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  • Writer's pictureAustin Rock

The Georgian Gangs of Olde Dublin

18th Century Georgian gangs reflected all classes of Dubliners, both rich and poor. The gangs activities highlighted at times the near state of anarchy and chaos that was the Dublin of the 18th century. Gangs would seek retribution upon each other, on authority, where present at public executions, executioners where never safe. Bailiffs and Constaples where beaten and killed, there was real serious violence. For example, Paul Farrell (Gallows Paul) was a notorious Constaple, he was the inpsiration for Swifts ditty Kevan Bayl's (Bailiff/Constaple) in the Yahoo's Overthrow.

Farrell in 1734 ran foul of both the Ormond and Liberty Boys who both combined to dish out "Club-Law" as it was known. He was "arrested" beaten dragged naked through the streets, castrated and hanged. Swift had a run in with a Constaple, Richard Battersby, who abused Swift and Swift taunted him with this:

Kevin Baile

"We'll Colt him through St Kevin's, St Patrick's, and Donore

And Smithfield as rap was ne'er colted before

We'll Oil him with Kennel, and powder him with grains

A modus right fit for insulters of Dean's"

From the Yahoo's overthrow

Renowned contemporary, a Doctor Dearse reflected on these gangs character "..habitual and wilful idlers, slow to labour, but quick at riot and uproar"

Dr. Dearse remarked also on the amount of broken bones from street fighting! " I had so many of those wretched patients.....(He called them).....The Ormond fractures"

So here are the most notorious actual Gangs of Georgian Dublin

Trinity Bucks - in the early 1700's rowdy and bawdy rich malecontents

The cherokee's - associated with the Hellfire Club on Cork Hill and Eustace Street

The Swan's a ruthless gang of Jacobite assassin's and cut throats - got their name from the Swan's Rest Inn on Corkhill

Kevan Bail -(1729-30) - a gang from the Liberty of St Kevin - as remarked by Laetitia Pilkington in her memoir's Vol 1

They became the Liberty Boys (Weavers usually Protestant-1740+)

The Smithfield Bail - (1729-30) - a gang from the Smithfield and Ormond Quay area

Became The Ormond Boys-1740+)

+Note Bail was a play on Bailiff or Constaple

The Pinkingdindies - is also a play on Dublin words like Pinking (Stabbing/pricking) Dandies (Wealthy Well dressed Idle Rich)

The Nuns! - These where prostitutes dressed in white robes and they entertained the Hell Fire Club members - now there was a sting in the tail. If you harmed them they got to work on you with an Irish Skeain - an 18" Irish fighting knife you ended up like the Joker in Batman!

And surely the strangest gang I love these! - The Cutting Weavers - out of work Weavers who sought retribution on imported cloth and silks and all who wore and sold them.

A contemporary described their actions thus "These delinquents were weavers out of work, and they considered their want of employment proceeded from the fashion of wearing India nankeens, muslins, &c., and French silks. For the purpose of deterring persons from the wear of these articles of dress, they assembled in numerous bodies, and, with knives made for the occasion, cut every foreign dress worn by man or woman, no matter of what rank, if they were walking, and, in some cases, have stopped carriages, and destroyed ladies' dresses, putting every one to the knife, and in terror and fear of their life"

Basically a woman or man would be set upon and her dress cut to ribbons. Those selling these fine cloths ended up being tarred and feathered and then dumped in the Liffey.

Here is a description of the Ormond Boys - "A set of fellows of the lowest description, frequenting Ormond Market, assistants and carriers from slaughter-houses, joined by cattle-drivers from Smithfield, stable-boys, helpers, porters, and idle drunken vagabonds in the neighbourhood of Ormond Quay, formed a body of fighting men, armed with falchions"

Note: I will be running this tour every weekend running right through October and to the New Year. Details shortly.

#culstories #austinrocktourguide #gangsofgeorgiandublin #medivaldublin #dublinwalkingtours

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