Lately, while working on the concept behind the ’Scene within Scene’ photos, I’ve spent quite a lot of time viewing the digital online archive of the National Library of Ireland. For anyone who hasn’t checked out the extensive database I wholeheartedly recommend doing so. I have literally spent hours trying to work out where in Dublin certain images come from. Although Dublin has an extensive network of old streets and buildings hundreds of years old there has also been much regeneration and changes in the urban environment. It was while looking through the archive that I came across some pictures of an old Dublin area called Mullinahack. There are six photos in total taken by James Talbot-Power between 1889-1891 on the NLI website. As I searched around on old maps and through history books I found very little about the area, a place that existed since the 12th century until seemingly the 20th century. The area that Mullinahack was located in is roughly the neighbourhood bounded now by John Street, St Augustine Street and the Oliver Bond flats. Walking around the vicinity most of the local streets such as John Street West remain pretty much unchanged however the area of Mullinahack and the street structure that is shown in early maps of Dublin seems to have all but disappeared. There is a a short 40 metre length of Oliver Bond Street that is labelled Mullinahack, only one building inhabits the space (this being the Liberties Community Training Agency in the Good Counsel Centre).
From the 1872 Harper map and all subsequent maps Mullinahack seems to no longer be listed, and if we trace the area on to current maps it shows clearly that the region wasn’t modest in size and took up a lot of the same space as the current Oliver Bond flats do, but before we explore the death of Mullinahack we should delve into its beginnings. The area of Mullinahack was located just outside the old Dublin City walls almost from the inception of the city. A large number of mills sprouted up in the area to tend to the needs of the growing population within in the city walls. The area was originally referred to in writings as ‘Muileann an Caca’ in Irish which essentially means the unclean/excrement/filthy mill, which may have had to do with the fact that a lot of the waste from the mills, along with animal and human excrement from inside the city walls was dumped in the area leading to a terrible odour. According to 19th century historian Sir John Thomas Gilbert the earliest reports of a mill in Mullinahack come from the close of the 12th century. More mills continued to be built in the area over the subsequent centuries and in 1670 a covered watercourse called the Glib River was built to serve the mills,. The river ran through Thomas Street, to a cistern at New Row and onwards towards the north side of the city (this would’ve been branched off from the Poddle River which still runs under Dublin City.).
The area remained the home for mills and in the 1760s a Sugar refinery existed in the area. In a 1780 census Edward & John Byrne are listed as the owners of the refinery, manufacturing ‘Sugar Loaf’. During the Georgian era sugar was processed into a conical lump of crystallized sugar wrapped in brown paper, individuals purchased slices cut from the ‘Sugar loaf’. The Dublin Street directory of 1862 tells us the following about the area. Mullinahack lane housed a Joseph Levy (float owner) and five houses in ‘tenements, ruins and stables’, The area of Mullinahack itself only lists four households (mainly due to the fact the area was primarily for commercial use), these inhabitants are listed as follows – Luke Dunn (comb maker), John Magee (builder) Walter Birmingham (printer) and Joseph Kelly who owned timber and slate stores on Thomas and Francis St. Other sources list the professions of those in Mullinahack at various times over the past 350 years as linen and wool merchants, grocers and spirit merchants, cotton weavers and a hat dealer.
One of the most famous residents of Mullinahack was Anne Devlin, a prominent Republican figure and housekeeper to Robert Emmet. Another Republican from the area was John Farrell a cotton weaver who was captured during the 1798 rebellion. The area seemed to decline in the early part of the 20th century and has been largely forgotten, though the 40 metres or so of street labelled Mullinahack pay homage to an area that once was.
* If anyone has any further information in relation to Mullinahack please feel free to email me at any time or comment here.