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Roz Kavanagh
living history

Call for former Dublin tenement residents to share their memories

The tenements play a big role in Dublin’s history.

FORMER RESIDENTS OF Dublin’s tenements are being encouraged to share their memories as part of a Dublin City Council initiative. 

Tomorrow, the award-winning tenement museum, 14 Henrietta Street, is opening up its doors to collect memories of those who once lived there or grew up in a Dublin tenement.

This is the first of a number of Your Tenement Memories community sessions taking place across Dublin. The aim of the initiative is to ensure the preservation of the lives, memories and stories of tenement Dublin.

The events are run by Dublin City Council Culture Company and will kick off with an open day tomorrow (from 10am – 1pm and 2pm to 4pm) in 14 Henrietta Street.

Those who lived in a tenement or knew someone who did can go along to reminisce, so that their living histories can be captured and preserved for future generations.

Tracy Bardon, culture coordinator for Dublin City Council Culture Company, told The Journal that the community sessions were also running pre- and during the Covid period, though people gave their stories over the phone. Now, they’re getting to go back into the communities and meet people face to face.

“It’s very casual, and we always have a cup of tea and a biscuit,” she said of the sessions. “We just chat, and it’s really lovely because people think they don’t have anything to say – they come in for a look, and an hour later they’re still talking and memories are falling out.”

She said it feels “humble” to hear people’s memories: “We laugh, we cry, it’s emotional – just such a nice thing to do.” Bardon said that hearing people’s personal stories is really important, and they have shown her the sense of community in the tenements. 

“We would look back now and say they were living in poor conditions and poverty, but it was their lives – they didn’t think that. They thought they were as well off as anyone else. It was a real tight community, there might be three or four branches of one family living in a street.”

Some of the memories will be used on the tours at 14 Henrietta St, though people will be able to ask that their stories are kept anonymous or kept private. The council has also published a number of books about tenement living. 

“They think they just had an ordinary life but for me listening, their stories are extraordinary,” said Bardon of the former residents. “For people to know their story is important, and their story is part of history.”

Copy of Image by Senija Topcic

As well as Henrietta St, they want to collect stories from tenement residents who were relocated from the city centre to suburbs such as Cabra, Drimnagh, Ballymun, Crumlin, Ballyfermot and Finglas, a major city movement which began in the 1930s up to the 1970s.

A series of drop-in events will run in these areas over the coming months in local libraries and community centres, to encourage people to share their memories of this time.

“At 14 Henrietta Street, we want to listen as well as speak to visitors, along with previous residents of the house and other tenement houses of the City. Memories are at the very heart of social history and bring the museum to life,” says Iseult Byrne, CEO of Dublin City Council Culture Company.

“The museum is a special place for people that wouldn’t normally see themselves represented in history and is a house where they can come to have a chat, reminisce, and feel like they’ve been transported back to their own house, or that of their mother or grandmother.”

The memories are collected and preserved in line with international museum standards.

The Culture Company said that the building of a documentary record of Dublin’s social history is done through recorded interviews “and underpinned with principles of ethics, consent and accountability”. These memories “will contribute to the existing Collection of memories and will inform cultural programming, tours and events for 14 Henrietta Street”.

Your Tenement Memories community sessions will take place:

  • Tuesday, 3 May: 14 Henrietta Street, Dublin 1, 10am – 12pm and 2pm – 4pm
  • Tuesday, 10 May: Cabra Library, Navan Road, Dublin 7, 10am – 12pm
  • Wednesday, 11 May: Ballymun Library, Ballymun Road, Dublin 9, 10am – 12pm
  • Monday, 16 May: Ballyfermot Library, Kylemore Road, Dubin 10, 10am – 12pm
  • Wednesday, 18 May: Richmond Barracks, Inchicore, Dublin 8, 10am – 12pm
  • Monday, 23 May: Pearse St Library reading room, 144 Pearse St. Dublin 2, 10am – 12pm
  • Tuesday, 24 May: Finglas Library, Finglas Village Centre, Dublin 11, 10am – 12pm
  • Tuesday, 31 May: Central Library, Ilac Shopping Centre, Dublin 1, 10am – 12pm
  • Tuesday, 7 June: Dolphins Barn Community Centre, Dublin 8, 10 am – 12pm
  • Wednesday, 8 June: Coolock Library, Dublin 17, 10am – 12pm,
  • Monday, 13 June: Ballybough Community Centre, Dublin 3, 2pm – 4pm
  • Tuesday, 14 June: Walkinstown Library, Percy French Road, Dublin 12, 10am – 12pm
  • Monday, 20 June: Kevin Street Library, 18 Lower Kevin Street, Dublin 8, 10am – 12pm
  • Monday, 27 June: Aughrim Street Parish Centre, Dublin 7, 10am – 12pm

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