Cunard steamships, Christmas 1913

In the Christmas Daily Freeman (covered in our last post) published exactly 105 years ago today, among the ads for festive goods there is a small unassuming advertisement for the Cunard shipping company.

It details the ships that traversed the Atlantic at the time, and includes the ill-fated RMS Lusitania, which was to be torpedoed by a German U-Boat two years later with the loss of 1,200 lives.

A British propaganda copy of a German Lusitania medallion. The British authorities maintained the medal was minted to celebrate the sinking, but in fact it was a German admonishment to the British government for allowing the vessel to carry war materiel (artillery shell components). It shows a skeleton, representing death, selling tickets at a booth with a “Cunard” sign. Along the top of the medal is “Geschaft Uber Alles” or “Business Above All”. At left a man reads a newspaper with a headline in German which translates as “U-Boat danger”. Behind stands the German ambassador, Count Johann-Heinrich von Bernstorff, raising a finger representing the German warning that was placed in a large number of U.S. newspapers beside the Cunard advertisement.


The British authorities’ description of the medal.

But what became of the other ships mentioned in the advert? Their stories are not quite as tragic as the Lusitania’s, but fascinating nevertheless. They were all requisitioned for war service, and here are their stories:


RMS Campania

RMS Campania

The RMS Campania was built by Fairfield Shipbuilding in Scotland, and was launched on the 8th of September 1892. She entered service in 1893, and at the time was the fastest ship afloat.

She was taken out of service in November 1914 and, just prior to her being scrapped, she was bought by the Admiralty to be fitted out as an armed cruiser to carry seaplanes. These planes had floats and could be lowered into and retrieved from the water by a crane.

Her interior was removed to accommodate up to 14 aircraft. She was also equipped with eight 4.7 inch guns.

The conversion was completed in 1915, and after sea trials, she served at Scapa Flow and in the North Sea. After a short period, the first funnel was removed and a flight deck was added to the front of the ship to enable aircraft to take off directly without having to be lowered into the sea. She also served as an Observation Balloon ship. The now renamed HMS Campania served with the Admiralty right up until 5th November 1918 when she was involved in an accident in the Firth of Forth during high winds. Campania hit the bow of the battleship Royal Oak and then dragged along the hull of the MMS Glorious.

She began to sink, and a boiler explosion sent her to the bottom. There were no casualties.


The last moments of the Campania


RMS Carmania

RMS Carmania

RMS Carmania’s maiden voyage was from Liverpool to New York on the 2nd December 1905, which she completed in 7 days, 9 hours.

Like the RMS Campania, she was converted to an armed merchant cruiser for war service and equipped with eight 4.7-inch guns. She sailed to Bermuda and served in the Battle of Trindad, where she suffered extensive damage and crew casualties. After repairs in Gibraltar, she patrolled the Atlantic off Portugal and later, in 1916, she served in Gallipoli campaign.

From March 1916 she was used as a troop ship. She survived the war, and in 1919, she was refitted for passenger liner service. She was scrapped in 1932.


RMS Andania


RMS Andania


RMS Andania was a passenger and cargo ship built in Scotland by Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company.

She was launched on the 22nd of March 1913, and made her maiden voyage on 14 July 1913 from Liverpool to Montreal.

In August 1914 she was also requisitioned as a troopship. For a few weeks in 1915 the Andania was moored on the Thames and used to accommodate German Prisoners of War.

In the summer of 1915 she sailed to Gallipoli, transporting the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and Royal Dublin Fusiliers to Cape Helles for the landings at Suvla Bay.

While the war was still in progress, she returned to passenger service on the transatlantic Liverpool-New York route. On the 26th of January 1918 she sailed with six other liners with 40 passengers and a crew of around 200. One day into the voyage, the ship was hit by a torpedo from German U Boat U-46 off Rathlin Island. Attempts were made to tow the ship but it sank after a few hours. The passengers survived, but seven crew perished in the sinking.


RMS Alaunia

RMS Alaunia


RMS Alaunia was built in 1913 at Greenock Dockyard. Launched on 9 June 1913, she made her maiden voyage on the 27th of December that year. During WW1, HMS Alaunia was the first Cunard ship to transport Canadian troops. Like the Andania, she was sent to Gallipoli, and later the same year carried troops to Bombay.

She later returned to the North Atlantic and carried troops from Canada and America in 1916.

On the 19th of October 1916, en route from London to New York, she struck a mine in the English Channel. After attempts to beach the ship and tow her to shore with tugs, her captain finally gave the order to abandon ship. Two crew members lost their lives.




Esker New (Old) Cemetery


Taphophilia: from the Greek “Taphos” (Tomb) is a word recently coined to describe a cemetery enthusiast. There are many manifestations of the syndrome. It can encompass Photography, genealogy, taking rubbings of headstones, casual mindful wandering among the monuments while reading the inscriptions are all symptoms. Such activities could be classified as morbid, but it can be rewarding and thought provoking.

Ascending the steep climb from Lucan Village towards the townland of Esker, through the neat and varied suburban streetscape, the traveller will happen upon two cemeteries which stand to the left and right of the roadway. One stands behind a rubble stone wall, the other behind a pebble dashed block wall.

The one behind the rubble wall was established in 1890, and was known as “Esker New Cemetery”.


Esker New Cemetery


It was still known by this name in 1938. Later, a burial ground directly opposite was established – becoming the er… “New New” Esker Cemetery. Unsurprisingly, the original 1890 site is now known as the old cemetery. What these will be called when a proposed graveyard (under construction) is established beside the original cemetery is anyone’s guess!

Nomenclature aside, burial grounds are an invaluable source of local lore and knowledge, and the 1890 cemetery at Esker is no exception. It is in a triangular formation, with a small triangular “innocents” plot for child burials within the boundary of consecrated land at the point furthest from the adjoining road. The caretaker’s house still stands, although it is currently derelict.


1938 map showing  triangular layout


Two burials are of note. One is that of 40 year old Annie Young. Her headstone is unusual in that the cause of her death is recorded:



A search of the Irish Newspaper Archives (available in the County Library, Tallaght) provides a contemporary report of how the unfortunate lady met her end. This is how her death was reported. At the time the piece was written, her name was unknown:



News report: Cork Examiner, 18th September 1899


Another notable interment is that of Pte Peter Casey of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, who succumbed to wounds he received in action. He had been shipped back to the London War Hospital in Epsom, and died there on the 6th of October 1916.

Pte. Casey doesn’t have the usual Commonwealth War Grave headstone – presumably because his father, also Peter, had predeceased him so they were buried together in the family plot.


In Loving Memory of Peter Casey…



…Also his son, Peter, RIR, who died from wounds recd in action 6th Oct 1916 Aged 26 Years


Again The Irish Newspaper Archives provide his funeral details:


Dr. William Reville, writing in the Irish Times recently, wrote about the increasing popularity of cremation as opposed to burial:

“the tombstones of the dead stand among us as they themselves once did but if cemeteries vanish we will forget the dead and forget to consider their wishes and intentions”.

How unfortunate that would be.

The 1907 Irish International Exhibition



A casual observer might see this photograph and assume it was taken during the period of the Raj in British Colonial India. Perhaps a marble temple? Closer inspection reveals an abundance of distinctly non-Indian heavy clothing and a familiar-looking tram at left sporting a destination of Ballsbridge.

Actually made of fibrous plaster, the structure was the entrance to the Irish International Exhibition of 1907 which took place in the area now familiar to us as Herbert Park Dublin. It stood near where the American Embassy now stands in Ballsbridge.

The exhibition was the latest in a series of international events that had previously taken place in Paris, Capetown and Milan, and was the brainchild of William Martin Murphy who owned the Dublin Tramway Company, the Irish Independent Newspaper and Clery’s department store. Six years later he would cross swords with the Transport Union resulting in that year’s strike and eventually the Dublin Lockout.

These were happier times for Murphy however, and the exhibition was a huge success. Running from the 4th of May to the 9th of November 1907, it received an astonishing 2.75 million visitors. The centrepiece was the Grand Central Palace, a large dome with halls radiating from it containing a gallery of fine arts with works lent by, among others, the Tsar of Russia. Other attractions were the Palaces of Industry and Mechanical Arts, the Great Celtic Court, Concert Hall, the Popular Restaurant and even an entire Somalian village.

Cantrell and Cochrane’s Ginger Ale featured at an exhibition stand and was available at the event’s bars


Advertisement featured on the back page of the Official Souvenir Booklet


When the exhibition finished, the grounds were handed back to Pembroke Urban District Council for use as a public park, familiar to us today as Herbert Park.

All that remains today from the exhibition is the duck pond (originally part of the Canadian water slide attraction!) and a single bandstand, the other having been removed and placed on Bray seafront.


The Water Slide at the exhibition. Now the Herbert Park duck pond.


Why not relive the Glory Days of the 1907 Exhibition by browsing the official souvenir booklet on our Source Digital Archive?

Available here: [Click]

Search the whole archive here: [Click]

Stunning New Drone Footage of the Hell Fire Club

The Hell Fire Club is undoubtedly one of the most famous landmarks on the Dublin Mountains skyline, but this stunning new drone footage from Rob Clifford Video gives a whole new perspective on it.

As well as the fantastic views over the city, the video clearly shows evidence of the ancient past of the site which was originally a passage tomb, dating from the Neolithic Period (4500 – 2000 BC). Speaker Conolly built the house as a hunting lodge in 1725. Conolly, Speaker in the Irish House of Commons, was one of the wealthiest men in Ireland. He is said to have destroyed the cairn while building the hunting lodge, making use of the boulders in its construction. Some time later the roof, which originally was slated, was blown off in a great storm. Locals attributed this misfortune to the work of the devil, in revenge for the destruction of the cairn. Following this event the lodge was seen locally as a place of evil. However Conolly replaced the slated roof with an arched one of stone.

After Conolly’s death in 1729, the lodge was acquired by the infamous Hell Fire Club, from which it got its name. Hell Fire Clubs were established in the eighteenth century, and were associated with outrageous behaviour and depravity.

Richard Parsons, the first Earl of Rosse, established the Hell-Fire Club in Dublin in 1735. The president of the Hell Fire Club was named ‘The King of Hell’ and was dressed like Satan, with horns, wings and cloven hooves. One custom was that of leaving the vice-chair unoccupied for the devil – in whose honour the first toast was always drunk.

These associations, as well as its rather ominous name, have given life to lots of ghost stories and superstitions about the spooky goings on at the Hell Fire Club.

You can get a guided tour of the site with historian Frank Tracy on Saturday 25th July at 11:00am and Wednesday 26th August at 11:00am, as part of South Dublin County Council’s History and Heritage 2015 programme.

Manchester Guardian – Rare 1916 Images now online.


The early 20th century saw the beginning of the soon-to-be widespread use of photography in newspapers and periodicals. Magazines such as The Sphere, Irish Life and the Illustrated London News brought pictorial accounts of news from distant lands into people’s homes, and the photographs alongside the text enhanced the readers’ experience enabling them to “see” world events as well as read about them.

During the period 1914 to 1919, the Manchester Guardian newspaper published a series of pictorial supplements which contained an account of every action of the First World War as it happened. Profusely illustrated with maps, artwork and photographs, they remain an invaluable source of contemporary accounts of every action that took place in that conflict, from the Western Front to the Balkans and the Middle East.

South Dublin Libraries have acquired all nine bound volumes of this unique historical resource and these are available to consult in the Local Studies section of the County Library, Tallaght.

Alongside the main theatres of war, it covers the “Dublin Rebellion” as it was then called using nowadays rarely-seen photographs of the 1916 Rising. These images are now viewable on South Dublin Libraries’ “Source” digital archive and we present some examples here.

Here is an interesting photograph of the east side of the Four Courts after its bombardment in 1916. Six years later it would be targeted again, this time by the forces of the Free State:

Behind the soldier to the right you can just about see a torn recruitment poster. Here is the poster as it would have appeared immediately after being put up:


Here is a scene, from a location nearby, of British Army Lancers rounding the corner at the junction of Church Street and Merchants Quay – about to cross Father Mathew Bridge (then known as Whitworth Bridge):

The photo is interesting, as the only record of Lancers in this area is from the first day of the Rising when a troop of the 5th and 12th Lancers was escorting an ammunition convoy along the north Quays. The lancers came under fire from the 1st Battalion of the Irish Volunteers under Ned Daly who were occupying the Four Courts. They dismounted, let the horses free and carried the ammunition boxes into the Medical Mission building opposite the east side of the Four Courts. The building still bears the scars of rifle fire on its façade.

This strange vehicle located outside the Granville Hotel on Sackville (O’Connell) Street is an early version of the armoured car. The vehicle was comprised of a locomotive boiler on the back of a flatbed truck. They were built by the Great Southern and Western Railway Works in Inchicore by order of the British Military, and had a line of four openings on either side through which a rifle could be aimed.

You would be forgiven for thinking there are more than four apertures. However if you look closely you will see that the “holes” above and below the middle row – and every second one on the middle row – are dummy openings painted on to confuse snipers. In the background is another recruitment poster.

To view all 24 Manchester Guardian images from 1916, click here:

If you wish to view the original volumes, please ask at the desk in the County Library.

World Poetry Day: Gallipoli by Michael J. Whelan

As today is World Poetry Day and to coincide with the 100th Anniversary of the beginning of the Dardanelles (Land) Campaign this time next month April 25th, I offer this poem, which I wrote after my visit to the Gallipoli Peninsula a few years ago.

The poem was inspired by my visit and also by the poem of the same name ‘The Irish at Gallipoli’ written by Irish Poet Francis Ledwidge before he was killed during the war on the Western Front. Ledwidge had seen the worst of the sufferings experienced by 10th Irish Division after the Suvla Bay landings in August and had penned his poem, while on a troopship sailing past the ancient city of Troy. The Irish and the other allied soldiers who served at Gallipoli had a healthy respect for the Turkish soldiers they fought in 1915.

The Gallipoli Peninsula today is a national park holding the graves and unmarked remains of thousands of soldiers on both sides who perished there. The poem is also a recognition of the, until recently, forgotten story of Irish soldiers lost during the conflict and to subsequent Irish historiography.


(After a visit to the battlefields -2011)

Today I stood above the Aegean Sea
listening for echoes I could not hear.
The silent tempo of the ground
resonates still on unnatural landscapes.

The zig-zag lines where dead men toil
dug deep into blood smeared soil,
buried now with their bones
on beaches and gullies where once
they fought the Turk,
stormed the shores and hills as if thrown
against the wind by Agamemnon himself.

The silence bade me look towards Troy
across the Straits from Helles,
I still could hear no voice, nor thunder in the sky
except the launching waves
pushing ancient pebbles up the beach to rest,
where once they drowned the hearts of men.

Then behind me I could feel it,
the noise of peace and echoes of war
in a thousand monuments to the dead,
stretched out in marching order.
And there, watching me, my shadow
took on the specter of a ghost and spoke,
‘Like Hector I was the defender
brave and virtuous – but of Irish stock,
I am the soldier my country forsook.’
And in response I said

‘I have come at last to pay my respects,
I have come to take you home!’

Michael J. Whelan

Michael J. Whelan lives in Tallaght and is an award winning poet, writer and historian. For more about Michael and his work, please see his blog

The History of the Parish of Cruagh: An illustrated account from the 6th to the 20th century

The parish of Cruagh, situated near Rathfarnham, appears in the 18th century as containing the town lands of Cruagh, Glendoo, Jamestown, Newtown, Orlagh, Tibradden, Woodtown and Killakee. Today Cruagh is just a townland, after the parish was united with Whitechurch and Tallaght.

It is likely that St. Dalua, a disciple of St Patrick, founded a church that today is a ruin in Cruagh cemetery. Built around 580 AD, it was served by the vicar of Tallaght until the end of the 17th century, when turbulent times in Ireland led to the church falling into lay hands and finally disuse. A round watchtower was built c. 1820 on the site of the former church. It was constructed as an observation post so that a sentry could protect the cemetery from body snatchers.

ScreenHunter_405 Mar. 10 17.43

1656 Map of Cruagh Parish

A map showing principal industries in 1840 shows 7 mills on the Owendoher River. Millmount Mill had been operating since at least 1773 , it closed down in 1899. Edmondstown School is built on the site of Newtown Great Paper Mill, founded early in 19th century, and when in full work, employed over 600. Behind are the remains of Newtown Little Paper Mill, which had been operating since at least 1757.

Further up the road is Tibradden where there is a stone where Daniel O’Connell gave an address to the locals as they celebrated an annual day of pilgrimage in 1843. Also situated here is Tibradden House, which was constructed in 1859 as a wedding present for Mary Davis, whose descendants occupy the house today. Close to the summit of Tibradden Mountain is a 4000-year old chambered cairn. It was excavated in 1849 by the Royal Irish Academy who found a stone-lined cist containing a pottery vessel and cremated remains.

In nearby Killakee, the building now known as the Hell Fire Club was built around 1725 as a hunting lodge by William Conolly. The house as built had a parlour, drawing room and hall on the upper floor. On the ground floor was the kitchen, off which were the servants’ quarters. Members of the Irish Hell Fire Club, which was active in the years 1735 to 1741, used Mount Pelier lodge as a meeting place. The club’s activities at the lodge is often associated with a black cat. By 1799, the house was found to be in disrepair and today, the building is maintained by the state-sponsered company Coillte. Also nearby was Killakee Estate, which is talked about in a previous article on this blog.

18th Century Drawing of the Hell Fire Club

18th Century Drawing of the Hell Fire Club

On the northern slope of Mount Pelier, just below the ruins of the Hell Fire Club, lies the house now known as Orlagh. It was constructed in 1790 and was sold to the Augustinian Order in 1872. Eoin MacNeill was given refuge and slept in the college for the first few days of the Easter Rising. Famous visitors to the house include Patrick Pearse and Daniel O’Connell. Today, it is a retreat and conference centre run by the friars. In a field opposite is a famous well of the area that was unveiled in 1920. Crowds of people came to the opening, which included a drum band and banners.

Finally in the parish of Cruagh we find Woodtown. With a history dating back to the 16th century, it is home to two historic buildings; Woodtown Park and Woodtown Manor.  Woodtown Park was built around 1700 as a farm house. In 1896 the Reverend Walter A Hill started a school here that was the first boarding school in Ireland which kept boys only up to the age of thirteen. It was once a residence of the MacNeill family and it is believed that final plans for the 1916 rising were drawn up here. On the opposite side of Woodtown Park is Woodtown Manor. Believed to have been built around 1720, an 1806 map of the Woodtown demesne shows the estate to have consisted of 132 acres, including a deer park.

John McManus

cruagh cover anon

This is an extract from John McManus’ book The History of the Parish of Cruagh: An illustrated account from the 6th to the 20th century which can be read in full on his website.