence after the funeral, the Fitzgeralds witness the tensions between Cecilia, her mother and her in-laws and discover her hidden motive for wanting them present.

When Isobel is reunited with an old friend from Ballybeg, his shame at what he has done to survive hampers her attempts to bring him and Alfie together again. With an empty life and low expectations, can Peter regain his self-respect or are he and Alfie destined to be alone?

Read an excerpt from Chapter Six…

At a quarter to ten on Thursday morning, Will helped Isobel alight from a cab outside the City Morgue on Lower Marlborough Street and he paid the cabman. They went inside and he introduced himself to a clerk then chose two seats at the very back of the area reserved for members of the public to avoid having to sit anywhere near {spoiler} who was seated in the front row.

As they waited for the inquest to begin, he gazed across the room. The Coroner was seated at a raised desk at one end of a large table with the witness box at the other end. On either side of the table were seats for barristers and solicitors and to their rear was the jury box with a casting of the City Arms on the wall behind them.

After the jury was sworn, the kitchen maid was called first to give evidence. As she was being sworn, she burst into tears and was incomprehensible much to the Coroner’s frustration. He discharged her and asked for the young police constable who was sworn and deposed that his name was Patrick Egan and he was a constable at College Street Police Station. He had been on his way to report for duty when he heard screams and went to investigate but could add little else which Will attributed to the shock of what he discovered. The Coroner thanked the constable, discharged him and Will was called to the witness box.

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I’ve created a map of the Dublin area with locations which feature in The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Series. As a few locations don’t exist anymore, some are approximate but I’ve been as accurate as I can. Tap/Click in the top right hand corner to open the map.

 

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Dublin’s Pawn Shops

Pawnbroking has been practised for over 2,000 years. In China and Greece, it was practised long before Emperor Augustus set up the first pawn in Rome. Under Roman law, no man could pawn his furniture or farming tools. The interest rate was fixed at 3% per annum with up to three years allowed for goods to be redeemed.

Photo by William Murphy – Flickr – Streets Of Dublin – Brereton’s Pawn Shop, Capel Street. (CC BY-SA 2.0).

In 15th Century Italy, the popes established a system known as the ‘monte-de-piéte’ to help the poor with interest-free loans. In 1464, Pope Pius II changed the system to allow interest so the cost for overheads could be recovered. Moneylenders and goldsmiths from Genoa, Florence and Venice spread the system across Europe and introduced the familiar three balls outside their shops to advertise their premises. In Ireland, the first recorded mention of the pawn concerns Sir James Dillon’s waistcoat which was pawned for £10 in 1664.

Two men are standing behind the counter of a pawnbroker’s shop in London, examining some articles of clothing which have been brought in to pawn. Etching by George Cruikshank, 1836. Wellcome Collection. Public Domain.

Ten legally recognised pawnbrokers were operating in Dublin in 1786 and by 1830, the number had risen to almost 50. These numbers do not include the large numbers of illegal pawnbrokers which flourished in the back streets. There were 57 pawnbrokers by 1838, 48 in 1850 and 76 in 1870. Pawnshops were rarely put up for sale. They passed from generation to generation and were located in high-class areas with the pawnbroker and their family living on the premises.

Evening Telegraph 16 June 1904.

In 1872, the House of Commons passed the Pawnbrokers Act which was based on an earlier Irish law. Pledges for 10 shillings or less which were not redeemed in time became the pawnbroker’s property. Above 10 shillings, pledges could be redeemed up to the time of the sale to dispose of them, the sale being by means of a public auction. A new rate of interest was introduced at one halfpenny per month on two shillings or part of, on loans under £2. Above £2, the rate was one halfpenny per two shillings and sixpence or part of.

Shawled women waiting for the pawn shop to open in Dublin late 1800s or early 1900s. Pinterest.

In 1894, 17% of Dublin pawnbrokers were women. Margaret McNally guaranteed privacy and discretion at the First-Class Pawn Office located at 85 Marlborough Street where customers came for cash advances on a box of good cigars, a diamond necklace and share certificates. The luxury end of pawnbroking turned Margaret a tidy profit.

Winetavern Street in 1926 with P. Corvan Jewellers and Pawnbrokers shop on the left with a statue above holding the traditional balls symbol of the trade. Pinterest.

By the early 1900s, the pawn had become a way of life for Dublin’s poor as they struggled to survive. In an emergency, there was always the pawnbroker’s shop, where any portable item could be converted to cash with virtually no questions or paperwork. Almost anything could be pawned, including peoples’ Sunday best. Suits and dresses worn to mass on Sundays would be pawned on Mondays and redeemed on Fridays. Over time, many pawnshops stopped accepting clothing and almost all pawnbrokers’ business now comes from jewellery and other valuables.

The pawnbroker was an essential part of Dublin’s economy providing a vital service and preventing many people from falling into the hands of unscrupulous money lenders. Changes in social conditions, however, brought about their slow decline. Pawnbroker licences are issued by the National Consumer Agency. Currently, there are only three licensed brokers in the Republic of Ireland, all of them in Dublin: Kearns Pawnbrokers and Jewellers on Queen Street, Carthy Jewellers and Pawnbrokers on Marlborough Street and John Brereton Pawnbrokers on Capel Street.

Dublin, Ireland, September 1886. Will is reacquainted with his former fiancée when his father’s close friend Dr Ken Wilson dies suddenly. On finding they have received the only invitation to the Wilson residence after the funeral, the Fitzgeralds witness the tensions between Cecilia, her mother and her in-laws and discover her hidden motive for wanting them present.

When Isobel is reunited with an old friend from Ballybeg, his shame at what he has done to survive hampers her attempts to bring him and Alfie together again. With an empty life and low expectations, can Peter regain his self-respect or are he and Alfie destined to be alone?

Read an excerpt from Chapter Two…

Teresa was seated at the dining table and Isobel held up a hand as the maid went to get to her feet.

“Don’t get up,” she said, pulling out a chair and sitting beside her. “How long have you been lady’s maid to Mrs Ashlinn junior and Mrs Wilson?” she asked.

“I’ve been with Mrs Ashlinn six years. I was engaged when she and her late husband moved to number 46 shortly after their marriage. When Mr Ashlinn died, I went with Mrs Ashlinn to number 14 and a year later, I also became Mrs Wilson’s lady’s maid when her lady’s maid… left.”

Walked out, most likely, Isobel concluded.

“And are you also Master Clive’s nursery maid?” she continued and Teresa shook her head.

“No, I’ve never been Master Clive’s nursery maid, Mrs Fitzgerald. Mrs Ashlinn does everything for Master Clive and I help her whenever I can.”

“So a nursery maid has never been engaged for Master Clive at number 14?” Isobel clarified and the young woman shook her head again.

“No, never. Mrs Wilson refused to engage one because she hoped the hard work would make Mrs Ashlinn realise that Master Clive would be better off in an institution.”

Isobel fought to control her temper. “Teresa, Mrs Wilson has sent Mrs Ashlinn and Master Clive’s belongings to my parents-in-law’s home – effectively disowning them. She also sent your belongings…”

“Dismissing me,” the young woman said quietly and Isobel nodded. “I’ve never been dismissed before.”

“You can either go to number 67 and remain with Mrs Ashlinn and Master Clive or I can write you a character reference and you may stay here until you find a new position. Think it over while I help my husband put our children to bed.”

“Thank you, Mrs Fitzgerald, but I don’t need to think it over. I would like to remain with Mrs Ashlinn and Master Clive.”

“Are you sure?”

“I am. Being what he is, Master Clive is a handful but Mrs Ashlinn and I have been with him all his life and he trusts the two of us.”

“Very well. I must warn you that Mrs Ashlinn and Master Clive’s future is rather uncertain at present but an acquaintance who is a barrister and my step-father who is a solicitor will be working on their behalf to attempt a resolution.”

“I hope they can because Mrs Ashlinn and Master Clive deserve to be out of their clutches and—” Teresa broke off, flushed and stared down at her hands hoping she hadn’t said too much.

“‘Their’ being Mrs Wilson and Mr Alistair Ashlinn?” Isobel prompted gently.

“Yes. Did you like the dress, hat and veil Mrs Ashlinn junior wore today?”

Isobel frowned. The crepe dress, small hat and tulle veil were all stylish yet demure. “Yes, I did. Why do you ask?”

“Because they’re all hired,” Teresa replied and Isobel’s jaw dropped. “The morning Dr Wilson died, Mrs Wilson sent me out to hire mourning attire for Mrs Ashlinn after she heard Dr John Fitzgerald had called. I chose a tulle veil because I wanted the mourners to be able to see her face – to see what being in Mrs Wilson and Mr Alistair Ashlinn’s clutches has done to her.”

“Where does Mrs Ashlinn junior usually obtain clothes for herself and Master Clive?” Isobel asked quietly.

“Mrs Ashlinn hasn’t visited her dressmaker since her husband died because she hasn’t been allowed the funds to do so. Instead, I go to the clothes markets and pawn shops with what little she is given and then passes on to me. When she ‘stole’ and gave me an ornament to pawn, Mrs Wilson noticed it was gone – the old hag doesn’t miss anything – and she struck me, Mrs Ashlinn and Master Clive – then made me retrieve it from the pawn shop. Mrs Ashlinn didn’t dare attempt it again. Now, I must go to number 67 and unpack her belongings.”

“Wait,” Isobel commanded as Teresa got up and the young woman sank back onto the chair. “I shall give you some clothes for Mrs Ashlinn and Master Clive but compile a list of items they both need which can be purchased readymade – boys’ clothes – underclothing – nightshirts – nightdresses – boots – put them on the list and pass it to Mrs Fitzgerald senior or to me.”

“Yes, Mrs Fitzgerald. Mrs Ashlinn left the hired hat and veil behind at number 14 but what about the dress?”

“Who has the hire docket?”

“Mrs Wilson.”

“Then, keep the dress,” Isobel replied and Teresa grinned. “What I can’t understand is how Dr Wilson didn’t notice what was happening in his own home,” she added and the young woman’s grin faded.

“Mrs Wilson ruled the roost in the house, Mrs Fitzgerald. Mrs Wilson comes from a rich family and is good with money. Both Mrs Ashlinn and Master Clive are always dressed respectably – I see to that – I search for the best clothes. Yes, Dr Wilson knew Mrs Wilson and Mrs Ashlinn rowed but the rows were all about Master Clive. Everyone in the household knew from Dr Wilson that Master Clive would never get better but that for the present, Master Clive should be looked after at home. Poor Mrs Ashlinn dreaded the day her father would die.”

Because she knew Alistair Ashlinn would try to place the boy in an institution, Isobel finished silently.

“Thank you, Teresa. Please wait here while I put my children to bed and fetch some clothes. Gerald, our footman will then escort you to number 67.”

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The Dublin Artisans Dwellings Company

Corner of Pimlico and The Coombe. Photograph by William Murphy

The Dublin Artisans Dwellings Company was established in 1876 by a group of investors as a semi-philanthropic private venture to provide quality housing for the city’s working class who lived in appalling conditions but also as a profit-making business. Capital raised through shares and government loans was used to build cottages and houses.

Proposed DADC houses at Meath Place, off Pimlico

To keep costs under control and speed construction, a small number of common house designs was used across the DADC’s schemes. Type A, the simplest, was a two-roomed cottage with one fireplace and was in use from the early 1880s to the late 1890s. The Type E, a three-roomed (living room and two bedrooms) single-storey cottage was the most common of all house types constructed by the DADC and was used in at least sixteen schemes from 1883 to 1909.

Plans for DADC houses on Reginald Street and Reginald Square

In 1885, the DADC built sixteen houses and twelve cottages on the south side of what was then known as Tripoli and around the corner onto Pimlico. They range in scale from single-storey cottages in the central square to two-storey terraced houses on the perimeter. The two-bay red-brick houses had a pitched roof and a shared brick chimney stack with single square-headed openings on the first floor and arched openings on the ground floor and were originally fitted with timber single sash windows and timber panelled doors. Each house and cottage had its own mains water supply, its own back yard, a privy and a coalhouse. The rents, however, were too high for a general labourer and many of the houses and cottages were occupied by Guinness Brewery employees and Jacob’s factory workers.

DADC houses on what was known as Tripoli, now Pimlico, built 1885. Photograph from Google Street View. Tap/Click to open

World War One stopped building schemes and this halt continued well after the end of the war because of a rent strike but three schemes were built from 1929 to 1933. The basic dwelling was now an eight-roomed house with a kitchen, an indoor bathroom, front and back gardens and mains electricity.

Plan of DADC house to be built on The Coombe

The DADC was unwilling to develop further schemes after 1933 as local authorities were now providing working-class housing regardless of profitability. In 1961, the DADC began to sell off its houses and use the income to invest in commercial property. The last houses were sold in 1979 and the DADC, now called D.A.D. Properties Ltd was taken over by Rohan Holdings in 1984.

City of Dublin 1886, held by Ordnance Survey Ireland. © Public domain. Digital content: © Ordnance Survey Ireland, published by UCD Library, University College Dublin. Tap/Click to open

Dublin, Ireland, October 1885. The fragile peace within the Fitzgerald family is threatened when Dr Jacob Smythe becomes one of Will’s patients, angering his mother. But in attending to the elderly gentleman’s needs, Will inadvertently reunites Sarah with an old adversary and Isobel discovers she and Dr Smythe have an unexpected and tragic connection.  

When Alfie receives a card on his twenty-ninth birthday, the recognisable handwriting and cryptic message shatters his hard-won personal contentment. Has a figure hoped long gone from his life returned to Dublin to wreak a cruel mischief on all those who banished him? Is Alfie’s ambition of becoming a doctor about to be derailed when he has less than a year left at Trinity College?

Read an excerpt from Chapter Four…

Two hours later, after a busy surgery, Will let himself into Bob’s house on Tripoli and left his hat and medical bag in the hall. He went into the parlour, lit a small oil lamp on the mantelpiece then glanced around the room. Two easy chairs stood on either side of the fireplace, one with a copy of the Freeman’s Journal lying on it and a laden bookcase stood against the opposite wall. Taking the lamp, he went into the living room, around the table and chairs and on into the scullery in an extension at the rear of the house. Noting the sink and the tap with water from the mains, he smiled to himself, recalling how he had gone out to the yard at the back of the house on Brown Street in all weathers to pump water into an enamel bucket for cooking, washing and cleaning.

Unlocking the back door, he went out to the concrete yard and tried the first of two doors at the rear of the extension. It opened into the coalhouse and he shut the door then opened the second and peered into the privy – another luxury he hadn’t had at the Brown Street house – and he nodded approvingly. Closing the door, he went inside and locked the back door. He placed the temporary surgery hours notice in the parlour window then went upstairs to Bob’s bedroom which was located at the front of the house as Will’s had been in the house on Brown Street.

The bedroom housed a large double bed with a brass bedstead and a mahogany bedside table, wardrobe, chest of drawers and corner washstand. Putting the oil lamp on the chest of drawers, he went to the wardrobe, took out a russet-coloured carpet bag and put it on the bed. He lifted Bob’s dressing gown down from the hook on the back of the door, folded it and placed it in the bag. He opened the top drawer of the chest of drawers but it contained shirts and collars so he went down to the next and the next, finding nightshirts folded neatly in the third drawer. He put two in the carpet bag and was closing the drawer when he saw the corner of something white protruding from under the chest of drawers.

Crouching down, he reached for it and pulled out a dainty lady’s cotton handkerchief edged with lace. Since moving out of the rooms next door to the surgery on Pimlico, once occupied by Jimmy and his late mother, Bob had continued to join Mrs Bell and Jimmy each evening for dinner. Other than that, Bob had not opted to engage Mrs Bell as his housekeeper and now Bob had a lady friend, Will could only assume the arrangement was unlikely to change. He put the handkerchief back under the chest of drawers, picked up the oil lamp and the carpet bag and went downstairs to the parlour. Extinguishing the lamp, he put it back on the mantelpiece then left the house and walked to Thomas Street in search of a cab.

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I’ve created a map of the Dublin area with locations which feature in The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Series. As a few locations don’t exist anymore, some are approximate but I’ve been as accurate as I can. Tap/Click in the top right hand corner to open the map.

 

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The Four Courts Marshalsea Debtors Prison

The Main Courtyard of the Four Courts Marshalsea (Debtors) Prison, Thomas Street, Dublin in 1860.

About one-third of the prison population in early nineteenth-century Ireland was made up of persons imprisoned by their creditors for debt. In 1818, 13,000 people were sent to prison with 6,600 being imprisoned for debt. The majority paid rent for their accommodation but increasing rates for rooms and food dashed their hopes of freedom and many spent the rest of their lives in prison.

City of Dublin 1847 held by Ordnance Survey Ireland. © Public domain. Digital content: © Ordnance Survey Ireland, published by UCD Library, University College Dublin.

The most important debtors prison in Ireland – the Four Courts Marshalsea – dated from the 1770s and was located off Marshal Lane (now Robert Emmet Close), off Bridgefoot Street, off Thomas Street in Dublin. Originally a remand prison for criminal trials in the Four Courts, it became a debtors prison for cases brought to the Court of King/Queen’s Bench (one of the Four Courts) from all over Ireland.

An 1809 plan of the prison.

The building was laid out around two courtyards which housed the prisoners’ rooms, guard room, tap room, a chapel and an infirmary. The prison Marshal’s house was in the upper yard along with accommodation for his deputy.

A ground plan of the prison.

The Pauper Building consisted of six rooms, each to contain eight persons. They were furnished with bedding for the reception of debtors unable to pay rent to the Marshal or provide furniture for themselves. In 1848, food for pauper debtors, as laid down by the rules of the court of Queen’s Bench, was 2 lbs (0.9 kg) of bread and 1 (UK) quart (2 pints or 1.13 litres) of new milk per day.

Marshalsea Barracks. National Library of Ireland on The Commons.

The Four Courts Marshalsea was abolished by the Four Courts Marshalsea Discontinuance Act 1874, due to “the very small and diminishing number of persons in that prison, and to the very large prison staff in proportion to the number of prisoners.” It was then used as a barracks by the Dublin Militia. After 1922, it became a tenement until it fell into disuse. It was demolished in 1975 and some of the stone was used to repair the city wall at Cook Street.

Dublin, Ireland, October 1885. The fragile peace within the Fitzgerald family is threatened when Dr Jacob Smythe becomes one of Will’s patients, angering his mother. But in attending to the elderly gentleman’s needs, Will inadvertently reunites Sarah with an old adversary and Isobel discovers she and Dr Smythe have an unexpected and tragic connection.  

When Alfie receives a card on his twenty-ninth birthday, the recognisable handwriting and cryptic message shatters his hard-won personal contentment. Has a figure hoped long gone from his life returned to Dublin to wreak a cruel mischief on all those who banished him? Is Alfie’s ambition of becoming a doctor about to be derailed when he has less than a year left at Trinity College?

Read a spoiler-free snippet from Chapter Six…

“[He] was a general merchant and sugar broker with a premises on Thomas Street. His father had also leased the property as had his grandfather. [He], however, had a bad head for business and after the non-repayment of a bank loan, a writ known as a capias ad satisfaciondum was issued which enabled the manager of the bank to have [him] gaoled until the debt was paid.”

“Where?” Isobel asked.

“He was brought to the city gaol at Newgate in Green Street but because he was classed as a pauper debtor, he was transferred to the Pauper Building in the Four Courts Marshalsea which stands off Bridgefoot Street which is off Thomas Street. He shared one of six rooms with seven other men and he managed to survive for the best part of a year on a diet of bread and milk.”

“Who ran the business while he was in gaol?”

“His mother. She sold or pawned whatever she could and took in boarders. She paid off the debt but it broke her health. Less than a month after [he] was released, she was dead and he was bent on revenge.”

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I’ve created a map of the Dublin area with locations which feature in The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Series. As a few locations don’t exist anymore, some are approximate but I’ve been as accurate as I can. Tap/Click in the top right hand corner to open the map.

 

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Rutland Square

Bartholomew Mosse

Rutland Square (now Parnell Square) is the oldest Georgian square in Dublin. In 1748, Surgeon Bartholemew Mosse leased a four-acre and one rood plot described as ‘a piece of waste ground, with a pool in the hollow, and a few cabins on the slopes’ at the top of Sackville (now O’Connell) Street. Here he established the world’s first purpose-built maternity hospital designed by Richard Castle for Dublin’s poor to ensure fewer mothers and babies died during childbirth and it opened in 1757.

James Malton. Lying-In Hospital Dublin. 1795. The Art Institute of Chicago. 

To the east, the Rotunda Assembly Rooms (the former Ambassador cinema) were added, designed in 1764 by John Ensor and which led to the hospital becoming known as the Rotunda. To the north, the New Assembly Rooms containing a tea room, supper room (now the Gate Theatre) and ballroom were built in 1784.

Excerpt from John Rocque’s 1756 map of Dublin City

The most distinctive feature of the square was that the centre did not contain a park for the use of its residents. The ‘New Gardens’ designed by Robert Stevenson and opened in 1749 were public gardens and used as a means of raising funds for the hospital. They were the equivalent of London’s Vauxhall and Ranelagh Gardens, laid out with lawns, an elm tree-lined bowling green with a coffee room on the south side and winding pathways on the north side and pavilions where entertainments, theatrical performances and concerts were offered to paying patrons. According to according to an 1821 history by George Newenham Wright the gardens were established:

“…For the purpose of holding Sunday evening promenades, for the benefit of that establishment. Those entertainments were continued for many years, to the great advantage of the funds of the hospital, until the Association for discountenancing Vice petitioned the governors of the charity to suppress this immoral proceeding; since which the gardens have only been opened on the other evenings in the week during the summer season: on those occasions, one and sometimes two military bands attend, and play from eight to ten o clock, while the persons admitted promenade along a terrace in front of the orchestra, eighteen perches in length; the walk round the entire square, inside, measures 1 fur. 35 per. The interior, which is thickly planted with full grown elms and close underwood, on promenade evenings is brilliantly illuminated with festoons of variegated lamps and other fanciful decorations; and lately, singers have been introduced to amuse in the intervals between the different airs called for by the visiters.–The receipts of one evening, at this place of amusement, have been known to amount to upwards of 20 l. which is an enormous sum, if we consider the moderate price of admission, five pence each.”

James Malton. Rotunda and New Rooms. 1795. The Art Institute of Chicago. 

The success of the pleasure gardens led to the surrounding plots becoming highly desirable as residences for the rich and terraces of Georgian townhouses on Cavendish Street (later Cavendish Row) to the east of Dr Mosse’s plot, Granby Row to the west and Palace Row to the north, were laid out between 1753 and 1785 on plots leased from Luke Gardiner and further developments were added to the north and west. In 1784, an Act of Parliament was passed to remove the wall surrounding the gardens, and introduce railings and street lighting. The square was officially renamed in honour of Charles Manners, fourth Duke of Rutland and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, in 1785 under a further Act of Parliament:

“…For the completing and effectually lighting and watching Rutland Square, and for the better support and maintenance of the hospital for the relief of poor lying-in women in Great Britain Street, Dublin, and for other purposes therein mentioned.”


Charlemont House – now The Hugh Lane Gallery – Rwxrwxrwx, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The most significant property was Charlemont House designed by Sir William Chambers in 1763 for the Earl of Charlemont and built at the centre of the square’s north side. In the 1870s, the house was bought by the government and used as the Irish General Register and Census Offices and is now The Hugh Lane Gallery. Also on this side are the Dublin Writers Museum and the Irish Writers’ Centre. The Gothic Revival Findlater’s Church (Abbey Presbyterian Church) was erected in the 1860s by Alexander Findlater, at his own expense, and presented to the Presbyterian congregation. According to George Newenham Wright:

“The houses around this square are all noble structures; amongst them are those of Lord Charlemont, Lord Wicklow, Lord Longford, the Countess of Ormond, the Earl of Bective, the Earl of Farnham, and several others.”

The rear of the Rotunda Hospital c1907. National Library of Ireland on The Commons. 

The name of the square was changed to Parnell Square in honour of Charles Stewart Parnell at a quarterly meeting of Dublin City Council on 3 April 1933.

The Rotunda Gardens. National Library of Ireland on The Commons.

The square is now home to the Garden of Remembrance, the national site commemorating the 1916 Easter Rising which led to the foundation of the Irish State.

Rutland Square in 1885

Dublin, Ireland, October 1885. The fragile peace within the Fitzgerald family is threatened when Dr Jacob Smythe becomes one of Will’s patients, angering his mother. But in attending to the elderly gentleman’s needs, Will inadvertently reunites Sarah with an old adversary and Isobel discovers she and Dr Smythe have an unexpected and tragic connection.  

When Alfie receives a card on his twenty-ninth birthday, the recognisable handwriting and cryptic message shatters his hard-won personal contentment. Has a figure hoped long gone from his life returned to Dublin to wreak a cruel mischief on all those who banished him? Is Alfie’s ambition of becoming a doctor about to be derailed when he has less than a year left at Trinity College?

Read an excerpt from Chapter One…

Doctors Fitzgerald senior and Smythe were the last to present for surgery on Monday. Dr Smythe was a great deal thinner and frailer than when Will had seen him last.

“Would you like me to stay, Jacob?” Will’s father asked, sitting him down in the chair in front of Will’s desk.

“Yes, John, if you would, please,” Dr Smythe replied and Will lifted a second chair from a corner of the room, placed it beside the first and his father sat down.

“Your father thinks I’m descending into senility,” Dr Smythe informed him as Will retook his seat behind the desk.

“Do you agree with him?” Will asked and Dr Smythe pursed his lips for a moment before shrugging. “Well, would you mind if I asked you some questions?”

“No, not at all.”

“Do you know what day it is today and the date?”

“Today is Monday but I’m afraid the date eludes me.”

“And do you know what my name is?”

“Dr Edward Fitzgerald,” Dr Smythe replied promptly, naming Will’s grandfather, and Will shot a glance at his father who winced and looked away.

“And the Prime Minister – what is his name?” Will asked and Dr Smythe began to count off the names of various Prime Ministers on his fingers.

“The Duke of Wellington… No, far too long ago… Could be Melbourne… No, he’s dead a long while. I know it’s not Peel or Palmerston and it’s not Gladstone…” Dr Smythe tailed off, pursing his lips before suddenly thumping a fist on the desk. “It is Mr Disraeli,” he proclaimed with a firm nod.

The Marquess of Salisbury had succeeded Mr Gladstone as Prime Minister in June. Mr Disraeli had last been Prime Minister in 1880 and he had died the following year but Will gave Dr Smythe an encouraging smile all the same.

“If you were to walk home from the Journal offices, which route would you take?”

Dr Smythe raised his pale blue eyes to the ceiling and pondered the question for a few moments. “I wouldn’t walk, I would take a cab,” he stated and Will couldn’t help but admire his ingenuity in evading an answer.

“Well, what is the address you would give to the cabman?” Will added and Dr Smythe sighed and shook his head.

“A square… It’s across Carlisle Bridge and beyond Sackville Street…”

Carlisle Bridge was now O’Connell Bridge and those of a Nationalist persuasion were now referring to Sackville Street as O’Connell Street but at least Dr Smythe would be heading in the right direction.

“How is your appetite?”

“Rather small. Extremely small, in fact. My cook does her best but…” Dr Smythe tailed off again and Will nodded.

“Will you consent to me taking a medical history and giving you an examination, Dr Smythe?”

“An examination? If all these infernal questions haven’t been an examination, then I don’t know what one is.”

“A physical examination,” Will clarified.

“Whatever for? John promised me this would be no more than a chat.”

“When you practised medicine and a new patient presented him or herself and you were concerned for their wellbeing, what did you do?”

“Take a medical history and examine them,” Dr Smythe replied promptly before slumping back in his chair. “Oh, blast it, very well.”

Will took as much of Dr Smythe’s medical history as the elderly gentleman could remember before giving him a full physical examination. He sat down and made notes of the results while his father helped his friend back into his clothes.

“Your pulse and respiratory rate are all normal for a man of your age,” Will began as Dr Smythe and Will’s father retook their seats. “But I don’t think I need to tell you that you are too thin and your memory gives me great cause for concern.”

“So what do you suggest?”

“That you engage a nurse and—”

“A nurse?” Dr Smythe roared and Will and his father jumped. “I don’t need a nurse.”

“Yes, you do,” Will replied firmly. “Today’s date is November 2nd 1885, the Marquess of Salisbury is the Prime Minister and you live at number 8 Rutland Square.”

“Rutland Square,” Dr Smythe whispered to himself. “Of course.”

“Dr Smythe, you need to engage a nurse whether you like it or not.”

“You think my memory will deteriorate further?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so,” Will’s father replied and Dr Smythe turned to him. “I have noticed a sharp deterioration, even in the past two months, which is why I brought you to Will.”

“Will?” Dr Smythe peered at him with a perplexed frown. “But I thought you were Dr Edward Fitzgerald?”

“He was my late grandfather,” Will explained. “I am Dr Will Fitzgerald.”

“Dr Edward Fitzgerald,” Dr Smythe muttered. “Yes. Tall, like you and your father. But,” Dr Smythe pointed a long forefinger at Will, “you’re the spit of him, you know?”

“Am I?” Will looked from Dr Smythe to his father who smiled and nodded.

“You were named after Surgeon William Crawford, your mother’s father but, yes, you’re the spit of my father. Jacob,” Will’s father turned in his seat and laid a hand on Dr Smythe’s arm, “you need a nurse and you need to engage one now.”

“While I still have the mental faculties to do so,” Dr Smythe concluded and Will and his father nodded.

“I’m afraid I must ask you this, Jacob,” Will’s father continued. “How much savings do you have in the bank?”

“Oh…” Dr Smythe tailed off and gazed up at the ceiling. “I have approximately two hundred pounds.”

Approximately two hundred pounds would not purchase food, coal and clothing and pay Will’s fees and the wages of a nurse, a butler-come-valet and a cook-housekeeper for long. Meeting his father’s eyes, Will knew he was thinking the same.

“It will suffice for the present,” his father said then looked away and Will could all but hear him add silently: But we must urgently think of a way of generating an income for you.

“It’s not in the bank,” Dr Smythe announced suddenly and Will’s jaw dropped. “My savings are not in the bank.”

“Where is the money, Jacob?” Will’s father asked and Dr Smythe smiled.

“It’s safe.”

“Safe where?”

“In a box on the floor of my wardrobe,” Dr Smythe replied and Will immediately thought of the jewellery safe on the floor of Isobel’s wardrobe.

“Jacob, I am going to take charge of the box,” Will’s father told him gently and Dr Smythe exhaled a long sigh of relief. “And I will discuss the household spending with the Macallisters as well as their wages.”

“That is very good of you, John.”

“Not at all, Jacob,” Will’s father said then nodded to Will to continue.

“An advertisement will be placed in the newspapers,” he informed Dr Smythe. “And to ensure the utmost discretion, the responses will come here to the practice house. My colleague Dr Barton is also a qualified nurse and she and I will pass on the most suitable responses to you and you will make the final decision as to who you engage.”

“At Trinity College, I could memorise the essential points from a chapter of a textbook in less than half an hour.” Dr Smythe smiled sadly. “Now, I am about to choose a nurse to care for me in my dotage.”

Will couldn’t help but feel a sharp stab of pity for the elderly gentleman. Opening a desk drawer, he reached for a pen, a bottle of ink and a sheet of notepaper. Opening the bottle, he dipped the nib into the ink and wrote:

My name is Dr Jacob Smythe.

My address is number 8 Rutland Square.

My physician is Dr William Fitzgerald. His practice house is at number 28 Merrion Street Upper. He resides at number 30 Fitzwilliam Square.

My employer and friend is Dr John Fitzgerald. He is editor of the Journal of Irish Medicine. The offices are located at number 6 Hume Street. He resides at number 67 Merrion Square.

“Take this,” he said, blotting the sheet of notepaper and passing it to Dr Smythe.

Dr Smythe read the reminders and showed them to Will’s father who nodded.

“An excellent idea.” He folded the sheet in half and half again before placing it in the inside pocket of Dr Smythe’s frock coat. “But I will accompany Jacob home and speak to Macallister.”

And instruct him not to allow his master to leave the house unaccompanied, Will finished silently.

“In a week, I hope to have some responses for your perusal,” he said and the three men got up.

“Thank you, Dr Fitzgerald,” Dr Smythe replied, holding out a hand.

“You’re very welcome, Dr Smythe,” Will replied with a smile and shook it before showing him and his father out of the practice house. He closed and locked the front door and went into the office. “Eva, I need to find a nurse for Dr Smythe as quickly as possible so I will be placing an advertisement in the newspapers,” he informed the practice secretary. “The responses will be coming here and Dr Barton and I will assess them.”

“Yes, Dr Fitzgerald.”

“I have the odds and ends of his medical history and my notes from his physical examination. I’ll fetch them for you so you can open a new patient file.”

That afternoon, Will placed an advertisement in The Irish Times, the Freeman’s Journal and the Dublin Evening Mail and it appeared in the following day’s editions.

WANTED: An experienced nurse to attend to an elderly gentleman with senile decay. Application by letter, to be made to Dr William Fitzgerald, 28 Merrion Street Upper, Dublin.

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The Westmoreland Lock Hospital

Dublin’s Westmoreland Lock Hospital was established in 1755 by George Doyle for the treatment of venereal diseases. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, many hospitals would not admit patients suffering from venereal disease leading to a need for a dedicated hospital.

The name Lock Hospital dates back to early leprosy hospitals, which were known as ‘lock’ hospitals derived from the French word loques which were the rags used to cover the leper’s lesions. Later ‘Lock Hospitals’ were specifically developed for the treatment of syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection.

The Westmoreland Lock Hospital was first located on Rainsford Street in Dublin. The hospital opened with 300 beds but over time this was reduced to 150. It changed location on several occasions before relocating to Townsend Street in 1792. The hospital was named in honour of John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmoreland who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland at the time and who sponsored the move to Townsend Street. The building consisted of a centre, containing the officers’ apartments, and two wings with additional buildings for the reception of patients. The move to Townsend Street was significant as it signalled a shift in the importance of acknowledging and treating venereal disease.

From 1819 men were no longer admitted to the hospital. Instead, they received treatment for sexually transmitted diseases at Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital or Dr Steevens’ Hospital. The Lock Hospital continued to treat women, many of whom were prostitutes. High levels of prostitution in Dublin, especially in the red light district known as Monto, were the result of the presence of large British army barracks in the city. Syphilis and gonorrhoea were rife among soldiers but their spread was blamed on women and prostitutes in particular.

An 1854 Select Committee on Dublin Hospitals reported that of the 6,550 unmarried women admitted to medical institutions in the city with venereal disease in 1850, at least half were believed to have been infected by soldiers. The Westmoreland Lock Hospital’s patient registers for the 1860s showed that most of its Dublin inmates lived in streets adjacent to army barracks, especially the Royal (now Collins Barracks), Ship Street and Beggar’s Bush barracks.

In 1881, Lieutenant Colonel Tucker of the 80th Foot, based at the Royal Barracks, wrote to the assistant adjutant at Kilmainham protesting at the level of venereal disease in his regiment. He said that 284 of his men, 43% of the unmarried men under his command, were then in hospital with venereal disease. According to Tucker, his men could not walk in the vicinity of the barracks, “Without being accosted by troops of largely diseased women.” It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Tucker that his men might equally have been spreading venereal disease amongst Dublin women.

Unlike Cork, Cobh (Queenstown) and the Curragh, Dublin did not come under the jurisdiction of the Contagious Diseases Acts, which allowed any woman suspected of being a prostitute in the vicinity of a barracks to be checked for disease and kept without consent at a Lock Hospital. The Westmoreland Lock Hospital never had the power to hold women against their will.

Tucker’s letter, with others from senior army officers and military surgeons stationed in Dublin, was sent in November 1882 by the adjutant general on behalf of the commander of forces in Ireland to Dublin Castle urging the extension of the Contagious Diseases Acts to the Dublin metropolitan area. But, except for an undertaking to look into enlarging the facilities at the Westmoreland Lock Hospital, the government rejected the proposal and in April 1883, the operation of the Acts in both England and Ireland were suspended.

The number of women treated at the Westmoreland Lock Hospital during the year ending 31st March 1881 was 772 and they were segregated by religion and by marital status. Many married women infected by their husbands were admitted, sometimes with infants also infected with disease, and were kept away from ‘common prostitutes’.

Unlike other Dublin hospitals, the Westmoreland Lock Hospital was largely ignored by the public and had few voluntary subscribers or donations from charitable organisations because of its ‘distasteful’ patients and illnesses. Dr Rawton Macnamara, senior surgeon to the Westmoreland Lock Hospital, told a parliamentary select committee in 1881 that none of the other major Dublin hospitals would admit venereal disease cases except for Dr Steevens’ Hospital. The Westmoreland Lock Hospital was supported by a government grant of £2,600 per annum but it only enabled less than half of the 150 beds to be occupied.

When Ireland gained independence in 1922 and the British army left Dublin, Catholic organisations began to force the closure of the brothels in Monto. As a result, the sex industry declined and many remaining ‘fallen women’ were sent to the infamous Magdalene Laundries. In 1946 the Westmoreland Lock Hospital was renamed St Margaret of Cortona but due to a continuing drop in admissions and the building having fallen into disrepair, the hospital closed its doors for the last time in 1956 and was demolished.

Dublin, Ireland, September 1883. The rift between the Fitzgeralds deepens when Will’s father threatens legal action to gain visiting rights to his three grandchildren. But Will, Isobel and John are brought unexpectedly together by Will’s mother when Sarah’s increasingly erratic behaviour spirals beyond their control.

Isobel is reunited with a ghost from her past unearthing memories she would rather have kept buried while the fragile marriage of convenience orchestrated by John becomes more and more brittle before it snaps with horrifying consequences.

Read an excerpt from Chapter Two…

“Please don’t allow the other woman to simply walk back out onto the streets.”

“We’re not the feckin’ Shelbourne Hotel, you know?” {the constable} replied and {Isobel} shot him an irritated glance before peering back into the cell.

“I don’t think it’s just the drink that’s wrong with her.”

“A bit of an expert, are you?”

“My husband is a doctor,” she explained. “And I have seen enough of his patients to conclude that Maggie is not mad but is most likely suffering from syphilis.”

“Ah – Jaysus – syphilis?” Constable Flynn’s eyes bulged in a mixture of horror and disgust. “Could she have given it to me or the other lads?”

“Not unless you were all intimate with her during the early stages of the illness. Were you?”

“No, we were not,” he stated with clear offence.

“Then, please, Constable, you’ve been kind to her. Do her another kindness by bringing her to the Westmoreland Lock Hospital on Townsend Street. They care for women with venereal diseases there and it’s not too far away. Please?” she begged. “Let her be cared for properly there so she doesn’t have to live on the streets?”

“The Lock Hospital?”

“Yes. Please?” she begged again. “I’ll gladly pay the cab fare.”

“I can’t take money off you.”

“Then, I will hail a cab and pay the cabman directly. Please?”

“Aragh, all right. One less unfortunate off the streets can only be a good thing. Let me have a word with Sergeant O’Keefe.”

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Photo credit: By Unknown author – Scan of a photograph of the Westmoreland Lock Hospital, Public Domain, Link

Dublin’s Coal Holes and Coal Cellars

Coal cellars are a common feature of Georgian and Victorian era houses. They were built with a brick vaulted roof under the footpath and accessible via the servants’ hall in the basement of the house and some cellars extended out well under the street. Coal holes were installed so coal (and turf {peat} and wood) deliveries could be poured or shovelled into the cellar from the street. The holes are between twelve to fourteen inches in diameter, small enough to keep all but the smallest of burglars out, and are generally circular so the lids can’t fall through the hole. The cover sits into an iron rim set in the pavement and is locked with a chain attached to an eye inside the lid and is fastened from beneath.

Coal hole and doorway under the street on Mountjoy Square, Dublin.

The majority of Dublin’s cast iron coal hole covers were made between 1760 and 1830 in foundries such as Tonge & Taggart on Windmill Lane, South City Foundry on Bishop Street, Sharke’s on Church Street, Hammond Lane and T. Saul & Co on Leeson Street Upper – all long gone. The covers were cast with lines and/or patterns to stop people slipping on them in the rain and often included the name of the foundry. The casting involved a wooden or metal master cover being forced into a box of sand. The master was removed, producing a mould into which the molten iron was poured.

An ornate coal hole cover from Mountjoy Square, Dublin, Ireland, still set in its original granite.

The pavements of Dublin’s Georgian and Victorian squares and streets still contain a unique collection of street furniture. Later, when other European cities were installing modern replacements made of concrete, aluminium and pressed steel, Dublin was forced by economic necessity to retain its beautiful heritage of cast iron covers.

Dublin, Ireland, September 1883. The rift between the Fitzgeralds deepens when Will’s father threatens legal action to gain visiting rights to his three grandchildren. But Will, Isobel and John are brought unexpectedly together by Will’s mother when Sarah’s increasingly erratic behaviour spirals beyond their control.

Isobel is reunited with a ghost from her past unearthing memories she would rather have kept buried while the fragile marriage of convenience orchestrated by John becomes more and more brittle before it snaps with horrifying consequences.

Read a snippet from Chapter Seven… 

Taking one of the ridiculously small cucumber sandwiches, Isobel went and stood to one side of the window so she couldn’t be seen. Ely Place Upper was deserted and she glanced at the round cast-iron coal hole cover set into the pavement near the kerb. Deliveries of bagged coal were poured into the cellar below and she knew all too well from her time as a servant that it created a cloud of fine black dust if the coalman didn’t give enough warning to close the cellar door. The cramped coal cellar at number 68 – where she had often been sent to fill a scuttle – was cold and damp no matter the time of year and this one was likely the same.

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I’ve created a map of the Dublin area with locations which feature in The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Series. As a few locations don’t exist anymore, some are approximate but I’ve been as accurate as I can. Tap/Click in the top right hand corner to open the map.

 

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Photo credit: Coal hole and corresponding door underneath the street: Gavinmc (talk | contribs) / Public domain
Photo credit: An ornate coal hole from Mountjoy SquareDublinIreland, still set in its original granite. The original uploader was Gavinmc at English Wikipedia. / Public domain