“The yard had been levelled and the cowshed was gone but as soon as I walked in I put it together in my mind and could see everything just as it used to be.”
This is the story that had NewsFour staff riveted recently when Joe McDonnell dropped into the office with a collection of photographs, some going back as far as the 1920s.
He did not come here about a story and was not seeking to be published. Rather, he wanted to submit an image for the current month of the NewsFour Photocomp. However, as his fascinating family history revealed itself through the images, we at the paper felt that the readers would be interested either because they remember the era or because they don’t!
Joe’s grandfather, James McDonnell, had a dairy farm in Templeogue and one in Ballinteer. He died in 1948 but by then his son Jack was delivering milk throughout Sandymout, Irishtown and the general Dublin 4 area.
Jack McDonnell is pictured here outside Miss Milligan’s Hardware (The Chandlery was associated with the selling of nautical hardware) along with his milk gig and two-ton dun horse with Ryan’s Pub to his right. “He was always well-dressed and everyone knew him along the milk run. There was a shortage of milk in the 1920s and there were three other dairy yards, Hayden’s, Tritonville and O’Briens.”
Joe went on to tell us how his father went around the houses delivering milk from the gig. “There were two cans which held 20 gallons each. There was a tap at the bottom of the cans and he would fill the milk spout, which he used to transport the milk to the people with jugs and bottles waiting at the doors.”
This photograph was taken in 1922 and also pictured is the frame from the famous curved window, never to be replaced with real glass, which was mentioned by Sen. David Norris in his memoirs.
The next photograph takes us forward two decades and depicts Joe’s cousins, the Ironmongers working the field on Lansdowne Road. It is hard to imagine as we embark upon the Rugby World Cup that the top–class Aviva Stadium once looked like this. In the bottom corner of the photo are three brothers – Joe, James and Kevin McDonnell.
Although taken well before the Lansdowne Stadium was conceived, perhaps this is when the love of rugby entered his blood stream, a passion that was passed on to his own children. Joe’s rugby career took him to Uganda, where he met none other than Idi Amin. This reporter was glad to have met a man who made hay, sheared sheep and played rugby in Lansdowne Road.
When Joe married his beloved Joan in the Star of the Sea Church it brought crowds to the street to see the coming together of two well-known local families, the McDonnells and Dunwoodys.
Joe’s memories offer us an insight into a lost world. He talks about playing football on the road as the only traffic was the odd horse. He hopes that this story finds someone who also remembers the man with the four-wheeled wagon who sold coal around Ringsend from Monday to Thursday but fish on a Friday.
He remembers that Dr. Denham in Sandymount village made the Smallpox vaccine because he bought the heifer calves, which were required for this process, from his grandfather. Most of all he remembers being a boy whose only ambition was to milk more cows than his Dad.
By Maria Shields O’Kelly