Book Review – Dublin’s Working Prams by Susan Weir

Book Review ‘Dublin’s Working Prams’7

In the 1970s newborn babies from Holles Street Maternity Hospital were brought to Westland Row Church for Christening before they left hospital, in case they died. A local lady Lena Redmond was a street trader at the time and Lena, being an entrepreneurial woman, used her pram to transport these babies from the hospital to the church. New mothers remember Lena walking around the wards carrying up to six newborns in her arms and depositing them in ìher large framed pram with buckled wheelsî. One of these new mothers was Susan Weir’s mum.

Susan Weir always held a fascination for the old prams, because of their beauty, sturdiness and resilience compared to modern buggies. When she was a young girl in Dublin, she called into neighbours to ask if she could take their children out for a walk in the pram. She admits that her interest was not in the child itself, but in the pram. When she grew up, she spent hours eying up the street traders and their perambulators. One day she overheard two English tourists talking about how unusual and intriguing the pram sellers were. She watched them taking photos of the ladies and she realised that this tradition was particular to Dublin. Susan decided she wanted to honour the women by documenting them and their prams in action on our streets. Sally Dwyer, the newspaper lady who we featured in our last edition, also sold from a pram.

The collection of Susan’s images in ‘Dublin’s Working Prams’ are complimented by a concise history of the pram, from the Victorian era up where Susan tells us how the popularity of the pram increased because Queen Victoria was a fan and bought three ëchild carriersí for her own children, despite doctors claiming that fresh air was unhealthy for babies. Susan explores the crisis the streets traders lived through in the mid-1980s, as they were deemed a threat by some of the powerful business interests in the city centre. Susan interviews the ladies, who tell stories of being chased down the city’s streets by the Garda’, as they did not hold licenses for selling from the prams. Some funny anecdotes from these times tell us about ladies hiding in confession boxes to avoid the GardaÌ, or drinking tea in the police station when they were arrested and having a great sing song while they waited to be released.

‘Dublin’s Working Prams – A Photographic Portrait of Dublin Street Traders’ is priced at 19.99 and is available in Easons and all good book shops.

By Tracy O’Brien

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