British Soldiers Routed by Dublin Amazons, 1871

British soldiers in Dublin, from John F Finerty’s ‘Ireland in Pictures,‘ 1898

From the Freeman’s Journal, via the Western Mail, 11 September 1871:

During Tuesday last the locality of Pill Lane was considerably excited by a collision which occurred between a party of military and a number of the females gathered in the neighbourhood of the police courts. A soldier, absent without leave, was supposed to live in a house in the lane, and a picket of his regiment went in search of the fugitive. They attempted to enter the house, but were confronted by several women, by whom they were forcibly repulsed.

Upon renewing their endeavour to force admission they were furiously assailed, the din of the conflict sounding afar off, and attracting all the passers by in the vicinity. One of the female combatants sounding a species of general’s cry with a brickbat on the head of an adversary, in a moment a battalion of Amazons sallied forth and, with appalling vociferations, swooped upon the forlorn hope of redcoats, who, utterly confounded by the ferocity and determination of an enemy against whom the ordinary process of warfare could not be employed, were compelled to the ignominious tactic of entrenching themselves behind such points of shelter as the lane afforded.

A council of war was called, but the foe were in force, and the regulars being too feeble to take the field, they finally retired amid howls, leaving their warlike laurels in the lane, and the female visitors to reverse the boastful train, and sing after their fashion ‘None but the fair deserve the brave.’ “

19th century Dublin was a military city with many dependent on Army custom to keep their businesses going. One category of businesspeople who had no need to maintain good relations with the military were the fishwives of Pill Lane, immediately behind the Four Courts, who sold leftover fish to the poorest of the poor, on a street with a tradition of rebellion going back to 1798.

From Pill Lane to today’s Chancery Street – the street behind the Four Courts where the British Army was routed in 1871

If even the mighty British Army quailed at their invective, imagine how lawyers making their way home must have feared abuse from these wild women! Read a complaint from one passer-by here.

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