A Bull Lane Girl’s Day Out, 1876

From the Freeman’s Journal, 14 July 1876:

“Three young men, one named William Donahoe, who stood in the Dock, and two others, Thomas Kinsella, and William Hurley, were indicted for an assault on three constables. Constable William Hatton, 59A, stated that on Sunday night, the 28th of May, between 9 and 10 o’clock, a band playing, followed by three or four hundred persons, passed through Kevin-Street towards Mark’s-Alley; the traverser Kinsella was the conductor of the band…

Witness asked Kinsella the name of the band, and he said it was the ’Francis Street band’ and that the same time gave witness a shove… witness stepped out and said he could not allow such conduct to go on; Kinsella gave him another shove and pointed the pole at him… the traverser Hurley gave him a box in the face; next day he arrested Hurley at his work in Guinness’s brewery; on Tuesday morning he arrested Kinsella in the yard of the Police Court.

Constable James Phelan 157A, deposed that on the occasion in question, Donahoe, who was one of the crowd following the band, gave him a blow which cut his head and obliged him to go to hospital.

Mr. Ennis, for Donahoe, said Donahoe’s defence was an alibi.

Henry Moore, a private of the 100th Regiment (Dublin Militia), deposed that on Sunday the 28th of May, Donahoe, with a young woman and a baby, spent the day with him at the Curragh Camp; at nine o’clock p.m. they left Newbridge by train for Dublin.

Replying to Mr. Beytagh, the witness said that Donahoe and the girl dined at ’31 Hut’ at the Curragh that Sunday with witness and other soldiers; visitors were allowed to dine in that way with the militia in camp; the girl who came down lived in a lane off Mary’s Lane – in fact, in Bull-Lane.

Anne Dalton stated that she was the girl who went with Donahoe to the Curragh; they got back to town after half-past ten o’clock

To Mr. Beytagh – Was an ‘unfortunate’ and lived ‘of course in Bull-lane’ in the same house with Donahoe; dined at the Camp on the Sunday in question with Moore and Donahoe and others.

Did the soldiers know your character? Of course they did.

The serjeants? Yes.

And the officers? Of course.

Mr. Beytagh – It certainly is a singular state of things at the Curragh Camp.

A ‘dairy boy’ living in Bull-Lane, deposed that he lent Donahoe a hat on Sunday morning, the 28th of May; Donahoe said he was going to the Curragh; saw Donahoe with the hat the same night in Bull-Lane, between ten and eleven o’clock.

The jury after a short deliberation, found Kinsella and Hurley guilty of a common assault, and acquitted Donahoe.”

The news that a young lady of blemished character had visited Ireland’s largest military camp in the green fields of Kildare provoked much pearl-clutching in the following day’s Dublin Evening Telegraph:

“We confess that the entertaining of the scum of society in quarters dignified by her Majesty’s flag has come upon us by surprise. Of course the lady was treated with that gallantry for which the military are famous, and we can only say it is a pity so much elegance and refinement was lost on the rather wild scopes of the Curragh.  It is possible that the disgrace was perpetrated under cover of a rule which permits the militia in training to see their female relatives; but we submit that it is highly necessary to draw the line somewhere, and to draw it pretty tightly at Bull-Lane.

 What sort of reception must await a decent woman whose husband or brother is in training and be easily imagined when roughs and their companions from Bull-Lane are partakers of the same hospitality… now that public attention has been directed to the practice we trust that the General commanding at the Curragh will adopt instant measures to defeat manoeuvres to introduce improper persons into the camp under any pretence whatever.”

The above was just one of a string of 1870s incidents which prompted the ‘clean-out’ of red-arrowed Bull Lane, Dublin’s infamous brothel quarter behind the Four Courts, a mere two years later.

More scandalous stories of Bull Lane to come!

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Author: Ruth Cannon BL

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

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