‘Magnificent’ Lockout production in former Dublin tenement house
President attends performance at Number 14 Henrietta Street which illustrates impact on families of 1913 strike
President Michael D Higgins attends the Dublin Tenement Experience: Living the Lockout with, among others, Dublin City Heritage officer Charles Duggan and Lord Mayor Oisín Quinn. Photograph: Dave Meehan
President Michael D Higgins described a performance of the Dublin Tenement Experience: Living the Lockout he attended yesterday as “a wonderful contribution to the ethics of our memory”. It was “a magnificent presentation” which he hoped would be run again.
Devised and developed by Anu Productions, it has been performed at the former tenement house Number14 Henrietta Street since July 4th last and ends today after a run which was booked out for weeks. It illustrated the impact on families of the momentous events that took place in Dublin in 1913 during the Lockout that year.
Audience numbers are limited to 15 per performance as was also the case with that attended by the President yesterday afternoon.
The event is sponsored by Dublin City Council, the 1913 Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, and the Irish Heritage Trust, each of whom was represented in the welcoming group which greeted Mr Higgins on his arrival in Henrietta Street yesterday.
Also in attendance was Dublin Lord Mayor Oisín Quinn, Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte, Minister of State Joe Costello, MEP Emer Costello, David Begg and Joe Flynn of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Kevin Baird of the Irish Heritage Trust, Charles Duggan of Dublin City Council, and Pádraig Yeates, author of Lockout:Dublin 1913.
Before the performance Mr Higgins remarked that at one time 835 people lived in the 15 houses on Henrietta Street, the oldest Georgian Street in Dublin.
He commented that such was the level of infant mortality it wasn’t unusual for the corpse of an infant to be left in a shoebox until such time as the family could afford burial.
He was informed that, according to the 1911 census, 17 families amounting to 100 people lived in number 14 Henrietta Street. And he spoke of the “upperosity” and “snobocracy” which caused the original well-off residents of the street to go “to the suburbs very quickly”.
Among those present at number 14 yesterday was Peter Brannigan whose family of 13 lived in the smallest room in the house until 1949. He “remembers it well”. There were “11 of us and our parents. Then we moved to Donnycarney and there were two more”. It was “harsh” living on Henrietta Street, he said, but his family was “blessed with good parents”. He had “happy memories” of living there.
He remembered other families who lived in other rooms in the house back then “the Dowlings, the Kanes, the Hourihanes”.
There were so many in the house “we had to get on with one another. If love was food we have an abundance of it.”
Number 14 was built in 1748 and families lived there until 1981. Its first owner was Richard, Third Viscount Molesworth, a government privy councillor and commander in chief of the army in Ireland. One of his daughter’s, also called Henrietta, was great, great grandmother of writer CS Lewis best known as author of The Chronicles of Narnia.
Number 14 was taken over by Dublin City Council in 2001. It is undertaking extensive renovation work there.