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Looking Back At Dublin Street Criers

Looking Back At Dublin Street Criers – In this article, Craig O Reilly discusses the history of Dublin’s famous street cryers

If you were walking through Dublin in the run up to Christmas, you may have seen street vendors selling gifts. You might even have heard them before you had seen them; crying out they had all the latest gear for the girls and boys.

This practice of shouting or crying out what’s on sale is actually a very old practice in Dublin (as well as in other cities). Hawking is a term that is used somewhat derogatively nowadays, but it has always been seen as a legitimate form of trading and often required a license.

In 1924, George W.M Panter in The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland noted the practice had been going on since medieval times:

“So far from being viewed as pests, these ambulatory traders, who bought as well as sold, were really beloved of the people.”

Take Molly Malone, the legendary fishwife who is said to have walked the streets of Dublin selling her wares before dying of fever. Many will be familiar with the lyrics to her famous song:

“And she wheeled her wheel-barrow

Through streets broad and narrow

Selling Cockles and Muscles

Alive, Alive, Oh”


Well, the “alive, alive, Oh” part is an old advertisement used by street criers letting people know the fish is so fresh it may still be alive:

Fresh Herrings, Large Dublin-bay Herrings

Alive here-Here’s a large fresh

Cod alive here- Here’s Large soles or

Places alive or Fine Boyne Salmon.”


When you read these old cries you start to imagine Dublin City coming to life. A lot of them have the wit and humour which is part of the Irish character. Some of them are cheeky, while others are endearing:

“Who buys the Black_Pans? Who buys the Black-Pans?

Who buys? Here’s the Earten-Ware: Here’s

the China, but where’s the Money?”


Piping hot, smoking hot, come and buy what I’ve got,

Hot cakes hot: -One a-penny, two a-penny,

Diddle, diddle Dumpling Cakes.”


It’s often said there’s too much negativity in the news these days, but this old Dublin cry informs us it was always so:

“Bloody News, Last Night’s Packet, bloody News-

Here’s the Monthly Magazines, and all the newest



Most of the information we have for the street cries themselves comes from a sheet of illustrations which was in George Panter’s possession when he wrote his piece. It was unclear who had printed them originally. At the time he believed it to be the only one, though copies of it have resurfaced online in recent years. The figures depicted were most likely drawn from life, and each has the particular cry written underneath. Although only thirty are recorded in the document, there were probably hundreds more.

We also have a record from the great Irish writer Jonathan Swift, who tended to take an interest in all things witty. He was apparently in good standing with the street traders and even wrote some verses for them to sell their wares:

“Buy my herrings

Fresh from Malahide

Better never was tried.”


“Come, eat them with pure fresh butter and mustard

Their bellies are soft, and as white as a custard,

Come, sixpence a dozen, to get me some bread”


Today, you will find the practice relegated to Moore street and a few others, or the Christmas markets. With so much advertising and marketing plastered across every brick and stone of Dublin City, it seems hard for anyone with even with the most musical voice to compete. Still, the cries of Dublin exist and will continue to exist in the minds of those who heard them growing up.









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