Laurence Redmond: A Ringsend Hero in need of commemoration

By Ray MacAodhagain

I recently passed a handsome brass plaque at No.163 Pearse Street,  erected in 2008 to honour the firemen who died in a fire on the premises in 1936. The most distinctive plaques in the city (generally blue in colour) belong to the Dublin City Commemorative Plaque Scheme, though one might have noticed a recent red edition, which commemorates Dublin Fire Brigade personnel, and in particular Inspector Christopher Doherty, Peter Burke and John Darmon who lost their lives in the line of duty. 

To date, there have been plaques installed not only to fire personnel, but events, rebels, sports people, physicians, musicians, guards, poets and artists. Such plaques and their variants are intended to facilitate and formally commemorate people, organisations and events that have made a unique and significant contribution through outstanding achievement, distinctive service or significant community contribution, to the life or history of Dublin. Be they our greatest heroes, our most revered individuals or our most triumphant events they create what is best described as a tapestry of our values as Dubliners. They can also hold a political significance that can stretch beyond the individual or event. Yet, one wonders if this tapestry neglects, subconsciously perhaps, our greatest wealth – the ordinary citizen who does extraordinary acts. The person who selflessly risks life and limb. 

Andrew Carnegie -Socttish-American Industrialist and Philanthropist

Trade Union and Nationalist Credentials 

With this in mind, the life of Laurence Redmond of Ringsend is explored.  He was most likely Laurence Redmond who worked with the Irish Labour leader James Larkin during the industrial disputes (between September of 1913 until February of 1914) better known as the ‘Lock-Out’  Indeed, he  was a member of No. 1 Branch of the I.T. G. W. U. and a delegate to the T.U.C. Politically he was a Nationalist and although his name does not appear on the Roll of Honour of the 1916 Rising (assembled by the National Museum) it is quite plausible that he was involved. His obituary states so and also that he was released from Frongoch under conditions of the general amnesty. 

Royal Humane Society Awards

Nevertheless, it is his acts of bravery in a humane capacity that are perhaps the most remarkable. The first one recorded was described as ‘a plucky rescue’ of a boy named James Smith from the basin at Ringsend in 1907. For this he was awarded a testimonial for bravery by the Lord Mayor. Three years later, after being called by two women at Dodder Bridge who had observed a boy struggling in the water, he dived in without bothering to remove any of his clothing. He returned with a little fellow named Skinner aged four years in his arms. The Royal Humane Society, a charity that grants awards for acts of bravery in the saving of human life and through the restoration of life by resuscitation, was notified about these deeds. 

This society had a long connection with Ringsend. In 1809 after the master of a collier fell into the water at Ringsend there followed a call for books belonging to the society related to the ‘‘proper instruction for restoring suspended animation” to be distributed amongst Ringsenders. In 1911 the Society awarded two certificates and a donation of £2 in recognition of lives saved from drowning by Redmond. It was added that there were numerous other instances of courage. At the time of this award Redmond’s address was given as Carlisle Row. If Carlisle is in fact a misprint it is more likely that it was Caroline Row. He is listed in the 1911 Census as Laurence Redmond a coal labourer living with his wife Mary and their daughters Bridget and Mary, and sons John and Laurence. 

Possible site of former Caroline Row

Carnegie HeroTrust Certificate 

His heroism was brought to the attention of the Carnegie HeroTrust by solicitor Charles P. O’Connor and the Dublin Trades Council. The first Hero Fund, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, was established in America in 1904 after a colliery disaster near Carnegie’s adopted home of Pittsburgh when 181 men, including two who gave their lives in rescue attempts, were killed in an explosion at the Hardwick Colliery. The Trust had begun to expand their base from the United States and Canada to Great Britain and Ireland. 

On this occasion, another extraordinary rescue was mentioned in which Redmond plunged into 17 feet of water at the dock and saved a fellow workman who had fallen in while trying to jump ashore from a vessel. The Trustees awarded him a special certificate and £10 as a reward. This would be a remarkable achievement alone but before his death in 1938 Redmond held no less than six lifesaving awards from the Royal Humane Lifesaving Authority alongside the special certificate of bravery from the Carnegie Hero Trust.  His last selfless act occurred at the age of 70 when he rescued  a boy from the canal at Baggot Street Bridge.  

Redmond’s Call

Redmond gave distinctive service to the city through selflessness in the face of danger. His contribution to the city is the generations who may be alive because of his acts. This extraordinary concern towards his fellow citizens breathes life into the ancient motto of Dublin: Obedientia Civicum Urbis Felicitas, which can be roughly translated as ‘The obedience of the citizen produces a happy city.’ An obedience made manifest through courage, an ability to swim in any conditions, and the saving of a dozen lives.  

Redmond is a true hero and his acts of bravery deserve a more permanent marker (one of those aforementioned brass plaques would be appropriate).  

Redmond’s residences during his life include 2 Parkview Cottages, 2 Carlisle Row (Caroline Row) and later at  22 Pembroke Cottages.