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Dublin Tenement Experience & Museum – Living The Lockout

Henrietta Street, Dublin, Ireland

In 1913 a man by the name of Jim Larkin was appalled by the way some employees were treating the men, so he urged those workers to strike. This strike went on for nearly 6 months, and it had a huge knock on effect for the workers, who had their wages suddenly stopped. There where public meetings, riots with the Police and two deaths arose from such occurrences. Number 14 Henrietta Street here in our wonderful city of Dublin was like most households effected by the wages. For the 6 months that this strike lasted, sometimes its residents only had a very small breakfast of porridge to last for the entire day.

People who went back to work during the strike where called “Scabs“ and at times had to be escorted by the then Irish Royal Constables (Police) especially if they worked on Trams as drivers. The drivers were given a handgun as protection if the matter arose. The strike ended in January 1914 when Jim Larkin urged all workers to go back and demand better wages and conditions. Jim was arrested but freed.

This is a story from number 14 Henrietta Street during those painful six months that the lock out lasted. The story has been put in to a drama play for visitors who are flocking to this street to see this very moving play about life in Dublin back in those very hard times.

I arrived for the 12pm tour, like 14 other like-minded people. We all met up in what looked like the sitting room. The lady Jenny booked us in and informed us a bit about the house. The floors are that old she states that they are very uneven, and dust rises every so often, that if you are suddenly washed over with dust from the house, you can have it for free she laughs.

We were all brought into another room that had benches laid out. We sat down and a presentation began. We were showed old pictures and we got a brief history of Henrietta place. It was designed in the 1700’s and the buildings on the street were once known as luxurious, which was down to the design of the buildings. When they where first built they were owned by very rich English Protestants who lived and owned business here before the English regime fell. In the early 1900’s after the Protestants left, Irish landlords bought them. Some of these Landlords were on various committees, with one being on the Corporation as a member of a board. The houses where rented as rooms and at any given time there could be a least 10 or more families living in one house.

During the presentation we could hear a man sing. I actually thought it was a recording which was part of the presentation, but then this man appears from the next room and calls us into that room where he is washing himself. “Pardon me” he says as he continues to wash. He is telling us a story about himself and his brother who were at a public rally that turns a bit nasty. He is telling us what a hero Jim Larkin is. A woman, who like himself is dressed as they did back then, then walks into the room and asks himself who we were. Does his mammy know we are here? She then throws out the water he was using to wash himself and pours in fresh water from a jug. She then leaves the room, and in comes his brother who appears to be injured with a gushing head wound. He then tells us what happened after he became separated from his brother – the wound in question!

We were then brought in to another room where a woman is standing. She is pregnant and says she likes to listen to her children as they sleep. She tells how her father bought them a gift of the bed, but now they may have to sell it to buy some food. She wants eight Shillings but is afraid she may get only six. After listening to her story we are suddenly aware of men shouting. We follow this woman when she asks us to, and subsequently we meet two brothers in the hallway. One is angry after the other brothers has signed a contract and has become a “Scab”. The whole tour lasted no more than 50 minutes and my only downer was they should of had some chairs for people to sit on. Some people in my group were elderly, and having to stand for a long time didn’t help them.

But it was a very good tour, that has become very popular with locals and tourists alike, so you may have to book your place in advance. Go to to book your place, or to find out more about the Dublin tenements of the past. The cost of the tour and presentation is just €5, which is great value!

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