'Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyage’ is a work in progress, commissioned by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, and due to be completed in the autumn of 2008. The following tale represents research I have undertaken for the project which may or may not be used in the final book.
Perhaps the isolation was not all bad. It certainly gave East Wallers a common bond, cemented in the clubs and churches, and the pubs like The Wharf, Cusack's and Graingers. From the 1950s through to the 1970s, the community engineered a fresh identity that permeated the streets. The catalyst for this new age was the sale of St Joseph's Church in the 1940s; it had become a furniture factory by the 1970s. Two local women Mary Desmond and Clare Carberry responded to the sale by launching a church building fund. The fund was so successful that the brand new Byzantine-style St Joseph's Church was up and running by 1955. East Wallers had awoken to the fact that if they wanted to ensure their community’s survival, then it was up to the community to generate the means to do so. The East Wall United Football Club (now East Wall Wharf United) was founded in 1949 – 1950 and became one of the most successful junior clubs in Ireland. At the same time, Father Larry Redmond, the young curate at St Joseph’s, combined forces with an East Waller called Hubert Fuller and the bus drivers and conductors of the CIE (from the Men’s Section of the Legion of Mary). They launched ‘The Famous Streets Soccer League’, canvassing the streets of East Wall and North Strand for sprightly young lads who’d play ball. Teams were assembled and matches played at Fairview Park. At these matches, the crowds were entertained by the St Joseph’s Boys Club Band, also established by Father Redmond, aided by Sergeant O’Rourke of the Army School of Music. The streets erupted with clubs and organizations, catering to everything from swimming and karate to the Wharf Tavern Social Club and the St Mary’s Youth Club on Strangford Road. Both St Joseph’s Indoor Bowling Club and the East Wall Scouts were formed in 1972; the Wharf Sailing Club was revived in 1975; the Ladies Leisure Club in 1976. In Dublin’s Millennium year of 1988, a team of East Wall volunteers built the 'Dyflin', a full size 75-foot long replica of a Viking Gokstad ship excavated in Norway in 1882.The East Wall Youth Club is vibrantly active all year round encouraging everything from soccer and dance to circus acts and graffiti lessons. Meanwhile, the Nascadh Community Development Project is constantly seeking to bridge the generation gap between old and young.
It was this sense of pride the propelled the organizers of the East Wall & North Strand Festival which ran from 1975 to 1978. The event was born out of the tragic drowning of Johnny Hogan who, at 18 years of age, was treasurer of the Mini Olympics Committee and a promising Youth Leader with St Mary’s Youth Club. Jim Quigley, Chairman of the East Wall Residents Association, gathered all the clubs and organisations in the area together to plot ways of helping the Hogan family. From this voluntary gathering came the organising committee of the festival. Tony Gregory played a key role. President Cearbhall O Dalaigh was amongst the first visitors. The Festival of June 1976 was specifically designed to halt plans to run a motorway through the community. Alderman Kevin Byrne urged the community to display ‘bunting and flags from every house in every road and street’ to show the world they were a living community with traditions and pride. It worked. The festival comprised a Parade from Russell Avenue Playground up Church Road and then up and down the streets of East Wall, concluding on St Mary’s Road. One highlight was the Soap Box Derby, a trolley race down the hump back bridge (known as 'Johnny Cullen's Hill') which separated East Wall from North Wall. Youngsters would line up trolleys made from old pallets of wood with steel bearing wheels and then clatter off downhill at high speed while their mothers were busy fixing bunting from the bedroom windows to the garden railing. Other events included a talent show, a ladies dance, a basketball tournament, a karate match, GAA and soccer matches, sack races, pram races, a fancy dress contest for children, darts and debates, raffles and quizzes and concerts by the likes of Chips and Sandie Jones. The festival may not have survived but it did give East Wall a taste of the aesthetic. Indeed, among those early participants was East Wall sculptor John Behan, RHA, celebrated for his bull sculptures. So too was Joe Moran, whose bronze and wooden sculpture ‘The Door’, was unveiled at the Library Plaza in Ringsend in March 2008, designed to raise awareness of domestic violence. Alderman Kevin Byrne is himself a poet and writer of repute, and co-founded the Saor-Ollscoil na hÉireann (Free University of Ireland) in 1986.