Damages of £1000 awarded against former Lord Mayor of Dublin for Seducing his Own Daughter, 1846

The Mansion House, Dublin, and its ‘long parlour’, where former Lord Mayor and businessman John Ladavaze Arabin was alleged by his natural daughter Mary Anne to have committed an act of incest with her in 1842. A Wicklow civil jury believed Mary Anne, awarding damages of £1000 to her mother in respect of her seduction, but no follow-up prosecution was ever brought against Arabin. Images via National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

From the Cork Examiner, 2 March 1846



The Hon Mr Justice Ball took his seat in the Record Court yesterday, at ten o’clock, and proceeded to try the following case:

Mary Carroll v Lohn Ladavaze Arabin, ex-Lord Mayor of Dublin.

This was an action brought by the plaintiff to recover compensation for the seduction of her daughter, Mary Anne Carroll.  Damages were laid at £5000, and the defendant pleaded not guilty.

Messrs Dwyer QC, Rollestone and Coates appeared as counsel for the plaintiff; and Messrs Hatchell QC, George QC, and Wall acted for the defendant for whom Mr Charles Fitzgerald acted as attorney.  Richard Walsh was attorney for the plaintiff.

Mr Dwyer stated the case, from which it appeared that in the year 1812, the defendant lived with his father at Clondalkin, in the county of Dublin, at which period he was about twenty-one years of age, and seduced the plaintiff herself, who was then a young girl residing with her father, who lived in the same neighbourhood, and he had by her three children – a son, who was born in 1818, a daughter, the girl alleged to be seduced in the present action, born in 1824, and a third child, also a female, born in 1834.  The defendant, he said, reared this family well and respectably, and educated his elder daughter in the best manner up to the year 1842, when he also seduced her from the paths of virtue, and had a child by her in 1842.  The learned gentleman, in conclusion, said he would prove these facts by the unfortunate girl herself, and read a number of letters which were written by Mr Arabin to her.

Mary Anne Carroll – examined by Mr Rollestone – I am daughter to the plaintiff; my mother lives in Bride Street, and has lived there for four years; we lived there in 1842, during the summer, at the time the occurrences took place, and we lived before that in French Street and previously in Cumberland place, my father is John L Arabin, the defendant; I saw him at my mother’s place, he always came wherever we were; my mother kept no servant in Bride Street, in 1842; I had a brother and one sister; he is older and she is younger than I am; I went to school to Miss Lord’s in Stafford Street and to Mrs Allen’s in Stephen’s Green; my father paid for my education.  I used to do the work in my mother’s house; my father wanted me to be a boarder at Miss Lord’s; but my mother did not wish it, and I was only sent as a day scholar; my father had a country house at Corkagh, near Clondalkin; I was often there, whenever I went to the country he used to bring me into down in his car; He often brought me from Clare-Street to my mother’s when it was late, it was his own house in Clare Street, and his brother the counsellor lived in it; I was frequently in that house; I remember making an appointment with my father, there, in the year 1842; I appointed to meet him in Sackville St, or a little street off Sackville St, the name of which I forget; he made that appointment in my mother’s house; my father did not tell me what he wanted with me, for he often met me and brought me to Harvies, on Wellington Quay, and other places.  I met him, according to the appointment, about five o’clock in the evening; it was summer time; my father was in the house when I arrived; he was in the parlour, and he brought me up to the drawing room; we had some conversation there, I forgot what it was; I don’t remember much what he said or did on that occasion; he told me I was his own property, and he could do what he liked with me; he did do what he liked with me; no man ever acted to me as he did on that occasion before or since; I had a child by my father, which is alive; my mother has it; she is in this town; my father told me not to tell anybody what had occurred, and he sent me home in a car; I often saw my father after that; I was never in that house again with him, but he was in a house afterwards with me and treated me in the same way; he was very sorry for what occurred.  He used to call me Mary and Polly; he frequently gave me money, and always gave me presents of money both before and after this transaction until lately, he often wrote to me since the seduction took place, but never before it (the witness here identified the several unsigned letters, which were read by counsel, and swore they were in her father’s handwriting); the child I had by my father was a female; he often saw it and nursed it; I never spoke to him about providing for the child; upon my oath my father is father of that child.

Cross examined by Mr Hatchell – It was in the house or cottage in Bride Street that I was delivered with the child; it will be three years old next June; no one was present at my confinement but my mother and a nurse, named Byrne;  I went to Glasnevin about a year ago, Mr Murphy, the landlord of the cottage in Bride-St, took it for me; my father gave me £2 10s to go to a cottage at Harold’s Cross- but Mr Murphy took the cottage for me at Glasnevin, and when I told my father what it was it cost, he said it was too much, and was very angry;  Mrs Barry came to live with me in Glasnevin, we lived there for three months; I let her part of the house to enable me to pay the rent.  I went by the name of Mrs Thompson in Glasnevin and also at my mother’s since I was confined.  I saw Dr Barry at the cottage; he was a doctor, but he was not Mrs Barry’s husband, for she was not married; I knew from Mrs Barry that Dr Barry was not her husband; a man named Thompson never came to that house with me, no gentlemen came to me but Doctor Barry brought gentlemen and used to take tea with them; they also drank punch but had no suppers or dinners, he went home very night.  I think I had left school at the time I went to the house off Sackville Street; I am certain of it; it was not found out that I was with child for a long time not for four or five months, I then told my mother; upon my oath my father never asked me who was the father of this child; I did not say it was a young gentleman in Harcourt Street, and that I was sworn not to tell; I told my mother my father was the father, she was very angry with me, and treated me very badly after I told her; she has the child, and is very fond of it.  The child was christened in Westland Row, in my presence, in the chapel, Jemima Arabin, my mother was present; the christening took place in about a month or so after it was born, my father gave me £1 to get the child baptised.  I walked to the house in Sackville Street, where I saw my father, I also saw a servant woman, I don’t know if I would know the house again; I never went to see it since and was never there before; I don’t know how long I was in the house; I was never in any other bad house.  I often walked on the Canal, and on the Circular Road, and in Merrion Square (laughter) I went there to see the band; my mother often sent me to the defendant to get money from him.

 I was never turned out of the Clare Street house; he never turned me out of the Mansion house last year when he was Lord Mayor, but he insulted me.  I never complained of his having turned me out of any house; the defendant insulted me in the mansion house in the big, long parlour; he never turned my mother out; upon my oath he never sent my mother to Kilmainham for annoying him (letter produced) that is not in my handwriting.

Mr Hatchell QC proceeded to address the jury for the defence.  He stigmatised the entire case as a foul and malicious conspiracy, got up by a party behind the screen to wreak upon the defendant vengeance for something he had done towards him, or supposed to have done.  In fact, however, he was prepared to show that the plaintiff was nothing more than a tool in the hands of others.  The defendant however might safely rely upon the case for the prosecution, call upon the jury for a verdict, but he would not be satisfied without showing his perfect innocence of the crim imputed to him, for he was enabled under Providence, to remove all imputation from his character that he never was the debaucher of his own child.  The case, if true, would have been tried before a Dublin jury, but it was not, and why not? Because all the parties were well known there.  He did not and could not deny that when a young man he had formed a connection with the plaintiff – lived with her and had some children by her amongst whom was Mary Anne, but he repudiated the atrocious allegation that he was her seducer.  The learned gentleman then proceeding to read a great number of threatening letters from the plaintiff to the defendant accusing him of infidelity towards her in which she threatened to expose him to the public but she never in any one of these documents insinuated in the slightest way his having acted towards her daughter in the manner she sought by her case to establish.

Mr Justice Ball charged the jury and in doing so desired them to weigh well the evidence and both sides and consider if they could fairly find a verdict and damages for the plaintiff upon it, after the admission and testimony which went to show the case to be an attorney’s action and that that attorney was influenced by bad feelings towards the defence.  He said that the plaintiff herself also appeared enraged against the defendant, and it was therefore for their consideration if her story was worthy of credit, when in all her letters threatening the defendant she never once alluded to the alleged seduction of her daughter which most probably, she would have spoken of if true. These were the principal considerations in the case, independent of which it would be necessary to consider if there were not inaccuracies already shown to exist, if other witnesses might not have been examined if well founded, and whether it was possible that the defendant could be so based and degraded as to have an incestuous connection with his own child, for he did not attempt to deny his parentage.

The jury found a verdict for the plaintiff – £1000 damages and 6d costs.”

The status of John Ladavaze Arabin as Lord Mayor of Dublin during the Famine is frequently referenced, albeit without reference to the above extraordinary case involving allegations of incest committed by him in the Mansion House during his mayoralty.

An action for seduction was an action brought by a parent of a child who had been seduced, for loss caused by the seduction; hence the reference in Mary Anne’s examination in chief to her having done the work in her mother’s house.

Arabin subsequently obtained an order for a new trial from the Court of Queen’s Bench, on the basis that the baptism of Mary Anne’s daughter Elizabeth had not been sufficiently proven.  The document submitted on his behalf in support of the application for a new trial included affidavits from third parties alleging that Mary Anne Carroll was of bad character, and disorderly; it also, somewhat inconsistently, alleged that he might not, after all, be her father. 

A settlement was subsequently reached between Arabin and Mary Carroll whereby he agreed to settle on the latter a sum equivalent to the damages awarded in her favour.  Mr Arabin’s bankruptcy in the following decade may have been due to this settlement, legal costs or perhaps simply business losses due to the Famine.  He married in 1848 and died of an asthma attack in 1863.  Mary Anne also appears to have married in the same year as the proceedings above, but nothing is known of her fate, or that of her daughter Jemima.   

Although incest between father and daughter was certainly a crime in 1846, no prosecution was ever brought against Arabin – possibly because of the view taken by Judge Ball, or because of his status as former mayor, or a combination of the two.  He did however resign as a judge of the Court of Conscience ( a court for the recovery of small debts, presided over by non-lawyers) shortly after the verdict.

Protest in Court by Barrister Imprisoned for Drilling during Irish War of Independence, 1918

The former Templemore courthouse where junior barrister and future Minister for Local Government of the Irish Free State JA Burke BL was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment for drilling in 1918.
Mr Burke some years after his imprisonment, via Wikipedia.

From the Leinster Reporter, 25 May 1918:


Before a special court, Mr. J O’Sullivan RM, presiding, with Major Dease RM, on Wednesday at Templemore courthouse, Mr. JA Burke BL, was charged with drilling on the 24th of March and 7th April, at Roscrea, and with having taken part in drilling.  He was also charged that on the 5th of May, at Corville, he took part in drilling.

The defendant, who had been removed from Limerick prison, where he had been on remand from the previous week, refused to recognise the court, and he refused also to remove his hat, which was taken off by some of the police in court.

Mr. Gleeson, Crown Solicitor, in opening the prosecution, said this was a different case altogether from the previous cases which had come before them in that court, because the defendant was a member of the learned profession, a barrister-at-law, and a graduate of the National University, and he (Mr. Gleeson) need not say how painful and regrettable it was to him to conduct a prosecution against a man like that, but as a solicitor he was bound to do his duty, and he was quite sure that Mr. Burke would understand that himself.  He would put it to the defendant that he ought to follow in the steps of those who were recently summoned for similar offences, and who were now liberated on bail.  He hoped Mr. Burke would do what was best in his own just interests, and the interests of his family, who wish to stand well in the interests of the country.  He hoped he would do what any sensible man would do in his position.  If he (Mr. Burke) did that he was sure that nobody would be better pleased than the executive of the country.  If they continued to drill, they should take the consequences.

Constable Timothy Scanlan gave evidence to the effect that on the 24th of March, outside the Sinn Fein Club in Roscrea, there was a number of Volunteers.  He noticed Thomas Feehan forming them up.  He ordered the men to fall in, form fours etc.  He divided the Volunteers into half companies, and took charge of one of the companies himself, and Mr. Burke (the defendant) took charge of the other company.  Mr. Burke gave the words of command to his own company and followed Feehan’s company in the direction of Corville. When entering a field both commanders gave orders to form ‘two deep’ and in this formation they marched up to the top of the hill, where they were dismissed, and some of them went hurling and playing football for some time.  In the evening the Volunteers marched to Roscrea with Mr. Burke in command of one company.

Head-constable Philip Murphy, Roscrea, deposed that on the 7th of April he was out at a football match at Carrick, and when the match was over, he saw a body of about forty Volunteers march from the field in military formation.  Tom Feehan took charge of that body, and they proceeded to drill.  Their number consisted of about 36.  He then saw another party of Volunteers falling in where Feehan’s body had left.  They consisted of about 36 in number and were in charge of Mr. Burke.  He gave orders to ‘number off’ ‘form fours’ and ‘right, quick march.’ Next, he gave them left wheel, and when they had gone some distance, he gave them ‘form two deep’. This went on for about three quarters of an hour.  He then saw another party of Volunteers falling in where Feehan’s body had left.  They were in charge of Mr. Burke who instructed them in signal drill, extended them from the left, and closed them again.  Feehan’s company was then halted, and Mr. Burke and Feehan approached each other, and after a conversation the two companies joined up into one, and Feehan was evidently in charge of them from that into town.  He could not say where Feehan got all his military knowledge.

Mr. Gleeson – He did not get it when he was a postman, I suppose (laughter).

Sergeant Costigan, Roscrea, deposed that on Sunday 8th May, he was on duty in the town and noticed numbers of the Sinn Fein Volunteers gathering in batches and leaving the town in small batches.  He followed them out to Corville demesne where about 190 men were engaged in drilling.  They were broken up into seven squads.  There were men there from five or six surrounding districts.  Mr. Burke was in charge of a squad of about 44.  They were in military formation. He heard some words of command spoken by Mr. Burke.  The drilling continued for about an hour and a quarter. The Volunteers were not in uniform.

Mr. Gleeson again appealed to the defendant to take the friendly advice tendered to him at the opening of the proceedings.

Mr. Burke, in the course of his address, said, “I deny the right of this court to try any Irishman.”  At this point there was a demonstration in court, and the Chairman said if that continued, he would have to clear the court.

Mr. Burke said he did not want any demonstration and he appealed to the people to keep quiet.

Continuing, Mr. Burke said – I deny the right of this court to try any Irishman, and I base that denial on the right of the Irish people to self determination. As long as the British government withholds the right from the Irish people it is an unconstitutional government which maintains itself here by the naked sword.  I peremptorily refuse to submit to the authority of any court set up by such unconstitutional authority. 

It is for you to explain why I, a member of the Irish Bar of the Honorable Society of the King’s inns, have been compelled to lie on a filthy, unsanitary prison floor like a dog, for advocating the very policy, physical force, for the advocacy of which Edward Carson and EF Smith have been elevated to the highest positions which any man in your profession can aspire to.  I was dragged here out of my own petty sessions district, which is an action itself altogether irregular, according to your own law under this obsolete Act of 80 and 81 Vic, to be convicted like a common criminal. 

Was this Act in abeyance or in force when men were drilling in Ulster?  If it was in abeyance then why is it resurrected now to throw me into prison, or if it were in force why were not Edward Carson, Frederick Smith and JH Campbell sent to jail?  Had they a better right to drill than we have   Had any people a better light to drill than the Irish people at the present time? You are now dressed in a little brief authority.  Make the most of it.  I have no further interest in the proceedings.

The Chairman said that there was one part of Mr. Burke’s address quite relevant to the charge, in which he alluded to the fact that other proceedings of this nature have been allowed to go unchecked by the Executive, and he wished Mr. Gleeson to deal with this.

Mr. Gleeson said that many things had been done, many things be allowed or submitted to, or passed over, which were more or less an encouragement of other people to do likewise, but now the order had gone further that all illegal drilling was to be put down.

A sentence of four months imprisonment in the first division was imposed in default of £200 bail.

Mr. Burke refused to give bail and was removed under a heavy escort of military and police to prison.”

James Aloysius (otherwise Seamus) Burke, from an Irish-American family and a graduate of Fordham University, had been called to the Irish Bar in 1916, the same year in which another Irish barrister, Patrick Pearse, led the 1916 Rising.

This was a period when things changed very quickly, and the continuing authority of such courts in Ireland was indeed to be brief. By 1924, the former prisoner in the dock was the Minister for Local Government and Public Health in the new Irish Free State. In 1929, he married a daughter of the personal attendant to the last Czar of Russia. She was also a cousin of Felix Yussopov, who assassinated Rasputin.

Mr Burke left politics in 1938. Although his entry in the Dictionary of Irish Biography describes him as non-practising, he appeared as Junior Counsel in at least one case that year. In later life, he moved to England.

Full biographical entry here.

Raining in the Courts, 1947-69

From the Irish Press, 14 March 1947:

“It was ‘Raining’ In the Courts.

When the business of the two Circuit Courts was in progress for some time at Chancery Place, yesterday, water began to fall from the glass roof of the building into the two courtrooms.

Judge Connolly was hearing a claim for malicious damage to a thatched cottage by fire when the water began to drip quite close to the bench.  It increased until it became a regular flow of water.

Water also began to fall in Judge Shannon’s Court, also close to the bench.

The business in both Courts proceeded without interruption.

Counsel in the malicious damage case said “There will be no fire in Court today at any rate.

Board of Works officials made an examination of the flat roof over the Court rooms, where a great deal of water was found to have collected, due, it was stated, to burst pipes following the thaw and the overflow of a tank.”

The 2,000-gallon tank overflowed again in 1969 after an outlet pipe became choked shortly before Court was due to sit at 11 a.m., causing water to cascade down from the ceiling.  According to the Evening Herald

“The cases – criminal appeals – which were to go on before Judge Conroy in Court No 7 were adjourned for only a short period of time.  When a brief hearing in the next-door Court No 8, before Judge McGivern, concluded, Judge Conroy, and those involved in the appeal cases, moved in.

Said Mr Philip Crowe, Judge Conroy’s crier ‘I looked into No 7 at 10 a.m., and everything was in order, but a half-an-hour later, water was dripping down from the ceiling.

Workmen later rectified the fault.”

Justice must be done though the heavens fall!

Image Credits: Evening Herald, 18 March 1969

Octogenarian Heiress to Vast Estate Tracked Down by Newly Qualified Leitrim Solicitor, 1908

Cottage at Branscombe, Devon, by John White, via Meisterdrucke

From the Morning Leader, 20 May 1908:




The big Magan heir-at-law case has come to an abrupt ending in the Irish Courts.

By consent of all the contending parties, Mrs. Joel Bartlett, aged 89, of the Cot, Branscombe, South Devon, is declared the lawful heiress to the Magan estates worth 13,000 pounds a year, Captain Magan, who had been two years in possession as heir, yielding to her claim.

The search for the heiress makes a romantic story in the telling.

It appears that a Miss Magan, dying at an advanced age, left her property, consisting of 13,000 pounds a year in land and 8,000 pounds in securities, to ‘my heir or heiress at law.’

She was eccentric, and her will was not found for some time after her death, when it was discovered in a heap of rubbish at her residence.

Captain Magan entered into possession as heir at law to the landed property, but matters came to light which threw doubt on his title.

Mr McCredy, the solicitor for the executors, searched records of the navy, and found that Mrs Bartlett’s father, Arthur Magan, was in that service as a midshipman in 1814. He also found that in 1840 his daughter, the present heiress, was married in Brighton to a naval surgeon, and was divorced the same year.

Search was made in Somerset House for a record of her death, but, as no trace of it could be found, it was presumed that she was still alive, and a further discovery was made that she married a second time in 1854, her husband being John Rofe, who lived at Sutton-Grove, North Carshalton, Surrey.

The lady was then traced to Devonshire, and at last Mr McCredy succeeded in locating her at the Cot, Branscombe, where she was living with her third husband, Mr Joel Bartlett.

Her claim to the estate was then set up. A big ‘Bar’ was engaged on her behalf, and on that of Captain Magan. The claim was found to be irresistible, and a consent acknowledging her title was handed into court.

A ‘Morning Leader’ representative was the first to convey the news of her victory to Mrs Bartlett last evening.

Going over to Branscombe from Sidmouth he was met by her landlady, Mrs Thomas Bartlett, who announced that Mrs Joel Bartlett had just retired.

She was pleased, but not excited or surprised, to hear of her good fortune. She knew the case was coming off that day, and had fully expected to win.

Although 89 years old, Mrs Bartlett looks younger, and evidently feels younger, for only yesterday she had been for a good walk. She lives in a charming old fashioned little cottage, with an orchard (now brilliant with apple blossom) attached.

Until recently she had walked to Sidmouth to church every Sunday morning.

Before the case started Mrs Bartlett was sure she was the rightful heiress, but did not think it worth while, at her advanced age, to go to law. She has one married daughter, however, and it is said that this fact was largely responsible for her setting up the claim.”

The very young Robert McCredy, who had only been admitted as a solicitor in Trinity Term 1906, received compliments all round as a result of his extraordinary, and successful, search for Mrs Bartlett. Mr McCredy practised in Manorhamilton, County Leitrim until the mid-1930s when he took up residence in Enniskillen and built up a lucrative practice there. His obituary in the Fermanagh Herald of 25 November 1950 states that

[a]s a sportsman, he had few equals. As a ‘shot’ he was noted throughout the countryside, and did much towards the preservation of game in the area. He was also a keen angler. Up to the commencement of the World War No 2., he never missed travelling to England to see the Australian cricket teams play. But it was as a concert artist that he will be especially remembered in Manorhamilton. Few concert bills were ever complete without the genial ‘Bob’… as a singer of Percy French songs, he was in a class of his own, and he won the competitions in this class at Sligo Feis Ceoil on numerous occasions.”

In an era before online digital searching, this must have been a Herculean task involving Holmesian detective work on the English Riviera. I hope the multi-talented ‘Bob’ McCredy managed to fit in a few cricket matches for his pains!

As for the eccentric Augusta Magan, the testatrix whose will set Mr McCredy off on the hunt for Mrs Bartlett, there is a wonderful account of her life, and photographs of one of her properties, here. Highly recommended!

Church Street and Bow Street, 1884

One of the few respectable buildings on Church Street of the time, the Church of St Mary of the Angels, 1913, via Dublin City Council’s Derelict Dublin

The ‘Slums of Dublin’ series in the Freeman’s Journal, 26 and 27 September 1884, carried the following account of the once great thoroughfares of Church Street and Bow Street.

Written in the usual moralistic tone adopted by the Freeman for articles of this type, it does however contain some interesting nuggets regarding these two historic streets at their nadir.

While the Church Street area ceased to be aristocratic by the mid-18th century, a lively merchant class thrived there for another half-century or so until a combination of economic decline due to the Act of Union and an influx of poverty stricken refugees from the country during and after the Famine put an end to any hint of prosperity.

Here it is as viewed through the jaundiced eye of the Freeman:

“On a Sunday morning, the neighbourhood of Church Street is not particularly savoury.  The relics of Saturday’s debauch, reveling, and disorder are to be found at every step.  Broken glass, broken flowerpots, broken bottles, broken delft, cups, saucers and plates, strew the roadway – memorials of the conflicts which have made the night unwholesome and provided the magistrates with an opportunity of earning their modest stipends. 

Not many of the inhabitants are to be found answering to the summons of the chapel bell to attend the Holy Sacrifice. Dozens of them are, indeed, to be found sitting on the doorsteps, quaffing the morning air as an antidote to the dissipation of the previous night.  Men loll sleepily in the halls, hardly yet recovered from the Saturday’s inebriation, and women with bandaged heads, the token of marital affection, abound. 

From these wretched habitations, the only human beings who seek the house of prayer are the little children.  Clad in their unwashed rags, they put on some brightness in the shape of clean faces and feet, and little tatterdemalions as they are, the Sunday morning appears to provide the only bright hour of their young lives.  Business and piety are frequently combined; the little ones who seek the blessings of heaven in church are also commissioned to complete the family marketing. The father does not come home early on the Saturday night; when he does the mother is frequently incapacitated from family duty, and the night is often spent in quarrelling.  What money they have left from the weekly dissipation has to be expended on the Sunday morning, and the children then are the only capable financiers.  Preternaturally shrewd, they are able to drive a hard bargain with the neighbouring hucksters (and the Church Street neighbourhood is pretty well stocked with them).

Church Street has its own peculiar history.  An inhabitant who knows the neighbourhood for the past forty years was able to give a vivid picture of its decay. Forty years ago, it was a wealthy street.  Its houses were occupied by substantial citizens engaged in the provision trade and acquiring wealth through the then adjacent markets.  The relics of old decency are still to be found in the frontages of the older houses of the street.  Then the traders live on the premises in which they made their money and took care to be comfortably housed.  The street used to be lined with country carts bringing produce in to feed the busy citizens of the metropolis. The poorer population lived in the courts and alleys, not in the tenements in the front of the street, and hence the small cottages of these byways are accounted for. 

Even forty years ago the neighbourhood was a lively one.  It had always a sporting character.  Those were the days of prizefighting and cock fighting, and the old inhabitant can still point out the sites of cockpits where many thousands of pounds changed hands at many a main. 

I have intimated that in this, as in other such districts, a considerable sprinkling of respectable artisans is to be found in residence; but the population is mainly composed of those who live by chance employments.  An examination of twenty houses all let out in tenements only revealed the existence of one artisan (a carpenter) in regular employment.  How the other inhabitants live, they themselves can hardly tell.  The men sometimes work; the women seldom, and, when possible, the children steal or devote themselves to wood selling or begging.  Sometimes they sell fish in the street, sometimes fruit, and at all times the children are the most steady and reliable contributors to the family exchequer.   Many of the men are engaged at the markets in the morning and, having earned a shilling or two before noon, devote the rest of the day to idleness and dissipation.  They are not all tenement houses in Church Street, but they are all fully populated.

In the midst of the unlovely lives of most of these poor people Charity still holds a hallowed place.  In many a humble home I found that the wretched poor gave refuge to those more wretched than themselves.  Orphan boys and girls shared the meals of half starving families and found shelter or the night in miserable homes.  A homeless wanderer from the country is welcome to the most overcrowded room, and homeless wanderers find their way to the district in such numbers that it is not an unusual thing to find elderly women who rent single rooms subletting them practically by the square yard. 

Frequently, young men from the country seek those places innocently and, once having stepped into the spider’s parlour, their descent in the moral grade is rapid and almost hopeless.  They become the ‘corner boys’ of Dublin and are best known in the police courts.  In the same way, young women of scanty means, seeking humble homes, become the inhabitants of these fetid dens, in the end lose all sense of womanliness, and are transformed into the sexless creatures who divide their lives between the public house and the police cell.

Bow Street is an odious precinct, but it is what the property owners have made it.  It is not generally known that some of the worst houses – those in which the vicious have established their worst dens – belong to a public man who devotes himself to literature and to the propagation of national sentiment.  Others are the property of a citizen whose name frequently appears as a generous contributor to Dublin charities.  To be sure, these owners seldom visit their tenants.  They employ agents just a degree above the social scale of the rent payers.    The houses in St Michan’s parish are none of them very highly valued by the rating authorities, but they are valuable properties to the landlords. 

As a matter of fact, the best kept tenements are those of which comparatively humble people are the owners.  A court in Church Street is owned by a widow who makes her living by selling second-hand clothes in Mary’s Lane.  The widow makes a decent income out of the court.  Each of its six houses contains our apartments, which are let at one shilling and fourpence each room to small families.  The widow objects to overcrowding, and keeps her little court in good, whitewashed order. 

In Church Street and its by-ways are to be found a number of what are politely called ‘eating houses.’ They are permitted to be open until three in the morning and do their most lucrative business after the closing of the public houses.  A bountiful supply of bacon and cabbage can be had for 4 pence, but, by way of indication of the class of customers, it is sufficient to state that the knives and forks are chained to the wooden tables and the cruet stands nailed down.  

Anyone who wants drink after hours can easily obtain it in the northern purlieus.  Go down into a certain cellar, for instance, and a woman can be found whose dress is lined with pockets each containing a bottle of porter. 

Respectable men are frequently brought to these ‘shebeens’ by touts, male and female, who linger about the thoroughfares into the small hours of the morning, and the scenes of debauchery are usually kept up until daylight.  The young people who earn what they can by vending all kinds of petty merchandise, at night returning home tired and wearied, are the best customers of the shebeens and the most accomplished candidates for the police cells.  After their debauch they go to bed in the lodging houses or their own tenements, idle the forepart of the day away and are only anxious by their evening’s work to acquire enough to continue their system of life.

There are of course redeeming traits to be found.  Talk to the worst of them and they will tell you that if they could see their way to more respectable lives, they would adopt them.  But they ask, “What can we do?’ ‘Cannot you live elsewhere and in better places?’ ‘Where are we to find them, Sir?’ is the certain reply.  Not one half of these people are contented with their lives and their surrounds.  If they could obtain better dwellings at cheap rates, they would be only too glad to inhabit them.”

If the last sentence was a hint to wealthy readers of the Freeman, no one took it. The unfortunate residents of Church Street and Bow Street were to remain living in terrible conditions until a tragedy decades later finally provoked action to improve their circumstances. More to come!