Turtle Bunbury

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From 'Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyageby Turtle Bunbury (MPG, 2008).



By the 1860s, there was a growing demand among Irish tenants to have a greater say in the administration of the areas in which they lived. In 1863, an Act of Parliament established the Pembroke Township, essentially comprising Baggotrath, Donnybrook, Sandymount, Ringsend and Irishtown. This was to be administered by an Urban District Council who would provide for ‘lighting, paving, sewage, draining, cleansing, supply of water and otherwise improving and regulating the township’. One of these elected commissioners was the architect Edward Henry Carson, father of the Ulster Unionist leader. The Earl of Pembroke retained a paternalistic control over the township. In 1868, a reservoir was constructed in the Rathmines Township at Glennasmole which considerably tamed the Dodder. In the early 1870s, a horse drawn tramline was laid through the area connecting Nelson’s Pillar with the Martello Tower at Sandymount.


Cholera had long been a problem in Ireland but, in 1869, both Ringsend and Irishtown were badly hit by a typhoid epidemic. In 1873, Lord Pembroke offered a site on the South Wall for the building of a temporary hospital – or lazaretto - where cholera sufferers arriving in Ireland could be quarantined before they headed into the city. The military at the Pigeonhouse Fort strongly objected, despite – or perhaps because of - the fact they did not have their own freshwater supply and several soldiers had already perished of cholera. In 1879, when typhoid threatened the exclusive residential area of Raglan, Clyde and Elgin Roads, the Pembroke UDC decided to take action. Lord Pembroke reinvested much of the estate rental income in a major overhaul of the drainage, sanitary and water supply systems on the Pembroke estates. Between 1878 and 1881, the Rathmines and Pembroke townships completed a huge drainage project. Untreated sewage was then discharged through a station on Londonbridge Road down a 1.8 metre diametre pipeline and into the Liffey estuary at the penstock house just east of the Pigeonhouse. A stable sandbank was built over the open drain which, together with some reclaimed land, became a public park known as the Southern Intake. In 1897, the Corporation began developing a metropolitan sewerage system for Dublin, which opened in 1906. For many decades, the residual effluent continued to be dumped east of the power station, while the sludge was taken out by boat and dumped in a line extending due east of the Baily lighthouse. In 1900, the Earl of Pembroke leased these lands to the Pembroke Urban District Council (UDC) who converted it into a recreation park. Before long, Ringsend Park, as the area is known today, had its own pitches for football, hockey and GAA, as well as lawn tennis, croquet, bowling and cricket.

The time that Julius Caesar tried to land down at Ringsend,

The coastguards couldn't stop them, so for the Dublins they did send

And, just as they were landing, lads, we heard three ringing cheers:

‘Get back to Rome like blazes - here's the Dublin Fusiliers’.

The Dublin Fusiliers - Molly Maguire


In 1893 the Earl of Pembroke opened a technical and fishery school for the fishing community of Ringsend. He presented the site as a gift, along with a £4000 (£318,017) donation. This came at a time when steam trawlers were revolutionising the industry and it was essential for the community to learn the latest techniques. When the Earl died two years later, his coffin was covered in wreaths from all over Ringsend – from boat-owners, fishermen, the teachers, the poor and the parish priest


Lord Pembroke also provided money for the development of the Pembroke Cottages, the first of a major series of housing developments for workers in the area. After the 1898 Local Government Act, the Unionist domination of the Pembroke UDC dissipated. One of its new nationalist leaders was Councillor Charles O’Neill who initiated a massive house-building campaign shortly before the outbreak of the First World War. By 1908, some 269 new artisan dwellings had been built in Pembroke, many of them in the South Lotts. Each house featured modern sanitary services. That same year, the village of Ringsend was divided along Ringsend Road with the south portion falling to the Pembroke UDC and the north to Dublin Corporation. A further 85 houses were built in the wake of the 1911 election when the Nationalists won control of the Pembroke UDC. The main architect was Edwin Bradbury while the builder was James Beckett, uncle of Samuel Beckett the playwright, who lived on the nearby Riverside. The leading businesses located here at this time included the Ringsend Dockyard, Alexander Hull’s Building and Joinery Works and John Kellett’s ‘Shamrock Peat Company’.


In 1925 the Liffey Tunnel was designed to carry water mains and power cables across the Liffey from Thorncastle Street to the North Wall. Built by McAlpine’s, the 831ft(253m) long tunnel carries a 24" main as well as a 15" pressure sewer and power cables through the riverbed. Twenty-five of the 70 workers employed on the project suffered from the bends.



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