'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.
When ships first arrived through the sea locks into the Grand Canal Docks, they were greeted by Hanover Quay on the starboard side and Charlotte Quay on the portside. The latter was named for Princess Charlotte, (see image) the daughter of the Prince Regent, born just a few months before the Grand Canal Docks were officially opened in 1796. Her parents had actually just separated but she remained second-in-line to the British throne until her death during child birth in 1817. Had she lived, she would have succeeded George IV to become Queen of the United Kingdom. Her death was mourned nationally on a scale similar to that which followed the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997.
Today, Charlotte Quay is perhaps best known as the location of the slender white 16-storey Millennium Tower, the tallest residential building in Ireland which hosts the popular Ocean Café Bar at ground level. Designed by O’Mahony Pike, the Millennium Tower is bound by large residential blocks, all named after powerful men and landmarks associated with the area - The Locks, the Jessop, the George, the Camden and the Westmoreland.
A hundred years ago, this corner-block site was occupied by a ‘travelling crane’ and Eckford’s Chemical Manure Works, with the Dock Milling Company and the King’s Glass Bottle Company nearby. Silica sand for the Bottle Factory came up the coast from Courtown Beach in a small ship, the Mary Anne, and was unloaded at the quay. The Mary Anne’s crew then rowed back up the Liffey, seeking fresh cargo to bring back down to Wexford. By 1908, the Wallace Brothers, ship owners and coal importers, had extensive wharfs and bunkers along the quay, just east of where the Millennium Tower is today. Their steam-crane was said to have been ‘faster than anything once it got going’. Wallace’s horses, stabled nearby, were trained to carry cartloads of two tons of coal and covered the Ballsbridge circuit. One of their ships, Ringwall, achieved a degree of fame when it rescued the 250 passengers and crew from the B&I ship Munster, which was mined in Liverpool Bay in 1940.
During the 1990s, the Irish Nautical Trust and Duchas combined forces to landscape, plant and pave most of Charlotte Quay in a scheme short-listed for the RIAI Triennial Gold Medal 1998/99/2000. [Carmel, was the DDDA involved in this?] The project was a bold statement of intent as to how one could convert a hitherto rundown wasteland into one of the most prestigious addresses in the city. The quayside now hosts miscellaneous pleasure-boats, both inland and seagoing, accessible by a series of jetties along the Promenade. The occasional reveler from the Ocean Bar has been known to spill into the Docks but be warned, many have perished in these same deceptive waters.
In 1886, a year after the Gasholder was installed, the Bottle Factory on Charlotte Quay became the stage for the fledgling Irish Socialist League’s first victory over the bosses. When the employers attempted to enforce a wage reduction, nearly 300 finishers, blowers and gatherers from Dublin’s three bottle factories went on strike. The employers responded with a lock out. A compromise was reached days later and the workers at the Ringsend Bottle Factory and Messrs Campbell’s factory in the North Lotts returned to work. However, the Charlotte Quay factory remained closed and its bosses, the Kings, dispatched their manager to Sweden to recruit an alternative workforce. He returned with a force of twenty-five Swedish bottle-workers and 47 dependents who knew nothing about the strike. They were quickly met by Fritz Schumann, a heavily built Danish Marxist and one of the most active members of the Socialist League in Dublin. The Swedes were horrified to learn about the lock out and immediately downed tools. For the next few months, they lived in shoddy makeshift homes along Charlotte Quay, which became known as ‘the Scandinavian Colony’, and were supported by the assistance of the Dublin Trades Council. At length, the Kings were forced to back down and compensate the Swedes for bringing them to Ireland under false pretences. This verdict was arguably the Socialist League’s greatest hour in Dublin. It was also useful for Schumann’s aims of uniting the workers of the world. The following October, he successfully urged his London colleagues to host the inaugural congress of the International Union of Glass Bottle-makers.