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My Grandparents Lived in Slum Tenements in Dublin, Ireland


L.M.Reid is an Irish writer who has published many history articles online and in magazines.

Memories of an Irish family living in the Dublin tenements - Patrick and Dora Maguire in 1921.

Memories of an Irish family living in the Dublin tenements - Patrick and Dora Maguire in 1921.

Dora and Patrick Maguire 1870 - 1960

These are the memories of my grandmother who was born in 1909 in Stoneybatter, Dublin 7. She explains how her parents lived through the 1916 Easter Rising and the Irish War of Independence in 1921. How as an ordinary family living in Tenement rooms in Dublin they got on with raising their family as best they could.

This is their story

Dora Lee was born in Balbriggan in 1877 and brought up with her sisters, Tiny, Nanny, Cissy and a brother, William. She met a local lad, Patrick Maguire who was a herdsman.

They got married and moved up to Dublin in 1907. First to one room in a tenement house at 7 Blackhall Street in Stoneybatter. Their first child, Bridget, (Birdie) was born there in 1909. They then moved across the road to another room in a less crowded tenement house at 98 North King Street, Stoneybatter.

The Buildings - Stoneybatter

In 1912 they moved to a two bedroom house in Kirwan Street in Stoneybatter. These were newly built terraced houses that had been built in the area by the Artisan Dwellings Company.

They were built to house artisans who were tradesmen in affordable housing and get them out of the tenement slums. Paddy was a Baker at Kennedy’s Bakery earning £2 and 10 shillings a week so he qualified.

Dora and Patrick Maguire in 1955 in Stoneybatter Dublin Ireland

Dora and Patrick Maguire in 1955 in Stoneybatter Dublin Ireland

Stoneybatter, Dublin 7 in 1916

In 1914 they moved again this time around the corner to Kirwan Street Cottages. Birdie explains why, ‘This was because I had a baby brother by then and one day I thought it would be fun to see him go down the stairs while he was still strapped into his pram. So I let him go, pram and all. He was all right, but my mother got frightened and so we got a transfer to the cottage.’ The cottage only had one large room and one bedroom, with a small scullery at the back.

Memories of The 1916 Easter Rising

During the week of the Easter Rising in 1916 Dora and Paddy could hear the fighting all around them. They were only up the road from where some of the heaviest fighting between the Irish and British soldiers was going on in North King Street. They decided they were not safe there in Stoneybatter. Dora and her two children went to Balbriggan to stay with her mother. She was heavily pregnant with her third child Brian.

Playing out in Kirwan Street

Dora and Patrick's daughter, my Grandmother Birdie recalled, ‘The day the 1916 Rising started everyone was at the end of Kirwan Street. We could hear all the shooting in North King Street. I was only six and my brother Paddy was two.

The thing that sticks in my mind was my father. I was playing in the street when it started. He shouted at me to go inside the house. We then got ready to get the train to my mother's family in Balbriggan.

Passing the Barricades

We walked up to the North Circular Road and they had barricades up there. My mother was pregnant with Brian then so she had a hard time getting through the barricade. The lads there had to help her. I remember how the train was too, we were all packed into it, and people were on top of one another.

It was really seeing my father frightened that makes it stick in my mind; he told us afterwards that we got the last train out. We stayed in Balbriggan for the week. My Uncle Willy from Balbriggan was up in Dublin fighting in the Rising too.’

Bridget Maguire was 12 in 1921

Bridget Maguire was 12 in 1921

The End of The 1916 Easter Rising

After a week of fighting the 1916 Rising in Ireland was over. The GPO in Sackville Street, now O'Connell Street in Dublin was in ruins, only the shell of the building remained. Most of Dublin City had been shelled by the British Warship and also stood in ruins.

Surrendered to the British Soldiers

Over the next few weeks thousands of the men and women who had fought for Irish Freedom in the Easter Rising had been sent to prisons and Internment camps in England and Wales. Fourteen of the Irish soldiers including all seven of the signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic had been executed in Kilmainham Jail and all their bodies thrown into a mass pit at Arbour Hill Prison.

The People of Stoneybatter and Dublin continued Living an Ordinary Life as much as possible. Because of the executions of the Irish soldiers after the Rising the people of Ireland became more active in fighting to secure freedom from British Rule.

With the release of all of the Irish prisoners from England and Wales by December 1916 plans were once again activated to continue the fight for freedom. By 1920 the Irish people were winning the War of Independence and the British Government sent in more troops.

Stoneybatter During The Irish War of Independence

Dora, Patrick and their three children were still living at Kirwan St Cottages in Stoneybatter Dublin 7 in 1921. Dora bought a Singer Sewing machine in order to supplement the family income. It cost £11 from the Singer Sewing Machine Co Ltd, at 4 Henry Street, Dublin on 7th June 1921.

The Black and Tans

Even though this was during the worst fighting of the War of Independence ordinary life had to carry on. The Stoneybatter area of Dublin was suffering the tyranny of the Black and Tans worse than most because it had the British barracks were they were stationed just up the road in McKee barracks. But just like the rest of the country ordinary life had to go on too and families had to be clothed and fed.

The people of Dublin feared the noise of the lorries carrying the Black and Tans

The people of Dublin feared the noise of the lorries carrying the Black and Tans

Irish Civil War

After Ireland became a Free State a bitter civil war broke out between those Irish soldiers who agreed with the Treaty and those who wanted to fight on. The Free Staters won the Irish Civil War and Ireland was finally free from war after 700 years of British Occupation.

So the people of Ireland carried on living and working as best they could. Many Dublin people still lived in severe poverty and endured bad housing conditions in the city. But they found work where they could or created it like Dora did.

Harold Road In Stoneybatter Dublin 7

By 1925 Dora’s children were getting older so the family moved again this time to Harold Road, still in the Buildings, Stoneybatter Dublin 7. This was a bigger house with two bedrooms, a sitting room and a scullery. Neighbours would collect old flour bags from the shops and Dora would make them into sheets.

Once the neighbour got them back they had to hand wash them many times to get the name of the company out of the material. Dora’s daughter, Birdie says, ‘I remember standing beside my mother who was working on the machine, me wanting to get out.

I was sixteen then and always wanted to go out with my friend, Maisie Comfort. She'd keep saying, “You’re not going out tonight, no you're not." I'd be worn out standing there at the machine, begging to get out.

I can still see her now.

“You’re not going out," she'd say and she'd still be working the machine all the time, with a cigarette in her mouth. I would eventually wear her down and I’d be let out. I wouldn't mind but Maisie never had any trouble getting out, she could do what she wanted. We'd go to the dancing up in a big house belonging to the Camptons. It was there in Benburb Street. All we did was dance, nothing else. Then Maisie and me would walk home together, she lived in Kirwan Street.

Dora Maguire in Stoneybatter Dublin Ireland

Dora Maguire in Stoneybatter Dublin Ireland

A Well Known Seamstress

By the 1930s Paddy Maguire had lost his job at the Bakery due to illness. Dora Maguire became well known in Stoneybatter and the Buildings as a seamstress. Her family remember her as always sitting at the sewing machine where she would make clothes for the neighbours.

They would bring in large suits belonging to the father of the house and Dora would then make a smaller suit for the young boys as Sunday best or for their confirmation.

Even in those days of poverty it was a terrible thing to be out on the streets on a Sunday if you did not have good clothes. A lot of people who grew up in those days will remember having to stay in all day Sunday because they had nothing decent to wear.

Artisan Dwelling Company in Stoneybatter

Dora Maguire was an expert at cutting down clothes to make them into fine suits and coats for the younger members of a poor family. All the houses that were built by the Artisan Dwelling Company in Stoneybatter became known as the Buildings.

The local children in the tenement houses were fascinated by what was going on and were always up there playing. Their mothers would ‘kill them for being up near the buildings’ as it was so dangerous. The name stuck and even today in 2018 they are still known as the Buildings in Stoneybatter

Singer Sewing Machine in 1921 in Dublin

Singer Sewing Machine in 1921 in Dublin

The Maguire Family in the Buildings

Times were still hard for families in Dublin during the 1930s and during World War Two, known as the Emergency in Ireland. Dora's daughter, Bridget also lived in a cottage in the Buildings by now and was married with four small children of here own. She recalled, 'When I married Leo and had the four children things were hard, there wasn't much money about.

My mother's family in Balbriggan were well off. Aunt Tiny owned a grocery shop beside Drogheda Street and my other aunt, aunt Cissy owned a grocery shop in Drogheda Street too. Her son was an accountant and he would play tennis at the club there. He was always buying new trousers for his tennis uniform.

The old ones would be sent down to my mother and she'd make white and grey trousers to fit my two boys. They'd also get the silk shirts cut down and made to fit. My daughters would have the kilt skirts made for them.’

My Granny

Bridget's son and Dora's grandson Peter recalls an incident with his Granny Maguire in 1944. ‘One night I had a row with my father and I left the house and slept in a field in Blackhorse Lane. I was a right eejit, I was freezing.

The next day I went to the corner and spent the day with the lads playing cards. My about six o'clock I was getting hungry so I went to my granny's in Harold Road. She was always sewing but she jumped up and got me something to eat.

My Granny knew there was something wrong so I told her. She gave me my tea and when she had it ready she put her coat on and went off. When she came back I'd finished my tea, she told me to go home and it would be all right.

Then I realised she'd been down to the house in Sitric Road. I only heard the next day she'd come up and nearly bet my father around the place for letting me stay out all night. It wasn't his fault; I can't remember what we'd been arguing about really.’

Birdie Reid in Stoneybatter, Dublin 7 Ireland

Birdie Reid in Stoneybatter, Dublin 7 Ireland

The Sewing Machine Under the Window

Deirdre lived with her grandparents Dora and Patrick Maguire in the early 1950s. She remembers, “The machine was always under the window, I suppose it was because there was plenty of light there. When Granny got the old overcoats she’d first turn them inside out and then unpick them.

And she always made sure that each piece she made was pressed before she handed it over. I can still see the gas iron. There would be smoke coming from it as she pushed it over the suits. And having a gas iron was a step up from having the ones that had to be heated on the open fire. Oh when I think of it now.

Cigarette in her Mouth

She never inhaled it; it would sit there on the corner of her mouth just burning away. The whole ash would stay on the butt until it reached the end, I don’t know how she managed it. And when it did drop off it never went near the clothes she was working on.

She taught me how to sew on the machine but I always preferred to hand sew. I did the hems of the garments for her. When I was a teenager with my cousins Maureen and Pauline, we’d go into town to buy material. We’d explain to granny what type of style of dress we wanted and she would be able to draw the pattern onto newspapers out of her head. We had beautiful summer dresses made that way.’

Dora and Paddy Maguire

Her daughter Bridget remembered, ‘I can still see the machine in the room now, she had it out until she died. My father had died of a brain haemorrhage in 1955, the day after St Stephens's day. Five years later my mother fell in the scullery and broke her hip. She died from it about six weeks later.'

What Happened to Dora's Sewing Machine?

The Singer sewing machine was put under the stairs in the house in Harold Rd. It was still there until 2008 when Dora’s granddaughter Deirdre sold the house. Dora’s great great granddaughter Teresa used the desk of the sewing machine in her house where it is kept safe along with the memories of Dora Maguire.

Teresa used the beautiful table as a computer desk in her sitting room for a few years. Her sister Kathleen has now taken the table to her house and uses a modern Singer sewing machine on it. Teresa still lives in the Buildings in Stoneybatter Dublin 7 in 2018. Her sons, Quinn and Reid are now the 6th generation of the Maguire Family.

There were many families in Stoneybatter and all over Dublin who experienced the fighting and turmoil of Irish independence as they fought and won freedom British rule. Dora and Patrick Maguire were part of just one of so many ordinary Dublin families living in extraordinary times during the 1916 Easter Rising and the Irish War of Independence in Ireland.

Dora Maguire's Sewing Machine Table

Dora Maguire's Sewing Machine Table

Other Articles by L.M.Reid


L M Reid (author) from Ireland on July 31, 2020:

Hello Joan, yes Broadstone was a great place to live too. Both Stoneybatter and Broadstone were so close to Dublin City but were like villages too.

Joan Donohoe Slaughter on July 27, 2020:

Loved reading your story what memories ,i lived in Broadstone not far from Kierwan street cottages knew people in that area in the early sixties

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on August 04, 2019:

Hello Jacinta, glad you like it. Yes they were both our Great Grandparents.

Jacinta gethins nee finlayson on August 03, 2019:

I was so interested in this article as it is about my family too my mother was the sister of Leo Reid so he was my uncle i remember antie Birdie very well and her endless cups of tea so thank you again xx

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on November 26, 2017:

Hello Fiona, I'm glad you liked it. They had very interesting lives and I was delighted that Nannie was able to tell me all about the family history.

Fiona nolan on November 26, 2017:

Hi I an Deirdre Maguire daughter and it was lovely to read about my granddad Brian and my great grand parents thanks xx

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on November 23, 2017:

Hello Jacinta, I am glad you found the article and enjoyed it.

Yes Nannie was a great character she had so many stories to tell me.

If you go to the top right of this article under the heading -Related - you can click on my other article that is all about Bridget Maguire herself.

It is called - Memories of Black and Tan Raids in Ireland in 1921.

Jacinta gethins nee finlayson on November 22, 2017:

It was lovely to read about auntie birdie and see photos brought back memories

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on January 28, 2015:

The memories of ordinary people who lived through these terrible times in Ireland keeps our history alive.

Thank you GarlicAngel for taking the time to leave a coment

Christine from Dublin on January 25, 2015:

Great article Viking keep up the good work


Peter Lee on January 27, 2013:

Thank you. Replied via email

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on January 26, 2013:

Hello Peter Lee It is great that you have contacted me. You can email me at lorreid2@gmail.com

Searcher1, I have published the above comment to allow Peter to access my email. I see that the 'Contact Me' button is no longer available to readers on the top of hubs.

Peter Lee on January 26, 2013:

Your article on the MAGUIRE family was fascinating. I believe we are descended from the same Gt, Gt Grandfather in Balbriggan DOMINICK LEE (c1828 - 1895) of BALBRIGGAN. Your Gt Grandfather THOMAS would have been a brother to PATRICK LEE (1852 - c1912). I am trying to extend and prove the family tree and hope you will contact me to help. How do we make direct contact. & Keep up the good work - your contributions to the hub look very interesting indeed.

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on January 20, 2013:

Yes Beresford Street is just off North King Street so your granddad would have been in a very dangerous area.

The Black and Tans were always raiding the streets around that area and I have heard many terrifying stories of that time.

It is something Irish people like your granddad would never forget if he experienced it.

JemTyrrell on January 13, 2013:

My grandad lived in Beresford St at that time,he talked about the brutality of the Tans up to his death in the mid 7os.

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on September 23, 2012:

If your grandfather lived in Beresford Street during the Irish War of Independence then he would have suffered badly at the hands of the Black and Tans.

This street is just off North King Street where the terrible raids and murders took place which I write about more throughly in this article here https://owlcation.com/humanities/Kevin-Barry-hange...

micheli on August 22, 2012:

This was very interesting Viking! I like the personal accounts you place in your article. Life must have been so difficult right in the thick of it. My grandparents grew up in this era as well. My Grandmother on Spencer Avenue and my Grandfather at multiple addresses - Berresford St., Lower Sheriff, and Newfoundland St. To name a few. According to my mother, My Grandfather was beaten by the Black and Tans while trying to vanquish a curfew. He bore the scars on his forhead for the rest of his life. They made the lives of ordinary people so difficult. I have been to Dublin this past March and the previous and will be there in 2013. I will have to do a Rebellion Tour.

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on July 18, 2012:

Thank you Martin for the comment. Yes it is amazing what my family and other Irish families had to live through during those historic times of our country

Martin on June 09, 2012:

Thanks for this Viking. Very interesting.

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on May 02, 2012:

Sorry Patrick I have looked at the census of 1901 but there is no mention of a John and Patrick. My great grandmother Lee ran the pub and shop there and my Grannie said they had money but that is all the info I have. The Balbriggan Maguire side of the family were herders.

patrick maguire on February 17, 2012:

see if you recognise anything, i think patrick and john were ist cousins, the lees lived in chapel st near our cousins, the orange family. we and the burkes, more cousins ran a bakery and leather shop at the corner of clonard and drogheda sts. james maguire my gt grandfather was also a baker. there were not many maguires in urban balbriggan and by 1901 most had left, i do see hugh maguire and his sister married to a burke and her two daughters who ran the leather shop well into the fifties. patrick

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on February 16, 2012:

Thank you everyone for reading and taking the time to leave a comment.

Patrick. They may be. I have the census form for 1901 and will look it up. Clonard Street in Balbriggan where your grandfather lived is the street that was burnt to the ground by the Black and Tans in 1921.

My grandmother told me about that night too. I have her story in another article here.


Patrick Maguire, younguard@hotmail.com on February 16, 2012:

my grandfather john maguire from clonard st balbriggan worked in kennedys bakery from around 1900 till 1926. i wonder were they related, the whole family were bakers and still are. he also had a brother christopher who lived on city quay. related, maybe? i know they also had an address on drogheda st

Gandolf on November 18, 2011:

`Great piece of work

marie on September 25, 2011:

Does anyone know of the history of Oldcourt,Dublin during the time of the Easter uprising. My father was born there and I am trying to trace his family.

jonihnj from Metro New York on January 26, 2011:

This is excellent! I am on the lookout for such recollections from ordinary citizens for my book. Your descriptions are so real that I feel I'm sitting and chatting with someone who was there in 1916. Thanks for putting this together. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in that part of Irish history.

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on June 08, 2010:

Thanks for reading Dave. I have 7 other articles I have written on the history of Stoneybatter. You can find them if you go to the top of this page and click on my PROFILE name which is viking305, this will give you the list.

I am a 5th generation Stoneybatter resident myself. I know Kanes shop well. I also set up a Stoneybatter Dublin 7 site on Facebook where you can chat away to others from the area. You can find the link on my Profile page here. Would love you to post any old photos of Kanes there too.

Thanks again

Dave Kilmartin on June 08, 2010:

Hi Viking,

Thanks for posting the article on Stoneybatter, my family are original from Stoneybatter and have a long history with the street since 1897.

My grandfather was born and bred and ran a family fruit and flower shop "Kanes" on the street.

He also fought in 1916 in the GPO, and was interned in various prisons Irish and UK prisons.

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on April 26, 2010:

Thanks for your comment 2patricias. The table is sturdy and the machine very heavy so I can imagine it was a pleasure to sew on with. Thanks for reading the hub

2patricias from Sussex by the Sea on April 26, 2010:

Wonderful history.

I learned to sew on a Singer machine like the one in the photo. It was so easy because I had total control of the speed. I've never had such good results with a modern electric machine.

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on April 20, 2010:

To Casangel and Best man thks for your comments much appreceated. to Jay, yes it was a lot of money then when the rent on their cottage was only a few shillings a week. I have a 'notice of rent arrears' around that time too so looks like that's how she got some of the money together.

But as she spent the rest of her life sewing for the people of Stoneybatter and getting paid for it, it looks like it was a sound investment.

Janet on April 20, 2010:

Was £11 not a lot of money in those days?

The Best Man on April 19, 2010:

As someone who doesn't who only lives 4 miles away from Stoneybatter I found that look into an Ireland of bygone days fascinating, thanks for this great hub.

Casangel on April 11, 2010:

very interesting,loved the way you told a story of ordernary Dublin people living their lifes

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on April 06, 2010:

Thanks for your comment Jay. I find it fasinating the way people coped with their day to day lives,especially when they lived during such interesting times. The lady in question was my great grandmother. I was always interested in Irish history and was lucky enough that my grandmother, Dora daughter, lived till she was 98 and had so many stories to tell me.

THanks for taking the time to read it

Jay on April 06, 2010:

I really enjoyed that, is was so easy to read and very informative

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on April 01, 2010:

Thanks for your comments much appreciated.

Yes I agree with you about the banks. We the tax payer through our Government here in Ireland have just bailed out our Irish Banks to the tune of 40 Billion Euros. And I know a few people who are now in negative equity with their homes and have lost their jobs.

It seems to me that the rich get away with it and us ordinary hard working paople have to carry on and pay for their mistakes

Eileen Hughes from Northam Western Australia on April 01, 2010:

viking, you know I really loved that story, yes it was sad and human at the same time. Family was family and looked after one another more back then than today. You worked hard and battled through.

These days couples want a 4 bed house and everything that opens and shuts. They can not wait until they have the money. Instead they lose there home and contents because they are greedy and want more than they can afford.

In my opinion start small and cheap. own it and you will be rich. Why let the banks and big businesses make money out of you. Yes I am rambling. But any way great hub thanks for sharing this.

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on March 31, 2010:

Thanks for the comment much appreciated.

Yes I got your answer to my questions about the quiz and links thanks very much.

Rebecca E. from Canada on March 31, 2010:

a cool bit of hisotry and yes even the people are extraordinary.


PS, I think I answered your question.

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