“Dublin 1911” - A Year in the Life of Dublin from newspapers, ads and photos - GALLERY
Royal Irish Academy book illustrates Ireland’s capital’s life in a single year
Each week in 1911 over 80 cross-channel sailings carried a tide of Irish emigrants from Dublin to Britain. Many of them were taking the first steps on a journey to their ultimate destination across the Atlantic. All of them they were leaving a country and a city that was unable to provide a basic living. Between 1891 and 1901 alone, 430,393 people – almost the equivalent of the capital’s then population – emigrated from Ireland and very often the lighthouses along Dublin’s coast was their last sight of Irish land.
These are some of the facts contained in Dublin 1911, an elegantly curated book by the Royal Irish Academy illustrating ordinary life in Ireland’s capital in a single year. Newspaper articles, advertisements and evocative photographs from the period are combined with short essays on topics such as emigration, religion, fashion and sport. Broken into calendar months, the volume chronicles the major events of the year – the visit of King George V and Queen Mary garnered most attention – and is edited by Catriona Crowe, Senior Archivist at the National Archives of Ireland.
Two of the chief – and interrelated – characteristics of Dublin at this time were endemic emigration and acute poverty. Over 26,000 families lived in inner city tenements and 20,000 of these lived in single-room dwellings. “These figures point to a city of great poverty,” says Ms Crowe. “People were getting the hell out of there because there were no jobs for them and because of the shockingly overcrowded living conditions: Dublin had worse slums in 1911 than Glasgow or London and the mortality rate was higher in Dublin than for either of those two cities.”
Familiar from the settings of Sean O’Casey plays like Juno and the Paycock and The Plough and the Stars, these harrowing conditions were largely a consequence of the exploitation of Famine refugees arriving from rural Ireland into Dublin in the late 1840s and early 1850s. “Slum landlords were able to subdivide the huge Georgian house into smaller dwellings and let them, in some cases, at quite exorbitant rents,” says Ms Crowe. “Of course, they failed to maintain them so there were a number of dreadful accidents of collapsing dwellings on Church St and Fenian St around the period of the book.”
Dublin 1911 was inspired by the National Archives of Ireland’s publication of the 1911 Irish census website, which included photographs from anthologies such as the National Library’s Lawrence Collection. “The site has been a huge success,” explains Ms Crowe. “I think it’s 600 million hits at this point in time and about 12 million unique visits. So it’s one of the most successful Irish cultural websites ever.” Developed in partnership with Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, the 1911 census is completely digitised allowing for searches by occupation, religion and profession, for example, as well as by name and area.
Previously, knowing a family’s location was vital to tracing them in the census records. Tracking rural dwellers was easier as they tended to stay in the same townland for generations. “But if your ancestors lived in urban areas where people moved around a lot, it would’ve been almost impossible to find them if you didn’t know where they were,” she says. “Because you can now search by name, you can find people that until now could never have been located.”
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Hi Jason, When I attended Catholic school (around 1950 in the USA), the nuns were careful to not conduct religious activities in the general areas of