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Notes on Drumcondra, County Dublin


Don Patricio


Born on Jones’ Terrace, near the entrance to Croke Park’s Hill 16, Paddy O’Connell choose football over the GAA. While working at Boland’s Mill in his youth, he played for Strandville Rovers juniors and later, for Liffey Wanderers. He went on to play with Belfast FC (alongside goalkeeper Oscar Traynor, who led the attack on Dublin’s Custom House during the War of Independence) before crossing to England in 1909. He became the first Irish captain of Manchester United in 1915. Known as Don Patricio, he was also manager of Barcelona FC from 1935 to 1940. During the Spanish Civil War, he ingeniously brought his team on a tour of Mexico and the US to keep the Barca players out of the danger zone.


Zulu Dawn


The battle of Isandlwana of 1879 was one of the most humiliating defeats ever suffered by the British Army, when the forces of the Zulu Nation destroyed an entire battalion in South Africa. Among those killed was Drumcondra-born, Nevill Coghill. At the height of the battle, the 25-year-old lieutenant attempted to cross the River Buffalo and carry the colours of the 24th Foot to safety. The colours were lost in the effort, but later found. Hampered by a wounded knee, Coghill was slain by the Zulus. His courage earned him a posthumous Victoria Cross, the British Empire’s highest and most prestigious award for gallantry.


Local Lives


Drumcondra has produced no shortage of colourful souls. Bertie Ahern, who served almost 11 years as Ireland’s Taoiseach, was one of the architects of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 that helped end the Troubles in Northern Ireland. His daughter Cecilia Ahern is an author who has sold over 25 million copies of her novels. The suburb also gave rise to multi-million-selling singer, artist and actor Samantha Mumba and her talented brother Omero.[1]  Aiden Gillen, the actor who played Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish in ‘Game of Thrones’ was born in Drumcondra.


A Pioneering Councillor


Sarah Cecelia Harrison (known to her friends as Celia) was one of Ireland’s finest portrait painters and a noted philanthropist. In 1912, she became the first woman to serve on Dublin Corporation. A great-niece of the United Irishman leader Henry Joy McCracken, she worked to promote women’s rights and social reform for tenement dwellers and the unemployed. She also was an early advocate for the provision of allotments. She stated that she was engaged to marry Hugh Lane, the famous art collector, prior to his death when the ship Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat in 1915. The jury is out on that claim but she was certainly great friends with him. She actively championed for the foundation of the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art ( now the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art) which opened in 1908.  Celia died, unmarried, at the Highfield Nursing Home in Drumcondra in 1941. With thanks to Barbara Dawson.


The Tearaway


Iona Drive, west of this station, was the childhood home of Brendan Bracken, one of Winston Churchill’s closest friends and Britain’s Minister of Propaganda during the Second World War. He attended St. Patrick’s National School, Drumcondra and the O’Connell School on North Richmond Street. Young Bracken was an absolute menace to the neighbourhood, chopping down trees, catapulting pebbles at the parish priest’s window, popping hoses through open windows and turning the water on. Pranks aside, he was an enterprising boy. He stood outside church and sold a newssheet to his neighbours that was filled with gossip, all about themselves. Bracken’s mother, the source of many tales, was mortified.


Dalton’s Legacy


Emmet Dalton (1898-1978) grew up at 8 Upper St Columba’s Road, just west of this station. Born in Massachusetts, he was still a toddler when his parents moved back to Ireland to take over a laundry enterprise in Drumcondra. Dalton joined the British Army in World War One and was beside Tom Kettle when the great poet was killed at the Somme. Having joined the IRA after the war, Dalton captured Cork for the Free State army during the Civil War. He was with  Michael Collins when Collins was killed at Béal na Bláth. In 1948 he became movie producer Samuel Goldwyn’s representative for Britain and Ireland. He went on to found Ardmore Studios in Bray, Co. Wicklow, where TV series such as The Tudors, Camelot, and Penny Dreadful were filmed.


Behan’s Awful Paint Job


The writer Brendan Behan was one of Dublin’s most famous literary boozers. A word search through his memoir brings up the word ‘pub’ 88 times. ‘I like pubs because I like people,’ he said on one occasion. And on another, ‘I’m a drinker with a writing problem’ Behan was a house painter by profession. In the early 1960s, he offered to paint a fresh sign for The Cat and Cage on Drumcondra Road, which had been a haunt of the playwright Sean O’Casey.[2] He and his pal did such a bad job that the owner only paid them half the fee. They were eventually paid the other half in liquor.


Resistance Operative


Mary Cummins (1905-1999) was born at Waterfall Cottage, Richmond Road, east across the park from the station. Educated at Fairview National School and the Dominican College in Eccles Street, she excelled at languages, especially French. By 1939, the plumber’s daughter was working as a translator at the Canadian embassy in Brussels. After the German army took over the city, she joined the Belgian resistance, translating documents, passing messages and smuggling weapons. Captured by the Gestapo, she was sent to a series of concentration camps and narrowly avoided death at Auschwitz. By the time she was liberated in 1945, she weighed four stone. Decorated by the King of the Belgians and General Eisenhower, she married Count Guy O’Kelly de Galway, a barrister of Irish descent, who mysteriously vanished in 1964. Mary died aged 94 and was buried in Glasnevin.


Coptic Links


In 1743, the old church of the parish of Clonturk was rebuilt by Miss Coghill as a memorial to her brother, who had lived in Drumcondra House. [3] The new church was dedicated to St John the Baptist, to whom the nearby holy well is also dedicated. The Parish of Drumcondra, North Strand, and St Barnabas is bound on the east by Clontarf Parish, also dedicated to St John the Baptist. There is a well dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria on the banks of the River Tolka, opposite Griffith Park, by Millbourne Avenue. The Coptic Orthodox Church has a presence today at St Maximus and St Dometius Church at Chapel Gate, Saint Alphonsus Road, Drumcondra.


The Magdalene Laundry


The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge arrived from France into Dublin in 1853. Three years later, they established St Mary’s Magdalene Asylum at High Park on Grace Park Road, Drumcondra. The asylum was for unmarried mothers (and their children), prostitutes, orphans and other women. Known as ‘Magdalene penitents,’ they earned their keep by doing laundry. By 1902, it was Dublin’s largest and most lucrative public laundry with 65 nuns overseeing at least 210 penitents, who worked for nothing. Its vans delivered washing and collected money all over the city. Many women worked at the asylum until they died, after which their bodies were added to a nameless mass grave in the adjoining cemetery. The discovery of 155 such bodies in 1993 caused a profound scandal. The High Park laundry is now a men’s hostel run by the Respond Housing Association.


The Distiller


John Jameson (1773-1851), the son of the founder of the Jameson whiskey distillery, was born in the Scottish port town of Alloa. He was the first John Jameson to be associated with Dublin when he became General Manager of the Bow Street whiskey distillery. In 1814, big distilleries like Jameson were given a massive leg up when a new customs duty was introduced, which made it illegal to have a still of less than 500 gallons. Custom police rapidly began closing down thousands of small and mainly illicit stills. John Jameson died in 1851 and was buried at St John the Baptist (Church of Ireland) church in Drumcondra. Others buried there include the architect James Gandon, Sir Marmaduke Coghill and Patrick Heeney who composed Ireland’s National Anthem.


High Noon for Bang Bang


Bang Bang’s Bang Bang was one of Dublin’s most beloved characters during the 1950s and 1960s. He was so-named because of his extraordinary habit of boarding city buses and trams and starting a mock cowboy-style shoot-out with passengers and passers-by alike. In place of a gun, he pointed a large church key at people while shouting ‘Bang! Bang!’  Sometimes he slapped his bum as if he was on a horse. Many were prepared to play along – returning fire, ducking for cover, hiding behind lamp-posts or dropping down dead. He was also known to turn up at theatres and ‘shoot’ actors from the audience. His real name was Thomas Dudley. He was raised in a Cabra orphanage after the premature death of his parents.

I believe he was the son of John Dudley, a chimney sweep who was recorded on the 1911 census here at 30 Clarence Street North, Mountjoy, Dublin, aged 34, living with his wife Mary (24), son Thomas (6) and daughter Maryann. In 1901, John Dudley was living at 34 Cuffe Street with his uncle Thomas Jones, also a chimney sweep, and Thomas’s wife Sarah and daughter Mary Anne.

For most of his adult life, he lived in the Liberties –Mill Lane (near The Coombe) for 41 years, and then one of the Bridgefoot Street flats. In his senior years, he was taken in by the Rosminian Fathers in Drumcondra. The looked after him at Clonturk House for the Adult Blind, where he died aged 75 on 11 January 1981. His key is on display in the reading room of the Dublin City Archive, Pearse Street.




James Sadler (February 1753 – 28 March 1828), one of the first English balloonists, attempted to cross the Irish Sea on 1 October 1812 from Belvedere House, Drumcondra. He almost drowned in the attempt but was finally picked up by a fishing boat, in the Irish Channel, off Liverpool.

Further Notes


  • Bang Bang died in Drumcondra.





[1] Samantha and Omero Mumba played siblings Mara and Kalen in H. G. Wells ‘The Time Machine’ (2002), a co-production of DreamWorks and Warner Bros. Primetime Emmy Award winner Guy Pearce played the lead, while Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons also starred.

[2] The Cat and Cage lays a claim to being the second oldest pub in Dublin. Legend holds that it acquired a name as a coach house back where people noted how pet cats belonging to wealthy travellers were kept in cages on top of coaches bound for norther parts. A robbery near the Cat and Cage was reported in Saunders’s News-Letter on 10 April 1818. An article from 1917 includes a pic of the pub but no further details there that I could see. The Behan story is told here – With thanks to Adam Kilbane.

[3] When Hester Coghill (later Countess of Charleville) married Charles Moore, then Baron of Offaly, her husband was given Castlegarde House by her uncle Marmaduke Coghill of Dundrum House, Dublin as a marriage settlement. Charles, who was later made first Earl of Charleville, died in 1764 without issue. Hester then  remarried in 1767 a  Major John Mayne and came with such “A Fortune” that he changed his name to Coghill. He lived extravagantly and died without issue in 1785. Hester inherited her father, James Coghill’s assets and died in1789.