'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.
Harrison’s Bakery, Johnny Cullen's Dairy and the Hibernian Dairy were landmarks of Church Road in the 1930s. There were plenty of characters in the neighbourhood. One of Johnny Cullen’s milkmen was a young boy called Seamus ‘Tich’ Tyrrell. With Johnny’s encouragement, Tich approached Brackenstown trainer Paddy Usher and said he wanted to be a jockey. Usher gave him the job and by the 1940s, Tich was Ireland’s top jockey. Tich would have been familiar with Jerusalem and Bethlehem, two donkeys who lived in the front garden of the Maher’s house on the Forth Road in the 1940s. When Bethlehem died during a particularly hard winter, the family took Jerusalem into the house and stabled him in the sitting room. Another of Tich’s contemporaries was Fluther Good, immortalized by O’Casey in ‘The Plough & the Stars’ as the wise soul who noted that ‘the world is in a state of chassis’. Fluther was employed to build jumps out of hay for the young horses. When food became scarce after the Second World War, another horse-trainer called Nugent killed off his herd of cattle to provide a week’s supply of meat to East Wall. Charitable souls were never far away with gallant nurses and robust midwives always on the prowl, looking after expectant mothers. Sister Vincent ran a food centre on Church Road where children would gather with billy cans that she would fill with potatoes, stew and rice – with a ‘penn-worth of custard’ to flavour the rice.
For many decades there was no bus service between the city and East Wall but one enterprising soul ran a private shuttle service to Amiens Street. He could not be relied on though as once ‘he had enough made, he’d go off into the Wharf Tavern and have a few pints’. More villainous intents were behind Conker Barry, famed for stealing clothes off the lines and pawning them off, and Josh Bollans, the headless horseman who lost all his money in an ill-advised flutter and was hung on West Road.
One present day character is songwriter Paul O’Brien whose ‘Songs From The North Lotts’ provide a charming, humorous and often poignant collection, including ‘Jerusalem and Bethlehem’, ‘The 100-Ton Crane’ and ‘The Church Road 1970’. The last song recalls a fire in the Lego warehouse on Church Road, during which every child in the parish came rummaging for Lego – except poor Paddy the Butcher who was sick in bed at the time.