The Brats of Mountrath Street, 1867-1890

From the Freeman’s Journal, 27 May 1867:


Dear Sir-

I beg, through the medium of your influential journal, to call the attention of the authorities to an assemblage of ill-behaved boys and girls that meet nightly at the corner of the above mentioned localities, throwing stones and making use of the most obscene language to passers-by.  Whilst passing through Chancery-place from my business the other evening I was struck with a stone and cut severely.  It is really too bad that the public should be obliged to raise their voice in the matter.  If the police on this beat were a little more vigilant this annoyance would soon be squelched.  I remain, dear Sir, yours gratefully.


And again in the Freeman’s Journal, 5 June 1890:


SIR –  I wish to bring before your readers what happened to myself and one of my brother clergymen on Sunday week evening when returning from service.  We met a number of children, between 20 and 30, aged from 5 to 12 (about).  The moment we came past them the elder boys sang the most disgusting song about us, evidently prepared beforehand, several of the girls joining in. When passing Mountrath Street, stones were thrown with great force.  We had just crossed to the other side.  By your kindly giving publicity to this letter you may be the means of circumventing a repetition of this conduct. – Yours faithfully

T Long

Rector of St Michans.

Though written two decades apart, the theme and content of both letters is surprisingly similar, suggesting a long and proud tradition on the part of local children of verbal (and sometimes, even physical) assaults on daytime interlopers.  With deprivation in the once prosperous surrounding area reaching its peak in the second half of the 19th century the contrast between the lives of these children and those working – as opposed to residing – there must have been very stark. Not that this made things any easier for those who – like Reverend Long and most of the Four Courts – had to pass along Chancery Street on a daily basis.

Chancery Street is referred to by its old name of Pill Lane on the 19th century map below, and you can see Mountrath Street (later incorporated into the Four Courts complex and Chancery Place) south-east of it on the map. Though not marked on the map, the Reverend Long’s church, St Michan’s, would have been located just north of the opposite end of Pill Lane.

A generation later, things had moved on, with proper housing, designed by Dublin Corporation Housing Architect, Herbert Simms, now available for local residents. By September 12, 1935, the Irish Independent was able to excitedly report that a miniature park beside the new Chancery Place flats was due to be finished in about three months, with a number of workmen already engaged in laying out a flowerbed faced by a dressed stone wall of octagonal design and surrounded by a pathway of crazy paving. An ornamental stork which had previously graced an old rockery on the site was intended to be placed at the centre of the flowerbed to create a charming vista completed by trees, ornamental shrubs and a spacious lawn.

The location of this Eden? Just opposite the corner previously occupied by the feral subjects of this post. Perhaps the author of the article even had them in mind when penning the following ending:

“It is to be hoped that the public generally, and children in particular, will show their appreciation of the Corporation’s efforts towards transforming the grounds into a park and will do nothing to despoil it.”

A beautifully cared for Chancery Park remains in place to this day – a wonderful symbol of Dublin progress and testament to the work of the Corporation and Mr Simms. Why not take a closer look at its water feature here to see if that stork is still about?

Image Credits (top)(middle)(bottom)

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

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