a chequered history
Exchequer Street ~1879Courtesy of the Irish Architectural Archive. Taken ~1879 by South City Markets. The shanty is J. Hendrick, provisions. No. 38, Mansfield's (now Central Hotel Chambers) is a grocers.Dame Court is between Hendrick’s and Mansfield’s.
The market limped on until it was mysteriously destroyed by fire on August 27 ,1892. While the building itself was well insured (£72,000) many stall holders lost their livelihoods and their living quarters, which were situated overhead.Irish architect W.H. Byrne undertook the extensive renovations. He removed the central spire and converted the main hall into an arcade. He also replaced a lot of the timber work with iron. The market rose again phoenix like on September 13th, 1894, and now firmly in the good books of the shopping public once more.
Known today simply as George's Arcade, its literary connections come in the disreputable shape of Corley and Lenehan, the "Two Gallants" of Joyce's Dubliners. Corley worked at Pim’s Department Store while Lenehan killed time here during the story as he waited for Corley to complete his mission.
History indicates that the deadliest time to be on the street was between 9 and 10am in the morning. At least three assassinations occurred on the street during the War of Independence (1919-1921) and two at this unlikely hour.These operations were especially risky as they were carried out in the shadow of Dublin Castle.
The shooting of the mysterious Bryan Fergus Molloy, a suspected spy who had been trying to make contact with the rebels, took place on the 24th of March,1920. The operation didn't go smoothly. Passersby tried to detain the assassins and a cyclist blocked one gunman's getaway outside St. Andrew’s Church. Historyeye believes the identity of the young spy may be that of Frederick Vernon Maximilian McNulty, a Manchester-born son of Irish parents with a chequered career in the British Army. Having been discharged from the Army Service Corps in 1914 for being underage, McNulty joined the RAF in 1917 before apparently deserting the following year to re-join the ASC under the assumed name, B.F. Molloy. A clerk and a commercial traveller by profession, Frederick McNulty's Air Force Record appears to give the game away about who he was.
William Doran, a night porter at the Wicklow Hotel (now the AIB Bank) was shot dead on the street shortly after ending his shift on the 28th of January 1921. He had been passing on information to British Intelligence about the comings and goings at the hotel which was a favourite meeting spot for Michael Collins and Liam Tobin.
The giant-sized British Intelligence officer, Captain Cecil Folder Harcourt Lees, may have thought he was safe as houses when he checked into the nondescript "dry" hotel on Exchequer street.(St. Andrew’s Temperance Hotel is now a row of shops on the street's south side.) The experienced Harcourt Lees, nicknamed "The Frenchman", had come to Dublin to carry out reconnaissance with a view to wiping out the Irish leaders. But a chance sighting of him at La Scala Picture House off O'Connell Street led an IRA hit squad from GHQ Intelligence to his door. Following the coded message to "oggs him" by the Big Fella, he was shot dead on Exchequer Street shortly after 9.30am, the 29th of March, 1921.
More information on Michael Collin's close involvement with this and other streets in the area can be got from Lorcan Collin's informative Michael Collins Tour which has its starting point outside the International Bar.
The Deadliest Hour
Today the street is probably best known for its shoe shops and some music shops. But in the mid 19th century, the general provision dealer dominated the street, followed by clock and watch makers. Then as now, hair dressers were numerous on the street though they tended to cater to wig making. In general 19th century Exchequer Street had
9 provision dealers
5 clock and watch makers
4 wig and hair dressers
3 eating houses
On 1-9 Exchequer Street the popular Central Hotel stands. Before being a hotel a dairy stood here, then a grocery and then an eating house.The hotel was originally two storeys high and was built by the South City Market Company in 1887. W.H. Byrne, the architect who renovated the Markets after the 1892 fire, added two storeys and a mansard roof in 1891. Some members of British Intelligence based themselves here during the War of Independence. There had been a plan to organise a hit on the hotel during this time but as the hotel staff refused to divulge the rooms of the officers to the would-be assassins and the hotel stood so close to Dublin Castle, the plan was abandoned.
The Old Stand Pub is at No. 37 and has been owned by the Doran family since the 1950s. Murals are by Cecil Ffrench Salkeld (1904-69), Beatrice Behan’s father. It is the only building on the street to retain its Georgian facade. In the late 19th century the bar was owned by Tipperary-born merchant, Thomas J. Ryan and was called The Monico. It isn’t clear why the Ryans chose this name. Thomas Ryan’s wife had a French grandfather : the hatter, Prosper Loré who came to Dublin to set up business in the 1840s. Before the Doran family took over, it was owned by John Condon of Kilmacud,a motorcycle enthusiast who made it the headquarters to the Dublin & District Motorcycle Club. The Monico was sold after his death in 1951 and was renamed The Old Stand.
Some now defunct trades such as as tripe dressing were based on this street during the 19th century due to the nearby location of the Castle and South City meat markets. The ultimate cheap cut, tripe had to be meticulously cleaned and prepared to make it fit for human consumption. There are echoes of this popular staple in the food emporium of Fallon and Byrne, where French-style tripe sausages (andouillettes) can be bought today. But the voices of the Central Telephone Exchange which once swirled around this high-ceilinged building are silent forever.
Denise Dowdall February 2018