What could be more romantic than striking oil? Well, that’s what happened on Valentine’s Day


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)

David Monagan, Forbes Nov 1, 2012