DUBLINTIMEMACHINE: Today, we visit an eccentric Irishman who inherited a mansion in London and dug a massive illegal underground complex beneath his gaff…just because! William Lyttle (1931–2010) was a civil engineer, and when destiny brought him to 121 Mortimer Road in Hackney during the swinging sixties he decided his fancy new digs 20 rooms weren’t quite enough, so he excavated a wine cellar in the basement.
So far, so sane. However, Lyttle discovered that digging was strangely stimulating for him. He said he’d “found a taste for the thing”. So his little dabble with making a single subterranean room turned into a forty-year addiction. The Irishman soon mined not only his own grounds but single-handedly generated a massive, multilevel tunnel complex that would put an ant colony to shame. His labyrinth boasted lofty rooms, and grand underground avenues 18 metres (59 ft) long. Contrasting this were little shafts barely a child’s height. Most were lit with adhoc electrical lighting.
Foreshadowing the Shawshank Redemption or perhaps inspired by the Great Escape, William Lyttle dumped the dirt discreetly about his garden and local parks. However, in a possible symptom of his mental health, he also filled entire rooms of his above-ground domicile. So even as his secret project flourished his once fine mansion fell into disrepair.
Obviously, this improvised underworld was a very dangerous undertaking.
Wrecklessly the adventurous civil engineer invaded the earth beneath his wealthy neighbours’ homes too and excavated as deep as the water table. His greatest and most illegal excavation connected his mansion with the local Dalston Lane rail tunnel.
Inevitably the project aroused unwanted attention. Yes, there had been rumours the eccentric Paddy was up to something. Considering the times it would’ve been amazing if he wasn’t considered a possible terrorist by Scotland Yard. But the penny dropped when a local publican expressed concerns about his cellar collapsing. And the water supply became disrupted…and lighting a mini underground village drained local power supplies. Then the understandable complaints rolled in. Bizzare noises in the nighttime. Inexplainable sinkholes appearing in neighbours flowerbeds, gaping chasms in the leafy yuppie streets.
Incredibly (if you’ve never worked for Fingal County Council) despite Hackney Council receiving tip-offs and serious complaints they did feck all for decades. Eventually, an ultrasound inspection of the grounds of Lyttle’s gaff was carried out in 2006, and the rest is history. Sadly (for him) Lyttle was evicted in 2006. Then Hackney Borough Council began the mammoth mission of backfilling the Mole-mans tunnels with aerated concrete. Over 33 tonnes of soil and debris were removed! In 2008 the High Court made him pay £293,000 in expenses. They generously housed Lyttle in a hotel for three years. Finally, he was rehoused on the top floor of a high-rise apartment building, hoping this would put an end to his antics. A not-so-random inspection of his new “digs”. The inspector discovered he had knocked a hole in a dividing wall!
We’ll give the last word to “The Mole Man of Hackney” himself.
When journalists asked why he did it all, he said, “I’m just a man who loves to dig. There is great beauty in inventing things that serve no purpose.”
DUBLINTIMEMACHINE: On this day in 1980, Taoiseach Charles J. Haughey made his notoriously hypocritical address to the Irish people live on RTE. The Republic of Ireland was experiencing a massive budget deficit, one of the worst in the developed world.
Unemployment was approaching 10% and rising.
And whose fault was it? The decadent Dáil members? The aristocratic Catholic Church. The near feudal state of socio-economic policies that the middle class were maintaining for their benefit? Nope. It was the impoverished, hungry, jobless working class.
Haughey’s insincere scolding began with: ‘I wish to talk to you this evening about the state of the nation’s affairs, and the picture I have to paint is not, unfortunately, a very cheerful one.’ However, it was the next sanctimonious admonishment which would become infamous in hindsight.
“As a community, we are living way beyond our means.”
Then, in one of the greatest acts of political gaslighting in 20th century Irish history, C.J. said ‘apportioning blame, however, is not going to get us anywhere’.
To say Champagne Charlie lived like a banana republic playboy-dictator is a gross understatement. With Irish citizens experiencing poverty and hardship at record levels, our vane 3-time Taoiseach and his cronnies were cynically lining their pockets. Whilst he was telling us to “tighten our belts” he was wearing Parisian-tailored Charvet shirts worth more than a months wages.
The hawk-faced robber baron bought a 14 bedroom Abbeville mansion and it’s 250-acre estate in Kinsealy, County Dublin. He owned racehorses and a luxury yacht called Celtic Mist. Oh, and his own private island called Inishvickillane! And these are just some of the assets he didn’t bother to hide. Neither did he ever disclose where these Midas-like riches came from. Because in his greed and arrogance, he felt completely entitled to garnish the finances of his impoverished serfs like a feudal lord.
Years later, the Moriarty Tribunal confirmed for the sucker Irish voters what the dogs in the street already knew. Whilst Haughey was lecturing Ireland’s poor for borrowing to feed and clothe their kids, he had personal debts of £1.143 million with Allied Irish Banks.
DUBLINTIMEMACHINE: Today in 1877 a woman called Eliza Walker Dunbar became the first female to earn a medical licence in Ireland or Great Britain. The trailblazer passed her medical exams with flying colours in The Royal College of Physicians, which was then called the “King and Queen’s College of Physicians in Ireland.”
Of course, this late-in-the-game first for women was no reflection of female intelligence or talent, but rather just another symptom of a misogynistic status quo that treated women as unequal in intellect or ability. Conveniently, this oppression also kept men on top of every social stratum whilst also freed males from domestic responsibilities they might have regarded as less than heroic or glamorous.
Dunbar was a true child of the Empire. Born in the Raj of British India, her Da was Scottish and she was educated in Cheltenham, England. It was that very international flavour of her CV which convinced the Council of the King and Queen’s College of Physicians that her graduation wouldn’t count as competition for her medical peers in Ireland. On the basis she told them she would take her qualifications elsewhere….an early victim of our brain drain!
The 1858 Medical Act technically didn’t bar women, so much as make it effectively impossible to qualify as a doctor by making it illegal for them to study medicine at Royal Colleges, universities, and medical institutions.
The Enabling Act of 1876, long campaigned for by a significant underground network of renegade female physicians and academics, like Dr. Sophia Jex-Blake, finally broke the stethoscope ceiling. King and Queen’s College of Physicians in Ireland was the first institution to use this new legislation.
in 1903 in the unlikely location of the cellar of a gaff near Mountjoy Square!
It turns out the “black gold”, which was actually more a milky paraffin slime, had been discovered a month before. However, the discreet owners of the site at number 100 Summerhill, had kept their fortuitous find secret till the local papers got wind.
So how could this precious commodity occur in the heart of inner city Dublin? British scientists incorrectly believed that peat bogs, which were abundant in their peasant colony, produced oil. Well, turns out the whole Summerhill neighbourhood was built on reclaimed land which was once an ancient bog. This seemed to confirm their erroneous theory.
So would Dublin be the new Dallas? Before you grab your pickaxes here comes the science bit. A prominent geologist of the day, Professor Grenville Cole, sent samples for testing. Sadly for the greedy British oil industry and the fledgling Dublin industry, results showed the fluid had little commercial value and the fountain itself was finite. Thus the bog theory was a case of correlation, not causation. Sure we wouldn’t know what to be doing with all that Saudi sheik billions anyway!
Frank Hopkins, Hidden Dublin (2007) Mercier Press
C. McCabe, Sins of the father: tracing the decisions that shaped the Irish economy (Dublin, 2011)
The year 2023 resulted in a seismic shift in the Irish political landscape. The previously impregnable walls of mainstream media have been breached by those opposing the free-for-all immigration system.
Suddenly, the so-called ‘far right’ talking points are inside the castle’s fortifications, attempting to break it down, bit by bit, argument by argument. But there is a long long way to go.
In this information war, our side, through sheer force of numbers, has eventually managed to storm the garrison, but an almighty battle awaits as the incumbents attempt to reinforce their numbers with the new proposed hate speech law and a crackdown on social media platforms like Twitter.
Amidst the tumult, Sinn Féin is now trying to position itself to hoover up the mostly mythical ‘far right’ vote.
But can they be trusted?
Could this be simply a ploy to neuter the protestors and lead the silent majority over the edge of a cliff?
SF has long been running with the hounds regarding the government’s free-for-all immigration policy, but now their duplicitous approach of attempting to run with the hares may well backfire. There is a risk they may alienate the extreme hard-left ‘wokesters’ within their ranks.
At the same time, how can any self-respecting protestor who has stood alone against the status quo’s extremist immigration policies trust SF when, for the past several years, they’ve been shouted down and called fascists and Nazis by the very same party now attempting to position themselves as their defenders?
A cynic might say that this is an establishment (recently rattled by events on the streets) attempting to neuter the burgeoning but leaderless cohort of the population who are wise to the wider EU and globalist agenda of ‘ever closer union’ or, as the late Peter Sutherland stated, to ‘undermine national homogeneity’ via mass unlimited immigration.
They are wise to the disenfranchisement of the Irish people within their own country. And even if they aren’t fully aware of the tactics and goals at play, they can sense that something deeply sinister is afoot against little old Ireland.
A new tactic?
The recent protest at Ringsend, where a SF representative called a group blockading a road a ‘splinter group’ and then urged them to get off the road, is a case in point.
The protestors, who possess a meek arsenal of legal weapons with which to wage their campaign, were being told by the SF rep to decommission their one useful tool: blockading.
It reeks of attempting to lead the protestors into a pen. Just get them off the streets and placate them with empty platitudes, divide and rule, and then slither off into the undergrowth like a snake after the damage has been done.
It’s instructive how Mary Lou McDonald recently stated that the government should have been engaging with ‘good people involved in sporting organizations…constructive, decent people for whom the inn is not full.’ This tells a story in itself. She wants engagement with sporting entities who are largely beholden to the government for funding. Organizations that didn’t even raise a murmur these last few years.
Organizations who watched on and said nothing as large swathes of the Irish population were disenfranchised and increasingly treated as second-class citizens in their own country. In other words, she wants captured voices to represent the protestors.
Captured voices who are not only on the hook for government grants, etc., but who, one suspects, may be profiting directly from the state’s insane free-for-all immigration policies.
The second part of her statement is even more instructive and self-explanatory: ‘The inn is not full.’ Which basically amounts to business as usual. Nothing to see here. The show must go on. The establishment’s cash cow, or the golden goose laying the golden egg, must remain untouched. Never mind the wider implications on social cohesion or how these unprecedented actions may tear apart the very fabric of Irish society for years to come.
How far will the establishment go when you hear noises about vast numbers of ‘climate refugees’ coming in from Africa? Or what about the Palestinians, for whom most of us have deep sympathy, coming to our shores en masse? Does anyone remember the civil war that was sparked in Lebanon when huge numbers of Palestinians moved there? Or the conflict that ignited when vast numbers of Palestinians moved into Jordan? Cold, hard facts need to trump altruistic one-world utopian tendencies.
The fact is the dangers of religious division ripple through the DNA of nearly every Irishman and woman. And if they don’t, they should.
Nobody has any issues with a sensible and reasonable immigration system, but this should not be to the detriment of the people who built this country up. It should not fracture a nation along ethnic or religious grounds. It should not facilitate a Trojan horse agenda which is to ultimately destroy the nation-state.
Ireland’s immigration policy is akin to getting a knock on your door and then letting the person into your house without even looking at who is standing there in the first place. The more rational of minds know that it’s wise to look through the peephole, open the door if the person seems like a reasonable individual, talk to them for a few moments to discern whether said individual may be a threat or not (basic vetting), and then, and only then, let the person into your house. And if, after you’ve let them into the house, they start breaking stuff and acting up, you remove them from your premises (deportation).
Open door policy?
Whereas the far-left policy is to blindly open the door and welcome every last person into the house. And then, when the guest starts breaking the guitar that was meant to be played when singing ‘Kumbaya My Lord’ over their head, their first action is to exonerate them with some bleeding-heart story and repeat the cycle ad nauseam.
The latter knows the system will always provide them with get-out cards. The former knows they have only one house, one island, and protect it they must. And will.
Why should the people of Ireland be forced to endure someone happy to reap the fruits of the labor of the nation without ever putting their hand to the wheel? (i.e., the murderer of Ashling Murphy).
The far left loves rolling out the old trope of ‘cultural enrichment,’ clearly if the system was doing its job properly, it would have known that in the case of Joseph Puskas (Ashling’s murderer) and many other cases, there was never any cultural enrichment. Quite the opposite.
The far left will argue, ‘What about the criminals we already have here?’ And it’s a valid point. But the fact is, there is very little you can do with the inherent structural defects of a house. Isn’t it your obligation, your duty, to take preventative measures to prevent further deterioration when you can clearly do so? Isn’t it a dereliction of duty when you fail to do so?
Just because you have one crack running through your house, should you invite someone else in with a sledgehammer to create another? Isn’t there an onus on you to stop further rot when you can do so?
This dereliction of duty across the political spectrum will leave lots of casualties in its wake, and perhaps even the heirs apparent, Sinn Féin.
The way I see it, they have blown their chance of overall power. These past few years, Sinn Féin courted the mainstream media, the woke mob, LGBT, climate alarmism, the EU, but the one group they haven’t courted is the Irish people.
They haven’t listened to 75% of Irish people who have voiced reservations regarding the free-for-all immigration policy.
The media even credited Sinn Féin for this self-inflicted own goal. Praising them for sticking with traditional establishment viewpoints even when upwards of 80% of their own political base had grave reservations regarding their direction. Sinn Féin lapped it all up.
In essence, the media was crediting Sinn Féin for taking a pistol out and kneecapping their own political ambitions. Whether they were blinkered enough to see this folly or not is anyone’s guess. Perhaps with the ultimate goal of power in their grasp, their tunnel vision blinded them to the trap they were falling into.
Now, with this apparent about-face, they are attempting to stem the flow of blood from the self-inflicted wound. But it remains to be seen whether they can stop the hemorrhaging of votes which polls suggest is occurring. The damage may be irreparable.
For many, the supposed last vanguard of nationalism has been exposed as nothing more than die-hard globalists. The same as all the other parties. For some in the traditional republican voting base, a sense of betrayal wafts through the air.
They’ve voted for the most draconian hate speech laws ever witnessed in a Western society. A desperate attempt by all establishment parties to clamp down on political dissent and to preserve their aura as ‘best boys in the class’ image to their technocratic masters from abroad.
One suspects, this will prove a massive own goal if the Gardaí start rounding up people and prosecuting them for having memes on their phones, etc. Beware of creating martyrs in Ireland. It never ends well.
With the lurch away from traditional political philosophies across Europe and the world, there will be many eyes keenly watching Ireland with intense scrutiny. For our side, an over-the-top crackdown by the state should be welcomed, because it will expose the establishment as the authoritarian, totalitarian fascists that they are.
Even your most moderate voter will be disgusted if they start throwing people in jail for a few tweets or memes. The world will be disgusted. Let the establishment fall into the trap of their own making.
Pandering to overlords from faraway shores trumps domestic concerns.
The reality is, for the political class, Ireland is just a mere stepping stone before some plush job with the EU or an extremely well-funded NGO. Paschal Donohues proposed new role as head of the IMF is emblematic of this. They want nothing more than to proudly proclaim to some unelected foreign technocrat ‘Look at how we gagged and controlled the Irish population with our hate speech law. We have broken the backs of the nationalists.’ Little old Ireland is to be served up to the globalists like a Christmas Turkey. But they’ve forgotten that old Paddy Irishman is a formidable opponent when you get his blood up.
Recent protests and events have exposed Ireland as an antagonistic and unruly population that is endangering the prospects of Leo and Coveney, etc securing the much coveted EU job when they’re finished serving Ireland up to his EU and globalist masters.
The riots in Dublin prevent the political class from grandstanding their European “partners” when attending one of their regular summits. Because of this perceived failure, Varadaker and his ilk might have to accept a “secondary” job with an Irish NGO and make do with only 150k per year. The poor people. You can almost hear Leo whispering “Just be a good Paddy and do as you’re told. I have my career to think of here.”
With their contemptuous disregard for the wishes of the majority of Irish people, the only thing they have succeeded in doing is to awaken the nationalist leviathan from its slumber. Who knows where this fire will end up when she fully catches wind? In the words of Patrick Pearse, “They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools!”
DUBLINTIMEMACHINE: We briefly leave Dublin today to visit a mad Irishman in London, who was buried alive for 61 days…on purpose! Mick Meaney was a brawny Tipperary born boxer-turned-labourer living in 1960’s London.
His macabre world record attempt happened in the grim car park of a London lorry depot. To make things worse, the crazy Irish lad’s poor wife and kids back home in Ireland only heard about the stunt as it happened on the radio!
The event was promoted by another Irishman, eccentric Kerry native Butty Sugrue, who owned The Admiral Lord Nelson pub in Kilburn. Sugrue was no stranger to sensational acts either, styling himself as “Ireland’s Strongest Man” he was known for stunts like pulling a bus across Westminster Bridge with his teeth!
Training for the horrific stunt began in 1968 when Mick Meaney started sleeping in a coffin in The Admiral Lord Nelson pub. Eventually, the specially modified coffin with its courageous captive was transferred with much fanfare to the lorry depot and buried.
But Meaney was not the only action man looking for glory by being entombed alive. At exactly the same time in the US, another character called “Country” Bill White was attempting to break the same record. The BBC even organised a historic satellite link to allow the competitors to trash talk each other.
Celebrities of the day visited Meaney in his temporary grave, speaking to the cheerful stuntman using the pipe through which he also got his food, liquid, and oxygen.
The live burial was even discussed in the British House of Commons. Meaney’s daily underground regime involved waking at 7am in the morning in his grave and doing some very careful exercises within its tight confines. He would be given a newspaper and breakfast down his air pipe. He defecated and urinated through a hatch beneath him, which seeped into bags of lime. Through some superhuman willpower and a lot of whiskey, Mick Meaney reached the 61-day record.
Sadly, however, his herculean efforts were not recognised by the Guinness Book of Records because they had no official monitors there to confirm his conditions! Despite that his surreal act earned him legendary status among the Irish diaspora in London, countless free pints, and when he returned home to his wife and kids he was a local hero who had risen from the grave!
DUBLINTIMEMACHINE: Another day, another British atrocity. Todays is the anniversary of the Rathcormac massacre in 1834. Although this one occurred in Cork it had an immediate and series effect on Dublin. During this nightmarish dark time in the country, with the spectre of the Great Famine already falling like a dark curtain across the land, peasants were hungry and greatly indebted to their absentee British landlords.
Yet despite this poverty Catholics were forced to pay tithes to the protestant Church of Ireland parish, whose land they occupied. Adding insult to injury, this land had originally been their own but was stolen from beneath their colonial masters. The Tithe was like a tax paid to the C.O.I, usually one-tenth of the already starvation rations of the produce wrung from subsistent peasant farms. This tax was paid twice monthly. As punishing as this was many were able to scrape it together, but when the British decided they wanted a cash levy instead the burden became a booth on the throat of the Catholic Irish.
Faced with no other option they refused to pay what they physically didn’t have. This was as much an act of helplessness as it was rebellion. This desperate withholding of payments melodramatically labelled “The Tithe War”.
The particular robber baron demanding financial tribute in Gortroe, a little hamlet near Rathcormac, was Archdeacon William Ryder. On this day in 1834 the fabulously wealthy and powerful “man of god” rode in to Gortroe with a company of soldiers of the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards on horseback, a unit of foot soldiers of the 29th Regiment, and the every present heavy-handed local Royal Irish Constabulary.
Imagine how intimidated the ragged, starving natives felt as these heavily armed and well fed cavalry swept in to their precarious settlement. They had gathered in pathetic little groups around Bartlemy Cross in Gortroe, wielding the crude wooden spades and sods of turf of the peasant farmer. Imagine how helpless they felt knowing they could do nothing to protect their families, hopelessly outnumbered in the face of battle hardened armed soldiers.
The Archdeacon drew his eyes across the villagers of Rathcormac. His pitiless gaze first met that of the widow Johanna Ryan, and he demanded her tithe. Much to the shock of the assembled small army a group of villagers stepped forward. There`ll be no tithe today sir. We have nothing.
Archdeacon sneered at the trembling men and women as if they were dirt on his expensive boots. He turned to the man commanding his escort of soldiers “Captain Bagley, have your men draw bayonets!”. At the sight and sound of dozens of gleaming, sharp, bloodthirsty blades being produced the humble protestors scattered, running for their lives, many retreating in to the nearby home of the widow Ryan.
Furious at these impudent peasants the Archdeacon shouted “Captain Bagley, demolish the house!”. Surprisingly despite the might of the attack, the dwelling was not giving up its terrified occupants. Frustrated by this Captain Bagley roared at his men, ‘You must dislodge the peasants from the haggart and the yard. If they do not go quietly, you must try the bayonet. If that is not sufficient you must fire!” The peasants fought back, defending themselves against hopeless odds.
After the bullets and the blades and the fire and the screaming the Archdeacon and Captain Bagley got their devils due. They returned to their warm comfortable lives and left a dozen Irish families forever blighted. And so in that little corner of our island, as has happened thousands of times before and since, on an ordinary day of British justice, between 12 and 20 people were shot dead and 45 were wounded with three more dying later that day. All because they had nothing, having had their food, land and dignity stolen by their masters, all that they had left to take was their lives.
DUBLINTIMEMACHINE: There’s an Irish pub at the base camp of Mount Everest! Some countries colonise others (not mentioning names..) and some countries build military bases on their allies’ turf. But Ireland has a different way of invading the world. We do it with overpriced gargle, plastic paddywhackery, and the greasiest food (and dancefloors) that money can buy. They’re like an alcoholic embassy, a dating agency, and a job centre rolled into one.
At 3.45 kms above sea level “The Irish Pub Namche” is the highest and arguably the remotest Irish pub in the world. The small town of Namche Bazaar in Khumbu of north-eastern Nepal, is a tiny trading post in Nepal, on the roof of the world. It can only be reached by flying into Lukla airfield, and landing successfully at what is officially the most dangerous airport in the world! After that, there are still several days trek into the Himalayas to reach the boozy Irish enclave.
Known as ‘the Gateway to Everest’ thousands of climbers and pilgrims use Namche-Bazaar as Base Camp, a place to acclimatise to the unforgiving atmosphere before attempting to conquer Everest. The surreal town is framed by the gigantic mountain range. Its thin unadulterated air rings with sounds of religious bells, the fluttering multicoloured flags of Buddhist stupas, and the odd bang of the bodhrán from a Dubliners CD played on loop.
When not planning your conquest of Earth’s highest mountain using the massive wall maps you can work on your altitude sickness whilst playing pool or darts. It’s a minor miracle how they got the pool table, beer barrels, and everything else flown in from Kathmandu to the deadly airport, then up the mountain on the back of underpaid porters and yaks from the airport.
The settlement’s erratic electricity is provided by the nearby Thame-Namche hydropower plant. The pub even has a micro-brewery, so even Everest isn’t safe from hipsters. Whilst serving the usual smorgasbord of gargle the Irish Pub sells some local Sherpa delights including fermented yak milk, the local delicacy Yak steak, and surreally Sisha in case your lungs aren’t punished enough
DUBLINTIMEMACHINE: A warning from history today. 17th-century English experienced a murderous mass hysteria called “Irish Fright”. They believed innocent minority communities of Paddies were conspiring to massacre English people all over their country.
It is 1688, a period known as the Glorious Revolution. Catholic King James II’s was unable to escape to exile in France and his days are numbered. Across Britain, in addition to the regular Irish worker population, there are small units of demobilised Irish Jacobite soldiers. Most are sheepishly making their way home.
Anxiety about these “sleeper cells” feeds a moral panic in England that Ireland wants revenge for usurping their sympathetic king. Rumours circulate across the massive Protestant-majority country that their Irish servants, soldiers and workers are plotting to rise up across the land and massacre their masters and English locals.
In a 17th century case of “fake news” fictional reports arrive in London that the Irish have gone on the rampage burning rural towns and putting small cities to the sword. Any unexplained disappearance, disaster or disease was blamed on the foreign scapegoat.
There was a great anxiety among many English settlements which had made their fortune on the theft and destruction of their Irish counterparts that finally a reckoning for all their sins and plunder was about to occur.
Where there is guilt there is fear. And surely the revenge for centuries of barbarism would be unimaginably bloody? This lethal propaganda naturally stirs up the terrified English locals. Anti-Irish panic sparks pograms. Lifelong neighbours torch homes and take lives. Xenophobic chaos breakout. They quickly form militias and imprison or murder every Irish civilian in sight.
The Irish Fright lasts only days but it is long enough to result in the murder of hundreds of innocent “foreigners”, uproot and destroy centuries-old communities and alliances and change the relationship between the Irish allies in England forever.
The first tangible chapter in the violent fantasy was an account from the 13th of December 1688. Bishop Gilbert Burnet in London sent a desperate warning to his peers.
“Country Fellows [Irish agricultural workers] arriving about Midnight at Westminster caused a sudden Uproar, by Reporting that the Irish, in desperate Rage, were advancing to London, and putting all before them to Fire and Sword.”
When this message was received by another parish it was relayed again. This time with the additional fearmongering order “Rise, arm, arm! the Irish are cutting throats’. A well-respected clergyman from Leicestershire called Theophilus Brookes raised a militia so massive and relentless that even days after the fog of war had lifted he could still not disband them.
This feverish rallying call raised citizen armies in their thousands as hour by hour more bizarre, bloody and entirely fictional reports arrived. The Irish had besieged Birmingham, burned Cambridge and put Norwich to the sword! They were sparing none, neither women nor children. They would be at the gates of Whitehall by dawn to massacre Parliament.
Later investigation of the source of the catastrophic lies pointed at Orangist sympathisers. These disciples of King William, particularly Marshal Duke of Schomberg, wished to seal the fate of his already deposed rival, whilst also neutralising untold masses of innocent non-political paddies along with him.
Further investigations a century later ascribed some of the scare to starving marauding Irish soldiers who, having grown mad with hunger and despised by English locals, were driven to steal food from farms and villages. An 18th-century account described their desperate situation.
“The disbanded Troops finding themselves Money-less, and incapable of subsisting in a Country where they were so generally hated, took it into their Heads to force open a Country House, to keep themselves from starving. Upon this, a Man in the Neighbourhood ran directly to London”.
Considering the despicable wanton violence and scapegoating which saw mobs of mindless thugs combine with agent provocateurs to disgrace and destroy our capital city on 23rd November lessons of historic moral panic and barbarism are more relevant today than ever. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When all you know is prejudice and misinformation ignorance can make a monster out of you.
DUBLINTIMEMACHINE:Today’s trip in the time machine will take a very sinister surprise turn, and its original purpose is dark enough already! It’s the 24th of April 1815. We find ourselves on a Dame Street utterly thronged with shouting people and snorting horses. A crudely hand-drawn poster on a wall beside us says
“Public Whipping Today. Evil Chimney Sweep Who Battered 6-Year-Old Apprentice”.
In our merchants’ disguises, we shoulder through the rabble and get a good vantage point amid the rowdy crowd on Cork Hill. We’re here to witness some violent justice carried out. But first a quick gander at the glorious collonaded building beside us. This neoclassical beauty is the Royal Exchange. But our 21st-century eyes recognise it as City Hall.
The Royal Exchange was like a clubhouse for the merchant’s guild, with the money changers and stockbrokers thrown in. There have been impressive government buildings in this area from Viking times of course. The nearby Thingmote was a centre of government for kings like aul Sitric.
The pale Exchange was built between 1769 and 1779. Before that it was the site of Cork House, the elegant townhouse of the powerful Earl of Cork. Their neighbour was the then-famous Lucas’s Coffee House. Remember cafés back then were more like dens of revolution and intrigue than sterile Starbucks. Several moves later for the Exchange ended when a shiny new thoroughfare, called Parliament Street, was created by the Wide Streets Commission. This proved the perfect location for a the cities merchants.
Now back to this blood-crazed crowd and the shock awaiting us! People are climbing lamp posts, scrambling over walls and wrought iron fences to get a look at the action. Every window on both sides of Dame Street seems to have a half dozen curious heads precariously hanging out. Some spectators even stand and push against the ornamental metal balustrades and balconies on the front of the Royal Exchange.
A trumpet sounds, the audience falls silent. DMP and civic officers emerge onto the marble stairs, a shivering blackened and bruised man is in their custody.
“John Young, chimney sweep, you have been found guilty of the shameful crime of extreme physical cruelty. The victim was William Cullen, your pitiful six year old apprentice and ward. Were it not for the civil conscience of your esteemed customers on South Anne Street bringing your Heinous crime to the Lord Mayor’s attention you may have eventually killed the poor boy!”
The crowd erupts with roars of rage and unrecordable threats and curses.
“For this, you shall be whipped from Green Street back to the Royal Exchange. You will have this same punish again in two months and will then spend two years in Newgate Prison!”.
This time the crowd around us cheers and jumps up and down gleefully. But suddenly we hear a deafening crash, followed by a chorus of horrified screaming that shatters the atmosphere on Dame Street. A cloud of dust hazes the air, the screams now replaced with shocked whispered questions and agonised moaning.
Was it a bomb or a cannon? Maybe a runaway horse? We look up at the Royal Exchange and see that the vantage point where dozens of spectators had cheered and danced just seconds ago is gone. In its place is a large chunky hole in the frontage where once a metal balustrade and tiny stone balcony stood. The balustrade at the front of the exchange collapsed because of the pressure of the crowd surging.
Beneath it on the blood-smeared, metal and rubble-strewn cobblestones lies a pile of bodies and masonry. Nine people are dead. Many more suffer serious or life-changing injuries. To our utter shock and horror, even as the grey mangled bodies are gingerly dragged from the scene, the civic officer continues the speech.
The whipping proceeds as planned. The chimney Sweep receives 421 lashes. And while the dead were covered in cheesecloth shrouds in the city morgue, starving stray dogs lap at the gore puddled on the cobblestones.
Before we leave this horrific scene let’s note that the mighty Royal Exchange will fail soon due to the adverse financial effects of the 1801 Act of Union and the amalgamation of British and Irish currencies in 1825.
It will become our beloved City Hall. But it would be over 50 years before Dublin Corporation implemented architect Thomas Turner’s safer stone design we see today to prevent future tragedies.
Maybe if you listen closely, on a dark silent winter night, you may hear the scream of some shade of those nine poor souls clinging to that fine building’s exterior still?….