Subscribe for Unlimited Access to Turtle’s History Quarter.

Includes content from Vanishing Ireland, Easter Dawn, Dublin Docklands, The Irish Pub, Maxol and many more, as well as Waterways Ireland, the Past Tracks project and hundreds of historical articles on Irish families, houses, companies and events.

Mary Parkinson (1932-2016) – Garment Manufacturer & Record Saleswoman – Inchicore, Co. Dublin

Photo: James Fennell

Mary Parkinson, née Fortune, was the only one of the four Inchicore ladies in the third volume of ‘Vanishing Ireland’ to marry. She was born in the Marian Year of 1932, and named accordingly. In her younger years she worked at Bull’s religious depository at 21 Suffolk Street in Dublin City. The company was established in the late Victorian Age by Cornelius Bull. His son was the inventor Lucien Bull, CBE, who became the first man to record a million images per second in 1952. Bull’s originally specialized in the manufacture of church furniture. By the time Mary got there, she was employed to make priests vestments.

Three years into her time at Bull’s, a bout of peritoneal tuberculosis knocked her for six and she was unable to work for several years. She then found employment with a textile firm in Chapelizod, before crossing the Irish Sea and arriving in London bang on schedule for the Swinging Sixties.

Mary was well placed to enjoy the musical storm that enveloped the world that decade, working in a record shop owned by a company called Electric and Musical Industries Ltd, which is rather better known by the acronym of EMI. Boasting such acts as The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, EMI was the most successful recording company in the world during the 1960s.

After seven years in London, Mary returned to Dublin with an Irish husband, Sean Fortune. He was employed as a compositor with The Irish Times. ‘He set up all the typing,’ she explains. ‘He had the rough job, as the fellow says, hand-setting the whole lot, getting all the fonts and print sizes right. He left just before the computers came.’

Mary reckons one of the greatest changes in Inchicore is the disappearance of the rivers. ‘There used to be streams and rivers everywhere,’ she says. ‘I remember one down the back of Jamestown Court which we used to fall into all the time.’ These ancient waterways are now all tucked away under roads, tenements and industrial warehouses.

Tenement life has also altered dramatically. ‘There’d have been a lot of animals around here when I was young,’ she says. ‘You’d always hear the pigs squealing. There was an abattoir down by St. Michael’s Church. In the mornings, you would hear the cocks crowing. One of my neighbours had ducks who would go mad anytime it started raining.’

As well as being the youngest of the Inchicore ladies we interviwed, Mary is the only one of the four who could drive. ‘The rest of us can only drive people around the bend,’ adds her friend Connie Brennan.

Mary died peacefully at her Inchicore home on 1 June 2016 and was laid to rest at Palmerstown Cemetery.


With thanks to Emma Deering and Olivia and Ollie Blacque.


Other stories from the Vanishing Ireland series are available to read here.