Orderlies at Dublin Castle

Photograph from Times Pictorial archives

Orderlies at Dublin Castle, October 1953.   Photograph: Dermot Barry / The Irish Times . . . neg no 53/L/532

Orderlies at Dublin Castle, October 1953. Photograph: Dermot Barry / The Irish Times . . . neg no 53/L/532

Sat, May 11, 2013, 01:00

Published on October 3rd, 1953
Photograph by Dermot Barry

I s it Ripper Street ? Is it Foyle’s War ? No. It’s the real thing. Once upon a time in Dublin city, we had real people doing real things rather than pretending to be all historical as a backdrop for the latest oldie-goldie television drama series. And here are three smiling Dubliners going about their real-life work – as messengers, aka orderlies, at Dublin Castle.

Despite the smiles it seems that in 1953, nobody was living happily ever after at the Castle. “Take a look at the right-hand top corner of our picture,” says the caption on this front-page ‘Times Pictorial’ story. “The crumbling stone, the crooked windows, the bulging walls . . .”

Many of the Castle buildings had been condemned as unsafe and unhealthy, so a £4 million reconstruction was in the pipeline.

“The picture is of buildings in the Upper Castle Yard,” our story continues. “In the foreground are some of the messengers who will have to re-learn their way around the Castle when the reconstruction job is completed.”

Thanks to those gentle smiles, the light streaming across the courtyard and the photographer’s meticulous attention to detail, the image is uncommonly vivid. Look at that beat-up box, and the string tied around the parcels carried by the man on the right. The casual way in which the man on the left has slung his messenger bag across his left shoulder. You can almost feel the warmth of the sun on the basket of the three-wheeler.

Despite all the hoo-ha about reconstruction and re-learning, these men don’t look bothered in the least. They look about as relaxed as it’s possible to look when you’re a civil servant involved in staging a photograph for a newspaper.

Come to think of it, they’re playing their parts as competently as any highly-paid extras from a telly drama. Ripper Street , eat your heart out.

Arminta Wallace

These and other Irish Times images can be purchased from irishtimes.com/photosales