Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tantum Ergo Sum

This is Clanbrassil Street during Dublin's last Eucharistic Congress in 1932.

And this is a recent Tweet from the current Congress Organisers inviting people to decorate their street. No doubt they are hoping for something approaching the 1932 Bunting Blitz.The link in the Tweet brings you to the Congress shop from where you can order flags and bunting.

There appears to me to be one big gap here. People are not being advised to consult their neighbours on whether they wish to be engulfed in this blaze of triumphalist flagwaving or not.

In 1932 Clanbrassil Street was the main Jewish shopping street in Dublin. Each golden pin above represents a Jewish shop, between Leonard's Corner and St. Kevin's Parade.

It is most unlikely that the Jews were consulted on their views on that particular triumphalist outpouring. That was not how it was done then. In fact the Lord Mayor of the Day, Alfie Byrne, pledged the loyalty of all the citizens of Dublin to the Pope, both during the Congress and in the course of his subsequent audience in the Vatican.

And, had they been asked, it is unlikely the Jews of the day, crucifiers of Christ as they still were then, would have had the nerve or the inclination to question the bunting, the procession or anything else which might have been proposed for the Congress. Of course, since 1969 we have all become much more sensitive to these matters on this island.

Today most of the Jews are gone. Some left the country after WWII for more favourable economic climes or to participate in establishing the State of Israel. Others transferred to the leafy glades of Terenure. And such few ethnic shops as are now left in Clanbrassil Street are Halal rather than Kosher.

Today we have an ethnically more diverse community across the city, and, even within the "Roman Catholic" population, there are many to whom such an outpouring of zealotry would be offensive in the wake of the clerical abuse scandals and the recent retreat of the Vatican into the theological and pastoral Bunker.

This Congress promises to be a very interesting one indeed.


  1. If you want, you can play around with an interactive version of the Google map here.

    Hovering over the coloured buttons will bring up tool tips explaning their function.

    In the present context the two yellow buttons are relevant. The first shows the area of Little Jerusalem off the South Circular Road in Dublin. The second shows the Jewish shops on Clanbrassil Street and it is from this that the screenshot in the above post is taken. Hovering over each of the pins will bring up the name of the establishment in the box at the top of the screen

  2. I have just been reading H.Ll. Williams's book At Angor yn Nulyn, in the English tranlation by the author's son, and I was surprised to learn that the papal flag flew over the Chapel House of the Calvanistic Methodists' Welsh Chapel in Talbot Street during the 1932 Eucharistic Congress, because Catholics were living in the house in those days. Amazing.

  3. I came to this site after finding my Irish grandmother lived on this street with many other Irish people in 1901. I was looking for street photos. I found similar Irish named residences in 1908 via the census. So I find it strange to see Clanbrassil Street being claimed as Jewish area. If it was, it must have been for only a very limited time and after a large number of Irish people left to US destinations.

  4. @ Anonymous

    If you go to this map and click the button for Little Jerusalem and then the one for shops you may get a clearer picture.

    At its peak, there were more than 3,000 Jews in Dublin and most of them lived in the area around Portobello/SCR which was known as Little Jerusalem. Numbers declined sharply after WWII and a lot of those remaining ended up in Terenure.

    At one time, some of the streets in the area had a majority of Jewish residents.

    Clanbrassil street was the main Jewish shopping street and if you hover over the shop markers in the map you will see the wide variety of services provided there to the Jewish community of the day. That is not to say that there were not many non-Jews living on that street or on many of the others within Little Jerusalem.

    If you have an interest in the area and in the Jewish community there, Cormac Ó Gráda's book "Jewish Ireland in the age of Joyce" is worth a read.